Event to celebrate 100th anniversary of former school and community hub

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Elaine Shreve, who is the co-chair of the Garden Home History Project, talks about historical photos of the Garden Home School.As incongruous as it may sound, Dr. Reinert Hestlesater in 1910 moved Jennie and Marion, his young, tuberculosis-stricken daughters, to Oregon for ... the weather.

Compared to the extremes of the family’s South Dakota home, Hestlesater reasoned, the temperate western Oregon climate would allow the girls to spend more time outside.

Regardless of the surface logic behind the decision, the family found a happy, healthy new residence in Garden Home, a fledgling Washington County residential enclave between Beaverton and Portland. After the westward trek, Hestlesater built a two-story house on Mayo Street, from which his girls could walk to the new Garden Home School.

Although both structures were razed in the early 1980s, memories of the family and other community pioneers will come alive Saturday in a celebration of the former Garden Home School’s founding 100 years ago.

Featuring fellowship, food, historical displays, oral history transcriptions and the unveiling of a calendar featuring neighborhood photographs, the event will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Garden Home Recreation Center, 7475 S.W. Oleson Road.

Full circle

Elaine Shreve, co-chairwoman of the Garden Home History Project, says she hopes the centennial celebration will be at least as successful as the 2011 celebration of Garden Home before the schoolhouse existed. No fewer than 200 attendees turned up to reminiscence.

“We had a similar event last year celebrating the very first group of school children who met over at the grocery store until the school could be built,” she says.

Patsy VandeVenter, 70, treasurer of the history project, has the daunting task of matching faces of Garden Home’s long-ago children with the correct names in a book organized by decade.

“People gave us pictures and submitted the names they knew,” she says. “There are a lot of pictures that have blank spaces, and that’s what we hope to collect on Saturday. We’ll have pictures lying on tables, so people can write and fill in blanks. Hopefully, they will.”

The store was across the intersection of Oleson and Garden Home roads, where the schoolhouse was built in 1912.

“We’re looking forward to the event on Saturday,” she adds. “We expect to have a lot of pioneers, a lot of people who haven’t seen each other in 50 years.”

Like many young couples in the post-war boom of the 1950s and ’60s, the Shreves were drawn to Garden Home’s roomy and relatively rural alternative to central Portland’s urbanized blocks.

“We were attracted by the large lots,” she says of her husband, the late Don Shreve. “I think a lot of people like the historical nature of the area. The older homes with huge trees and large lots attracted a variety of families. A lot of people have grown up here and returned to raise their families here.”

Changing purposes

Following extensive additions beginning in the 1950s, the original wood-framed school building was torn down in 1982. Based on their addresses, students were sent to Raleigh Hills or Montclair elementary schools. The Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District agreed to take over the relatively modern structure that remained, turning it into a recreation center that — much in the way the old school did for a chunk of the 20th century — serves as a humming community focal point.

Although residents such as Shreve, who moved to Garden Home in 1966, appreciate the center, losing the school in the early 1980s was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It was extremely controversial,” she says. “It was the heart of Garden Home. The school was where the parents got acquainted. We had very, very strong feelings and objections. But they were JAIME VALDEZ - Bob Day, who attended Garden Home School, points to the south side of the Garden Home Recreation Center, where the original school stood before it was demolished.

“We got the second-best thing. We have the community center.”

Still the same

Bob Day’s wife, Delia, who is responsible for the graphics design of the calendar, praised Shreve’s tenacious efforts in gathering local history for the calendars and school celebration.

“It snowballed,” says Delia, 62, of the project. “The people around here, you can knock on any door and hear the history of ancestors of this area.

“Elaine is this fountain of information.”

While the roads are wider, traffic heavier and the pace of life accelerated since the old school’s earliest days, Delia believes Garden Home’s appeal remains the same.

“It’s so friendly, so open. It’s the perfect place to raise your kids,” she says. “I hope it doesn’t change for a million years.”

Calendar takes 20th century tour of Garden Home

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Delia Day, Patsy VandeVenter and Elaine Shreve, who are members of the Garden Home History Project, are putting together a celebration marking the opening of Garden Home School in 1912.Along with the more mundane preparations behind Saturday’s celebration of the former Garden Home School’s 100th anniversary, Elaine Shreve and her historically minded cohorts have spent the better part of the past year working on the Historic Garden Home Neighborhood Calendar.

Each month on the 2013 calendar tells a different tale of community fixtures and the hundreds of children who cracked their first books at the old school. The calendar will be on sale for $12 at the anniversary event at the Garden Home Recreation Center, 7475 S.W. Oleson Road, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The cover features an iconic, late 1940s shot of the Gus (formerly “Gust”) Johnson’s Garden Home Garage and Texaco station located at the southwest corner of the Oleson-Garden Home intersection. Local historian Rick Newton offers up memories of kids borrowing Johnson’s tools, pumping gas just “to be helpful” and — in a presumably less helpful gesture — hooking up a decommissioned air raid siren to a car battery.

“Bill Norris and I thought it would be fun to hook it up to a battery and let it blow,” Newton wrote of the siren removed from the nearby Upchurch store. “We did it and it did, and several of us lost our hearing for several hours.”

Bob Day, 72, who is pictured in front of the station wearing a sailor’s cap with his brother Dean, points out the old post office next to an impossibly narrow-looking Garden Home Road.

“It looked like a big road to me at the time,” he says with a chuckle while discussing the anniversary on Monday morning. “Now the road takes up most of the intersection.”by: JAIME VALDEZ - Bob Day, who attended Garden Home School, looks at a school picture of his older brother Dean's class. The Garden Home History Project is celebrating the 1912 opening of the historic school on Saturday.

One of Shreve’s favorite photo discoveries involves the family of Detlef Scherner, who bought property in Garden Home in 1892.

“His daughter, Margaret Scherner, has an ‘x’ on her plaid dress in the poster,” she says, pointing at one of the historical picture boards ready for Saturday’s event. “She went on to become the Post Mistress of Garden Home in the 1930s and ’40s.”

The story of the Scherner family is among those collected on the Garden Home History Project’s website,

“We have many wonderful photos that we’ll be sharing in our slide show presentation and in displays,” Shreve adds.

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