Dorothy Johnson: Garden Home Recollections

[Editor: Dorothy passed away in 2022. Read her obituary.]

DJ boardwalk

DJ boardwalk

Arrival in Oregon: Pioneers looking for new land and new opportunities describes my family’s arrival in Garden Home in 1941. My father, Gust, mother Jean, sister Shirley and I left Superior, Wisconsin and followed the Lewis and Clark Trail to Oregon. The trip was made in a 2-door Ford pick-up truck with a tarp on the back. And there we were driving across the land in a modern version of a covered wagon.

Town Life: the train service had been discontinued prior to our moving to Garden Home. A cannery was built on Garden Home Road at the end, where the train tracks had been torn up and removed. Folks took their fresh produce to be canned. Kids swam in Fanno Creek in the summer. The bus system would take you into Portland.

The four corners of town included the Garden Home School, Upchurch Grocery, my dad’s Texaco Gas station and a corner orchard lot filled with fruit trees. Garden Home was a very quiet community, there was no crime. No one locked their doors in Garden Home. There were stop signs in town but no traffic lights. At night there were no street lights and children playing got inside before dark.

Nearby Multnomah had a wonderful bakery. I remember people went to shop at the Safeway store in Tigard.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. My mother took a photograph of me holding flowers in front of a tribute to FDR in the window of the Post Office. We all took such pride in being Patriotic Americans.

Texaco Gas Station: After arriving in Oregon, my Dad found employment in Gresham, Oregon.  Texaco heard about an outstanding mechanic and approached Dad to take over the garage in Garden Home.  My Dad and Mother talked it over and decided to give it a try.  The deal was an opportunity but Texaco made no promises.

Dad built up a successful business working seven days a week.  Mother helped at the gas station and many days I helped pump gas to customers.  The station offered full service, gas, air, oil and a clean windshield.  The business slogan was “Don’t Cuss, Don’t Fuss, Call Gus.”  The station attracted customers from near and far.  One man came from Bend, Oregon because he had heard about Gust Johnson.  Aaron Frank and his caretakers were all regular customers.  Dad finally quit the auto repair business when cars started having air conditioners.  He said it took too long to get to the engine and was more trouble than it was worth.

Dorothy Johnson with Bobby and Dean Day

Dorothy Johnson with Bobby and Dean Day

Neighbors:  Garden Home had some of the best people in the world.  Jim Bastien and his family lived on Oleson Road two doors away.  Jim Bastien played piano and went on to publish “Bastien Piano Books” that inspired a generation of piano students and teachers.

Darwin and Lois Day and their children Joanne, Dean and Robert lived next door to us.
Mildred Stevens and her husband and children lived across the street from our house and the Day house on Oleson.

Aaron Frank:  During World War II many things were in very short supply.  Gasoline, food, meat, sugar, butter, flour and rubber were all rationed.  After the war ended things were still tough and there were many shortages of goods.

My father mentioned to Aaron Frank how he would like to get bicycles for his two girls but none were available.  Mr. Frank asked my Dad “What color would the girls like?”  Shortly thereafter the Meier & Frank Department store delivered two bicycles to our home from their San Francisco warehouse.  My Dad then paid for the bicycles.

Aaron Frank’s fifty-five acre estate was located north of the Garden Home School, abutted the Portland Golf Club and fronted on Oleson Road.  I often spent summer afternoons in their swimming pool, always with Aaron Frank’s permission and approval.  Aaron Frank was a wonderful man to me and my family.

House and Home:  When Dad accepted the offer to operate the Garden Home Texaco Station, he was promised a place to live temporarily, a one bedroom apartment attached to the back of the garage.  When the business went well, my parents bought two acres on Oleson Road adjacent to the Texaco property and built our family home.  The home was completely paid for when finally finished.  We had a vegetable garden every year filled with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Dad then bought five acres three miles west on Garden Home Road, divided it into building lots and named the street Dorothy Lane (now 88th).  When Garden Home became part of the Portland mailing system, the city replaced the Dorothy Lane sign with a numbered street sign.  The residents preferred Dorothy Lane to the new numbering system.

Later my dad bought more land including the Hill house on Oleson Road from the Bebee Hill family estate.  The Hill house was across the street from the Bastien house on Oleson Road.  Mr. Hill, long since deceased, was a drummer boy during the Civil War.  Shirley Lane was put in and the land was divided up into home lots.  Shirley Lane is still there today.  Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Tate and their young daughter and son bought land from Dad on Shirley Lane to build their house.

School:  Garden Home was zoned for the Beaverton School District.  I attended the Garden Home School beginning with the second grade through the eighth grade.  The school was just a short walk from the Texaco station.  I have very fond memories of the Garden Home School cafeteria.  The two wonderful women in the kitchen cooked meals from scratch every day.  No frozen dinners here.  The meals cost twenty cents.  Every Monday each student would give the teacher $1 for a week’s worth of hot lunch meals.

One day classmate Frances Putnam turned and said stop shaking the desk.  I was not shaking her desk.  An earthquake was happening during the school day.  Our teacher got up from her desk and said everybody out.  The teacher was the first one out the door before the children.

