Nancy Hersey is
the sole surviving daughter of Harvey Gordon Starkweather. She has
been kind enough to share some of her memories of growing up in this house
with her father, mother and sister. It's an interesting look back
at a different time.
Growing Up in the House
on the Hill
I grew up in the heart
of the depression in a stately house, perched in the middle of sixteen
acres. I never felt “poor” because none of the kids at Concord School
had anything either, and there was no television to show us all the wonderful
things we were living without.
Although money was
scarce, groceries were cheap. When my father paid our monthly grocery
bill of $30 in Oak Grove, the grocer would sometimes give him a small jar
of hard candy to express his appreciation. Dad was especially welcome
The community was small,
and everyone seemed to know my father. He had been the purchasing
agent for the Super Highway, which we now know as 99E. He had been
Superintendent of Schools in Clackamas County and also Superintendent of
Schools in LaGrande long before I was around. He was very active
in politics, particularly the Democratic Party. When Franklin Roosevelt
was campaigning with Cox for vice-president in I think, 1924, he came to
Dad’s office to solicit his support. Roosevelt wasn’t successful
in that election, but later he did very well. My father was also
an appraiser during the heart of the Depression and worked for the Home
Owners’ Loan Corporation, which helped people to stay in their homes.
He had gone to Europe in 1912, along with delegates of each of the 48 states
to study the most practical way for farmers’ crops to get to the market.
The delegates testified before Congress when they returned.
When I was growing
up, there were no children in the vicinity, and my sister Barbara, five
years my senior, was not interested in having me as a playmate. I
learned to entertain myself. Everyone in the family was an avid reader,
and we regularly played games on the card table in front of the fireplace,
Authors, Pit, Ma Jong.
One of the advantages
of a big house was all those rooms upstairs. It was a great place
to play Hide & Seek. My mother regularly made me relocate my
bedroom because she said it was the only I could get rooms cleaned
We loved to play dress-up
when friends came over. My father had a Prince Albert coat and a
stovepipe hat from his European sojourn, which could be collapsed flat
and then popped open again. When other girls came over, we had several
boxes of clothes to try on.
My mother was a campfire
leader. We heard about wealthy girls, who went to Camp Onalee on
the Molalla River or Camp Namanu on the Sandy. It was rumored that it cost
$1.00 a day at Camp Namanu, which was unthinkably expensive. Undeterred,
my mother organized Camp Starkweather down on our riverfront across the
street. We set up four teepees in which the girls could change.
The girls’ mothers took turns providing our meals.
Some people thought
us wealthy because we had a big house, and it was situated in the middle
of a large tract of land, although in those days everybody had more land
around their houses than they do nowadays. At the time I was born
in Oregon City Hospital, my father had a swimming pool built. It
was spring-fed and very cold, but to young, impressionable girls, it was
exhilarating and fun. My favorite activity was singing around a big
campfire and looking at the cloud-sprinkled sky overhead as we sang the
familiar camp songs. It was as close to heaven as anyone could ask
Naturally we had pets.
I remember learning the facts of life when our Pepi first came in heat
and she became irresistible to several dogs including our Cocker Spaniel,
Serby. One day I accidentally let Pepi out of the basement, where
she had periodically been howling to her admirers. Mother was not
pleased, but in time five puppies arrived. We were certain that the
two red ones were Serby’s because of their color. The little black
ones had spaniel ears.
My mother was Dad’s
second wife. Both her grandparents and his parents were early Oregon
settlers and served in the territorial legislature. My father’s first
wife was Alice Risley, and they had five children. “Ada,” “Hugh” and “Ruby
Drive” were named after them. “Arista” is a combination of Risley
and Starkweather, and then because they thought that ‘Rista’ didn’t sound
quite right, they
put an “A” in front of it, thus making “Arista.” At his death Hugh
Starkweather left his portion of the riverfront holdings to the Oak Grove
Garden club, which maintains the property.
My father’s family
holdings were located roughly between McLoughlin Boulevard and Oatfield
and between Concord and Roethe roads. My grandfather, William Starkweather,
was born in Connecticut and named the school where he settled here “Concord”
in memory of his New England homeland.
In November 1951 when
Dad died, both newspapers wrote articles about his life and accomplishments.
He set his children an example of courage, integrity and determination,
and we were all raised with the idea that we were expected to leave the
world a little better than when we found it.