This story about the Upchurch family was sent to us by Dorinda Troutman, from her home in Hamilton, Montana. Her mother Dorothy Lois Upchurch Hogue Bates was a teenager and young woman when her parents Theresa Boyd Upchurch and her husband George Louis Upchurch bought the White Store on the southeast corner of the intersection in Garden Home (Dairy Queen now). They bought the store from the Larsens in about 1936. The “gram” referred to in the story was Theresa as described by the granddaughter Dorinda Troutman in an email to me. In the 1970s Theresa’s husband had died and she married her husband’s relative Mr. Williams. I knew Theresa Williams in her old age as a member of the Garden Home Methodist Church. This memoir about early Garden Home and the Upchurch store was written by Theresa’s daughter, Dorothy Lois Upchurch Hogue Bates (married names). The very beginning of this memoir is missing and presumably about the early life of Dorothy Lois Upchurch.
–Elaine Shreve, May 2016
Memoir by Dorothy Lois Upchurch (Hogue Bates, married names) daughter of George and Theresa Upchurch who purchased the White Store, 1936
[the first four handwritten pages were missing by 2013. Edits/clarifications by me, her daughter Dorinda Troutman, are in italics and between brackets]
[My dad – George Louis Upchurch]… was a great one for living in the past. Speaking yearningly of his life in California as a boy. I heard so much of how glamorous life in CA could be that I determined early on that I must experience it.
My father was born with a birth defect. He had a cleft palate and a hare lip. These things can be easily repaired now but not in 1886 when he was born, and this colored his whole personality and his life. [I was told that my grandfather had had an operation on his palate as a very young child in San Francisco]. I was always surprised when someone commented on it. Does a child ever really look at his or her parents? I doubt it. We just love them for what they are. My father was bright and accomplished and had the most beautiful handwriting. I heard that he was a wonderful dancer, especially his waltz. He was a member of the California National Guard, sent to San Francisco after the earth quake and fire of 1906 to help the people in Golden Gate Park and guard against looting. He volunteered for duty in 1917 and got as far as Angel Island when he was refused service because of his birth defect. It was claimed that he couldn’t wear a gas mask.
His speech was difficult to understand at times and he was often mimicked which really upset him so he developed and attitude which really fended off friendships and closeness. I’m sure he really loved me and was proud of me, but I can’t remember being told this or being cuddled and loved beyond my babyhood. He was a critical man, and as my mother remarked, “There is one right way and that is Louie’s way.” He was especially critical of my brother, and Bud was never allowed to bring friends home or play in the yard for fear that he would spoil the symmetry of Dad’s precious lawn and flower beds.
My mother, on the other hand, always had time for us. I can remember being in the kitchen with her, clearing the dishes after meals, while she listened to my endless chatter. It always seemed that I could tell her anything. She as a very wise, earthy woman and as her grandchildren can attest – and was that way until the day she died.
Because I was the older child in the family, being seven years older than my brother, and because he was a brother, we had little in common as children. I started at Garden Home School at 6, there being no kindergarten, already able to read. I asked Mother if she taught me to read – and she said, “No, I guess you taught yourself.” I have always been an avid bookworm, would rather read than do anything else, and suffering from near-sightedness, whether brought on by the reading or just because, I took to school like a duck to water. There were less than 80 children in the eight grades and with two grades to a room; I was soon learning second grade work. That accomplished, I as put in the third grade. I seem to have lost little except simple arithmetic, and have always had trouble remembering combinations.
School was a lovely dream. I loved all of my teachers, and we had much opportunity to express ourselves in music and the arts. It probably was not all that much fun for my brother to follow a big sister into the same arena. He was much more physical and full of mischief than I and not as eager to please.
In our small community we were pretty isolated but also self sufficient. There was an electric railway (The Oregon Electric) with a station on a trestle. It was a transfer point, where one track went to Forest Grove and the other all the way down the Willamette Valley to Salem. Although only seven miles to Portland, it seemed so far. We went to the city at least once a week, and Mom was always in a quandary as to what to do with Bud. He was an escape artist – forever running away, and she couldn’t figure whether to get herself ready and then Bud – or the other way around. I remember one time when he was quite small she readied him, tied a rope in the loop of his trousers and fastened him to the clothes line. When we were ready, we found the pants on the end of the line, but missed the train looking for the boy.
