Nearing the century mark, Curtis Tigard reflects on his namesake city
- Barbara Sherman
- The Times - News
Happy 100th birthday to Curtis Tigard!
He hits that really big milestone April 13.
'People ask me what I attribute my long life to,' Curtis said. 'My mom was nearly 105 when she died. I exercise, eat sensibly, drink sensibly and take life easy.'
Curtis plays golf three times a week at the Tualatin County Club 'when the weather is sensible,' he said.
'I lift some dumbbells for exercise, and I go to the Washington County Public Affairs forum every Monday.'
A hiker, 'I climbed Mount Hood 35 times when I was young and healthy,' he added.
Curtis drives around town in his red car with a solid-yellow license plate that reads 'TIGARD.'
Curtis also is involved in a study of the effects of age on the brain at Oregon Health and Science University.
'They put me through stuff on the phone to see if I'm still operating,' he said. 'I go up there twice in the summer for an MRI and brain scan.'
He plans to donate his brain to OHSU when he dies.
'I'm one of their guinea pigs,' he said. 'But I don't think they'll find much in there.'
The grandson of Wilson Tigard, who was the founder of Tigardville in 1852, Curtis was born April 13, 1909 to Rosa and Charles F. Tigard and grew up with his sister Grace Tigard Houghton on Fonner Street.
Curtis' parents operated the Tigardville General Store and later the post office at the intersection of Pacific Highway and McDonald Street.
'The town was originally called East Butte until 1886, when my dad persuaded the Post Office to start one in his store,' Curtis said. 'The town was called Tigardville until 1907, when the railroad came through. Wilsonville was already established, and they thought the freight might get mixed up, so Tigardville was renamed Tigard.'
Curtis' memories of growing up in Tigard are historical footnotes.
'I delivered the Oregon Journal on horseback,' he said. 'I would pick up the papers at the train station, which was where the Tigard chamber office is now, and deliver them.'
Curtis remembers visiting his uncle, John Tigard, when the house (which is now a museum on Little Bull Mountain) was located where Walgreens now sits at the intersection of Pacific Highway and Gaarde Street.
In 1917, Curtis' family got its first Model T Ford.
'My dad later tried a Michigan car with a motor so powerful that it tore out the rear end,' Curtis said. 'My dad went back to Ford.'
Curtis learned to drive in a 1918 Ford 'in a plowed field.'
Curtis and his friends sometimes went hunting, and they would go after skunks in the area where Bull Mountain Road runs into Pacific Highway.
'Every once in a while, we would come home smelling like skunk,' he said. 'We also would go craw-fishing and swimming in Fanno Creek.
'I remember my uncle Herb putting out nets from Durham to the Tualatin River, and when he came back, he had 600 crawfish. We had a big feed. The trouble is, the more you eat, the hungrier you get because they are so much work.'
A skill Curtis picked up in his youth was catching moles, which was actually a lucrative profession at the time.
'I'm a mole-catcher,' he said, noting that he had just walked around the yard of the John Tigard House Museum and found lots of mole mounds. 'I must set some traps.
'I also catch them at the Tualatin Country Club. I've caught more than 700. Back when I was a kid, I would follow my dad around when he was plowing up the field. The county gave you 10 cents for each mole nose you turned in. And I would take stacks of moleskins to the furrier to be made into muffs.'
Curtis explained how traps have to be laid just so at the intersections of mole tunnels for the best results.
'You've got to know what you're doing,' he said.
Coming from an era when his family used carbide gas for lighting until electricity came to the area and also listened to a handmade radio, Curtis shies away from new-fangled contraptions.
'I don't have a computer, and I don't have a cell phone,' he said. 'Anything I need to know my son can look up for me.'
Growing up, Curtis attended Tigard Grade School and Beaverton High School because there was no high school in town. He got a degree in banking and finance at Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University).
Curtis worked for US Bank for 34 years, serving as manager of the Tigard branch for 18 years until he retired in 1971.
Curtis lived his whole life in Tigard except for the years 1936 to 1948. He spent six of those years on active duty in the Army serving in North Africa, Italy, the West Coast and the Pentagon.
'I was at the Pentagon on V-J Day, picking out the officers to lead the Japanese invasion,' he said. 'Luckily, V-J Day came along.'
He and his first wife had a son, David, who has two sons. After Curtis' first wife died, he married his second wife Julia, who died 10 years ago. They spent winters in Scottsdale, Ariz., for 15 years and traveled extensively around the world.
A man of the modern world, Curtis still has one foot in history because of living through nearly half of our country's history.
For example, 'I remember the false Armistice,' Curtis said of the day that occurred before the symbolic end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, when the armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany at Rethondes, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front.
'It was 11 days before the real one,' he said. 'Somehow the news came that the war was over. Marvin Gaarde and I ran up to the Evangelical Church on Little Bull Mountain and rang the bells. Two women came driving along in a horse-drawn carriage - they had been imbibing after hearing the news.'
Maybe that explains why to this day, Curtis still drinks sensibly.
Curtis Tigard's 100th birthday party set for April 25
The Tigard Historical Association, along with the Tigard family, is planning a 100th birthday party celebration for Curtis Tigard. The party is scheduled for April 25, 1 to 4 p.m. in the Community Room of the Tigard Public Library, 13500 S.W. Hall Blvd. A short program and video of Curtis' life will begin at 2 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.