[Editor: Clark passed on September 1, 2019, see also the obituary for Clark Stephens.]
My parents Noble and Bessie (Elizabeth) Stephens moved to Garden Home in 1928. They both were going to business school in Portland. They and friends would go camping in the area before they decided to move out here. Their home is still there on Garden Home Road near what was Forest Avenue and is now 67th. We were about two houses west of 67th Avenue. My dad worked as an accountant and auditor for Northwest Natural Gas, formerly Portland Gas and Coke Company. At that time they sold manufactured gas, not natural gas.
My daughter, Jill Stephens Vaughan, lives with her family on S.W. Miles Court. The Stephens have had a presence in Garden Home since 1928, some 82 years and counting.
I was born in 1930, their only child. As with many families at that time, my mom had no refrigerator and used ice delivered to our icebox. She cooked on a wood stove. Our home was heated with a gas-fired circulating heater in the living room.
We always had a phone which was a ten-party line in which we heard the code for five of the parties. Our phone was two longs and one short ring. This meant that you could go to use the line and one of the ten parties might be on it. Of course it wasn’t polite to quietly “listen in” although some people might have. Our Cherry-exchange number came in during the 1940s. The small phone exchange office was in Multnomah.
In 1940 we moved to Firlock Lane (now 78th Avenue) where we had electricity, a hot water heater and two bedrooms. During WWII my mother worked for Willamette Iron and Steel who built ships down on Front Avenue. After the war she worked as an accountant for Alpenrose Dairy. My father was old enough and with a family so that he was not eligible for the draft.
Childhood games included Cowboys and Indians and dodge ball. Bill and John May were good at throwing the ball in dodge ball games. We played work-up softball during recess and lunch with both boys and girls. The backstop was close to Oleson Road opposite from where it currently is. Sometimes we played against Maplewood or Metzger.
We liked to coast down Garden Home Road on our bikes. I was proud of myself when I was able to ride my bike up Garden Home Road to 65th without getting off and pushing the bike. The hill was also great for sledding when the snow fell.
As a boy, I always wanted to work on the railroad, a daily fact in Garden Home. I recall the huge logs on the freight trains. I don’t remember the passenger trains running in the 1930s although the freight trains were.
The most commonly frequented store in Garden Home was the Red and White, owned by Robert and Margie Smith. They also had the Post Office and a barbershop as an add-on to the store building. The Red and White store was located across from the railroad station on the south side of Garden Home Road at about 70th. Bert and Kate Waller lived upstairs with their daughter Bertine. Bert was the foreman of the work crew at the Aaron Frank farm.
Robert and Margie Smith also had the tavern, begun about 1934 after prohibition was repealed in 1933. It was located in the same block as the Red and White store on the south side of Garden Home Road.
Jager’s store was located where the current Dairy Queen is and was “on the way out” in the late thirties. He had decreased sales. He did keep a parrot on the front porch of the store. When my mother and my aunt would walk past the store, the parrot would say “Hi girls, hello girls.”
My mom generally bought her meat at John’s Market in Multnomah which at that time was up on Capitol Highway. We bought milk from the Steele family who lived down near the substation behind the train station. They had a cow. We bought eggs from Ethel Notter who had chickens and lived on Forest Avenue. Bread at the Red & White store was twelve cents for a large loaf and ten cents for a small loaf.
The Jager store was later purchased by the Upchurch family. Out front they had a gas pump with the glass reservoir. The gasoline was 25 cents per gallon in the early 1940s. The store also had a soda fountain. Both stores provided home delivery. People generally called up and ordered their groceries. Buddy Upchurch delivered for his folks and Stan Hall delivered for the Red & White. They were both very aggressive drivers. Roy Floyd delivered furnace fuel, sawdust, firewood and just about anything you needed. The current Scotties building didn’t exist in the forties.
On Saturdays, I would walk the railroad tracks into Multnomah with a dime in my pocket. Admission to the movie matinee was five cents and later the other five cents was spent on an ice cream cone. The theatre was on the north side of Capitol Highway in Multnomah and I think it burned down.
