The Process is Progressing

Dear Liza,

As you know, I have been working on my children’s history story about Portland for a little over a year now. For the first six months I read about Portland history so I know how it became a city and what sort of interesting things happened here. The Oregon Historical Society and Belmont Library became my favorite hangouts.

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A Young Lady in 1903

I chose to put my story in the spring of 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt came through Portland on a country-wide tour. There was a parade, a ceremony in what is now Washington Park, and a banquet. It was a very big deal and I think it would make a good backdrop for a mystery story. But as I told you, I don’t know much about mysteries.

So, I studied that, too. For a few weeks, I read Nancy Drew books and articles about mystery story plots, character development, and clues.

But as a teacher, I never really understand something until I need to teach it. So I pretended I was teaching someone about how to make a mystery story.  I cut shapes out of paper to show everything that happened in the story: action, characters, description, distractions.

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A new way of seeing a story

I practiced using these pieces to map out the first eight chapters of The Bungalow Mystery, #3 of the Nancy Drew books. I could see when action happened, when characters were introduced, how the chapters alternated between action and description, and how each chapter ended in a new mystery or dangerous situation.

This took some of the mystery out of writing my mystery! I am now working on my own story, using these paper pieces to  make the characters move to solve the riddles of the story and come to a happy ending. If I don’t like the way it is going, I just move the pieces around! I feel organized, less confused, but flexible enough to create and re-create the story until it is right.img_9480.jpg

Of course, once I have this visual outline done, I still have to write the actual words….but that’s the fun part! I am happy to have found a way of working that works for me.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Dr. C. Gee Wo

Dear Liza,

I love researching history! Since my story takes place in 1903 Portland, I am getting to know about people who lived here then, and how things were for them. One thing that was really different was that there were laws against some people living here. These were called Exclusion Laws.

But life usually finds a way, as in the case of Dr. C. Gee Wo, a real Chinese person I have learned about and put into my story. Dr. Wo was from China and was an herbal doctor, using teas and herbal medicines to help make people better. He studied for many years, in China and America, to be good at his profession. He moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he had a popular practice for eleven years, from 1889 to 1900.

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Dr. Wo’s ad in Portland newspapers, 1900 to 1910

During that time, he married a white lady name C. DeWitt (I can’t find her first name anywhere, just her first initial. Maybe Caroline? Celestine? Charlotte?) In 1900, they moved to Portland, Oregon, and Dr. Wo opened his herbal medicine practice.

At that time, the Exclusion Laws said Chinese people couldn’t own property, so Chinese needed to rent apartments, mostly in the neighborhood on the west side of the river. But Dr. Wo’s wife was white, so she could buy property where they wanted. They bought a small house, and, when business was better, built a bigger house next door.

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His ad from 1910 to 1920

As the years went on, Dr. Wo became a respected member of not just the Chinese community, but of the city of Portland. He donated to victims of the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. He contributed to local causes and invested in businesses. He helped the city grow.

Dr. Wo retired about 1915, but stayed active in the community at least until 1921, when he made a large contribution to the local Community Chest fund. I haven’t found any information about him after that time, but I will keep looking. Being a history detective is exciting!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Sunnyside School Visit

Dear Liza,

Today I walked over to Sunnyside Environmental School for a visit with their wonderful librarian, Gillian Grimm. Gillian had kindly agreed to share what she knows about the history of Sunnyside School and the neighborhood.

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Flamingo Nativity

It is cold and grey out today, but my walk was improved by the latest installation at the Flamingo house: A Nativity scene! The already cheerful pink flamingos were dressed in red. It was adorable.

At Sunnyside, I learned a lot about the school. Although the current building was built in 1925, there has been a school at the corner of Taylor and 34th since at least 1904, and most likely, much earlier. There are photos of students and their teachers posed on the front steps of the old school in 1904, but newspaper real estate advertisements from the 1890s that offer houses in the Sunnyside neighborhood with the inducement “close to good school”.

Gillian also shared with me some trophies that have been awarded to the school over the years. The oldest was from 1908, a tarnished but lovely trophy to Sunnyside School for their entry into the Rose Festival Children’s Parade.

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1904 Rose Parade Trophy

But back to the present: Gillian Grimm became librarian of Sunnyside in 2013. Before that, the position had been filled for ten years with library assistants and clerks, who checked out and maintained the books, but didn’t order new materials, cull old ones, or do any teaching. Gillian had plenty of work to bring the library up to speed and into the new century.

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Winnie the library dog

Gillian runs the library as a welcoming space, decorated by students and featuring squishy chairs for sitting and Winnie, an English Springer Spaniel who welcomes one and all. The students come in before school to check out books for silent reading as well as having regular visits with their classes.

Everything I saw at Sunnyside shows a school where the students are engaged, the teachers and staff excited about what they do, and the parents supportive. I almost wish I was 12 again so I could attend!

