|A first-hand account of life on Washington Street, Jefferson Street, Lawrence Street, and 22nd Avenue in the 1920's and 1930's|
by Ed BarthelemyWASHINGTON STREET.Our home at 2162 Washington was the last house on the West side of the street and there was only one on the East side between 19th & 22nd directly across the street from us. As I recall we paid $2,000 for the house in 1923. I was 4 years old.The street itself was never paved from 19th south until after I left home in 1940. It ended at 22nd with a pair of ruts continuing on to the only house above 22nd on the East. From there south, from Jefferson to Lawrence was vacant to 29th..tho at that time it wasn't called 29th it was the Lorane Hiway.The folks that graded 22nd at Lawrence street apparently used the same transit at Washington. It was paved to the East side of Washington with a 3 foot bank running North and South leaving one lane on the North side of 22nd from which to turn right onto Washington. 22nd did not continue on to Jefferson & was absolutely impassible in the Winter.A very substantial ditch ran down the East side from 22nd to 19th & with no storm drains was quite a waterway in a heavy rain & at all other times presented a real driving hazard, Summer or Winter, once in there was no getting out on your own & while I suppose there were towing companies I don't ever remember seeing one, you simply called a friend & he hooked on & snaked you out.A couple of things that Washington Street meant to me were really not limited to that street. The first was the Newman Fish Truck, operated by the original Mr. Newman. It was a black Model T rigged up with what today would be called a canopy & a hanging scale. He would drop the tailgate & slice off whatever you wanted. It sounds pretty grim, but he had the fish on ice which he shared with us little kids.The other was a traveling grocery store. It looked somewhat like an old school bus but no windows. It was all shelves inside. I'm not sure but I think it had solid rubber tires too. I vaguely remember him pulling up in front of the house (he always honked) & throwing one of us a block of wood to put behind the rear wheel to keep it from rolling backwards. I don't know how it worked but he had a small freezer that held a few quarts or probably pints of ice cream but most important of all he introduced us to frozen Milky Way bars. I even remember him inferring that they would keep us cool...or maybe that was our own conclusion. Naturally, things were a little more expensive but the convenience was hard to beat.We got a sidewalk somewhere in that period around 1930 but it ended at the south side of our lot and did not run across 21st or 20th. The latter wasn't too bad but 21st fell victim to the demon transit that was used on 22nd but with a little hand digging & laying of some planks it was passable tho hazardous when wet.The closest bus was at 19th & Washington & ran East. Seldom used tho, because it cost 5¢.
22ndWhen I was a kid growing up at 2162 Washington Street here in Eugene that number (22nd) had a meaning far more meaningful than a number.Actually, 22nd meant the street which at that time ran from Washington to Willamette--no further in either East or West unless you want to be really technical and include the block from Jefferson to Madison but that wasn't really much more than a long driveway to a house on the corner of Madison & what you could call 22nd altho there were no houses on that stretch of 22nd & it wasn't even gravelled.I have no clear recollection of 22nd before it was paved and even that mostly involved the 3 blocks East from Washington, in other words up to Charnelton...not because we were restricted to that area but rather it was because so much of our free time was spent "above 22nd"; and Charnelton ended at 24th, dropped off into a ravine & as hard as it is for some folks to believe was the city dump, but that's another story.The intersection of 22nd & Washington, as I look back on it, was something to behold. Washington for all intents as a street ended there altho a 1 lane gravel driveway ran about a half block to the lone house on the East side. To the West towards Jefferson street there was absolutely nothing to indicate vehicular passage, Washington was blacktopped but not the way it is done today, no curbs or gutters & just a center stripe...actually it was probably just oiled & rather deep ditch on the East side...so this brings us back to 22nd.It would be interesting to study the engineering that went into the paving, not so much the pouring as the grading. the problem started at Charnelton & the cut was so deep that it left high banks..probably 10 feet...on the uphill (south) side most noticably between Lawrence & Washington & I'll get back to that Lawrence St bank.At Washington the pavement ended at the original street right-of-way which is normal but the problem was that the grade was about 5 feet below the street...in other words