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.

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