Marking the Memo’s 30th anniversary, over the next 11 months, we’ll sample reporting from the Memo’s first year of publishing. In addition, we’ll provide updates.
The Mid-county Memo’s first two editions are on the paper’s website and available for a full view at midcountymemo.com. To view them, click on “Newspaper Morgue”.
We begin the retrospective with the first edition, May 1985.
The front page featured stories about the new newspaper, its origins, and the annual Gateway Fun-O-Rama Days held in May.
GREATER GATEWAY BOOSTERS—1985
In 1950, about a dozen local business owners formed the Woodland Park Merchants Association. They held their first parade in 1951. Its route was from Northeast Bell Drive and 102nd Avenue to Halsey Street at 106th Avenue. Fun-O-Rama days began the following year. In 1954, when Fred G. Meyer built the Gateway Shopping Center—the first in Oregon, complete with a 40-foot arch—it was only a matter of time (1958, to be exact) until the Woodland Park merchants group saw the writing on the walls and changed their name to the Greater Gateway Boosters.
In May 1985, the Greater Gateway Boosters were a thriving, well-funded group of local merchants marking their 35th year as a business association. Booster leaders understood that to be effective and relevant in the community, they needed to continually and sedulously recruit and groom new leadership. Monthly meeting attendance averaged 40–50 individuals and members.
In 1985, the Boosters’ share of carnival cash not only funded the annual parade, which ran from Northeast 125th and Halsey Street to Weidler, then down Weidler to the disband area in Fred Meyer’s parking lot on 102nd Avenue, but also an annual Easter egg hunt, Little League sponsorships and field maintenance and sundry community activities.
In addition, the Boosters funded the Gateway Keystone Kops (“Keystoned Kops” originally, as the front-page photo shows), a parade favorite. Composed of Gateway merchants, Booster members and their hard-partying friends, the original Keystoned Kops were a traveling bunch of boisterous, merrymaking, parade-entering pranksters who, in addition to performing slapstick humor and vaudevillian skits in local and regional parades, caravanned with the Kops’ van to parades in Nevada and California.
In 1993, reflecting on the business association’s change of focus from producing and sponsoring community events to business networking, the Boosters changed their name to Gateway Area Business Association (GABA).
With cash reserves dwindling, the group began shedding strong, effective leadership, members, activities and sponsorship as the ’90s went on.
With membership in decline, the Fred Sanchez era began when he was elected GABA president in 2002.
Currently, the business association appears to have devolved into little more than a self-promotional tool for the Gateway businessperson and property owner. In 10 of the last 14 years, either Sanchez, son Alan or board crony David Panichello have been president of the group.
In the 52-year history of the business association, two presidents repeated their terms before Sanchez’s advent.
Among his other realty holdings, Sanchez owns 111th Square in Gateway, a cluster of office buildings and restaurant space. Making his property the center of all things GABA, 111th Square is the site of the group’s community fair and 9/11 events. Soon after he took over, Sanchez appointed son Brad Chief Keystone Kop.
By May 1985, the annual Fun-O-Rama Daze carnival and parade had evolved from a one-day event with a small parade in 1951 into a decades-long, annual May tradition and included a 10-day carnival and parade that ran from Northeast 125th and Halsey to Weidler, then to Fred Meyer’s parking lot. Produced by the Greater Gateway Boosters business association, it was Mid-Multnomah County’s signature event.
The event involved neighborhood kids. They took the time and made the effort to decorate their bicycles to enter the kid-friendly Fun-O-Rama parade, and they saved their allowances for the carnival. Not only did Gateway merchants look forward to the annual event, local parents did as well.
No more Fun-O-Rama Days—not even a parade.
In the early ’80s, despite securing another carnival site across the street after losing its original, prime location in Fred Meyer’s parking lot, the Boosters’ share of carnival cash dissipated and then disappeared when that site was also lost.
Marking the end of an era, in May 1997 the final Fun-O-Rama Days was held, which by then had dwindled to three days.
In 2002, the parade part of Fun-O-Rama Days was revived. However, like a bad sequel to a good movie, this version did not hold up to the original. To substitute, organizers added the existing community fair at 111th Square and golf tournament to the slate of Fun-O-Rama events. A carnival even returned in 2003, but only for that year.
In 2006, according to Sanchez, a lack of sponsors, a dearth of volunteers and escalating costs killed the event.
Keeping the cachet of the Fun-O-Rama name, but with none of the associated events, the next version became a cruise-in at a retirement center for a few years before moving to Parkrose, where it expired in 2011.
The following year, GABA brought the parade back. With a shorter route and no bands, this incarnation lasted three years before Sanchez and Panichello canceled it earlier this year.
