“A Home of Their Own”

1948-50s 121

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.


“Eastward Ho The Minivan”


In late middle age, you can continue on in your usual rooted patterns–tenured faculty position, solid civil service job, kids launched, and routine established. Or, you can lay it all down and move 3000 miles away to restart your life. We felt very strongly that this was God’s intention for our lives. That will seem odd to many, but it felt true for us. Our daughter lived in New York City, so that was a logical reason to relocate, for those who needed logic.

We left Portland, in February 2001, just as scores of new people began flooding into Oregon, the new hip place to be. We went to Connecticut, just as people were leaving Connecticut for the lure of Oregon. Nearly everyone we met had an adult child who had left for Portland or Seattle.

My husband had a job offer in Hartford, and I could teach in the local community college. We worked with a real estate buyer’s agent long distance to find a house. We wanted to live in a racially diverse neighborhood, with sidewalks, walking distance to a grocery store. We flew out one weekend in the fall and bought the lovely colonial revival house pictured above. It was bigger than our old home, had a larger yard, and cost less than the one we had sold. A great start. It also looked exactly like my childhood doll house!

But we were moving in February and we had two Australian Shepherds. Airlines won’t fly dogs in the dead of winter, so we needed to drive ourselves across the country. It was a very good thing that we had purchased that minivan the previous spring. So on February 14, Oregon’s birthday, we loaded ourselves and our dogs into the Dodge and left for the East.

More tomorrow.