Fifty-five years of friendships and fa-la-la-la-la
Residents in one neighborhood maintain holiday tradition
A family, of sorts, converged on Heidis of Gresham over the weekend for its annual holiday get-together. Over pancakes and omelets, these folks chatted, laughed, talked about current affairs and shared news of those unable to attend.
Not exactly big news, given the time of year, but members of this family actually get along.
Weve got a great neighborhood, said Dyann Alexander, 82. People tell me all the time, Youre so lucky we dont even know our neighbors. So its great because we like each other.
For the past 55 years, neighbors along one street in northwest Gresham have gathered to share a meal and, more importantly, each others company. While holiday happenings among neighbors arent unusual, few people stay in one neighborhood long enough anymore to return to somebodys open house for two years, much less 50-plus.
But for the folks in this group, whose ages range from 18 months to nearly 98, longevity means little when compared to being neighborly.
The tradition began in the spring of 1959, when Gen Collins and her husband, Marv, invited neighbors to their home for an Easter brunch following church services. Over time, as more people moved into the neighborhood, a summer barbecue was added.
But following Marvs death, Collins decided to dispense with her usual holiday gathering for family, opting for a simple dinner of soup and pie the Sunday before Christmas.
A simple dinner three soups and five pies, said Collins daughter Peggy Hietpas, laughing. Mom still wanted to get the family together, but there were a lot of leftovers, so she invited the neighbors over for that. After a while, the neighbors waited for the Sunday before Christmas because they knew they were going to get the leftovers the next day!
Collins, 93, along with Marguerite Wiesinger, who will be 98 in January, are credited with starting the more than five-decade-old tradition. Being neighborly was what people did in those days, they both said, adding that it provides a sense of security up and down the street.
Brittany and Martin Clark moved into the neighborhood three years ago. This was their second year attending the breakfast with their children, Braeden, 7, Hudson, 4 and Avery, 18 months. Its become an event theyve grown to anticipate.
Are you kidding? With three kids we never go out for breakfast, Brittany said. When we first moved in, everybody was really friendly. We feel real safe because we know theyre looking out for us.
The group has been gathering at Heidis for about five years, Alexander said. She and Gloria Weitzel, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1979, use a phone tree to get the word out about the breakfast. Weitzels cheat sheet is more than just phone numbers, however. She also keeps track of the names of family members and move-in dates sort of a Welcome Wagon/Neighborhood Watch-style combination.
So in true holiday fashion, literally and figuratively, 21 people sat down for breakfast Saturday morning to toast the season and each other.
I dont think many neighborhoods have this, Weitzel said. Its an amazing thing when you can have a whole block of people who get along. Its really a phenomenon.Add a comment