Albany Carousel and Museum

Dear Liza,

While I was having a nice visit with Aunt Bea, Grandpa Nelson did some exploring on the internet and found interesting things close by.

In Albany, just ten miles from Corvallis, is a Carousel…. a BIG one.

This beautiful piece of art, history and fun is the passion project and brain child of Wendy Kirby.

Ms Kirby wanted to have a carousel for Albany like one she remembered from her hometown of Missoula, Montana, so in 2002, she gathered support from friends, local artists and businesses, and started creating this wonderful thing. It opened to the public in 2017. At the opening, she was overwhelmed by the support she had received, and said “This is what six millions dollars can get you.”

The mechanism that turns it is 110 years old, originally from a 1909 Dentzel Carousel in New Jersey. It has been completely restored by volunteers. The 30 animals are hand carved and painted by local craftspeople and sponsored by local people and groups. These are one of a kind, because the sponsoring folks get to decide what they look like!

The singing elephant, Daisy, is a memory of the joy of music. The salmon, Chinook, was sponsored by grandparents to remember fishing with their grandson. The whole creation is a noisy, happy testament to the town of Albany and the people who live there.

And as if the carousel isn’t enough, the town built a building to protect is, as well as to house a gift shop and carving and painting shop to make more animals, and a museum of old carousel-related goodies.

We walked around and chatted with the ladies who volunteer at the shop, who call it “our happy place”. Their joy is contagious! We walked down to the Monteith River Park, where we got views of theWillamette River and some bridges. It was moody, lovely, and peaceful.

As I was preparing myself for the long trip home, feeling a bit sad that our day out was ending, Grandpa Nelson said, “How far is it to Brownsville?” And off we went!

More about that tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

My Aunt Bea

Dear Liza,

Your Great Grandpa Lowell had nine brothers and sisters, so I had lots of uncles and aunts. But I think my favorite is my Aunt Bea. She is funny and sweet and we have always gotten along. Her voice always sounded like everything was going to be all right.

Aunt Bea used to run a flower shop in Salem, and when she got tired of doing that, she taught flower arranging classes out of her house in Silverton. She put on flower shows there.

At the top is a picture with my Uncle Bill, Aunt Veralene, with Aunt Bea in the center, taken at a big party. The bald fellow is Veralene’s husband and the one wearing the tie is my Uncle Benny. Aunt Bea was always in the middle! We always said that she didn’t leave a party, she took the party with her.

This Easter Sunday, I decided it was time to go visit her in Lake Oswego, which is part of Portland. Grandpa Nelson offered to drive me, so I got in touch with Bea’s oldest son, Larry, to find out where she was staying. But she’s not here anymore!

She has moved to Corvallis, and is currently in the hospital there, after a fall. Well, poop. But Grandpa Nelson said he would enjoy a drive through the country, an hour and a half to Corvallis, so we packed some haroset and some Peeps (it’s Easter, after all) and headed south.

There is a lot of country, millions of grape vines and thousands of filbert trees, between here and Corvallis. But it was all spring lovely and almost sunny. We drove in quiet or chatted for an hour and a half, and found the hospital.

Bea is eighty seven, and no one looks their best after a stay in the hospital. But once she woke up (I had gotten there at nap time) and had some lunch, we had a nice conversation. We remembered funny stories about her kids, and what they were doing now. It was a good, two hour conversation.

I could tell Bea was getting tired, so I took a picture and hugged her tiny frame, and said goodbye. Aunt Bea is small and frail, but she is still sweet, funny Aunt Bea. I’m glad we went to see her.

I’ll tell you what happened next, tomorrow!

Grandma Judy

Henry and Frank and the Pied Cow

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was warm and sunny in Portland! After weeks of cold clouds, it was like seeing an old friend. Auntie Bridgett was working at the gallery and Grandpa Nelson was reading, so I decided to go for a walk to do some neighborhood looking for my story. I took the number 20 bus to Burnside and 14th to get in the right area.

