More Out and About

Dear Liza,img_2655.jpeg

After we had seen the Chinatown Museum, Grandpa Nelson suggested we walk south and see what we could find out about Dr. Wo’s neighborhood on Alder and 3rd. We walked, looking around at the buildings. I took pictures as we went past old buildings so I could look them up later.

It turns out, there are quite a few buildings in this neighborhood that were standing in 1903. The Hamilton Building has beautiful clean lines and a modern look, but another (whose name I didn’t see) is very ornate and looks almost too pretty to be real.

Too Pretty to be Real

The Bishop’s House from the Old Portland Cathedral is still standing, next door to where the Cathedral used to be. It was torn down and another cathedral rebuilt over on 19th Street, away from the danger of floods on the Willamette. But the Bishop’s House is still here.

We stood on the corner of SW 3rd and Alder, where Dr. Wo’s office stood in a small building. There is now a four story parking garage in its place. All the buildings at that intersection are modern and less interesting that I had hoped. I have to take a deep breath and chant “cities have to change or they die” a few times to come to peace with so much history coming down to make way for … cars.

Heading back to our car (yes, I know, I hate parking lots but I do sometimes use a car) we saw this old tiled entry in front of a deserted building. It means the building is probably from the 1890s, but there was no plaque to tell me.

It turns out Grandpa Nelson wanted some ice cream before we headed home, and there is a branch of Salt And Straw, a fabulous ice cream shop, in the Pine Street Market. It is called The Whiz Bang Bar and was delicious…chocolate shake for Grandpa Nelson, a vanilla custard swirl for me.

As we got into the car to head home, I noticed that we were parked behind the Kells Bar, which is famous for being “haunted”. But what I loved was the silly sign on the back, to make sure you didn’t forget where the bar was.


Grandma Judy

Gardens in Winter

Dear Liza,

With the shorter days and colder temperatures, I thought that gardens in Portland would sort of shut down in January…but I was so wrong! The color palette has shifted from pinks and yellows to mossy greens and soft browns, but the beauty goes on.

I love that people decorate their yards here with things that age well, and that they let them age. Concrete animals get darker and sprout moss, wooden fences go a little darker and tilt a bit.

There are still some flowers blooming, as well. Some hardy dahlias keep the camellias company, brightening up the moss and damp on even the darkest grey days. Snowdrops come up cheerfully,giving a concrete duck something to talk to.

I know it is still months until Spring, and that there will be days when I get tired of all the moss. But for now, I enjoy petting the wonderful velvet covered walls and stones as I go by.


Grandma Judy


Nature as art

Dear Liza,

It has been bright, sunny and COLD the last few days. I have had fun taking pictures of the flowers that are thriving in the cold, and some noisy crows, as well.

Crows do really well in Portland. They drink out of the bubblers downtown and enjoy over ripe fruits and leftover take-out food here in the neighborhood.

They have something to say (I’m still not sure what) to everyone who passes by, including dogs on leashes and cats on porches. I reply and try to understand, but they don’t seem particularly motivated.

So I let it go.


Grandma Judy

Portland’s Chinatown(s)

Dear Liza,

The Hazeltine Building

In the story I am writing, there is a character who was also a real-life Chinese doctor here in Portland, Dr. C. Gee Wo. He advertised every day in the local newspaper, The Oregonian. He was very successful, also investing in other businesses and donating to charities here in Portland and all along the west coast.

In order to describe his neighborhood and office, I have been trying to learn what the Chinatown here in Portland was like in 1903. So you can imagine how happy I was when I learned that a brand new Chinese museum had opened up! Yesterday, Grandpa Nelson and I went to visit it.

But first, there was a doctor’s visit and then, lunch. We parked by a wonderful old building called The Hazeltine, which was built in 1893. Amazing stone work right out on the street!

Pine Street Market

Across the street was the Pine Street Market, which is another old building that is now being shared by about five different restaurants. Checkerboard Pizza, Pollo Brava, Markum Ramen, and the Kim Jung Grill all vied for our attention.

We ate at “Bless Your Heart” Burgers, and they had wonderful burgers, fries for Grandpa Nelson, and Mexican Coke! I only have about two sodas a year, so I need to make them count.

Cool Dragon Logo

Then we walked across Burnside, past Voodoo Donuts, and to the Portland Chinatown Museum. As I said, it is brand new. There are still pictures resting on the floor, waiting to be hung, and the model that shows how the museum is laid out is still sitting on a back table. But there are wonderful displays of Chinese stores and restaurants, and essays and photographs that show when Chinese folks came to America, what jobs they did, and where they lived.

Mr. James Wong

I met James Wong, a retired teacherĀ  who is on the Board of museum. He told me that he was born and raised two blocks from this museum in the 1950s. He explained that there were really TWO “Old Chinatowns” in Portland. The one from the time of my story, 1903, was south of Burnside, along 2nd and 3rd Streets. The later one, from about 1905 onward, is north of Burnside. That would explain why Dr. Wo’s office is so far south, on Alder.