I started first grade in Garden Home School in 1935. The school had been remodeled so it had 4 classrooms, each with two grades. We entered up the middle of the building on the south side. The 7th and 8th grade classroom was on the west side and the 3rd and 4th on the east side. Then on the north side of the building was the 5th and 6th room, the music room, and the 1st and 2nd room on the east. The music room was near the overpass out to the gym. The new gym had been added in the 1930s. (This is the current gym/auditorium and the original school building has been removed.) The school bell hung in the entry area and it was rung to signal time to go to class. They put in a buzzer system when I was in fifth or sixth grade, a horrible sounding thing.
During the 1930s my dad was on the School Board. It was during that time that the gymnasium was built with help from the Federal WPA (Works Progress Administration). My dad was also the manager of the community baseball team. They played in the Sunset League against other community teams in the Tualatin Valley. In 1936 they won the League championship. Home games were played on the field north of the now Recreation Center.
We had a ceremony when we graduated from the eighth grade. I played a trumpet solo; Mary Cheatham accompanied me at the piano. There were nine students in our class, seven of the nine started first grade together. Don Steele went on to Benson High School in Portland. The rest of us went to Tigard High on the school bus that came into the neighborhood. Both Tigard and Beaverton ran buses through Garden Home. The Tigard bus came thirty minutes after the Beaverton bus.
The Coeys and Julia Vantzelfden went to Beaverton. The reputation was that Beaverton was more scholarly and more powerful in athletics and was a bigger school. It seemed like the community had more of a tie to Tigard.
Gus Johnson had the gas station on the southwest corner of the intersection and he would crank the handle and pump gas up into the clear glass reservoir. The car owner could then see how much gas he was getting as it drained into his gas tank by gravity.
My parents had a car and got their gas from Verderman Oil in Multnomah. We had a 1933 and then a 1940 Chevrolet. We had good public bus service every half hour. Coming out from Portland, one bus went left on Oleson from Garden Home Road to Metzger and a different bus turned right on Oleson and circled around in Maplewood. They were the Tualatin Valley Stages, sometimes referred to as the blue buses.
In about the sixth grade, we moved to Firlock Lane, now 78th. Don Smith and others would leave their bikes at my house on their way caddy at Portland Golf Club. In about 1953 my parents moved from Firlock Lane to a new housing development on Miles Court on the east side of Oleson Road.
In the summer I caddied at Portland Golf Club and then later I got on with the grounds crew. Before the war on weekends there would be 30 to 40 men hopeful to get a caddy job but during and after the war we younger kids could caddy. I started out at 10 years old carrying one bag and later graduated to carrying two bags. As a fringe benefit, we could play the course on Mondays. Some boys didn’t have clubs so a kind member would sign a note that the caddy could use his clubs to play. The members always stored their clubs in the locker room.
There was a hobo camp in the woods just east of the railroad station towards Canby Street, near the four switch tracks so there was a lot of activity there. There would be 6 to 12 guys in there, riding the rails. Our parents cautioned us not to go down there but I never heard of any problems. One day when I came home from school for lunch, my mother had hired one of the men to spade the vegetable garden. When asked, I said I’d studied geography that day. The hobo said “You get your geography from a book; I get mine from the top of a boxcar.”
There were two derailments, one at the Firlock train station. (The Portland Golf Club calls this adjacent hole “Firlock Station” and mentions the train wreck on their website.) The tender was located ahead of the engine and got off track. Then the engine at the back kept on pushing the railcars zigzagging the cars off the tracks.
Once when I was about 4 years old, a steam engine derailed on the trestle east of the train station. They had to bring in a derrick and get the engine back on the tracks. Steam engines were used to haul the logs. It was believed that Southern Pacific owned the straight track from Tigard to Beaverton and they wanted too much money to use the tracks. So the owner of the logs made a deal with Oregon Electric to run on their tracks to Garden Home and then switch and go on into Beaverton and out to Cornelius Pass through the tunnel in the west hills and supply the mills along the Willamette River. That’s why the log trains were coming through Garden Home.
Clark and his wife Connie have four children and nine grandchildren. He worked for the Portland Fire Department for 35 years and retired as Deputy Chief.
Interview with Clark Stephens Nov 18, 2010, written by Elaine Shreve