Grant Keltner

Roosevelt Elk in Gold Bluffs, California.

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The concussion I was seventeen, it was the fall of my senior year, and it was October, 1975.  That was a great fall, one of my favorites, I had just finished watching the Cincinnati Reds beat the Boston Red Sox in the 1975 World Series, it was a painful world series, game six was a…

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Forest Park

My mother moved to N.W. Portland in 1962, her apartment was located up above Chapman grade school, just minutes from Forest Park.  I’ve had many memorable times in Forest Park.  The following story contains two sections.  The first section is a detailed history of the park; the second section goes into my own experiences with this magical place.

History

According to the recent article written in Wikipedia, “Forest Park (Portland, Oregon)”  (n.d.)  In Wikipedia.  Retrieved October 15, 2012, from “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest Park Portland, Oregon,” Forest Park is a public municipal park west of downtown Portland, Oregon.  Stretching for more than 8 miles on hillsides overlooking the Willamette River, it is one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves.  The park, a major component of a regional system of parks and trails, covers more than 5,100 acres of mostly second-growth forest with a few patches of old growth.  About 70 miles of recreational trails, including the Wildwood Trail segment of the city’s 40 Mile loop system, crisscross the park.

As early as the 1860s, civic leaders sought to create a natural preserve in the woods near Portland.  Their efforts led to the creation of a municipal park commission that in 1903 hired the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm to develop a plan for Portland’s parks.  Acquiring land through donations, transfers from Multnomah County, and delinquent tax foreclosures, the city eventually acted on a proposal by the City Club of Portland and combined parcels totaling about 4,000 acres to create the reserve.  Formally dedicated in 1948, it ranks 19th in size among parks within U.S. cities, according to The Trust for Public Land.

Before settlers arrived, the land that became known as Forest Park was covered by a Douglas-fir forest.  By 1851, its acreage had been divided into donation land claims filed by settlers with plans to clear the forest and build upon the property.  After logging, the steep slopes and unstable silt loosened by heavy rains caused landslides that defeated construction plans, and claims were defaulted or donated to the city.

Civic leaders beginning with the Reverend Thomas Lamb Eliot, a minister who moved to Portland in 1867, sought to create a natural preserve in the woods that eventually became Forest Park.  By 1899, Eliot’s efforts led to the formation of the Municipal Park Commission of Portland, which in 1903 hired the highly regarded landscape architecture firm, the Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, to study the city’s park system and recommend a plan.  John Charles Olmsted, the stepson of Frederick Law Olmsted, spent May 1903 in Portland.  The Olmsted Report, received in December, emphasized creation of a system of parks and linking parkways that would take advantage of natural scenery.  It proposed a formal square for Union Station, squares along the downtown waterfront, and parks in places later known as Forest Park, Sellwood Park, Mount Tabor Park, Rocky Butte, and Ross Island, as well as Terwilliger Parkway, the 40 Mile Loop, and other connecting parkways.  Proposed parks for Swan Island, in the Willamette River, and other places in Portland did not develop.  Others like Forest Park came into being only after many years.

The city acquired land for Forest Park bit by bit over several decades.  In 1897, Donald McLeay, a Portland merchant and real-estate developer, deeded a 108-acre tract of land along Balch Creek to the city to provide an outdoor space for patients from nearby hospitals.  In the 1890s, Frederick Van Voorhies Holman, a Portland lawyer and a president of the Oregon Historical Society, proposed a gift of 52 acres of nearby land that was added to the city’s holdings in 1939 when his siblings, George F. and Mary Holman, completed the donation.  Clark and Wilson Timber Company donated 17 acres in 1927 to create a Western Oregon timber park near Northwest Germantown Road.  Nine years later, the estate of Aaron Meier, one of the founders of the Meier & Frank chain of department stores, donated land for Linnton Park near Portland’s Linnton neighborhood along Highway 30.  These smaller parks became part of the larger park when it was finally created.  Some of them, such as McLeay Park, are still referred to by their original names even though they are part of Forest Park.

Other parcels were acquired through government action.  In 1928, the City Council’s Delinquent Tax Committee transferred land to the Parks Bureau for a wildflower garden along Balch Creek.  Multnomah County in that year gave the bureau perpetual use of about 145 acres of land north of Washington Park.  Encouraged by the City Club of Portland, which conducted a park feasibility study in 1945, civic leaders supported the Forest Park project.  In 1948, Multnomah County transferred to the city another 2,000 acres acquired through delinquent tax foreclosures.  On September 23, 1948, the city formally dedicated 4,200 acres of land as Forest Park, which as of 2009 covered more than 5,100 acres.  It is one of the largest urban forest reserves in the U.S, though its exact ranking has been questioned.  The city’s Parks and Recreation Department claims it is the “largest forested natural area within city limits in the United States.”  However, an article in the Portland Tribune said Forest Park ranked no higher than third among U.S. urban forests in 2006.

In 1991, Metro, the regional governmental agency for the Oregon portion of the Portland metropolitan area, began budgeting for what became its Natural Areas Program aimed at protecting these areas in Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties.  By 1995, the program had targeted 320 acres next to or within Forest Park for acquisition.  A 2006 bond measure allowed for the purchase of more land to expand the park, to protect its creeks’ headwaters and those of nearby streams in Washington County, and to link Forest Park to other public lands to the northwest.  Along with buying land, the regional government protects it through environmental easements on land that is privately owned.  Through early 2009, the agency had acquired or protected 865 acres related to Forest Park, including 600 acres (beyond the existing park’s northern boundary.