Garden Home School was really quite progressive. Our principal and 7th and 8th grade teacher was Nellie Cochran, and her daughter taught 3rth and 4th. We explored all sorts of avenues for learning, had many art courses, and once a year put on a real production, involving the whole school. I remember one time being involved in a Victor Herbert operetta, a very ambitions procedure.
There were two stores in the Garden Home. The nearest was what we called the ‘White Store, although the paint had weathered off long before. It was owned by a widow, Mrs. Nichols, but run by a rotund German named Chris Jager. I think he had been hired help for the Nichols as he ran the store and took care of the old lady. This building was very old, probably built in the 1850s. The second floor had served many purposes, at one time being the school and then a community meeting hall. We bought very little at the White Store, and Mother would only buy things from Chris that were packaged as he was so dirty and the store so filthy.
The other store was the Red Store and was located across from the railroad station. It was owned by the Smiths and housed the post office. Marge Smith was the postmaster.
On the other side of our property was the T.E. Hills Victorian farmhouse. An orchard of filberts separated our places. We were fascinated by “Old Man Hills” as my father called him. He was a Civil War veteran, had a flagpole with brass cannon on the top and ran the flag up and down every day. I can still see him in the Memorial Day parade in his navy blue Union uniform with brass buttons, a campaign hat with a gold cord on his head. He also drove a spit and polished 1909 Ford. Quite a curiosity in the 20s when he drove it to Portland, it drew quite a crowd with its polished brass headlights and struts to the windshield from the fenders. It was in such a beautiful condition that Henry Ford offered to buy it and to put it in his Dearborn Museum and trade a new Mercury for it. Mr. Hill agreed, received the new car, drove it for a time and then demanded his old Ford back, and got it.
Another character that fascinated us as children was Mr. Weber, a mysterious man who looked as if he came out of Washington Irving’s imagination. He had long grey hair and a long grey beard. He wore knickers, heavy stockings and boots and walked everywhere with a long wooden walking stick. We even saw him walking in downtown Portland. I heard that this wife and children left him and he vowed to never cut his hair and beard until they returned.
Back to the White Store. It had a wide covered porch across the front and side with huge bread boxes on it. The bread deliveries where very early in the morning, so the bread was put in the boxes before the store opened. Chris also had a parrot in a cage hanging on the porch that laughed and talked, imitating dogs and cats and Chris’ German accent. As the store was across street from the school, this was great entertainment for the school children.
When I was a child our elderly friends and neighbors were always called grandma and grandpa and friends of my parent’s age were aunts and uncles. It took me a long time to differentiate between blood relatives and honorific relatives.
Anyway, where Gramma and Grandpa King sold their house to the Bartletts, I had a new set of Gramma and Grandpas. They had come to Oregon from Indiana with four of their five children. This all happened when I was about 10, I guess. Their youngest son was Virgil (Happy) who was in his teens. My special love was Marian who was in her early twenties and was the very epitome of a ‘20s flapper. She had a windblown bob, Cupid’s bow mouth, wore short beltless dresses, rolled her silk stockings and rouged her knees!! She had a windup Victrola and used to sit on her front porch with one or more of her numerous beaus, who played ukuleles, while I sat on our porch and dreamed of growing up to be exactly like her. She had time for me if no one else was around and I loved to be near her. I still remember what she used to play on that phonograph – “Sweethearts on Parade.”
The year I was 12 was very memorable. I was in the eighth grade and the year I first fell in love, cut my leg, won my bicycle and graduated from grade school.
Bill and Eleanor Powers were from the city. Their parents rented a house in Garden Home for two years, and we all became friends, but he was my first love. We spend as much time as possible together and everyone, including parents, watched us with much interest. We were the same age, except that he was in the seventh grade. When I went off to high school, we grew apart and by the time they returned to the city it was just a sweet memory. When I heard that he had been killed in an accident at 17, I was stricken, and will always remember how sweet it was.
