KELLOGG LAKE, ORAL HISTORY
This is from an 80 page document compiled by Nicole West, City of Milwaukie, December, 2009
link to the COHO initiative:
Kellogg Lake has been a central geographical feature in Milwaukie for over 160 years, but today most Milwaukie citizens, even the Lake’s immediate neighbors, have little interaction with it.
Technically speaking, Kellogg Lake is a man-made “impoundment” with a surface area of about 14 acres. Originally, Kellogg Creek was dammed to power the Standard Mill in 1858 and it served as a mill pond for about three decades. According to the US Army Corps of Engineers (2002), the original stream channel has become masked deep within the lakebed by about 17,500 cubic yards of sediment that is contaminated above legal standards set by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for both DDT and Chlordane. It has experienced frequent sewer overflows and is the recipient of a significant amount of stormwater runoff from surrounding residential properties, Lake Rd, and McLoughlin Blvd. These factors contribute to its placement on the DEQ’s “d” list (DEQ, 2004/2006), which is the lowest categorization for water quality, due to e coli violations.
Many of us, especially those who are young or new to Milwaukie, do not harbor affectionate memories of playing around Kellogg Lake, swimming and fishing in it, or skating and sledding on it. For most, it’s easy to see a body of water defined by its ecological limitations; poor passage for native fish, invasive plant species, contamination, and bank erosion.
But this perspective does not do justice to the early history of Kellogg Lake, and the ways that it enriched the lives of those that lived near its shores during the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. Nor does it recognize the chain of events that lead to the lake’s eventual degradation beginning largely in the 50’s. Lastly, it doesn’t honor sporadic efforts undertaken by groups and individuals who have working tirelessly to reinstate the integrity of the Lake for recreation and habitat.
This Oral History Project attempts to reconcile the contrasting feelings of affection, disregard, and apathy associated with Kellogg Lake. Based largely on the memories of those interviewed, this document strives to tell the story of a lake that was once enjoyed and cherished but now forgotten, and how it got from there to here.
Preliminary Research of Non-Oral Sources
The primary challenge of oral histories is that they are intended to capture the living stories of a person or community. The accuracy and effectiveness of an oral history begins to decline rapidly when one digs deeper into the past than the lives of the interviewees. So, they tend to be both defined and limited by generations. For this reason, preliminary research of non-oral sources is an essential starting point if the goal is to tell a story which extends farther into history than living community members.
Extensive research was conducted, which attempted to decipher the early history of Kellogg Lake; to determine how, when, and why it came to be and also to support information derived during the interview process. In this way, this final document is a fusion of traditional historical research, with a strong interview-based or oral component.
This research was conducted throughout the duration of the project with the assistance of; The Ledding Library, the Oregon Historical Society, the Multnomah County Library, the Clackamas Library, the Milwaukie Museum and Historical Society, and multiple online resources.
Multiple Milwaukie residents graciously shared their memories of areas in and around Kellogg Lake. Interviews occurred during the spring and summer of 2009, usually in the homes of the interviewees or in popular Milwaukie businesses. Each interview was audio taped, with the approval of the interviewee, and later transcribed. While compiling the final report, quotations were rearranged to create a sense of cohesion and flow for the reader, but the accuracy of the quotations themselves was upheld. These interviews provided a puzzle-piece framework telling a story of a lake that was loved, cherished, taken advantage of, abused, and largely forgotten.
Interviewees were identified with the assistance of JoAnn Herrigel, City of Milwaukie Community Services Director. Also, the project was advertised and interviewees sought through notifications published in theMilwaukie Pilot and the Milwaukie Center’s monthly newsletter.
Finally, in completing this project, the City of Milwaukie recognizes that history is an evolutionary process, never ceasing to unfold around us as memory forms and fades. We can hardly expect that 160 years of sentiments toward Kellogg Lake could be summed up in a handful of interviews. Therefore, if reading this document stirs your memories of Kellogg Lake-please don’t hesitate to call and share your stories .
Weaknesses with the Study
There were two main factors inhibiting this research project. Interviews were conducted by City of Milwaukie staff, which brought challenges to the interview process. This fact seemed to create a certain degree of suspicion about the project’s intent as well as occasionally prompting interviewees to be sidetracked by other local concerns, unrelated to Kellogg Lake.
Secondly, interviewer and interviewee rapport was, at times, compromised by the City’s Kellogg for Coho Initiative (KFCI); a project which plans to reconstruct a naturalized Kellogg Creek and associated riparian habitat, in the place of Kellogg Lake. The association between cataloguing Kellogg Lake memories in this oral history and the Kellogg-for-Coho Initiative presented a sense of irony; citizens were sharing memories of a lake they may have cherished, with the understanding that it may not last forever. I believe that an individual with no affiliation to any governmental agency, and particularly to the Kellogg for Coho Initiative, may have had the opportunity to develop a stronger rapport with the citizens interviewed.
Early Significance of Waterways on Regional Settlement
Since long before Lewis and Clark’s great expedition, Oregon’s waterways have been the historic vector of settlement and development. They were the ancient highways used by ambitious men setting forth onto what would later become the Oregon Territory. Rivers and streams have determined the strategic layout of today’s towns and cities, and defined the commerce and industry that grew upon their shores. According to Corning (1973), they were the focal point of transport for goods, services, and citizens for over three decades before the expansion of rail and stagecoach and personal buggies and early settlers learned to depend upon harnessing their power. This explains Lot Whitcomb’s decision to establish Milwaukie between Johnson and Kellogg Creek’s confluence’s with the Willamette River and shaped the city’s early development.