Forest Park is a major component, sometimes called the “crown jewel,” of a regional network of parks, trails, and natural areas.  At the southeastern end of the park, Wildwood Trail, the centerpiece of the Forest Park trail system, passes through McLeay Park.  This part of the larger park, which includes the Forest Park field headquarters, is heavily used by pedestrians entering Balch Creek Canyon from nearby city streets.  Further southeast, Wildwood Trail, while still in Forest Park, passes Pittock Mansion and its panoramic views of Portland and five volcanic peaks: Mounts Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, Hood, and Jefferson.  Shortly thereafter, the trail connects to adjoining Washington Park and attractions such as the Oregon Zoo.  From this point and from more remote Forest Park trailheads near the St. Johns Bridge, other components of the 40 Mile Loop system of trails encircle the city.  They follow the Willamette and Columbia rivers, the Columbia Slough and the Springwater Corridor along Johnson Creek and extend to the eastern suburbs of Fairview, Gresham, and Boring.  This trail network links more than 30 separate parks that offer diverse recreational opportunities, such as horse-back riding, in-line skating, canoeing, and viewing of wetland wildlife, in addition to hiking and biking.  It connects to other trail systems such as Discovery Trail in Clark County, Washington, and the Terwilliger Trail running through Tryon Creek State Natural Area to Lake Oswego.

As of 2009, this network of parks and trails is still expanding.  Metro, the regional government, plans to link the 40 Mile Loop to trails along the Willamette River to Wilsonville, south of Lake Oswego.  The regional government has also proposed connecting Wildwood Trail to the partly completed Westside Trail running north–south through Washington County to the Tualatin River.  Another planned trail would extend the Springwater Corridor along a proposed Cazadero Trail to Barton on the Clackamas River.  Longer-term goals include trail links to the Sandy River Gorge Trail east of Gresham and the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada and follows the Cascade Range through Oregon.

More than 70 miles of trails and fire lanes cut through the park.  The longest trail in the park is the Wildwood Trail, of which about 27 miles is in Forest Park and about 3 miles in Washington Park.  It is also the longest section of the 40 Mile Loop, a trail network of roughly 150 miles reaching many parts of the Portland metropolitan area.  The trail runs southeast to northwest from trail marker 0 in Washington Park to Northwest Newberry Road, just beyond trail marker 30 on the ridge above the southeastern end of Sauvie Island.  The straight-line distance from beginning to end is about 9 miles, but because the trail includes many switchbacks and hairpin turns, it is 30.2 miles long.

Wildwood Trail begins in Washington Park near the Oregon Zoo, a light rail stop, the Oregon Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World Forestry Center and the Hoyt Arboretum.  Blue diamonds placed about 6 feet above the ground appear on trees along the trail every 0.25 mile.  The diamonds and the mileage markers above them are visible to hikers traveling in either direction on the path.  In its first 5 miles, the trail passes near the Portland Japanese Garden, Pittock Mansion, the Audubon Society of Portland wildlife sanctuary, and the Stone House in Balch Creek Canyon.  From this point west, Wildwood Trail runs through forest generally uninterrupted by buildings but crisscrossed by shorter trails, small streams, roads, and fire lanes.

Many shorter Forest Park trails, roads, and fire lanes intersect the Wildwood Trail.  Most of the trails are open only to hikers and runners, but several roads and fire lanes are open to bicycles or horses or both.  Leif Erickson Drive, a road closed to motorized traffic, runs at lower elevation than and roughly parallel to the Wildwood Trail for about 11 miles from the end of Northwest Thurman Street to Northwest Germantown Road.  Originally called Hillside Drive, it was renamed in 1933 at the request of the Sons of Norway, a fraternal organization.  Easements for an oil line, a gas line, and electric transmission lines for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) cross the park.  Paved roads surround the park, which is crossed or entered by other roads including Northwest Pittock Drive, Northwest Cornell Road, Northwest 53rd Drive, Northwest Saltzman Road, Northwest Springville Road, Northwest Germantown Road, Northwest Newton Road, and BPA Road.

Forest Park lies in the Coast Range Eco region designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In its natural state, the forest consists mainly of three tree species, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar, and smaller numbers of grand fir, black cottonwood, red alder, big leaf maple, madrone, and western yew.  Much of the forest that existed here before 1850 was gone by 1940.  The stage of re-growth in the forest depends on when it was last logged or burned.

In the mid-1990s, about one percent of the total vegetation in the park consisted of grasses, bracken, thistle, and fireweed in sections of the forest cleared two to five years earlier.  Another two percent had reached the shrub stage, between three and thirty years old, with small trees dominated by such plants as thimbleberry, salmonberry, and blackberry.  Forest areas 10 to 30 years old that contained tall alder and maple trees and smaller conifers accounted for about 20 percent of the park.

Larger areas were occupied by forests in which conifers had grown taller than the alders and maples.  About 50 percent of Forest Park consists of these areas, which are between 30 and 80 years old and in which Douglas-firs have begun to dominate.  Another 25 percent of the park contains forests dominated by middle-aged conifers; 80 to 250 years old.  In these areas, red alders, which live for about 100 years, have begun to die, and the Douglas-firs, which can live for 750 years, attain heights up to about 240 feet.  Under the big trees are shade-tolerant trees such as western red cedar, western hemlock, and grand fir and smaller plants such as Oregon-grape, and vine maple.

The last forest stage, old growth, is reached after 250 years and includes many snags, downed and dead trees, and fallen logs.  Timber-cutting and fires reduced old growth in Forest Park to “almost nothing” by 1940 and most of the forest has not yet attained this stage.  Patches exist near McLeay Park and further west near Germantown Road and Newton Road.  The largest tree in Forest Park is a Douglas-fir near the Stone House, the remains of a former public restroom near Balch Creek.  It is 242 feet high, and the trunk is 18.6 feet in circumference.