We read, looked and walked all over the museum, bought a book called Sweet Cakes, Long Journey by Dr. Marie Rose Wong, and went off to see what else we could see.

Model of the Chinatown Museum

I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow!

Love, Grandma Judy

Mr. Frank Dekum

Dear Liza,

Mr. Dekum as he was

Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I went for a long walk. We enjoyed the dogs and trees at Laurelhurst Park, and the pretty houses of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. We wandered for quite a ways before we decided to turn back towards home.

When we did, I realized that we were very close to The Lone Fir Cemetery and that it had been a long time since we visited the folks there. So we went in.

As you already know, I love the peace and perspective of this old cemetery. We saw familiar headstones; heroic pioneers and shady ladies, revered doctors and just plain folks. And, as so often happens, something new caught our eye. Mr. Frank Dekum.

Auntie Bridgett with Mr. Dekum

We know the name, because a big stone and brick building built by and named for him is on the corner of 3rd and Washington and we pass it every time we go downtown. Mr. Dekum came to Portland in 1853 with his family and started a very successful fruit business. He was also a candy maker, so obviously, a lover of good things.

His tallest namesake

When he had made his fortune in fruit and candy, he started investing in real estate development. He was involved in every building that went up on Washington Street between First and Third. He was on the Boards of banks and water companies, helping bring railroads and fresh drinking water to the city.

When the city was hit by a financial panic in 1893, property investments crashed and Mr. Dekum was badly impacted. He died the next year with only a fraction of his fortune intact. He is buried in our dear Lone Fir along with his eight children, so I can visit the whole family whenever I want.

Gone, as they say, but not forgotten.


Grandma Judy


January at the Park

Dear Liza,

Promising Shoots

It is winter in Portland, wet and pretty chilly most days. But it is also beautiful. After a really rainy night, I went for a walk in Laurelhurst Park.

Oh, before I forget. I met a lady walking her dog the other day, and she says we should call it “Squirrelhurst” Park.

I guess if you are walking a dog in the park, the squirrels become much more of a focus. Leash-training is a good thing.

Even though the calendar says it is mid-winter, not all the plants are shut down. These green shoots are promising jonquils, or snowdrops, pretty soon. I will keep my eye out for them!

Careless Camellias

The Camellias are beginning to bloom, both red and white, all over the park. They don’t worry about freezing temperatures, diminished sunlight and buckets of rain, apparently.

Puddles become a real thing in the park after a rain. The paths need to be walked with care, and the lowest parts are really muddy. Another reason to keep your dog on a leash!







There is a stone wall that runs along a bit of the Cesar Chavez side of the park. Because of its shape, I call it The Wallosaurus. It has gotten a nice sweater of ferns and moss which makes it even more charming.







Another wall I love on the way to the park. Cast in concrete decades ago, it sort of looks like an aerial photograph of Oregon’s Willamette Valley…lush and green with a few roads and rivers running through. Very Pretty.


Grandma Judy

Mossy Wall? Or Aerial Photo?

Perfectly Portland

Dear Liza,

Naked Tree

I had hoped to have happy news to post…..and here it is!

On Saturday, we got to be a part of a perfectly Portland activity, recycling our pretty Christmas tree. It took Auntie Bridgett a whole evening to take the ornaments off and pack them up.

The next morning, we lifted, swept needles, and carefully coordinated our movements… and dropped the naked tree horizontally off the balcony! It landed very neatly on the patio. This was Auntie Bridgett’s plan to keep from stringing needles all down the stairs, and it worked beautifully.

Grandpa Nelson had looked into where we could take our tree, since we don’t have yard waste pickup at our condominium. It turns out, the answer was our favorite local school, Sunnyside Elementary, only two blocks away! Hooray!

Walking the tree to Sunnyside School

Thanks to Grandpa Nelson for taking these pictures! I forgot my camera…

Instead of loading the tree onto our car, we just carried it between us. Along the way we saw evidence of other trees being delivered; car traffic, branches and bits of trees along the sidewalk, and happy shouts.

At the schoolyard, there were little kids holding signs, adults directing traffic and taking the five dollar donations, and bigger kids stacking the trees. It was a well oiled tree recycling extravaganza.

Trees on the schoolyard

On the way home, we saw this fellow bringing his tree to the yard…on his skateboard! Perfectly Portland.

Keeping things Perfectly Portland

Later in the day as we were walking back from the library, Auntie Bridgett and I saw the trees going into the chipper. They will be turned into mulch which will be used in the gardens around Sunnyside School itself. Talk about keeping it local.

I love that the powers that be have managed to work past some of the obstacles for getting good things done. Not all, of course…there is progress to be made. But it’s very nice when it works.


Grandma Judy