By the time Milwaukie was founded in 1847, disease and the virtual extermination of all fur bearing animals, due to the early pioneer explosion of the fur trade industry, had eliminated all but a handful of the Native Clackamas population within the region and the “area was a forested wilderness of fir, hemlock, cedar, and oak, with clumps of maple and alder, and with thickets of hazel, currant and salmon-berry bushes” . Lot Whitcomb quickly decided upon the site of present day Milwaukie, and derived its name from an indigenous word from his home state of Wisconsin meaning the “meeting place of waters”. Early in 1851, the area was surveyed for the first time. This survey, shown below, is the only documentation illustrating the original free-flowing creek, initially referred to as Cold Creek. According to Dimon (1981), the name Cold Creek was likely derived from Whitcomb’s childhood town; Cold Creek, Michigan. The name was later changed to Kellogg Creek, after Joseph Kellogg who established his homestead and a successful grist mill on a donation land claim along the creek’s edge.
Settlers first set up farms and businesses along the Willamette that seeped down its tributaries and the rivers. According to Corning (1973), wagon travel was debilitated by the sogginess of land within the Willamette Valley, so travel along the main-stem and its tributaries was a necessity for the first settlers. River behavior was largely unpredictable and varied greatly with the changing of seasons.
According to the Oregon Historical Society, Journal #68 (p. 161), Lot Whitcomb completed the first plat of Milwaukie in 18512 . This plat illustrates the first planning effort to determine the layout of the downtown and the damming of Kellogg Creek. It’s fascinating to note that the plat clearly indicates two outlets for Kellogg Creek; one in the location of the present day outlet, and the other further north near Johnson Creek. Was there a period when Kellogg Creek had two outlets to the Willamette, or was this plan never realized? If a second outlet was created, which was the original confluence and which was its man-made counterpart, and when was the northern-most outlet filled? Given the technological limitations of the era, logic suggests that settlers would have opted to bore a secondary outlet through the shortest distance. Thus the northern-most outlet could have been Kellogg’s original confluence. But, without comprehensive geo-technical analysis, we may never know the true story explaining this.
However other sources, like Clackamas County dispute this and date the plat to 1852. Due to a devastating flood in the basement of City Hall, when most all original planning were destroyed, many unanswered question about the early development in Milwaukie persist.
The significance of early Milwaukie’s linkages to its surrounding rivers and streams only grew with technological advancement, particularly the steam engine. Fast-paced industrial development and settlement associated with the California Gold Rush of 1849 demanded unprecedented amounts of resources from the Pacific Northwest. Lot Whitcomb’s steamship enterprise, on the shores of the Willamette, was the first in Oregon to provide regional timber and flour from Milwaukie’s state of the art grist mills to the Bay Area in California.
“…No difficulty was experienced in disposing of all the lumber that could be cut, most of it going by vessels to San Francisco. On December 13, 1849, the ‘Oregon Spectator’ claimed that four sawmills were operating or would be operating at Milwaukie…Then early in 1849, a commissioned Joseph Kellogg had taken up a donation land claim next to that of Lot Whitcomb, to build a schooner to carry lumber and flour to the San Francisco market. Kellogg constructed a crude shipyard near the Whitcomb sawmill and went to work on the vessel. When the schooner was completed, it was loaded with lumber, flour and bacon. In San Francisco, the entire cargo was disposed of at fabulous prices. After that the saw mill-and-grist mill at Milwaukie worked day and night.”
The Standard Mill and Origin of Kellogg Dam
The damming of Kellogg Creek was a formative event in Milwaukie history and contributed to its growing fame as a bustling mill town in the mid-19th Century. The seemingly insatiable demand provided by the settlement frenzy of the California Gold Rush was mirrored by a sense that timber, fisheries, and agricultural products from the Pacific Northwest were equally limitless. As a result, Milwaukie quickly developed a strong reputation, not only for Whitcomb’s state-of-the- art steamship enterprise but also as a prominent mill-town, well positioned to process wheat from the fertile lands lining the western shores of the Willamette and timber hauled out from as far away as Estacada.
The small settlement boasted multiple mills and perhaps most notable was the Standard Mill, which initially dammed Kellogg Creek to power its operation in 1858. The Standard Mill, a joint enterprise between Kellogg, Bradbury, and Eddy gave Oregon flour its reputation as the first mill to produce pure, white flour.
“From the Tualatin Plains came the wheat that was ground into flour. Among other things that builder (Joseph Kellogg) did was to invent an apparatus for separating blue-pod from the wheat, and this in the grinding, left the flour perfectly pure and white. Other mills lacked this appliance for separating foreign matter from the grain, and although all flour was considered good, the Standard Mill product was highly superior. (Oregon Historical Society Scrapbook #4, 145-146)
Industry continued to boom for the Pacific Northwest and log mills and ponds were the principle settings for lumber production and staging. As the mountain ranges in Central Oregon posed particular transportation challenges, even for the steam locomotive, shipping by sea remained the principle form of transportation for Oregon Valley natural resources (timber, firs, fish etc) well into the 1900’s. However, as a result of the growing appeal in size and availability of the Portland Harbor and the narrowly-navigable shallows constituted by gravel bars downstream of Ross Island, Milwaukie was slowly abandoned by sea-going commerce.
Despite this decline in sea-going commerce, livelihood was maintained by Milwaukie’s riverboats, sawmills, and the popular name of the Standard Mill brand’s pure white flour that kept the mill in business through 1879. But, according to Corning (1973), as the town’s economy grew and shifted, Milwaukie became a town of moderate size, largely detached from river life. The Old Standard Mill faded into an emblem of Milwaukie’s industrial boom, a relic of its dream to be the greatest port city on the Willamette.
The timbers that formed the Standard Mill were carved from the forest and as honestly put together as the hands that constructed it. The old timers will tell you with pride that in the flood of 1861, when the water swept over the second floor of the mill and leveled the adjacent low-lying valley of the Willamette, every other mill was washed out but the
Old Standard stuck to her moorings. Forty three years passed by and still the old mill remains as an honorable landmark of Milwaukie and a feature that readily catches the eye of many artists looking for views.” (Oregon Historical Society Scrapbook #4, 145-146 )
After 43 years, the Mill fell subject to dilapidation and finally fell in 1901. A map of downtown Milwaukie, reconstructed based on memories in 1903 to depict the city around the time of 1896 was printed in The Review(February 23, 1977). This map (below) shows the location of the Standard Mill building on the South side of Kellogg’s confluence with the Willamette.
