1 Introducing Ancestors
2 Childhood and YouthEarly Days
Early Training in Christianity
Chores and Jobs
Portland High School
4 Shifting Fortunes
5 I Retired and Retired and Retired . . .
6 The Ending
1 Introducing Ancestors
My father was Virgil Henry Read, the son of C.K. and E.N. Read of Aumsville, Oregon. My mother was May Corlinda Robertson, a daughter of D.W. and M.M. Robertson who came from St. Joseph, Missouri and lived in Salem, Oregon. Mother was about 5’6” with blue eyes and dark brown wavy hair. She was always thin. Her mother, Mary Malinda Hill Robertson, had blue eyes and wavy gray hair. She was reputed to come from a wealthy, plantation-owning family somewhere in Maryland that disowned her for marrying “beneath” her. She was a tall woman, about 5’8” or 5’9”, and though she was heavy set, she wore fashionably short skirts around the 1920s. Mother’s father was Daniel Webster Robertson. I was a great admirer of my Grandfather Robertson. He had a long beard; he never shaved. He never wore it really long, and when he trimmed his hair and beard it was a home project for all. He had blue eyes, a prominent nose, and thick, wavy hair. He farmed and would work for free for his neighbors.
My mother never talked too much about her girlhood. She liked music and was a good singer. One thing she did as a job during her teens was to do housework for neighbors who were invalids or who had new babies—wherever there was a need. The social life for young people in this area back then consisted of weekly Lyceum-type shows, using all the local talent. There might be elocution or public speaking, music, or dancing. She loved to go to the dances and the other church or public entertainments. My father attended these entertainments, and he might have gone to a Saturday night dance once or twice but he never learned to dance. He and Mother probably met at one of those entertainments. [Once May Read told Fred Andrews, “I used to love to dance, but Mr. Read didn’t hold with dancing.” Lloyd said if he held that view, it was because he never learned how.]
|E.N. Porter Read|
My Grandmother Read was very smart. She never took organ lessons, but she learned to play by watching and by ear, and she could play very well. She learned sign language for George. She died about 1922. She always said to me, “Be a good boy. Be a Christian and attend your Sunday school and church.” Going to church was not a ritual with her; she wouldn’t miss it. On the rare occasion she couldn’t go she was depressed. I remember her talking about the Christian life even before I remember Mother and Father doing so, though they were strict too.
My parents didn’t send us to church, they took us. My father encouraged us to study our Sunday school lesson at home and to read the Bible. Mother read the Bible to us. Mother sang with us, out of the little Gospel Hymns No. 5 book. She had no music lessons, but she could pick out the tune by ear and then pitch it so we could sing it. We didn’t have a piano or an organ in our home—they couldn’t afford to make payments on something like that. My dad liked good music, but he couldn’t sing—not too tone conscious. Mother had a good voice. My father’s sisters Nettie, Jessie, and Eva all played the organ and sang too. Jessie was always singing. She was only seven years older than I was and was always leading her nephews and nieces around. My father was very religious. It was a way of life for him. His family was everything to him. All his money he spent on his family. He never spent money on himself. When he was away from home on his mail runs, he’d stay in his room, never go out for entertainment or anything. Father didn’t play games; he wasn’t interested in them. No horseshoes or golf. If he went with others to the golf course, he’d caddy for them. He was very unselfish, a wonderful man.
He was a very smart man. When he was young the family lived in the big house at Hall’s Corner during the summers, and in the winters they moved in to the house by Mill Creek in Turner, where my dad attended Turner Elementary School through 8th grade. He graduated from high school, having attended in both Salem and Stayton. He went in to Salem to live with his sister Eva and attend Willamette University for a time, studying business management, but he didn’t stay long enough to get his degree. He was always reading a newspaper or magazine to keep himself informed, Saturday Evening Post, or Colliers. He could converse with anybody on any topic. Technical language never bothered him—he could listen to it and understand difficult details.
My parents met in the Turner-Aumsville area and were married at the home of the Rev. K.H. Sicafoos in Salem, Oregon on October 23, 1889. In those days there were no church weddings; couples mostly went to the minister’s home. My parents had to go to Salem with a horse and buggy back then, and the road was dirt, full of pot holes. If it wasn’t raining and muddy, it was dry and dusty. With my parents at the wedding were his sister Eva and her husband Allan Foland, and Mother’s sister Alice and her husband, Martin Olsen. The newlyweds moved to a house in Turner near Mill Creek, and Mother kept it as a boarding house as a temporary expedient for the family. She rented rooms to people who took their meals with my folks. She was pretty resourceful. She ran that boarding house until after Ross was born. Meanwhile, my dad wanted to escape farming, so his father bought a grocery store in the Odd Fellows building and ran it. He went broke—he wasn’t too proud of that. He turned the store over to his brother Silas, whose partner was Irwin Robertson, Mother’s uncle or something [Irwin was her father’s half-brother]. They ran the store successfully for a number of years.
|Lloyd Read's birthplace in Turner|
|C.K. and E.N. Read home near Turner, Oregon|
2 Childhood and Youth
Early DaysI, Lloyd Alvero Read, was born August 4, 1890 in a house in Turner, Oregon. Grandma Read came to help with the birth. They had a doctor come, although midwives were common then. In Turner at that time were a post office, the Bank of Turner (the Robertsons had something to do with that), two general merchandise stores, a feed mill, a grain elevator, a weekly newspaper, churches, and the offices of the justice of the peace. There was also a doctor. And a passenger depot for the two trains each way each day that came through. Cornelius ran the drug store, which we called the OHPC (One Horse Pill Concern).