That was the year I fell over the chopping block in the woodshed onto a double-bladed ax and cut a huge gash below my right knee. [Mom told me that Bud was chasing her around the yard and she jumped over the block and fell on the ax]. No doctor, just a little iodine and it took a long time to heal. Of course, it should have been stitched, but it wasn’t and it left a deep scar for the rest of my life. [Mom had lovely, shapely, legs with slender ankles — unlike myself and my daughters who have sturdier appearing legs and ankles – just like my grandmother’s — and as a kid I always liked the character the scar below her knee gave her].
I have always been ashamed of the way I won my bicycle. Albers Mills offered 50 bicycles to be given away in the three coastal states. Whoever had the most Albers box tops from their products and wrote a winning essay would win a bike. Because Dad worked in wholesale grocery, he made up a mix of grains and legumes, using Albers products. He could get me enough box tops to win all the bikes. To my credit, I did canvas the neighborhood and bugged friends for their box tops and I did write a good essay, but I didn’t feel good in winning that beautiful bicycle.
Before 1932, the high school students in Garden Home caught the train to Portland and attended Lincoln High School at the south end of the Park block. In 1932, when we were to start High School, we were given the choice of attending either Beaverton High School or the new High School in Tigard. I chose Tigard, so I climbed on a bus every day and even was bussed to evening and sports events. So few students had access to cars and hardly anyone owned a car so I can remember being dressed fit to kill in a long formal, going on the bus and meeting my date at school.
High School passed in a happy haze. I was especially fond of my art teacher and when she left in my second or third year, I continued lessons with her in her studio in Portland.
Mother was insistent that I have as many advantages as possible. At six, I started piano lessons with a 16-year-old neighbor girl as teacher. She had a crush on someone in the Portland Symphony so she took me with her on Saturdays to the Portland Auditorium to hear the orchestra under the baton of Willem Von Hoogesteaten. At eight I began lessons with a teacher on the east side of Portland. So, by myself, I took the train to Portland, walked to Broadway where I had my lunch at the Woolworth’s, all fifteen cents worth, and caught a Broadway street car to my piano lesson. Dad worked a half day on Saturday, so he came to pick me up and we usually stopped at Safeway in Hillsdale to grocery shop and then home.
I took piano lessons until I started high school when I had little time to practice. My last teacher was Jesse Lewis, niece of Victor Herbert, who had traveled with him and had wonderful stories to tell. Her studio was at the east end of the Broadway Bridge.
On those Saturdays, I had also discovered the wonderful world of the Portland public library and would walk to 10th Ave and pick up a load of books to read during the week. As I knew nothing about the filing system and was afraid to ask, sometimes I came up with some pretty adult books which puzzled me for years.
One summer when I was about 12, I discovered a twelve volume set of memoirs and letters of World War I, and I’ve never forgotten the feeling of the intense horrors these poor young men went through.
As I say, mine was a happy childhood, reading, riding my bike, going to the banks of Fanno Creek, and digging the clay to fashion fanciful animals – imagining strangers coming by and marveling at who could have done these wonderful things. I also had a tree house. Across the street, there was a huge old maple with a center cut out of it, probably to let the utility wires through. So there were stumps to sit on and quite a large area in the middle. I drove spikes into the tree so that I could climb it. A very bad thing to do, I now realize. I dropped a rope tied to a big bread basket to bring up supplies and my dog, Peggy, a black and white fox terrier. I would sit happily in that tree for hours, quite sure no one knew where I was, spying on the world going by.
The main roads in Garden Home were narrow and graveled. In front of our house were two immense black walnut trees that were the bane of my father’s existence. Over and over, he would try to graft them to English Walnuts and the grafts would never take. When Garden Home road was widened, I suppose the trees were cut down and probably cut up for fire wood. What a shame that beautiful wood was not used for furniture. And mother never used the black walnuts as she complained they were too hard to crack and pick out of their shells.
There was a wooden sidewalk going to the store, two planks wide, laid the long way, bordered by locust trees dripping their beautiful wisteria-like yellow and lavender blossoms in the spring.
There were all sorts of wooded areas around us and I spent a lot of solitary time in them. There were some especially deep dark woods past the store and down toward the Hunt Club across the railroad cut, where the walls were covered with delicious wild strawberries. I saved the tin Log Cabin syrup tins and would build villages in the woods, the floor of which was covered with wild ginger with its big heart-shaped shiny leaves and aromatic ginger buds. We picked too many wildflowers, bringing home armloads of trilliums and great bunches of violets both purple and yellow. We know now that we were stripping the bulbs by doing that but there was so much in those days.