Among the prominent wildflowers are Hooker’s fairy bells, vanilla leaf, evergreen violet, and trillium.  Invasive species include English ivy, European holly, clematis, morning glory, and Himalayan blackberry.  Citizen groups such as the No Ivy League and The Forest Park Conservancy engage in projects to remove ivy, maintain trails, and plant native species.

Wildlife in Forest Park is strongly affected by contiguous tracts of nearby habitat that make the park accessible to birds and animals from the Tualatin River valley, the Oregon Coast Range, the Willamette River, Sauvie Island, the Columbia River, and the Vancouver, Washington, lowlands.  Sixty-two mammal species, including the northern flying squirrel, black-tailed deer, creeping vole, bobcat, coyote, Mazama pocket gopher, little brown bat, Roosevelt elk, and Pacific Jumping Mouse frequent Forest Park.  Blue Grouse, Great Horned Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Bewick’s Wren, Orange-crowned Warbler, Osprey, Northern Pygmy-owl, and Hermit Thrush are among the more than 112 species of birds that have been observed in the park.  In Balch Creek Canyon adjacent to Forest Park, the Audubon Society of Portland maintains a wildlife sanctuary with more than 4 miles of trails, a wildlife care center, and avian exhibits.  Amphibian species frequenting the Audubon Society pond include rough-skinned newts, Pacific tree frogs, and salamanders.

Pressure from habitat loss, pollution, hunting, and urban development has reduced or eliminated the presence of wolves, bears, and wild cats and has led to increased numbers of weasels, raccoons, and other small predators.  Invasive plant species such as English ivy have made the habitat simpler and less supportive of native insects and the salamanders and other amphibians that feed on them.  Roads in the area severely hamper the movement of large animals.  Multnomah County has designated Northwest Cornell Road and Northwest Germantown Road as “rural collector” streets, carrying traffic of less than 3,000 vehicles per day but more than streets designated as “local roads.”  Dogs allowed to run (illegally) off-leash in the park pose threats to birds, fish, and other wildlife.

About 40 inches of rain falls on Forest Park each year.  Many small creeks, only a few of which are named, flow northeast through the park from the ridge at the top of the West Hills to the base of the hills near U.S. Route 30.  The five named streams from east to west are Balch Creek, Rocking Chair Creek, Saltzman Creek, Doane Creek, and Miller Creek.  Rocking Chair Creek is a tributary of Saltzman Creek.  After leaving the park, the streams pass through culverts and other conduits before reaching the Willamette River.  These conduits block fish migration to and from the Willamette River except on Miller Creek, where the conduits are short and have been modified to assist the fish. Near the east end of the park, the free-flowing reaches of Balch Creek support a population of resident cutthroat trout. Near the west end, furthest from the city center, Miller Creek retains much of its historic nature and supports a greater diversity of aquatic organisms than other Forest Park streams. Biological field surveys of Miller Creek in 1990 noted sea-run cutthroat trout, Coho salmon, as well as abundant macro invertebrate species including stoneflies, mayflies, caddis flies, water striders, and crayfish.

Memories

I’ve had several memorable moments in Forest Park. While I was in first grade, our teacher Mrs. Hughes scheduled our class to take a field trip in the park, it was the first time I really realized what this great place had to offer. 

We started out from Chapman, headed out on N.W. 27th., then north to N.W. Thurman, from there we headed up Thurman to the staircase that leads you down under the Thurman Bridge, located in this exact spot there once was a farm owned by Donald McLeay, it spread up along Balch Creek, his livestock roamed the land back then. He is famous for killing his son in law, seems as though they had a family argument and wound up shooting him. 

We traveled up Balch Creek to what is known as the Stone House, which was built in the early 1920’s. There are many myths about the use of the old Stone House, according to historical records it was originally built as restrooms for the forest service workers that helped maintain the area. The stone house has sat vacated for years.

I was introduced on that field trip to Balch Creek and to the Portland Audubon Society, located up in Forest Park. The Audubon Society is located off of N.W. Cornell Road. It includes a wide collection of birds of prey, including owls, falcons and eagles. 

I went crawdad fishing in Balch Creek when I was in the Cub Scout, back when I was in fourth grade, the crawdads use to be found in fresh water pools located under rocks and boulders that helped form the creek. 

In grade school, say around 1968 or so I can remember Leif Erickson road use to be open to traffic; the cars and trucks would flow up to N.W. Germantown.  Friends of mine fathers use to go up off Leif Erickson and hunt deer and elk.  Back then it wasn’t uncommon in seeing deer strapped down to old International pick-up trucks or rusty Ramblers.  The city of Portland closed access to N.W. Leif Erickson road around the early 1970’s.

When I was a Cub Scout back around 1970 our den took hikes on Wildwood trail and Cherry trail, there are several paths that off shoot some of the major trials located in the park, several of the trails can take you up to the Pittock Mansion, one of the highest points in the area.

In high school we use to have kegger’s off of N.W. Aspen (The meadow) and N.W. 53rd avenue (Inspiration point), usually on a Friday night after a football game, several of the kids that attended Lincoln High school  would gather in these secluded spots.  We’d laugh and joke, tell stories and listen to music on our car stereos.

While in high school kids in their muscle cars use to race on N.W. Thompson road, usually seeing how fast their big American muscle cars roared down the road.  One of the more popular stretches back then was where N.W. Thompson heads up to N.W. Skyline.  Old farms and orchards were located along N.W. Thompson.  I can remember hillbillies that had cabins and farms located up around Forest park.  Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s hippies use to have communes in the Willamette Heights neighborhood a few of them had old cabins that bordered the park.

