Chinese New Year Downtown

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I was heading downtown to meet a friend at the Art Museum, and I got distracted by drums! I crossed the street to the Oregon Historical Society where about a hundred people were gathering.

Coming down the street were a couple hundred more, lead by a hundred foot long Chinese dragon! Then came smaller dragons of blue and yellow, even black! It was delightful and amazing.

The line of dragons and folks paraded up the ramp to the Jin and Julieanne Park Plaza in front of the Oregon Historical Society and did a rousing dance. The thumping drums were so big they had to be pulled in a wagon. People kept surging up the ramp, with people shimmying into gaps in the crowd to be able to watch, until we were all shoulder to shoulder.

People were dancing along, taking pictures, and boosting children onto their shoulders. When all the dragons had taken their turn, bowed their bows, and the last drum had thumped, the dancers removed their dragon heads and chatted with the crowd. The dragons, which had danced so fiercely, now seemed to be big fluffy muppets. They even let some kids touch their delicate trim.

The Lunar New Year Parade was presented by the Chinatown Museum and the Oregon Historical Society, and they had paraded from the one to the other, and I had known nothing about it. I felt so lucky to have been in the right place to see the grand finale!

It’s good to live in such an interesting city.


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

Downtown Fun

Dear Liza,

The South Park Blocks with Mr. Lincoln’s Statue

My history story about Portland is coming along very well. I actually printed a copy out and had Grandpa Nelson read it! He reads so much that he is a good judge of when a story works, when it doesn’t, and what it needs to make it better.

My story, under construction

He asks good questions, too, questions that I don’t know the answers to…yet.

As usual when I have questions I need answered, I headed downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. Auntie Bridgett came along, but went to the Portland Art Museum.

I spent a few hours reading books about the streetcars that used to run all over the city, and found some really interesting things to use in my story. Did you know there were streetcars that ran on steam engines until 1903? I didn’t!

First Congregational Church and other lights

At 5:00, the library closed and I went to fetch Auntie Bridgett at the Museum. They have so many beautiful things in their gift shop, it was hard to pull ourselves away. We bundled up and walked down the dark, Christmas-lit streets of Portland. The weather was clear and cold, and everything looked so pretty!

We got to Kenny and Zuke’s, our favorite deli, and Grandpa Nelson came downtown to meet us for dinner. When we were full of chicken soup, pastrami and French fries, we walked over to Powell’s bookstore.

Urban Christmas

The author of Lost Portland Oregon, Val C. Ballestrem, was giving a talk about his book. It is a history of a dozen or so important buildings that are no longer standing in Portland, and it is fascinating (of course we bought a copy!)

Some buildings, like the Temple Beth Israel Synagogue , were burned by an arsonist. Another, the Marquam Building and Opera, collapsed while being repaired. And still others, the ones that make me the saddest, were torn down in the interest of urban renewal….. to make room for a parking lot.

There were photographs of the buildings and the lots they stood on, which give a hint of how the city landscape has been molded and changed over the century and a half going from a cabin by the Willamette to urban metropolis.

It is interesting, sometimes sad, always amazing, and I am so glad I get to be here to learn about it!


Grandma Judy

Architecture, History, and Beer

Dear Liza,

Last week I took the good old number 14 downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. The weather was a cold but clear, and everything looked so pretty!

NOT A.E. Doyle

As I get to know more about the architecture of Portland, I recognize certain styles of decoration. One of my favorite architects of Portland is A. E. Doyle. He designed the Central Library and the Bank of California building, as well as dozens of others, working in Portland from 1907 to his death in 1928.

Mr. Doyle used fired ceramic details to give his buildings a lovely artistic look, delicate against the dark stone or brick. It has stayed bright because of the glaze and reflects even the smallest bit of sunlight.

A.E. Doyle

After admiring old and new buildings, I looked for more details for my story about 1903. How many synagogues were there? (Three). Was Jiggs Parrot’s father’s music store still open? (Sadly, no.) was there mail service between Brownsville and Portland? (Yes, and telegraph service…but no phone lines until 1908). The more I write my story, the more I need to know.