I then attended Beaverton High School and graduated in 1955.  During my junior year in 1954 I was elected Spring Reign Queen by my fellow students.  This was a big honor for me as a junior and it told this shy teenager my fellow students liked me.  Local seamstress Mrs.Pearl Munsen made the gown for me to wear for the event.  Mrs. Munsen also made my Lady Macbeth costume for my Miss America Pageant talent competition.

Modeling and Pageant History: One day our neighbor Mrs. Bea Knudsen came to our house and mentioned an ad for Marie Easterly Modeling School in the Portland newspaper.  Mrs. Knudsen lived a block down the street behind the gas station on Garden Home road.  The school believed I would be good at modeling and accepted me as a student.  My mother paid their fee and I was taught the art of modeling.  My first modeling assignments began in the 8th grade as a Junior model for Jantzen Swimsuits, White Stag and Pendleton.  The public like me as a print model and the assignments kept coming in.

I participated in two Portland Rose Festival parades riding on floats.  Our Beaverton 1955 Junior Chamber of Commerce float “Tales of the South Pacific” won a first prize ribbon.  All through high school I studied at Portland Civic Theater under the training of Doris Smith.  While in high school, my mother and I enjoyed attending the Shakespeare Festival at the open air amphitheaters in Ashland, Oregon.

In 1955 I was named Miss Beaverton and won the Miss Oregon pageant in Seaside.    My mother and I traveled by airplane to the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It was the first year the pageant was broadcast live on national television, the first year Bert Parks was emcee and the first year Bert sang his famous song, “There She is, Miss America.”

For the talent competition at the Miss America Pageant, I performed Lady Macbeth’s Sleepwalking Scene from William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.  On the final night of the week long Miss America competition my performance was the only one televised live.  I finished Miss America First Runner-up, the best finish for an Oregon girl until Katie Harmon won the 22001 title.  Upon my return from the pageant, the Beaverton High School Band and teachers gave me a rousing welcome home at the Portland, Oregon airport.

With my scholarship winnings from the pageant, I enrolled and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.

A beautiful photograph was taken of me as Miss Oregon at Aaron Frank’s swimming pool and published in all the newspapers.  Garden Home was full of very nice people and very pleasant memories.

Appreciation:  I have lived all over the U.S. during my interesting life, Oregon, Texas, California, New York, Wisconsin, Nevada and now Florida.  However, with much pride, when people ask me where I am from, I always say Garden Home, Oregon.

Today I am in excellent health, vibrant and residing in Florida where I run my own licensed landscape gardener yard pruning business.  I am proud to have raised two daughters and two sons, all college educated and independent.  My children and their families all reside in California, Nevada, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Over the years I have returned to Oregon many times to visit friends in the Portland area.  I was honored in 2003 to be invited back to Seaside to be a judge at the annual Miss Oregon pageant.  When in Oregon I always seem to end up visiting my beloved Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach where my family and I spent many pleasant summers.  Oregon will always be home to me.

I have two published books available for purchase on my website.  “My Name is Dorothy, I am the Daughter of a Pioneer Woman” is a trilogy about growing up in Garden Home, Oregon.  “From A to Z, Life begins at 17” is a book containing my thoughts on what one needs to know to be successful in life and includes 20 pages of personal photographs of my life and career for your enjoyment.  You are invited to visit my website and leave comments on my guest page.  My website is   My email is

By Dorothy Johnson

Dorothy Johnson’s famous daughter visits Garden Home

Dorothy Johnson Papadakos

Dorothy Johnson Papadakos

October 25, 2019 – We were pleased to meet Dorothy Papadakos, nationally famous organist and daughter of Garden Home’s Dorothy Johnson (Miss Oregon 1955, Miss America first runner-up 1956). Dorothy is continuing her highly acclaimed Halloween Horror Tour which brings her to 8 famous national pipe organs in 4 weeks, including Portland’s Trinity Cathedral organ. Ward Nelson, Trinity choir, was surprised to learn of her Garden Home connection and was touring Garden Home with her.  Wikipedia notes how her tours began:

Papadakos started her annual Halloween Horror Tour, which brings silent film’s classics, such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Phantom of the Opera to life on the world’s pipe organs. Her silent film appearances have included such classics as a rendition of the Hunchback of Notre Dame at a New Year’s Eve 2011 celebration at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, and Nosferatu at Kansas City’s Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts organ in 2014.

Comment received via e-mail from Richard Mason

Dorothy Johnson was Miss Oregon 1955 and First runner-up in the 1956 Miss America Pageant from Atlantic City, NJ. Dorothy Johnson was the female lead as Elaine Peck in Columbia Studio’s full length motion picture “Life Begins at 17” and also appearing in Hollywood movies such as Sister Ophelia in the Canadian Cult Classic “The Littlest Hobo” in 1958, and as Sally, leader of the all girl Circus Orchestra in “The Flying Fontaines.” Dorothy Johnson TV credits include The Bob Cummings Show, Bat Masterson, Bourbon Street Beat, Overland Trail, Jerry Lewis’ first TV special in 1957, as a contestant on “You bet your life” with Groucho Marxs as well as appearing live on national TV during the 1956 Miss America. The first year Bert Parks hosted the event and the first year the pageant was televised live throughout the USA.

For Dorothy Johnson fans, you can send her your best wishes via email to

by Richard Mason

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9 Responses to Dorothy Johnson: Garden Home Recollections

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