North Central School

Etching of North Central School from 1899 Oregonian Newspaper article

Dear Liza,

I am still working on my children’s story. Maybe it will get done by the time you can read it! My characters are getting more interesting, which, of course, means I need to research more.

My main character, a girl named Clara, lives on the West Side of the Willamette River, in the more developed, stylish part of 1903 Portland. A character I am developing, a boy named Henry, lives on the more rustic East Side. Many of the streets weren’t paved yet, and only three bridges connected the two sides of the city.

My model for Clara

Henry is nine years old and goes to North Central School, so now I get to learn all about this school. This is difficult because the school doesn’t exist anymore, and even before it was torn down, its name was changed from North Central to Buckman, named after a man who helped to develop this part of the city. To complicate research, there is now a different Buckman School in the same neighborhood.

The boy on the left is my model for Henry

I am spending a lot of time on the Oregon Historical Society site, where dozens of Oregon newspapers over more than a hundred years have been digitally stored. I can look up every article in almost any paper since 1893 about any topic. I am learning so much, not just about the school, but about the life and times of 1903.

Most interesting is how children of that time, once they were ten years old or so, were treated more like adults. I have found articles about kids injured at work…yes, work. Some worked as newsboys, or in fruit packing plants, some delivering messages or sweeping out stores. They worked, for pay, instead of going to school, in order to feed themselves or their families

There are also want ads where kids as young as twelve were hiring themselves out to do housekeeping and child care chores after school for room and board, so they could stay in school. “Reliable 12 year old girl seeks position.”

Life for kids wasn’t all hard work, though. The Humane Society had an annual show, usually at big theaters downtown, where all the school kids had the afternoon off and put on performances, saw lantern slides of birds, and had a good time. There were contests of every sort, from building bird houses to writing essays, from relay races between Oregon City and Portland, to bicycle races.

Kids of more prosperous families had a very different life, of course. Piano lessons, train rides, and college educations were available to those with cash.

There seemed to be more death in children’s lives ( forgive the pun) back then. Children died of accidents, measles, infections, and food poisoning, things that are less common these days. There were more orphans, because parents died in childbirth and all those other things, as well. Extended families, when they could, picked up the slack, but many kids who became orphans joined the workforce.

All this information is letting me create characters that feel real. They have lives that make sense and are based on human needs that don’t change, like food and shelter, safety and affection, self-esteem and the need to prove yourself.

Having fun learning things is a wonderful way to spend a rainy winter!

Love, Grandma Judy

Another Night with Hamilton

Dear Liza,

Our final destination

Last year for my birthday, Auntie Katie and I went to see the play, “Hamilton” in downtown Portland. It was amazing, but incredibly expensive. Last night, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I all went to the Alberta Rose Theater to see “Rise Up”, the Hamilton tribute band. It was wonderful, fun, and not expensive. The evening was cold, dry, and windy, so we bundled up and ducked inside shops… a lot.


First, we stopped by the Guardino art gallery to see the new show there. You know I don’t take pictures in galleries, so you will have to take my word for it, the felted creatures of Karen Thurman are whimsical and delightful. They are cute, in an alien-invasion sort of way, and make you smile while wondering what, exactly, you are smiling at.

John Brodie of Monograph Bookwerks

We wandered down the street, enjoying donuts from Angel’s and stopping in at Monograph Bookwerks, run by John Brodie. Auntie Bridgett fell in love with the collection of books on art and design, bringing home the catalogue of a Jean-Michael Basquiat show we just missed seeing years ago in Paris. She also succumbed to the charms of walnut ink made from a heritage walnut tree that grows in the southwest part of town. I had fun looking at the “ephemera” collection, which included radical political pamphlets from the 1960s and advertisements for non-standard schools of the 1970s.

Auntie Bridgett’s splurge: Walnut Ink!

Crossing the street, we found “&”. Yes, “&” is the name of the shop, pronounced “Ampersand”. They carry books about artists and had on display some intriguingly fun plays with song lyrics, including The Beatles “A Day in the Life”.

Lyrics as art at &
Handsome Grandpa and Distraction!

We had a tasty dinner of clam chowder, Shepherd’s Jacket, Guinness and cider, at T. C. O’Leary’s Pub, then braved the cold once again to wait in line for the show, just across the street at the 1925 Alberta Rose Theater.

