HERITAGE JOURNALS: STORIES COLLECTED BY 6TH GRADE STUDENTS OF JAQUI EICHER, 2002

When I was asked to write a story about Oregon, my thoughts went back to the time when I first came to teach school in the town of Jefferson. Yes, to be exact it was but a wide spot in the road but it was an important wide spot. Why? Well it’s importance stemmed from the fact that it was situated on the two main arteries of travel–the railroad and the highway. At that time much of the passenger traveling was done by rail for buses were just beginning to come in to use. Most of the trains were made up of freight cars and passenger cars. The trains made regular stops at the station which was located at the east end of Church Street. The men working for the railroad company picked up freight that was being sent out as well as outgoing mail and deposited freight and mail being delivered to Jefferson residents. Travel was so different in those days for the pace of travel was far less speedy than it is today.

This is not a very interesting story by perhaps it will give an idea of what traveling conditions were like seventy years ago. The automobile industry has made such a deep impression on our mere existence in this world. We must stay alert just to keep up with the crowd.

It might be of interest to readers to compare our methods of travel to that which was used by the early settlers of this area. The method of travel used by the great grandfather of my husband, Gilbert was the covered wagon. Jesse Looney came to the Willamette Valley in 1843 to look this area over, then he returned with family and some friends to make a home in the area that is now known as the Looney Butte area. He staked a land claim and later staked claim for his children when they came of age.

It was shortly after my arrival here in 1930 that I met Gilbert Looney and in 1933 we were married and for the life I’ve had in Jefferson I am truly grateful.

–Geraldine “Gerry” Looney

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HERITAGE JOURNALS: STORIES COLLECTED BY 6TH GRADE STUDENTS OF JAQUI EICHER, 2002

The Chambers Family

We are all in the Surburban which is loaded with 5 bikes, 2 sets of golf clubs on the roof, heading NW out of Death Valley towards home, the Willamette Valley. We are considerably browner and hopefully more rested than one week ago, although that is up for debate.

I will begin this journal entry with a quick survey of Oregon memories from my childhood. When I was young my dad worked for a finance company and got transferred a lot. We lived in Newport of several years and I remember mom being continually frustrated by sand in the house. My brother, Kevin, disengaged the gear shift on the car in our steep driveway and when it started rolling, he jumped out, catching his jacket on the door handle and was thrown under the wheels. Kind of a bizarre memory, the but the kind a child remembers. My mom had to scrub his scalp and pick gravel out with tweezers. It was not a fun time.

In Newport I also remember the big Columbus Day storm. We were all with our babysitter at home waiting for Mom to get home from her job in Depoe Bay. I recall the howling winds and our screen door blowing off in the wind and flying down the street.

We lived in Toledo next and I remember our black dog Lady having a litter of pups. They were so cute and that is when I developed my affection for puppy  breath. I also have a fond memory of learning to iron at about age 4–my dad’s handkerchiefs when he went away on a business trip. He praised me and made a big deal about the good job I did.

Next we moved to a house on Siltcoos Lake. It was an awesome place with a huge patio overlooking the lake and our dock. There was a bit of decline to the lake and the yellow Scotch Broom that covered the hillside glowed at sunset. Our dock had some logs that were attached forming a triangle. I remember bobbing for hours at a time with a life jacket on while my dad and his brothers fished. Fishing was so good; they would take clothes baskets down and fill them with Bass, Crappy and Blue Gill. I spent hours studying the lily pads that bloomed around the edge of the lake. I thought they were so interesting–how the roots came up through the murky water with pads and beautiful floating flowers. It is interesting how certain things you encounter through life take root. In later years I became a competitive swimmer because of a love of water that I’m sure developed while bobbing in the lake and also, I took the first of many painting classes because I wanted a painting of lily pads (which is hanging on a bedroom wall in our cabin).

I remember picnics at Honeymon Parkin Florence. If you’ve never been there, the park has a wonderful lake surrounded by sand dunes. We would run down the dunes and plunge into the lake until we were exhausted.

