Jack Steele

Jack Steele, 2011

Jack Steele, 2011

In the 1940s and 50s, Jack and his 6 siblings lived at 8085 S. W. 87th Ave.  which was then called Westgard. This was a major street in Garden Home and had some 6 or 8 houses on it.  Jack’s father cleared the street going south to connect with Alden. At a later time, Jack, his brothers and his father cut down a huge tree in the middle of Alden, near Oleson, and then dynamited the stump. They prevented any cars from moving on Oleson, and shouted out “fire in the hole” before lighting the dynamite. They then were able to connect the west side Alden with Oleson.

Jack’s father Jonathan Steele moved from Knappa near Astoria, to Metzger in 1912 and then Garden Home. Jonathan and his friend Sterling drove a Model T back east, working along the way for gas money and repairs, finally getting to Virginia. Here Jonathan met his future wife Charity and was married in 1926.

Jonathan Steele, US Army Sgt. 1st Class US Army, center, shaking hands with a General. Courtesy Jack Steele. See post.

US Army Sgt. 1st Class Steele, center, shaking hands with a General. Courtesy Jack Steele. See post.

They then drove back across country to Garden Home where his father built the family home in 1939. Jack’s family consisted of his oldest brother Donald Sterling Steele, then Jack, Joyce, June, Bruce who graduated from college, Wanda and Crystal. The family sold the house on 87th in 1965.

Steele home, 8085 SW 87th

Steele home, 8085 SW 87th

Jack graduated from Garden Home School in 1944.  He and his brother Donald then took the city bus into Portland, caught another bus and attended Benson High, graduating in 1948. Jack recalls a “hobo” with a long grey beard who was frequently on the bus along with a large number of bags until he was kicked off for taking up a full seat with his possessions.

Jack’s grandfather William Zachariah Grant Steele, born in 1869, had a general merchandise store in Metzger and a dairy of about 30 head of Jersey cows.  Jack’s aunts had a milk route delivering the milk.  He came across the prairie to teach school in the 1890s.   He married Lydia Sloop and they had 13 children.  A family story tells about blond little Lydia being kidnapped from the wagon train by the Indians.  The family had quite a time getting her back and had to trade goods for their precious daughter.

Jack Steele's six siblings. Donald, Joyce, June, mother Charity. Front: Bruce, Wanda, Crystal Steele.

Jack Steele’s six siblings. Donald, Joyce, June, mother Charity. Front: Bruce, Wanda, Crystal Steele.

Mary Steele Godwin was a sister to Jack’s dad, Jonathan Steele. Mary married Alex Godwin and was well known in Garden Home.  Their son Jack was an early housing developer and died from a heart attack at age 38. Godwin Court south from 87th was named after Jack Godwin.

Jack’s youngest sibling was Crystal Steele, later to name a street. Jack’s grandfather, William Zachariah, had purchased 3 ten acre plots of land in the area from foreclosures during the Depression. These were gradually sold off and early development occurred. A dedicated street path off of 87th leads to a short street named Crystal.

Jack, born in 1930, attended Metzger grade school for grades 1, 2, and 3 before starting at Garden Home in grade 4. Jack recalls the crash of a fighter plane in the Washington Drive area of Garden Home in about 1942. They understood that the pilot had safely parachuted out. The debris was very quickly cleaned up “by the government.”

Jack and other boys worked for the various neighbors.  Jack and Bob Feldman worked for Carl Hanson bailing hay for two summers. When Jack got a job with the U.S. Forest Service in central Oregon, Doc Hickman took over the baling job with Bob Feldman. Jack worked in various roles including that of a choke setter, wrapping logs with a cable in preparation for logs to be moved.

On another job, he would peel bark from  Cascara trees, a type of buckthorn tree. Local people also used the Chinook name Chittam for the bark. This bark was used for laxatives and to make quinine for the treatment of malaria. Jack’s brothers caddied at Portland Golf Club. The family had 2 cows and about a dozen chickens. His dad bought 2 weiner pigs who promptly broke out of their enclosure and were lost for some time before the neighbors found them.

He knew the Marugg twins, Stan and Shirley.  He recalls seeing six or more riders and horses from the Portland Riding Club using a wide horse trail over to the Kozmalski farm, currently the Red Tail Golf Course on Scholls Ferry.

Students in GH fifth and sixth grade, 1943

Students in GH fifth and sixth grade, 1943

Front row L to R:  Meldon Coffey, Jack Knutson, Pete Leper ( or Richardson),  Raymond Shirley, June Steele, Joyce Maynard, Dorothy Frazer, Muriel Frame, Roberta  Comar, Nancy Kamrar, Joanne Burt, Zora Becvar, Raymond Newton, Lee Reding, Billy Morris, Ricky Newton.

Second row, L to R: Richard Adams, Doc Hickman, Robert Feldman, Janice Stinnett, Geraldine Ludlow, Oelia Canfield, Joan Blanchard, Jan Gage, Bill Stinnett, Dick Stearns, Lawrence Briggs, Mike Goodell, Victor Blust.

Third row, L to R: Pete Schindler, George Mayness, Sheldon Aitken, Larry Feldman.

After graduating from Benson in 1948, he  got a job with Brooks-Scanlon as a fire watcher in central Oregon, Santiam area. They were trained to sit on a glass stool in the watch tower if there was a chance for a lightning strike. This did happen during a severe storm that disintegrated the outside antenna. One big bang and one big flash! Jack was on the glass stool and safely withstood the lightning. He lost communication with his boss. He was able to hear them but they were unable to hear that he was OK. Jack hung a lantern in a high window to signal that he was alive and they sent a rescue person the next day.

Later Jack went four terms to Vanport Extension in north Portland before beginning work in the Portland area.

Jack returned to Garden Home in the interest of courting his future wife, Leila who grew up in the Kinton area. Leila was a graduate of Beaverton High. They were married in 1952 and have raised their family in the rural Kinton area. Jack worked for the Penwalt Chemical Corporation, making and shipping hazardous materials used in farming, manufacturing and other businesses. He retired from Penwalt after some 41 years.

Nov 7, 2011 interview with Jack and Leila Steele by Elaine Shreve

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One Response to Jack Steele

  1. Pingback: Westgard Avenue – A Short History Of SW 87th Avenue from Garden Home Road to Alden Street | Garden Home History Project

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