Growing up in Las Vegas brings to mind images of neon lights, slot machines and 24-hour indulgence. But for Ron Sanford, whose father was a professional blackjack dealer, life in Sin City was, admittedly, “pretty normal.”
“It was a mid-sized town back then,” remembers Sanford. “We didn’t live on the strip. We had a house.” On weekends, though, Sanford and his friends had access to the Las Vegas Strip. They would visit Circus Circus casino. “That was more of a kid place because they had a big arcade. We used to play Asteroids,” he says.
In high school, Ron was a three-season athlete, playing football, basketball and baseball. His football team won the regional championship the year Ron played middle linebacker and served as captain of the defense.
Vegas became a difficult place to live in 2004 after Sanford became homeless. “They had at least double the national average of homeless yet they had very few beds. The veterans and seniors would go before you.” So, following family members who had moved to Oregon, Sanford came to Portland to play as a street musician. He played bucket drums and still carries drumsticks around, but has since gotten rid of his set. “Carrying them around is a hassle,” he says of the drums. “I used to have two real symbols, it was a good set up that kind of disappeared.”
Nowadays, Ron practices and entertains on found instruments. He uses his drumsticks to play on benches outside his sales location at Walgreen’s at 1620 NE Grand Ave. He says he can get different sounds depending on where he hits the metal bench.
Divesting of his drums inspired Ron to become a Street Roots vendor. “When I lost my bucket drums I had to make some income,” says Ron. “I knew people who did it and they said it’s a good job. It was a pretty easy decision to make.”
He likes that selling Street Roots gets him out in the community. “You get to meet people and be creative. You can use your own sales pitch, whatever works, and the paper is educational, you can keep up on local politics,” he says.
“I think that’s a good thing — to help a local people, and you get a good magazine at the same time. It’s less of a burden to the taxpayer instead of having the federal government do everything for you. That’s what I like about the organization. It helps people on a local level.”
Outside of Street Roots, Ron is an avid Scrabble player, often spending extended periods of time playing the crossword game online. Musically, The Beatles, Genesis and Pink Floyd inspire him. He also likes to spend time with his family. Ron has an older brother, sister-in-law and three nephews who live in Hillsboro, while his parents and sister reside in Coos Bay and another brother lives in Roseburg.