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Longtime residents recall days of yore for museum supporters

If you use the phrase, “Back in my day,” you’re old enough to be the butt of a Jeff Foxworthy-style joke.

If you’ve ever called the operator to get a phone number, you might be an old-timer. If you ever made mix tapes or left messages on answering machines, you might be an old-timer.

If you’ve ever kept leftovers in the “ice box,” you might be an old-timer.

Three “old-timers” proved their worth for the title when they shared stories about growing up in Lebanon during a presentation by the Lebanon Museum Foundation and Lebanon Public Library on May 16.

Local residents Ken Bolf, Tony Hayden and Sally Morgan spoke about their roots in the town they call home, and recalled childhood memories that shaped their lives.

Bolf shared stories about his grandparents who immigrated from Central Europe and later moved to an 80-acre farm off Brewster Road in 1920.

His grandparents were Methodist, but they attended a Catholic Church because it was easier to get to, Bolf explained. That decision, based on a matter of practicality, influenced the next generations to maintain a Catholic faith.

Bolf recalled going to school at St. Edwards Catholic Church, hanging out with friends at Booth Park, and swimming in the canal. He recalled the neighborhood grocer, and the freezer on Park Street.

“It was owned until the early ’80s by Oscar and Norma Christlen,” he said. “Best ice cream in town. He made it right there.”

On his newspaper route, Bolf had a daily routine to avoid the “huge” German Shepherd.

“The way we folded the papers square, for that house I’d get a rock and stick it inside the paper, pedal as fast as I could down the middle of the street, and hurl it toward the porch, and as soon as the noise hit the porch, here he came and I’d pedal like crazy and put my feet on the handle bars and hope that he tired out before my momentum did.”

Bolf, a retired teacher, passed around photos of his family from the Lebanon area, including one of his father and aunt sitting with a sled on the frozen side of the Santiam River in 1932.

“The Bolf family members have been here now for almost 100 years, myself having lived away from here only nine years. So I guess I should have expected that I’d be referred to on the flier as an old-timer.”

Tony Hayden, a photojournalist, was born in the Second Street Hospital, now occupied by the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center.

His father moved to Lebanon around 1936 and purchased interest in a paper mill. He also helped form KGAL Radio, and was editor/publisher of the Lebanon Express.

Tony Hayden presents photos of his parents, Kathryn and R.M. Hayden.

Hayden, thus being exposed to the world of journalism, recalled working various functions in the news industry, including recycling typesetting by melting it in a large cauldron.

“When it’s all liquified, it’s sort of a lead soup that arch villains could drink,” he said.

In 1941, the family bought an acre of land near Booth Park

“On that acre was a sturdy bungalow house with a sawdust fiery furnace in the big basement, a barn for dad’s Arabian horse, and a flock of chickens that taught me early on about death on the Saturdays preceding Sunday’s dinner.”

Hayden recalled Red Cross swimming classes at the river near Grant Street bridge, fishing for “trash fish” with his dad, and throwing lit firecrackers at night toward the window of an unpopular neighborhood boy.

He recalled the black exclusion laws, and the “black” entertainers and speakers who came through town during that period, one of which his family hosted for a night, causing an uproar with some in the community.

Hayden traveled the world and lived in cities during his career, but while taking respite in the wilderness one day, an “unbidden” thought came to him.

“Quite simply, I was informed how fortunate that I was born in the little town of Lebanon and nowhere else in the entire world,” he said.

Sally Morgan shared memories of swimming in the canal and seeing a family of beavers, and the story of a sheep that chased her brother across a field.

She also recalled the house her family grew up in. It was built in 1910 in a walnut grove at the end of Ash Street. Her parents bought it in 1950.

“They burned the outhouse and updated the inside,” she said. “The house was very small, but every time mom and dad had a baby, dad would add another room.”

Her grandfather didn’t finish high school, but he was mayor and fire chief, and operated successful businesses, including Lebanon Sand and Gravel.

“When (he) wanted to retire, he sold the business to two men, and he said, ‘These men will never, ever make it in the business.’ Those men were the Morse brothers.”

Morgan’s family was strategic in the building of Lebanon Community Hospital and the Strawberry Fair, two traditions of which she, herself, continues to participate as a volunteer as well.

Her mom belonged to a weekly bridge club that consisted of 12 women who were very close.

“Growing up, we knew we had 12 mothers in town and we couldn’t get away with anything,” she said.

Morgan left town to teach as a social service director for a few years, but now lives in the house she grew up in on Ash Street.

“I always knew I’d come back to Lebanon to make it my home,” she said. “My dad told us that if you live in a town, you must give back to the town. And that is still in us, the spirit to give back.”