There are the two tunnels that are located on N.W. Cornell road, both being built back in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Before the tunnels were built old dirt roads wound around the hillsides leading you up to N.W. Skyline.

I started running the trails of Forest park back around 1978 or so, running three or four miles at first and then increasing the distance.  I guess I first met my good buddy Chuck Eidenschink back in 1978 or so, Chuck was one of the first people that I knew that ran ultra-marathons, Chuck use to run close to eighty or nighty miles a week back then, he was always encouraging me to run with him, we ran the hills, up Balch Creek, along Wildwood Trail, up through to the Pittock Mansion, over N.W. Burnside, up along Himalaya Trail, along through the Portland Zoo and the Portland Audubon Society, down through Washington Park, the Japanese Gardens, the tennis courts, the Rose Garden and up along N.W. Westover. I traveled thousands of miles with Chuck through the years.  He was always such a driving force in helping me run back in the late 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.

I had some great times in Forest Park; back around 1985 I bought my first mountain bike, a Panasonic mountain bike to be exact.  I bought it from Sherman over at Coventry Bicycles (Located on S.E. Hawthorne), I was one of the first people that I knew that had a mountain bike back then, and I liked the idea of being able to bike almost anywhere and not have to worry about wear and tear being done to my bicycle.  I had a road bike and I always had to repair the bike.  My mountain bike was heavy duty, had a chrome frame, thick knobby tires, and upright handles bars; it got me through the trails and fire lanes that cut through Forest Park.  I was one of only three bicyclists back then that I knew who had a mountain bike. 

I usually would wake up early in the morning and bike up N.W Thurman, over the Thurman Bridge, up to N.W. Leif Erickson, heading up to N.W. Saltzman or N.W. Springville, out to N.W. Skyline road to N.W. Newbery road, and then down to Highway 30 and back home.

Balch Creek use to flow into Guild’s Lake back around 1900, the old lake front use to run along Highway 30, if you travel down along the old streets you can see the homes that bordered Forest Park, many of the old homes are dilapidated, old warehouses and shops dot the land.

In the winter of 1996 it snowed around 6” inches in the park, within twenty four hours the temperature started to rise, it rose above freezing, the snow pack melted, causing flooding down through Balch Creek, soon there were major landslides that formed off of the dead end of N.W. Savier and Raleigh, an old home slid down the hillside overlooking Balch Creek, huge mud slides poured into the creek, the creeks natural flow had changed, areas of the creek were damned up.  Trees came down the hillside into the water, natural habitats were destroyed.  Up off N.W. Skyline sections of the road slid down into Forest Heights.  The slides covered trails along Wildwood trail and Leif Erickson road.

As you travel back further west on N.W. Leif Erickson you start to go deeper and deeper into the woods.  Off of N.W. Springville, as you head down this fire lane you pass through Linton, one of the oldest cities along the banks of the Willamette.  I love this section of Forest Park, old homes dot the hillside, the homes are surrounded by trees and foliage, old gravel roads take you down to the St. John’s Bridge.  There are views of the Willamette River from several vistas located around Linton; the roads drops you down to highway 30. 

During the 1880’s and 1890’s huge wooden clipper ships would dock up in Linton, N.W. Springville road was the main road into Beaverton and Washington County back then, it provided wooden horse drawn carts to load and unload produce from farms that were located along the western hillside overlooking the valley.

During the 1904 the Lewis and Clark Exposition Balch creek flowed into Guilds Lake.  There were numerous buildings and exhibits located around the lake front that stretched along Forest Park, several homes and buildings were temporarily built during this time.  Most of the buildings were made of plaster of Paris, they were soon torn down after the exhibit ended.  The lake damned up, dried out, and during the 1910’s and 1920’s oil refineries and industrial parks were built, the lake country was gone.  Huge warehouses, rail lines, and businesses were built in the area.

One of my favorite spots that I enjoy the most in Forest Park has to be what is known as “The Meadow,” located off of Holman Trail and N.W. Aspen.  The meadow has been a gathering spot with locals for years; it provides a great area for picnics and in reading a good book or providing a great spot to view native birds.  I love the meadow; I’ve seen deer roam through this area many times.

N.W. Holman road goes up through the meadow; it’s a fire lane, heading up to N.W. 53rd avenue.  One of my favorite spots up along this stretch has to be a secluded meadow up on N.W. 53rd, nested up along old growth this area has been a great stopping spot in viewing young deer, especially in the spring.  I have biked up and ran up N.W. Holman several times; it has always been one of my favorite hills located in and around Forest Park.

N.W. Saltzman road is located off of N.W. Skyline, from N.W. Skyline you can travel down the fire lane, beautiful views of forest stretch out for miles, leading you down to N.W. Leif Erickson.  If you keep traveling down Saltzman you will eventually hit Highway 30.  N.W. Saltzman is a great stretch through Forest Park.  Traveling further west on N.W. Leif Erickson you eventually will connect with N.W. Germantown road.  N.W. Germantown road will take you up to N.W. Skyline or down to Highway 30.  The St. Johns Bridge is located off of N.W. Germantown.

Forest Park borders Willamette Heights, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Portland.  Most of the homes were carved out during the 1880’s and 1890’s; massive wooden homes surround the hillside.  One of my favorite spots to go explore is located off of N.W. Thurman, off of N.W. Gordon, if you travel down N.W. Gordon you will eventually cross over an old bridge leading you to the White Shield home, an old school and grounds built specifically for unwed mothers, not many people know about this area, its hidden away up in a secluded area.