I can tell you a little about my early incidents. In 1891 I was present at the dedication of the Turner Memorial Tabernacle, but I don’t remember the occasion very well. I do know my Robertson relatives did most of the framing and carpentry work on the Tabernacle. In January 1892 my sister, Letha Alice Read, was born in Turner. I didn’t mind when she was born, nor when she started howling. But when she went on howling for eighty years and it got such results, I began to mind. But sisters are a necessary evil and you can put up with them when you put your mind to it. My brother Ross Earl Read was born July 24, 1893. I remember Letha sitting on the floor crying after Ross was born. She said she was neglected. Ha! She was spoiled. But she did make a good playmate at times.
In the fall of 1893 my father and three friends took the Civil Service exam. Alvin Chase Baker, whose father owned the hotel across from the depot, at 3rd St. and the tracks, was one of them. Smith Allison was another. He had come here from Illinois or Indiana and gotten acquainted with Chase Baker and brought his family to Turner to farm. Ollie Richards was the third. My father followed Ollie in; Ollie convinced him to take the exam with him. All four men got appointments right away in the Railway Mail Service. My father took the run out of Tekoa, Washington to Wallace, Idaho. We moved to Tekoa. Father gained much experience in handling mail as many men were working in the mines along this rail route.
As seniority rules prevailed in this service and the whole area was growing, Father had the opportunity to bid in a “run” on the railroad from Woodburn, Oregon to Natron, up the Willamette River east of Oakridge. We moved from Tekoa, Washington in late 1894 or early 1895 to Woodburn, Oregon. My father remained on this run for four years, and there my brother Guy Raymond Read was born December 15, 1895. Father’s mail run went from Woodburn down through Aumsville, Stayton, Scio, and Oakridge. Mother took us down to see him working, and I got to go in the mail car.
In Woodburn I remember a few things. We lived in two houses in Woodburn. I can remember we lived in one house at first, and then we moved to a house across the street from the Presbyterian Church, which we attended. The minister’s wife, Mrs. Grant Corby, Mildred Corby, organized the Junior Christian Endeavor, which the youngsters attended. And the Sunday School teacher used to give us bright gold ribbon bows to signify a good attendance record. I remember once a big fire broke out downtown at night. Two blocks of the buildings downtown were destroyed, and the blaze sent a brilliant light into the sky for many miles around. It had started in the bakery where we used to get nickel loaves of bread and great big cookies; an oven caught fire and spread. We went downtown to see it, and I remember people being taken out of an upstairs window. I recall a parade by the Salvation Army once, and the big bass drum, tambourines, and castanets attracted me, and their “Stand up for Jesus!” got me excited. Once we went to a revival meeting in the Armory, where Ross decided suddenly to let out some war whoops. My father took him out to “paddle some of the Robertson out of him.”
At home we used kerosene lamps, and my mother had a small hand lamp with a handle on the bowl to carry upstairs for us to go to bed. We had wash basins that were large bowls on the cabinet. The wash tub was gotten out every week for our baths, and the water was heated on a wood stove. We didn’t have newsboys in those days. You’d buy your papers in the grocery store. In Portland though, the newspapers were delivered. A weekly, the Woodburn Independent, was printed right there and bought at the shop.
We went out to Grandma Read’s near Aumsville from Woodburn two summer vacations, and from Portland for one vacation. She had inherited part of her father’s old donation land claim, the William Porter place. She inherited the section just east of the original house, and her half-brother inherited the section that is about 500 feet north of Shaff Road. When you drove through the gate to Grandma’s, there was a grape arbor over it loaded with Concord grapes.
We three kids were born together, Ross, Letha, and I. Once when Ross was 3 and I was 6, Ross got a doll for Christmas, a little china thing about five inches high. He was showing it off to a neighbor girl, and he dropped it. Oh no! But they looked, and the doll was all right. Ross, with happy surprise, exclaimed, “See? Won’t break!” Ross and I didn’t play much together. There was three year’s difference in our ages. When he was born I readily accepted him though. I liked having a brother. I was proud of him and his progress. I showed him off. But Letha took care of him. I played with Letha more, but we three played together too—Letha and I provided the agenda, and Ross came in as a third party. The three of us pretty much took one another for granted.
In December 1897 my father traded runs with a Mr. Lee Campbell, who did the run from Portland to Seattle. Our family rented Mr. Campbell’s house in Portland, 252 E. 39th St. (old number), now SE 39th and Madison, then a block north of Hawthorne and two blocks outside the east city limits. The rent was $10 a month. In Portland there were street lamps, which intrigued me. The streetlight on the corner shone into our bedroom at night and made a pretty pattern on the plaster wall. I liked the flowers there in the summer, and in the spring there was a profusion of buttercups. There were marguerites, Mt. Shasta daisies, wild irises, and we’d put great bouquets of them into Mother’s fruit jars. She’d send us for wild hazelnuts, making it a game and telling us to see how many we could each get. Then we’d take the burrs off the hazelnuts before they got dry. When we were finished one time, we had a 50-pound flour sack full of shelled hazelnuts.
