Bruce Koester

Bruce Koester was born in 1946, married Sandy in 1973 and has three children: Beth, Glen and Carl. Bruce has lived in his grandmother’s home near 62nd and Garden Home Road all of his life. The home was built in 1926 and his grandmother Augusta Matrix Hosner purchased the property in 1927 for $2,500 from Mr. Sabel who owned much of the property in that area. Bruce’s father, Otto Koester, came from Germany and married Augusta’s daughter, Elizabeth in 1928. Both parents died in 1979 and are buried at Crescent Grove Cemetery on Greenburg Road.

This home is in Multnomah County and City of Portland, so Bruce attended school at the Markham Annex building and then Benson High. His dad dropped him off at Benson on his way to work at Avondale Construction in east Portland.

The original garage for the Koester property was located east of the house, where the huge 1.75 million gallon Tualatin Valley Water District’s water tank now stands. This earthquake resistant tank was installed in 2013.

It replaced the two aging 500,000 gallon tanks which were developed in 1952. A row of about 20 very tall sequoia trees delineate the property line from the Koesters; the tiny saplings were planted about a yard apart in 1953. Mr. Sabel had an auto repair business at this location prior to the water tanks.

Neighbors in this general area included: Lily Vantile who was the mother to Jimmy Chevrolet. Eric Johansen who shot her cats after she died. Patsy Sheehan married Bob Jager who worked for Nabisco. Mrs. Clifford was reported to have come from Idaho in a wagon in 1900. This was necessary if the family was moving cattle or horses with them. Mr. Raz was a mechanic at C-Tran in Vancouver. The Raz family was from Switzerland. The Piper family sold their property to the Donners.

Like many homes of the neighborhood, this large lot of almost three quarters of an acre has provided a large garden, berry bushes, a cow, chickens, geese and other small animals. They had a cow until 1952 which his mother milked daily as was the German custom. In Switzerland, the custom was for the man of the house to do the milking. They had to circulate a petition in the neighborhood to get a permit to have a beehive which still produces nice honey.

Bruce’s father Otto Koester was a painter, using the lead based paints of the era. He is remembered to have suffered depressions and was quick to anger. After he retired, the family noted that his personality became much easier. After Bruce read The History of Poison, he believed that his dad had suffered the effects of lead poisoning from his daily contact with lead based paints for over 30 years.

Grocery shopping was generally at John’s Market or the Ben Franklin variety store in Multnomah. Bruce remembers when Throckmorten’s (also called the White store currently on Dairy Queen property in Garden Home) burned in April of 1956. The big wheel of cheese covered by the big glass dome was very inviting. The small store had wooden floors and shelves for the products. The Koester family used a freezer locker rented in the business located in the current Washington Square area at the SE corner of Hall and Scholls Ferry. The Blair family were noted because they were the only family with a freezer in their home. Other shopping was done by taking the bus downtown.

After Throckmorten’s store burned in 1956, a Standard service station went in which brought three service stations to this Garden Home intersection. The (Shari’s) NE corner had the Texaco station and the Mobil station was on the SW corner, home of the current Shell station.

The Columbus Day storm of 1962 left the area without electricity for about two weeks.

In the 1950s the kids played ball on Garden Home Road with only occasional traffic. Baseball was a very popular game. The family got a TV in 1956. They had a wood stove in the kitchen until 1949 and another in the living room.

The neighborhood women of the 1940s and 1950s generally didn’t work outside of the home. And often did not drive the family’s one car. Only three kids in this area were from single parent homes. Bruce’s mother was very active in developing St. Luke’s Lutheran Church at 45th and Garden Home Road, now closed. She also worked on making hooked and braided rugs out of discarded clothing and fabrics. They had a big garden. The Oldtimers club consisted of people from the neighborhood who met about once a month for a potluck.

Bruce’s mother, Elizabeth, usually called Betty, used and worked at Whitney’s Cannery in Garden Home in the 1950s. The Whitney’s would call her in when they had a big load of fruit or vegetables to get canned. The Cannery closed in 1976 when the Whitneys sold it to Frank Comella for a fruit and vegetable business.

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2 Responses to Bruce Koester

  1. John Durst says:

    Having read this I have reason to believe it’s the same person Otto Koester that I met in the ’57-’58 time frame .
    He was my paternal grandmother’s brother her name was Lena Margarita (Koester) Durst.
    My uncle David Durst lived by Otto.

    • gardenhomehistoryproject says:

      Thanks John. Your note will go with Bruce’s story. He was fun to interview. Elaine Shreve

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