An Oral History 1918-Present
The Early Days; Enjoying Kellogg Lake
Since the days when it was first flanked by the Donation Land Claims of Milwaukie’s founding fathers, Lot Whitcomb and Joseph Kellogg, Kellogg Lake has been privately owned. For this reason, citizen use and enjoyment of the Lake has been largely restricted to those that lived in its immediate vicinity. Aside from powering the Standard Mill, little is known of its recreational or functional use between 1858 and 1920. But the interviews that follow tell a rich story of how the Lake’s immediate neighbors, and their friends, spent three decades recreating in and around Kellogg Lake.
One of those historic lake neighbors was Ernie Bisio, who is likely Milwaukie’s oldest living resident. He was born at home, on his family’s farm at 25th St. and Lake Rd, in 1918. Now dominated by residential development, his family farmed the entire hillside sloping toward Kellogg Lake in a variety of garden vegetables. He and his wife, Ann3 , attended school together beginning in the 1st grade at St John’s Catholic. They graduated from Milwaukie High in 1936 and have resided in Milwaukie since.
As the survivor of a near-death boating accident, Ernie has a particularly interesting relationship with Milwaukie’s waters. On May 28, 1939 Ernie was thrown from his boat while taking a leisure ride in the Willamette River. After being submerged for about 20 minutes, Bisio was fished out by a grappling hook that was manned by Staff Jennings. Jennings proceeded to perform CPR for one-and-a-half hours before Bisio eventually came to.
Like this death-defying story, most of Bisio’s river memories took place on the Willamette or Johnson Creek. But, when asked about his memories of Kellogg Lake, he still had a lot to talk about;
“Well my brother and I, we’d walk down there to the lake, you know. And we found an old row boat out there and we got in it and we rowed around on the lake…” –he pauses to chuckle- “…in fact I can remember that this row boat, the front end of it was rotted away so we had to sit at the back end of the boat while we rowed around otherwise water would come in and flood the boat! In fact the farm here, they used to go down and get the crawfish. We used to have big crawfish feeds and they’d get the craw fish out of creek there and they were all healthy crawfish-big ones and so I’d say everything was pretty clear. It hadn’t gotten polluted because the population was still way down.” – Ernie Bisio
When prodded more about recreating around the Lake, Bisio’s memories unfold like an abridged agricultural history of Milwaukie and I understood quickly that his childhood was occupied by the tasks and duties of life on a farm much more so than lake-side recreation.
“We grew all types of vegetables and in 1918 my dad had planted lots of garlic. And in 1918 we also had the influenza. It was an epidemic and garlic was supposed to have been the cure and my dad had planted lots of garlic and he made lots of money because people were coming to the farm there to buy the garlic. That’s the year I was born. February 1918. And from there-that money, that’s when he bought this property here, the 4 acres up over the hill here. Now, we just have this and the field up above, about an acre-and-a-half here.”
“My dad built the home up there in 1923. Let’s see there’s our house, the house my brother built, and then another house, and then the family house. I spent the first 4 or 5 years down on the farm there. When my dad and brother were building the house, I’d walk up there-4 or 5 years old-with the lunch pail. Up to 25th and bring the lunch up there. Lake Rd maybe had 100 cars a day on it, if that many. It wasn’t a very traveled road and that was it. And I knew some of the people who lived along it and they kind of made fun of me walking up there.”
“When I say that 100 cars a day was a lot of traffic, I mean it. One street that wasn’t paved that you couldn’t drive through it because it was a mud hole was 21st St. That was a mud hole through there. The problem was that the log trucks were coming down there under the trestle. And the logs got bigger and bigger, and pretty soon, they couldn’t go under the trestle. One time they went down there and the log truck got wedged underneath there and they were trying to figure it out. And a bunch of us walked down there and saw-and I forgot who it was-but one of us said ‘well let the air out of the tires on the log truck’. So, they let the air down and out and they had the clearance to get through there. We were probably 10, 11, 12 years old.”
“It was all just farms up through here then. We pumped water out of the lake to irrigate the gardens. Yes, it was all farm land up through here. People were growing everything, but mostly what we called garden vegetables like radishes, green onions, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, peas, cabbage, and stuff. We had an old gasoline pump that pumped the water out. We had an early morning market that we went to. Oh yes, we had to get up at two o’clock in the morning. It was on 11th and Belmont. There were no farmers markets in Milwaukie then. All the farmers came there. Everybody came there. It was two blocks big and we had our stalls where we drove our trucks in there and laid our vegetables. We would sell some, and buy some, and I had a number of poppa and momma grocery stores that I would deliver produce to and so I would probably have some of the stuff that we grew that I needed and then maybe they wanted some peas and I would have to buy peas from someone that grew peas. Well and all the grocery stores wanted their produce at seven in the morning-so I had to get up at three o’clock-two o’clock in the morning and-oh yes-it was two or three o’clock every morning we’d get up and then go to the market and sell what we wanted to sell, buy what we wanted to buy, and load the truck up, and then go deliver the goods to the stores because everybody wanted it by 7:00am. It had to be that way. Our house was one of the only houses in the neighborhood. In fact, over here on 36th this was a big field-my dad used to plant it every spring in peas-oh I’ll bet 7-8 acres, it was all peas. And then he’d get students to come and pick the peas for the farm. And Gilford drive down there that was all farm land. Across the way there were two berry farms, Bosses and Fishers; two berry farms where Rowe Middle School is now. That was all berry farms. And on this side this was all farm land. There weren’t ten houses up along there…” –Ernie Bisio
Ernie’s wife was originally Ann Corti, a prominent family in early Milwaukie. Her brother, Dr George Corti, had a family medicine practice and many Milwaukie residents were his patients.
