“Timber-r-r-r-r”

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Living among all those Douglas fir trees certainly came as proof that we were in Oregon and no longer in New York City. But Oregon is also famous for its green terrain. And the green is courtesy of rain and more rain for much of the year. The winter of this photo produced extra ordinary rain, loosening the soil around the large fir in the back yard. Then all it took was a strong wind and the tree toppled. A careful look reveals that our swing set is mangled in the wreckage.

Of all times for a tree to come crashing into the yard, it picked a night my parents had gone out to dinner. This left our babysitter with three frightened children as the branches(already removed in this photo) crashed onto the roof, leaving a significant hole. My parents arrived back home after a frantic call to the Chinese restaurant where they were finally sharing a meal without us. Fortunately, in those days, parents left numbers where they could be reached by babysitters. They rushed home, with the food in those little white containers, and finished their meal by candlelight. The tree and others like it in the area had knocked out power.

My brother and I were unconcerned about the hole in the roof, but were very upset about the swing set. My mother was unconcerned about the swing set, but upset that her clothesline had been destroyed. My father, leaning on his ax,  was unconcerned about the swing set and the clothesline. He was just trying to figure out how he was going to turn all that tree into firewood.

 

“A Home of Their Own”

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After my brother was born, and after my father had established himself in a law firm, my parents finally were able to buy a home of their own in Portland, Oregon. This 1937 Cape, two bedroom, one bathroom, galley kitchen, unfinished attic space and unfinished basement was it. We moved in July, 1950, with me 3 and my brother 6 weeks old.

At the time, this area was still fairly undeveloped, though it had been platted for future growth. They bought the lot next door and were able to make money from a later sale to a builder. The lot was deep in the back, allowing for a very large vegetable garden, abutting the gravel road which ran behind our home. The area was full of kids, as every place was in the 1950’s. My granddaughter laughs at the phrase, “baby boom,” but clearly that was the reality of those days. People were having babies as quickly as humanly possible. On two blocks of my street alone there were four boys my same age as well as numerous siblings.

I have clear memories of my years here from 1950 to 1955, from age 3 to age 8. Here I began elementary school, riding the big yellow bus with all the other kids. Supervision of kids was much more lackadaisical then, and we wandered from house to house. Someone’s mother probably knew where we were. We certainly had no sense of fear of strangers or cars.

I shared a room with my brother until I was considered old enough to sleep upstairs. Eventually, after my first sister was born, my brother joined me in another twin bed with matching cowboy bedspreads. The attic was never converted into rooms, but the walls were finished and we shared a portable metal closet. Today when I hear of children not only having their own room but also their own bathroom, I wonder what they are missing. We learned to share and to wait, valuable skills for later life.

When we first moved to New England, I found myself surrounded with Cape houses built in the early 1940’s for all the aircraft workers. The area looked so familiar, as if I had teleported back in time to Palatine Hill Road.

 

“By the Lake”

Failing to make partner in the Wall Street law firm, my father looked all over the country for a new job. He was competing with many men back from the War, and jobs were hard to come by. Eventually, he found work in Portland, Oregon with the District Attorney’s office. He and my mom lived in a hotel for a while and I was left with my grandparents in Buffalo, New York. Once my parents were settled, my mother took the train back to reunite with me and travel back west on the train to our new home.

This first house was a rental in a quiet suburb of Portland called Lake Grove. Unlike many place names, this one actually had a lake and many trees. I loved the sidewalk out front and was allowed to go as far down it as the board my mother placed to mark the boundary for my expeditions.1948-50s 120I found this delightful shot of my walking back and forth along the board. Apparently, I responded to authority by pushing the limits, a trait I have possessed throughout my life. I remember little about this house, but the photos record my short two year residence in a house by a very pretty(albeit man made) lake.

“Moving On Up”

After I was expected, my parents moved out of Brooklyn and uptown to Riverdale, a northern portion of the Bronx. My mother went back to Brooklyn to deliver me at the Long Island College Hospital(open until last year) and then took me home to the upper floor flat at 3100 Oxford Avenue. That house seems to have been replaced in the intervening 69 years with a brick apartment house.

