Rain, Friendly History, and Pizza

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was another busy day. Auntie Bridgett and I took the #15 downtown just as the rain started, and walked up the hill to the Oregon Historical Society. This was her first time in the Research Library, and after she had signed in and our stuff was put away in a locker, we did our separate research.

I was hunting for pictures of Mrs. Pittock’s house on the corner of SW Park and Washington, and for information about a big party she had there in 1889. Bridgett was looking for information about a very funny KGW radio program called “The Hoot Owls”, which started in 1923. Librarian Scott Daniels helped me with boxes on photographs and folders full of newspaper clippings, and white glove to wear so I didn’t damage the old, delicate paper.

We were both fairly successful. I was able to see and sketch photos of Mrs. Pittock’s house and figure out what other buildings were on the property, but found absolutely nothing about the party. This puzzles me: Every story about the Rose Festival starts with a mention of Mrs. Pittock’s Rose Party…but no one seems to know when it happened, who was there, or what anything looked like. Did this party really happen? I will keep digging!

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A Burl

Bridgett found booklets of the silly songs “The Hoot Owls” sang on their radio show, and had a good time reading them. The producers of the show would publish the booklets and sell them, raising money to give to charity, like Comic Relief raises money today.

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Credit where due

By four o’clock, we were hungry for a snack and ready to head home. We walked up to catch the #20 home, walking down 6th Avenue, which was a new street for us. We saw some new statues and an old bank building with the letters F-A-R-G-O in huge letters across the top. Guess which bank built that?

We got home just in time for dinner, but didn’t want to cook, so after Grandpa Nelson had some dinner, we all walked down to Babydoll Pizza and enjoyed a slice and some cider, and a game of “Ghostbusters” pinball. A very satisfactory end to a lovely day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Another bit of Burls

Downtown again

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Old newspaper building

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I went downtown to do some more research at the Oregon Historical Society Library. The ladies there were very helpful and I learned about the horse pulled and electric trolley car lines of 1880’s Portland.

Because the streets were so muddy before the days of storm drains and paving, street cars made getting around easier. They let the city grow and have room for more people. The lines ran north and south from downtown and east across the Willamette River, opening up East Portland for housing and businesses. I am glad they did, because that’s where we are living now. Except we take buses to get downtown.

There was rain this morning, but it cleared up and then didn’t rain again until afternoon. I enjoyed having some time to look around downtown. I like how the lovely old stone buildings and the shiny new ones seem to get along.

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Shiny new bank building

I also enjoyed a nice cool drink of water from one of the Benson Bubblers.There are 20 of these lovely drinking fountains in downtown Portland, and they run all day and all night, year round. There is no water shortage here in the rainy northwest like there is in California, so this isn’t a problem.

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Benson Bubbler

The bubblers were a gift to the city from Simon Benson, a man who came to Portland with nothing and ended up being very rich. He chopped trees, built buildings, and eventually owned a lot of land and even some banks. Being so successful, he wanted to give something nice to the city.

One thing he noticed was that, except for saloons and bars, there was no where to go to get a drink of water. This bothered him because once a man was in a saloon, he tended to order a beer or two, and wasn’t much use for the afternoon. He had the bubblers installed in downtown and people have been enjoying them ever since. People still drink beer, though. Sorry, Mr. Benson.

Mr. Benson did a lot of other good things with his money. He said that no rich man should die without giving some of his money away, and he wanted to give it away when he was still around to enjoy seeing the results. He donated $100,000 for a high school, now called Benson High School, on the east side of Portland. He donated some property in the Columbia Gorge, called Wakeenah Falls, to the city as a park.

Portland has many people who have been successful and donated nice things to the city. I will tell you about them as I come across their stories.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Oregon Historical Society, Part 2

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Dear Liza,

It has been very hot here, and also smokey, because of the many wildfires in Oregon and Washington. On Tuesday, I took the #15 bus downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. It was a nice, cool bus ride to a nice, cool library.

I am writing a new story, a history of Portland as seen through the eyes of a character I am calling Caroline Estes. She visits Portland when she is 8, 13, 19, 29, and finally moves here at the age of 44 with her husband and two children. To write this story well, I need to know a lot more about what Portland was like from 1888 to 1924….what people were talking about, buying, and wearing, where they went for fun, what were the problems of the day. Stuff like that.

Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I became members of the OHS last Saturday, but you don’t have to be a member to use the Research Library. You just check your bag, sign in, and ask for help. I got to look at theater programs with advertisements from the years 1894 and 1907. It was like visiting the home of an elderly friend, and I handled everything very carefully.