Bringing us back to the question of recreating in Kellogg Lake, Ernie’s wife adds,
“That’s the other thing too…there just wasn’t swimming the way there is now. Swimming just wasn’t a big thing-young people were working when they were teenagers. They were working. We had to work. And I know in my case, my mother discouraged us to go anywhere where there was water. She did not encourage swimming. She was afraid of water. My brother learned to swim-but I didn’t.” – Ann Bisio
I asked if she or Ernie ever spent time at the City’s Bandstand, that used to be located near present day Dogwood Park;
“That isn’t anything my mother would have encouraged us to do-going down to the bandstand.” –Ann
As this and other interviews unfolded, I quickly learned that just about everybody had stories of the Tillamook Branch railroad trestles that cross Kellogg Lake just upstream from OR 99E. The Bisio’s were no exception;
“I think my mother was so afraid of water-and cautioning us about water. The only thing I can remember as far as Kellogg-is that one time a group of us, about three or four of us friends, young friends, we decided we were going to walk across the trestle. There’s a trestle across Kellogg and I remember that. That was the scariest thing I ever did in my life. We did it. We walked on that-and that was so scary. I don’t remember coming back. But I remember going. That’s as close as I ever came to Kellogg Lake. There was nothing to hang onto-there was nothing. You looked down and it was very scary. Oh we were probably 13-14 years old.” –Ann
“A bunch of us used to go down to the trestle and smoke. And I went down there once and I was going to start smoking. But my brother came down and caught me down there and he said ‘If I ever catch you with a cigarette in your hands I’m going to knock your head off. So I never did. He scared me to death and I never did smoke.” -Ernie
“In 1946 after he came back from WWII we walked all the way to Lake Oswego on the trestle. Yes we did-to Lake Oswego across that trestle and across the Willamette River trestle over to Lake Oswego. We didn’t have a car so we just walked. We were going over to my brother’s and he lived on the lake over there. But we did get a ride back. We didn’t have to walk back. You’re stepping from one tie to another.” –Ann
Like Bisio, Bob Hatz grew up in the immediate vicinity of Kellogg Lake. He was also born in 1918 and was raised in a home near the end of 23st St, directly across from Kellogg Lake. His childhood home is exactly where the Milwaukie High School auditorium sits today. When interviewed, he was 90 years old. Sitting together at one of his favorite local establishments, Libby’s, we laugh as he shares similar stories of rather unsuccessful boating attempts in Kellogg Lake;
“Ok, to begin with when I was in…I think either the 6th grade or Junior High, I built a boat…out of scraps. Ok, I built a scow. That’s a boat that doesn’t have a point. But it had sides and everything. Anyway, I was so proud of that and took it down to the lake and put it in and I climbed up top onto the rafters…above the trestle and I jumped in and I went clear down into the lake.” –Bob Hatz
He pauses to laugh heartily in spite of himself…
“That was the only time I went swimming instead of boating and that was the end of my building of a boat. In my backyard, I just built it and took it down and a whole bunch of kids were with me. ‘Oh I’m going to get in here…I’m going to jump in.’ And I jumped. You know, I nailed it this way instead of grooving and things…I was a young kid. I didn’t know better. I did get some tar you know. But I did it the wrong way. And a whole bunch of kids were with me. It could be someplace down there…
As a comic afterthought, he adds,
“I shouldn’t have told you this. I’ll be blamed for polluting the lake!”
“As a kid, the Milwaukie dump was all right on the lake. From Washington St. it didn’t go through down to the old super highway. This here wasn’t a street then-it was just a whole big dump. This was terrible. A bunch of the umm…what you want to call them, hobos, or out of work people, they would come to the dump all the time and they made money by getting the old canning jar lids. There’s kind of a glass stuff in them and they would knock that out and they would get the lead in the lids and sell it. That’s how they made money. I guess they didn’t realize it was bad. Now Milwaukie bought that property there. It used to be Mac’s Pit (Mac’s Pit was a famous local establishment. It experienced serious decline in its later years, but was once a very popular family barbecue) and then it became another restaurant and then it became a kind of a Pawn Shop. But originally, it was the City’s dump. I tell you worse then that, when Milwaukie had their regular sewer, it went right into the river and right down Jefferson St. that’s where the sewer went into the river. But that’s where the park came to be. Anyway, it was bad.”
“But there were still lots of open space and fir trees around and another little creek that come (into Kellogg Lake) from the natural springs on the old Presbyterian Church property…There is a holly tree that is still growing where my dad planted it in 1912. It’s still there. I got a picture of me and my dad and my sister. I should have brought it…and you know the Milwaukie Market Place? That was all beaver dam-that’s why that ground was so good.”
When asked to give some context for life in the 1920’s and 30’s, he responded,
“Well, I’ll tell you my wages. When I was in the 6th grade of grammar school, which was right in Milwaukie, during the summer I worked for the Binn Brother’s Celery Fields, owned by George and Ted Binn, which is now Milwaukie Market place. We were getting 15 cents and hour. And the men that were doing the manual work, they were making 25 cents and hour. I was the “plunky” that dropped the celery plants. I dropped ‘em. They had a rig that would make the spots and I’d take the flat and take out the plants and drop ‘em one…one…one and the men behind, they were the planters. They had a stick deal that they’d poke a hole down and put the celery plant in and push it over. So they were making 25 cents and we were making 15.”
“But, when I was still in Junior High School, and it was during the depression, I bought a very nice row boat for $5. It was from one of the, basically a transient, they were out of work. He fished the lake and he wanted to sell his boat because he needed money. I was, like I say, I was only about 13 years old. But I got it from my folks. I got the money and got the boat. My dad was fortunate. He was working for the government so I could get a little money. Mainly it was asking for nickels. I had my boat until my junior year and then I got more interested in the girls. And my row boat, I didn’t get down to the lake, and it disappeared. Somebody took it. I just left it.”
“As a kid, I was also at Elk Rock Island many times. When we went over to the island in the summertime, it was all rocks and we just walked across all the time. To begin with there was a big dance hall-but it wasn’t in use at that time. Anyway we would take our roller skates and we would roller skate on the floors and about a year or two later as it was still deteriorating we would rip off the shingles off of the side of the dance hall and we would start our bon fires and have a weenie roast on the beach. We had a lot of fun. And there were times when the water was too high above that we would take our row boats and go up over there. It was just all nature there-there was a dance hall down below and up above there were three cabins up above. When I was a kid they were more or less not used or anything. One of the cabins, a caretaker and his family lived in it and they would have to get the row boat and go to Milwaukie to get supplies and go back.”