When I was seven I started doing chores around the house. I had to do the dishes. We had a garden that I worked in with Mother, and we eventually had three cows and a bunch of chickens.
Our first cow’s name was Dolly. My folks bought her from Uncle Martin and Aunt Alice Olsen about 1898 [Alice was his mother’s eldest sister]. Uncle Martin took the cow from Plainview twelve miles into Albany and put her on the riverboat Altona and sent her up the Willamette River to Portland. We went down to the dock at the foot of SW Alder St. and walked the cow home three miles. Dad led her, but I went along to help. There was a barn 300 feet away from our house that we rented. Mother and I would go down every morning and evening while she taught me to milk. If Father ever milked, it was in an emergency. We’d get a chain and hook it to the ring in Dolly’s halter and stake her in an empty field. There was lots of vacant property at that time. I learned a lot about animals and how to take care of them. I learned how hungry they always were! I put Dolly where the grass was best.
I liked acquiring little brothers. Before Guy was born, my parents had said, “There’s going to be an addition,” and I thought that was pretty nice! I liked anticipating it all, looking forward to his coming. A little brother to me was like getting a doll or a new toy. The newness never seemed to wear out. I still consider them that way. We kids stuck together.
|Sunnyside School in later years|
They did not keep me in first grade very long. I was in the second grade before the close of that semester. I had begun to develop self-confidence; so much so that I began to think it was because I was extra smart that I was being “skipped.” Now I realize that they were just giving me a chance to catch up with my age group. I did miss a few things when I skipped, but I managed to catch them later when I realized the ground the rest of the class had covered. I readily adjusted to the school world and just loved it.
Once we were all in school there wasn’t much time to play at home. We all had chores to help with, but we’d still play house with Letha, or hide’n’seek, or we’d play ball. We played catch. I could throw pretty good. And we played hide’n’seek clear up to the time I got married.
I remember going to get watermelon, once while we lived there, Letha and I. I thought I was pretty strong and put the watermelon on my shoulder, but it fell off and broke. Letha and I ran home to get a dishpan and when we got back, a kid was picking up the pieces. He threw one against the fence and we got the rest. I remember July 4, 1900 when we had a big holiday party in Washington Park.
I remember one funny incident about a delivery man’s cigar. It was common at this time to run a monthly grocery bill. Mr. Pairan ran the store, and he had two sons. The oldest, Hector, about 40 years old, would come to solicit Mother’s order in the mornings. Then he’d come to deliver the order with his horse and wagon, and he’d be smoking a cigar. He’d also usually be bringing us kids candy from his old man. We had a wire fence around our yard to keep the dog in. It was low; I could jump it. Hector would park his cigar in the rail by the gate. We kids replaced the cigar with a fir cone once and hid to watch the results. He picked it up, looked at it, then looked around for his cigar, never saying a word. And he never did say a word about that. We liked him for that and didn’t play any more tricks on him.
Clifford was born in Portland on June 15, 1900, and in 1901 we moved to have more room to grow vegetables. In those days I got my first experiences at gardening, working with Mother. We’d spend 75¢ to a dollar for 100 pounds of potatoes. We raised tomatoes, beets, carrots, and turnips. Whatever wouldn’t keep otherwise was canned.
My schooling continued. Letha was always late to school. I remember the teachers saying as we were marching out of the building and back in, “Lightly on the stairs!” I loved recess, but I also got a lot of enjoyment out of school. I never did skip even one class and was annoyed when my brothers and sister brought home kids’ diseases and we were quarantined at home.
Mr. Hadley was my first principal. He was not a strict disciplinarian. When I was in 5th or 6th grade we got a new principal, Ed Curtis. He was an ex-Army sergeant and he was strict. He had a drum or the piano beat time for us to march out and march in again. It was a two-story building and our class was going up the stairs once, too noisy for him. He said, “Attention!” very sharply to us. “I said, Lightly on the stairs!” he bellowed at us. When I was in the 7th grade or thereabouts I remember him relating stories of his life to us. How he had been raised in southern Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. How they stored apples in bins in the fall. As a boy he’d go into the apple bins and just sniff! “Boys and girls,” he’d say to us, “was there ever an aroma like that of apples!” We found out he was human too.
When I was about 12, I got into trouble with him. There was a creek running through the area just north of the school, and we were under orders not to go there during the rainy seasons. It was five feet wide and 24–30 inches deep. One day I was down there crossing, and I fell in. I slipped into the school unobserved and sneaked to the furnace room to dry off. Suddenly there was Curtis. “Lloyd! I thought I told you . . . !” I said quickly, “I was going over to the store and coming back I slipped.” He said, “Go into the furnace room and dry off.”
I recall a discipline matter concerning Ross, who was 12 at the time. We were playing “Run Sheep Run” and I got whacked myself. Then Ross was impudent to Mother and I smacked him and cut my knuckle. Letha had no respect for Mother and I often took her to task about it.
I express myself best when I’m being facetious. —Lloyd A. ReadWhen I drove the school bus at Stafford, I used to stop at the top of the hill, Pete’s Hill, from which you could see Canby, Molalla, and Oregon City. A boy was heard to say, “You can see all over hell from here!” A girl, hearing him, jumps up and says, “This I gotta see!” Her seat mate pulls her down. “Don’t worry,” she tells her, “you’ll see all that.”
