Everybody has a story: Artwork scavenger hunt inspires memories



As summer began, our son, Scott Royle, set up a scavenger hunt for his nieces — my granddaughters, 10-year-old Sierra and 7-year-old Quinn Perea. Scott sent thumbnail pictures of all the public art in Vancouver and Clark County and assigned point values for each piece depending on how obscure the location. The girls were to verify each find by posing for a picture with each.

We had pictures of 45 different pieces of art. As we found pieces and took pictures, we noticed the large painted hearts mounted on stands all over Vancouver. We learned that these were for a fundraiser for PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. We decided to find all 30 of those, too. We had addresses for each heart, which were printed in the Columbian. So now we had 75 pieces of art to find.

As a lifelong resident, I figured we could wrap this up in a day or two. Instead, it took us five multi-hour trips to complete both hunts.

We stopped one afternoon in downtown Vancouver to get a cold drink at Joe Brown’s Café. I told the girls that when I was a child, my dad worked for an accounting firm located upstairs from Hadley’s, the women’s shop that used to be up the street.

Sometimes on Saturdays, Dad had to take me with him to work. The primary tool for an accounting firm then was the adding machine. There were several large adding machines in the office, each mounted on a rolling cart. I was 4 years old and had little to do but play with the adding machines and ride those carts. I ended up jamming almost all the machines by lunchtime. It was fun gliding around on the carts.

We’d go directly across Main Street to the café to get lunch.

My lunch of choice was a chocolate milkshake. He’d have a real lunch, read the paper and smoke a cigarette before returning to work. I always finished first, and I would crawl off the stool, which had silver studs on the side. I entertained myself by spinning that stool around and around. The noise of the spinning would finally get to Dad, and he’d close his paper, put out his cigarette, pay the check and we were back at “work” in no time.

The girls enjoyed the story, so I told them that Joe Brown’s Cafe used to be in a silver trailer in a downtown parking lot. The significant thing about Joe Brown’s, beside the foot-long hot dogs, was the waitress who had a green eye and a blue eye. As a child, I could not stop staring at her. My granddaughters immediately guessed “contacts.” I told them that there were no contact lenses when I was little. That waitress had two different-colored eyes, all on her own.

One of the scavenger-hunt art pieces was the brick arch with the Saturday Market sign in it at the base of Main Street. It’s visible from the freeway ramp as you enter I-5. I clicked a picture of the girls beside the arch and then looked down and here was a homeless man, sound asleep. I don’t know how I didn’t trip over him. As I looked around, I saw he had lots of company, all asleep.

I showed the girls where I grew up near Lincoln School, on the dead end of 40th Street and Franklin. Sierra told her sister a story I had told her recently: My dad and I were coming home from taking Mom to work at the cannery. I decided that I was going to beat Daddy to the front door by jumping out of the car while it was turning into the driveway. So I unlatched the passenger door and immediately started falling out of the car. There were no seat belts in those days. Dad caught my hand to keep me from falling out, but stepped on the gas instead of the brake. At the age of 4, I was responsible for knocking the whole house off its foundation as the car plowed into the closed garage door! It never opened again.

Dad got the car running again and took me to the hospital. I came home in a cast and sling. When we went to pick Mom up after work, Dad said, “Don’t tell your mother!” I remember this distinctly, because I couldn’t figure out how Mom would not notice the big spiderweb break in the windshield where my head hit. She would be staring right at it when she got in the car. Also, even though I had my coat covering the sling, she definitely was going to see it at some point.

We didn’t delay the inevitable even for a minute after she got in the car. Of course, Dad was in trouble for not watching me closely enough. However, he couldn’t foresee that I would unlatch that door.

We were indeed enriched by our scavenger hunt, and I hope the girls will remember it when they are telling their granddaughters about growing up in Vancouver.

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