North to Dixon Street

Dear Liza,

Union Station Tower

I am still researching about Portland history, and I’m learning so much! Besides the history, I am learning about how to get around Portland without driving. Yesterday I needed to get to 501 North Dixon, a part of town I had never been in. That’s where the Portland Public Schools keep their archives.

Googlemaps told me there was no transit solution, and I should walk. Almost 4 miles, one way? Carrying research on my back? Um, nope. Thanks anyway, Google.

I chatted with Steven Hanks, the fellow at the District who was pulling files for me. He suggested the number 17 bus, which passes within a few blocks of the office. Grandpa Nelson suggested the Portland Streetcar. There were so many options, and the only way to see which was best was to do them. I chose the bus method first, taking the number 15 downtown, walking a few blocks, and catching the 17.

Downtown Portland always show me something new.  This time it was that a 13 block stretch of SW Stark Street was renamed Harvey Milk Street in June of this year. I am proud of my city for recognizing this important gay activist. Well, first I was confused, because I was looking for a bus stop on Stark. But then I was proud.

Catching the 17 took me through the Pearl District and old Chinatown, past the fabulously old Union Station, where people have been catching trains since 1896. Then over the Broadway Bridge and into Northeast Portland. Down in the second sub-basement was Steven, who had found all sorts of wonderful history for me.

Couch School, 1882

As I learn more about schools of 1903, my story keeps adapting. I have been a teacher too long to play fast and loose with facts. So the walking field trip in my story had to get written out, because there were no ‘field trips’ in American elementary schools in the early 1900s. “Kids in school should stay in school”, was the thought. I had included a scene in the school cafeteria, but schools of that time didn’t have them. Kids ate lunches brought from home at their classroom desks. As it is often said, good stories are not written. They are re-written, and re-written…

Heading home, I decided to try Grandpa Nelson’s suggestion, because the Portland Streetcar was as close as the bus. The A Loop runs clockwise, the B Loop, counterclockwise, in a large oval from the Eastside to the Westside of the city. The A Loop would take me within a block of the number 15 for my trip home, so I waited in the Fall sunshine by a delightfully ‘retro’ shelter.

Streetcar stop on NE Weidler

On the streetcar I chatted with folks visiting from Massachusetts and a potter who works at the Radius Community Art Studio, just under the Morrison Bridge. Another new place to explore!

Walking from the Streetcar to the bus stop, I realized I was fading fast and needed a snack. A perfect opportunity to try the NEW place that smells so good: Pufflewaffle! This pretty shop just opened last month. They sell Pufflewaffles, which are unique, cake-like made-to-order waffles which look like tiny round pillows sewn together. They are sweet and light, and rolled around ice cream. After that, I was ready to make my way home, where I rested and thought about how lucky I am to live here.img_1178.jpg


Grandma Judy

First Friday and the Last Street Fair

Dear Liza,

Sine Morse’s Little Red Riding Hood at SideStreet Gallery

Friday evening, Grandpa Nelson and I took Auntie Bridgett to dinner at the Ankeney Tap and Table a little earlier than usual. Since it was First Friday, she would be helping welcome people at The SideStreet Gallery, where several local artists (including her!) show their work. There are ceramics, collages, paintings, and jewelry. It was fun to see so many wonderful pieces and chat with the artists.

Bridgett Spicer’s beautiful work

The very next day was the Belmont Street Fair, the last fair of the summer. Early in the morning it felt like it might rain, but the fat grey clouds blew away and we had cool sunshine. The day started with a short walk to Oblique Coffee, which has the best coffee in our neighborhood. The family that runs it is fun, too.

The perfect way to start the day

At the fair we met the folks of Dysfunktional Art, who make adorably weird critters out of discarded hardware and kitchenware. I asked where they find their materials, they said people just bring them by! Freebies! Nice.

Dysfunktional Art

Heather Lee Kolbo makes really impressive art from recycled wood scraps that she gets at The ReBuilding Center up in the Mississippi neighborhood.

Heather Kolbo’s Recycled art

With primary election season coming up, there are booths supporting candidates, ballot measures, and always interesting ideas. The Voluntary Human Extinction folks weren’t here, but the Zero Population Growth folks were. As much as I support family planning, I don’t think making any law about what we do with our bodies is a good idea.