Then we moved to Reedsport where I started first grade. The only thing I remember about the school is that my boyfriend, Timmy Timchuck, gave me an Indian Head ring. Out behind our home we had a small creek. I spent hours watching and catching tadpoles and salamanders. They fascinated me. . . the way the legs grew on fishy bodies. While we lived in Reedsport, the great flood of 1964 hit. I remember going to my grandparents during the flood which I loved. Going to my grandparents in Aloha was always the most fun. At the time, it was hard to understand why everyone was so serious, but having now experienced the big flood of 1996 first hand, I can totally understand.

We moved from Reedsport to Lebanon midway through my first grade year. I went to St. Edwards School were the nuns taught us a strong phonics based curriculum that I have always appreciated. I recall playing “Heads Up, Seven Up” at our desks after lunch on wet winter days. I also remember reading our Weekly Readers about inventions we’d see in the future. They showed how vehicles would look in the future. They were sleek aerodynamic spaceship looking rigs that I unbelievingly marveled at. We now see these predictions by the hundreds. We call them mini-vans! I also recall reading about telephones in the future that would have a monitor where you could see the person you were talking to. The idea was so futuristic; it was hard to imagine by one of our computers now has an eye-cam that allows one to see the person they are conversing with on the internet. What inventions will our kids own as adults that are too unbelievable to imagine to us now?

While we lived in Lebanon we had heavy snows that stacked up to be 3.5 feet deep. My brothers and sisters and I made tunnels through it. We felt so sorry for the birds who couldn’t find food and died in the snow so we fed them for a week while the snow slowly melted.

After 4 years in Lebanon, we moved to Albany where we bought a home on Calapooia Street, right next to Henderson Park. It was a fun place for a kid to live because there were always kids to play with. Back in those days, Albany Parks and Recreation had summer programs at all the city parks in town where a college student was hired to run an activity program for any kids whom wished to participate. They had daily crafts where everything was provided free of charge. We played lots of games and went on short field trips to places around town. It was great fun and kept many kids occupied. A person has to wonder why so many programs that were funded back then are no longer possible. All the neighborhood kids would congregate at the park on warm summer evenings and play Kick the Can. It was exciting sneaking through the dark trying to avoid getting caught. We all had an open-door policy and spent a lot of time at friends’ homes.

Talking to some of those same friends in recent years–they have remembered how they loved coming to our house because my mom always had a huge pot of spaghetti sauce simmering (which she was famous for) and everyone got a spoon to sample. They also loved the hours we spent in our living room where my mom gave Polka lessons. We’d move all the furniture out of the way, crank up the stereo to one catchy Swedish tune or another, and we’d all be twirling around laughing and getting sweaty. The little kids would stand on Mom’s feet so they could get the feel of it. Everyone called my mom the “Mother Bear.”Years later, when we had kids of our own, they called my mom, “Nanna Bear.”

Our neighborhood was close to downtown Albany. It was very different back then. The downtown area was alive and thriving as no malls or big shopping centers existed yet. Two Rivers Mall where the Wine Depot Deli and Pastabilities are  used to be Payless Drugs. It was the place to shop because hadn’t been built yet. J.C. Penney’s was thriving in a building on First Street that is now an antique mall. The Venetian Theater had movies that all the kids went to on Saturdays. There was nothing better than an orange Crush Soda and a box of Flickets. Cleo’s was a favorite hole-in-the-wall next door to the Venetian where we’d go for inexpensive burgers. Also downtown, the library (which is now the historical library) used to have lots of kids supposedly working on projects for school, but I think they were there mostly to socialize.

The kids in the neighborhood would often times ride their bikes the five mile loop through Bryant Park to Riverside Drive, past West Albany High School and back to the park. We’d all take our swimsuits and stop off at one of the two swimming holes on the Calapooia River which was along the way. There were tree swings that dropped off into deep pools. It was such an adventure. Times have definitely changed because I’d never allow my kids to do things like that without an adult supervising.

