We are living in the small town of Lentz, five miles from downtown Portland. Jack is nine, Robert (Bob) seven, Clifford five and I three. This afternoon a neighbor boy of seven had come to our yard looking for Jack to repay seventy five cents. Jack was away, but the friend and Bob somehow decided that, with all that money, we should treat ourselves to a trip to Portland. So down the street we went, a few blocks to the streetcar line and off to Portland. This childhood excursion is among my earliest memories, but sketches of it are still clear.
The neighbor boy’s brother was a policeman. He warned us that the police would be watching for us, so we should stay out of their sight.
I remember walking along the streets with many great buildings, always watchful for any police. Eventually we came to a building with a host of bright lights extending over the sidewalk. I was much impressed and excited. We went in to see a movie.
Then we walked some more till we were hungry. The neighbor boy found a restaurant and we went in. I remember sitting on stools at a bar, ordering and eating everything we wished. When finished, the waiter told us how much we owed. The neighbor boy took out his remaining coins and said, “This is all we have, and if you cause us any trouble, my father is a policeman and I will have you arrested. The waiter brought out the manager, but what could he do? We walked away.
Outside it was now dark. No money left for streetcar fare. Still ducking out of sight whenever spotting a policeman, we followed along the streetcar tracks—five miles to walk. I soon tuckered out, and the older boys took turns carrying me.
I particularly remember passing over the long, high, dark trestle spanning the wide Willamet River—nothing beneath our feet but open railroad ties, with blackness and water far below. Somehow we made it safely home—after midnight.
Neighbor had told mother she had seen us boarding a streetcar toward Portland. Mother had been back and forth to the Portland police station seeking help. They tried, but our elusive tactics had prevailed.
Our teenaged aunt May was visiting at the time. When she and mother came to the door on our arrival, aunt May said, “ I would beat those little rascals till the couldn’t sit down for weeks.” But mother threw her arms around us with loving hugs and kisses. I clung to her neck and would not let go, while tears fell down our faces. How deeply mother’s love was burnt into my heart and memory—that moment never to be forgotten