“Rise Up” is two female and three male vocalists backed by a piano, drums, bass, synthesizer and electric violin. Because of copyright and licensing rules, they do not perform the songs from Hamilton in order, nor do they do only Hamilton songs, nor all the Hamilton songs. Of the forty-six (twenty three in each act) songs, they did about seventeen. But they did them so well, with such style and strength, joy and energy and vocal power, that it was a great show.

At one point, the cast invited Bridging Voices, a local choir of LGBTQ folks from age 13 to 19, on stage. Bridging Voices gives these at-risk people a place to shine as well as hone their musical skills, and they performed “My Shot”, an incredibly difficult song, very well.

After singing an encore of “The Battle of Yorktown”, the band received a standing ovation and we all dashed off to our freezing cars to head home. It had been a great night, but it was late and cold, and we were ready for time in the couch with Mousekin the cat.


Grandma Judy

Hanging Out in the Trendy-Third

I love this sign in Downtown!

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett got a lovely offer last month to display her art in Moonstruck Chocolate, a pretty candy shop in a fancy shopping neighborhood. It is on 23rd Street in the northwest part of Portland, and is nicknamed The Trendy-Third. We visited it a few weeks ago and she knew there was a lot of wall space, so she took a lot of pieces!

The walls were bare when we got there. Jennifer, the lady in charge of the place, was very friendly and offered coffee and chocolates to keep our spirits up.

Friendly, busy Jennifer

Since I have helped Bridgett hang art many times, we work well together, and the morning went smoothly. Deciding on placement, measuring, measuring again, putting in nails, leveling and labeling each of the twenty or so pieces took all morning and by lunch, we were hungry!

Bridgett and the artwork
One grouping on the wall

We walked down to The Fireside, where we had dinner last year. Sadly, they had been vandalized, with big windows broken, but they were open for business as charming and delicious as ever. Auntie Bridgett enjoyed their Delicata squash salad, and I had a grilled cheese sandwich ( with cheese outside as well as inside). So yummy!

The marquee says “Yes, We are open!”

We finished up at Moonstruck and headed for home, and I realized how tired I was. I stretched out in the couch and napped, being lazy for the rest of the day.

Art is exhausting!


Grandma Judy

New Building for Books with Pictures

Dear Liza,

Proprietrix Katie

Auntie Katie has had her bookshop, called Books with Pictures, near the corner of 12th and Division for two and a half years now. And she has lived at Tamarack and Hickory Streets, about four blocks away, for much longer. That’s a nice, short commute to work.

Now, her commute is going to be even shorter! She has just bought a building, at the corner of Division and Orange, that will have her shop on the ground floor and an apartment for her and the cousins to live in on the second floor! To get to work, she just needs to head downstairs. (She could even go in her jammies!)

This building, which was built in 1926, started out as a grocery store. It then changed to a butcher shop. But it has been a bookstore for about fifty years, under the names Serendipity Corner, Pegasus, and more recently, Longfellow’s Books. People in the neighborhood were sad to see the old shop close, and are very happy and supportive of Katie in her work to keep this lovely building healthy and prosperous.

Piano upstairs in the apartment!

Since the building is so old, it has some problems that need solving. The plumbing needs work, the electrical system is not enough for modern living, and the roof (probably) leaks a little.

But it has a basement that is dry and has space for a (planned) record shop and music venue. It has street front windows that will invite people to stop in, chat, and buy some books. It has a two bedroom apartment upstairs that came complete with an old, sweet-sounding piano. And most important, it has Auntie Katie, Jasper and Kestrel, who will turn it into a home.

A nice, dry basement is a thing of beauty!

This is going to be so exciting!


Grandma Judy

Kids at The Pittock Mansion

Dear Liza,

The Pittock Grandchildren who grew up in the Mansion

Mr. and Mrs. Pittock raised several daughters, who married and had children, and also adopted some nieces when the girls became orphaned. So the Mansion couldn’t just be elegant, it had to be fun.

Puppet Theater

The children must have spent summer days running in the woods and gardens, and there was also a tennis court. For inside play, there was a playroom filled with all sorts of fancy toys…..a puppet theater, rocking chair, and toy elephant. These toys were made of wood and metal, and have been well cared for, so we can see them today.

