“My name is Dee Chambers. I moved to the Conner Community with my parents Elmer and Jennie Chambers and two sisters when I was in the fourth grade. We moved into a shack of a house with only one light bulb and no running water. The toilet was out back of the house. The house was a board and bat construction. That is: wide boards were nailed on to the frame vertically and narrower boards were nailed over the cracks between the wide boards. The house was situated in the place where Larry Langmade now lives at the East end of the Dever-Conner overpass. The walk to Conner school every day was about a mile each way.
“My closest friends at that time were the Miller boys who lived North of what is now Higbee Drive. The house they lived in had to be moved when Interstate 5 was built. So Lynn Hoefer purchased it and moved it to its present location where Lynn and Claudia Hoefer still live. In the summer we used to go swimming at the bluff on the Santiam River. More about the bluff later. We only lived here for about a year, then my parents bought a farm in the Jefferson area so we moved to Jefferson. After we were there for about a couple of years, World War II ended and a young fellow (his name is Dale Turnidge) came home from the army and wanted my parents’ farm so they sold it and bought another one back in the Conner community. We moved back there across the road from the Davis family. The Cook family was just down the road a short distance as was the Pesheck family. It was back to Conner School again and it was a mile walk each way. And that’s where I grew up.
“Conner School was a two room school: 4 grades in each room. I graduated from the 8th grade at Conner then went to high school in Albany. I finished high school and started farming. Many years later, when my parents quit farming, I purchased their farm and moved into the house they had built in 1951. Many years later I sold the farm to my son who lives there now with his family.
“When I was going to school at Conner, the school was heated with a wood stove, so the older boys got the job of going to school early and took turns one month at a time to start the fire in the stove. That way the school would be warm when the teacher and the rest of the students got there. We got $5 a month from the school board for this chore.
“A couple of things I remember about growing up in the Conner Community:
“We went swimming at the floating bridge. The Turnidge family had a farm on both sides of the Santiam River on what is now Don Turnidge’s farm in Linn County and Keith Johnston’s farm in Marion County. They build a pontoon bridge across the river. It was just a couple of big logs with boards nailed across it. It was anchored to each bank with heavy cables so that you could drive on it. It was a great place to swim–we had a lot of good times.
“Another thing I remember is the ball games. The community liked to play softball. So much in fact that Albert and Walter Harnisch built a ball diamond for us just South of where Craig and Beth Christopherson now live on a piece of ground that was though to be too rocky to farm. It is now planted to blueberries. The Harnisch men even put up lights for us so we could play in the evening after work.
“Back to the bluff: it’s where the Santiam River and Bluff Road meet. It has always been called The Bluff by everyone in the community. I don’t know this for a fact, but I was told this by some of the old timers who would have known. Many years ago, sometime in the mid 1800s, across from The Bluff, on the Marion County side of the river was Syracuse City. There was a ferry there that hauled people and their goods across the river. This was before there were any dams and flooding was a regular occurrence. One winter a real bad flood happened and washed the town away. The people living there decided that perhaps it was not a good place for a town. So it was not rebuilt. Instead they built a new town up river on higher ground and named it Jefferson.
“Having lived in the Conner community now for almost 60 years I can say it’s been a good place to grow up, live and raise a family. A lot of changes have taken place in the period of time. A lot of people still think of us being out in the country, but the city is getting closer all the time. Why, city water is only three miles from our farm now. It’s certainly not the country I remember as a kid growing up. By the way, I forgot to mention that I am Abby Chamber’s Grandpa. I can’t help but wonder when she is my age and looks back at the Conner community what changes she will see; what memories she will have. I trust they will all be good ones.