Jerry's View: Money stretched pretty far in the 30's

I still look forward to Christmas even though Oregon Bank and Trust is now calling it something else and is probably not sponsoring Bank Day at grade schools anymore.

Starting in the first grade, I took my nickel or dime to school every Tuesday for Bank Day deposit. It was money I made, sometimes as much as a quarter, selling perfume or flower seeds or Liberty Magazine to neighbors down the street.

We lived in a middle class area (rented for $15 a month) near an extended family that owned the Hog Ranch, the Slaughter House and a cooperage (they made wooden barrels) and even in the twenties and thirties during the Great Depression they had money.

So every Christmas, my brother Russell and I took our savings out to buy gifts. It was always something like $3 each and we could hardly wait to go downtown Portland and blow all of it on the whole family.

Mom took us on the streetcar, but let us do our own shopping. Amazingly we were able to buy such things as a box of hankies, or a comb, or a fingernail file or a fountain pen.

Money stretched pretty far in those days.

What a thrill to secretly wrap each gift and put a tag on it. On Christmas Eve, when we put up the tree and hung the fake icicles on the popcorn garlands, we gathered our beautifully wrapped stuff and put it under the tree.

Then we were shooed off to bed.

Morning came fast and we were back downstairs at about six, rummaging through packages searching for our names.

We never had a lot, but the big thrill came after we were able to watch as the rest of the family opened our gifts to them.

What a thrill to hear them exclaim their joy. From Mom, "Just what I wanted, Gerald, how did you know I needed a hanky?" or Dad, " Wow, I can sure use that little screwdriver."

Somehow, I managed to find the perfect gift for everyone.

Christmas is indeed a time for miracles.

When my heart doctor could not find anything broken last week, he noted my walking stick and shortly enrolled me in muscle therapy lessons on the Highline Medical Center campus.

A week later I wobbled into the classroom for my first lesson and met my instructor--a girl less than a quarter my age.

She took one look at this human wreckage, pointed at an adjustable padded bench and asked me to sit down.

I backed up to it, grabbed the edge with both hands and plopped down with a crash.

She frowned and said, " No, no no, no plopping. You are a plopper. No hands. Sit down with your legs."

I never realized I was a despicable plopper. All these years.

Then she asked me to lie on my side and pretend I am a clam by lifting my upper leg ten times without resting. I have seen a lot of clams but never one with legs.

I must have done all right because I graduated to the other leg and passed that, too.

I tried to get some rest by asking where she was from. She said "Olympia but originally South Korea.

Then she proudly said her Mom is 95 and still gets on the streetcar every morning without help though she uses a cane.

I was impressed. I have not been on a streetcar for 70 years.

Then she tried to get me to try bend my knees and rock forward on my toes.

No chance. I have not used my toes since I was 12 and could pick up marbles to show off for neighborhood girls.

Then I told her I once made a big hit by rolling my eyes for Bessie Hurst. I tried to do it for her but flunked badly and she rolled her eyes in disgust and told me to walk forward, stand straight and try to avoid walking on a wide stripe in the carpet.

Me, the guy they called Shifty Robinowitz when we played touch tackle on Simpson Street failed miserably. I was so embarrassed.

Then she said, "Now walk backward and lift your knees " I was so afraid of bumping into some other poor guy collapsed on the floor I asked her to call 911.

Step on a crack and break your Grampa's back? Ha. There was a day that I was invincible.

No more. Poor Grampa.

I admit I was daydreaming when she said, "Now do it backward."

I did it and was so bad I noted that she had big tears cascading down her cheeks.

I don't know how I will do on Christmas Eve climbing down our chimney.

Probably okay. Falling is easy.

It is the going back up that scares me.

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