When I needed a snack, I went down to the lobby to eat. No sticky fingers in the library! The current exhibit on the first floor is called……. and is all about the history of brewing in Oregon.


This isn’t really surprising. Portland is famous for all our different beers, and we have learned that the McMinamen Brothers helped change liquor laws here so that small brewers could be in business.

The exhibit had all sorts of things… buckets for bringing “suds” (beer) home from the tavern, old Blitz Weinhard bottles, and a video explaining the devastating effects seventeen years of Prohibition had on the beer industry. It turns out, some brewers, like Henry Weinhard, were able to stay in business making root beer and other soft drinks (this was actually the beginning of the soft drink industry).img_1516.jpeg

There was a interactive display of the brewing process and recognition of Mr. Eckhardt, who taught the McMenamins all they know about beer. The displays were interesting and amusing, with the lights being large hop flowers.

The last exhibit was about the future of the brewing industry: Women! The Pink Boots Society works for education and inclusivity for women in the industry.img_1520-2.jpeg

When it was almost 2 and I couldn’t put off lunch any more, I headed for the bus stop and home.

I spent a few hours putting the new information into the story, and found more things that are needed.

This whole writing process may take a while…


Grandma Judy

An Evening with Colonel Roosevelt

Dear Liza,

Joe Wiegand as Teddy Roosevelt

Yesterday was a good day. I got another draft of my story done, Auntie Bridgett made some very nifty art, and we got to take the bus downtown to spend time with Theodore Roosevelt.

Well, sort of. We went to the First Congregational Church to watch Joe Wiegand do his amazingly funny, historic and touching portrayal of our 26th president. We saw the show last October and enjoyed it very much. It was presented by the Oregon Historical Society and sponsored by Wells Fargo Bank, and admission was free! Just like last year, the church was full.

The Organ at First Congregational Church

Even before the show began, Mr. Wiegand was circulating in the crowd, shaking hands and chatting with friends old and new. I summoned my nerve and went over to ask for a photo, and we had a lovely conversation about wrestling with brothers and expanding one’s horizons. Mr. Wiegand, in his Teddy persona, has a way of making everyone feel like the most interesting person he has ever met.

In his introduction, Carey Timchik of The Oregon Historical Society let us know that this was Mr. Wiegand’s fifth performance of the day. He has been touring schools, libraries, and historical societies all over the state, sharing his love of Teddy and our history with kids. Mr. Timchik also told us the Wells Fargo Bank was the first bank to do business with Chinese Americans here in Portland, back in the early 20th century, when all the other banks shut them out.

Mr.Wiegand shared familiar stories of Teddy’s life; of being a sickly boy who had to build his body up by boxing and exercise, of raising his rowdy bunch of children in the White House, of losing his son Quentin in World War I.

He told us that last year, he (Mr. Wiegand) traveled to France with a young man who was portraying Theodore’s son Quentin. They visited Chamery, the small town where the real Quentin’s plane was shot down and Quentin died in 1918. That small town has re-named their elementary school from Ecole Premiere to Ecole Quentin Roosevelt, to remember the young American who died fighting for French freedom. This was so touching, we all choked up a bit.

But my favorite story of the evening came in response to a question. “What did you and John Muir talk about in your three day tour of The Yosemite in 1903?”

“If you must know, there around the campfire, John Muir scolded me about my love of hunting,” admitted Teddy. “Mr. President, he said, when will you get over this childish need to shoot everything?” The two men, though both conservationists, had very different ideas about what wilderness was for. Mr. Roosevelt wanted it used for the greatest good for the most people, and Mr. Muir wanted it protected from any touch of man. This is a debate that we are still having.

Me and Teddy!

When Mr. Wiegand had finished his talk, Mr. Timchik came out and raffled off an enormous Teddy Bear, earning a $500 donation to the Society. There was laughter, applause, smiles all around, and off we went. The evening was still warm enough to be comfortable in just light jackets while we waited for the bus home.


