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

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Heritage Journals: A project of 6th grade students of Jaqui Eicher, 2002

The following entries are collected by 6th grade students (now long graduated) during the 2002 school year to help build community in the small town of Jefferson, Oregon.

“I will attempt to relate my family’s arrival and early days in Jefferson, Oregon. My grandparents moved from Montana to the Jefferson area after World War I. My father and his brother arrived here after discharge from the army of World War I. They married local Jefferson girls and had children.

“The brothers started a garage and service station business in Jefferson to serve the new mode of transportation, the automobile. The business started about 1926 and was called, ‘Jefferson Garage–Knight Brothers’. Location was on the corner of Main Street and Ferry Street, now a vacant lot.

“I was born in April 1928; my home was here in Jefferson and has been to this day. I have some recollection of the events that happened in my childhood. Building was taking place in this part of Jefferson. The new concrete bridge over the Santiam River was under construction and was completed around 1933. As a little five year old, I barely remember bridge materials all over the place–on Ferry Street, Mill Street and the vacant lot (now the Rick’s Market parking lot). The building site was off limits to this five year old.

“About this same time, 1932 or 1933, Knight Brothers Garage needed more room and built a big brand new garage across Ferry Street facing the major highway 99 and the new bridge. This building still stands, and after major remodeling, is Rick’s Market.

“After graduating from Jefferson High School in 1946, a tour in the U.S. Navy, 52 years of marriage to my wife, and 10 years of working at Freres Building Supply, I received the appointment of Postmaster in Jefferson. This covered many years. The Post Office was then located in the old defunct Oregon Bank Building just north of the present Sterling Bank. In 1960 the Postal Service built a brand new building on South Main Street (what is now the Mexican Bakery). I spent 28 years as Postmaster, retiring in 1988. The ironic thing is that I ended my career across the street from the original location of the original Knight Brothers Garage of 1926. Jefferson has been my life. I love it here.”

–Jack Knight

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.