HolidaysMy favorite holiday I remember was the 4th of July 1900 when we all went on the streetcar to Washington Park and zoo. Back then that was the only park in Portland, the “City Park.” We took a lunch to eat, and there were fireworks—firecrackers, sparklers, roman candles, torpedos. The folks didn’t allow us firecrackers, but we liked the torpedos. They were little things that we threw down on the sidewalk and they’d go “BANG!” I recall Aunt Jessie once saying about the 4th of July, “Well usually around this area we go up to Sublimity and get drunk and everybody has a heck of a good time.” [Based on other things he said, this was one of his Robertson uncles’ wives.] She had a saying about how to plant a garden I always remembered:
Things you want to go down you plant in the dark of the moon.I recall New Year’s Eve was a big holiday for us; we always had a new year’s watch party at church. We played games, had eats and drinks, and at the stroke of twelve we blew whistles, and the factory whistles would blow.
Things you want to come up you plant in the light of the moon.
At Valentine’s day I always took a valentine to the school teacher. It had to be a special valentine, and Mother always helped with it. We always had handmade valentines, very nice ones. I treasured a few of them.
Washington’s Birthday was a holiday from school. At school the day before, we’d have a patriotic program with a depiction of the boy chopping down the cherry tree, and then a play of Valley Forge where the audience would throw money to the soldiers.
At Easter time we colored eggs and hid them. Mother and Letha did the hiding, we boys did the finding. We went to Sunday school and church for the service, the girls wearing fancy clothes, and once I had to wear a bow tie. I didn’t like it. The church would be all decorated with flowers and was beautiful.
For Memorial Day, which we called Decoration Day—it was a holiday created to patch things up after the Civil War—there was a service downtown, city-wide, to which everybody came. There was a speaker, usually a musical solo, and a band concert that was very popular. We’d decorate the graves that day. Bands were very popular throughout the summer in the parks. We had a municipal band paid for out of taxes. There were a lot of community bands. Three or four nights a week we’d have a band concert in the park.
At Halloween time Mother didn’t allow us to go trick-or-treating. There were too many tricks pulled for her taste, tricks like hanging gates, tipping toilets, upsetting woodpiles, putting tires around the flag poles. One time in Aumsville when I was working at Lon Speer’s, we pulled a trick on the H.C. Porter Real Estate Office sign. Across the street was a barbershop where Max Ballou worked. He and I got a two-wheeled cart and a ladder and took that sign down and wheeled it to the depot where we hung it on one of the toilets. Two weeks later there was a school assembly where a lecture was given about such tricks!
One time there was a party at Wallace’s. He and I helped put up the electric line in Aumsville. They had incandescent bulbs, 60 watts. Sometimes one came disconnected and we’d kick the pole and the light would come back on. Observing us, Uncle Henry Porter (the one with the real estate sign) asked how to get the porch light at Wallace’s to come back on, and we said by kicking the porch pole. Didn’t work. Hurt his foot. He was mad at us!
I saw my first automobile when I was 13, in Portland [about 1903]. But one time around the time of the first automobiles coming out to the country, I was in Aumsville on the road through Aumsville to Turner and on into Salem, when along came Minnie [Porter], driving their new car. I yelled “Woman driver!” and climbed the nearest pole. She sailed by, yelling at me.
Thanksgiving was a school holiday. The folks usually had a dinner, but not turkey. Turkey raising was not a big deal around here back then. Mother was a good cook and she liked pork roast. It did things to my tummy. She used pork grease or lard for frying, or she’d cook the parsnips in the pork juice. She’d cook sweet potatoes separately. Most of the time Mother made her own bread. Three or four times a week she’d make fresh biscuits for breakfast.
Christmas was a big day for the kids. We’d hang stockings and get candy, oranges, bananas, mixed nuts, apples, and an occasional 15¢ toy in them. Letha and I were in charge of putting on a formal program. We’d sing, read articles, tell fables, and read the Bible. Clifford, being ten years younger, believed in Santa Claus. I helped fool him for a number of years. We had a tree and we’d put candles on it. There were small clip-on candle holders to hold the candles on the ends of the branches. There were no electric lights until our family was a good size. At school there was no prohibition on singing Christmas carols or Christian songs of any kind. Our teachers saw to it that we learned all the songs, and they taught the Christian story; there was no Santa Claus at school.
We had some other traditions and customs when I was young. Sunday was a day of rest, except we had to feed the stock of course. Sunday dinner was a big deal. All the girls tried to help, with Grandma in the middle of the kitchen giving orders. Then she’d get impatient with them and order everybody out so she could do things her own way. My aunts who were at home were always my idols.
For birthdays in our family we’d have a dinner in recognition of the occasion. Some little special something would be brought in and put on the table. And a cake. Mother could make a delicious loaf cake in a bread pan, without any frosting.
Early Training in ChristianityMother read me the Bible before I ever started to school. Mother taught me to read by using the Oregonian and the Bible. I’d read the whole newspaper. I read the Bible next, and then started learning out of the hymnbook, Gospel Hymnbook #5. I liked to sing. Ross could sing pretty well. Mother taught me counting too, but not to write. Mother taught us that we were supposed to go to church and to believe every word, whether we understood it or not. I was intrigued by King James English. My favorite early Bible stories were: Daniel in the lion’s den [in Dan. 6]. Mother didn’t understand his prophecies, and neither do I!; Nebuchadnezzar’s dream [in Dan. 4]; the Hebrew children in the furnace [in Dan. 3]; Christ on the cross [in Matt. 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19]; the Last Supper [in Matt. 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13–17]; and Gethsemane [in Matt. 26, Mark 14, Luke 22], which is repugnant to some, but God couldn’t do it any other way. I was raised that way and believed it naturally.