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Car advertisements

Ads can tell you a lot about a place and a time. What I found was that even in 1905, Portland was pretty modern. All the ads included a telephone number, and many of the wagon and buggy shops  had started selling cars. There were tailors, drug stores, candy shops, and fancy restaurants. Railroad agents were offering to arrange train trips to Yosemite or even the Hotel del Monte, down in Monterey. Labor saving devices were all the rage, as well. “Help for the Housewife”, they were called.

Some of the ads were just funny. One simply said, “If you can’t boost, don’t knock. J.C. Lee.” Boost what? Knock what? No idea. But I’m sure it meant something at the time.

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What is he talking about?

Many of the ads used cartoons to catch your eye. The geese (at the top) sure made you look, but it was just an ad for a store. This king on a throne (below) was selling beer.

When my head was full and my hand sore from taking notes, I handed back all the delicate things to the librarian and walked back to the bus.

I plan on spending many more delightful days here, learning all I can to make my story interesting!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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King Gambrinus selling beer

Oregon Historical Society

Dear Liza,

Our weather keeps getting hotter! So Grandpa Nelson, The Idea Guy, made plans.  Just after lunch, we walked out into the already horrible heat to catch the #15 bus. On the air conditioned bus, we rode in happy relief towards downtown. We noticed that the bus goes directly past the Post Office on 7th Street…which will be good to know when Auntie Bridgett needs to mail her zines or I want to send you something.

We got off at the Oregon Historical Society, which is just across the Park Blocks from the Portland Art Museum. Grandpa Nelson was very interested in the “High Hopes” exhibit about President John Kennedy. There were many fun artifacts to see, like John’s report card from The Choate School, where he got a C- in public speaking, and a letter from young John to his father, asking for a raise in his allowance and giving reasons why it was needed.

But what I loved most were the speeches he gave, proving that his weakness in public speaking class was overcome with help and practice. His Inauguration speech, made on the first day he became President, still gives me goosebumps. He was so optimistic about what our country could do for ourselves and for the world. So many of his ideas were proven right, but only after he had died. We needed to sit down for a while, to think about President Kennedy, our country, and what we believe in.

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President John Kennedy

On the second floor we found an exhibit of Oregon history from the time of the Native Americans to now. A Native American story was written down by Ella Clark: “The Earth was once a human being, made by the creator to be a mother to her people. Her soil is flesh, the rocks are her bones, the wind is her breath, the trees and grass are her hair.” Sometimes when I walk in the park here, or by the ocean, I feel that loving mother-ness from the earth. That connection to the earth helps us feel whole, I think.

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State seal of Oregon. The motto is in Latin

We learned about all the things that Oregon has chosen as its symbols. These are to recognize what is special about the state. Oregon’s state motto is “She flies on her own wings”. I like this so much! The female image for the state, the freedom of wings and personal ownership, all tell of strength, independence, and freedom. As if Oregon were a strong, lovely fairy.

There are lots of other symbols, so I will make a small list here:

State bird: Western Meadowlark

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Western Meadowlark               Photo credit:enwikipedia.org

State flower: Oregon Grape (I know it sounds like a fruit, but it is also a flower)

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State fruit: Pears

State drink: Milk

State butterfly: Oregon Swallowtail

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Oregon Swallowtail                                     Photo credit :Fred Bentler

State animal: Beaver

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            Beaver                                                    Photo credit: globe-views.com

 

State tree: Douglas fir

When we had looked, talked, read and thought all we could about history, we had a snack and caught the streetcar up to Powell’s Bookstore, on SW 10th and Couch, to browse. There are so many wonderful books. I always learn something new or remember something I had forgotten.

For our last fun activity downtown, we walked to the (Air Conditioned) Living Room Theater at SW 10th and Stark. At this movie theater, you can order sandwiches or pizza, as well as beer, wine or soda, and they bring you the food at your seat before the movie starts. Each theater only holds about 30 people, but the chairs are comfortable.

We watched a funny French movie called “Lost in Paris”. It had subtitles but I enjoyed understanding some of the French, as well. It is not a kid’s movie, but we three adults enjoyed it very much.

We took the #20 back home and got Grandpa Nelson a milk shake at Fifty Licks, a very popular ice cream parlor right at the bus stop on Burnside, and just a few blocks from our house.

We rested and wrote in the cool basement until we got sleepy enough to go to bed. It was still hotter than most days in Salinas at 11:30 at night. And tomorrow is predicted to be even warmer! Oy and vey.

Love, Grandma Judy