But not quite.

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Than One Kind of Stone

Dear Liza,

As I mentioned, Auntie Bridgett and I took a nice long walk through Lone Fir Cemetery yesterday. There are so many graves with interesting stories, but they all feel too sad to tell today. I will tell you about another stone I found and the person it tells about.

On my walks to Auntie Katie’s house, I always go through Lone Fir, then down 20th Street to Ladd’s Addition. At the corner of 20th and Madison is a wonderfully cared for Craftsman Style house, and on the curb outside is a block of cement about 24 inches wide, and 10 inches by 10 inches that says “Dr. Locke”.

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Being curious, I went online to do some research. Between real estate sites and old newspapers, I have pieced together this history.

Dr. James Kelsey Locke lived and worked in that house from 1906, when he had it built, until 1924, when he died at the age of 62. He was an obstetrician and his house was a “birthing house”, since babies were not born in hospitals back then. He had been a doctor in Portland since 1892, and was much loved by the community. He left a widow, Minnie, and two grown children when he passed away.

There are living quarters on the first floor and four ‘birthing’ bedrooms on the second floor. There was even a ballroom on the third floor, I suppose for celebrations of births and other entertainments. A newspaper article lists the house as being sold to Dr. Arthur Johnson the same year it was built, which leads me to believe Dr. Locke had built it as an investment, sold it to Dr. Johnson, but continued to live and work in it.

He was also on the staff at Good Samaritan Hospital in the Northwest part of Portland for many years, and in the Oregon State Senate for a short term.

The block of cement outside was used as a step, to make it easier for Dr. Locke’s very pregnant patients to step out of their carriages onto the sidewalk. If you watch the old movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”, you will see this sort of step used when people come and go.

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           Dr. Locke’s former house                                                                   Photo credit:Portland MLS

We don’t know Dr. Locke, and except for the probably thousands of mothers and babies he gave care and comfort to, he was not a historically significant person. But his story is part of the city’s story, and I love finding out more about it.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Laurelhurst Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

Today, while Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett were working, I went for a walk around the Laurelhurst neighborhood. It is just next to our Kerns neighborhood and very shady and pretty.

There is Laurelhurst Park, which I have told you about, 31 acres of maple, fir, oak and elm trees with places for kids to play and dogs to run, as well as a small lake for ducks and turtles, picnic tables and toys to climb on. The Park was built in 1909,  and the trees were planted then, because this land had been a farm. So these giant trees are “only” one hundred years old.  The Park was made by a landscape architect named Emanuel Mische. The hills and valleys of the land helped him make it feel like a forest and not just flat land with trees. It is my favorite place in Portland.

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Lovely old tree in Laurelhurst Park

 

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Sunlight through leaves

Back when the park was new, boys and girls played very different games from each other and didn’t play together as much as you do now. The south side of the play area was “for boys”, and the north side was “for girls”. I will have to do some more reading and learn what games they played. Now, everyone plays together, however they like.

While the park was being planted, houses were being built on land that had been William Ladd’s Hazelfern Farm. Mr. Ladd had been a mayor of Portland, and when he died, his family sold the land to the Laurelhurst Company to develop a neighborhood. It was built right along the streetcar lines, so it was easy to get to from Downtown Portland. This was before many people had cars, so they rode horses, walked, or took streetcars to get around.

Before the building started, the Laurelhurst Company put up sandstone arches at the entrances to the neighborhood. These made the place feel very special, even when it was just hills and dirt.

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The houses people built were very different from the house you have in Salinas. There are Bungalow Style, Spanish Revival, a very pretty style called Fairy Tale, and many others. Some houses are a combination of styles, so it is hard to give them all names. Sort of like if one of your Little Ponies had a crown on her head, butterfly wings, and strawberries on her bottom!

 

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Bungalow Style

thumbnail_FullSizeRender-5.jpg Spanish Revival Style

 

The building started in 1910 and in six years, 500 houses had been built. In another ten years, there were only about 20 empty lots left to build on!

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Fairy Tale Style

This was a very popular place to live. It was far enough out of town to be quiet and peaceful, but the streetcar made it easy to get to.

Coe Circle was a grassy park in the middle of the Neighborhood, and the streets go in curvy lines around it, very different from the straight streets in most of the rest of Portland. The streetcar ran right to the Circle and turned around to go back into town. In 1925, Henry Waldo Coe, a doctor who lived in Portland, wanted to give a gift to the city. He bought a copy of a statue of Joan of Arc, a famous French heroine, and had it placed in Coe Circle. It wasn’t put in the middle of the circle, because the streetcar tracks were there! The streetcar line was removed in 1925, but the statue is still off-center.

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Joan of Arc Statue

I walked for about an hour, got tired and came home to read more about what I had seen, and make lunch.

Love,

Grandma Judy