Interviewed March 2010. Oscar and Mary Olson have retired to a lovely complex, Mary’s Woods in Lake Oswego. They have fond memories of Garden Home, a place where they raised their family. They lived most of the time at 7380 S.W. 77th in Garden Home.
Of Norwegian heritage, Oscar’s mother came from North Dakota to teach school in several small towns in Oregon, Toledo, Mulino and Seal Rock. At this last one room school in 1931, Oscar took his dog to school each day with the dog sleeping in the wood box. She later moved into Portland so Oscar could attend Benson High School. They rented several small places in SE Portland. Prior to moving to Garden Home, Oscar had visited with the Huffackers at their house just west of the school property in 1935.
His mother got a job in SE Portland caring for a Mrs. Fishburn until her death. Later she married the husband, Ernest Fishburn. His mother also taught at a school out Skyline Boulevard. As a teenager, Oscar stayed in several places in Portland and then boarded with a family of Jake’s Crawfish Restaurant. When Oscar came down with smallpox the family could no longer care for him and he was sent to the “pest house” (sanitarium) at Rocky Butte. He then lived with a retired teacher until his graduation from Benson. Oscar was invited to live with his mother and her new husband Ernest Fishburn in 1941 in their home on SW 77th (then called Wilson) in Garden Home.
Oscar joined the Navy in 1942. Upon discharge in 1946, Mary and Oscar were married. They lived in a small house, a gift from his mother and step-father, at 7380 SW 77th. This house was moved in 1957 to 7176 SW 76th where Mary’s brother, Jasper Castellano, lived there with his family. Jasper had suffered tragically in the war. Mary’s mother lived there beginning in 1961.
Oscar returned to Garden Home upon discharge. The business area in Garden Home was small. The Upchurch store was located on the SE corner where the Dairy Queen is currently. It contained apartments on the upper floors, beauty and barber shops, groceries and a post office on the main floor. The entry to the store was on Oleson. Garden Home Feed Store was in the building known as Scotty’s today [Ed: now the Dugout]. Mice were plentiful running around in the store.
Oscar was known to play pranks at Halloween. One year he put a large saw-horse on the Stevens’ garage and a garbage can on another garage. He put a gate over his own chimney to thwart suspicion and a play yard on top of the Wickstrom’s car. Their insurance man, Mr. Holmes, owned lots of property on 77th.
Firlock train station was located at the end of 78th. An engine derailed along there between 76th and 77th. A crane was brought in to right the engine. The rails were taken up during the war. The railway ties were still there in 1946. Their son Chris and a friend found some duck eggs near the pond on the Portland golf club and brought them home. Chris hatched one in the basement and later took the duck to the zoo.
Oscar first worked for L.W. Keenan & Co. down by Union Station in Portland, assembling wheel goods, bicycles etc. and inventing new parts. In 1946 he worked for ten years in the mailroom for the Oregon Journal publishing company at Broadway and Yamhill. While there he became an apprentice electrician and then began working at Tektronix in 1956 in quality control. He instituted the “clean room” procedures and worked with the first development of potentiometers and capaciters.
Mary did child care in their home and was active in volunteer roles. She taught 4-H knitting, crocheting and cooking for 24 years. She taught young mothers how to knit. She also volunteered at Emanuel Hospital and then began the shampoo service at Meridian Park Hospital. They generally shopped in Multnomah for dry cleaning, drugstore and movies. They shopped for groceries at the Safeway in Tigard or Fred Meyers. They would buy half a beef or a pig and freeze the cuts in the frozen food storage locker in Tigard. Mary canned fruits and vegetables at home and at the cooperative cannery and helped others in the cannery. They purchased peaches from a farm off of 80th. They were active in the Community Church until 1946 when they joined the Lutheran Church in Multnomah. Mary and her mother-in-law would provide transportation to the Ladies Aid Society at the church.
A few homes were located in the current Scottsboro Square area southwest of the Garden Home intersection. One family did target practice with their 22 rifles and accidentally shot a dent in Oscar’s car. Thompson’s big house was located before Marugg’s dairy on Oleson. That home is still there. Once a cow got loose from up Garden Home Road near the water tank. Oscar put a rope on her and walked her back home.
Neighbors helped one another. Gus Johnson was working on a car when the hydraulic lift collapsed and Oscar was called to help. One time the neighbor’s niece was babysitting an infant when the baby became wedged between the waterbed and the wall. Oscar and Mary rushed to save the baby’s life by prying on the wall and bed while supporting the baby. Mary was summoned to clear out a slug in Dede Partlow’s mouth. Dorothy Johnson didn’t stay in the community after the Miss America show. They never heard from her again.
The Throckmorton store in Garden Home burned down in 1956. Carlo Poutala lived next door to the little house. Carlo’s history says that he was sometimes called Johnny Appleseed because of his interest to plant apple trees and to graft several varieties on one tree. Oscar and Mary had such a tree with both red and golden Delicious apples. They also had a King apple, a cherry tree and two filbert trees.
There was a train trestle over the top of Hall Boulevard at Washington Drive. Cars drove underneath. Residents could hear the clunk, clunk, clunk of cars driving over the wooden plank bridge over Fanno Creek at 92nd.
Mary says that Mr. Throckmorton called her the meanest mother in Garden Home. Mary walked there almost every day to get the mail and other necessary items. She forbade her children and those she cared for to go through the store and say “I want…” pickles from the pickle barrel or cheese from the large wheels. But as they would leave, Mr. Throckmorton would kindly ask if she would allow to children to split a pickle or a small slice of cheese. Mary relented only if the child had not said “I want.” Mary had rules for the household and all children had to follow them.
Oscar and Mary’s three children attended Garden Home School. Annette went from eighth grade there on to Beaverton High. The two boys, Chris and Nels, attended Whitford and then Beaverton High School. Nels graduated high school from Portland Community College.
Oscar and Mary have wonderful happy memories of living in Garden Home and raising their family.
[Editor: Oscar Henry Olson, August 19, 1921 to April 12, 2017, survived by daughter Annette Olson, son Chris Olson and son Nels Olson.]