Residents of rural communiity west of King City don't want intrusions from the modern world

REGAL COURIER PHOTO: BARBARA SHERMAN - Getting together to reminisce about old times are long-time Rivermeade residents (from left) Sue Tomita, Jack Miller, Dan Brenner, Dee Mobley and Yvonne and Ron Johnson.Driving along 137th Avenue, River Lane and Myrtle Avenue between Beef Bend Road and the Tualatin River is like taking a trip back in time. Lining the winding roads are mostly rural homes, many with outbuildings, on large acreages, and where River Lane meets the river is the private Rivermeade Community Club Park complete with a covered picnic shelter and boat ramp.

Harrel C. Throop and his wife Myrtle created Rivermeade in July 1948, when they recorded with Washington County a subdivision map with 58 parcels. It established certain restrictions on buildings, such as not being located closer than 20 feet to the road, and only allowing manufacturing along "Bend Road." Those restrictions remained in effect until July 1998.

In October 1953 the Rivermeade Community Club was founded as an Oregon nonprofit corporation by the community's earliest residents, and shortly after, the Throops presented the club with a deed to the Tualatin River frontage for a recreational and social gathering spot for residents.

With the area's long rich history, seven homes now have second-generation families living in them, and one even has a fourth generation living there.

Recently several "old-timers" got together at the home of Yvonne and Ron Johnson to reminisce about life along with river and how the area has changed and also not changed so much.

Jack Miller said he has lived there "too long" or 48 years, while Dan Brenner said he is the "new guy," only having moved there in 1992 or 25 years ago.

Sue Tomita moved there in 1962; Yvonne Johnson has been there since 1971, and Ron Johnson only moved there five years ago when he married her. Dee Mobley, who in 1980 moved into the house built by her husband's parents, said, "You couldn't ask for better neighbors."

Ron Johnson is president of the nonprofit Rivermeade Community Club, and Yvonne Johnson is secretary.

Currently there are 49 households in Rivermeade, and about 75 percent of them belong to the club. "We are built out about as much as we can," Brenner said. "A couple parcels can't be built on. There have to be so many feet between septic tanks and wells, and the well water is plentiful."

Brenner said that the area has stayed pretty much the same, although Miller added, "Except younger people are moving in."

REGAL COURIER PHOTO: BARBARA SHERMAN - The private Rivermeade Community Club Park on the Willamette River has been around since 1953 and is only open to Rivermeade residents who pay the annual dues, which about three-quarters of them do.As one of the official "old-timers," Johnson and her first husband bought their house before they had children and later divorced when their sons were 5 and one-and-a-half years old.

"After we divorced, I stayed because it was such a safe place to raise my boys," she said. "The neighbors used to meet once a moth, and almost everyone came. If someone's kids misbehaved, you talked to the kids and told the parents about it at the next meeting. When my boys misbehaved when I was at work, my neighbors would tell me about it."

Johnson recalled when one of her boys decided to run away from home, and as he made his way up the road, her neighbors would call her to report on his progress. Finally, he got tired and headed home but was mad at her "because you didn't come looking for me."

When the boys were still small, the big brother put his little brother in the large rural mailbox, and "now it's a rite of passage that every child gets put in the mailbox," Johnson said of her six grandchildren and Ron's two.

Miller remembered a neighbor with a half collie/half German shepherd dog that would "babysit the kids and wouldn't let anybody take them."

Now the fast-growing Edgewater community is visible to the north of Rivermeade, but the longtime residents recall when potatoes grew there, "and we'd go and collect them."

"When we first lived here and drove up 137th, we would look at Bull Mountain, and it was all filbert orchards," Johnson said.

But Tomita has her story beat: "When I came here in 1962, there was no King City," she said, and Brenner asked, "Do you get the feeling that people move here and don't move out?"

Indeed, on a recent drive through Rivermeade, there were no "For sale" signs visible.

Brenner added, "It is still safe here. People feel comfortable knocking on any door."

However, there were some wild times too, with Mobley recalling "streakers" running through the neighborhood "after someone stole their clothes."

When Johnson said, "We had some wild parties around here," Miller quickly added, "You don't want to know about them."

One party they would talk about was a barbeque at a neighbor's who will remain anonymous when someone's drunken wife fell inside the foundation.

Johnson admitted that leaving some parties, "We weren't drunk driving, we were drunk walking," and Miller added, "We would go trick or treating and have a drink at every house."

Speaking of Halloween, Johnson remembered when they would load bales of hay on a trailer, and a tractor would take the kids around to trick or treat and end up a party.

And food also was plentiful at parties, when everyone fondly recalled the St. Clairs' barbecue when they would cook a pig and four or five turkeys. Another popular neighbor, Dan Black, had a huge fire pit, and everyone would bring their Christmas trees on the first or second weekend in January and burn them in a giant fire.

"The fire department always came," someone said.

Another memorable incident occurred when an old farmhouse was being moved into the neighborhood and got stuck in the middle of the road. One neighbor and his wife wanted to go bowling but couldn't get out, and another neighbor was trying to get home at the same time but couldn't get around the house. So they traded trucks and went on their merry way.

Mobley recalled, "And there was the time a car went off the boat ramp into the river. You knew who got divorced and moved away or moved back. You know what colors houses used to be painted and the names of the previous families."

Johnson added, "We're nosy around here. We'll just call and ask what is going on if we're curious."

Annual Rivermeade Community Club dues are now $50, which is used to support projects and charitable donations. According to Yvonne Johnson, the Rivermeade Community Club dues started at $2 and went to $10 to $20 to $50. "Every Christmas we designate three or four charities and give them $100 each," she said.

Club members also sponsor several events during the year, including a Family Friendship Dinner in the spring, a summer Picnic in the Park, a neighborhood Bake Sale in November and a Holiday Dinner in December.

"It's been a great place to live," Johnson said.

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