“But a lot of my memories are on the trestle…You know, at 2 o’clock the express train would come. We would get out in the middle of the trestle and we would run and try to beat the trains. But we would run on the ties. They had quite a few of those little rain barrels on the sides. And lots of times we would just stand there (on the side platforms) and watch the trains go by…The other part, underneath the trestle, are these beams that go across holding the trestle and we would walk across those way up at the top. We got pretty good at that…One of the kids didn’t make it and he had to jump off onto the land and broke his legs.”
“Oh there was one time a group of us, I was about a junior. And we started and we swam in the lake from down by the trestle, we went in and went under the trestle down to where the dam was and into the river and we swam clear down to Waverly Country Club. That was just a dare to see if we could do it. We had the boats. There was, I think…Lee, Bill…yes, four of us that did it. Yes, we used the lake and we used the river.”
“We also would fish for the croppies. Croppies and the sunfish and the blue gills were all basically the same type of fish, basically they’re a flat-lot of bones. But the prize fishing was when you went on over to what we called the island (Elk Rock Island) -you take a plug and fish for the big-mouth bass. They were pretty tricky…Every year it did that; every spring. We sat there and we would fish for salmon in the river.”
“But the problem in the springs when the water was so high-it wasn’t salmon-it was the darn carp would come in. They were partially responsible for the other fish to disappear.”
“Now, I think I should tell you more about the dam. In 1932 when President FDR came into being and everything was ‘happy days are here again’, he created this CCC and the WPA. In 1934, they had the fellas in there with shovels and pick axes and they made a whole trench underneath the bridge.6 To begin with the street cars went right down the middle of Main St. But anyhow, I was down there all the time while they were doing this, making a big trench. I was about 14 maybe 15, in that area. I was just a nosey little kid watching everything and the men were very nice to little kids like me. They let me go up and be all around everything that was being done.
And they drained the lake completely. And then they put in this, like a gate in and it built the lake back up. That’s how they drained the lake the first time. It was a slow process. But they gradually did it. And they made the gate. And about two years later there was a problem in the upper part of the lake, so they drained the thing again. So it was drained twice.” (According to Floyd Bennett, a highly informed citizen, the lake was actually drained 6-7 times during the 20th century.)
“They never did get rid of the stream when they drained the water still kept coming-they filled in a lot. The WPA people-they were just draining the lake. I went all through the mud. I walked all through there and there was a type of a clam even I saw in the mud.”
“See before they had Bonneville Dam, every spring the snow melt would be so heavy they would back the rivers up and it would back clear up to Oregon City. And there wasn’t the dams to control it. So what happened, the lake would be part of the river. In the spring, we would row from the lake right into the river into the Willamette. It was way up above (the dam). It was high. See, they control that more now.”
“Growing up seemed like there was a lot more snow and cold. My mother told me that when she was a girl they went up to The Dalles where some of our relatives are, and it was in the winter and roads were so bad-of course in those days, with a team of horses, they rode all the way from The Dalles down to Portland and up the Willamette on the ice with their team of horses and got out on Milwaukie. At that time, my mother lived just a little east of Milwaukie. I also walked on the river on the ice and to me the winters were colder back in those days. Basically in the winter, mainly we would go up to Monroe, they would close off Monroe and we would sled down that.”
“Oh yes and my first set of ice skates…I learned to ice skate on Kellogg Lake and it was fun. I don’t know if you’re aware, my idol was Dan Birkemeier. Are you talking with Enid Briggs? She’s quite a lady. You’ll enjoy her cause her mother was a Birkemeier and Dan Birkemeier, he was a contractor. In fact he built a lot of major tunnels and things. The Birkemeier house is still on the lake in Island Station and everybody always used to look up to Dan. He was an excellent ice skater. He was quite a leader. Everybody would watch him…I did anyway.” -Bob Hatz
Enid Briggs, Adele (Briggs) Wilder, and Don McLaughlin were interviewed together in Enid and Adele’s home in Milwaukie. The two sisters, their cousin Don, and the rest of their immense extended family truly cherished Kellogg Lake. The three of them in particular spent a large portion of their childhood playing at the original homestead, where their grandparents raised 10 children (including their parents) on the southern shore of Kellogg Lake.
The original Birkemeier family established their homestead on the southern shore of Kellogg Lake in 1879. They recreated and utilized the Lake from then until the 1940’s when the last of the family moved away from its waters. The historic Birkemeier-Sweetland home still sits on its original homestead on Kellogg’s southern shore and has seen over 100 years of change come through Milwaukie. Later, it became the home of former Oregon democratic Leader and State Senator, Monroe Sweetland, and was visited by several esteemed political visitors; including JFK.
The eldest of the three, Don McLaughlin was born on a farm on Kellogg Creek, one mile upstream from the lake in 1924. He has lived in Milwaukie his entire life. The farm he grew up on; including its hayfield, cow pasture, and farmhouse, is now North Clackamas Park. His father made the property available for a park in the 1960’s. When interviewed, Don was 85 years old.
Enid Briggs was born on Briggs Ave in Milwaukie in 1925. She grew up in a little house her uncle built, with her sister Adele. When interview she was 84 years old.
Adele Briggs Wilder was born in Milwaukie in 1928. Like her sister and cousin, she has lived in the Milwaukie area all her life. When interviewed she was 81 years old.
