The British are here
- Cliff Newell
- Lake Oswego Review - News
Natives of the British Empire add greatly to life in Lake Oswego and West Linn area
Their accent always gives them away.
So cultivated, refined, polished, sophisticated and courteous. Something an American is fascinated by and, truth be told, envies.
You can take a British person out of England, Scotland, Canada or Australia and put them in Lake Oswego or West Linn. But their accent is always there.
There are times you can walk into Lady Di's Country Store on Second Street in Lake Oswego and it sounds like everyone is talking like Julie Andrews, which makes it a wonderful place to be.
Store owner Moya Stephens takes tributes to her accent with due grace.
'I hear about it all the time,' Stephens said. 'I'm very complimented. People have asked me to make recordings.'
However, Stephens draws the line here.
'I don't do that,' she said.
Mary Schwarzenberger of West Linn, half Scottish and half English, has an accent that well matches her hospitality and graciousness, even though she occasionally runs into problems.
'Sometimes people listen to my accent more than what I'm saying,' Schwarzenberger said. 'I have to repeat myself.'
However, she noted, 'I do the same thing myself. Especially with Southern accents.'
Harry and Diane Meader of Lake Oswego don't seem a tad less English than they were when they got off the boat 50 years ago. The couple is a veritable heartbeat of England right in the American Northwest.
'We don't flaunt it,' Harry said. 'We just open our mouths and out it comes.'
Yet the English citizens of Lake Oswego and West Linn are about a lot more than talking in a way that intrigues American ears. They've brought so much that helps them maintain ties with the homeland they still love dearly.
They do it with big events, like the Highland Games and the tea held every November by the Daughters of the British Empire, with their businesses and in their homes. They have made this area so much richer and more colorful and interesting, seamlessly blending the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes. And there are a lot of them.
'We're everywhere,' Stephens said. 'We come out of the woodwork. It's amazing.'
A pub is an
Next to breathing and eating and his dear wife Diane, Harry Meader loves pubs. If there were a Guinness World Record for pub loving, Harry would own it.
And he's not even a heavy drinker. Harry loves pubs just for themselves. Especially for the way they remind him of home.
'I just like pubs,' said Harry, who lives life at a high level of enthusiasm. 'I like the atmosphere. It's a wonderful way of life.'
Harry keeps an atlas of England in which he has marked the location of pubs. There are lots and lots of marks in it, and Harry said, 'Those are just the good ones. There are hundreds and hundreds of them. They're absolutely fantastic places.'
Each time Harry and Diane go back home to visit, they rent a car and find beautiful old pubs. They make a point to visit at least eight pubs per visit, and the older the better.
'I visited Royal Oaks, which had this beautiful pub from the 14th century,' Harry said. 'They told me, 'This is the new pub. The old pub is from the 11th century.''
When not supporting the pubs of England, Harry likes to support the pubs of the USA. He was the first customer for the Horse Brass in Portland. Likewise for the late and lamented Elephant and Castle.
But Portland is pub-deprived when it comes to English pubs. The only one currently in business is the Horse Brass, and Harry isn't exactly crazy about it because the owners allow smoking. Sure, there are a lot of Irish pubs. But an Irish pub is an Irish pub, and an English pub is an English pub, and Harry is an Englishman to his toenails.
But the can-do spirit of Great Britain throbs strongly in Harry's chest. After all, this is a man who as a child survived the greatest challenge that England faced in modern times, the London Blitz of 1940 (so did Diane), and if Hitler couldn't stop Harry Meader, nothing can. He was not about to be victimized by pub deprivation.
Harry built his own pub. Right in the basement of his Lake Oswego home. And it is not some little ticky-tacky, chintzy thing in a corner of a room with a painting of Queen Elizabeth and a few beer mugs sitting around on a bar.
It is a genuine English pub, with all of its bells, whistles and dartboards. Only even more interesting.
'I call it my pride and joy,' Harry said. 'It's the cheapest way to see England without traveling back to England.'