Speaking of the Hunt Club. Dad was continually amused by the weekend riders in their jodhpurs and boots, posting in the English saddles, who passed our house following a paper trail, pretending a fox hunt through our woods and pastures. When I was older and making my own living, I took riding lessons at the Hunt Club, riding in the covered arena, being schooled by a Scot with a resounding Scottish burr that only the horses seemed to understand.
Graduating from H.S. in 1936, it was given that I find a job. I had no idea that I might attend college. In fact, I didn’t even investigate scholarships. No one had suggested I do so. And it was at this time my father was let go from his job and things were really tight.
The summer of 1936 was a special one. As a graduation gift, Mom and Dad sent me to San Francisco to visit. I stayed with Dad’s cousin, Maude Sewell Upchurch. She was the daughter of Aunt Samantha Upchurch Sewell, the aunt who had lured Dad to Oregon in the first place. Maude married her first cousin, Dad’s brother Robert, (one of her marriages). Auntie was still alive, but a very old lady. She and Maude lived together in a railroad flat in a Victorian building at the end of the panhandle of Golden Gate Park on Page Street, just below the Haight.
Maude was a very large woman with a beautiful creamy complexion who always dressed in black and seemed to really attract men. She had been married three times, never had children and seemed to want to live vicariously in me. I loved the attention. She took me to all sorts of places, and looking back, the strangest was to the El Patio Ballroom, down on Market Street. We would get dressed up in long dresses, no less, take the street car to the ballroom, dance with any and all who asked us, and come home by street car. I met an especially nice young man name Reggie Hearn, a law student at Cal, who became very taken with me, even asked me to marry him! Maude was all for it, especially as we had met the dean of Mills College on a ferry to Oakland who got me fired up about going to Mills. Of course, when I called my family to tell them my plans, they insisted I immediately return home.
I again visit San Francisco in 1939 to see and attend the World’s Fair on Treasure Island in the Bay. I can’t remember if I stayed with Maude then or not. I know I went to the Fair with other cousins of my Dad’s, Lulu and Bess McKinney. Lulu lived on Post and Jones in San Francisco and Bess was still teaching in Vacaville. The island was artificial, filled in off Yerba Buena Island In the middle of the Bay. The bridges had been built, but I can’t remember how we got to the fair. It seems as if it was by ferry. It was all so beautiful, the exhibits, the food, the entertainment.
A few years earlier the old White Store had sold to some people from Portland Heights, the Larsens, who did a lot of remodeling of the building. Sadly they tore off the wonderful old porch and louvered shutters, adding some windows and brick, turning the upstairs and part of the downstairs into living quarters. The people of the neighborhood didn’t take to the newcomers and they finally quit and put the place up for sale.
This was just the time Dad lost his job  – and I was working in Portland at Meier and Frank. He had always wanted a retail grocery of his own – after all his experience in the wholesale trade, so Mom and I talked him into cashing in his life insurance policy and talking the Larsens into letting them have the store. His policy was only worth $1,000, so we bought the inventory and moved in, promising to pay for the store as we could.
We moved to the store, renting our house to a young couple, Mildred and Austin Stevens, with a small son, Richard. They became as close as family to us. Mother always said “Mildred is my other daughter.” Later, Judy was born, and Mildred’s mother came to live with them. When Richard was four and Judy two the children were put down for a nap and the grandmother was in her wheelchair. Mildred came to the store to shop. While she was gone Richard started playing with matches and set the house on fire. The children ran to the Bartletts, but the house went up in a flash and although Dad climbed in a window to try to rescue Mildred’s mother, she was burned to death and the house was a total loss.
There was no fire protection in that part of the country, and if a fire started there was no way of stopping it. So, as was the case before, when friends’ houses burned, we took the family in to stay with us until they got back on their feet. I remember sharing my bed with Judy when she was only two.
The garage and woodshed and the outbuildings were still standing on the property, so the Stevens bought the property for $1,500 and converted the buildings into a house, eventually selling the acre to a developer and it is now covered by apartments.