The dogs were out in force, including an accidental Corgie meet up that delighted everyone. Hollandaise, the hen, out with her sister Bernaise, were enjoying lots of visitors and treats. I asked if the ‘girls’ were having a good day, and their owner said, “They are now, because you said hi!”

At the old Belmont Firehouse, I investigated how fires were fought in 1903. There is a wonderful old horse drawn fire wagon on display, the kind that would have fought the fire at the Zann Broom Company and the adjacent match factory, which was in a wooden building three blocks from a school.  (I’m not kidding). Zoning laws exist for a reason, people!

Lieutenant Michael Springberg

I chatted with Lieutenant Michael Springberg. In addition to handing out plastic helmets and stickers to kids, he shared his firefighter’s perspective on Portland urban development. His background in education and interest in history gave us common ground and I hope we can continue our conversation sometime.

Grandpa Nelson and I walked back through the increasing crowds, dropping off my card at Inkwater,  the local publisher I would like to work with if any of my writing gets to paper.


Wouldn’t that be fun?


Grandma Judy





History Day in Salinas

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This morning I woke up and walked to Roosevelt School to attend and help out with the first Local History lecture series. My friend and former Principal, Mary Randall, had organized this group of historians to talk about Salinas of the past, and have some fun, too. There were lots of cookies brought by the Women’s Club, including some celebrating the Claus Oldenberg Statue called Hat in Three Stages of Landing. Delicious!

hat cookies at History.jpg
Hat Cookies

Before the lectures started I met old friends Larry Smith, who works as a docent at the First Mayor’s House, and Ruth Muldoon. Ruth taught kindergarten here in Salinas for about 35 years and now reads stories to third graders who visit the House. Liz Hibbard, another retired teacher, was there, and Rosalie, a wonderful lady who has worked with the Women’s Club for most of her many years. My School’s head custodian, Cesar, was there, too! Mary was his first principal and they are old friends, so he came. I also talked with Jeanne Garcia, who I worked with when I started teaching 30 years ago. I met Bingta Frankie, a new Board member at the First Mayor’s House. She looked so beautiful, I had to take her picture!

Bingta Frankie at History.jpg
The Historic Fashions of Bingta Frankie

Since we were gathered in the cafeteria of an elementary school, it felt natural to start off with the pledge of allegiance. Then Hannah Levi and Samantha Scattini, two lovely young ladies, sang a beautiful harmonic rendition of “My Country ’tis of Thee”. Patrick Redo was the master of ceremonies, and introduced former Mayor Dennis Donahue, a very nice man. He asked about Auntie Bridgett, because they are old friends. There was a mosaic (you know how I love mosaics) on the back wall that was from when Roosevelt School was very new, in the 1920s. It shows the Horse Parade, part of the Salinas Rodeo.

Mosaic from the 1930s

Sam Pacheco, who is a teacher at Hartnell College, talked about John Steinbeck. Sam is not from Salinas, but was drawn here by reading Mr. Steinbeck’s stories of the area. Rene Astorga played us music from the 1860s like Old Susannah and got us to sing along. We weren’t very loud, but we had fun.

Anita Mason unraveled the historic riddle of why the mighty Southern Pacific Railroad came across the muddy Elkhorn Slough and through tiny Salinas. Santa Rita had flatter, more solid ground, but the Spanish laws of inheritance, which were still in effect in California, made it almost impossible to sell land that had been part of a Spanish Rancho Land Grant. This was most of the land around Santa Rita. By the time the Railroad figured this out, the Salinas Valley was beginning to boom and they decided to come through the Salinas Valley to move all the grain, dairy and fruit growing here to the rest of the country.

Deborah Silguero gave a very interesting talk about women’s fashion of the 1860s, including all the interesting underwear! Very different from our clothing these days. Mary Randall talked about the schools and social life of the time, and Girl Scout Troop 30110 came and showed us all how to do the Virginia Reel, and got about 20 folks up to join the dance. It was fun, having grown ups and kids dancing together, making mistakes and smiling and trying again.

By the time the dancing was over, I was ready to head home again. What a great day of Salinas History!


Grandma Judy