Life in Garden Home in the 1930s and 1940s.
The front yard at our house had a large walnut tree and one branch was strong and large enough for us to pretend it was a horse. We could saddle it up with a blanket and ride off into the Wild West. Our first Garden Home house faced “Occidental Avenue” (now S.W. 76th) and was one or two blocks (heading north) from Garden Home Road and our house faced west.
There were two sour cherry trees that always had lots of fruit and Mother would make yummy cherry pies and can some for winter use.
The property behind the house backed up to the Garden Home School baseball field. There was a narrow strip of uncut grass to the actual edge of the field. When facing east you would see the playing field. To the north was a “forest” of trees with a path leading to the railroad tracks and the Portland Hunt Club just a little further north. To the south – about 200 to 300 feet – were the school swings and teeter-totters and the main school building and gym.
Across the street from the school (still looking south) was the Upchurch grocery store and gas station (Dairy Queen and the 7-11 store are there now). To the east of the school was a filbert orchard (Lamb’s Thriftway, Shari’s, etc. are there now).
Does anyone remember the Garden Home Community Church? It was located on the south side of Garden Home Road across from what is now the Old Market Pub & Brewery.
We attended the Garden Home Community Church Sunday School but must admit not every Sunday. We all had a great time at Christmas as the “class” presented a “play” where all the little ones could show off their talent (dancing, singing, reciting poetry) in front of their parents and friends.
When we (Zora and Sharka) started kindergarten at the Garden Home Grade School we did not speak or understand much English (we spoke only the Czech language at home). Our sister, Vlasta, took us the first day and left us with the kindergarten teacher and went upstairs to her classroom. We sat for a little while and, since we did not understand what the teacher was saying, we just looked at each other, got up and left the room and went home. The poor teacher couldn’t find us and ran upstairs to notify the principal (Mr. Taggart). He, in turn, went to Vlasta’s classroom and sent her home to bring us back. Vlasta knew we had gone home (our house property backed on to the school yard). She took us back to school explaining to us (in Czech) that we must not do it again.
Within a few weeks we were doing quite well in speaking and understanding English. We could not say the word “yellow”. All the rest of the colors created no problem. We would say “lallow”. Even in first grade it was difficult for us to say “yellow” and we just knew that Miss Johnson (our first grade teacher) would always point to something yellow and ask us what color she was pointing at.
Vlasta loved playing baseball(yes, baseball). On one occasion we were watching Vlasta play. She played second base. The game was in its final inning and Vlasta’s team was one run ahead and the other team had two outs. If the other team made a hit it was a good chance they could bring in a run and tie the game. Well, the pitcher threw the ball, the batter hit it and started to run but Vlasta caught the ball and the game was over. We could see Vlasta jumping up and down she was so happy they won. Her sisters were pretty happy too.
The Upchurch grocery store was across from the school. One day (we believe we were six or seven years old) Mother took us with her to do shopping. When we got home and were helping mother unload the groceries, Zora showed mother a walnut she had taken from the store (many of the store’s food items were in open barrels or open boxes and you would fill the bag yourself and take the bags to the counter where they would be weighed and a charge made). Mother was very upset and sent us both back to the store. Mother’s instructions were very clear – we had to tell Mrs. Upchurch what Zora had done, return the walnut and then Zora had to apologize with the promise she never would do it again. Mrs. Upchurch forgave Zora and that was the end of us ever taking anything without paying for it.
Our third and fourth grade teacher, Miss. Waltman, was a great teacher. If we all did our lessons she would, toward the end of the school day, read a chapter or two to the class from a great book – maybe Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, or something similar. If a student did something wrong such as talk out of turn or perhaps pinch someone, as punishment she would make the “naughty” boy sit with one of the girls or the “naughty” girl sit with one of the boys for the rest of the day. That was absolutely terrible.
On one occasion Sharka took matters into her own hands. It was during recess and everyone was outside. Zora was on the teeter-totter with another girl when one of the boys (who shall remain nameless) slipped up behind Zora when it was her “turn on the ground” and gave her a kiss. Sharka saw him do it and ran over and punched him in the mouth. He knew he couldn’t let the teacher know why he was hit, as then he would have had to explain what happened.
Careers: Zora and Sharka both excelled in math in school. Sharka went on to work 51 years for what is now International Tank and Pipe. She traveled for the company estimating and selling tanks and pipes. In the early years, it was wood water storage tanks such as the elevated one in Old Town, Portland, near the big sign.
Zora chose to go to Cleveland High School to escape the twin label. She worked for Pacific Coast Motor Freight, then Coast Transport in accounting. Later she worked for Raz Transportation setting up charters and gambling trips for private and public accounts. They both have a particular passion for cats and dogs.
Written by Zora and Sharka Becvar, submitted by Elaine Shreve, May 2011.