as one would come down (West) on 22nd he encountered a dirt bank. As a solution the North half of 22nd was opened up by lowering the bank so one could get onto Washington...the other half remained blocked for a number of years as I recall....probably until Washington was paved.As I mentioned above, the cut prior to paving seemed quite excessive & unnecessarily deep but bear in mind that this was done in the Depression years so any thing that would create work was acceptable. The actual digging was done mostly with what was called a Fresno, tho there may have been minor variations of this device which had other names but basically it was a horse drawn scoop operated by a man guiding direction & depth by means of 2 handles...something like a plow but with a scoop. This was then loaded into wagons (right, horse drawn) that opened on the bottom, like the bomb-bay doors on a bomber...if this sounds slow...it was, and while manpower was the least of the problems, getting rid of all that dirt took some head scratching.Now bear in mind that 2162 Washington (our house) was the last house on the West side...I mentioned the one house above 22nd on the East side in an earlier paragraph...so there was much vacant property between us and the Lorane Hiway but for some reason, probably because it was city-owned, they decided to dump all that dirt on the lot adjoining our property on the South (between us and 22nd) & it was piled up 6 or 8 feet...there was no attempt made to flatten it either, it was all long humps just as dumped from the "bomb bay doors" & so it remained all thru my childhood. I have no recollection whatever of seeing any machinery such as a bulldozer that might have been used for grading. WPA programs were very ommon and that might possibly have been one. Otherwise it was fresnos, horses & wagons & men & shovels.Let's go back to Lawrence street. It ended at 22nd and while it probably deserves separate acknowledgment I must expound on a couple of characteristics that reflected on 22nd..From 22nd to 24th was a dirt road that ran up along the west side of the reservoir...not a hint of gravel...so in the winter one could drive down but not up. The reservoir also deserves a separate recognition but for now visualize it as an open concrete box with spiked fence around it. When constructed the excavation dirt was dropped off and more or less aligned with Lawrence. Needless to say love and feminine challenges demanded risking prized possession by driving off this cliff. I must add that access to the plateau was gained by one of 3 upward ramps on the East side which got progressively steep from the Southernmost to the North.All of these activities presented no problem until 22nd was put in leaving the high bank referred to earlier so more than one brave, inebriated or femininly challenged lothario plummeted off the cliff, down Lawrence and probably with brakes mashed to the floor found himself (too late) staring at 22nd 10 feet or so below. There was not a car built that could withstand the result..altho as I recall, the young bodies did. After a couple of these incidents a fence was constructed, but it served as nothing more than a preliminary indication of what was to come. I think the bank was eventually bladed down to offer a more gradual descent to 22nd. Naturally, the obvious hazards had the risks compounded when accomplished at night.That particular street (22nd) held no significance until I reached high school...this was in the middle 30's...when as designed by nature it became one criterion by which we judged cars. This takes us all the way over the hill to Willamette. We found that it took a really good car to go over the top in high gear. That sounds rather simple until one bears in mind that we had to turn the corner prior to starting the ascent and as best I recall, anything less than 35 miles per hour didn't cut it. Today it is relatively easy, but one must remember that the best of those cars had 85 Horse power...Lawrence Street, in retrospect had some interesting sociological ramifications, especially the part from 13th South.This was not a street which I as a kid would walk alone from school at 11th & Lincoln. I could name names but prefer not to of the tough kids that lived on that street...all the way up to 20th. I'm sure some are still alive.Eugene High was at 17th & Lincoln and their football field ran from 19th to 20th & Lawrence to Washington & at one time had high board tight spaced fence all around...presumably to keep out spies from University High or Springfield High.20th did not run thru from Lawrence (nor did 21st) but some optimistic contractor dug four or five holes on the South side of 20th which were to be basements of homes but remained for years as just water filled holes.The soil in that area is just about the best example of gray clay to be found in the valley so naturally the best WPA wisdom running South from 20th was selected as a terracing project for what eventually became Washington Park (Lawrence to Washington)Now if I were to leave it at that, one would have visions of earth-movers, D-8s & huge dump trucks...much noise & smoke et...not so. Not a sound. Every bit of that work was done with hand shovels & wheel barrows...