Category: Essays

My personal thoughts and observations of life

Memories of U.S. Highway 99

By Pat Edwards

While I was attending Queen Anne Grade School in Lebanon, Oregon during the late 1940s and early 1950s, my father owned the Smith-Kuehl International Harvester dealership there.

I vividly remember that our family recreation in those days, during the summer months, was to go to area stock car races each week. We’d all load into Daddy’s red International pickup truck. He and our mother sat in the cab and my brother, sister and I climbed into the open truck bed. Each of us would bring along a blanket and a pillow. We used them as seat cushions as we made our way north on Highway 99 to the Salem area where our favorite races took place.

During the usually hot summer afternoons, we gloried in the feel of the wind whipping our hair into our faces and mouths whenever we tried to talk – at least my sister and I did – our brother always sported a crewcut.

By the time we made our way home after a long day of dusty car races and destruction derbies, darkness had usually descended and we’d wrap ourselves into our blankets and lay our sleepy heads on the pillows which did not do a whole lot to cushion the bumps. My older brother and I laid there singing ‘Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ at the top of our voices while our younger sister invariably fell asleep in her little cocoon between us.

We always stopped at a drive-in near Albany to get an ice cream cone before heading east towards our home in Lebanon. My brother and I were very careful not to wake our little sister who usually slept right through the stop. Then, mean kids that we were, we teased her about missing her ice cream treat the next day.

We moved away from Lebanon in about 1954, but later returned in 1958, where I graduated from Lebanon Union High School in 1960. Sometime before my sixteenth birthday, my mother would frequently take me out to practice driving so that I could get my driver’s license. Our favorite practice spot was on an unopened section of the new Interstate 5 freeway that was being built through the Albany area. I had miles of smooth pavement to drive on with no other traffic. I’m not sure that it was legal at that time, but we never got stopped or fined for doing it. It turns out that I flunked my first driving test, though… I couldn’t parallel park!”

Included in OREGON’S MAIN STREET: U.S. Highway 99 “The Stories” by Jo-Brew (2014)

Sweet Lorane Community News, November 8, 2018

Fern Ridge Review
Creswell Chronicle
Sweet Lorane Community News
November 8, 2018
By Pat Edwards

My brother, Jim Burnett Sr., aka Jimminy Cricket in Groundwaters, is dying. He’s in the end stages of terminal esophageal cancer and has been told he has only a short time remaining.

Yesterday, my sister Barbara (I call her B.J.) and I drove to Vancouver where Jim and his wife Jonni currently live, to spend some time with him. He is no longer able to eat or even swallow and has not eaten anything considered “food” in about 2 weeks. He’s been existing on ice chips and up until yesterday, occasional sips of warm tea. Yesterday, the tea would no longer go down.

Despite all of that, we spent those seven hours talking, laughing, crying and sharing portions of our lives together that we have either kept hidden or have just not shared until now. Most of the talking was done by Jimmy. He seemed to need to open up and talk about his life and the parts of it that he has carried with him during his 81 years… his blessings, his regrets, his feelings of inadequacy, his proud moments, his sorrows and above all, his love for us, his family, and the many friends he has gathered over the years.

He talked about his frustration that none of us get a chance to take part in our own celebrations of life, and how he is reaching out to as many of his special people as possible via phone calls and emails to touch upon these special relationships one more time. He showed us pages of printed email messages that have begun to pour in to him from former co-workers, people whose lives he touched as a minister, and others he has not seen for some time. He sent them messages, telling them how each has touched his life in special ways and, in essence, to say goodbye.

Jim shared with us not only his acceptance, and even, excitement, of the journey he is about to take—“It’s time to set out on a new adventure.”— but also admitted to his nervousness about the actual process of dying.

Next Tuesday, he will be moving into a beautiful hospice center located close to his and Jonni’s home in Vancouver where he will be lovingly attended to until he is called home.
Just before B.J. and I wrapped ourselves in his wonderful hugs and said our “See you laters!”— not “Goodbyes”—he began to ask me to send word to our Groundwaters family of his great appreciation for the experiences that Groundwaters has given him over the years. While trying to get the words out, he broke into tears. Taking on the persona of Jimminy Cricket in the “Philosopher’s Corner” of each quarterly magazine and now the annual anthologies gave him a voice and a connection to each of you that he has long carried in his heart.

The only gift I brought to him yesterday, besides my presence, was the newly published 2018 Groundwaters anthology which he lovingly looked through as soon as I presented it to him.