Back in 2001 I was mountain biking down N.W. Springville road; it was a sunny day, as I was heading down the trail from N.W. Leif Erikson road a man in his late twenties made a face at me as I went down the trail, he pretended to lunge at me, I passed by on my bike, a few days later the local news had broadcasted news stories about girls that were found murdered up in Forest Park, I called the local police and told them about the strange man that I had encountered on N.W. Springville that day.  They brought me in and the detectives in charge asked me questions, they brought in a sketch artist and we came up with a composite drawing of the man I saw that day.  About a month later the Portland police department caught the murderer, he wasn’t the man that I had described in the drawing.  Thankfully they caught him.

Friends of Forest Park

I joined Friends of Forest Park in 2000.  I sat on the board for almost two years.  I tried to help preserve the park.  I was proud in working with this organization.  The following is a brief history of Friends of Forest Park.

In 1948, due to heroic efforts by the City Club and corporate visionary Ding Cannon, CEO of The Standard, the 3,000-acre core of the current Forest Park was dedicated as city parkland.  Since this beginning, Forest Park has attracted a group of citizen stewards dedicated to its protection and enhancement.  Since 1989, working in partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation, the Friends of Forest Park advocated, educated, raised funds, and coordinated volunteer efforts for the Park.  In 2007, Friends of Forest Park evolved into The Forest Park Conservancy.

What better way to protect a place of such rich history and inestimable value?  Strategically purchase land and add it to existing acreage!  In the 1990’s, Friends of Forest Park raised over $1 million for the acquisition of 78 acres of privately-owned lands inside the park that were slated for development.  Friends of Forest Park also raised the funds to acquire a 38-acre stand of low-elevation old growth forest to the north of the Park that was going to be logged.  In 2002, we partnered with Metro and Portland Parks &Recreation to purchase a 31-acre in-holding in the north end of the Park that was also destined for housing.  A more recent acquisition is a 1.5-acre parcel of land at the bottom of Fire lane 9 that was headed for housing.  We are grateful to the many individual donors stepped forward to make these acquisitions possible.

I love Forest Park; it’s a wonderful spot.  I hope that the city of Portland continues to preserve this land for future generations to enjoy.

Stuck in the mud It was a late fall afternoon in 1967; I was nine at the time.  My mother lived in N.W. Portland; our apartment was located at the dead end of N.W. Pettygrove.  The apartment my mother lived in was surrounded by two large fields that sat on both sides of her spot. …

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The trip to New England So mom died on April 12, 2015.  It was a hard death; I hated to see her go.  I had talked with her the last few months that she was alive; we talked about me taking a trip back to New England.  She urged me to do the trip, I…

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Thurman Jones I was raised in Northwest Portland, lived a few blocks far from Chapman grade school back then, moved to the neighborhood with my mother when I was around four or so, back in 1962.  My mom’s place was located just a few blocks away from Forest Park and Wallace Park.  It was a…

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On thin ice

My grandmother was a great woman.  I loved her very much; she was the rock in my mother’s family.  She told me many stories while I sat on her lap as a child, old family stories about her family.  I stayed with her during the weekends usually when I was little, she would have a fire going, her orange cat Herkimer usually sat by my side.  She was really a wonderful woman and I was glad to have known her up until she passed away of cancer back in 1983 or so.

She’d tell me stories about growing up in Vancouver, Washington.  She told me wonderful stories about her family pioneering out west during the 1910’s and 1920’s.  She had several family members that lived throughout southwest Washington back then.  My grandmother settled in Vancouver back in the early 1910’s.

One of my favorite funny stories that she handed down to me back then had to have been the tale about her and her high school friends driving across the Columbia River in a friend of hers car back in the early 1920’s or so, back when the Columbia River would freeze over, during cold historical snow storms, famous blizzards that were truly memorable.  She sat me down one night and proceeded to tell me of a high school prank that she and some of her friends carried out, it took place one cold winter Friday night.

The story goes as follows:

It seems as though one dark and cold snowy winter Friday back in the 1920’s my grandmother and a few of her friends gathered in the school library at the old Fort Vancouver high school, they watched as nearly a foot and a half of snow covered downtown Vancouver, the snow had piled up steadily, it had been snowing for a couple of days.  Kids played out in the snow as my grandmother and her friends planned their little prank that day.  They gathered in the library at noon time, four or five of her friends chatted away; the snow kept falling down as they looked outside from the frosty library windows.

Going back during the 1920’s the weather in the Portland/Vancouver area was much more severe and harsher than it is now, it wasn’t unusual for it to snow a foot or two each and every winter, thick ice would cover the Columbia River, it would freeze over, at times it might freeze up as much as a foot thick in some of the areas in the river, freezing the river, a sheet of thick ice going all the way over to the Portland side of the river.

Several people that lived on both sides of the river would gather along the banks of the Columbia and drive their cars across the frigid Columbia River when it would freeze up, usually at night, articles had been written in both the Columbia Newspaper and the Oregonian Newspaper about these famous crossings, photographs were included in the articles, photographs showing teenagers, friends and families piled up in their cars driving across the river on the ice.  It was a ritual in a way.

My grandmother had met her friends that cold winter day and they made plans to drive their family car across the Columbia River that Friday night.  They had seen other kids drive across the river a few nights earlier, some of her friends had crossed the river before.

She met with her friends in the library; they giggled and laughed as they planned their winter drive that night.  There was Echo and Helen, Edith and Pearl, they were all friends of my grandmother, and she had known them for years.  Echo’s boyfriend Billy would be able to get the family car that night; it would hold six or seven teenaged kids just fine.