Many of the kids in the neighborhood picked strawberries and pole beans in the summer to help earn money for school shopping. We’d catch a bus and go to different farms–Hoefer’s, Schlegel’s and Chamber’s–to labor away sunny summer days. Little did I know that Hoefer and Schlegel would become good friends or that I’d marry a farmer named Rod Chambers! We had a lot of fun in the bean field. The tall pole beans provided lots of cooling shade. I never made more than $5-$6 a day but it added up. And we couldn’t forget the entertainment. One kid, Scott Sprague, stood on top of his 5 gallon bucket and chewed up a huge handful of beans until it became green slime. Then he’d slightly bend over and let the green saliva start to drip towards the ground. When it would get close to the ground, he’d slurp it back up into his mouth. He’d continue this for long periods of time while we all rolled around on the ground in fits of laughter. Perhaps that’s whey I only made $5-$6 a day?

My journal entry isn’t chock full of historical trivia but more personal memories. These events that I’ve told you about Abby all helped mold me into the person I am today and in turn they have carried over in motherhood as I raise you, Justin and Josie. It’s fun to think about all the childhood memories you are presently creating and which of our family adventures you’ll laugh at as you retell them to your own children. Dad and I love you a lot and are proud to have the three wonderful kids that we do.

–Respectfully Submitted, With Love, Kim Chambers

In The Unraveling

Thread that binds us

is impossibly strong;

we are more closely knit

than we can fathom

(even if we do try

to deny this often).

 

Seams sometimes split;

some places need

more mending and tender

care. In mending, time

has a strengthening way

of altering the original.

 

Sometimes in the unraveling

we find and follow

the thread that binds us;

it’s then we see how

strong we are and what

we have been together.

Home

 img_9269 “Corvallis is too perfect. I’m here to make sure it’s not perfect,” the man says, with a direct stare. He’s eating fried chicken, sucking on the bones and licking his fingers. My dog scratches the ground and whines as we watch the man. I can smell the savory smell and my own mouth waters. My dog and I are inside the downtown dog park; the man enjoying the chicken is just outside the fence looking in. I just asked if he could please move away from the fence because it’s so challenging for my dog and the others in the park. “No,” he says, “that has nothing to do with me and it’s a good time for you to train your dog.” His main goal seems to be to make life hard for others.

This was yesterday. An Oregon native, I have made a purposeful choice to live and work downtown Corvallis. Over the past year, I have witnessed an increasing wave of people creating the kind of challenges this man presented me with.

This letter is a call to action: Please, Corvallis! Of all the times and eras, this is the time to make life easier for those around us (our neighbors). This mounting wave sweeping through town can weaken us or strengthen us, depending on how we respond. Corvallis is not perfect, but I’m trying to make it better by helping my neighbors, even when it requires hard work. How will you respond?

Continuing The Walk, 4

The view from my apartment window is mostly dusted in large, dry snowflakes today, though this rain that is nearly ice might change that. I am deciding when to venture outside with Pearl, my terrier mix. She would choose to go out now, but there are things to consider that she doesn’t consider: it’s cold out there on little feet and a little low rider like her is going to get wet, no matter how many jackets we put on her, especially a low rider that explores like she does. One look at her, pointing at her soccer ball, convinces me that I need to take her out for the air, even if it’s only a short gallivanting walk. We suit up in our cold weather gear together; I have learned to put mine on first, otherwise Pearl’s patience wears thin as she stands, stiff in her two jackets and harness, watching me go through my own process.

We step out the door, looking both ways as we’ve learned to do in order to avoid foot traffic and threats, such as skateboards and wanderers with hard-edged dogs without leashes. Today, the sidewalk is empty and calm, though evidence of the Saturday evening crowd at the Peacock (the infamous bar across the street) is littered in stark contrast with the white snow. Small patches of yellow mark the places where the last customers relieved themselves after 2:30 am, when the bar closed. Corvallis, according to on poll, ranks the 20th/22 most drunk town. Pearl is checking everything out by sniffing every new scent in her path.