Harry didn't want a pub with too high a ceiling. 'That's no good for a pub.' He didn't want it too modern looking. 'I wanted it to look beaten up.' And even though the pub is in the basement, Harry made sure it had windows, just like a real English pub.
Harry's pub has plates and plaques and many pewter mugs. It has not one but two dartboards. The wallpaper in the bathroom is made from risque London newspapers. Photos of English soccer greats line the walls. Little statuettes of iconic English items are everywhere. In fact, it can be downright exhausting viewing all of the items of interest, because Harry doesn't go anywhere without bringing home 'a piece of junk' to hang in the pub.
'It's like a painting,' he said. 'You add a little more and a little more. A lot of it is hit or miss, but it turned out great. It's a hub for everything. It's exactly what I wanted it to be.'
The pub is at its best when Harry and Diane throw a party. Sometimes it is filled up with 50 or 60 people. The couple throws real English-style parties, too, not the American kind.
'We party and dance and sing songs,' Harry said. 'It's a totally different atmosphere from American parties. We don't just stand around and talk. Fellows have to do some entertaining on the floor, crack a joke, sing a song, like Tiptoe Through The Tulips. Everyone has to entertain the other guy. I love company.'
When Harry and Diane are far from the madding crowd, they like to eat English food in their pub, like bangers and mash.
'We really don't eat much American food,' Harry said. 'Diane is a good cook. I think we've had four hamburgers in all our years in America.'
It is hard to imagine any couple doing more to bring England to Lake Oswego than the Meaders. Diane was the one who opened Lady Di's Country Store 20 years ago in Lake Oswego, and Harry, who is quite the sports entrepreneur, brought soccer and cricket to the Lake Oswego area.
Not bad, considering they were sorely tempted to turn around and go right back to England after arriving in the USA in 1957.
'I was working for Stars and Stripes in London and I met a chap from Oregon,' Harry said. 'He wanted me to come over and see what it was like, and he kept on and on about it.'
Finally, the fellow wore Harry down. But he and Diane had second thoughts soon after they set down in Portland.
Diane admitted, 'I thought we had come to the end of the world.'
'We didn't know what we had done,' Harry said. 'But we had come too far to go back, so we stuck it out.'
Eventually, of course, the Meaders thrived in the USA. England's loss was Oregon's gain.
Now, all Harry has to do is walk down a flight of stairs to be home again.
A slice of English heaven
on Second Street
The Northwest bears some strong similarities to England. It is located near an ocean and it has many, many cold and rainy days. On such days, only a hot cup of English tea will do.
Only for an Englishman in Lady Di's Country Store, with its astonishing tearoom, it's a lot more like coming home.
The tearoom, of course, is the centerpiece of Stephens' Lake Oswego establishment, and a beautiful place it is, too. But the shelves and walls are full of items that the British love and that Americans can't quite understand.
You want Heinz Baked Beans on toast for breakfast? You've come to the right place. Steak and kidney pie? Another delicacy that makes Brits smack their lips and Americans shake their heads.
There are gigantic stacks of tea ('Nice and strong, the way the English like it,') tea cozies, jam, biscuits (cookies to an American), a fantastic amount of shortbread, Scott's Porage Oats, Branston Pickles, salad cream, marmite ('You have to acquire a taste for it. We got it as kids,') pickled onions, British beverages, and lots of candy bars, because the English really like chocolate.
Some of the candybars, like Flakes and Velvet Crumble, simply don't taste very good to most non-Brits. But Stephens also keeps genuine English Cadbury chocolate bars in stock.
'Not the American kind,' she said. 'They're better. The chocolate is richer.'
Just in front of the tearoom is a rack holding the Union Jack, a newspaper filled with news of the Empire. Stories of Prince Harry serving with a tank unit in Iraq, the new statue of Margaret Thatcher, and speculations on whether David Beckham, accompanied by his Spice Girl wife, will revolutionize soccer in America.
Mostly, though, Stephens says, 'It's a lot of silly news to give us a giggle.'
