Eliot Remembered – Jane Bachman

Jane Bachman
Jane Bachman

Jane Weber graduated from Grant in 1948, attended University of Oregon, where she earned a Bachelor’s in General Arts & Letters in 1952, then took a one-year post-graduate course in medical records at Duke. Returning to Portland, she worked in the records department at St. Vincent’s until she and Don Bachman, whom she had married in 1958, adopted their first child. They had adopted two girls and a boy by the time they had three daughters of their own.

Q: Tell me about your father.
A: Fred Weber. He had been an officer with the Hibernia Bank, which was downtown. And during the Depression it closed. I believe that First National sort of took it over, and put him out here at NE Union and Russell. The bank building here looks just the same as it did then. My father was the manager, but when he retired in 1952 he was Assistant Vice President. Then he went to work at the chancery office [Archdiocese of Portland] and worked there as office manager. His second retirement was in 1963, two years before he died.

Q: That’s the building that is now a cosmetology school.
A: Yes. When they closed this branch they built the one at Union and Graham, that bank up there that’s been for sale for a long time, that was a First National. And then it moved to where the Walgreen’s is now, down on Broadway. And that was a First National. Always the same branch.

Q: So your family lived in Irvington.
A: On NE 14th and Knott. When Mother and Dad built their house, in 1912, you could see down to Union Avenue. There wasn’t anything there, just a few houses here and there and pasture.

Q: What other changes have you observed in the last seventy-five years, on this side of 7th Avenue?
A: Union Avenue was a bustling place. Ann Palmer Bakery was on NE corner of Brazee and Union. Dad used to bring home bread and goodies from there. The Egyptian Theater was right across the street from the bakery. That was a wonderful theater. New Song incorporated that, I think, into their church. And then there was a big restaurant next to that. On the corner which is now the Goldrush Café there was a drugstore. Then there were offices above that; I know there was a dentist’s office. What used to be the morgue was formerly Pearson’s Funeral Home. On Knott Street, on the south side of the street there, between 7th and Union, there was a barber shop, Sakelaris. We did all our business with Irv Lind Florist down there where Bridges Restaurant is now, on the corner there. There was a nice little grocery store on NE 7th and Knott, on the NW corner. A good meat market there. Dad would walk home for lunch from the bank and if we needed anything from the grocery store, he would pick it up on the way. Weimer’s Hardware was three or four blocks up the street, and boy they had everything. You didn’t have to go downtown except for clothes. We didn’t much get off of Union Avenue—to me it still is Union Avenue.

Q: Where did you personally go?
A: Well, the Egyptian Theater. And where the Title Wave is now was the Albina Library then. It was my library. A good once a month I’d meet my father at the bank and go down to the library. It was an enjoyable place and I always felt at home there.  I’d go downtown on the bus or the streetcar. On 15th and Knott was the Irvington Streetcar. And then there was also a bus that went down Knott. I felt very much at home.

Q: Were there other commercial pockets besides Union?
A: The closest would be Broadway or Fremont.

Q: What about Williams and Russell?  Did you ever get that far from your house?
A: Not too much. I would, of course, go to the hospital down there periodically. As a matter of fact, I was born there at Emanuel. And I’d go to make hospital visits to friends. Of course, Dad would always come down in here. He had all the businesses as customers. When I was a little kid we thought these were the poor people down in this neighborhood. It was a worker neighborhood. But I think the reason that I never got down this far was that my schoolmates lived the other way. These kids were not in school with us. They went to Eliot and then to high school at Jefferson. I went to Irvington and then to Grant. Grant and Jefferson were rivals: we had a rivalry to see who could sell the most student body cards. At that time, in order to support your school and get into activities, you bought a student body card. Let’s face it, Grant was snobby. Sort of like what people think now of Lincoln. Now earned or not, it’s considered very prestigious, privileged. And that’s how Grant was. And it isn’t anymore, cause they’ve got regular people going there now and different nationalities. But that was what Grant was. Grant was snob. It was the Alameda group that sort of ran Grant. They were the wealthy.

Q: Would you call your family wealthy.
A: No, not at all. Banking was not a very lucrative business.

Q: Where did your family go to church?
A: The Madeleine. We were not far from the parish boundary line, NE 14th, I think, the west side of the street. We went to Immaculate Heart once in awhile. It was a little church and I enjoyed the closeness of it. Immaculate Heart was more ethnically diverse than the Madeleine, Black and white.

Q: So when you were a kid, there wasn’t a Black community here?
A: No, not really. Cause, let’s see, I would have graduated in ‘44 from Irvington, and the Blacks, the younger ones, were just starting to come in.

Q: Before the Vanport Flood?
A: A little bit. They lived mostly down across Union or right close to it. The Black neighborhood was 7th Avenue and west. There was an Asian couple who owned one of the restaurants in Hollywood and lived in the Grant district. But their child went to Grant for about two weeks and was so miserable that they transferred her. That was before I was there. It was just passed down to me, when we were talking with some teachers at one time. And these people had a real big Chinese restaurant in Hollywood. They lived in Irvington, right on Knott, up about 20th-something, in one of those nice homes. And yet their daughter wasn’t good enough. And Dr. Unthank, his son tried to go to Grant. This was before my time there, but they made life so miserable for them. They were told they were not welcome. Pretty soon there’s not going to be a black and a white. Which is fine. I’ve got a mixed-race grandson. I keep telling my daughter-in-law to please teach Andrew the Tagalog language. Because his grandparents on the other side speak very little English. I don’t care what nationality you are, I think you should keep up that second language.

Q: So you moved out of the neighborhood in what year?
A: When I got married, 1958. We lived on Clarendon, out in North Portland, 20-some-odd years. And we moved from there to where we are now, on North Fowler, and we’ve been there for 27 years.

Q: What year did you go back to work?
A: About 25 years ago or so. I worked for Custom Hospital Products. I was office manager. And then I quit there after eight years and went to Kaiser. I was making clinic appointments. And then quit then in 1996. I was off for a couple of months and then I started volunteering at Title Wave in ‘96.

Q: Right back in Eliot. How did that happen?
A: I saw the sign out front and I thought, I’ll go in and see what they’ve got. I went in and everybody was so friendly and nice and I went back several times. I decided that when I retired that was where I was going to volunteer.

NOTE: One day in May, Jane Bachman walked me along her old childhood route between her father’s bank and her family home, that is, up and down Knott, from MLK to NE 14th and back. The First National Bank was housed in the building at 2540 NE MLK, where the European Institute of Cosmetology has been since 2004. We walked in, and Jane was delighted to see that the people who have the cosmetology school had stripped the floor back to the original marble tile, and that the bank vault remains, today in use as a private room for facials.