Days of the old schoolyard
Last evening's post about the Madeleine School yard brought in a nice e-mail response from reader Mike Rose, who writes:
I attended Madeleine grade school 1946-1954, before the playground was blacktop. In those days it was as you describe: clay, with patches of gravel and ruts eroded by the ever-present Portland rain. As I recall, there were 2 baseball backstops....one at the NW corner of 23rd and Klickitat, the other diagonally across on the 24th ave side, up against the school building. A sidewalk stood between the school building and the playground, and the black habited nuns would stand there and monitor our recess activity, whistles around their necks, using them regularly to slow us down if we were chasing the girls too fast, or otherwise engaging in some prohibited activity. Back to class was signaled by one of the nuns clanging a bell.Yeah, but all good stuff, Michael! Thank you.
We'd play softball and baseball, as well as soccer and football. Falling down would earn us gravel ground into our hands and knees, and possibly a rip in our salt 'n pepper corduroys, paired with our navy blue sweaters and white shirt uniforms which were mandatory for most of the school year.
Our team, the Madeleine Mighty Mites, was coached by Fr. James Dillon, a younger priest who was assistant pastor to Msgr. George Campbell, who aspired to Archbishopric, but never made it, as Edward Howard outlived him. Campbell drove the fundraising to build the "new", current church. He had elegant taste, and insisted on the quality construction and traditional, gothic design that distinguishes the edifice. His taste also dictated the fine, gold lame Mass vestments that hung in the vestry and were used for special Mass occasions.
As an altar boy, I was fortunate enough to be asked back to serve at the dedicatory Mass for the new church, which was completed and opened just after we had graduated and moved on to Central Catholic HS in 1954.
Other neighborhood minutiae includes a vacant lot, directly across Klickitat from the old playground...resplendent with fir trees, scotch broom, dusty paths, blackberries and hideaways, where we often played as kids. At the Fremont end of the lot, there existed the Alameda drug store, complete with traditional soda fountain, with real milkshakes, cokes and green river sodas. Arden ice cream was the brand they scooped. Next to the drugstore on Fremont was John Arneson's barber shop, as well as John Rumpakis' shoe repair. Upstairs was jack Hamil's dentist office (mercury in the silver fillings!!!....how did we all survive?) South of the drugstore on 24th was the upscale Alameda market, with oiled wood floors, where the grocer filled your order, and delivered to your home in a black, Plymouth paneled delivery. The SE corner of Fremont and 24th was a Safeway store, while the north side of Fremont were Chevron and Shell "service" stations on either side of 24th. I and my family were customers/patients of all noted above.
I grew up on 21st, between Fremont and Klickitat....often sold Kool-Aid and used comics at curbside. The Broadway street car (Portland Traction Co) ran south to downtown on 22nd, and back to our neighborhood north on 24th. Buses replaced the streetcars sometime in the 50s.
I remain in touch with a few of my classmates who still live in Portland. Indeed, my first girlfriend from way back then, lives today in her parents' home where she grew up, and still has the same phone number I dialed 55+ years ago (fewer digits....if memory serves, methinks the prefix was GA-rfield xxxx....which then became AT-lantic 4-xxxx....and is now 284-xxxx).
This exercise taxes my old brain....but what a fun trip back it was. More minutiae than you ever imagined, I'm sure.