Lady Di's Country Store is very nice for tourists, of course, but it is evident that its real purpose is to cure homesickness in English people. People very much like Stephens herself, when she arrived in Oregon in 1979 as the bride of American Dennis Stephens.
'English, Scots, Welsh,' Stephens said. 'They feel better as soon as they step in here. It's a little bit of England. I provide that sense of being British. I bought myself a little piece of England. When you open the door here it's like coming home. I've talked to more English people here than I've ever talked to before.
'Living away from home you always want to reach out and be around the people you grew up with.'
All of the ladies employed by Stephens are from nations of the empire - Anita Matlock, Tina Reed, Bronwyn Chown and Evelyn Wilson. Not that it's a requirement. It just turned out that way.
In addition, at least half of Stephens' customers are British.
'It's a good meeting place to reminisce about the homeland,' Stephens said. 'Or a trip home you just made or a trip you're planning on.
'I do find this amazing. There are quite a large number of us here. But, after all, it was all British territory at one time.'
The sun never sets on the Daughters of the British Empire
The Daughters of the British Empire assure that there will always be an England, even in America.
The DBE currently has 3,500 members across the USA, including 13 chapters and 200 members in Oregon. The organization is especially strong in the Lake Oswego-West Linn area with four chapters.
One of those members, Schwarzenberger of West Linn, is the state president.
'We're busy ladies,' Schwarzenberger said. 'Our motto is 'Philanthropy and Friendship.' If you don't have a purpose you won't stay together. You're responsible for something.'
Truly, these daughters are about much more than wearing big hats and drinking tea at parties. Most of all they are charitable, with fundraisers at fashion shows and car rallies. The DBE supports literally hundreds of charities, including such local causes as the Oregon Food Bank and the Annie Ross House. Their biggest cause is supporting the four DBE homes for the elderly across the nation.
Locally, the ladies are best known by far for their spectacular bazaar held every November. All of the goodies of the British Empire are rolled out - scones, shortbread, empire biscuits, sausage rolls, cucumber sandwiches, lemon squares ('They're not British but everyone likes them'), Aztec biscuits (an Australian taste treat), currant and cheese; hundreds of items in all. It's an event almost beyond explanation.
'We serve 400 teas between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.,' Schwarzenberger said. 'It's unbelievable. We say, 'They can't be eating and drinking so fast!' But they are. We've done it so many years that things fall in place easily.'
Schwarzenberger, who has lived on three continents, and her husband Peter, a native of South Africa, have been in the United States since 1981, and they are the type of people who adjust easily.
As Schwarzenberger said, 'We bloom where we're planted. You make the best of any situation. We don't stick out because we blend in. Our two sons are as American as apple pie. My church has been a tremendous help to me. You find your church and you'll find your home.'
But while she has adjusted extremely well, Schwarzenberger wants to keep the home ties, too, and the DBE helps her to do that. Yet she is somewhat concerned about its future.
'Years ago, British people were much more reserved,' Schwarzenberger said. 'Today it's a struggle to find members in the younger generation. Our ranks are dwindling as the war brides pass on or can't participate.'
But the Daughters of the British Empire are always ready to do their duty.
'Some British women have more difficulty adjusting than others, and that's where our organization comes in,' Schwarzenberger said. 'We do a lot of work, but when it's all said and done it's about having fun and camaraderie.'
Two homes are better
Moya Stephens, Mary Schwarzenberger and Harry and Diane Meader all regularly go back home to England. There they take in the blessed sights, sounds and smells that mean so much, and visit family and friends.
'I love to go home,' Stephens said. 'I always wish I could visit longer, but I've got to run a business.'
But as English as they are, they are also Americans. 'America is still the land of opportunity,' Stephens said. 'You can do more here than you can in the UK. You can live a more prosperous lifestyle. Things are so danged expensive over there!'
'When I fly over the White Cliffs of Dover, something in my heart says 'I'm home,'' Schwarzenberger said. 'But this is home, too. It's possible to do that.'
The last word goes to that quintessential Englishman, Harry Meader.
'England is like your mother. America is like your wife. You love them both.'