“Echo, you get Billy to pick you up at 7:00 P.M, “said my grandmother.

“Helen, you and Edith and Pearl meet me at my house.  Echo we’ll meet you at my house at 7:30 P.M. Remember to bring warm jackets and hats and gloves.  I’ll bring some coffee for us to drink.  Everyone has to bring a kerosene lamp for the ride over to Portland.  Ask Jimmy to bring some firewood so we can make a bon fire along the river.”

They gathered around the library table and laughed, everything was set for the ride that cold winter night.  They told a few other people and within a few minutes the whole school knew about their plans.

Soon 3:00 P.M. rolled around, school was over for the day, my grandmother walked home in the snow with Edith and Echo, and they were great friends.  It snowed and snowed through the day, a real blizzard had formed throughout the afternoon.  Temperatures were forecasted to get down below freezing that night; it would be a perfect night to drive across the river.  It was close to 22 degrees that night.

My grandmother rushed through her dinner that night; soon there was a knock on the door, Helen, Edith, and Pearl were standing in the doorway, and they waved to my grandmother as she rushed to answer the door.  They were covered with snow and came running into the living room.

“Jerry!  Let’s get going, its perfect out!  The river will be frozen!”

They hurried about, grabbed a few blankets and a few kerosene lamps, they grabbed some cookies.  Her friends followed her as she headed out to the backyard and rummaged around for some wood from an old wood pile stacked under an old oak tree in the back yard.  She gathered a few pieces of wood and rushed inside, it was bitterly cold out.

There was a knock on the door; it was Echo and her boyfriend Billy.

“Hello everybody, are you ready to go?” asked Echo.

They all rushed out to Jimmy’s car, it was a 1924 Ford, it had a rag top, was black, it was a trusty car and it ran like a charm.  The car was parked in the driveway, the motor was running as my grandmother, and her friends jammed into the car.

They covered themselves with blankets; the firewood was thrown in the trunk along with the kerosene lamps.  They were dressed warm and toasty; they started to sing songs as they headed out through the snow.

They drove down Main Street, down to the banks of the Columbia River.  When they got there a few kids in other cars had parked along the banks, there were three or four groups of kids, a car was coming over from the Portland side, and the river was completely frozen.  People were yelling and waving their hands.

They got out of the car and unloaded the firewood and lamps, they lit the lamps and placed them along the bank, and they made a big bon fire and huddled alongside the warm fire.  Kids were yelling and screaming with excitement.  They waved as one of the cars from Portland pulled onto the Washington side of the river.  Somebody took a photograph of the car when they got to the other side of the river.

My grandmother started to laugh and smile, she knew some of the kids in the car that had just came across the river.  They looked cold and a bit thankful in making it across the river.

Within a few minutes everybody piled into Billy’s families car.  They heaved the blankets over themselves and bundled up as warm as they could.  They closed the side doors to the car, waved at friends that had gathered to watch them cross the river.  The bon fire roared, silhouettes of people who had gathered stood out against the fire.

My grandmother and her friends waved as the car rolled off the banks of the river, the weight from the car caused ice to crack at first, the tires spun and slid a bit.  Billy grabbed the steering wheel tightly as the car started out, everyone in the car screamed; they laughed and waved as the car started to pull out.  They tied one of the lamps to the side of the car in making sure they could be seen from the other side of the river.  The night was pitch black, snow flurries made it extremely cold on the river that night, the wind seemed to bounce off the ice as they slowly travelled across the river.

Within a few minutes they were in the middle of the Columbia, another car from the Oregon side of the river was crossing, they waved as the car went buy.  People yelled and waved.

“Jimmy, you’re doing a great job driving!” yelled my grandmother from the back seat.  The other kids cheered, the snow kept falling.

Soon they had reached the Oregon side of the river, a couple of bon fires were burning bright, and kids ran over to the car.

“We did it, we did it!” yelled my grandmother.  They parked the car in a safe solid spot along the river.  They gathered around the bon fire and slapped each other on the back.  They drank the coffee.  Now they would drive back to the Washington side.  Another car came across from Washington.  It was freezing, the wind came down from the east, down through the gorge.  They wrapped scarves around their faces so they wouldn’t get frostbit; they piled back in the car.

“We’re going next,” yelled Billy, everybody screamed and waved as they started out onto the Columbia.  The wind came flying down the river; they sang songs as they traveled across the icy river.  It was pitch black out, another car came across from the Washington side, people yelled and waved as the cars paths crossed.  Somebody saying they were from the Oregonian, most likely a writer took notes and tried to get everybody’s name, the next day they ran a story about the cars crossing the Columbia.

Soon they could make out the side of the river, they could see the city of Vancouver, could see glimmering lights of the city, someone took their photograph, they could see the bon fire and a few cars that have gathered.  They approached the Washington side and pulled up on dry land, people cheered.  They wore their raccoon coats, wore their warm fuzzy hats, and stood by the bon fire.

“We did it, we made it across!” screamed Billy, his trusty family car rattled in the night.  My grandmother and her friends laughed at what they had done.  They watched a few other cars cross the river.  They went home that night, went back to their warm toasty beds, and slept through the snow that night.

The next morning my grandmother’s friends called her, they discussed the events from the night before.  It had been a rousing success.  They went to school the following Monday and other students came up and congratulated them on their daring escapade.  Someone brought a copy of the Columbian Newspaper, there was a photograph of Billy’s car, and you could see my grandmother and her friends in the photograph.  People laughed and gathered around the paper.  My grandmother cut out the photograph and put it in a book of memories.  I have the photograph; keep it in the hall closet.  I always loved her telling me this great story; she really was a wonderful woman.