Panichello, GABA’s current president, said the parade’s cancellation was due, again, to lack of sponsors and volunteers (“Fiscal sponsor drought dooms Fun-O-Rama 2015” MCM April 2015). Proving his point, at the group’s March meeting, there were only five attendees—not counting board members.
Demonstrating the group’s progressive bent, in 1984 Greater Gateway Booster board members approached Portland neighborhood newspaper publishers Tom and Marcia Pry about starting a neighborhood newspaper in Mid-county. A year later, the Memo published its first issue.
In 1985, and besides feature stories, monthly Memo departments included the Loaves & Fishes menu, a recipe column and a collection of news notes under the heading Memo Pad.
Initially, the paper was mailed to more than 10,000 homes, with another 10,000 papers distributed at popular gathering places throughout Mid-county.
When the Prys produced the first issue of the advertiser-supported Mid-county Memo, they already owned three other Portland neighborhood newspapers: Hollywood Star, Sellwood Bee, and St. Johns Review.
Later, the husband-and-wife publishing team bought the Northwest Neighbor and created the East Bank Focus and Portland Family Calendar newspapers.
In August 1991, the Prys sold the Memo to Tim Curran, who had been the paper’s advertising manager since March 1988. In 1994, the Prys sold their entire business, which, besides the papers included a pair of printing presses and commercial building in the Pearl District.
Marcia Pry passed away in 2001; Tom in 2011.
However, reporter Jane Braaten, assigned to Pry’s newest newspaper for the first 18 month’s of its existence, is still with us.
In a recent phone interview, Braaten said that while interviewing city council candidate and Portland police officer Bob Koch for a story in 1986, she realized he was interviewing her. “About halfway through the interview, I realized, ‘I think he’s interviewing me,’” Braaten said. Upon his election, Koch offered her a staff job. “I got my four-year degree at city hall,” she said. “It was a valuable learning experience.” From city hall, she went to work at the Portland Police Bureau for then Captain Tom Potter, who later became chief. After his retirement, Braaten stayed to work for the next three chiefs of police. Today, she is senior business operations manager with the city’s Office of Management and Finance.
With wife Darlene Vinson’s invaluable help, Debbie McWilliams’ skillful graphic design talent and competent staff of capable freelance writers, Curran continues publishing the Memo.
In addition to feature stories, Memo Departments today include a Calendar of Events, a section for east Portlanders’ individual milestones and achievements under the Memo Pad heading and a Business Memos column. Called Meals on Wheels People today, the Memo continues publishing the Loaves and Fishes monthly menu for readers.
Inside the Memo, the first edition featured a story on Parkrose High School science teacher Herbert Mohn, one of the state’s 10 finalists for NASA’s new Teacher in Space Project, which was cancelled in 1990 following Christa McAuliffe’s death in the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster. In a telephone interview recently, Mohn said he made it to the semifinals and got a trip, but had no illusions about winning. “I made the application as kind of a joke put on by my students—‘Mr. Mohn, you should take a trip to the moon’—and actually was a semifinalist.”
Mohn, who taught for 24 years in Parkrose, retired in 1993 after 33 total years of teaching physics and shop classes.
Since retirement, Mohn, who lives in Gresham, said in a phone interview he has always been a farmer, even while teaching. Mohn said he teaches and improves farming techniques in farmer-to-farmer projects across the globe. He listed trips over the years to Hungary, Bulgaria, Russia, Romania and four excursions to Africa.
Mohn said these days he and his son raise canola, wheat, lentils and peas on a 2,500–acre farm on land in northeast Montana belonging to his 100-year-old mother. At 79, Mohn said he is still in good shape. “I keep going,” he said. “I’m still healthy and happy and doing all that kinda stuff.”
Another first edition feature was a story about The East County Church-Community Action Program, or SNOW-CAP. To differentiate itself from the downtown community action project known as “HUB-CAP”, and to identify the group’s proximity to Mt. Hood, the “SNOW” part was added to the community action project acronym. SNOW-CAP was a philanthropic organization created in 1967 to provide food, clothing, advocacy and other services to the poor that still operates in East Multnomah County.
• SNOW-CAP’s budget in 1985 was $139,000 with four full-time employees.
• It had two locations in area churches. Savage Memorial Church at 1740 S.E. 139th Ave. was Snow-Cap’s first site. Gresham’s Trinity Lutheran Church at 507 W. Powell Blvd. was its second distribution point.
• Volunteers committed 15,653 hours helping neighbors in need. That was remarkable volunteer support.
• Number of clients served monthly: 3,755.
• Mileage and transportation budget: $2,000
• Annual postage: $750
Though the name was altered in the ’90s to SnowCap, what hasn’t changed in the past 30 years for SnowCap is their idea that individuals can come together as a community to help neighbors in need.
• SnowCap’s 2015 budget is $704,000 with eight full-time employees.
