THE BLOG

Growing Up in City Hall, Part I

03/06/2015 09:37 am ET | Updated May 05, 2015

City Hall in Portland, OR, is located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Jefferson St. The building is majestic, in grand Romanesque architecture, German chocolate brown in color. The building even has an impressive portico, that is on the Fourth Street side, with is supported by several huge Mauve colored pillars.

My mother worked at City Hall for thirty years in the Auditor's Office. It became my second home. I spent a lot of time there as a kid. There were times when I would walk to City Hall from our house that was located on 1826 SE 80TH, on the eastern side of Mount Tabor.

But I usually took the bus, then Rose City Transit Company now Tri-Met. I was fascinated with buses. I would always sit in the front and talk to the driver as the Hawthorne bus traveled down Division to 52ND, then the bus proceeded north to Western Baptist Theological Seminary and then would turn left (west) and followed Belmont all the way down through Ladd's Addition, with the circle Roundabout always blooming with Roses in the Spring and then to Grand Avenue, across the Hawthorne Bridge spanning the Willamette River and into downtown Portland.

My Mother worked in an office with her co-workers Jo Bell, who was a Native American woman. She has been raised in an orphanage as a child for native children in Alaska. She would tell you, as a child, that she still remembered being feed porridge with beetles and bugs in her breakfast.

Next door to my mother's work space , my mother had three friends who also worked in the Auditor's Office: Mary Conzelmann, Lydia Lucker and Hattie Yamada. These women would become my adopted aunts. Mary and Lydia were Lutherans (American Lutheran Church). Hattie was a member of the Christian Church, Disciples Of Christ. She did the accounting for the financial records for her church Central Christian Church. Mary drove Red Cross Ambulances during World War II and was an avid mountain climber. She was a member of the Oregon mountain climbing club called the Mazamas. She was very smart, optimistic, funny, very Pauline, make that Romans Pauline in her theology "all good things come to those who love God" she would say.

Mary would also observe " that marriage was a good deal for men because women did all of the work. "

Her motto regarding her life was "Climb Every Mountain" from Roger And Hammerstein's "The Sound Of Music."

Lydia lived in Northeast Portland in the Laurelhurst area, and took care of her parents. Both Mary and Lydia were Republicans. As a kid when I would visit them they would always mark on the wall how tall I was getting.

One day I returned from YMCA Day Camp out at Mount Scott and brought back a Tadpole that was in water in a milk carton. I proudly announced to them

"It's going to be a frog."

Mary, Lydia and I would always discuss politics. Mary and Lydia were always supporting the Republicans and Nixon. I was always supporting FDR and the domestic policy, not the foreign policy of LBJ.

I would always sit next to Hattie's desk. She was always quiet and working diligently like my mother. Hattie's family operated a nursery. I found out later that Hattie had been interned as a young person in an internment camp with her family during World War II.

The other lady that worked with Mary, Lydia and Hattie was Evelyn.

Evelyn was a Baptist.

My mother old me that Evelyn was quite noisy, a real busybody. She was also tall and thin and would make her own Vegetable juice. She was Organic even before Organic became popular.

My mother told me to be careful saying anything to Evelyn, particularly anything personal. She told me to picture her pumping a bicycle pump up and down, like trying to inflate a bicycle tire; this would be how she would try to get information out of me.

That picture worked. I never talked to Evelyn hardly at all.

I have a picture of Mary ,Lydia and Hattie all together attending my Ministerial Ordination 19 August 1979 in The United Church Of Christ at the First Congregational Church in Portland, Or.

My three angels.

City Hall would prove to give me more experience on becoming a community political activist.