Thursday, June 07, 2007


It was 1934, Depression days, and the Strachans were in Oregon now. A new start in the big city of Portland. Glenn and Elsie and May and Doc, who had begun marital life with a double wedding in the big house in Brandon, Manitoba, were now scrambling for work and the couples were living in separate domiciles. Let’s start with Glenn and Elsie and get to May and Doc in the next episode.

A little mom and pop store seemed to be one answer, but it didn’t last long. Pretty soon Glenn went into real estate and that became his career, even after the couple had to move to Santa Ana because damp, chilly Oregon winters regularly gave Glenn pneumonia, a very grave disease in the days before antibiotics.

Their small abode was furnished with the basics, like a world globe and a crocheted pillow. They had two matched chairs, one “big” one with a hassock and one “little” one for the little lady, who obviously preferred to be much closer to hubby.

The fashion for builders was built-in buffets, very useful for what I suspect are wedding gifts.

In stories of the period one constantly reads about a clever little washstand covered with “ruffled cretonne curtains” so I’m not surprised to see one in this kitchen. Clearly there’s not much expectation of more than two showing up for meals. The little cathedral-top radio is cute and another necessity in the world-conscious Strachan family, but it appears that the closest electrical outlet is around the corner in the kitchen. One doesn’t see these clever cabinets with magazine holders on the ends much anymore. The lamps in this house appear to be on the “petite” side. The theory of how to group wall decorations seems to be evenly spacing them.

They don’t call these little households “love nests” for nothing, though these two were much too decorous to allow photos of their bedroom. But I begin to suspect that this is a “photo shoot” and things are being moved around to create a “critical mass” of furniture. Also, I doubt they really read books this way. And I’m glad there’s a sofa in case of an evening quarrel -- which, of course, will have to be made up with much sweetness later. However, this couple never quarreled much to my knowledge. Elsie has a gift for being elegant -- I love this little white shoe sticking out from under her hem.

I ran this post past Ross, Glenn and Elsie’s son, who says that at 96 Elsie, in a nursing home, mostly sleeps and doesn’t speak coherently. They are beginning hospice care. Glenn has been gone quite a while. In her old age, Elsie was much helped by a Mexican woman who became an unofficial family member.

Ross says that at the time of these photos, Glenn and Elsie were living in an apartment on the second story over the store, which was the practice in those days. The store was on NE 39th or 42nd and about Alberta, a street lined with store-under/dwelling-over buildings mostly built by European immigrants after World War II. They were wonderful places to shop. Ross himself began as a box boy, aged fifteen, and spent fifty years in what he calls "the food industry."

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