This morning, we walk to the left. There is a fire hydrant Pearl enjoys sitting next to in warmer weather. I think she might like to check in with it today. We walk past the parking lot, a place I rarely use because the parking patrol pays particular attention to it. I get my hair cut at Salon 101. Garrett, my hair guy, does a great job and he happens to have a terrier named Oliver that looks a lot like Pearl. Oliver is one of the Downtown Dogs I painted last year; one of my favorite paintings. We walk on to the end of the block to the hydrant, covered in at least an inch of snow, right outside Squirrel’s Tavern (another fixture of downtown Corvallis). Today there are no customers sitting in the outdoor area, but usually there are humans and dogs dining together. Pearl has learned to walk on by, even if growled at by either.

Pearl hasn’t an interest in the hydrant today, and requests that we turn right, toward the Julian Apartment building and the river. Just last week, Pearl learned that Gettu, her best dog friend, lives in the Julian Apartments with her human, Michael. Gettu and Michael are sometimes enjoying a romp in the grass swath at the river park at the same time we are, which always means at least 15 minutes of playtime/entertainment for passing pedestrians. Even though Gettu is much bigger than Pearl, she doesn’t spare Pearl from her best wrestling moves, often taking Pearl to the ground and waving her open mouth playfully. We don’t see Gettu or Michael today though, so Pearl busies herself by checking in on “the morning news”–all the scent messages left by animals along the river. She leaves her own message for the next dog.

After playing in the grass together for awhile, we begin the amble back to the right again, toward home. It’s cold out. Kicking the soccer ball ahead helps keep Pearl going in the right direction. We pass Flat Tail Brewery, Bellhop (THE place to get chocolate pie), and Tried and True coffee shop. Usually Pearl and I stop in at the door to say hello to the Barrista, but we don’t know this one and she is busy. We walk on, across the street after sniffing the corner garden in front of Irenes’, where I work some days. Pearl lets me know she would like to walk left, toward the dog park, but I enforce a right turn. She takes it all in stride.

We’re back at the front door of the apartment building. Pearl has done her job–getting me outside. Now she’ll continue doing her job as we go in, by just being her companionable, lovely self. I’m happy to share an apartment with this little dog. She makes me very happy and I think I’m not the only one she makes happy.img_0790

 

Home: Continuing the Walk

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When Pearl decides to  wake up, we usually walk down Second Street for our morning walk. When we continue down past Grassroots, the independent bookstore (at which you can purchase blank journals graced with an original acrylic print of a Pearl painting I created for the cover), we see Blackledge Furniture, a 3 story furniture shop and local landmark. When I first adopted Pearl, we’d walk by and window shop; she made me laugh every time by leaping and bouncing for joy at all the ‘bedrooms’ on display. Pearl was fond of jumping on beds for a time.

Across from Blackledge is a motor bank drive through. On Saturdays I take advantage of the free parking–a secret Colin the jeweler let me in on after we’d known each other for a few months. Down the street from Blackledge is the quaint U.S. Postoffice. This is where I go to mail my letters and bills. Since I live and work within two blocks, I am lucky enough to be on the same mail carrier’s route for both jobs and my home. Joe. He remembers our names and expresses concerns about neighbors. It’s easy to see the sparkle in Joe’s eyes and he still has time for stories and jokes. When I first moved in to my Second Street apartment, I was shown where mail would be delivered, but when it came around to mailing my first bill, I wasn’t sure where to post it, so I asked Joe. “Well,” he said, some people use a clip to attach it to the mailboxes, but you could also walk it down to the post office.” I didn’t see the humor in this at the time, but I do now. I enjoy walking two blocks and seeing the historic Post Office in person.

Lately there have been large groups of folks sitting outside with various signs requesting money; some with dogs, some with skateboards. These people have various degrees of friendliness. Pearl has learned not to bark at dogs as she walks her in-town walks, but sometimes these people and their dogs challenge her (and me) and it makes it very hard to get past them on the sidewalk. This changes my feelings of going to the Post Office every time. Most times, I leave feeling anxious and frustrated at a world in which so many people don’t have what they need. I also leave feeling like saying to one of this sign-holding people: “Hey–I wish I could help, but I don’t even have enough money to pay my rent right now. And I’m working two jobs.” But then I remember that I have a place to sleep, a sweet-faced dog at my side, and two jobs.

