Grant Keltner

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.

Anthony My grandfather, given the name of Anthony Joseph Furio, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 22, 1904.  His parents migrated over to this country, sailed over from southern Italy around 1898 from what I’ve been told.  They spoke Italian and English; he was raised in Philadelphia, grew up in what is known as…

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The Wayne/Chapman Murders The following story is based on a true set of murders that took place in Portland, Oregon years ago.  Not many people remember the crimes, I suppose it’s a mystery in a way in who committed the murders, nobody knows for sure what happened that terrible night, they were shocking crimes, some…

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As a kid, my father would tell me tall stories while lying up late at night in my bed.  He would tell stories about the west, tales of cowboys, cowgirls and assorted folklore and foibles.  The following short little yarn is from a bedtime story that my father used to tell me when I couldn’t…

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Cricket I can remember the night my mother’s cousin Meredith (nicknamed Cricket) died of cancer.  It’s a night that I’ll always look back on with sadness.  She died when she was nineteen, close to four years after being diagnosed with having the life-threatening disease.  It was 1966.  I was around eight years old when Meredith…

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A yarn about a feud Through the years while living here in Oregon, I’ve heard of many tales, been told many stories, and have had many fables passed down my way through elders from one generation to the next.  Many of the stories have been passed down through local families that settled in Oregon over…

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