Lake Oswego Historic Home Tour, Saturday May 20, 2017, is the day of my mother, Agnes Grace Heyser's 116th birthday.
That is significant because it was the day of a gala open-house celebration of the "historic" designation of Agnes' parents, Abbo Simon and Augusta May Peter's home, on the southwest corner of Sixth Street and C Avenue in Lake Oswego.
An invitation to attend filled my heart with adult appreciation and childhood delight because I spent many playtimes in my grandparents' home.
The beautifully, mindfully remodeled structure is now home to the Hanifan family who gave a new lease on life to the classic, cottage-style structure my grandfather built with a little help from his friends (and the Sears Roebuck catalog plans) sometime between 1925-1930. The home perilously remained in a neighborhood almost completely deconstructed in this past decade when the Hanifans and their creative architects fell in love with it. Hallelujah!
The home was built to last. Grandpa Abbo's brother-in-law, Hepple Shipley, married to Abbo's sister, Mattie, owned the Oregon Portland Cement plant which we assume is why the foundation of Grandpa's house is likely to never give up. Grandpa worked at the cement plant before he built the box trailers for my father, Norman Lewis Heyser's Nickle Plate Line trucks.
A flood of childhood memories began that Saturday, on the Sixth Street sidewalk, one of few in the First Addition neighborhood — probably influenced by the family cement connection.
Come to think of it, another rare, cement walkway on Fifth Street passes by the Shipley home and the home of my Great-grandmother Peters.
The Sixth Street sidewalk was a landing for we happy, noisy children — rolling, sliding and turning green down a freshly mown grassy knoll. I remembered dozens of people sitting on the front porch but, revisiting, it's clear only three or four could fit comfortably.
Old photos show aunts, uncles, cousins and parents posing for holiday pictures in that gigantic living/dining space I remember, while truth is, it is small now that I am big.
In the mornings, Grandma Gussie sat at her bathroom vanity dresser fixing her hair with a curling iron and a delicate little hair net to keep it all in place.
In the daytime, she was corseted in her straight backed chair by the big oak table with great legs. Beside her was a built-in armoire filled with a sparkly-clean, crystal menagerie.
Through the windows she could watch comings and goings of the Sadelacks, the Kings and the Bruces on both Sixth and C streets. The family referred to Grandma as a teetotaler but gave her a bottle of sweet Manischewitz wine every Christmas. I wonder if she drank it.
I remember evenings sitting with Grandpa Abbo on the mohair couch, below the picture of the girl with the bird.
I watched him fill his pipe with tobacco, light the wooden match and blow tiny, sweetly scented clouds floating upward toward the ceiling. Then he would get his pocket knife and peel the skin off an apple in one spiral. It hung and bounced like a Slinky toy. I can smell the pipe and taste the apple slices Grandpa shared with me. He usually ended a social evening by saying, "Gussie, let's go to bed, so these people can go home."
Although the Hanifans added on a new kitchen, the old kitchen space is still there, and I could visualize every detail of the original — the long-legged, light-green stove, the sink I couldn't reach, broom cupboard, a pull-out flour bin and the drawer where Grandma kept coconut cookies.
The small nook where we crowded around eggs, pancakes and bacon brought another scent from 70 years ago.
Upstairs, in the small, unchanged bedroom, I opened the closet expecting to see Aunt Edythe's wedding dress — it was always there before.
I have a special kind of regard for the Hanifans. They sensitively, generously saved a precious piece of our family and community history. They have opened a door to my inner library of early Lake Oswego stories I didn't know existed. I expect more Jottings will be written on the subject.
Norma Edythe Heyser is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.