When asked about their memories of growing up in Milwaukie and recreating on Kellogg Lake in the 1930’s and 40’s, the trio became animated in their telling;
“Milwaukie was a busy little town that had everything; a shoe store, a clothing store, restaurants, and everything else. Not all these…whatever they have now!” –Adele
“And when you went to Milwaukie you knew everyone you met on the street.” –Don
“Yea that’s right” –Enid
“Yea, there was a little dime store” –Adele
“And a soda fountain. Yea, that soda fountain is the same. And the pharmacy right across the street, that was a hamburger soda fountain place that we all went called Diane’s.” -Enid
“And the original little dime store is where Cha Cha Cha is-that was a dime store. And the people that owned it-the daughter and I went to school together, so that was special. And when they changed that, Safeway went in over there and then Safeway went out and Olsen Brother’s went in and so you watch these changes-but now it doesn’t seem like a little city. There’s nothing to go down there for anymore.” -Adele
“One thing that I think is real interesting; right on the edge of the lake, we used to go to the band concerts when the band shell was there. I always remembered that.” -Enid
“The lake was the fun part-because we went to Grandpa’s. Grandpa had a dock and a row boat and we sat on that and from there we would take the boat as far out-even up to the creek sometimes. And back down. I didn’t swim much but they had the rope swing up there where all the apartments are now…But that’s all gone now.” -Adele
“And you didn’t go boating on the lake without a proper hat!” -Don adds jokingly, referring to the photo
“We spent two days a week down there just floating around the lake.” -Enid
“You can see entertainment wasn’t TV!” -Adele
“There’s our cousin on the lake (Enid refers to a photo not shown here of her cousin in a homemade sailboat on Kellogg Lake)-and there’s some more pictures of those houses. That was Richard, our cousin-that was Dan’s son. Dan was one of the ten kids.” -Enid
“Of those ten kids-the next generation, which we call the cousin generation, there were 35 of us. Now there’s just six.” -Don
“We spent days on the lake-just going out in the boat. We would go down to grandpas and we’d start off there and we’d take a lunch sometimes, and sometimes we’d stop off at that little…ah where that swing dropped in. We didn’t swim there-oh but a lot of people did. A lot of people did. There was a sandbar that came way out into the lake and that’s where those apartments are. And we would go there or we would go up to the Cogswell place and have a lunch and goof around. (This was around the late 1930’s-40’s.) We could go by ourselves because the lake was never that deep-I mean not deep-deep. So they never worried. And there would be us, and we had a brother, and sometimes friends. I don’t remember much of Don then because, like he said, he was out working while we were playing. We just spent time on the boat, going up and down all the way from down on one end to the other, and picking blackberries down the sides…And it was always kind of scary to go down and under the highway with the boat; go under the trestles and then a train went by.” -Adele
“(Those are) my two sisters” – Don says, referring to the picture at right “and that’s the Birkemeier boat.”
“Nope, I never did cross on those trestles. My folks would have frowned on that. But a lot of the kids did, before they put that foot bridge in. The kids that lived on the other side walked across there to get to school. One of them fell off once…My experience was riding my bicycle down to the place and mowing the lawn for grandpa! I think I got 35 cents.” -Don
“You know when the water came up to where the Highway is? Remember Eleanor Falk? She drowned in the lake. She was on her bike and fell into the lake right there and drowned; right in that spot where the lake came right up to the highway. Well she was hit by a car and fell. Other than that, the memories of the lake are wonderful.” – Adele
“I don’t think there was very many fish in there…oh but there was carp!” -Enid
“When you’d go to get the boat the carp would be in the boat!” -Don
“…but you don’t call them fish do you?” -Adele
“Oh and I can remember going upstream where it was real desolate-real quietly because you could see turtles on the log. Remember turtles up by the sandbar?” -Don
“You get old and forget a whole lot of things.” -Adele
“I think of just boating so many times-and being on the lake-they were great. With all of our cousins and family.” -Enid
“It was fun to just go down there and sit on that float. Because grandpa had a bench down there. And just watch what was going on.” -Adele
“Watch the carp jump.” -Don
“and birds and bats in the evening.” -Adele
“And I remember how down at the log dump, I’d watch as they put a cable underneath of the log and pull it and just roll it off. And down they’d go crashing into the (Willamette) river. The log trucks used to be steady on Lake Rd-coming in from the Estacada area. They were old trucks coming up the hill there. If they were going ten miles an hour they were speeding. If we could get up behind a log on our bikes and grab on, it would be a free ride to Milwaukie; as long as our parents didn’t see us! I can remember bicycling down Lake Rd and going like mad to see if I could get to Oatfield before a car came by. Imagine that. That’s before there was a 224 and Lake Rd took all the traffic from between Milwaukie and the Clackamas area. But you could go all the way down before a car came by.” -Don
“That doesn’t seem like very long ago that they did that…” -Enid
“Up at the end of the lake where it goes into Kellogg Creek, my grandfather built the log house that’s there. And those apartments that are there now use that log house for their office. And they don’t even know the name of it. I went down there one day to look at it and they said ‘oh this is the Kellogg House’. And I says ‘the Kellogg House?’ It was the Cogswell house and now those people know nothing about the history. He built it for the Cogswells and they were good friends of ours. In fact that China closet (she points to her furniture) they gave that to me and my bedroom set. And he was a senator also for Oregon and they were good friends of my family’s. But it was the Cogswell house. It’s not a Kellogg House. That’s where all the carp were-they congregated at the end of the lake there.” -Enid
“We used to go to that sand bar a lot because it was all woods there. And we could walk up to that woods and play in that sandbar.” -Adele
“The Indians lived there when the Birkemeier first arrived here in 1879 because we’ve got arrowheads and things that they left.” -Enid
“Well and the Gypsies lived there too. Right where they filled in, right close in that area.” –Adele
“Oh that’s right! The gypsies moved in there too!” -Enid
“I wish that we had had our mother write this down because she would tell us stories about the gypsies. She was young-she was home-and she lived there then. But she was born in 1896 so it must have been the early 1900’s. I think they just kind of moved from place to place.” -Adele
