Memories of Woodburn 55 years ago
Woodburn 55 years ago. Woodburn during the 50s. A community of 2,000 with three elementary schools: Lincoln Elementary, Washington Elementary and St. Luke. From these three schools, students went either to Woodburn High School, Mount Angel High School or Serra Catholic High School in Salem, and then spread to other parts, but remaining friends.
Bill Hastie worked as grocery boy at Handys Market, where we shopped downtown and coached at St. Luke. Brittans Market was represented by Carol Brittan, formerly of Front Street, now of Nelscott.
We bought our clothes at Pickerings, who lived a block away from us, and toys, patterns and fabric at the Ben Franklin Store, where my sister-in-laws grandmother clerked. Fancy clothes and Easter hats came from Hildegardes, repair items from Nathmans Hardware, jewelry from Pipers Jewelry. Sawtelles Drug Store made home deliveries for prescription items and running accounts before credit cards were invented. Roys Bike Shop is where we took our bikes for repair and maintenance.
Folks walked to work and walked downtown to shop, or drove to Equalls on Young Street the big grocery store. A bank teller lived in the apartments downtown, dressing in heels to walk to work each day at the First National Bank of Oregon. My mom walked to Handys or Brittans to do the grocery shopping, and to Dr. Deagans office on First Street for our checkups. We walked to school, to the pool, to the library, to shop and to the movies. It was and is a walking town and a community in which everybody knows your name, to quote the theme song from Cheers.
Pete Lamb Gorcewski recalls when his family first emigrated from England, Joe Serres hired his dad on as a farm hand with housing. Ruth recalled that one of the jobs was digging fencepost holes and before Mr. Serres could return with the equipment from the barn, the posthole digger, Mr. Gorcewski, already had the job done, using the shovel! Pete has earned many medals of honor during his career in the Marine Corps and still serves our country.
City kids like me had great fun going out to the farms to play with the country kids. Out on the farm, we could ride the motor scooters along the farm roads, jump on the hay in the barns, ride horses.
When the country kids came in to town to play with us, we could go swimming at the pool, go downtown to the Snow Queen for a 25-cent ice cream cone, go to Carters Club Café for French fries with malt vinegar, go to the movies at The Pix Theatre, go bowling or roller skate where the Armory now stands.
We all picked berries and beans during the summer, then swam in the pool or met at the movies. Or, for an adventure, we took the Greyhound to go to the State Fair together or to Jantzen Beach, which had the three Olympic-sized pools and a roller coaster.
When school was out, strawberries were in. We were up with the birds at dawn, packing our lunches, dressing in layers to be warm in the morning and peeling off our layers as the sun rose in the sky. We stood on the corner, lunch bags in hand, and Marlin Hammond would make his run in an old school bus through the neighborhoods picking us up for strawberry picking. We worked hard, cashed in our tickets and looked forward to the ice cream party and free-for-all on the last day.
From strawberries, we rode our bikes out to Bea and Roy Batchers on Brown Road to pick blackcaps. She would be in her apron out on the back porch giving us cash for our tickets. He would be in his overalls checking our rows and supervising us in the fields. My eyes fill with tears as I see the shambles their home has become, once filled with such loving memories.
Perhaps we could squeeze cherries and currants in between caneberries and beans at Geschwills, then blackberries at Aichers, who had the biggest, juiciest blackberries ever! The bees loved them, too, and came out to sip the nectar. Thats how we earned our money for our school clothes.
We danced. We started dancing during our seventh-grade years in the basements of our homes. On Wednesday nights, the public school boys would come over to St. Luke where we would practice our dancing moves after our CCD classes. Dick Clarks American Bandstand was big back then, and one of the Portland stations held television-sponsored dance contests, so we practiced our moves, over the back, through the legs. We went up to participate in the television-sponsored contest as the judges went through the dancers, tapping couples on the shoulder as they were disqualified, leaving the winning couple with the prize and the glory.
Dance contests spread among our high school dances, and our friendships were so closely connected that we could dance-hop from one high school dance to another.
One evening, the former postmaster and I won three dance contests in one night as we went from Serra to St. Paul and either to Woodburn or Mount Angels after-the-game dance. Once, having been told the tale by the postmaster, my younger brother, 10 years my junior, came home and refreshed my memory: Did you kids dance when you were in high school? Did we? We danced all the time! Sad to say, 10 years later, he and his classmates no longer danced.
Fifty years hence, lives lived in the in-between time. Families, military service, occupations ranging across the spectrum, deaths, divorces, travels, snowbirding. Faces still recognizable with the name tags and pictures, cockles of the hearts still warm with happy memories. We have deep roots of faith and love and our branches, like the fully-grown trees which grace our community, spread widely, broadly and securely.