I know that he would love to hear from any of you in a message sent to his email address of dadburnett13@gmail.com. In that way he can feel that he is participating in his own celebration of life.

Thank you all for your kind words to me and the concern that you have shown for his well-being. He’s in good hands.

Godspeed, Jimminy Cricket—Jim Burnett Sr.—my brother!

Respecting the Past; Accepting the Present; Looking to the Future

by Pat Edwards, October 18, 2012

Community baseball game

Although no one has ever told me directly that I need to quit living in the past, I’m sure that the thought has occurred to some… especially with the recent issues that we, in Lorane, are facing regarding the closing of our school. Much of the emotional turmoil that has bubbled up around that reality comes from the fond memories that the school has evoked in those of us whose lives have intertwined with our small rural community, however briefly. The past has impacted our lives in ways that those from other, more urban, communities can’t fathom.

In the past, when life revolved around home and a single bread-winner, we knew our neighbors and shared our lives with them. Social activities were centered in the church, the Grange, the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs… but especially in the school. There were potlucks and dances and smelt feeds and 4th of July celebrations and baseball games. We had Christmas programs in our school where we watched our children perform and we would all join them in singing Christmas carols. Even as recently as a few years ago, large funerals have been held in the gymnasium because no other venue in the community would hold the hundreds who gathered to pay their respects. Our neighbors were many times our best friends and, we generally respected each others’ differing political views and could good-naturedly discuss them without fear of making them an enemy.

In the 1960s, we mothers usually went to town once a week to buy groceries and we frequently scheduled doctor’s appointments on the same day. Lunch at a hamburger stand with the kids on that one day was a big event. When we were lucky enough to lunch with another adult, we actually talked and listened to each other. Unlike today, conversation did not have to be woven around phone calls or while the other person was reading her text messages or playing a game on her phone.

Kids spent their summers building forts and taking hikes in the woods, bucking hay, gardening and playing outside in the sunshine and fresh air all day long. Usually, if they didn’t, they found themselves cleaning their rooms or practicing the piano, instead. During the school year, after school and on weekends, they raised livestock or learned to sew or cook in 4-H clubs. Some older boys helped their dads in the woods, learning not only to cut timber, but to build a strong work ethic, as well… and there were always daily chores in addition to homework.

No, it was not an idyllic life. Money was usually tight. Kids usually wore hand-sewn “hand-me-downs” from older siblings or cousins. There were no designer shoes or clothing that separated the “haves” from the “have-nots,” but respect was taught. Usually it was done with love, but, like today, for some, it was taught with a hard hand.

Yes, it is easy to live in the past, but even though I am now a septuagenarian, I am still able to look to the future as well as live and function in the present… and I do that every day. As far as the school closing is concerned, I am a realist. In light of our poor economy and the school funding situation, it’s apparent that the school board had few other choices in order to make the school district run as efficiently as possible. Lorane is about 25 miles from Eugene; Crow is about 15. Most parents now work in Eugene, so placing all of the district’s elementary-age children in Lorane was not feasible when you consider the burden that would be placed on parents who needed to pick them up mid-day for doctor’s appointments, etc. I know this with my mind, but my heart wishes it wasn’t so.

I am a realist. Life, as I described it above, no longer exists in Lorane and I realize that we will never get it back. Modern technology is here to stay. Most women have taken their rightful place in the work force… not only as a matter of financial necessity, but because that’s where most of them would rather be. Designer clothes, computers and X-boxes, cell phones and texting have taken over our lives so completely that there is no turning back.

I know this, but it still hurts, deeply. The closing of the school is threatening to put a final stamp on our past and move us into a future over which we have no control. Our rural way of life, not only in Lorane, but all over the state and nation, is at risk with the closing down of our local schools and post offices.

We look for solutions that no longer seem to be there. There is evidence that the numbers of those willing to work towards finding those solutions, however, are swelling. A group of dedicated community members in Lorane are working diligently to form a charter school. If that does not happen, many of us envision the school building turned into a community center, but the financial obstacles seem almost insurmountable… especially in this economy. If we could fiscally figure out how to obtain, upgrade and maintain the building, how much use would it really get? These things need to be explored. They are concerns and questions that may never find answers because our time is running out.

Regardless of the outcome, in the time that we have remaining to search for these answers, we want our past… our history, embodied within the Lorane Elementary School… to be treated with respect. Only by understanding and respecting the successes and failures of our past, can we move confidently into the future knowing that we have done everything possible to control our own destiny.

Lorane Elementary School 1280 pix