“I remember them being out on Lake Rd when I lived at home. There where Cereghino is raising onions and radishes now. Part of his farm that is now onions was a grove of Fir Trees and across Lake Rd there was a big grove of Oak Trees where that care center is now-and the gypsies would camp in there. And I can remember the concern because we used to walk to school and back and our folks didn’t want us doing that when the gypsies were camped there. I don’t know where they came from or where they went. But (when they were there) we got taken to school in the Model T Ford.” – Don
“I never went swimming in it in the summer time because by the time you’re that big on a farm, you’ve got chores to do! But In the winter time I’d go down there and skate. My memory is that we’d build a big fire there on the bank and, beside the Birkemeier Family, the whole neighborhood all around would come and they’d block what now they call River Rd. but before it was 3rd or 7th or whatever. They’d block that off up at the top up at the curve in the road for sledding. Somebody in the community had a bobsled and we’d all pile on-about half a dozen of us in that long thing and we’d go over on the lake bank and go out on the lake.” -Don
“When they built a fire down there-then the community would come down.” –Don
“Just to sit around the fire and toast your fingers for awhile and then go skate awhile and go back and sit around the fire. Well you know-it used to freeze over every year.” – Adele
“(My best memories were) sliding down the hill onto the lake when it was iced over. You could take the sled up and go down the hill. It was where the apartments are now out near the sandbar.” -Enid
“Rains would still come-this is Oregon-but it would be a week or so of skating.” -Don
“Every year.” -Adele
“Yea, our uncle, (Enid is referring to Dan Birkemeier. Dan and Martha were among the ten Birkemeier children raised in the historic Birkemeier-Sweetland home. Dan was also the man who Bob Hatz referred to as “his idol” due to his renowned ice skating on Kellogg Lake.) he checked it out for ice skating every year. And when my mother was growing up the Willamette froze over so much you could drive a car over it.” -Enid
“Now we only see a little scum of ice-but never enough to skate on it. I think it’s because it’s too warm.” -Adele
Helen Ellis was born on Willard St in Milwaukie in 1927. The house where she was raised, until the age of 20, still stands today and is directly next door to the Annie Ross House. She has been a resident of Milwaukie 82 years come May; her entire life. Her best girl friend was Helen Bennett, the sister of Floyd Bennett (also interviewed) whose family lived on the north shores of Kellogg Lake. “The Two Helen’s” as they were affectionately called, shared many memories enjoying Kellogg Lake.
Helen was interviewed in her home in Oak Grove on the morning of March 7th, 2009.
“I think there were only about-not more than three houses on Willard Street at the time (when I grew up). One on the corner, that was the Pelton’s house. and then, let’s see, my folks’. It was pretty bare when my folks first built there, and the Lenard’s, and the Herman’s house.”
“I just went down (to the Bennett’s) everyday after school. I would get on my bicycle and go down and we’d go bicycle riding or whatever. And there were no fancy bicycles in those days.”
“Helen Bennett’s folks had a-it was kind of a boat ramp-actually it was just a great big, huge boat dock and they had a boat tied up to it. We started in the first grade together. We went from the first grade clear through High School. The Two Helens, they always called us. So, after we were old enough, probably in-oh maybe-5th or 6thgrade, we were allowed to go down and be on the dock there. You know, just play around like kids do. We often took our lunch down and sat in the boat and you know, had lunch there and enjoyed the lake really. The lake was very deep then and it was wider, a lot wider and a lot deeper.”
“We weren’t allowed to use the boat. Her father took us for a ride occasionally but we weren’t allowed to use the boat except just to sit in and be there and we respected that. And then later on, well after we were probably in Junior High we had a group of kids that we played with from what we called “The Side Street” which was probably 21st St., but it used to be more like an alley. There were a few houses on it. Those boys in the summer, would swim in Kellogg Lake and jump off of the foot bridge. I mean dive off of it. We didn’t go swimming in it. Oh yes, just the boys. Girls wouldn’t do anything like that. We never set foot in that water. Oh we might have dangled our feet, sitting in the boat or something but it was dirty. And a lot of us girls didn’t swim. There was no place to learn to swim until the Milwaukie pool was created and then we spent practically all summer down there. It’s a parking lot right now. Oh but it was such an innovation for Milwaukie and it was a really nice large pool and everybody from Ardenwald, Wichita and all the surrounding areas, the kids would just come and swim in the summer. We used to go out Lake Rd, which was berry farms out that way, and Helen and I would go out in the morning and pick berries and in the afternoon we would go down and swim in the pool, so we probably could have been in the 6th grade.”(This would have been about 1938-1940.)
“The band stand at Kellogg Lake had concerts down there every now and then…I don’t know when that happened. So I don’t know if I went very often and don’t remember a lot about it. I just remember that it was a neat bandstand.”
“Fishing wasn’t my thing. But I was told people used to fish there and also that my dad, his name was Secor, ice skated there. The only reason that I know, was that my uncle Larry, who’s still living and in Milwaukie knew about my dad skating and fishing.”
“My mom was pretty particular about my sister and me; if we went out or if we were going to catch cold and all that type of thing. The snow I remember was 1939. I’m not sure we had a sled, but we would sled down the hill on Willard St, by the high school.”
“(Aside from going to the Bennett’s), I didn’t hang around Kellogg Lake much because we weren’t allowed, at that age of our lives, to go down and be around the water that much. Like I said we thought those boys were crazy jumping off the foot bridge! We did enjoy that footbridge because it allowed us to go over to the other side however we just walked to the end of it and back-we didn’t go over there to the road off the highway either. That was sort of dangerous. We were pretty well protected as we were growing up. Our folks paid attention to what we were doing and where we were and looked after us really well. It was just the way in those days that people took care of their kids and what was going on all the time.” -Helen Ellis
Floyd Bennett was born in his family’s home, on the north shore of Kellogg Lake in 1928. When interviewed he was 80 years old. He is the elder brother of Helen Bennett, Helen Ellis’ best friend (the other of “The Two Helens”). Four years after his birth, the family moved just one lot downstream into a flat above their grandmother’s home. As a child, he remembers playing around the remnants of the historic Standard Mill. In 1940, his parents built a new home adjacent to their grandparent’s land, which he lived in until he got married. Floyd and his wife then raised their family only a few blocks away, still within walking distance of Kellogg Lake. For this reason, he has followed issues surrounding Kellogg Lake through most of his life.
