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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Notes on Snafu, the Foul-Mouthed Parrot

Snafu the parrot, Medford's most notorious bird before the construction of the Black Bird, was (by all descriptions) actually a cockatoo.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

Naughty
    MEDFORD, Ore. (AP)--Prisoners in the Jackson County jail have joined the town's best citizens in complaints which lodged an overseas veteran's pet parrot in the sheriff's cell block.
    The antics of the beautiful pure white bird were amusing until one inmate innocently queried "Polly want a cracker?"
    The explosive screech of profanity shocked the prisoners as much as it had the citizenry.
Walla Walla [Washington] Union-Bulletin, November 12, 1945, page 3


Profane Parrot in County Jail
    Lieut. Hugh Collins, who served three years in the South Pacific, brought "Snafu," a South Seas pet parrot, home with him a couple of months ago. The bird is so full of cuss words that finally, by special arrangement with Tony Solger, the county jailer, quarters have been secured in the county jail. The pet has the run of the jail corridors and eats whatever is put before him.
    For a while the parrot was quartered at the home of his father, Councilman James C. Collins. Its profanity was too much for the Collins family and the neighborhood, so it was sent to a Portland pet shop, where it also became a problem bird, so the pet was shipped back here by express by its master, and placed in the county jail.
    Councilman Collins reports that the parrot is full of tricks, and quite affectionate. While performing a trick, it is liable to release a stream of profanity. When mad, he will bite a finger with a razor-like beak, if opportunity offers. In ordinary talk, the parrot uses army talk and slang.
    Lieut. Collins, an attorney now practicing here, picked the parrot up on Biak Island in the Dutch East Indies and adopted it as a pet. It went with him to various army camps, where it acquired its cuss-words vocabulary and became quite a favorite.
    The bird is close to three years old, and snow white with a yellow topknot.
    Jailer Solger reports the pet is well behaved, except for its apparent expert ability in the use of swear words.
    It is reported that jailer Solger learned many new profanity words.
Medford News,, November 16, 1945, page 3


Parrot Paroled After Mending Ways
    Medford, Ore. (AP)--Snafu, a Biak Island parrot who learned most of his vocabulary in the U.S. Army, was paroled today in the custody of his owner, former Lt. Hugh Collins.
    Snafu was jailed last fall when Medford residents became shocked at the words he brought back from the Pacific with him.
    During his imprisonment, Snafu attended religious services regularly, and now he is more inclined to sing a portion of a hymn than he is to cuss.
Brooklyn Eagle, February 11, 1946, page 1


Poor 'Polly' Ends Up Behind Bars for Cussing
    MEDFORD, Ore. (AP)--A Biak Island parrot, whose cussing in G.I. campaign style landed the bird in jail, has reformed and is on parole to the city fire department.
    Neighbors of Army Lt. Hugh Collins, who owned "Snafu" the parrot, protested against Snafu's swearing, and the Pacific veteran gave him up to the city jail.
    His jailers reported Snafu was a regular attendant at Sabbath services and now is singing bits of hymns..
[Lincoln] Nebraska State Journal, February 12, 1946, page 7


A Little Chuckle To Start the Day
    Medford, Ore.--Snafu, the cussing parrot from Biak Island, got religion and was paroled from the Jackson County jail to the fire station.
    Snafu's owner reported the bird was "jailed" last fall when his language became too rough for Medford residents.
    During his imprisonment Snafu attended religious services in the jail regularly and now is more inclined to sing snatches of hymns than to swear.
Kingsport [Tennessee] News, February 14, 1946, page 1


Cussing Parrot Jailed; Even the Inmates Blush!
    MEDFORD, Ore. (INS)--A parrot whose salty language makes inmates blush is being kept in the Jackson County jail by special arrangements with its owner.
    The parrot, named "Snafu," belongs to attorney Hugh Collins, a former first lieutenant in the Army. Collins found the snow-white bird on Biak Island three and a half years ago, and "Snafu" has sent most of its time in Army camps.
    Former Lt. Collins first brought his parrot home, where his father, Councilman James C. Collins, had to plug his ears.
    The neighbors could hear, too, he pointed out.
    Snafu was sent to a Portland pet shop then, and proved a problem parrot there, too. The younger Collins then sent it to the Medford bastille.
    The parrot, in polite talk, uses Army terms, and slang. But the really explosive profanity issues forth when he is angry.
    There is no point in washing out his mouth with soap, either.
    Soap is his favorite delicacy.
Herald-American, Syracuse, New York, February 17, 1946, page 3


