Over the years, one of the most hotly debated Simpsons topics has been, “Where is the REAL Springfield?” Or at the very least…”Where is the Springfield that inspired Matt Groening to name the Simpson’s hometown, Springfield?”
It is a question that is asked of him at almost every Comic-Con press session. And after 27 years, that is a LOT of Comic-Cons.
However, as someone who “knows Matt”…or at least knows a lot of people who know Matt…or his sister…I feel that I can have a vetted and valid voice in the discussion, and have made it my life’s work (OK. That is a huge exaggeration…but it is an election year), to find out the answer!!
Now, I know that there are a ton of you out there who would like to lay claim to this honor. There are a TON of Springfield’s in the world. Trust me. And if you don’t trust me, then take a look at this WIKI page.
That’s right. There are Springfields in every shape and size…across the entire world!! (or at least in places where they can pronounce the word “Springfield”).
But, as I will reveal over the course of several installments, I believe with my donut-fattened heart, that the REAL SPRINGFIELD is in Matt’s Home State (mostly) of OREGON!
Let the unraveling begin!!
Before we start…let me explain once again, my six degrees of separation from Matt Groening…and why it is only really THREE degrees…or maybe two…depending on how you count them.
1. My wife went to school with Lisa Groening. She is friends with my wife’s sister, and in fact went to a High School Reunion of Portland’s Lincoln HS, just this past weekend, and Lisa was there and hug out with her.
2. Lisa is married to “Hey Arnold” creator, and Emmy Award winning animator, Craig Bartlett, with whom I worked hand in hand on the “Claymation Christmas Celebration” that also won an Emmy in the 1980s.
3. Matt Groening’s first commercial comic strip, “Life in Hell” was distributed to the Eugene Weekly (a local Eugene newspaper then called “What’s Happening)…where Matt often visited in the early 1980s, while hanging out in a variety of local music and drinking establishments (which I will reveal in good time) that are also right next to SPRINGFIELD…Eugene’s “across the iron curtain of I-5 Sister City).
Not sure if that is Three Degrees…or Two Degrees…but that fact is, I am THIS close to being THIS close…to Matt. Oh. And I interviewed Yeardly Smith on the topic, as I will reveal later.
Parts of this have run on TSTOFriends “back in the day.” However, there is loads of NEW information…and new proof!
Let the Revelations Begin!!
Eugene and Springfield share a great deal of similarities with the show. But, even after a national search promoted by the TV show, which was hotly contested, the answer of “where is the REAL Springfield?” remained ambiguous- primarily, because Matt Groening kept it that way.
But in the May 2012 issue of Smithsonian magazine, he finally made it clear that Springfield, OR. was in fact the inspiration for the Simpson’s Springfield.
Here are excerpts from the article:
“Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show “Father Knows Best” took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, “This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.” And they do.
Here is a link to the rest of the story…which he later tried to refute…but, that is what makes Matt, Matt. (He also has a difficult time admitting that he owns platform shoes and a pleather jacket from the 70s. OK. I made that up. Be we are the same age…almost exactly…and we all had that phase.)
Much more is revealed in the article…but the key takeaway here is, Matt said it, and NOBODY lies to the Smithsonian (except for Ken Kesey…another well-known Eugene/Springfield native). So…there you have it. Springfield, Oregon was the inspiration.
But the real story of Matt’s “Springsperation” is still a bit more convoluted. There are elements of The Simpsons all through the Eugene/Springfield area- some old, some new, some borrowed, some…well…total conjecture.
But, let’s start with a couple of funny facts.
But, the lines get even blurrier when you try to separate the Simpson’s from the Skinners, as you find out that Eugene is named after founding pioneer, Eugene Skinner (who was never a principle, nor named Seymore) but whose cabin, as well as Springfield can be seen best from Skinner’s Butter on the North edge of Eugene. In other words…you can See-More Springfield from atop Skinner’s Butte (that is an e, and not a Bart chalk board taunt about Skinner’s backside).
It gets even more confusing when you bring in Portland, Oregon, Matt Groening’s hometown, and throw in the fact that there are numerous streets and locations in Portland that share other character names (Lovejoy, Quimby, Vanhouten, Kearny, Montgomery Burn(side), Flanders, Terwilliger) and Groening’s family home on Evergreen Terrace.
But, even Portland doesn’t have a Moe’s Tavern…or not one but TWO full Simpson’s family couch statues within 200 feet of one another…and THAT is where we start our series… ON THE COUCH.
Every great Simpson’s episode starts with a couch gag, and the Simpson’s gathering on the couch. We started our first day of exploring the REAL SPRINGFIELD, on the couch…
“The Couch” is located in the Springfield, Oregon Museum on Main Street. The docents of the museum seemed thrilled when we told them that we were writing a story for an internationally read Simpson’s fan blog. They even acted like they knew what we were talking about.
Situated there, between logging history, dairy history, old school history, and assorted other Springfield paraphernalia, was a large diorama including “the couch.” The spot next to Homer was empty…and well-worn. It was obvious we were not the first Simpson’s fans to place fanny on the red plastic. Perhaps the first that day…or week…or month (we had the museum to ourselves), but not the first ever.
Just across the street from the Museum…less than 200 feet away to be precise, another set of Simpsons stared at us from the window of the “Sweetie’s Sweet Shop.” (try saying that with a licorice whip in your mouth).
Nothing says the “Real Sprindfield” like two complete sets of the Simpson’s within a donut’s throw of one another. And…as if to say, “Welcome Cranky,” this set was sporting U of O Duck bling and fan eye stickers..
Walking briskly down Main Street and around the corner to find Springfield’s own, “Moe’s Tavern!” I’m not making this up! And... it is owned by a guy who looks like he COULD be Moe…except his name is Mitch…but is a huge Simpson’s fan. More on the Moe/Mitch Switch in the next Episode of Live From The REAL Springfield.
There are COUNTLESS MYSTERIES to be unraveled…and I am just the guy to do it! I will take you to Moe’s. We’ll take you to another bar that is unquestionably the inspiration for Moe’s (called Max’s…but referenced in a Simpson’s episode as Meaux’s). And we will get deeper into the connections between Skinner, his Butte, and why Springfield and Eugene are even more like Springfield and Shelbyville, than the Springfield/Shelbyville in Illinois (which those from Illinois say makes THEIR Springfield the real Springfield…even though the two cities are separated by more than 70 miles of highways, and another town, Taylorville…which has NOTHING to do with the Simpsons. I know. I’ve been to Taylorville).
AND…we will talk to Yeardly Smith, on the dedications of the huge mural in Springfield…which was commissioned by Matt, and painted by actual Simpsons animators!
More to come…
BUT, What do YOU Think??? Is there a Springfield in your state or township or shire that should be included in the “Maybe This is the Place?” discussion?
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK!
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