Featured Stories

Metzger celebrates 100 years

Community residents have planned a full day of activities for Saturday
by: Jaime Valdez Metzger Centennial Committee member Elisabeth Hampton-Gray shows off the quilt she made in tribute to Pat Whiting, for whom the Metzger Park Hall will be renamed on Saturday.

The best way to celebrate one's 100th birthday, an assortment of Metzger residents have decided, is to have a party with a little something for everyone.

That's why this Saturday, the little unincorporated area at the eastern end of Washington County is planning to celebrate the 'Town of Metzger Centennial' with a ribbon-cutting, prizes, historical photos and maps, a flag raising, the burying of a 50-year time capsule, a parade, games, hay rides, an afternoon of live music, face painting, a picnic, crafts, a building dedication, speeches and enough reminiscing by the older folks to bore the kids into a deep coma.

Events will be split between the site of Metzger Elementary School and Metzger Park (see accompanying schedule of events), with shuttle buses running back and forth between the two because organizers are urging visitors to park at the Lincoln Center office complex to cut down on gridlock around the small neighborhood park.

'The plat for the 'Town of Metzger' was approved by Washington County in 1910,' Jim Long, chairman of the Metzger Centennial Committee pointed out in a letter to the community asking for support of the big event. 'Metzger Station was founded shortly after the Oregon Electric Railroad put through a line from Portland out to Tigard and beyond.'

For the benefit of those either new to the area or who might have forgotten, Long's letter went on to explain some recent history of the community surrounded by massive changes ever since the Highway 217 freeway cut through the lowlands to the west of town.

'Today we are mostly an unincorporated neighborhood in Washington County lying between Progress, Beaverton, Tigard and Portland,' Long wrote. 'Parts of the original town of Metzger, including Washington Square, have been incorporated into the city of Tigard. We are in the Tigard-Tualatin School District, and many neighborhood events are organized around Metzger Park.'

Recognition of Whiting

One of the official highlights of the centennial celebration - sanctioned and supported by Washington County, the Metzger Park Advisory Board, Metzger Elementary, Citizens Participation Organization 4M and Metzger United Methodist Church - will be the dedication of the Metzger Park Hall as Patricia D. Whiting Hall, in honor of the longtime community activist and state representative who called Metzger home and died of cancer in June 2010. To go along with that recognition, a special quilt commemorating Whiting's life and her public service will be on display at the hall.

The Pat Whiting quilt, created by Elisabeth Hampton-Gray (also a member of the centennial committee) is made up of photos and images reprinted on fabric, many from old newspaper clippings and photo albums.

'It took 82 hours to make it,' said Hampton-Gray, pointing out some of the images on the quilt. 'At the top, I have her out on a limb, because she's not afraid. She believed in community and saving the environment for the community, and she was not afraid to go out on a limb for anything she believed in.'

'There's a lot of love in that,' testified committee member Vince Whiting, explaining that he and his wife of 42 years renewed their wedding vows every five years.

He also pointed out that a team of film makers from Dreamworks would be here to film the parade and other aspects of the Metzger centennial in honor of his wife, with a focus on the mentoring program in California that helped Pat Whiting gain her education and pursue a goal of community activism.

'She was all land, people and animals - that was Patty,' said Whiting. 'And she stuck by it.'

It all starts at the school

The centennial celebration has so many aspects packed into the one-day event it amounts to something of a battle between simple fun for families and young people (the parade, games, hay rides, etc.) and the more nerdy, grownup activities geared to those interested in talking about the old days.

The day will begin at Metzger Elementary School, 10350 S.W. Lincoln St., with flag raising, welcome, little recap of the community's history and planting a time capsule featuring input from students and local residents.

'We're going to bury a time capsule near the flag pole at the school,' said Long, explaining that Metzger Elementary students have been asked to write about what they think life was like 50 years ago and what it will be like 50 years from now.

Following the ceremonies there, which will include musical performances by the students, the parade will form at the school and make its way up Locust Street to 82nd Avenue and north to Metzger Park. Wagons, bicycles, walkers, floats and vintage cars will be featured in the parade.

But wait - there's more.

In honor of a practice followed in years past, said committee member Marilyn Sturm, 'We're going to have a Little Miss Metzger.' That coronation will take place on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the park, she said, adding that some of the original Little Miss Metzgers will be at the centennial and will ride on a float in the parade.

Long histories of their own

Many of the members of the centennial committee have a hard time getting together without wandering down Memory Lane. Many of them have long histories of their own in the community. John Frewing's family goes back several generations in the Tigard/Metzger area, and even relative newcomers, such as Sturm, who came to Metzger in the early 1960s as a newlywed, can remember seeing plenty of changes.