& don't forget the sticky clay, each shovel full had to be scraped off into the wheel barrow, so what today would have been done in an afternoon actualy took months & at least part of it in the rainy season. (!) Maybe longer.To close the Lawrence street saga, it, loosely speaking ran up along the West side of the reservoir...it was more like a trail until at about 24th it dead-ended at the North boundary of the Eugene Country Club.Back to the tough kid on Lawrence. For some strange reason it was like an island. Lincoln, Charnelton, Olive no problem...ditto for Washington which was a "newer" street and was about 3 notches up the social ladder from any of the others. This applied mainly to the strip from 19th North...all the way to at least 8th. Much nicer houses, many professional people. Jefferson street slid back down the social ladder. I'm not sure why, tho the street car (trolley) did run on Jefferson I can't recall where it entered North of 19th, but it did run from there (19th) to about 24th or 25th where it turned West down to Friendly, South to 29th, East to Willamette, North to town etc.Now picking a few random thought that may have some bearing on the earlier part of this epistle.The lone house above 22nd on the East side of Washington was originally owned & built by the Miller family & he had what might be loosely referred to as a dairy, I think he owned around 5 cows with a little barn or shed Southwest of the house & up the hill.It was beyond my comprehension that 22nd would ever be paved from Washington to the West. Even in the Summer a car might break thru the clay crust into the mud.We had a cow that we "staked out" in the "pasture" between 22nd all the way to 29th & between Washington & Jefferson. The chain was about 50 feet long & as a stake we seemed to always have a car axle which was driven into the ground.I don't remember the frequency, probably a couple times a week we had a mobile store come up the street. It looked like what is now one of the old school buses. Shelves on the inside & solid rubber tires & extremely limited selection of canned & packaged food but it was convenient & as I think more about it, was probably the fore-runner of the 7-11. As little kids we used to watch for him & see who got to put the block of wood he carried under the back wheel. I guess it was heavy that just putting it in gear wouldn't hold & I guess we never wondered about the brake or the hazard involved in accomplishing that manly task.On Friday old man Newman (as in Newman's fish market) would also come around in his always clean black model T pickup with a canopy on the back, hanging scales & fresh, fresh fish...not much variety probably but he sliced it right in front of the customer. I don't really know why he came only on Friday but I suspect he had a list of good Catholics.Our mailman was Mr. Taylor. He lived on the SW corner of 20th & Washington & he made 90 Bucks a month...hard to imagine how impressed we were...of course you could buy a brand new Ford for about $450, but the only ones who knew who had a new car were related to the Buick dealer.23rd & Lincoln bring back a couple of memories, neither of which strikes me as anyting short of stupid. Man-holes at least in that location had cement covers about 3 inches thick & around 30 inches in diameter & mighty heavy, but not so heavy that a group of idiots couldn't get it out of it's horizontal position & roll it down Lincoln. I'm sure that thing would have gone all the way to the Butte but it veered left at 22nd, went in one side of a house & out the other & for whatever reason didn't do a whole lot of damage...The other incident occurred while I was in high school & my closest friend was one of those referred to earlier whose dad owned a new car, a classy midnite blue 39 with fender mounts & brand new. We "parked" on Lincoln North of 23rd facing North with a view of the town. When we were finished doing whatever it was we were doing (not much) my friend released the brake & we proceeded down, picking up more speed than I like to think about & all was fine until we go to about 21st. At that point we collectively discovered that this vehicle had a steering wheel lock that had not been disengaged. It could have ended in a disaster had God not put an old Nash in our way, so now when they say built like a Buick there can be no other reason for my present existence. Can't say as much for the Nash. His dad didn't even yell at him (my friend's dad).Earlier I referred to the County Club running South from about 24th. The clubhouse as near as I can picture it was about in back of (West) of Baskin Robbins which now fronts Willamette.