When we continue down Second Street, we pass the construction of a new hotel and what is going to be a County museum eventually. This will change the South end of Second Street, which has been somewhat forgotten for a time. Most shopping is up two blocks, where my apartment is. I’m eager to see how it affects parking and the general personality of down town.

 

Silent Boy

IMG_8568_2After leaving my two-week teaching assignment in Cambodia (which is after I left my 17 year teaching assignment in Oregon), I neglected to write about The Silent Boy,  though his story continues to weave itself through my own being ever since meeting him. Just yesterday, at the fragile point of tears, I thought of him again and his immense strength; I wished then that I could have borrowed some of it.

In January of 2016, our small team of 5 adults taught English at a Cambodian public school for almost a week before we travelled to an orphanage in the Southwestern part of Cambodia. We were thrust into this day and tasked with “making the students speak English as much as possible.” I jumped into this task with as much enthusiasm as any introvert could and found myself at the outskirts of conversation as my team members, who knew more about the orphanage than I did, tried their hardest to dive into conversation with everyone.

The January climate in Cambodia is mild, if you are from Cambodia. If you’re from the Willamette Valley of Oregon however, it’s quite  hot–90 degrees F with killer humidity. As initial  bursts of conversations died down, we gathered under the gazebo in the center of the lawn. I found myself watching a very young boy (5 or 6 years old) who was walking by himself out in the lawn. “Who is that little one,” I asked. An older boy answered, “We call him Silent Boy. He doesn’t talk.”

Maybe because it appealed to the teacher in me, maybe just because I love challenges, I went to him with the intent to strike up a conversation with this ‘Silent Boy’ immediately. When we first met, he was near a little flower garden, observing something. It turned out to be a giant seed of some kind. “What is that?” I asked, not sure how much English he understood. This Silent Boy looked up at me and smiled. I continued, encouraged, “Is this a seed?” He pointed across the lawn to a tree growing along the edge. “Is this from that tree?” This was enough encouragement for him to begin walking toward the tree, pausing to look back at me; inviting me to join him.

We stood near the large tree and the Silent Boy looked up, pointing to the large fruit growing high above our heads. “Is that where this seed came from?” I asked. My new friend was busy looking for a stick, which he found and was already using to try to knock the fruit down. Clearly, the lower hanging fruit had already been knocked down and he would not reach the remaining fruit without help. I asked to borrow the stick and easily knocked the fruit to the ground, which the Silent Boy immediately collected, biting into it with the clear purpose of showing me the seed inside. The same seed I observed earlier.

We walked back across the hot lawn to the cooler gazebo, and the crowd gathered there. I showed everyone the seed and the fruit, which I learned is called Jack Fruit and is delicious when ripe. My friend and I had just happened to knock down an unripe fruit, but he continued to nibble on it. The American adults in the crowd informed me of Silent Boy’s traumatic past and I marveled that he had any smile left to offer anyone. He continued to stand near me and to offer up his toys for the crying babies, held by adults who didn’t know them.

The tenderness in my heart recognized the tenderness in his and I continue to be moved to tears by his kindness and compassion. He was a child and had already learned that the world is not a kind or easy place to be, and yet he offered kindness and tenderness back. I wondered at which point in his young life he had become silent, or if he had ever been able to express his voice at all.

As our van load of adults prepared to leave, I found an excuse to go back group of children now in the cafeteria for their lunch. I wanted to say goodbye to my new friend, Silent Boy. I tried to communicate this to the servers, but I didn’t know his name. “I want to say goodbye to the one they call Silent Boy,” I said. Finally, someone realized who I was looking for and went over to the line to get him. He looked startled as he walked over, but smiled as soon as he drew closer. I said goodbye the best way I could and offered a brief and gentle hug.

I walked back to the van, full of love and I wasn’t sure why. This tender sprout of a boy had spent time communicating with me and I enjoyed every listening moment. Our tender hearts had spoken.

Often, my tender heart only wants to communicate like this, silently; words get in my way at times, but silence can be hard to understand for some.

There’s so much more to say on this subject of silence–this is all for now.