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

Conner Community

“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.

–Grandpa Chambers

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

My First Year in School

“When I was six and in the first grade I went to Jefferson School. It was located where the elementary school is now. The first floor was elementary and the second floor was high school. In the basement were our rest rooms. One noon I was late to leave the rest room. The bell sounded and I couldn’t get the door open because it was stuck or locked. I could not get out. I never came to class so the teacher sent someone to look for me. They couldn’t get the door open either and I was so embarrassed. Two big boys from the upper class came down and took out the window. One jumped in and lifted me up to the other boy outside the window.

“My most embarrassing moment.”

–Louise Looney Cox

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

Happenings of Earl Days At Old Dever School, Dist. No. 20

“My first teacher was Rebecca Crooks (Hoefer), a very sweet lady till the day we were marching into school in a double line and Bertha Skelton (Barnes) suddenly vaulted right over Eva Hooper’s head. Frank Asche was sent back of the school yard for a hazel and Rebecca went into action.

“Another teacher was Elmer Nash who boarded with Joe Jones family. He would watch Mr. Jones set pies in her pantry window to cool and when no one was looking he’d steal a pie, then watch Mary Jones punish her kids, Fred, Frank, Nellie and Myrtle.

“When Ada Cowls was teacher, Bill Hoefer often visited the school. Youngsters were not supposed to know why he was so interested in school. One day when Bill was visiting, the Asche twins (Freda and Lena), Jake Gilmour, Nelson Gilmour, Wayne Kelly and Della Asche marched up to the platform and sang: Can she bake a cherry pie Billy Boy? Blonde Ada was scarlet and furious.

“The Gilmour boys and Wayne Kelly usually teamed up together. One day as teacher sat down, she leaped straight up, demanding to know who put the needle in her chair. Three boys stood up to take the blame. Jake was asked to come forward and put the phonograph needle in the cane bottom chair exactly as it was placed for the teacher. ‘Now Jake you sit down,’ he was told. He carefully sat forward and slid back into the chair pushing the needle as he sat. She next tried to shake Jake but he was as large as she and so very limp, she could do nothing.

“There were no modern play things. A Flying Dutchman was always fun. This was a pole fastened on top of a stump with a spike or wood pin. The big boys would run around at top speed while all who could would hang on. The little kids eager to get in on the fun would run in while the log was in motion and get knocked down. One Monday we viewed the sad remains of our Flying Dutchman. Mrs. Jones and Fred had gone to school on Saturday with axes and chopped stump and pole into bits. After that we had to be satisfied with a teeter board through the old rail fence.

“All attractions were not at school. As we walked by Ed Chambers on wash day we used to stop and watch the big old Angora goat doing the family washing. To make Luella’s wash day easier Ed built an incline for the goat to walk up. This turned a pulley fastened to the washing machine. When he got tired he would brace his feet, some one would have to get him started from the rear. The washing would proceed until his next rest.

“One of Dever’s present Grandmothers loved to steal the boys bicycles and ride west. One day three boys waylaid her; in a fence corner they proceeded to pants-guard on her. This would be fine in modern overall attire, but in those days the girls all wore dresses.

–Della Ede

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.

Self-Guided Interview

Interviewer: What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done?

Jaqui: When I began my teaching career, I worked at a rural middle school between Albany and Salem, Oregon. The town was so small that the students often felt trapped there, in the middle of nowhere. There was not a lot of diversity so the students grew up with a limited view of the world sometimes. My superintendent charged me with this assignment: teach these students to be good citizens, don’t worry about the test scores.

During my second year, I was privileged to teach a very kind and creative group of 6th grade students so I was able to plan an extensive and creative year-long project called, “The Jefferson Heritage Festival”. Students collected family stories and history all year, and in the spring, we gathered together with exhibits, historical photographs (which a local senior citizen had been collecting for years) and student and professional artwork. I even arranged for a Portland-based group called Ethos Music to bring a double decker bus and a reggae band to perform for the students. The culminating event was a free concert for the entire community by a well-known Oregon band called Misty River. At the end of the event, I felt I had learned to fly!

Interviewer: How do you respond to expectations?

Jaqui: This is a good question I think because it has shape my life in major ways. As I look back on all my career positions and supervisors, I see now that answering this question earlier might have helped me understand dynamics of work more fully. When my first superintendent shared his expectation with me about teaching students to be good citizens, I felt immediate relief because I knew I could do that; it was as if a weight or a worry was removed from my shoulders. I enjoyed working with this supervisor a great deal because I knew I could meet his expectations.

After teaching for various other supervisors with success, I ended my 17 year teaching career with a supervisor with whom I was not so successful. She expressed to me that I was not meeting her expectations which seemed to be: every student needs to be on task during every minute of the class. If they weren’t, she expected me to walk behind them and force their engagement.

Now that I see the beginning and the end of my public teaching career held up so closely like this, I can clearly see why I was so dissatisfied with my final experience at the charter middle school–there was no possible way to meet my supervisor’s expectations.

Interviewer: If we get out of your way, what will you be able to do?

 

Jaqui: That is a phrase I’ve never felt comfortable saying out loud before, but I’ve often wanted to because I feel so inhibited in many areas of my life. In fact, I want to say this to myself sometimes too because I get in my own way.

Without boundaries, I do much better. I am an intensely creative person who cares a lot about others and their feelings. If you trust me in those two matters, you will witness me thriving and doing more than what is expected. If instead you place many regulations and expectations on me, I will try so hard to do what you expect and regulate, but I won’t have any room in my thinking for creativity. For me, this is anxiety provoking and I will shut down eventually.