Deep roots in Woodstock - and a mother who wrote for THE BEE
Craig Johnson grew up in Woodstock, when Steele Street had no sidewalks and curbs, when the library was located on the corner of 45th in today's Ace Hardware location, and when the Woodstock Community Center was still a bungalow-style fire station. He has deep roots in the neighborhood, and he remembers a lot about those times. He still lives in his 1895 childhood home, on S.E. 40th at Steele Street.
With that history, you might think that Johnson must be in his 80's, but in fact he is over a decade younger. That is enough time, however, to have memories of many empty lots off of Steele Street; brand new houses being built on Insley Street; and a Post Office on the corner of S.E. 45th and Woodstock where once Country Bill's Restaurant was located, and where you will now find Gentle Dental.
"Back then, kids were more 'free range'," he remembers. "We played all day on vacant lots, rode our bikes down to Sellwood Pool, and kept the same friends from kindergarten through high school."
He attended Woodstock Elementary, Cleveland High, Whitman College, and then Reed College – that's where he earned a Master of Arts in Teaching, an experience followed by a ten-year marriage to a French woman, which prepared Johnson to teach French at the Metropolitan Learning Center in Northwest Portland for seventeen years.
Johnson recently revealed that his mother, Edith Ann (Shaw) Johnson, wrote for THE BEE back in the 1960s, when it was owned by Howard and Fern Hilson. He adds, "The Hilsons [still] owned THE BEE when I reported on Cleveland [High] sports in 1964-65."
Johnson describes his mother as "a very energetic and social person." As a writer of articles in what was then called the "Sellwood-Moreland Bee", he says, "She wrote human-interest stories about folks in Woodstock, Eastmoreland and Westmoreland, and Sellwood. She also published stories in The Oregon Journal, True Story, and in Guidepost."
Johnson's mother Edith also worked for the Credit Reporting Company of Portland, about which Johnson remarks, "She would talk to all these women who kept credit records for their businesses. . . One day she realized that they didn't really know each other [except over the phone], so she organized the 'Credit Women's Breakfast Club', which met regularly downtown." That organization became permanent, and its model was replicated first in Washington State, and then all over the country and the world – and is today a single organization known as Credit Professionals International (CPI).
The CPI website still quotes Johnson's mother as having written in 1930: "The Breakfast Club grew out of a golf foursome. Four of us girls from [Woodstock and Sellwood, who worked for] the Credit Reporting Company, had the habit of playing nine holes before breakfast, and then going downtown for a cup of coffee. "One day, being of a curious disposition, I invited some of the girls, from the various credit offices whose voices I knew so well but had never seen, to join us. Not knowing when to stop, I called as many as I could – and 150 turned up a few mornings later, when we met at the Congress Hotel for breakfast. It was fun getting acquainted, and we then started a permanent organization." Edith Johnson became president of the club.
Born in Sheffield, England, Johnson's mother Edith had immigrated to Canada with her parents and seven siblings in 1910, and then came south into the U.S. in 1918, to live in Southeast Portland. After graduating from the Girls' Polytechnic High School (now Benson High), she attended OSU for a year, until the Great Depression demanded that she work to support her family.
From 1943 to 1956 the family owned the building in which Johnson' Market operated at S.E. 42nd Avenue and Steele Street. Edith ran the market herself until the store was destroyed in a fire, and then the Johnsons built the fourplex that is there now.
Edith Johnson was a member of the Westmoreland Lawn Bowling Club and a sewing club that had existed for 70 years. She was a resident of Westmoreland's Union Manor from 1991 until she died in 2003, at age 98.
Meantime, Edith Johnson's father, Vernon Shaw, was active in the All Saints Episcopal Mission congregation in Woodstock before it gained enough members to have its own rector, and then in 1956 it expanded to its present site at S.E. 41st and Woodstock.
Johnson's father was an engineer in the shipyards, and a surveyor for the Portland Water Bureau.
Having lived for a short time in Bordeaux, France, Johnson says nostalgically, "It's kind of a strange thing – where Key Bank is now [on Woodstock Boulevard], was once like a little town in France – with small shops, some with residences above."
These days Johnson, and his wife Jin Darney, are very active in the nonprofit "Eastside Village", of which Darney comprised the staff until two years ago. Johnson is a driver for "Eastside Village", providing rides to appointments for people who need them, and serving on its governing council.
"Eastside Village" is not a place, but instead is a nonprofit organization providing services and social opportunities to assist those who want to "age in place" at home. Find out more about it online – www.eastsidevillage.org
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