In Woodburn we lived across the street from the Presbyterian Church and we went there up until I was age 7. The differences between the Presbyterians and the Christians weren’t stressed then. There was a difference to older people, such as the frequency in serving communion. In the Christian Church service, the emblems were served every time they meet. The Presbyterians did it more or less when it was convenient, and there was a problem with scarcity of wine due to a fermentation problem.
When we moved to Portland, right away we started attending the First Christian Church on the west side. We took the streetcar to get there. My parents were raised in the Christian Church, the old Aumsville Church. Mother never said anything about her church going when she was growing up. I know she was baptized in the Aumsville Church after her marriage. She was maybe raised Presbyterian. D.W. Robertson taught the adult Sunday School in that church. The preacher of the First Christian Church was John F. Ghormley, DDS. He had graduated from divinity school in Des Moines, Iowa, Drake University. When I was 12 he baptized me. He was a dedicated man, a fundamentalist who interpreted church procedure in a literal way. He baptized by immersion. He served the Lord’s supper every week. I’m not sure if Letha was baptized around that same time or not. Church and Sunday School to me were something to do, to learn in. I had the same motivation for attending those as I had for attending school, to help myself, to help others. Mother instilled in us the idea of giving service to others. She started me helping to dress my younger siblings and so forth.
I was baptized in early 1902 in the old First Church of Portland by the minister, the Reverend John F. Ghormley. When I was in 7th grade, or right after I was baptized, Mr. Ghormley organized a new church on the east side. It was a legal organization, with a board of trustees, an official board, and everything that was proper. It was within walking distance for us. They bought property for the church on SE 20th and Salmon, and they called it the Central Christian Church. It was first built with a barn-like structure, about 30 feet by 60 feet, and they called it a tabernacle. It was torn down in about eight years, in 1911. Ross and I tore the old building down. They built a new stone building, but it was too ambitious. A fellow with a lot of money put up the money, but when the church couldn’t make payments on the loan, he sold it to the Baptists and it became the Henson Memorial Baptist Church. So the Christian Church moved to a building vacated by the United Presbyterians on 12th and Taylor. The United Presbyterians had merged with the Presbyterians. Our organization first rented their building and then arranged to purchase it.
Later Dr. Ghormley went out to SE Portland and organized Kern Park Christian Church. My folks had moved to that area, so Mother and I attended that organization meeting. Although I was living with my parents when Mr. Ghormley organized Kern Park Christian Church in Portland, I did not become a charter member.
I think it was ambitious church politicians who split the Central Christian Church apart. One bunch moved to SE 20th and Hawthorne in about 1910. They bought an abandoned Catholic church building in Longhurst. We didn’t go along with these people. Lillie and I were married by then, and we lived in Lents, in SE Portland.
More SchoolI always loved learning. I enjoyed arithmetic and spelling; I also had reading, history, and geography. I was never a good writer; I did not stay in the first grade long enough for Miss Dolan to teach me much writing.
I liked Mrs. Cheney’s partial payments problems in arithmetic in particular. These problems were designed to trap the unwary, and one problem in particular bugged our class for several weeks. The terms were delineated; the book gave the answer but not the process. Mrs. Cheney said, “Lloyd! I don’t understand why you can’t get that.” I worked on that problem so hard and so often that I dreamed about it. Finally I dreamed the answer! I woke up at about 3 o’clock in the morning and worked out the correct solution. It was so plain to me! That one place where I’d failed to carry out a step was emphasized in my dream. Mrs. Cheney had always told us to carry places out two or three decimal places. Mrs. Cheney said, “Lloyd, you solved that problem!” I was acquiring a reputation as a mathematical wizard and was working out the problems for most of the class.
Mrs. Cheney’s husband was killed in an industrial accident when she was 22 years old with one son, so she went into teaching. The son was killed ascending a glacier on Mt. McKinley. Some years after I was out of school she died in a hotel fire. When I was 12 and became a Christian, she said to me, “I respect your religion; I wouldn’t change your reverence for God. But you know I lost my husband and son. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a just God.” I think you choose whether to believe or not. Man proposes, God disposes.
There at the Sunnyside School were nine grades in 16 rooms. There were A and B classes; A started in the fall and B started in the spring. You could start any time and pass to the next grade in the middle of the year. You passed every semester. The school could handle anywhere from 625 to 700 students. In 1904 there were 650 students.
In first grade we learned the capital alphabet, starting with A is for Apple. The teacher used the blackboard, and it was black back then. It changed to green when we were in fifth grade. In grades 1–3 we used a slate with a slate pencil which was like graphite, and a sponge to wipe it. Chalk was too messy for us to use. In fourth grade we graduated to using tablets and pencils, and we also started learning how to use pen and ink, with the pens being filled from inkwells or an ink bottle that sat in a little well in your desktop. Of course if you sat in back of a little girl with long pigtails, you might dip the end in your ink—but I didn’t go in for that kind of trick. We read from Cyr’s Readers, 1–5, and used Eggleston’s Reader to coach us in writing compositions and in learning English literature. We learned multiplication by squares. We had an arithmetic book, but they taught us to perform mental arithmetic, mental calculations. “Lloyd, what did you get?” was everyone’s question. I thought school was an adventure, a challenge. I was there to learn—I wanted all the secrets that were in those books! I had to open all of them to read and to study; I felt impelled. There were also lots of things I learned that weren’t in books at all. I was naturally inquisitive.
