Mothers Day summons memories, in Inner Southeast Portland
- Dana Beck
- The Bee - Features
Mothers are always around when we need them the most: Applying Band Aids and love to a skinned knee, sitting up in the late hours of the night when we we're sick or scared, or driving us to a sporting event, school, or our friend's house.
Moms are so important to us that when a campaign was organized by Anna Jarvis to memorialize the lifework of her mother, Congress responded by creating a special day to honor all mothers in 1914, and Mothers Day was recognized nationally.
To bring the meaning of this day down to the level of Inner Southeast Portland, we gathered a few memories and events that a few Sellwood and Westmoreland residents have shared with us about their mothers.
Suzanne Rollow and her sister Nina have lived in Sellwood for over sixteen years. Their mother, Ilse Rollow, lived most of her life in Washington, D.C., but when she retired she agreed that it would best for her to live close to her daughters in Portland. Worried about whether this was the right decision, the girls were surprised when Ilse started making friends immediately. She even adopted a cute Shih Tzu dog named Buzz, who had occupied the front window of Jeri's Dog Boutique which Ilse walked by each day on the corner of S.E. 13th and Bidwell (now the site of the new Umpqua Bank).
'Our mother was welcomed into the dog world of Sellwood with open arms and wagging tails. Over the years her East Coast wardrobe became replaced with comfortable dog walking clothes and baseball caps for the Oregon weather. She knows all the dogs' names, but sometimes forgets the owner's names. You'll still often see Ilse and Buzz walking in Sellwood Park, or down by the river chatting with friends.
'The neighborhood is her own little village, and she rarely needs to travel too far outside the orbit. When my sister Nina and I first moved her out here, we worried that she might get isolated. Obviously, that wasn't a problem, as Nina and I are now commonly known in the neighborhood as 'Ilse's girls.' We are all thrilled to call Sellwood our home,' reported Suzanne Rollow.
The Goldsmiths, Jim and Leslie, have owned the Den of Antiquity for over 35 years. The Goldsmiths lived at 8012 S.E. 13th Avenue, running the antique shop out of the front of their house. Later, an addition was constructed over the front yard, and the Goldsmiths were able to sell furniture and goods in a shop closer to the street. Here is a glimpse of what Leslie's daughter Cheryl Stavrianeas remembers:
'My mom, Leslie Goldsmith, is an amazing seamstress, and made many dresses and costumes for me, growing up. There was a dress-up-as-your-favorite-storybook-character contest held at Sellwood Park, and Mom made Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum outfits from the story 'Alice in Wonderland' for my sister and me. Naturally, being the youngest, I was Tweedle Dum. To complete a wide waist, the pants were sown to a hula hoop, and suspenders were attached so we could keep the ensemble up. An unforeseen consequence was that bathroom breaks were nearly impossible. I still marvel at Mom's ingenuity and inventiveness.
'While at the shop, my Mom spent a lot of time in the back room refinishing furniture, researching collectibles, and pricing items to sell. Mom encouraged me with my first business venture. I took advantage of the popular Sellwood Sidewalk Sale and established a lemonade stand to cater to thirsty shoppers. At the end of the day, I repaid the start-up charge and initial investment, and kept what was as my profit. After college, I returned for the Sidewalk Sale once again - but this time I sold antique furniture that I had purchased and refinished. Mom's lessons were put to good use,' recalls Cheryl Stavrianeas.
Be it dressed up in her finest finery or wearing the simple clothes of a country girl, Joan Blomberg has found herself comfortable in both the rural and urban lifestyles. Joan returned to the Sellwood neighborhood, where she had grown up, in 1984. She opened up her shop 'American at Heart' on the southwest corner of S.E. 13th and Tenino in a building that the Sellwood Post Office once occupied. Joan visited this particular Post Office many times during the 1930's with her parents; her store in the same space now caters to couples looking for American country and colonial furniture.
Joan grew up in Sellwood when the trolleys screeched down the streets, and she recalls being invited to Dr. Nichols' house where animal heads decorated the walls. A giant elephant tusk stood majestically near the couch, but it was 'Chewie' his live pet cheetah that fascinated Joan the most as a little girl.
Nichols had trained a pet cheetah that he brought back from his excursions abroad, and neighborhood kids and curious onlookers could glimpse the slim cat lounging in his fenced back yard, or occasionally riding in the back of his convertible on sunny days.
Her stepson, John Blomberg, recalls a lifestyle of being raised on the farmlands of Felida, a small community just northwest of Vancouver, Washington. Each morning Joan fed and cared for their chickens, grew her own vegetable garden and even raised her own beef. 'We always named our cows. Fred and Leroy were two of our prized livestock,' remembers John. The cattle were fattened on corn stalks and grain, and the bovine Leroy ended up weighing over 1,000 pounds. A pole barn was built on the property and it wasn't unusual to see Joan galloping about the grounds on her favorite steed.
Joan was so proficient at riding that she was became a competitive dressage rider. While Joan spends her days chatting with friends and selling country collectables at the Sellwood store, her Felida Farm keeps her busy on days off.'My step-mom still raises chickens on the farm. She enjoys those early mornings of throwing food scraps and collecting eggs from the brood of hens scattered about the grounds,' John Blomberg told THE BEE.
Elizabeth Anne Fowler
Martha Lynn Fowler, and her mother Elizabeth Anne Fowler, moved to the Sellwood neighborhood in 1965, settling in the Garthwick community south of Linn Street, and opening an antique shop in downtown Portland. The construction of I-405 forced 'Liz', as she was called, to close her original antique shop located downtown at 1874 S.W. 13th. When Liz opened her new store on S.E. 13th Street in Sellwood, she figured it was only appropriate that it be called the '1874 House'.
Meantime, not entirely gone from downtown, Liz made a considerable profit on furniture and antiques from the houses that were torn down to make way for the downtown freeway extension, and resold them in her new shop.
By the 1970's, between 35 and 40 consignment and antique dealers distinguished Sellwood, earning the distinction for S.E. 13th of being called 'Antique Row'.
'I would accompany my mom in the car when she went to auctions or estate sales to buy more items to sell in the shop,' recalled daughter Martha Lynn. 'I read a lot of books during our trips to Seattle or Bellingham!'
When Lynn attended college, her mother welcomed students from Cleveland High School to work behind the counter or assist customers. 'Mom would hire these big beefy football players and their bruiser friends to help load the furniture.'
Sadly Elizabeth Fowler died in 1985 from complications of cancer, but Lynn says she will always remember the many hours she spent at the side of her mom, either in the store or during those long hours at the auction house.
Whether you shower your mother with flowers, boxes of candy, or a personal greeting card on Sunday May 8th, you might consider finding the time to write a paragraph about your time together: A memory that both of you can share for a lifetime.
Happy Mother's Day!