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

Tobogganing When I Was a Boy

East of Salem there is a small community called Pratum. This is where I grew up. About 1/2 mile East of Pratum there is a river called the Pudding River.

One Winter day it snowed a lot–12 inches–and it was cold, as the snow did not melt.

A group of boys, including my older brother (6 years older than I), had a toboggan which would hold about 5 fellows. We got it out and started going down a nice hill toward the Pudding River. There was an old rail fence made out of wood at the bottom of the hill, next to the river.

When we went down the hill we would stop approximately 100 or 150 feet short of the rail fence. “Oh, what fun!” We were having a great time when the older boys came and took the toboggan. When they got tired of it, we were back at it again.

That evening they got buckets of water and put it on the hill. The temperature was cold, so the water turned to ice.

Well, the next morning was Saturday, so no school. Us little guts got up early and beat the older boys to the toboggan. We were having lots of fun and would stop before the rail fence. The older boys came and took the toboggan away from us. We thought that was so mean. They got on the toboggan and went down the hill just zooming. When they got to the bottom of the hill, they couldn’t stop. They went right through the rail fence and onto the ice on the river. The ice was not thick enough to hold all the weight and they broke through the ice. All the boys went in the river. The water was only about three feet there, but they all got sopping wet.

Well, do you know what? Us little guys were able to toboggan the rest of the day. The older guys had had it. This happened about 1940. “Oh, what fun!”

–John Wenger

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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

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

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

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.

Baritone Ukulele

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It’s time for me to tell this story–about the broken baritone ukelele, Buddy the Australian Shepherd and the artisan acoustic instrument shop on 2nd Street in Corvallis.

Just about one year ago, when I was wandering the streets of Corvallis looking for dogs to befriend, short of funds and a job, I found myself on 2nd Street. Since I had never before entered Troubador Music I decided to go in that day. The small container garden out front, mixed with the mysterious and thrilling wood and rosin smells coming from inside as I opened the door, immediately welcomed me.

Imagine a working violin shop: beautiful, well-loved instruments hung above the front counter at about head-height, a large open space which doubled as a showroom and intimate venue for evening concerts, musical sounds in the form of ‘plucks’ and ‘thumps’ coming from a back work room. That is Troubadour Music.

Since I was considering selling my hard-earned Blue Lion Mountain Dulcimer (I’d been playing Mountain Dulcimer for more than 20 years) I decided to ask about their consignment policy. Selling it would pay my living expenses for one month.

I had a lovely talk with Kent (the owner) and the kind sales associate; both gracious and helpful.

Then I had a sweet interaction with Buddy, the elderly Australian Shepherd lying on the floor at our feet. When I stood though, a catastrophe occurred. The baritone ukulele hanging above the counter met my up-coming head and bounced to the cement floor. Many emotions bounced across Kent’s face. He told me it was beyond repair due to the broken inner body. I couldn’t stop from calculating how long it was going to take me to pay for this instrument, especially since I was already having trouble paying for just my rent. Of course I was crying.

“Wait,” Kent said thoughtfully, “you were giving love to my dog when this happened. I don’t want you worry about this. In the bigger scheme of things, love is more important than money or this instrument.”We went on to talk for nearly an hour about potential jobs, including teaching English at the nearest Community College (where Kent sometimes teaches poetry).

I left that day exhausted by the event. I spent much of the following year thinking about this baritone ukulele but my energy was spent looking and trying work that suited me. I didn’t come any closer to paying for that instrument and it weighed heavily on me. My dulcimer hadn’t ended up selling, so I kept it at home with me and played it occasionally but found little joy in it since my chronic pain interfered with the playing.

My walks still took me past Troubadour Music and I frequently saw Kent and Buddy enjoying breaks outside together. Each time I’d cringe inside and remember the feeling of that ukelele hitting the concrete floor. Two weeks ago I formulated a plan: I’d leave my dulcimer as a gift for Kent. He’d be able to sell it eventually or use it himself. I set aside the perfect time and dropped it off. Tears came a little as I reminded the sales associate about that earlier baritone ukelele falling day. She told me that Kent wasn’t there, but that maybe I should reconsider. I didn’t need to pay for the broken instrument. But I was insistent and I left my name and phone number and a note explaining the gift.

Later the same day, Kent called to thank me. He invited my dog Pearl and I to visit he and Buddy at the shop any time. We have since met on the sidewalk near Toubadour Music and Pearl and Buddy instantly appreciated each other. Kent reached in his pocket, found two small treats, one for Buddy and one for Pearl. Before giving them to each dog, he kissed the treats (a trick known to increase the value of the food).

Now my walks down 2nd Street are more pleasant again. When I think of that baritone ukulele hitting the cement, I don’t feel like crying anymore.