In 1940, my boyfriend, Don and his friend Irv McCarthy decided to seek their fortunes in Hollywood. Irv had an uncle, Bruce Manning, who was a producer there, so the boys opened a record shop.
My buddy, Betty Burdette, and I spent our vacation that year stopping by San Francisco, staying again with Maude, going to the Top O the Mark which had only been open for a couple of years. Betty even had a drink of hard liquor as she was already 21, and we felt very sophisticated.
We went on to Hollywood and all stayed on a ranch near Griffith Park, owned by friends or relatives of the boys. They had a pool and horses and the ranch was location for a lot of movies. Poor Bets was at kind of loose ends as Irv didn’t have much time for her. His Uncle Bruce had fixed him up with a starlet named Ava Gardner!
At Christmas 1936 I began working at Meier and Frank Department Store. I started in the sub-basement wrapping packages for shipping. I worked six days a week, and the starting wage was $58 a month.
The store was a huge place, a block square, between 5th and 6th Streets and Morrison and Alder, as I recall, and across from the old Post Office and the Portland Hotel. The Hotel was a huge black pile of stone with circular drive in front. Later, the hotel was torn down with the post office and is now Pioneer Square. The store was 14 stories high, the two top floors being stock rooms, and had two basements where the pneumatic tubes hissed and howled, bringing down the receipts and cash for transactions in the departments. There were 2,500 employees, many of whom had spent all their lives working there. There was a fleet of delivery trucks, dark green with red and gold lettering and a huge warehouse and garage in NW Portland.
There was also a big auditorium on the 10th floor for employee rallies and parties, and elaborate fashion shows for the public each change of season. Models were chosen from the store employees and as everyone in the city seemed to have worked there at one time or another, they had their pick of some beautiful girls, including the Rose Festival queens and princesses. So I was really pleased when I was chosen as a model. As well as modeling in the shows, complete with beautiful effects and an orchestra, we did “still-modeling” in the store display windows, confusing pedestrians as to whether we were real or mannequins.
I worked in the store from 1936 to 1940, progressing from wrapping to saleslady in the glove and hosiery departments. In all those years, my top salary was $65 a month for grueling hours.
In 1940, to try to better myself, I went to work for Pacific Bell in what was considered a cream of the jobs, as a service rep. These girls had always been college grads, but I broke the mold, and was hired not withstanding. My salary there was $38 a week. I think I worked there only a year, hated the constant monitoring and the war had begun, so our jobs mainly consisted of saying “Yes, we appreciate your call, but we can’t give you service.”
I’m backtracking now. Our store became very successful. Mother was a wonderful businesswoman. In a short time, my parents had paid off the mortgage and it all belonged to them. It was a mini supermarket for those days. They converted two back rooms into a barbershop and beauty shop. There was a loading dock on the side for seed and feed. Mrs. Smith moved the post office into the store and we had a magnificent mahogany back bar complete with mirrors and beautiful marble counters – our soda fountain. The ice cream parlor table and chairs I have were original with the store. It was a credit and delivery system and Dad would go to the city to get any specialty items anyone wanted. There was a great monster of a nickel-plated cash register, and black beast of a safe in the back room. There was a meat case with perishable lunch makings and big red coffee grinder where Mom ground ‘Upchurch Special” coffee beans. There was a big wire basket of eggs and a store cat who slept atop them, only jumping down when the meat case was opened, hoping for a pinch of hamburger. There were notions, needles and pins and spools of thread. And then there was the candy case. It and the magazine stand drove my Dad up the wall. Mother had endless patience, waiting for the children from school across the street to make up their minds as to which penny candy to buy to get the most pieces for their money. Three were “2-fers” and “5-fers” and even “10-fers” so that you could end up with quite a haul for a nickel. The boys would sit on the step of the magazine stand, reading the comics and leaving them in a mess, for my neat Dad to straighten.
The store was open six days a week, and every Saturday night, the splintered pine floors were oiled so that the dark oil could penetrate over Sunday.