My friend Tim As a young child my parents divorced when I was around five years old, it was hard on everybody; my parents loved me very much.  It was tough not having both of my parents in my life as a child.  My mother was given custody by the courts in raising me, the…

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Matt Dillon I have a photography background, been involved with photography for years; I took my first class with photography when I was in high school, a black and white photography class to be exact, I took the class my junior year, learned about “F” stops and Aperture settings, learned about I.S.O. and White balance,…

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The day my mother had high tea with Eric Clapton

My mother loved music, her name was Shirley Ann Keltner  Her mother (my grandmother) played the piano most of her life, my grandmother was the musical director of her church and she also played in an all-girl jazz band back in the 1920’s.  I have fond memories of my grandmother playing her piano whenever I visited her house through the years.

My mother loved her music, live theater, and film.  Throughout her life my mother saw many wonderful, talented musicians and entertainers perform, she watched a lot of great films.  She saw the Benny Goodman Band play at the old Jantzen Beach ballroom.  She saw Lionel Hampton, George Shearing, Oscar Peterson, Mel Torne, Tony Bennet, Dave Brubeck, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Miles Davis and many other famous musicians perform live.

Her record collection included Frank Sinatra, Oscar, and Hammerstein, Pavarotti, Andy Williams, Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Leonard Bernstein, Harry Belafonte, so many wonderful records, and memories.  She enjoyed listening to classical music as well, she had Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and other artists in her collection.

My mother loved live theater.  She saw live theater in both London and New York.  She saw Dame Maggie Smith perform in London, England; she saw the original Broadway production of Mary Martin in Peter Pan in the early 1950’s.  She went to theater whenever she could.

My mother loved film as well and looking back, she was like an encyclopedia with her knowledge of music, theater, and film.  She was the first one to watch Alfred Hitchcock films with me, I first watched The Wizard of OZ with her and the first one to tell me about Film Noir.  I was so lucky in having her as my mother.

My mother had a wonderful collection of jazz, and classical records, it included several wonderful songs.  She use to play her records for me when I was a kid, I always enjoyed listening to her record collections, and I have fond memories in remembering the music filling our home.  I remember staying up several rainy nights listening to her play her favorite songs.

I have memories of her playing the great Brazilian musician Antonio Carlos Jobim.  She played Django Reinhardt and Stephen Grapelli for me.  She played music scores from famous films and animated films as well, she actually bought me a record with the musical scores from all of the animated Disney films.  I remember listening to the musical score from Pinocchio, Johnny Appleseed, and Dumbo.  She played Arron Copeland from time to time or maybe might play something by Gershwin.  She loved Andy Williams and Bobby Darin.  She listened to Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell along with Willie Nelson.  She would sit with me and watch me do my homework or let me paint and draw while the music was playing, it was really great to have my mother as my music teacher when I was growing up.

When she realized that I liked her music she would leave records out so I would listen to them.  I guess it was her way with enlightening me about all the wonderful music that was being played.  She was always going to concerts back when I was a kid.  I remember the first time she took me to see my first concert.  She took me to see Dave Brubeck when I was eight years old at Portland’s Civic Theater.  My mother was always listening to good music.

Through the years she would buy me records or maybe give me tickets to go see a musician.  I remember going to see Tom Jones when I was 12 at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon.  It was a great show.  Tom Jones had a live show on television back then and it was quite popular.

My mother did not listen to too much rock and roll when I was a kid.  She was born in the 1930’s, I think it was a generational thing with her and rock and roll.  She listened to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, she liked some other bands that were popular through the years, but in the long run she was usually listening to her jazz and classical albums.

I remember that she liked to watch the Oregon Public Broadcasting station in Portland, Oregon.  She’d always watch the Boston Pops or she might watch a good classical musical show that might be on or maybe listen to a set featuring Dizzy Gillespie.  My mother’s house was always full of music.  I was lucky.

Through the years, when I was in high school and in college I started to listen to Rock and Roll.  I liked most Rock and Roll back then, I liked The Doors and Credence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead or maybe Eric Clapton or Jimmy Hendrix.  She listened to some of it, I will give her credit for that.

Well as the years went by, my mother would listen to her music.  My mother had worked in the airline business most of her life, she had traveled near and wide.  She had seen Europe and the Orient several times.  She enjoyed visiting the finer hotels in the cities she stayed at.  She often would stay at some of these fine establishments; dine at them and then recommend the hotels to her clients.  She stayed at some wonderful places with her travels.

She felt that Portland, Oregon needed to build more hotels in the future in order to have proper accommodations for people visiting the City of Roses, especially when the city built the Convention Center.  She dined at some of the finer hotels in Portland, Oregon while she lived and worked here.  She ate at Trader Vic’s at the Benson Hotel, went to the Heathman Hotel, and had high tea from time to time, she might have a meeting with the travel industry business at the Hilton Hotel located in downtown Portland.  She was always traveling and seeing new things that might help her in giving the very best service with her clientele.

I will never forget the day my mother had high tea with Erick Clapton.  This is a true story, no fiction with this tale.  She was probably 75 at the time when she met Mr. Clapton, back in the spring of 2005 or so if I remember right, a rainy cold Saturday afternoon in March.

