Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Everyone loves a story. Let's begin with a house.

Steve Larrance

Making these oral histories is my favorite part of my job these days. Here's today's edition.

Former Washington County Commissioner Steve Larrance still lives on the land his grandfather purchased in 1900 near Southwest 209th Road in Reedville. When Larrance was a little boy in the 1950s, the family lived on 16 acres there. English holly trees covered half the land. Grain fields covered the rest.

Down the ways from his house, through a path cut through the holly trees, his father built boats and cabinets in his woodworking shop. The smell of steamed oak and cedar wafted from the windows. Larrance spent plenty of afternoons sitting in a cabinet in the shop, watching his father transform piles of lumber into beautiful boats. Even now, at 63, Larrance remembers smelling the linseed-oil-soaked cotton his father used to caulk the boats.

The real charm of the neighborhood, Larrance says, was the people who lived there. Half the neighborhood was elderly, so Larrance felt like he had half a dozen grandparents, he says. The other half was kids -- including the Hagg brothers -- a couple years older than he was. One of Larrance's neighbors, the by-then-nearly-90-years-old John York, taught Larrance and some of the other neighborhood boys how to make cider from the apples that had fallen to the ground.

"We'd say, 'John, those have got worms in them.' He'd say, 'Oh ,that doesn't matter,'" Larrance remembers. "So we'd just throw them, worms and all, right in the grinder."

The group filtered the cider through one of John's old -- but clean, Larrance insists -- socks. Then they poured it into glass gallon jugs.

In his "Aloha Story," Larrance remembers another neighbor -- Tiger Ben. In the early '50s, Tiger Ben had retired as a tent wrestler and was working as a dairy farmer in Reedville. He was still strong, strong enough to cut acres of grass by hand with a scythe. Larrance tells the story of how Tiger Ben taught the boys to make and bottle root beer.

To hear the story, follow this link over to Oregonlive: Aloha Stories: Steve Larrance recalls making root beer, apple cider and boats in Reedville.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The whole of a life: a moment;

Jessica Johnson

Amber Jackson

A few weeks ago, I launched an oral history series at work. In it, I record (then condense/edit) people talking about memories of Aloha, the unincorporated community I cover. Right now, the county is working on a federally funded study aimed at eventually remaking Aloha. Because the community will likely change considerably in the next few decades, I decided to collect memories to preserve the place Aloha was. Each audio story is accompanied by a portrait of that person.

So far, I've published three. I had an especially fun time recording today's story, wherein a woman remembers her childhood job picking strawberries. She talks about strawberries fights and strawberry shampoos. You can listen to it on Oregonlive: http://www.oregonlive.com/aloha/index.ssf/2012/02/aloha_stories_for_jessica_john.html

Tomorrow I'm heading out to interview a man who has lived there his entire life. I asked him if I could interview him, but he demurred at first, saying:

"To pick apples off the ground and grind and press them into juice with a 90 year old farmer who was born in the house where he would die within a few years, to eat fresh cookies and pies in old fashion kitchens with elderly neighbors you knew as grandma this or uncle that, to search the road side ditches for old beer bottles that we then worked with the retired tent wrestler to sterilize and then fill with home-made root beer that we were free to get from his barn refrigerator seems like a world too good to be true and never again to be enjoyed."

To which I said, Amen, tell me more.

Saturday, February 4, 2012