My best pal was Arthur Lynch in the 5th or 6th grade. We lived two blocks apart and we’d always run home together. We played together, tag or crack-the-whip at recess. During recess everyone had to run to use the toilet and get a drink first. We also played marbles. I lost a whole bunch. Mother said to me, “Where are your marbles?” I told her, “Jimmy won them.” She said, “I told you not to play for keeps.” I was crestfallen.
The school yard was enclosed by a rail fence and had no lawn, just dirt and patches of wild grass. There weren’t any automobiles around then, so it didn’t make any difference. On the next block north was a creek. We’d crawl through the fence and then practice jumping or even doing handsprings over the creek when it wasn’t full. That was the area where my family would go out to gather hazelnuts in the fall and where we’d gather wild strawberries too.
We had a lunch break from school and we’d go home to eat an entire meal. I’d have bread and milk, or sandwiches sometimes. We had a cow, and I milked her, so we always had fresh milk. Mother would make us biscuits in the morning and we’d have milk gravy on them, or we’d have boiled potatoes or bread with the milk. By 6th or 7th grade Mother made me take a lunch to school. I was very self conscious about it. I’d slide way down in my desk chair and try to hide while I ate. I didn’t want anybody to see me eat! The rest of those who stayed there to eat lunch would be going jabber-jabber-bite, jabber-jabber-bite. But I was bashful about eating; it was serious business to me!
I got noticed about it too. A little girl, Echo Tice, once wrote, “Wilt thou & he wilted” to me, and I was very upset about it. Mother said, “Now, you mustn’t pay any attention to things like that.” Later on I got back at her. Clarence Chandler and I were sitting in the front of our home room when we spotted her, and Clarence said, “Echo Tice. Oh boy, that’s the real thing!” and I replied, “Oh no, that’s just the echo!” Clarence’s sister Grace graduated with me and I had designs to get a date with her. It was 3¢ to ride the streetcar, and I didn’t have enough for both of us, so I asked her to walk home with me. She said no. By the time I reached the 9th grade (elementary schools included the 9th grade then), I was the youngest one in the graduating class in February 1904. I had completed the nine year course in six years. Had top marks most of the way. Even though I graduated before I was 14, I remember being interested in a little redheaded girl in the class, Genevieve Lyle. There was also another girl, Hazel Thornton. When the class graduated, this business faded out.
Chores and JobsI had chores to do when I was a boy. We had a cow that Uncle Martin and Aunt Alice sold us. I learned to milk from Mother. None of my brothers or my sister learned. I’d feed the cow and the chickens, and I cleaned out the pens. I worked with Mother in the gardens. We had about an acre of gardens, including a big blue Concord grape vine on an arbor.
Half the time I had to wash the dishes while Letha wiped them. She didn’t like to wash, and when it was her turn, she’d saunter around and waste a lot of time. But she was learning to cook, and she was a good cook. I liked to wash dishes. I also had to scrub the floor with a mop and a pail. I helped wipe the dust off the furniture. Mother had a carpet sweeper and I learned to use that. Once a week it was my job to scrub the back porch and the steps and wash the windows. My most hated chore was taking the chamber pots out to empty them.
We sold Dolly and bought another cow, named Beauty, who gave more milk that we could sell. We delivered all of the second milking from Beauty. I’d carry it in a can with a handle, a five-gallon can. It was never full, and at first when I was still pretty short, I had to hold it up so it wouldn’t drag. We bought another cow, and in 1903 I bought my very own first cow for $15 that I had earned from the milk money and from delivering newspapers in the Richmond area. I’d peddle milk, but later I got customers who’d come to the house. Peddling was undignified for an almost-graduate!
In 1904 my folks bought a lot at Mt. Scott, about 100 x 100 [feet], paying cash for it. We cleared the hazel brush off the lot, and I broke the ax clearing brush. Mr. B.F. Doty contracted for the house to build it.
The summer I turned 14, I worked out at Grandma and Grandpa Read’s all summer. I worked with Uncle George making hay. Grandpa hardly did anything. I think that that was the way those old farmers did: raise a family of boys, and when the boys were all old enough, let them take over so that Father could retire. Oh, Grandpa hoed the garden and filled the wood box, mostly with pitch and cedar, which kindled easily, but beyond that he didn’t do too much. Of course, he was 68 years old then [as if 68 were old; Lloyd was 90 when he was telling me this and still actively working in the yard]. His father [C.K. Read Sr.] had his original claim east of Hall’s Corner on the other side of the intersection, one mile east and one mile south. It was 60 or 80 acres east of Grandpa’s place. The grove where the house was is still there, 1000 feet south of Mill Creek. C.K. Read Sr. sold the place to the Turner heirs.
Neither my grandfather nor my father were very effusive about giving out information. They didn’t get a chance. Grandma did most of the talking. My father never had very much to say. Mother had plenty to say, most of the time.
