Hazel Hall, Poet

Dear Liza,

One of the shops I love most in our little Sunnyside neighborhood is called Noun, “a person’s place for things”. It has a delightful collection of curated second hand things and newer artwork, and is temporarily closed, of course. But it has a wonderful new window display that has taught me new things.

NOUN…A person’s place for things

In the window is this hand lettered and sewn paper creation that looks like a quilt with writing on it, and I got to stop and read it the other day. It is called Nobody Passes and it goes like this:

The day is set, like a stage for feet

With a ridge of white clouds painted high

Across the canvas of the sky,

With pavement gleaming and too clean,

A shimmer of grass that seems too green,

And houses alert in every side,

Showing a stiff and conscious pride.

The day is a stage and life is a play,

But nobody passes down this way.

I was intrigued, and looked up Helen Hall online. She was born in 1886 and lived in northwest Portland. When she was about twelve, either because of a fall or scarlet fever (history is slippery) she became paralyzed and could only get around by wheelchair.

Since her house was a typical Victorian with steep, narrow stairs, Helen spend most of the rest of her life in her upstairs bedroom. When she got older, she started taking in sewing work that she could do from home. Her sewing machine was set up by the window so she could look out.

She started writing poetry, mostly about her work and what she saw happening on the street outside her window. Her poems became well known, and were published in The Nation and Sunset, among many others. Her poems were praised and “true” and “poignant”.

Hazel died in 1924 at the age of 38. Her home, at 106 NW 22nd in Portland, still stands and is on the National Register of Public Places. There is a small park next door, and seems like a good place for us to visit,once we can go out and visit.

I love learning new things about my wonderful city. I hope you get to come see me real soon.


Grandma Judy

Street Art on Belmont

Dear Liza,

With the corona virus shutting all our favorite businesses down, our neighborhood has gotten a lot quieter. Last Friday, we walked past half a dozen boarded up buildings to get take- out food for dinner. It could feel sad and lonely, but Portland artists have stepped up to help.

Joe at Belmont Books is adapting!

Yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to Belmont Books. She had contacted Joe, the owner, and asked about a particular book on pattern and design, and he had found it! He has re-organized his shop layout so that the counter is just at the door. When he is open, you can walk right up and ask him about books on a subject and he will hunt them up for you.

Art on the boards at Belmont Inn

On the way home, we walked by our old pinball haunt, The Belmont Inn. It is not a high end place, sort of a dive bar…. but it’s OUR dive bar, you know? Pinball and pool tables, and televisions where there was always some game on. Beer on tap and ciders.

Keeping the wolf from the door

Now, the windows are completely boarded up, so we have no idea what’s going on inside. Are they laying new carpet? Painting the walls? Dancing the hokey pokey? No clue.

“Cover up! “ It seems to say

But what we can see, the art on the boards, is adorable and quirky. There seem to be several artists with very different styles sharing the space. Sweet lambs pose on light backgrounds and geometric colors are on one panel, and just next door is a garish red Wolf telling us to Stay Home and Stay Safe.

Child-like optimism is what we have to go on….

Since art usually has a message, are we the sheep? Is corona virus the wolf? I will leave that to the philosophers. I am just glad to have bright paintings to look at.


Grandma Judy

Last Fair of the Summer

Dear Liza,

The Belmont Street Fair is always scheduled as the close of the summer street fair season. It is also the one closest to us, just a block down the street.

We got over early, because overcast skies are cooler to walk around under. We found Stitch guarding the west end of the fair, chatting with a person from Dick’s Kitchen. They had a bunch of tables set out on the street, which were empty.

Delightful recycled jewelry

Further along were jewelers, poets, second hand clothing booths.

Then came political parties and alternative energy companies, massage therapists and tarot readers.

Finally, the food!! Two Wahine’s Shave Ice is always a favorite of Grandpa Nelson, I had a dish that I am sure is NOT called an Ethiopian Taco (but was delicious, anyway). And Auntie Bridgett had a burrito from Laughing Planet.

One issue politics

Of course, what I really love to watch are the folks to come to see the fair. Young families enjoying chalk art in the middle of the street and out of town grandparents taking the kids out for a spin in their rented bikes make it all very Portland.

Art in the city
Brave Grandparents!
Shopping for the perfect helium pet…

By this time, Dick’s Kitchen’s tables were bustling and Stitch had moved on. The sun had come out and it was getting too warm. I found myself longing for the predicted rain, and we headed home.


Grandma Judy

Changes in the Neighborhood

Dear Liza,img_2305.jpg

There is always something going on in our city! Just down the block, where a Zupan’s Market used to be (it closed before we moved in), a new H Mart is going in. This is a Korean chain of markets known for fresh vegetables and fresh fish, including hand rolled sushi ! When it opens, weekly shopping will go from being a car trip to a short walk. That will be amazing.