Grandma Judy

Downtown with the Cousins

Dear Liza,

The cupola

It is hot again here in Portland, so I made sure my Monday with Jasper and Kestrel included lots of air conditioning and water.

We took the number 4 bus downtown to the Pioneer Courthouse. This nifty building was built in 1875, and is still being used. It has a wonderfully old elevator that feels like a birdcage, and lovely steps, as well. We enjoyed both as we headed for the main attraction, the cupola!

Cool old elevator

A cupola is a little tower with windows that sticks out the top of a building. The courthouse cupola was built because this was where customs officers could come and see what ships were in the port of Portland. In those days, this was the tallest building around, so you could see the river from here. Not anymore, I’m afraid.

But we enjoyed the old bubbly glass, the views, and knowing that we were in a special place. Looking down, we saw Pioneer Square, which is called Portland’s Living Room because of all the public events there. Once we climbed down from the cupola, we crossed the street and had snacks there while listening to bluegrass music.

Pretty carpeted stairs

But it was getting hot. So we headed up to the Oregon Historical Society, which is air conditioned and free, since I am member. Their main exhibit was about Oregon State University (OSU, Go Beavers!) and many of the famous and influential people who graduated from there. There was information about Linus Pauling, The McMenamin brothers, people who invented whale tracking technology, the fellow who invented the computer mouse,  and much more. There was also a soft comfy couch for Grandmas.

Tracking whales

Having filled our heads with history and science, we walked to Director’s Park, where there is a fountain designed for playing in. The kids got wet, splashed other kids, and generally had a good time. We ate a cobbled together picnic in the shade, played a big game of Connect Four until tempers started to fray,  and then we headed home.

Kids and water

I had brought storybooks to read, and Kestrel had lots more. Jasper practiced Spanish on his Duolingo program. We made dinner, Auntie Katie came home, and Grandpa Nelson came to fetch me. I was one pooped Grandma Judy!

When it “cooled down” to 88 degrees at 9 o’clock, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. The moon was almost full and the park was beautiful, but it was still too warm to be comfortable. Tomorrow will be a quiet inside day, I think.



Grandma Judy

Back to Downtown

Dear Liza,

Plaza outside Student Services Building

Well, since I wasn’t able to find what I needed  Downtown Tuesday, I needed another trip. But that is absolutely okay with me, because I love it! The day was sunny and breezy. There were people out walking their dogs, summer camps on walking trips, and even a small farmer’s market on the Park Blocks.

Farmer’s Market in the shade

First, I visited the Oregon Historical Society Research Library. I have a part in my story where the school children are walking on a field trip, and I wanted to know what they would be walking past. I found the City Directory for 1903 to see what was there. As it turns out, the neighborhood I am interested in, the northwest,  was mostly houses, with about ten churches, at the time. Businesses and city services were closer to downtown.

City Planning Maps!!

One of the fun things about research is that you do a lot of looking at other things before you find the ones you are really looking for. I found a book of detailed maps of downtown Portland from the big re-development in 1985. Loving maps like I do, I fell into that one for quite a while.

Then it was time to return to the City Archives. Walking down towards Portland State University is always interesting. There are young people, music, fountains, and always something new to see. This fellow, washing windows 5 stories up on a 14 story building, looked very at ease in his work.

Confident window washer

Since thousands of students come to the University everyday, there is great public transit to this area. Street cars, light rail, and buses are all over the place.

Portland Street Car








I found interesting information on the parade that the city of Portland had to honor President Theodore Roosevelt on his visit in 1903, and then it was time to head home. Walking back, I noticed that The Portland Building is under a huge construction project. The giant statue “Portlandia” is still attached to the front of the building, but completely draped to protect her from the work. I miss her.

Draped Portlandia

After dinner, we all walked up the The Laurelhurst Theater to see “Ocean’s Eight”. It was a fun movie and the walk home, under the lovely pink sunset, was the highlight of a very good day.


Grandma Judy






Portlandia Undraped