Sightseeing and Homesick

Council Crest, Portland, Oregon 1908


The letter to her mother out of the way at last, Harriet waited for her reply that might never come. Her eyes drifted out the bay window to the hillside of Portland Heights dotted with small tidy homes. There were hardly any trees. It was hot and humid. Portland was full of new sights and sounds but none could replace those in her memory. She had visited the prestigious Council Crest at the summit of Portland Heights, connected to the city by its own streetcar that wound to the mountaintop, hundreds of fancy houses and lots lined the ridges. At the top sat the amusement park with a roller coaster, merry-go-round, ferris wheel, and miniature railway circling the dancing pavilion, the observatory and the wireless telegraphy station that sent messages across the nation and to ships hundreds of miles away in the Pacific. Snow-capped Mount Saint Helen, Mount Rainier and Mount Hood loomed in the distance.

Her mind drifted back to Maine. Home. She loved this time of year. There not here. The chill in the wind. The brilliant shades of red and gold shrouding elm trees that lined the streets, mixed with deep evergreen on the hillsides. Collecting horse chestnuts from the tree at the end of the drive. Tasting the tart apples picked from the tree that Mama planted long ago. She had been to the Sylvan Park Fair every year that she could remember. Papa would enter his finest horses in the races. Mama would enter her apple pie in the baking contest, win first prize as she always did, and make plenty more pies, and steaming pots of applesauce to eat for days. The kitchen smelled of apples, cinnamon and brown sugar. Who would come for the Fair this year? 


Sylvan Park, Machias, Maine, early 1900s


Portland, Ore.

464 1/2 Union Ave. North,

Sunday noon, Sept. 13, 1908

My dear Father,

While I am tending a roast in the gas oven I will write you so that I will not put off telling you how happy I am today Papa, in my new rooms and to think you have bought or rather paid for my furniture makes me feel happier and it makes them seem dearer to me. Your letter with check enclosed with $5.00 additional came yesterday and I was so delighted with it I woke Zeke up out of sound sleep to tell him again how good you were and then I went right away and paid the balance for the furniture. You forgot to put North on my letter and it was a day late in getting here so it went to the S.E. first. When I wrote Mama I told her Mrs. Salmon said she would make us a discount if cash was paid in 10 days more which made it the 11th but as your letter happened to come that day she gave me 10% off. So I felt more than pleased at having so much over. I knew you would be prompt but since you knew nothing about the discount it was a coincidence you sent it in time. I am going to buy sheeting this wk. with the extra money and many necessary things I shall need. I enjoy it so much here it is so cosy and you can think of me from now on as having everything comfortable. Zeke too enjoys it but of course is not home as much as I am. He is getting on very well with his work and as soon as the rush is over of wheat etc. Mr. May has advised him to learn billing on the new machines they have in the billing room for it is a new process which brings fine pay and will be valuable to know about. Mrs. May was down here last night and I told her about your letter and that our furniture was all paid for and she was just as pleased for us as if it was her own. She is such an unselfish and true Christian woman you and Mama would certainly feel glad she looks after me so well and does for me could you know her. It seemed so good to get Wm’s photo with the colt that I only wished it was reality and he was here. I do so long to see you all but I am doing bravely now and think I ought to stay out here as opportunities are more for a young man here. I expect our next President will decide how times are going and I am anxious to know how it will turn. I can talk politics pretty well now and I know more about it out here because the people are so mixed up and the working men out here Mr. May says keep very quiet but they want Bryan because Taft is not for the people and if Taft gets in there will be war, for the working man won’t stand for it. And still I think there will be trouble either way, for if Bryan gets in, the rich men will tie up the trust-unions etc. so that if prices get higher everyone will suffer for it costs so much to live. If a man earns $10.00 a day and it costs $9.00 to live there is nothing gained. 

