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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Continuing The Walk, 3

The world continues to weigh heavily on me. AlthIMG_0260ough I don’t find it easy to do, my goal is to focus on those I meet face-to-face in my neighborhood more than I focus on our national political scene and what I can’t change. The thing is, since I’ve been locally focused, I have been impressed by the beauty around me; in the people I know (and those I don’t know) that pass through my days here in Corvallis, Oregon.

Last I wrote, Pearl and I had just passed Bob’s Mirror and Glass and Robnett’s Hardware. Now, she’s ready for the city dog park and it’s the perfect time of day–2:30 in the afternoon. There are fewer dogs at this time and most often a higher rate of low-to-the-ground dogs like Pearl. So that’s where we’re headed.

We pass the coffee shop on the right, then the last block of apartments and businesses and Pearl is at a restrained gallop. Lately, I’ve had to take her in through the small dog entrance because she gets anxious while I remove her harness and the bigger dogs crowd the gate, waiting for her to enter so they can sniff her. She puffs herself up and growls ferociously, making everyone think she’s awful and mean (which she’s not) and say, “Oh, she’s a terrier” (which she is) . She runs around wildly in the small area until she seems ready to run with the bigger dogs. Timber is here! A Husky that Pearl recently played with and now loves to follow around (mostly to see whether she can get him to chase her).

Pearl didn’t love Timber at first; she was scared. Timber didn’t act rattled by Pearl’s bark or bared teeth initially, which seems to be important to Pearl. Now they run off across the park to see who can make it around the big Fir tree first. It’s Pearl, after a speedy barrel roll through the wood chips. Timber’s human is a quiet woman who always chuckles at Pearl’s antics and who always tries to get Pearl to allow a quick scratch behind her ears. So far, no luck but Pearl is getting closer and closer to allowing it. Right now, as Timber takes a water bucket break, Pearl makes a quick drive-by sniff of her shoes, which makes us both chuckle.

Dog park behavior, both the dogs and the humans, always leaves me with a lot of thinking to do. I’m always relieved when people can see past Pearl’s scruffy feisty greetings because I want them to know how wonderful she is. She puts on a big show with people who seem threatening to her because she doesn’t want to get stepped on or called, “So cute” (so demeaning) one more time.

I can relate in some ways because I feel threatened by certain human behavior and am still learning how to stand my ground in order to avoid being stepped on. I’m not very good at it sometimes. I end up giving people the unintentional mixed message that I don’t care for them when really, I’m just scared of getting hurt. So I teach Pearl to be less grumbly when she meets new people and she teaches me to stand my ground when I have strong feelings about something.

The walk back up Second Street to our apartment is usually not a direct route. We stop back by River Jewelry so that Pearl can collect some more love from her good friends there. Once home again, Pearl  breathes a sigh of contentment and flops over for one of her many naps.

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.