Sawdust Trail
    In Medford, Ore., Army Lieut. Hugh Collins' parrot Snafu, sent to jail for habitual bad language, turned over a new leaf, croaked snatches of old-time Gospel hymns.
Time Magazine, March 4, 1946


Feathered Jailbird
    Some pretty salty talk has bounced off the thick walls of Oregon's Jackson County jail, but a new low in hoosegow lingo was established there the other day by a "prisoner" named Snafu.
    The gabby culprit is a parrot that spent three and a half years in army camps. The bird belongs to a lawyer, a former army officer, who soon discovered that Snafu was too uninhibited in his conversation to have around the house. He was moved to a pet shop for a course in polite English--but the lessons didn't take. He was always shocking the customers.
    So his owner sent him to the county jail, where he makes the air fairly sizzle with his unquotable GI stuff.
San Antonio [Texas] Light, March 17, 1946, page 75


Famous Swearing Parrot Makes Too Much Noise
For Medford Firemen
    MEDFORD (AP)--The famous swearing parrot once jailed here by neighbors when first brought home from the islands has been disowned again.
    The bird, named "Snafu" by his military service pals, now has lost his happy home amid the red fire engines and the city firemen's quarters because he tried to imitate bells and sirens. Snafu made such a clatter when the telephone rang that the firemen couldn't understand reports of fires.
    Droves of small boys came to visit and clambered over the shiny equipment, the groaning firemen added to their indictment of the colorful island bird.
    A feed store has taken over the care of the bird, but the new owners reported Snafu molting and moping on his perch, not nearly as talkative as in the past.
Walla Walla [Washington] Union-Bulletin, September 1, 1946, page 13


Pet of Firemen Given New Home for Imitations
    MEDFORD, Ore., Aug. 31 (U.P.)--"Snafu"--a fire station pet parrot who couldn't make up his mind to ring like a telephone or wail like a siren--has had to find a new home.
    Medford firemen put up with Snafu--who had been presented to them by a GI on his return from the South Pacific overseas duty--as long as they could.
    "It got so you couldn't hear yourself think with him either wailing or trying to imitate the telephone ringing," one fireman said.
    Snafu's new home is in a feed store, but he's not very happy there. He spends his time "moultin' and poutin'," according to his former GI master, who reports that the bird isn't swearing as vividly as he did during his 15 months with the Army.
    A Portland pet shop had to get rid of Snafu several months ago because his language was too rough.
Nevada State Journal, Reno, September 1, 1946, page 15


    "Snafu," the tropical woodpecker Hugh Collins brought back from Baku Island, is acting up again. He chewed the telephone wire asunder twice last week at his home in the Surge Dairy store.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, February 9, 1947


    Mrs. J. Cochran Robin stated at a courthouse lawn session of the Robin Nest Economic Unit [that] she favored the hiring for use of the unit of "Snafu" the cussing parrot. "We very much deplore the naughty language of this tropical woodpecker," she said, "but since he does, his sin might as well be put to some use. The unit members can't cuss their wormwinners as much as they needed it. All we can do is peck them, and they are too cute to get close enough for that. I want my old man to get the first verbal dressing-down, and I don't care what Mister Snafu calls him." Atty. Woodrow W. Blue-Jay said such action was non contempre.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, February 16, 1947


    Peoria Bill Gates and Snafu, the cussing tropical woodpecker housed on Sixth at the Surge Dairy house, met Fri. and exchanged epithets.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, March 23, 1947


    "Snafu," the profane parrot atty. H. Collins brought back from the South Pacific, was outside four days last week, whistling at the girls. All pretended they didn't hear, and none whistled back. This tropical woodpecker can make more racket than the Model T starting up.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, March 30, 1947