On Belmont, there are lots of fun shops and places to eat and drink. A nice clothing shop (which carries pretty clothes that just don’t fit me) is called Twill. Yesterday as I sat waiting for the bus, it was getting its front door repaired. The fellow had his ladder and power screwdriver and kept adjusting and re- adjusting, I imagine trying to get it done before the rain started again.

I spent a few hours on the fourth floor of the Oregon Historical Society, reading about Chinatown and ice cream stores in 1903 Portland. img_2320-1.jpg

When I went outside to eat some of Auntie Bridgett’s Aunt Chris’s Christmas cookies for snack, I saw a fellow up on a scaffold, doing some work above the brick patio in front of the History Museum. He was carving letters into the concrete building, (which was noisy, but really cool to see) declaring the brick area in front the Jin and Juliann Park Plaza. I don’t know who the Parks are, but they must have given a lot of money to the Historical Society, for which I am grateful.

Always something new in Portland!

Love, Grandma Judy

The New Belmont Pub

Dear Liza,

For the past year or so, we have been watching a new building go up on Belmont Street. In a small vacant lot between two buildings from the 1890s, fences went up, foundations were poured, and walls were built. Sometimes weeks would go by with no change, then a whole flurry of trucks would come go, and, presto, the lights were on, or the flooring was in.

The people in the neighborhood had mixed feelings about this. Some were happy to see the ugly lot go away. Older residents mourned the business that had been there 20 years ago and bemoaned the modernization of our lovely neighborhood. I was just interested in what would come next.

Bright and friendly

Turns out, it is a Pub, and it opened this week. We went over for dinner last night to give it a try. The going home traffic along Belmont made the dark, rainy street very loud and splashy. It was nice to step into the bright new place.

Drew behind the counter

The cement floors, red walls and shiny wooden tables made the pub very bright and welcoming. Drew, the fellow behind the counter, took our orders for beer and cider and we had a seat. My Chocolate stout was really rich and comforting and the ciders, from Excelsior, were sharp and refreshing.

Grandpa Nelson had fries, of course. They are the thick cut kind, which the Brits call “chips”, and very good. Auntie Bridgett had a bean and cheese burrito, which was tasty and a generous size.  I had a chicken pot pie, which seemed small for the twelve dollar price and was very bland. The menu has a wide variety of choices and we will come back, hunting for our favorites.

The owner of this new place, Valerie, stopped by to say hello, and we wished her luck with her Pub.

Valerie, the owner

Along the back wall are games for kids, and a large chalkboard, which Bridgett could not resist.

Auntie Bridgett at play

We enjoyed the space, which was friendly and welcoming, and a few other people did, too. I hope The Belmont Pub finds its feet and has good business through the holiday season.





Grandma Judy

The Pied Cow

Dear Liza,

I have told you about the delightfully quirky, slightly spooky coffee house in our neighborhood called The Pied Cow. But now I have learned more about it.

The J. C. Havely House at sunset

The Pied Cow is in the house and yard of the J. C. Havely House, built in 1893 by Mr. Havely, who is called a railroad tycoon because he made a lot of money building railroads around the Northwest. It was a mile and a half out of town at the time, reached by trolley car or wagons over muddy roads. It is a Queen Anne Vernacular Style, and has lots of decoration. A square tower with balconies and a roof like a pyramid, and details my Momma called “gingerbread” give it a really unusual look. It is currently painted a shade of green that looks like faded moss.

During the 1890s and early 1900s, the house hosted Suffragist meetings. That means people met here to plan how to change laws to allow women to vote.

After the Havely family moved away and sold the house sometime after the 1920s, I can’t find out who lived in it until the early 1960s when it was used by historic restorers Ben Milligan and Jerry Bosco as a storage place for architectural bits and pieces they used in re-building old houses.

Auntie Bridgett likes The Pied Cow!

In 1979, Ben and Jerry offered the building as a place for some friends’ new restaurant, Buttertoes. The friends, three sisters named Carolyn, Charmon and Cherous, ran Buttertoes for ten years, using family recipes. The popular, story-themed restaurant also hosted children’s tea parties and was known for making delicious pastries.

It was during the Buttertoes years that the ghost, Aunt Lydia, was discovered. The sisters reported that someone would walk into the back room, which had no exit, and there would be no one there. The people who rented to upstairs apartment reported furniture moving by itself and having strange dreams. A spiritualist was called in and confirmed that a spirit was present.