Uncle George would drive the horse-drawn mower to cut the hay, and I drove the gentle old mare that pulled the hay rake. The hay rake had a seat and I’d ride on that. I think that’s the first year my Grandpa didn’t drive it. He had liked farming. After raking up a long stretch, there was a release lever to pull and it would drop the hay in a certain place. We’d rake up the hay into a pattern called windrows and then use pitchforks to hand stack it in shocks. A team would come through with the wagon to pick up the shocks, usually one man driving and one or two on the ground, and rack the hay on the wagon. Then they’d take the load piled 8 to 10 feet off the ground and drive it into the barn. The lazy ones would get up on the hay and ride in. It was nice to rest up there!
In the barn some people had a new invention, a mechanical contrivance with a rope pulley and a huge pincer-like fork with teeth that you could hook into each side of the hay while the horse pulled, and it would lift the hay to the top onto a track and put it in the haymow. That was a new thing. If you didn’t have that, you put all the hay into a hay barn, dropping each load and pushing it into the corners. We didn’t put it in the barn; we hand stacked it outside, built it up and topped it off to shed the rain. It was all mow, rake, shock, stack. We did a lot of hay that summer! The hay rick was huge. Mechanical balers had just come into use in that area then, a horse and a gear with a treadmill. Then when gas engines were perfected, they started attaching a gas engine. Custom balers went from one place to the next to do it all at the same time. So we stacked our hay to wait for them. But the baler was broken down and most of our hay got wet and spoiled that summer.
I had a lot of fun doing that. Met a lot of fine people, and rough people too, those who smoked, drank, talked rough. But they were all goodhearted men. They’d give you the shirt off their backs. I did that job several summers from ’04 until after Lillie and I were married. Then out with the haying and on with the harvesting: wheat, oats, barley. We mowed the grain. Earlier they had used a sickle or a scythe and then someone tied the bundles by hand. We used a mechanical “binder” that tied the bundles with a heavy binder twine. Then a “knotter” tied a knot around it. The bundle dropped on a rack that had forks out the back, and when we had four or five bundles a trip mechanism would drop the bundles. You’d stand the bundles up and put ten in a stack. The air would dry them previous to threshing, which was also custom done. We drove around the field and a spike pitcher threw the bundles on a rack to gather them into the barn. The thresher threw the bundle in heads first to separate the grain and the chaff. The grain came out the back chute into a waiting bag. When the bag filled up, it was sewn up and another bag was waiting. The threshing machine (separator) moved between two stacks and a pitcher would throw the stacks down into it alternating one stack and then the other. The thresher had a wood-burning engine at first, and then later a gasoline engine, and finally it was a combine. It used a dozen men and ten to twelve horses to pull it. When the threshing machine came to a farm community, the women would make food for the whole neighborhood, sometimes at the noon place and sometimes at the evening place. It was as much fun for the women as for the men. I’d hear my mother say things like, “I’m glad we’re going there, I sure like Aunt Deli’s biscuits.”
Portland High SchoolI started to high school in 1904. We’d go on the street cars, Harold Kendall and I. Harold’s mother was a widow and owned a mansion on the hill above us. We’d get the same car every day. We’d even run down the middle when the cars were delayed. The motorman and conductor, Mr. Traub, would take turns with us buying bags of lemon drops. Harold was a captain of the ball team and the pitcher. I played first base.
Up until the last year of high school I was small and the other fellows would push me around in fun. I got along well with most of them, but one, Ray Barksdale, was a head taller, and he was a football player. One time we were out in the hallway at the noon recess. Part of the floors in that school were supported by bars anchored to overhead supports. The supports also gave us sky lights along there. Ray got hold of me around the shoulders and said, “Read, you’re going up against those bars.” And up I went! My last year in school I must have grown a foot. I confronted Ray, and just looked down at him. He went away, didn’t run, just looked at me. I never got into fights at school. I never tried to intimidate anybody, except that one time. When I was younger, I was intimidated myself plenty! But when I got older and taller, I decided not to stand for it, and I didn’t.
I think about 1905 we went to the Lewis & Clark Fair which was held near our school and saw pictures of the Lewis and Clark expedition. [The Lewis & Clark Fair in Portland was sometimes called the World’s Fair of 1905.] There was a dirigible balloon piloted around at that fair. It was one of the first before the Zeppelin. The pilot that was mentioned was Lincoln Beechy. We thought things were quite modern around our school with dirigibles flying past our windows.
I played baseball at school, but not on the school team. I wasn’t good enough to make the team. I’d sub for the first baseman sometimes. One time I was doing that, the score was 6–3 in favor of the other team. It was the bottom of the ninth inning and the bases were full; we were up. There were two outs and the coach was desperate. The pitcher was due up and he couldn’t hit anything. “Read, go in there, and hit that long ball. If you ever hit a ball hard, do it now!” The pitcher winked at me. The first ball was a strike. The next two he missed the plate. The next one, I hit it WHACK! over the outfield. Everybody was running, the three outfielders with their backs to the infield, and I got all the way around the bases with my three teammates.
In high school I remember memorizing Antony’s oration over the body of Caesar. I had some Greek too, under the tutelage of a minister. I was on the debating team and tried out for track and for the baseball team but didn’t make either one. Mother didn’t want me to run.