    "Snafu," the cussing parrot from Baku, had several callers at his 6th St. perch, who cussed because he wouldn't cuss. This tropical woodpecker no longer indulges in profanity. He was able to cure himself without becoming an evangelist.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, May 6, 1947


    Snafu, the reformed tropical woodpecker from Baku Island who no longer cusses, backslid a couple of times last week. No ladies were present.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, June 1, 1947


    Snafu, the reformed ex-cussing tropical woodpecker from Baku Island, had many visitors last week. He scolded a lady who asked him to cuss.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, May 25, 1947


    Snafu, the cussing woodpecker from Baku, has moved to J'ville, where he will visit with two cockatoos, also former residents of Baku in the South Pacific.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, June 17, 1947


    Snafu, the tropical woodpecker, was moved to J'ville Tues. Even the change failed to cause this cockatoo to resume his old army habit of cussing.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, June 22, 1947


    Snafu, the cussing parrot, is still in J'ville, and mad about it, but with no profane outbreaks. He wishes his owner and lawyer, Hugh Collins, would get out a writ of habeas corpus to remove him from his internment.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, July 20, 1947


    Snafu, the cussing parrot from Baku, now interned in a J'ville bird refuge, has laid an egg, his master, atty. Hugh Collins, reports. He was not supposed to be that kind of a parrot.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, September 23, 1947


    Snafu, the cussing parrot from Baku, interned  the past six months in J'ville, has grown a new batch of tail feathers. The original appendage was rubbed off by the cockatoo massaging it against the wire netting of his cage. He has many visitors, who cuss him for not cussing.
"Ye Smudge Pot," by Arthur Perry, Medford Mail Tribune, November 5, 1947
 


    Remember a few years ago, when Hugh Collins' parrot Snafu was kept at the Surge Dairy Company over on Sixth Street? Hugh had brought him home from the war and still owns him, but Snafu grew to be just too much for the employees at the store, so he was dispatched to Jacksonville, where he is cared for by Mrs. Bernice Janosky.
    Snafu is strictly a ladies' man, or should we say, parrot. He has never been interested in gentlemen. His wolf whistle sounded so human he fooled everybody including the ladies. Fascinated by their colorful shoes (and maybe the nail polish on their toes), he would waddle after them down the street and once got as far away as the Hotel Holland corner before his absence was discovered.
    That settled it, so he was sent away to live in a smaller community, where his flirtatious ways would have less scope and liberty. However, Snafu became famous before he became infamous, so to speak. Visitors from the East Coast and other distant points would call at the store to inquire about and, if possible, have a visit with him. He talked some, but in all truth, it could be said that his silence was more respectable than his speech, although this is no reflection on Hugh. Now Snafu has left Medford but he has not been forgotten.
"Sallying Forth," by Sallie Butler, Medford News, September 29, 1950, page 4

    We begin our column this time with a salute to "show business" in general and to The Footlighters in particular and especially to all who had anything at all to do with the presentation three nights of last week of "Light Up the Sky."
    In the cast were Pat Harris, Keith Hopkins, Robert Shepherd, (Mrs.) Frankie Burton, Loleta Shepherd, Dick Dickenson, Frank Buchter, (Mrs) Lenore Zapell, Robert Corliss, James Sullivan, Bernard Roberts and Snafu, Hugh Collins' parrot, which was brought home from World War II.
    So our local thespians gave a performance that was so finished it approached the professional, actually, with not one single dress rehearsal, for most of them had been ill with the alleged current bug which is said to be flitting around. Two of the principals had been confined to their beds the very afternoons of the evening performances and so on and so on.
    Even Snafu, the parrot, had a sneezing or coughing spell, entirely unrehearsed, in the middle of one act, but of course that might have been an expression of his exquisite sense of mischief. Anyway, he did it at just the right time in the show, and when Frankie Burton, as Frances Black, said, "Oh, shut up," she sounded completely sincere and unrehearsed. (We'll bet she was.)
"Sallying Forth," by Sallie Butler, Medford News, March 3, 1951, page 2


Last revised May 3, 2009