From the age of two, I was sent to Sunday School. The Garden Home Community Church was a plain rectangular white building with a steeple and bell, between the two stores, toward the station. Bud and I went every Sunday at nine. I even taught Sunday School in my teens and played the organ for the little ones. As I grew older, church service followed at 10 and then Epworth League on Sunday night. What with choir practice on Wednesday night, it was really our main social outlet. As kids, it got us out of the house, and a sense of freedom. I remember walking around in the dark with a group, just “hanging out,” (new expression) talking, catching glow worms and flirting.
The church was Methodist affiliated, but I can’t remember it being particularly secular. Everyone came. What few Catholics there were in the neighborhood came if they felt like it. My parents didn’t attend. Dad’s family was Christian Scientists.
Then in 1940 my father suffered a coronary thrombosis and almost died. After his stay in the hospital he moved to a nursing home and poor mom had the full brunt of everything. I was working, Bud was only 14, and Mom didn’t drive. So Bud got a special drivers license, and had to deliver groceries after school. He was a darling boy, and had some pretty hairy experiences with hungry housewives. Then after work, we would go to the city to see Dad.
When my father came home, he was never really well, and sadly, began secretly drinking and being unpleasant to the customers. It became harder and harder for Mom to cope, and as I was in California by this time and Bud had joined the service, the store was sold in 1944. In looking back, I think of myself as being very selfish. I should have stopped working away from home and helped the family keep the store. It was a wonderful opportunity to have kept it in the family and made a living for us all.
It was always a going concern. Was sold twice after that, but, sadly, burned to the ground later.
During the war, many things were in short supply, needed by the war effort, so we were rationed. Gasoline was rationed and rubber and cotton goods. Of course, many food stuffs weren’t available, especially dairy products and meat, so Mom ran a kind of bank. Mom turned in ration stamps they didn’t use and Mom doled them out to people who had to get around or had children to feed.
In 1941, I went to work in the First Aid Station at Henry Kaiser’s first shipyard, Oregon Shipbuilding. [The Kaiser Company bus service began in 1942 to serve workers who needed transportation to the shipyards. Buses ran 3 roundtrips daily, serving Forest Grove, Hillsboro, and Beaverton.] The yard was open round-the-clock, building Liberty Ships, so I took my turn, working all the different shifts, riding with different groups as they changed shifts. It was in North Portland across the St. John’s Bridge. The Doctor in charge was Dr. Rieke, and various others. Staffed by students from the Oregon Medical School. People from all over the world were working there. Half of the musicians from the Portland Symphony, writers and poets, as well as men and women of all ages. My job was keeping records and filing claims.
In 1942 I was still at home and I guess they were tired of having me there. Everyone was in a state of flux – all the men I knew and many of my girlfriends were joining the different branches of the services. A boy I had been going with since I was 19, Don Chambers, went into the Army Air Force, washed out of training in Texas, went into the Glider Corps and wound up in the Battle of the Bulge, the debacle at Bastogne, but came out alive.
I was restless, there were too many different men in my life and Mother said, “You are not married, you are almost 23. You have always talked about San Francisco. It is time for you to go.”
[Mom’s memoir continued about her life in California, where I was born in 1945. – Dorinda Hogue Troutman, Hamilton, Montana (email@example.com)]
[The following paragraphs were written by Dorinda Troutman about her grandmother Theresa Upchurch Williams and sent to me by email. May 2016]
My grandmother went on as a widow in the early ’50s to work at the Peoples Market Co-op in downtown Portland. I spent a lot of summers with her, both there and at my Aunt and Uncle’s little farm near Tigard (and four cousins).
In the photo of her market booth, Theresa Boyd Upchurch is in the middle. Her family, the Boyds, were Oregon pioneers, and ended up living the latter half of their life in Newberg, with a prune orchard and ran a gas station.
Gram sold chickens and eggs that were grown, killed, and plucked by friends outside of the city, and brought in to her each morning intact including heads and feet. She would butcher them and put them on ice in glass fronted cases. It was fascinating for me to watch her butcher. I still see my grandmother’s hands when I do the same. Mom told me that Gram raised chickens for meat and eggs to sell at the Upchurch store during the ’30s. My mother disliked eggs but loved her mother’s cooking of home raised chicken. When Gram rode the train to California in the 50s to visit us, she always packed a fresh chicken in ice in her suitcase to cook for us.