Monday, September 21, 2009

Going to Portland: Vancouver 1965

Though we lived in Washington we spent a lot of time in Oregon. That was because we were in Vancouver, directly across the Columbia River from the city of Portland. And going to Portland was--though common--always a big thing to us kids.
The main attraction in Portland for us was Lloyd Center, the mall. Now, this was the mid-sixties, before malls were as common as chicken pox. And Lloyd Center was the only covered mall in America at that time! Maybe it was even considered the biggest mall, I'm not sure. Anyway, going there with my mother--we five kids--was an adventure. Pier One Imports was everyone's favorite store (this is also before it became ubiquitous upon the retail landscape of America). I think my mother--from the small town of Arlington, South Dakota, to whom Sioux Falls was the big city--especially considered Pier One to be exotic. I do remember that for a while they had little canisters of edible insects. They had put these out on display--chocolate covered ants, crispy-fried grasshoppers--and we kids sampled them freely. They tasted a-okay to me. But there were other stores and small restaurants that became important to us. Though nowadays, I dislike malls. I detest shopping for the most part.
Another place in Portland we loved was its zoo. We especially liked the penguin exhibit and would watch them for what seemed like hours. And the science museum--it had a display of geodes and brilliant minerals that lit up under special lights (black lights, I guess) among other interesting things.
Coming into Portland you had to cross a toll bridge. The bridge itself was big, green-painted with tall struts or supports. You could buy tokens to cross the bridge. Right after the bridge was the little burb of Beaverton and in Beaverton was a little cafe called Waddles. Waddles, as you might suspect, had a duck theme. We kids loved it and any time we got to eat at Waddles it was a treat.
So, Portland was where we shopped (Oregon had no sales tax, Washington had no state tax) and ate and played when we went out. I recall very little about downtown Vancouver, except one Christmas night when we went shopping there and the stores were full of toys--the town looked pretty fantastic to me then. But, in many ways, I think my parents--Mother especially--considered themselves Portlanders (Portlandites?) and almost Oregonians.
I went back to Portland very briefly in 1983, while on the way to Alaska. I think maybe--maybe--Waddles was still there. I do know that there was a big new ugly Interstate bridge crossing the Columbia and that my bridge--now old and small in comparison--was no longer a toll road. One of the few infrastructure projects I know of where they actually stopped charging a fee once it was paid off. I went back to the city for a true visit in 1990. Fru and I drove over from Missoula in the spring. Fru and I were thinking of moving to Portland (either that or Seattle) and wanted to see the city. We stayed at a small motel in the city. It rained buckets, of course. We did get out to the Hoyt Arboretum, to a micro-brewery, to a few bars downtown and a walk along the Willamette River. Though gray and wet, it was a fresh green pretty city (though I heavily favored Seattle, I think Fru liked Portland). I believe we drove by Lloyd Center and it looked old, run-down, maybe not in the best of neighborhoods.
Though I thought I--we, Fru and I--would move to the Pacific Northwest, we didn't. It wasn't long after the visit to Portland that Fru was offered a job back in Champaign, Illinois and we returned there from Montana. And I haven't been back to Portland since. I understand it's turned into a great, environmentally-conscious small city. Though I like very much where we live now, I sometimes still kick myself for going back to Illinois and not out further to Portland.

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