I got up early in the mornings to do my homework, about 4:30 a.m. I could do it so much easier then, when I could think clearly. I’d then catch the streetcar at 7:30 to go to school. We had classes from 9 to noon and then from 1:30 to 3:30. In my last year I had no classes the last period and I’d go home at 2:30. I did a lot of job work for the neighbors at that time. The school was in the upper west side of Portland. I’d ride one car to midtown, 3rd and Morrison, and then transfer. We lived out on the Richmond line at 3rd and Yamhill then. I was 123rd in my class in high school, out of 650. Portland High School was the only high school in the city at that time. The city population was about 125,000. Few ever made it to high school, and the dropout percentage was very high. High school graduates got jobs from guys who had dropped out before and gone into business.
|Portland streetcar at 6th and Morrison, about 1905|
During my teen years in the church we were perfecting organizations and increasing membership. The preacher who baptized me was a consecrated Christian. Many who are preachers now are church politicians instead. In the old days in Aumsville, the Aumsville Christian Church was led by Uncle Henry Porter, a deeply committed Christian man, very much the gentleman to all he ever met. And he helped the people of his church be the same way. But when he died it started disintegrating and it has disintegrated now.
My chums when I was in my teen years were Arthur Lynch, who had been my chum since grade school. He lived two blocks away. I also went around with Arnold Cook and Clarence Chandler. They were the cream of the crop. Some boys’ backgrounds were not too desirable. My folks didn’t encourage me to chum with them and I didn’t. I had a number of chums in high school. One boy, a Japanese boy, was named Oshimo and our main common ground was that we both wanted to get good grades. We studied together. There was a Jewish boy I palled around with who didn’t finish school. Ray Barksdale didn’t chum too much though we had some things in common; we walked out together at noon recess. He smoked cigarettes and drank beer though. He didn’t live in our high school area, so our time together was limited to school time. I was not a socialite. I didn’t start that until after high school in church.
When I was in high school, terms consisted of courses you elected to take. I should have taken Latin, but I took English instead. You’d choose a course and then take all the subjects within it. I added bonus credits for Latin but I didn’t take the whole course. My favorite studies were math, science, and history. I took bookkeeping, but I couldn’t master the system. I took the first Latin class in my last year of high school, but I missed 30 days due to a skin irritation of some kind that made me too sick to go to school.
The principal of the high school, Professor T.T. Davis, was a very lovely old man. Everybody thought a lot of him. I had Miss Northrup for English, probably 40–45, a sympathetic and capable teacher. Professor Harrigan taught my chemistry lab. He was very capable too, and he would tell funny stories and then say, “Now we’re going to be serious.” I had history from Miss Mogeau, and math. She was sensible and sympathetic toward young people. One of my teachers was just opposite. I registered in her room but didn’t take classes from her. She never had a kind word or a smile for anyone. Once I told her about a boy who had moved away to St. Louis, and she snarled, “I knew it!” at me. She was an old maid, about 50 or 55, frustrated with and soured on humanity.
I graduated from Portland High School in June 1907. Here is a poem I wrote in June 1907 when I graduated from high school:
Beautiful city! “The Pride of the West,”
City with wonderful scenery blest,
City of labor and city of rest—
At the union of ocean and river and rail,
Of mighty iron bands and milky-white sail,
Home of our youth and affections we hail—
Lovely “Rose City,” with beautiful bowers
Of green trees and roses, of all kinds of flowers,
The place where never come wearisome hours—
Thy plazas and lawns surpass other parks;
A wealth of fresh verdure the whole city marks;
In thy green fields sing the gay meadow larks—
City of sky scrapers, city of homes,
Rest for the weary one where‘er he roams;
Through thy green terrace the broad river foams—
In the near distance are white mountain peaks,
Whose tempering breezes the lower land seeks,
When Summer her warm message blushingly speaks—
If to seek pleasure we make up our mind,
We leave the great city and noises behind
And climb the green hills, a grand view to find—
If through the distance should wander our gaze,
We see a bright sparkling, caused by old Sol’s rays,
On the river Columbia, as it ceaselessly plays—
O, city of rest, and of peace, and of joy,
Nothing within thee can ever annoy,
Nor anything cause us to cease to enjoy—
When the cares of dull business encroach on our time,
May it still be a pleasure thy green hills to climb
And gaze at thy beauties, so grand and sublime—
Notes on the TextI didn’t leave the order of subjects as in the original interview notes; instead I put together most of what he said on a subject, but I have left some out-of-sequence topics as is.
One change I made was to write people’s names differently from the way he said them to make them clear to future generations. I wrote “Lillie” when he actually said “Grandma,” “Grammy,” or “Mom,” depending on who was there listening in. I also wrote “Mother” whenever he talked about his mother; usually he would call her that, but sometimes he called her “Grandma” too. His father he called “my dad,” “Dad,” or “Father,” and it became apparent to me that when he was young, he probably called him “Father” and as a very young child, “Papa”; then later he adopted “Dad” and “Daddy” to refer to him. (Lillie and her sisters called their father “Daddy.”)
Whenever he referred to one of his own aunts, he put the title “aunt” in, but he didn’t put in that title when he talked about his sister or his daughters who would be my aunts, so I have preserved the way he wrote that. He used initials or full names to discuss his great-grandparents. After their first mentions, he always referred to Elizabeth Nancy Porter Read and Clifton Kittridge Read Jr. as “Grandma” and “Grandpa.” His Robertson grandparents he called by their proper names as often as he used their relationship titles.
His own children he generally called by their full names; when Lillie came in the room and added things, she would use their nicknames or short versions, and sometimes I’m not sure whose words I was writing in my notes.
More to come!