She had met with a business client in the morning that day, promptly dropped off some airline tickets, then decided to have high tea at The Heathman Hotel that afternoon.  The Heathman Hotel is one of the finer hotels in Portland, Oregon, it’s adorned in the inside with fine wood and gold leaf decoration.  It has a separate dining room for high tea, they have live music from time to time, and the Arlene Snitzer Music Hall is located right across the street from the Heathman.  The Arlene Snitzer Music Hall has performances and concerts throughout the year, I’ve seen Jerry Seinfeld perform there and have seen several musical performers play there through the years.  Mom would have high tea from time to time at the Heathman, it was the way she would treat herself after a long week with work.

Well, mom went to have her tea in the afternoon that rainy Saturday afternoon.  She found a parking spot near the Park Blocks and walked in the rain a few blocks in order to get to The Heathman, it was dark out, there were big rain clouds floating about.  She walked through the entrance to the hotel and looked for a place that she could sit down and have her high tea.  A fire roared in the fireplace in one of the dining rooms to the hotel.  There were not many people sitting in the lounge or restaurant that day, it was in the mid afternoon.  My mother found a comfortable chair, took her wet coat off, and sat down at an empty table.  Soon a waiter took her order and came back with her tea pot and she poured herself a hot cup of tea.  She relaxed a bit and looked at the fire, she looked around the room.

She sipped on her tea and kept looking at a fellow that she thought she had seen before, maybe a famous musician or maybe some sort of celebrity.  He wore glasses, had a beard and mid length hair, a nice looking man.  She tried to remember, she smiled at the gentleman and he nodded to her and he smiled back.  He wore a pleasant smile, a smile that she remembered seeing somewhere before.

My mother looked at the gentlemen and politely asked, “My name is Shirley Keltner.  I know I’ve seen you somewhere before, would you pardon me in asking your name?”  He looked over at my mother and smiled, he started to chuckle.  “Why yes ma’am my name is Eric Clapton.”  My mother laughed and smiled, she giggled, she blushed.  He was performing that night at The Arlene Snitzer Concert Hall.  She smiled and looked at Eric, “Oh Mr. Clapton it’s a pleasure meeting you, I’ve heard your music and you are a wonderful musician.”  He smiled and nodded at my mother.  “Thank you, would you care to sit with me, have high tea and chat?”  My mother laughed and smiled, “Why I’d be delighted.”  My mother smiled, she always had a great smile.

She got up from her seat and walked over and pulled up a chair and had high tea with Erick Clapton that afternoon.  That was my mother, she had met famous people before.  She was a very kind woman.  Eric Clapton and my mother talked for about an hour, chatting about music, about England, they chatted a bit about Portland.  My mother had heard Derick and the Dominos, had heard Eric sing on television.  She always liked his music.  Funny to think my mother had high tea with Erick Clapton that day.  They talked about his upcoming concert, my mother told him about my grandmother playing the piano, about the jazz band she played in back in the early 1920’s.  They talked about soccer, about artwork, the conversation drifted back and worth, they got together wonderfully that day.

“I’m so sorry to hear about your son,” said my mother.  He looked across the room and smiled.  About ten years earlier Mr. Clapton had lost his young son.  He wrote the song “Tears in heaven.”  My mother loved the son and actually had the album.  They continued to have their tea and talk.

They got along wonderfully that day.  Soon it was time to excuse themselves.  My mother held out her hand and shook Eric Clapton’s had.  “It was a pleasure sir.”  He smiled and shook her hand.  “All the best Shirley.  It was a pleasure.”  My mother paid her bill and left a tip, she put her rain coat on and left.  She drove home.  She called me on the phone later that day.

“Guess who I had high tea with today at the Heathmen Hotel?”  I thought to myself a minute, “Ah you had high tea with John Wayne!” she laughed, “No, guess again.”  I thought a bit, “You had high tea with Margaret Thatcher!” she giggled and laughed.  “Come on mom who did you have high tea with?”  She laughed and yelled,” I had high tea with Eric Clapton!”  I paused and thought to myself and then I laughed, “Ah, What?”  She laughed and went on to tell me all about her historic meeting that afternoon.

“Grant, oh he was so kind to me, we talked about music, we talked about Portland, oh my it was wonderful, he’s such a kind person.”  I thought to myself, “Mom I can’t believe you had high tea with Eric Clapton at the Heathmen Hotel!”  She laughed and continued in telling me about her day.  She was so happy, she was like a child that day.  I’ll never forget how happy she was.

“He’s playing at The Arlene Snitzer Concert Hall tonight.”  I grabbed the Oregonian newspaper that was sitting on the kitchen table.  I thumbed to the Arts and Entertainment section and sure enough Eric Clapton was playing that night.  Wow, I thought how neat that must have been for my mother in meeting this great musician, how kind of him to go out of his way and be so friendly to my mother.  A world famous musician that night went out of his way in asking my mother to sit with him and join him for high tea.

The next day I met with her and she went on and on and on in telling me of her chance meeting.  She went into detail two or three times in telling me the story, she went into detail in telling me how he looked and what he was wearing.  My mother was impressed with him after that and went out and bought several of his albums.  She became a big fan of Eric Clapton the rest of her life, she kept a CD of his greatest hits in her car so she could play it from time to time, and she enjoyed his work.

I went and told my friends about my mother meeting Eric Clapton, they were surprised, and some kind of them thought I might be pulling their leg.

My mother had seen and met several great musicians and entertainers throughout her life.  I always wanted to thank Eric Clapton in being so kind to my mother that day.  My mother was really thoughtful, understanding and kind to people throughout her life, I think that my mother and Eric Clapton might have had a fine time that day, that they shared some thoughts with life, talked about music and art.  Crazy about my mother, she had a way in reaching out to people, touching them in a way that I can’t really explain.  I’ll never forget the day my mother met Eric Clapton.