I have no memories of this home, the last one of my pre-memory years, since I left it before my first birthday. However, in the marvelous twists of life, my granddaughter and her parents spent the first two years of her life in the second floor flat of a house in Riverdale, just blocks away. I drove into the city frequently those first years to visit them and get acquainted with the area.

Riverdale is somewhat of an oasis in the city. A glorious park sits above the Hudson and features well kept gardens, art exhibits and musical performances. It is even possible to park on the street, though it is usually necessary to scout out a spot. A portion of the area houses a large Hebrew retirement home. Other acreage is still filled with single family homes with yards and garages. While the houses are astronomically expensive, ordinary middle class people fill the apartments throughout the neighborhood. I could easily imagine my mother happily existing there without a car, walking me to the store and park. While I can’t remember Riverdale from 1947, I have fond memories of Riverdale sixty years later.

“Old Brooklyn”

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73 Remsen Street, Brooklyn 1946

Inspired by my granddaughter’s query about all the places I had lived, I decided to take a break from my musical discussions for a while. It has been fun thinking back through all the places I have lived and looking for pictures I could find of them. Whenever possible, I am trying to add current photos if available.

This 3rd floor front apartment was occupied by my parents and by me in utero, so it technically serves as my first house. My parents were both working in Manhattan, he on Wall Street, her at Life Magazine, when they rented this 3rd floor Brooklyn Heights walkup. My mother always spoke fondly of their two years on Remsen Street.

Knowing that Brooklyn has dramatically morphed in recent years from the time when my newly married, and financially strapped parents rented here, I looked to see what the property looked like and was valued at today. The building has been turned into 10 coop apartments, with one of them recently selling for 2 and 1/2 million dollars.73remsenThe major change seems to have been the removal of the fire escapes running down the front of the building. How amused my parents would have been to know what had happened to their little inexpensive flat on Remsen Street.

“After Hours”

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When I moved back to Portland, Oregon after graduation from college, I took a job with a travel agency. Eager to move out on my own, I went apartment hunting with a friend from work. She was white, married to a black man, and lived in a part of town with which I was unfamiliar. I quickly learned, however, that for $90 a month I could rent the entire downstairs of a house in that neighborhood. So, to the distress of some more cautious friends, I moved in.

Paula, my work friend, introduced me to a night scene I never would have found on my own. In particular, she took me to a predominately black jazz club that was upstairs over a downstairs bar. The club closed at the legal time mandated by the state, but then it mysteriously reopened “after hours” to those in the know. I was unfamiliar with jazz, but soon grew to enjoy nursing one brandy for several hours as I listened to a combo and singer. Better yet, at some unearthly hour I could leave with friends and head out to the all night pancake house for breakfast.

I can’t imagine having that kind of energy these days, but I was young and had the weekends off with no responsibility for anyone but myself. I enjoyed the first of many true cross cultural experiences which shaped me in many ways into the person I was becoming. My musical knowledge grew in yet another direction, courtesy once again of a friend. Thanks Paula.

“Fight Songs”

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Before I move into the music of my more adult life after college, I am backtracking to include the songs I learned to sing at sporting events throughout school. The proof of how enduring these songs are is that when a dear friend of mine went into early labor, I drove her to the hospital regaling her with these tunes. They worked, by the way, and she held onto the baby until full term. She has never let me live it down, but that was the encouragement that came out of my deep brain at 2 in the morning.

The grade school song went “Fight, fight, fight for Riverdale. For colors blue and gold. Fight, fight, fight for Riverdale for teams both brave and bold.” Then, more realistically, the verse went,”If she loses, if she wins, you may be sure it can be told, To our colors we’ll be true all hail the blue and gold.” How often does a fight song even suggest that the team might lose? At least we would still have our colors!

Our high school’s mascot was the cardinal, particularly ironic since there are no cardinals in Oregon. Here the push was “We’re loyal to you Lincoln High, We’re red and we’re white Lincoln High.” (Colors play a big part in fight songs.) No wimping out here, “we expect a victory from you Lincoln High.”

Finally at Harvard I was treated to the loud, but incomprehensible,

Illegitimum non carborundum;
Domine salvum fac.
Illegitimum non Carborundum;
Domine salvum fac.
Gaudeamus igitur!
Veritas non sequitur?
Illegitimum non carborundum — ipso facto!

Your guess is as good as mine. But it was fun to mumble along with everyone else!