by Rob Lee, Linnton Resident
In 1905 Giuseppe Boschero left Italy headed for a new life in South America. Mid-Atlantic another passenger convinced him to go to a place called Linnton instead. Giuseppe built a house on 2nd Street, which burned down. He built another and in 1907 summoned wife Marie, and their four children to join him. The living conditions in this primitive new place – no running water, an outhouse, the crude beginning of a town – appalled Marie, but she made due. Giuseppe was a stone Mason and built a number of walls in Linnton (which were torn out when the highway was widened). He also worked in Linnton’s mills, and Marie raised the kids.
One of the Boschero kids, Nick married, and bought a farm up on Germantown road. He grew wheat and had two kits with his wife Helen, Mike and Anna. When Anna was four, in 1945, they moved to the Waldmere neighborhood, Nick working in the mills like his father. Nick was very proud when he became an American citizen, and was a dedicated union man.
Anna went everywhere with her older brother, riding bikes to St. Johns, along St. Helen’s Road from Doane Lake to Miller Creek; swimming, fishing, catching turtles, frogs, snakes, and paddling make-shift rafts around the many ponds. Once they found a little boat, a three-kid boat, which they paddled on the river. But the Coast Guard caught them, took them ashore and sank the little boat.
The kids had lots of chores at home, like hauling firewood from the mill up to the house, moving the grass, doing yard work, and sneaking off to play when the chance presented itself, on swings, in tree houses, the woods, or down to clammer over the log rafts on the river. (If you fell off into the water you had to be careful not to get squished between logs.) At night they’d play “King of the Mountain” with flashlights, and Friday night was skating at the Community Center.
Mom sent them down to Grandma Olsen’s to buy things. There was a nickel pickle barrel by the door. Grandma kept track of what was bought into a ledger, people paying their bill on a payday at the end of the week. Each month new comic books came out and kids would go to Anderson’s liquor store, which had magazine racks under the front windows. There was always a card game going on in back, with men drinking and carrying on, and twenty kids sitting on the floor reading comics by the door.
When Anna was ten she started picking strawberries, beans and raspberries out on Sauvie Island to earn money for school clothes. The bus picked them up at 4:00 a.m. While they rode they’d sing songs, practice cussing, and learn the birds and the bees, sometimes from “filthy” comics. They worked till noon, when it got too hot to pick berries. Sometimes you’d get your face washed with strawberry and dirt when fights broke out.
Early in the season the berries were big and the kids made money, but as the season wore on the berries got small and kids got bored and they’d start messing around. They rode a motorcycle through a field, bean plants somehow falling over, fights started, the kids got fired for the day. Joe Vasil was from St. Johns, also working summers on Sauvie, but Joe and Anna didn’t meet till she was fourteen. A decade later they married, and for many years have lived on Riverview Drive, looking out over that green pastoral isle.
Editor’s Note: Interested in submitting a story about your family or neighbors to the W-NW Collective Memoir Project? Find information online or contact Angela, 503 823-4211.