There used to be open pasture land all across the Metzger area, Sturm recalled, and along with that was plenty of wildlife, even more elbow room for human beings, manifested by such now-rare commodities as gasoline stations - but the kind with glass-covered pumps you could peek into.

'The interesting thing is, the front part of our property is Tigard,' said Sturm. 'And the back part is Washington County.'

Vince Whiting is quick to point out that, even with plenty of in-fill houses taking up the open places, the community still has a lot of its original quality.

'Metzger has kept a lot of its trees, though,' said Whiting. 'That defines our community. It's green.'

Long histories of their own

Another local resident with more than her share of memories and community perspective is Mary Ann Hulquist, who lived in Metzger from 1937 to 1962. Though she is sidelined these days in a fight against acute leukemia, her heart is very much in the centennial celebration, and the committee gives her a lot of credit for keeping the community informed back in 2006, when she rhapsodized about life in early Metzger in an article in The Oregonian.

'Today, a good part of Metzger is in the city of Tigard,' Hulquist wrote. 'At the traffic light on Southwest Hall Boulevard and Locust Street (we used to call this Craughan's Corner), a small sign on one side says 'Metzger' and across the road a sign says 'Tigard.' To the west are office buildings, Washington Square and the Washington Square Regional Center. The Oregon Electric Railroad was a vital part of Metzger's history before it ceased operation in the early 1930s.'

Hulquist reminded readers that 'Metzger was founded in 1908 by Herman Metzger, a Bavarian wool merchant who immigrated to the United States and came to Oregon. He was a prominent merchant in Portland for many years. Metzger bought 241 acres that were originally part of the Thomas Stott land claim and donated land for the school, the church and the park.'

Before 1912, according to Hulquist, 'school was held in an old warehouse on Hall Boulevard. Metzger School opened in 1912 with two rooms, two teachers and 13 students. In 1934, Works Progress Administration laborers built an addition onto the front of the school building. By the time I entered first grade at Metzger School in 1937, the school had been enlarged to four rooms, with four teachers and two grades per room.'

Hulquist concluded her piece by observing, 'Times have changed, but I can't help but feel that the spirit and community pride of Metzger are still there. Metzger will always have a fond spot in my heart and memories.'

The 'Metzger Mafia'

Among the numerous special events planned at the park on Saturday will be a full afternoon of live music. Performers will include the All Fired-Up Dance Academy, Spanish music by Connie and Mariano De Orgergoso and Band and Irish music by Rose in the Heather.

But a special treat for Metzger residents will be the group known as the Closet Musicians, a collection of amateur players and singers who have been gathering since the summer of 2008 in the Metzger home of Harold and Anna Donner, just for the fun of it. In between the 'early period compositions,' Donner plans to talk a little about the historical and social context of the songs they will play.

Donner, too, is a member of the centennial committee, as well as a longtime local resident herself. Perhaps her greatest claim to fame, though, is the invention of the term 'Metzger Mafia' - a name she used to describe some of the potentially troublesome children back in the '70s, who are now in their 50s.

'When I started teaching bus drivers, I always referred to the kids in the neighborhood as the Metzger Mafia, because these were kids known as the tough ones in the area,' said Donner. 'It was just kind of a fun thing and kind of a joke.'

It all began with the railroad

The real beginning for Metzger, like other communities of that era, was the railroad. Jim Long, a historian and friend of Metzger Historical Society, as well as the centennial committee chairman, likes to use that as a starting point.

'Josephine and Herman Metzger 100 years ago filed a plat naming streets for trees, presidents and numbers for the Town of Metzger,' Long wrote last year about the origination of the town that didn't quite become an official town. 'The plat was approved and officially recorded by Washington County. The Metzgers also donated land for a church and a school.'

He still carries around old maps of the area, and likes nothing more than getting other history-minded folks to share their thoughts about the old days.

In fact, Long and the committee rounded up a number of pertinent historical facts to include in the official proclamation put before the Washington County Board of Commissioners. Those included:

* The community we know today as Metzger originated from the donation land claims of Thomas Stott (1850) and David C. Graham (1850) that railroad tracks were surveyed to be built upon.

* Herman and Josephine Metzger gave land for a school, a church, a 7-acre park, and right of way for railroad tracks.

* The first Sunday school sessions in Metzger were held in July 1910, and the first sessions of Metzger United Methodist Church were held in Metzger's auto-truck garage.

* The first school opened in 1912, and generations of families and students graduated before fire destroyed the school in 1965, and Metzger joined the Tigard School District in 1969.