Everybody has a Story: Mature-looking 14-year-old kept getting set loose



My eighth-grade graduation present from Aunt Clarissa was a trip with her family to Portland for the Rose Parade. Following this, we would go to Oceanside for my first trip to the ocean. We would stay with Clarissa’s mother-in-law for two weeks. The year was 1949. It was a big treat for a very unworldly 14-year-old girl from a small farming town in Idaho.

I had been to Portland the year before to attend the Pacific Livestock Exposition. I loved the lights of the big city and still do to this day. This trip to Portland was especially exciting for me.

We spent a few days in Portland prior to the parade, as my aunt was taking my two cousins to an ophthalmologist at the eye clinic at the University of Oregon Medical School on Marquam Hill. We were staying with another relative on Southwest Caruthers at the edge of the urban renewal area. We had driven around Portland, so I was a bit familiar with the town’s layout and where the medical school was.

On the day of the parade, we picked a spot downtown and watched the biggest parade I had ever seen. I can still pick out that year’s queen from old photographs. The parade wasn’t quite over when my aunt realized that she needed to leave with the boys for their eye appointment at the medical school. She must have thought that I was more mature than I was, as she insisted I stay and watch the rest of the parade — and then “just catch the bus up the hill.” She pointed to where to catch the bus and left me there at the parade in downtown Portland.

The parade was over, and I started to walk in the direction where she told me the bus stop was. The sidewalk was very crowded, so I decided to walk around the block to avoid all the people. I did that, but when I got back around the block I could not find the bus stop. She hadn’t written down any directions for me.

I didn’t know what to do, so I walked in the direction she pointed. As I looked around, I spotted the Mayer Building at 11th and Morrison, where we had been one day. I walked there and from there I saw Marquam Hill and figured I could probably walk there. I took off walking, keeping the hill in sight. I reached the bottom of the hill, very hot, scared and tired. There was a small grocery store there so I went inside and called a taxi. The dispatcher told me that it would be two to three hours before they could pick me up because of the parade.

Dejected, I went outside and sat on a bench to try to decide what to do and to rest before I started walking some more. I looked up and, thankfully, there was a bus stop sign! I was very relieved that I might not have to walk any more. I sat and waited and before long, a bus came along to take me up the hill to meet my aunt.

I met her in the doctor’s office, and she just smiled and figured this was about the time I should be there. I don’t know if I ever told her how I got there.

I wonder today if I had identification and information where to meet her or our relatives’ phone number in my billfold. I don’t know what I would have done if I had become completely lost. I must have had some money with me.

As promised, we went to Oceanside. This was the beginning of my love of the ocean and the beach. We played on the sand, swam in the ocean, picked berries, and dug horseneck clams at Netarts Bay. I may not have cared for their clam chowder, but I had a great time at the coast.

Returning home was an adventure. Uncle Oscar was to take me to Portland to put me on a bus back home. We were driving home by way of the Sunset Highway. Surprisingly, he asked me if I wanted to drive. I said, “Sure!”

I don’t know if he knew that I had never driven in my life, but I got behind the wheel and drove quite a distance while he went to sleep. Luckily, I managed OK.

When we got to Portland, he decided I should catch the bus in The Dalles to go home. We got out to The Dalles and discovered that the bus didn’t leave until the next morning, and he needed to get home to Bickleton. He put me in a hotel room with a bathroom down the hall and told me what time and where to catch the bus the next morning. Believe it or not, he left me there. If I remember right, I went out by myself to a restaurant and to a movie and then spent the night. I even locked myself out of the room once and had to be let back in.

After a restless night, I caught the bus to Lewiston, Idaho and arrived safely after a seven-hour trip. I don’t know if I ever told my folks about all my adventures. We didn’t talk about it much after I got back.

As I said, my aunt and uncle must have thought I was mature for my age. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the dangers I could have faced.