Make the McKenzie Connection!


Our move to Oregon: (1935) - CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

Reprinted from the August 21, 2002, edition of McKenzie River Reflections

The mothers along the highway used to take turns providing a hot lunch for the school. When it was her turn, my mother made a huge vat of potato soup on the wood stove. Then the bus driver would heave it up into the bus and off we’d go, smelling potatoes and onions all the way to school. I don’t remember, but I suppose the teachers would heat up the big vat of soup on the school’s woodstove.

Once a year we’d have a Box Social at the school in the evening. Girls would pack a lunch in a shoe box and decorate the box, but not put their name on it. Boys would then try to guess which box was made by their favorite girl and bid on it. Then the girl and boy would squeeze into one of the desks/seats and eat together.

My friend Patty came from a family of nine children. Her father had a dairy at McKenzie Bridge, and delivered milk up and down the highway. Sometimes he’d pick me up to take me to their house overnight so I could play with Patty, or he’d bring her down to stay with me. When she stayed with me, if it was summertime, we liked to go out after dark and sneak around the cabins to see if we could listen to the tourists talking. Or we’d chase each other through the long grass, or catch lightning bugs and put them into tiger lily blossoms to make lanterns (at least, we tried).

After about the third grade, a new school was built at Blue River, and Patty and I went there. The McKenzie Bridge, Blue River, and Vida school districts were consolidated at Blue River.

I played with tourist children in the summer. One family, who had three boys, came every summer from California and rented Green Gables. I think their last name was something like Vandervelden. The boys and I would spend hours together fishing or playing along the river. We even had an Indian teepee and dressed like Indians. I, of course, was the princess, with beads and feathers. We pitched the teepee beside a small creek on a flat bed of rocks, near the summer house down the road where John Webber was caretaker. I guess he watched out for us, but I wasn’t aware of his presence.

My parents had to drive into Eugene (almost 50 miles) for almost every need. A meat truck, a vegetable/fruit truck, and a bakery truck came up the McKenzie Highway every week. However, for dental and doctor appointments, piano lessons, etc., they made the long trip. I was about nine or ten years old when I had to have braces, and eight when I got glasses (that first view through the glasses amazed me — I could see every leaf on each tree!), so we made a lot of trips to town.

I joined the Girl Scouts with Patty (probably motivated by the uniform). Once the troop hiked up to the top of Lookout Mountain (which could be seen from our house, just across the river) and they talked to the ranger in the fire lookout station on top of the mountain. I didn’t go on that hike, but when they got back I later asked Patty if she had talked to the Ranger. I had spent a lot of time that spring teaching myself Morse Code, and that summer I was often at the boat landing by the house, with my Dad’s big 8-battery flashlight, signaling messages to the ranger.

He flashed back, but I could never read the messages. I had asked Patty to find out what he was trying to tell me. He told her he had never learned Morse Code!

During the winters at Rainbow, the highway was closed at the pass over to Bend. The tourist season stopped after the hunting season. So, a few winters my parents and I drove to Southern California to visit my mother’s two sisters and their families. They lived in Alhambra. When, in the fall of 1941, my parents

were aware that the United States would probably sometime soon become involved in the war going on in Europe, they decided to close the resort totally that winter and move to California until spring. We moved to a rented bungalow near the Lockheed defense plant in Glendale. The houses had all been built hastily to house people coming in from all over the U.S. to work in the defense plant. The only way we could find our house from all the other identical houses was by the lily my mother planted by the front door. Dad was the first, and for a while, the only locksmith at Lockheed. (He had been a locksmith for Diebold Safe & Lock Co. in Indianapolis before we moved to Oregon.) He had a motorized cart to ride around the huge airplane manufacturing complex. The war started (for the U.S.) in December

7, 1941. My mother and I, and a friend of my mother’s (Anna Lee Woods) went back to Rainbow in the spring of 1942 to sell the resort. Of course, then I’m sure it was hard to get a reasonable price for it. The war and gas rationing would cut back the number of tourists. We moved to Alhambra late that summer and I had to learn how to sleep without the sound of the river flowing by my bedroom window. (Footnote: In 1945 my mother and I moved back to Eugene permanently - and I have lived the rest of my life there and in Portland.


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