Of course I am having my first experience as to the cost of living and I am beginning to see how much it has meant for you to provide the way you have for us all these many years and I wonder too if Mama just knew as you pay out cash for eatables etc. how much it averaged a mo. if she wouldn’t be surprised. Now Zeke and I have plenty to eat and don’t have anything but good substantials and I don’t make a cake often, only every wk. over Sun. or a pie once a wk., for I know it costs us now. At the best we can do $15.00 a mo. for groceries etc. Meats are low and $2.00 or 2.50 will cover our meats with having it fresh once a day with roasts once a wk. but butter is 40¢ lb. and eggs 30 and 35 so you can see the necessities are high just now. Milk since they have a union is 10¢ a qt., potatoes $1.40 a sack of 20 lbs. Mrs. May says of all the years she has lived in Oregon this yr. has been the most expensive to live. The farmers out here have to sell to the Commission Houses and that is why things are high – all the profit is gotten by the wholesale people. Anyone who peddles vegetables, fruit etc. has to have a special license. 

Well! Otto has at last arrived. I haven’t seen him but his sisters Mrs. Grable and Bessie Collings came over one eve this wk. to see me and they said Otto came Sat. and spent Sun. with his Father and Mother in Vancouver then he went to see the children and Mattie Mon. They could tell me very little except he was pleased to see his old home and he told his folks Mattie had never been any help to him and if he had only left her before he had the family it would have been a great deal better. Now he feels he has got to stay with the children and never leave them and bring them up the best he can. They all hate Mattie so and Mrs. Grable said just as soon as Otto came she (Mattie) was planning to go visiting leaving him with the children. I don’t think she knows where I am or Zeke because the Collings family never have told her. She wrote a letter to Zeke this summer and had the gall to ask him if he would pay a bill she owed on furniture of $18.00 and I opened the letter as Zeke was in bed and Mrs. May helped me to write her the law and she certainly got more than she was looking for. I have a copy in the bottom of my trunk and someday I am going to send it to you for it was a dandy. I have to laugh when I think of it for I tell you I more than had my spunk up. 

It has been very warm here for several days and it is the Indian summer now before the rain comes next month. Mrs. Vennewitz who lives in this flat next to ours is just fine. Her husband is a German but they neither look or act like Germans. She invited me to go on a long car ride with her this wk. after supper; her husband took care of the baby. We had a fine ride and went way up to Portland Heights to the top called Council Crest. The car goes around this very high hill which overlooks Portland and at the top there is an observatory – wireless telegraphy station across the Pacific, a dancing pavilion, and numerous stands selling things. It was fine moonlight and the thousands of lights in the city looked so pretty. There are hundreds of new modern homes all the way along up to the Crest and lots are from $1000 up to $10,000. Just think of that! Of course it is only the wealthiest who live up there but you can’t imagine the beautiful ground and homes. This city is growing fast even since last winter. 

I know you must be very busy indeed for it’s Fair wk. isn’t it? I hope another year to see Sylvan Park at Fair time for everyone seemed to enter in and have such a good time last year. 

Mrs. May bro’t me down a basket of fine pears and I put up 4 lbs. in lemon a new way they do out here and we have eaten the rest. The fruit is certainly fine and I enjoy every kind there is. 

Mama must be tired from working at the Port and I expect it is fine down there. Has she enjoyed this summer or is the Bluffs still the best? I have missed not seeing the ocean much more than I ever realized I could. It is quite a trip from here to the Ocean – it takes a good 4 hrs. by train from here to Seaside. I hope when Mama gets rested and feels better she will write me.

I wrote Aunt Dora the other day and thanked her for the money she sent me.

No, Zeke does not feel at all discouraged in any way and he is very glad to be able to work and advance as rapidly as possible. He says you have certainly been thro’ the mill and know what it means to do everything by yourself and you know what he is up against. He sends his regards and wished me to thank you in helping me and at the same time helping him at this time.

I am feeling much better this wk. and think it must be my new surroundings. 

Write when you’re not too rushed and I’ll do the same. Much love to all and a goodly share for yourself. 

Your aff. Daughter,


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