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From Glasgow to Glasgow
World Photo by Lou Sennick
Glasgow, Scotland, native Mike Slavin, left, chuckles as the self-proclaimed mayor of Glasgow, Ore., Jack Stevens presents him with a T-shirt displaying his famous Glasgow Store sign. Slavin is touring U.S. cities with the name Glasgow and is giving small banners and letters to their mayors.

GLASGOW - In the almost 40 years he's served as the unofficial mayor of Glasgow, Jack W. Stevens has met dozens of Scots from a city of the same name.

The owner of the Glasgow Grocery, Stevens said he's always given those visitors keepsakes. He never got a thing in return.

One woman even stole his hat.

"It's a fun thing," Stevens said, adding he didn't mind.

But all that changed Wednesday afternoon, with a handshake, a banner and a letter from Glasgow, Scotland's lord provost, when Mike Slavin met the 81-year-old in front of his store.

Slavin, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, didn't make out too badly either, receiving two T-shirts, a mug, a city pin and two Glasgow, Ore., ball caps. He even got a bottle of Bandon wine.

"What a collection - I've done well, haven't I?" Slavin said, admiring his spoils.

The gifts were provided by Stevens, North Bend City Administrator Jan Willis and Katherine Hoppe, director of the Coos Bay/North Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau.

The 67-year-old came to the states by sea in April to begin a year-long tour of all the Glasgows that America has to offer. There are about 19 from California to Maryland. He kicked off the trip in Minneapolis, where he bought a Mazda, and then headed to Glasgow, Mont. Oregon is his second stop.

Slavin says he's going to stick around for a few weeks before moving on to Glasgow, Calif., which he believes is truly a shed in the Southern Mojave Desert.

Not much of a tourist and all by his lonesome, he plans to hang about the local bars, rather than see the sights.

"Because that's what I do," Slavin joked. "You don't think I'd persuade anyone else to do a mad thing like this?"

The brief meeting brought along a few witnesses, including Sarah Recken, a Glasgow, Ore., resident with a Scottish heritage. She had Slavin sign a book of art by a Glasgow Scotland artist.

"I'd like to be doing the same thing following a theme," Recken said of Slavin's adventure.

While he's become an ambassador of sorts for his homeland, delivering banners of Glasgow's crest, and letters from the lord lieutenant of the city, his impetus for coming to the states is a bit more quixotic.

"There isn't a reason. It's just a bit of madness," Slavin said.

He's also spreading the word for a year-long homecoming festival for Scotland and Glasgow. For its 250th anniversary of the birth of its national bard, Robert Burns, this year, the country is welcoming visitors to trace their Scottish roots as well as ex-patriots and others who have left their Scottish homeland.

A retired computer programmer, Slavin said he's long held a fondness for the U.S. but had only seen its larger cities in his business travels.

"This is an excuse to get into small town America and see what the people really are like."

With only two towns checked off the list, Slavin doesn't yet have a fully formed opinion of U.S. Glasgows.

"It's a bit early to say, but certainly these small towns are very different from the big cities," he said.

"I think in Montana, I seemed to know everybody within a week."

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