Week 31: #52 Ancestors – Help
By Eilene Lyon
It has been a while since we had a story from my Grandpa Smith’s memoirs. He doesn’t mention the year this took place, but based on his Life Summary, I believe it was 1941. Below, I’ll share a bit about my research into the church and the people mentioned.
By Laurence M. Smith (with minor edits by Eilene)
Our family’s considerable participation in church work was just one of those things. It all started one sunny fall afternoon in Portland, the first time we lived there. I was looking after the “girls” while “Mama” was downtown shopping. This was the usual Saturday afternoon routine.
The next door neighbor, Jennie Glass, whom I knew only slightly, stopped by and asked if our two daughters would like to go with her tomorrow to the nearby church for Sunday School. I told her that it sounded like a good idea, why not stop by tomorrow and we would all go.
The church, Blanchard United Brethren Church, was quite small, about 70 or so in Sunday attendance. The preacher, Rev. Fenton G. Roscoe, was energetic and full of ideas. Especially for anyone new in the congregation.
Within a few weeks, I found myself getting up at 5 a.m. every Sunday morning to start the fires in the church heating equipment. They had a large wood-burning furnace and two wood-burning stoves in separate Sunday school rooms.
I managed to start the fires, very well indeed, because my daddy taught me at an early age how it was done. He taught me that if I needed to start a fire in a hurry always have some pine pitch handy. From that day on I always had a stock of pine pitch handy. It wasn’t long before we began to hear from the members of the congregation that for the first time in years the church was comfortable during the church services.
Later, the minister involved us in the music of the church. This came about because Clare played the piano and also because we had a piano in our home. We helped to organize a men’s chorus. At the first meeting about twelve men showed up for practice at our house. One of the twelve could sing.
Roland Ott was a nondescript type about 18 years old and nobody, up until this time, had discovered that he could sing. He was gifted with a clear tenor voice. With this outstanding tenor, and with the rest of us following along, we did quite well. I don’t think there was any one of us that could read a note of music. I recall that we performed several times and that we were reasonably well received. The one good thing that came of all this was that the church had found a first-rate tenor soloist.
During the following summer, we were not only involved with the church choir, but Clare was playing the organ for the Sunday service.
All this church involvement in Portland came to a halt the next December when I was transferred to Spokane. This is where we started hanging out with the Presbyterians. That, of course, is another story!
The Blanchard United Brethren Church was located at 3121 SE 67th Ave. at Kelly St. There is a church on that corner to this day (as seen in the above Google Earth Streetview image). The Galilee Baptist Church purchased the building in 1966. It is now called REMIX Adventist. An interesting news item appeared in April 1946: a fire in the basement Sunday school room of the church did $3,500 in damages. The room had not been in use for several days, prompting an investigation. Perhaps Grandpa left a little too much pine pitch lying around. 😉
Rev. Fenton Guy Roscoe was born in Swanton, Nebraska, in 1894. He married Mae Belle Scott in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, in 1918. They had seven children together from 1918 to 1937, born in a variety of places: White Sulphur Springs; Danville, Illinois; Lewiston, Montana; Beach, North Dakota; and Portland, Oregon, where the family lived by 1935. They stayed put, living within blocks of the church, until Mae Belle died in 1979 and Fenton in 1984.
Roland Elwood Ott, interestingly enough, eventually married one of Rev. Roscoe’s daughters, Bethine, after WWII. Bethine had a previous marriage and a daughter by her first husband. Roland was born in April 1917, making him 24 (not “about 18”) when Grandpa sang with him in the men’s chorus. He served during the war. After marrying Bethine, they lived for many years near her parents in southeast Portland.
The neighbor, Jennie Glass, was married to Carleton S. Glass, though they somehow did not get counted in the 1940 census (nor the 1930, but Carleton appears in 1910, 1920, and 1950 living in Portland). Jennie was born Jennie Eloise Howell in 1902. Her father immigrated from England. Her mother died before Jennie turned 20. She and Carleton had one son, who would have been about 15 when Grandpa met the Glass family.
Though Grandpa lived only a short time near this church community, his recall of names and events was excellent. He wrote this piece in 1988, when he was about 80 years old. Thanks to this story, I now know about where my mother’s family lived in 1941.
Feature image: The “girls” (my mom and aunt) at Christmas 1942, after the Smith family returned to Spokane from their brief time in Portland.