Aunt Lydia, in the Belmont Mural

Maybe it was the spiritualist who gave the name Aunt Lydia to the ghost, and described her as wearing a black, high collared dress with her hair pinned up. I still have no information on WHOSE Aunt she might have been.

When Ben and Jerry passed away in 1989, the sisters closed the restaurant and sold the building to the owners of The Pied Cow. They opened Buttertoes Gift Shop down the road on Hawthorne, which ran for another 13 years.

The Pied Cow has been a funky place to have coffee, drink sangria, smoke a hookah, or have some of the best ginger cake ever for almost 30 years now!


Grandma Judy




Last Friday in Portland

Dear Liza,

Tiny bird….


I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a while, so last night was my last Friday in Portland for about 2 months. To make sure I didn’t miss my new city too much, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett took me out to some of my favorite places.

During the day, Bridgett and I walked down to the Belmont Library to return some books. We enjoyed the decorations in the Sunnyside neighborhood. We always see something new!

sunnyside mosaic art.jpg
Wall Mosaic in Sunnyside

Since it was very dark and rainy when we left the house, I wore my light-up coat and Bridgett wore her new light-up HAT! We were colorful, I tell you. But we were easy for drivers to see.

We walked down to the Hobnob, a funny, friendly place on SE 34th and Morrison. They have good food, the drinks we like (including stout beer for me and Absinthe for Auntie Bridgett) and a really comfortable atmosphere. There was a birthday party going on for a fellow and we got to sing with all his friends. There were french fries for Grandpa Nelson, a pulled pork slider for Auntie Bridgett, and a cup of roasted pepper chicken soup and some macaroni and cheese for me. Yummy!

Then, since I had filled my pockets with quarters, we walked around the corner to The Belmont Inn, where our favorite pinball game lives. Monster Bash! We played 2 sets of five games each and had a lot of fun. It wasn’t a great night for scoring though…. we only got one monster to wake up.

As we were walking home, we noticed…wait, could it be? Yes, The Nerd Out, which we had been watching since the Belmont Street Fair in September, is finally open for business! We HAD to go see it!

nerd out 2.jpg.jpg

First impressions were very good, as there were a half dozen Vespas and other scooters out front. The space is full of small tables, people, conversation, and comic stuff. One long wall is wallpapered with pages out of comic books and a shelf running all around the place is full of action figures. There is a full bar and a good menu. We were full of dinner and drinks, but they have desserts!

nerd out 5.jpg.jpg

Grandpa Nelson had an Un-birthday Cake, and Auntie Bridgett and I shared a Seasonal Cream Brulee, which had wonderful diced apples on top of the hard shell of sugar. We talked to Mitch, the owner, chef and head Nerd. We had met him at the street fair, and it was wonderful to see him running the business he had dreamed of. He was so excited to tell us about his upcoming events, a Grand Opening on January 18th and a Cosplay night on the last Thursday of the month.

I am sure we will come back to the Nerd Out.

See you soon!


Grandma Judy

Belmont Street

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we went for a long walk down to Hawthorne Street, looking at a house that is for sale and getting the feel of the neighborhood. Parts of the house were very nice, but there was a lot of work that needed doing….old damp carpet in the attic indicated possible roof problems, for example, and the basement had some weird plumbing going on.

On the walk home, we left Hawthorne and walked up to Belmont Street. It isn’t as full of shops and restaurants, but it feels more livable. There are lots of lovely houses in that area, as well, so we have made a note to keep our eyes peeled.

On Belmont there are also interesting businesses. The biggest is Movie Madness at Belmont and 44th. This isn’t just an old style video store, as I had thought. It rents video, and cds, to be sure, but it is also a museum! There are artifacts used in movies, costumes, and posters. The dress Julie Andrews wore while singing “DoRe Mi” was right there on a mannequin!

Besides the wonderful costumes and things from movies, there are thousands and thousands of movies to rent, both vhs and cd format. The “Horror” section alone is two long walls, and Christmas is the whole foyer. Many of these movies are old, rare movies that you can’t find anywhere else. This is a real resource for movie buffs in town.

A few months ago, Movie Madness was going broke, on the edge of going out of business. A local movie theater , The Hollywood,did a Kickstarter online fundraiser, which made enough money to keep Movie Madness in business.

We enjoyed our walk through Movie Madness and will go back again, I am sure.

The other business we visited was Never Coffee, at 43rd and Belmont. Their decor is colorful and their folks friendly, and the coffee is good. But what cheered us up on the chilly day after our long walk was their sweet treats! They have muffins and cookies, pastries and bars. We enjoyed some spicy ginger cookies and felt much better for our long walk home.


Grandma Judy