07 February 2009

September 1946

Spokane, Washington was where I was born. I know nothing of the place as my parents returned to Portland, Oregon the following year. I have a few photos of the year we were in Portland staying in a house near my mother's parents. The house was in the Sellwood District - Bybee Avenue.

When I was nearly two, we moved to a farm outside of Portland. This place I remember a lot about. It had been bought by my mother's father, Everett Stretcher.

At some point I will check the location and include it.

I do not know when my grandfather bought the farm, but I believe that it was in the early 40's.

It consisted of sixty acres and the main house was located on a corner of the property. The house was two stories and we could see Mt. Hood in the distance from the kitchen window.

This farm was my grandfather's "retirement farm". He continued to live in Portland with my grandmother, Clara Stretcher, and drive out to the country to work on the farm.

I have photos of Grandpa Stretcher wheeling me in a wheelbarrow loaded with pumpkins.

Unfortunately, he died in 1948. I believe he was 67 at the time. My parents continued to live on the farm until 1953.

Grandpa Stretcher had grown up on a farm in Indiana and then moved to Portland, Oregon as a young man. He had lived in the city but had always wanted to own and work on a farm again.

His farm provided many things for us. There was an apple orchard, nut trees, vegetable garden, a barn with hay to play in, and old truck left in the barn that my sister and I played in.....but what I remember the most were the neighbours.

Across the road, south, were the Wetzel's. They had a big farm and two boy who were older. Mrs. Wetzel made bread and I would cross the road to get loaves from her to take home. She would often give me a piece of the bread with butter and jam on it. The smell was wonderful.

Across the main road, east, were the Potriff's. They were an older couple who had a big piece of property with a huge vegetable garden. They also grew a lot of berries. I can remember going over with my mother to pick strawberries.

The Potriff's were originally from Canada. They were wonderful to us and really enjoyed our family. Mr. Potriff thought that my sister Candace was very cute. She always showed interest in his garden. He called her "Kansas".

I knew that when we went to the Potriff's berry patch it was jam making time. This was stressful as my mother would have huge pots of berries cooking on the stove at home and then the berries would hang in a cotton bag hung from an open ladder to strain before they were then made into jam.

There are certain events that stand out in my mind while living on the farm. We saw television for the first time (Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, 1953) at a neighbour's house. I remember coming into their livingroom, which was filled with people sitting on chairs, and seeing this large, wooden box against one wall with a small screen at the top of it - we were all suppose to be watching the coronation......well, sort of.....the reception wasn't very good, the screen was small and the event wasn't very interesting as I was six years old.

I can also remember my mother sitting in front of the new radio/record player combination that my parents had recently bought (another big box that was made of beautiful wood with doors) trying to listen to the coronation. My sister and I must have been bothering her because she was trying to tell us to be quiet so she could listen. We were used to hearing children's radio stories coming out of this new box not this boring event that seemed to go on forever.

My mother had told us quite a bit about the new Queen. She had even bought us a children's book at the bookstore near her mother's house in Sellwood - bookstore on Bybee Avenue - that showed the life story of these sisters in England. I remember thinking, "What happened to them?" Now all we have is this unclear picture on the television to see and nothing good on the new radio to listen to because of this world event involving these sisters.

Never finished the section about the neighbours but that will be later. I also went to school for the first time while living at the farm.

I could go on forever! Maybe I won't :-)


John Thayer Jensen said...

I can also remember my mother sitting in front of the new radio/record player combination that my parents had recently bought (another big box that was made of beautiful wood with doors) trying to listen to the coronation

Peter will remember that we had, in Oroville, a marvellous huge machine that had a Wire Recorder! You could record your voice and listen to it back - or you could undo the massive spools of wire and make enormous messes with them :-)

In Bakersfield we had a wind-up non-electronic gramophone with a horn speaker, too - but I don't recall its ever being used for anything.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Peter e-mailed me the following comment:

"Johnny, I think you have the "recorders" reversed as to location. The wire recorder was originally purchased and used in Bakersfield, around 1950. I remember that it was a gift to the family in the same year that we had the "massive" Christmas celebration during which we kids received the two red and one grey vinyl-covered "foot lockers", which are still in Hawaii! The gramaphone was in the basement of the Oroville house when we arrived there. I remember Robin and I making frisbee's out of several scores of the 1920's-1930's records that were also left in the basement." PJ

John Thayer Jensen said...

PS - Peter's comment demonstrates the whole unreliability - and interest - of memory. At least one of us is wrong :-)

Unitman said...

Try again. PJ

Unitman said...

See if this works.

John from Canada said...

Is it all that common for people in the US to be interested in Queen Elizabeth? She's interesting to us here in Canada, because she is our head of state, and I expect the same is true in NZ, but it must have been unusual for Spokane, Wash. Though you did say the Potriffs were originally from Canada, so that might explain it.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Friend John from Canada, we Yanks are infinitely more royalist than those of you (and now me, in Godzone) crushed under the tyrannical boot of the House of Windsor (newly-created when Germany suddenly became the enemy and Saxe-Coburg wasn't such a cool surname).

My own first experience of television was, yes, the same as my wife's. A neighbour bought a tv to view the coronation.

According to my brother Peter's understanding of the reality of the American 'independence,' the dear Queen actually owns his house - or land - or car - or something. No doubt he can explain.