In my story, which happens in 1903, I have a working class boy named Henry and his slightly better off friend, Frank. They need to live within a block or two of each other, a few blocks from rich old Mrs. Schumacher, and close to the old North Central School. Yesterday, on my walk, I found what could have been their homes!

It was fun to stand where the school used to be, which is now a parking lot, and imagine the views of the Willamette and Mt. Tabor, and even Mt. Hood, that my Henry would have seen while he was thinking about how to change the world.

When I had seen all I could see, I walked past incredible tulips and dogwoods down to Belmont Street and caught the magic number 15 bus home. We call it the Magic Bus because it is one of the few busses in town that runs from way east, through downtown, and way west, all while staying the same number. It can take you everywhere!

When I got home I put some of the descriptions in my story and printed it out so Auntie Bridgett can read it and give me feedback. She is traveling to see family for Easter, and I wanted her to have it in an easy-to-read format.

We had a chat with you, birthday girl, after dinner. You turned six today! I miss you very much.

The day stayed warm, so after dinner we walked down to the Pied Cow for dessert. The garden is getting leafy, the traffic sounds were soft, and the people watching was fun. We had a blueberry and lavender pie…fabulous!!! And Grandpa Nelson had his beloved ginger cake.

When the sun had gone down we said goodbye to a perfect day and walked home.

What will happen tomorrow?


Grandma Judy

Pizza, Bookcases, and Tables

Dear Liza,

Today was a busy day! I worked on the story in the morning, putting in more details about sidewalks downtown and what games kids played back in 1903. Did you know that another name for Hopscotch was Potsy? And that it has been played since the 1700s?

At lunchtime, Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to Hot Lips pizza on Hawthorne. Since it is officially National Pizza week, and many pizza shops in town are offering slices of really good pizza for only two dollars!

When we had finished, Auntie Bridgett walked back to Luke’s Frame shop and I walked down to Auntie Katie’s new building to help her with some furniture. I got her dresser drawers finished and then she came and we got a nice tall IKEA bookcase assembled, put up, and attached to the wall so she can load it up.

Then Grandpa Nelson came by on a walk! He helped with the bookcase, then headed off to get some lunch at Double Dragon while Auntie Katie and I drove to a shop called Artifact for a delightfully quirky new/ old table for her dining room. It is painted the same blue as her new building, and has drop-leaves so it can be big enough for company or small enough for just Katie and the kids.

Once that was done, Grandpa Nelson and I walked back home, enjoying all the wonderful blooms in the neighborhood, and boy, were we tired! It turns out, it is almost two miles to the new place, so we both walked four miles. Pretty good exercise for a couple of oldies.

Now for a quiet evening.


Grandma Judy

Doing Errands

Dear Liza,

Spring is progressing up here in Portland. Camellia season is just about gone, which you can tell by the huge patches of petals at the base of every bush. It looks like the whole park sneezed at once!

Today we had to run out to Gateway Center, just a few miles east, for some medical tests. Gateway is also a transit hub, where two train lines and 9 bus lines intersect to let you get almost anywhere in the city. It was fun watching all the coming and going.

We were hungry after the tests, so Grandpa Nelson suggested the Bipartisan Cafe in Montavilla. On the way we saw a great new mural. Handy Hand loved it. Then he charged us a quarter for looking at it.

The Bipartisan Cafe, along with brunches, sandwiches and pastries, has political posters from both Democratic and Republican candidates (hence the name). William Howard Taft, Richard Nixon, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, all are equal on the walls.

Almost ready to head home, we drove past Mr. Plywood, the home repair shop with the cutest sign, and then made another stop.

The window blinds in our house are starting to fall apart, and we are checking to see what is available. The salesman, Don, is also the owner of the business, which we like. I hate dealing with middlemen. We had a look, talked about what would work for us, and made an appointment for Shelly, the co-owner (and Don’s wife) to come check out our windows and see what will work and what it will cost.

