Hello Friends! Garden Home is busy! This update includes stories about the Big Blow storm of 1962.
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The Big Blow of 1962
Sixty years ago today on October 12, 1962, severe winds blew in Garden Home and all up and down through Oregon. It was declared the nation’s worst national disaster of 1962. Thanks to Steve Bauer for passing along the small book, The Big Blow by Ellis Lucia, The Story of the Pacific Northwest Columbus Day Storm.
Peak wind velocities ranged from 116 mph in Portland to 170 mph at Hebo in Tillamook County. The Big Blow left 500,000 people without power in Oregon and almost $400,000 of damage to our Washington County schools. Some 300 planes were damaged or wrecked. Almost 3,000 stumps had to be removed from Portland parks.
Here in Garden Home, Forrest Lamb had more recently opened his new Thriftway store in 1957. His son Colin Lamb told us how they responded to the storm:
The electricity was off in the Garden Home area for about a week after the big storm of 1962. Of course, many homes had no heat so Dad left the presto logs out in the front of the store with a note to pay for them the next day. I think we got full payment. We lost our perishable food but then we didn’t have as many freezer and refrigerated items as we do now. Most of the produce section was root crops and winter stable foods. We just added up the grocery charges with a pad and pencil at the check stands.
Jan Fredrickson remembers his experience as a young boy living in Wormwood Manor on Firlock Lane (now SW 78thAve) with his parents:
My dad told me to get inside the house. Mom and Dad ran outside to batten down the hatches. I was seven, all I could remember during an earthquake was to stand in the doorway, which I did. It was like The wizard of Oz. Limbs and trees falling, the house shaking a big boom and flash and the power went out!
My parents were back inside. My dad said sit in front of the fireplace. The whole house could blow away but that won’t move. A locust tree fell from our property and broke the power pole in half and blocked the street. The metal roof blew off the chicken coop. We were 20 days without electricity. Heating, cooking, and heating hot water to take a bath were all done in the fireplace.
I did my homework by candlelight. My mom cooked oxtail stew in a big pot over the fireplace. She found a wood fireplace is much hotter than the electric stove.
My dad was attending Electronics School at Tektronix. He’d fill the front porch with wood so there’d be enough to last until he got home at midnight. He went to his job at Sawyer’s during the day. Came home and again chopped more wood and fallen trees and limbs. The only damage to the house was six shingles came off. Our telephone worked the whole time.
This storm is etched in my mind. It was 60 years ago but seems like it was yesterday.
We had asked for other stories and were so glad to receive this Oct. 12, 1962 story from Joanne DeHaan. (See Joanne’s wonderful story about the early Portland Golf Club.)
We lived on Mayo at this time. At 4:40 p.m., I put a mac and cheese casserole into the oven and turned to clean the counter. Looking out our large kitchen windows, I saw billowing gray clouds rushing in from the south, pushing each other out of the way as they tumbled towards me. Strong winds rattled the windows and then the electricity went out.
Dave left work at 4:30 in calm weather. By the time he reached Multnomah Boulevard, the wind had knocked down trees and power lines which blocked some roads. He slowly maneuvered through an obstacle course of trees, debris, power lines, and abandoned cars. He heard warnings on the car radio that roofs were blowing off of homes. He was concerned that I might be in danger. He could not get home fast enough.
And, as the wind blew debris against our house, I wondered which room would be safest. I zipped our toddler into his snow suit to keep him warm and moved him and his toys into a north facing room.
When Dave finally got home and opened the garage door, the wind blew out a small garage window. Yes, we could open the garage door without electricity – we always did. Back then, electric garage doors were a luxury that we couldn’t afford.
We didn’t have a battery operated radio. So, we listened to the car radio. Flipping channels, we found one broadcaster after the other talking about the terrible storm, about roofs blown off, and about people being hurt. We were worried.
Finally, we heard the KGW weatherman, Jack Capell. He relayed messages of damage, but with a calm voice, not trying to sensationalize the story. We heard that few roofs blew off, but many shingles did. We didn’t have to worry as much. It was time to think about eating. That cold mac and cheese didn’t taste bad.
It was a dark and stormy night…the strong winds continued into the early morning hours. But we were safe and only had minor damage to our roof. We realized we wouldn’t have electricity for a long time. We had to make plans. We could use some food from the small freezer the next day; but everything else had to be thrown away. Our son had no milk to drink; only water or juice.
We had a large corner fireplace with a raised hearth that worked very well for cooking. Dave’s parents lived just 1 ½ miles away. They could keep warm with their wall gas furnace; but couldn’t cook or drive. I cooked dinner for both families on our fireplace, Dave drove their dinner to them, and then came home to eat.
Like every mother I knew, I used cloth diapers. Disposable diapers were somewhat available; but not at all common or reasonably priced. Since I couldn’t launder them, I carefully considered when to change my toddler.
The whole city was without electricity and phone service. Phone service was restored first; then after a week, the power returned. We were lucky; the neighbors behind us on Stewart Street had to wait another week.
Our Board of Directors continues their monthly meetings, second Mondays at 4:15 in our homes. Call to attend. Current subjects include Fanno Creek Trail History Walks, displays in the Library and bulletin board, Century Homes program (we have some 39 Century Homes in Garden Home), Historic Garden Home street signs, new businesses, our newsletters, program planning with the Garden Home Library and more! We welcome new volunteers to our committees; let us know your interest. Call Elaine 503-246-5879, or Esta 503-246-5758.
Stay safe and well, from all of our dedicated Board of Directors: Esta Mapes, Sharon Vedder, John and Marie Pacella, Stan and Susan Houseman, Mickey Lindsay, Jan Fredrickson, Kevin Mistler, and Elaine Shreve. Tom Shreve is our webmaster.
My dad, Ken Mistler, who grew up in Garden Home, was a student at PSU at the time. When I was a little kid, he told me about the storm. He said he was out walking around, checking out the storm (probably not a great idea, but he was young) and the windows of John Helmer Haberdasher on Broadway blew out. Hats were blowing up and down the street. He and John Helmer were running around trying to gather up as many hats as they could. For his efforts, Mr. Helmer let him pick out any hat he wanted. I asked him if he still had the hat, but he didn’t. He said he wished he’d kept it because they made really nice hats, but at the time, hats for men were going out of style because John Kennedy didn’t wear one.