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Fond Memories of Portland

by Judie Echo Thomas Benito


I first remember living as a young child in the defense houses, in the St. John Woods area of North Portland Oregon. World War II was finally over and I remember my mom and grandmother crying when they got the news that my dad was returning home from serving in the Navy. I guess "defense Homes" aka the projects, meant defend from poverty, but we were fortunate to have two bedrooms in those homes. I attended George Elementary School. I only had one sibling then, but my grandmother was kind enough to financially help us move to our first mortgaged house on Drew Street, below Lombard Avenue, further from the St. Johns neighborhood.

Here I attended Portsmouth Elementary School and lived in a fun neighborhood of regular houses where we kids played kick the can, chase, hopscotch, fort building, sidewalk roller skating, marbles and tree climbing. I could see the Columbia River from the top our our walnut tree, and we could pick enough applies from the tree to feed everybody.

Summer days were spent at nearby Columbia Park where I learned to swim, took part in arts and crafts in the building, picnicked under the gigantic fir trees, and discovered the opposite sex.

My current husband, Bob, also from Portland, did the same things at Pier Park in St. Johns. Pier park kept Bob from his other favorite sport, climbing the tall St. Johns Bridge.

During this time we also went strawberry and bean picking for cash money. We were picked up by yellow school buses and taken out to the farms. On my first day I earned two dollars, which went flying out the bus window and I flirted with the boys. Did this start a trend in my life: "A fool and his money is soon parted."

I went to Roosevelt High School in St. Johns. I took the city bus, a step toward adulthood. Roosevelt HS, the Roughriders! I took art classes, journalism, and was on the yearbook staff. At 16 I got a work permit and became a bus girl at Griffin's Cafeteria. My friend Patsy had a car, a '47 Ford coup, so she drove us to work downtown. Griffin's was located at the foot of the Broadway bridge. I made a dollar an hour, and gave part of my earnings to my family to help pay the rent.

My fondest memory of Griffin's was watching the Rose Parade from Griffin's attic window over Broadway Street. The streets were lined with thousands of people, hard to find a good viewing spot! Patsy and I drove all over: Sauvie's Island, Long Beach [Washington], Canon Beach, to drive on the long flat hard pack beach sand, Blue Lake, and Janzen Beach Park, a popular amusement park.

After high school, I went to work at the US National Bank, in the messenger department. A group of recent high school grads, we were trained in bank operation practices. I met Dianne [the editor!] in the messenger department. At the end of our year long training we were botj transferred to the trust department. We then decided to move to Hawaii, an adventure. Life changing for me.

Lots of things transpire in a life but good memories are surely a reward. Family, friends, school years, church experiences, travel, children, are all blessings. I thank God for all of these fond memories.


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