• Today, SnowCap is in its own building on the Rockwood United Methodist Church grounds at 17805 S.E. Stark St.
• Volunteers committed 28,457 hours helping neighbors in need. Again, remarkable community support.
• Number of clients served monthly: 9,328
• Mileage and transportation budget today, which includes three trucks picking up and delivering food across East County: $9,000
• Annual postage: $10,000
• SnowCap has a website, which they did not in 1985. It is www.snowcap.org. They could always use a little help.
PARKROSE LITTLE LEAGUE—MAY 1985
According to President Jerry Goodland, Parkrose Little League had 39 teams with an average of 12 to 14 players in 1985.
In last month’s issue, there was a story on the merger of Lakeside and Parkrose Little Leagues (“Parkrose Lakeside Little Leagues merge, become Parkside” MCM May 2015).
According to President Melissa Fritz, Parkside Little League has 29 teams in 2015: 11 T-ball teams; five farm baseball and three farm softball teams; four minor baseball and one minor softball team; one major baseball and one major softball team; two junior baseball teams and one junior softball team.
There was a full-page coupon ad for the burger chain Arctic Circle at 12035 N.E. Halsey St. A Ranch Burger—two beef patties on a double-cut bun—was 99 cents. A coupon gives an introductory offer of a Mushroom Bounty cheeseburger—1/4 lb. burger with Swiss cheese and “Roy’s Prize Mushrooms” with a small order of French Fries and medium drink—sold for $2.29 in 1985.
Do you remember their fry sauce?
Today, at the same location on Northeast 120th and Halsey Street, an Arby’s franchise occupies the building.
That’s Arby’s, the fast food chain that “celebrates the art of Meatcraft™ with a variety of high-quality proteins …”
MEMO PAD SAMPLING—1985
• Gordon Owes was looking to sell his Gateway Florist business in the Gateway Shopping Center.
• Two Gateway restaurants ahead of their time, Baskin-Robbins and Gateway Gourmet, were recognized by Multnomah County for banning smoking. GG owner Chung Wynowskie told the Memo that since the building is so small, he banned smoking eight years ago.
• A charter for the proposed city of Columbia Ridge was being drafted during meetings in Fairview. In response to Portland’s annexing Mid-county, activists were trying to make unincorporated Mid-Multnomah County a new city.
• Owes did sell Gateway Florist to Brenda and Dave Turner, who moved the business nearby to 10625 N.E. Halsey St. until they went out of business in 1997. Today, the Outer Rim bicycle shop occupies the building.
• Baskin-Robbins is still in business; however, the Gateway Gourmet is not. Gateway Cleaners, at 1244 N.E. 102nd, occupies the building today.
• After years spent attempting to make a city out of Mid-county and stall the city’s annexation, the effort failed.
CANDY STORE TAVERN—MAY 1985
There has been a restaurant/nightclub at 10346 N.E. Halsey St. for decades. In 1985, it was the Candy Store Tavern. The tavern’s ad said, “Burt and Kathy welcome you to the Candy Store, the sweetest place in town.” Among advertised items were Halibut Steak dinners for $3.95; two bacon-wrapped filets with “Fries or JoJos” for $9.95; and a “Big” New York steak for $6.95.
The Candy Store changed hands a few times before its current incarnation.
Bradford’s Sports Lounge occupies the former Candy Store location. Owner Brad Fouts brought his restaurant and construction experience to bear not only on the building but also on its menu and clientele. Since taking over the place in 2009, Fouts has turned the place from a seedy, dark, drug-soaked dive bar into a remodeled, less-dark neighborhood bar where you’ll find live entertainment and a decent meal at a good price.
MENLO PARK PLAZA—1985
An ad in the first edition for the shopping center at Northeast 122nd and Glisan Street—owned by anchor tenant Kienow’s grocery store—boasts a roster of “36 Great Shops, All Close To Home.” Among others, the roster lists stores like Kienow’s, Rose’s Restaurant, Van Duyn Chocolate Shop, Coast-to-Coast Hardware, Kelley’s Recliner Showcase and Menlo Park Pharmacy, which are all gone today.
Menlo Park Plaza ownership has changed a few times since the Kienow’s heirs sold it. Less “Mom & Pop” business-oriented today, MPP is home today to nationwide companies Walgreens Pharmacy, Lumber Liquidators and Auto Zone. Until a few months ago, Staples office supplies occupied the old Kienow’s store before moving out to Cascade Station.
Of the 36 shops and stores listed in 1985, only two—US Bank and Save More Beauty Supplies—still call Menlo Park Plaza home today.
ekBusinesses that left Menlo Park Plaza but still operate include Robert Miller Fine Jewelry (Miller’s International Jewelers), Menlo Park Flowers (portlandfloristshop.com), Collins’ Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Menlo Park Plaza Liquor Store (which moved across the street by Safeway).