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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 that night.

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 up.

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 for.

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.

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