Down in the caretaker’s house, we saw toys for children of the servant class… lovely, but not as elaborate. The beds and furniture were kid-sized to leave more room in the small rooms for play.

Caretaker’s daughter’s bed

I enjoyed imagining the children running up and down the grand staircase, maybe bouncing balls along the marble hall, their voices echoing out over the gardens. And maybe, on quiet evenings, playing piano or learning to embroider.

Embroidered table linens

I know we can’t live in the past, but I do love to visit!


Grandma Judy

Pittock Mansion, Part 3

Our Hosts, Georgianna…
and Henry Pittock

Dear Liza,

Upstairs from the public rooms at the Pittock Mansion are the private rooms. These include bedrooms, bathrooms, a sewing room, and playrooms for the children.

The Grand Staircase

Mr. and Mrs. Pittock had separate bedrooms, as was the style of the time. His was more “masculine”, with darker colors, and had a more elaborate bathroom attached to it.

Mr. Pittock’s Fascinating Shower

The guide who was telling us about the room, Guy, was a man of about forty, and had a personal story to tell about the room. He told us that when he was a child, his family came to visit the Mansion, which had been reopened to the public. Young Guy, his parents having wandered away, found himself alone in Mr. Pittock’s bathroom and was fascinated by the complicated brass shower. He stepped in and started flipping switches, and soon found himself being blasted with water from all sides!

Guy, the Shower Flooder

Terrified and soaking wet, he burst out of the shower and ran to find his mother. Embarrassed by this obvious infraction, his mother pulled him by the ear out of the Mansion and into the car. His father thought the whole thing was very funny.

To make things worse, Guy had left the water running, and no one was aware that the shower had filled up and overflowed into the rest of the suite until quite a bit of damage was done.

Fast forward to a few years ago, when Guy had moved back to Portland and become a docent, or guide, at the very same Pittock Mansion. One evening, out with friends and fellow docents, Guy told his story of the shower, asking them not to tell their supervisor. No such luck.

A few days later the supervisor came to let Guy know she knew his past. She told him that the flooding caused by his shenanigans had made such a mess that the water in the house was no longer turned on, for fear of a repeat of the disaster. She also told him he had to continue being a docent, and telling this story, until the end of time. He agreed.

I do love a good story!


Grandma Judy

Pittock Mansion, Part 2

Dear Liza,

The Music Room

Once we were inside the Pittock Mansion, we were able to walk around with a map and look at the public and private rooms. They were all furnished with proper period furniture, but few of the actual Pittock family things, due to roof leaks and water damage. The furniture we saw was mostly donated by wealthy Portland families anxious to play a part in this celebration of history.

In the Music Room stood a grand piano and harp, with comfy furniture and magnificent views of the garden and city beyond. I can imagine the Pittock daughters playing for friends and family here. The Library was nearby, which seemed to be used for family card games as well as study.

Formal Dining Room

On the same floor was the formal dining room, furnished in dark wood, along with a heavy Chinese screen. Close by, smaller and brighter, was the breakfast room, which was where I would like to eat.

Sunny Breakfast Room

The formal entrance was a small round foyer, which seemed almost undersized for such a fine house. Mirroring that small round room was another, far more ornate one, labeled “The Turkish Smoking Room.” This carved and painted room was where the gentlemen of the day could close the door to the house, open the door to the outside, and enjoy their cigars without stinking the house up. This elaborate room was only used by guests; Mr. Pittock didn’t smoke.

Ceiling of the Turkish Smoking Room

I especially enjoyed looking at the kitchen, where the finest 1915 appliances were on display. The wood burning stove looked like an iron and ceramic altar to the worship of food preparation. The sink had a suspended dish drainer that was ingenious, but seemed small for the number of dishes that would have been washed, with nearly a dozen people living in the house.

1915 altar to food preparation

Of course, I took note of many of the things because I need to know what sorts of stoves, sinks, and such I can use in my story. None of my characters were as rich as the Pittocks, but I got to feel, for a while, that I was walking through my 1903 Portland.

I will tell you about the family’s private rooms tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Under-sized dish draining rack