It’s agreed – ‘Portagee Joe’ stays

By Deb Murphy

Political correctness met Inyo County Wednesday evening at Supervisor Matt Kingsley’s town hall meeting in Lone Pine. Both appeared to come out the winner.

The initial topic was Inyo County’s Portagee Joe Campground off Tuttle Creek Road in Lone Pine. Not so much the camp itself, but the name.

Allen Berry had e-mailed the Supervisors his concern that Portagee was a pejorative term–as bad as spick or mick or kraut or the one word that need not be spoken–not appropriate for a campground operated by tax-payer dollars. Berry had lived in Modesto with a large Portuguese population. Portagee was something they could call each other, but offensive out of the mouth of a non-Portuguese person.

The e-mail sent Kingsley on a search for Joe’s and the campground’s history. He didn’t have to look far.

Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio, also at the meeting, went to his father, a former parks guy for the county and then to his uncle who was present for the official christening. His uncle was part of a crew sent to bulldoze an old facility in the area in the 1960s.

Joe’s campsite, or shack, that part wasn’t entirely clear, was just above the site. The guys decided to name the campground after Joe, AKA Portagee Joe.

“It was a bunch of blue-collar guys naming something after another working stiff,” said Carunchio.

Another long-time resident added to the story. “The man had a long history here,” he said “If you were in the cattle business, you knew all about him.” Apparently there are other Portagee things named after Joe.

Earl Wilson brought up Skinny Gates and Hard Rock Jim, two more unique Lone-Pinesque residents.

But there were folks disturbed by the potential offensiveness of an ethnic slur attached to a campground.

Carunchio came up with a compromise that seemed to settle the question: keep the name Portagee Joe, “out of respect to the man,” said Kingsley, but add information at the site to explain Joe’s history and how his name became attached to the campground.

Everyone seemed happy with the solution, hopefully Joe would be as well.


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5 Responses to It’s agreed – ‘Portagee Joe’ stays

  1. Allen Berrey February 9, 2017 at 4:47 pm #

    “Portagee” is an outdated, pejorative term for someone of Portuguese descent or origin.

    Consequently, my suggestion was simply that the campground be renamed “Portuguese Joe.” (For some reason this suggestion is not mentioned in the article).

    This name – which shows respect for the man’s Portuguese ancestry – would allow the County and community to continue to honor the man, but without the pejorative and outdated “portagee.”

    By renaming the campground Portuguese Joe, the County would be saying, in effect, that we still wish to honor and remember you; we just aren’t going to call you a portagee anymore.

    The man was Portuguese, not a “portagee.”

    Unfortunately, the consensus at Supervisor Kingsley’s meeting was to reject this solution.

    I understand that decision, but cannot say I am “happy” about it, because the pejorative “Portagee” will remain in the name of the campground.

    By the way, I said I lived in Merced, not Modesto; Merced is Modesto without the glitz.


  2. Steve Reese February 10, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    I am okay keeping the name. I do not think we should re-wright history to be politically correct.
    It is what it is. I have lived in the area for over 40 years and not once did I hear anyone complain about Portagee Joe’s name.

    • Charles O. Jones February 10, 2017 at 9:20 am #

      I’ve never heard concerns from the locals regarding the name either. That said, I’m not aware of a significant Portuguese-American population in the area. I don’t see a problem with changing the name to Portuguese Joe’s if the current name is truly considered offensive to Americans citizens of Portuguese decent.

      It’s not about being “politically correct”, it’s about showing respect for others. What if Joe had been an African-American, would you feel the same about preserving history if the campground was called N***** Joe’s?

    • Tbone February 10, 2017 at 10:08 am #

      Why do you describe this as “re-writing history to be politically correct”? Isn’t this just learning as we go to be more considerate of others? Because if we didn’t, we’d still be calling blacks teh “N” word and making them sit at the back of the bus. It’s about respect, not preserving some racist history.

  3. Paul Gomez February 14, 2017 at 6:15 am #

    No where have I read what Portagee Joe’s full name was. Does anyone know? Thank you.


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