09 December 2012


Laurelhurst is an old neighbourhood in Portland, Oregon. My great-grand parents and some of their children lived there from 1912.  No one from the family lives there now but it is such a memorable backdrop to my memories of my grandmother.

Her parents lived in the first house built in Laurelhurst - 805 Hazelfern Place - phone number BE 4 8675.  It is easy for me to remember these things.  I sometimes look at her house on a google map - it looks the same as does the other houses in the neighbourhood.

The house was large and had a big basement that my sister and I used as a roller skating rink.  We put things in the middle of the floor and spent hours skating in a circle with our friends.  It rains a lot in Portland so during the winters we had to play inside.

My grandmother Lois Parker Peery (we called her Lolo) married when she was older - over 25 - had my father in 1914 and the next year  left her husband and returned with her son to Laurelhurst.  We do not know much about my grandfather. I never met him.  My sister Candace has told me that my father told her that his father was an alcoholic.  We don't know much.  This person's name was never mentioned in the family.  Never by my grandmother.

By the time I was born, she was sixty, still living at 805 (my father's name for her house) and working.  She continued to work part time until she was over seventy.  This was unusual for women at the time.

She was lovely to me and I have fond thoughts of her.  She was a quiet person but also very determined.  I was told that she was a very good Bridge player and was always popular (a word that I found funny as a kid to describe my grandmother - that word was reserved for my friends) but I believe it was true.

Good social training was important to her and very important to her sisters - my great aunts.  They were constantly after my sister and me to have good manners - they never let up. It was a drag but I am grateful for it now.  They told me that I would be.

I spent quite a lot of time at Lolo's house when I was younger.  She never learned to drive so we were often walking home from the bus or walking to an aunt's house and I got to know Laurelhurst well.

There are many stories that I could share.  One that stands out clearly is the Christmas we had  at her house with all of the relatives in the area who could attend. There was a large Christmas  tree standing in one corner of the living room and there were many gifts sitting under it. Very exciting as the gifts were piled up -  My sister and I got to hand them  out to the those there. 

All of a sudden the tree started to tilt - it sort of tilted one way and then another - and before anyone could grab it, the tree fell on  the ground - ornaments, lights, water from the container holding it - tons of "rain" - thin strips of shiny light weight foil that were put on  the tree branches  for added decoration - all of it a mess. 

My sister and I grabbed gifts and tried to salvage what we could - my father was helping while most of the relatives sat there looking on - it was crazy.  My Dad was able to get the tree back up and things went on all right after that - but it turned out to be family memory that was often talked about.

Lolo was a very good cook and she and my father made chocolates together, too.  There had been talk of them having a business making candy. It never happened but they did buy a lot of equipment and made candy during the holidays for friends.  Any holiday was a reason for this - Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas, etc...  When I learned to drive, I took boxes to friends for them.

I remember having chocolate, walnuts, hazelnuts, special boxes, brown paper candy cups, measuring scales, steel covered tables, copper bowls, temperature gauges, huge trays, Kitchen Aid mixers, flavourings  - all kinds of things around to make candy with.

Of course I have two parents - and so I have four grand-parents.  My mother's father, Grandpa Stretcher, I never knew, because he died when I was only two.  But Grandma Stretcher I certainly knew well.

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