Now home to work on the story and have a rest.


Grandma Judy

Sketchy People

Dear Liza,

We have made some good friends here in Portland. One of our favorite folks is Jack Kent, a cartoonist we met years ago at a cartoon show. We got to visit Jack today at Bridge City Comics up in the Mississippi neighborhood, where he was having a book signing and sale for his new book, Sketchy People Year Three.

His books are collections of cartoons he draws of people he sees around town…. people in Dinosaur suits on the train, or rolling along on skateboards listening to music.

What was unusual about this book signing was that there was a llama. Yes, a llama, and his name is Cesar the No Drama Llama. He is an incredibly friendly, relaxed creature. Jack and Cesar got to know each other after Jack drew a sketch of Cesar on a Trimet train one morning, then looked up who this guy was. Turns out, Cesar does appearances to raise money for charity! He has raised over $5,000 in the last few years for showing up at parties, weddings, and even book signings.

Of course, the sketch of Cesar is on the cover of Jack’s new book, so he wanted Cesar to be at the signing. It all worked out.

After we had visited Cesar and Jack and got our picture taken, we went in search of lunch. The Mississippi neighborhood has dozens of restaurants, but it was Sunday, and there were long waits at most of them. Finally we found Bar Bar, which had fries for Grandpa Nelson, a burger for me, and a veggie burger for Auntie Bridgett. We enjoyed listening to music and watching ice skating and basketball on the t.v. Once we had eaten, we realized how tired we were, and headed home. It felt like a full day.


Grandma Judy

Friday Night with Cider and Vespas

Dear Liza,

You wouldn’t think there was any restaurant in our neighborhood we hadn’t visited yet, but there are! Last night we found another one. Our evening started at the Portland Cider House, down on Hawthorne. This welcoming space is run by the Portland Cider Company, which, as you might imagine, makes apple ciders….lots of them.

We made it a meal, a grilled cheese and Brie sandwich and a pulled pork pasty, two different ciders, and a beer for me. The sandwich and the pasty were both good, but the sandwich was better…. very satisfying with crunchy slices of apple and oozy Brie cheese on grilled sourdough. Grandpa Nelson had a big pretzel, which he said was okay, but not fabulous.

The decor of the Cider House was fun. The walls were finished with rough wood and the ceiling outfitted with dark acoustic panels, giving it a quiet, cozy feel. The front panel of an old Volkswagen van was perched on the wall, and old cider tap pulls had been made into a sunburst.

After we finished our yummy dinner, we called for a Lyft car and headed down to Vespa Portland, the local sales showroom for Auntie Bridgett’s favorite scooter. She hasn’t actually ever ridden one, but she loves their style and the idea of zooming around on one.

The showroom was having a fashion show called “A Nod to the Mod”, a fashion competition and flashback to the nineteen sixties. That was the era when my idea of “cool” was developing, so I was interested, as well. They were serving beer and had dozens of pretty Vespas set out, and over a hundred people came.

When the fashion show started, Grandpa Nelson found a comfy sofa in the back and let us stand to watch it. The clothes were interesting…some more successful than others, of course. I loved this dress with black and white paired with red and floral…wacky and delightful.

The winning look was my favorite, a pair of tight pants and an inventive, comfy leather jacket. I don’t think I could wear it, but it sure was cool.

When the show was over and we had chatted with some folks, our legs were tired of standing. So of course, we decided to walk home. I know it sounds crazy, but standing is hard on legs, and walking feels good.

We enjoyed walking through the slightly industrial area, then into the old neighborhood where some of my story’s characters lived. We passed houses that are still standing that were from around 1903, and it was fun to imagine my Henry and his best friend Frank walking along the street on their way to school.

After walking nearly two and a half miles and standing for hours, we arrived home exhausted but not broken, and watched eleven of the eighteen innings of the Giants game. We learned this morning that they won, after playing what was really two games stapled together. They may have been more tired than we were. Maybe.


Grandma Judy