He was interviewed in downtown Milwaukie on the afternoon of March 3rd, 2009. He had no difficulty recalling fond memories of recreating around Kellogg Lake.
“There were probably 8-10 boats on the lake when I was a kid and people would bring down canoes and dump them in off our dock. We had a boat and canoe and probably the most popular, well second most popular, swimming hole was off our dock. This was a garage basement (indicates in a photo), that door goes in and my dad had some machinery in there and the neighbors would all use it for their dressing room. Somebody had to be home to get the key to open the basement and the whole entourage would come. It was only boys (that changed in the garage). The girls had to show up with whatever they would swim in.”
“Here’s our boat. That’s me standing there. This was our boat landing. We called it the float. This is what kids swam off of. That’s my wife, who I’ve known since high school. We used to run around in the same neighborhood gang. I can’t remember who took the picture but anyhow, that’s my wife. We were juniors in High School, so 1945.”
“Oh well-it was probably 15 ft. (deep). We used a pole to try and find the bottom once, it was a thing that they had been working on the railroad and had left it there…and we couldn’t find the bottom so it was relatively deep all over.”
“It was all private property and it was just a case of whether the private property was accessible or not; like the sandbar. Nobody cared. I don’t know who owned it, but somebody owned it.”
“And this was the footbridge, built in 1937, when it was in its prime. That was built by WPA, which was a depression project”
“Anyhow, this went right along our property line so everybody-a lot of kids rode the streetcar from Oak Grove and they got off and crossed McLoughlin. There wasn’t even a crosswalk and people actually stopped for them. And they’d come across and go across the foot bridge and up to school.” (Constructed in 1937, the footbridge ran parallel, immediately east, to the railroad trestles. It was intended to provide school kids a safe crossing from the Park Ave Street Car station, located south of Kellogg Lake, to the Milwaukie High School.)
“There were a lot of trains then. There were probably ten trains per day. It was a busy railroad. And at one time they had passengers on there and they ran to Tillamook.”
“By the way, the railroad trestle in that era, people were using it all the time. No one ever got run over. One guy fell off and broke his back. He didn’t fall on the water and that was after the foot bridge was gone. At lunch time; it was a high school kid. There was little like porches that had a 50 gal drum of water and a bucket hanging on the side so you could put out fire on the bridge I guess. You know, steam trains started fires all the time. If you saw a train coming, you could run pretty fast and get to one of those porches.”
“The City Bandstand was on the Lake too. It was there until I got out of high school. It was a big round thing. It was right on the lake. There was a path down from each end of the bandstand to Main St. at the end of Adams. It was there for about 50 years. But then they built a theatre in 1942. My sister and I both worked there. You could get a job if you were 4 years old…”
“The other popular swimming hole was called the sand bar. You know where those apartments are on McLoughlin Blvd? If you go to the south end of those there’s another creek that used to come in (Bennett is referring to a small tributary to Kellogg Creek, named Oak Grove Creek that has been buried in a pipe for unknown decades.) It was big enough to create a sandbar and it was accessible – there were no houses or anything there and kids would park from above and go out on the sandbar. It may have been more popular, you didn’t have to bother anyone or go through private property, just show up. It was a popular teenage party place. ”
“But the lake was drained in 1926 when the fish ladder was put in. They changed the concrete structure several times and of course they had to drain the lake every time. Anyhow they drained the lake two or three times in my lifetime. It was drained when they repaired it in ’59.”
“And some steelhead would come up the fish ladder. They couldn’t get up it now if they wanted to because the thing is dilapidated. The thing is so broken up now. There’s a picture of debris, it looks like a dam up against the railroad bridge. A week ago, I just drove by…there was a big shovel cleaning out the debris. When the SP owned the railroad, it would always pile up in this corner first, and the section foreman here…you hear of George Corty the doctor, he’s a semi-retired doctor but stills sees patients. Well his dad was in charge of maintenance of the line and he’d have a crew there cleaning this whole thing up. It was immaculate all the time.”
“There are also carp in there. And the interesting thing about carp is that during WWII there were foreigners off the ships in Portland and they would take the streetcar out (to Milwaukie). Somehow they knew about this place. They would come and go out on the timbers of the railroad bridge and fish…They’d come down and fish and they’d take these carp somewhere in a gunnysack and they’d eat them! They thought it a big deal. They were dark skinned people, I’m pretty sure they were East Indian. And it wasn’t always the same ones-like they’d left them a map of how to get there and word got out because they’d come back.”
“The Fish and Wildlife that would come and stock the Lake every year and the trout would always head upstream toward the fresher water. They would usually park and dump the fish in right by our house or from Birkemeier’s property where it was real accessible. And they’d come with a big tanker truck with trout in it; ten inches long or longer. In our case, they would back down the drive and hook up this pipe. This thing was probably 12 inches wide, and they’d put ‘em down into the lake. They came from the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery, which is still there, still hatching fish. But they’d keep them two years or whatever it takes to get them to good size. They planted fish every year for many years. But, the most common fish in the Lake was croppie and bass and there were some pretty good sized bass. I never did fish-I didn’t have patience.”
“Near the fish ladder, there was a log dump off-shore from where the sewage treatment plant is today. All the Estacada timber came down. There was probably 100 log trucks a day to dump there. And they raft them up and haul them down the river. The vacant lot now across from the street that goes down to what use to be the log dump and is now the park, there was a building there called Mac’s Pit Barbecue-and it was very popular!”
“(During the flood of 1964-65), in our garage basement where my dad’s machine shop was, the water came up right to the middle of the window. And during the Vanport flood of 1949, the water was across the highway. The water hasn’t been across the highway since then. The Dec ’64-Jan ‘65 flood was comparable to the Vanport Flood. The foot bridge was clear out of site. It was buried completely in the water. That ’64-‘65 flood was bigger than most. We’ve only had one since then that flooded a portion of McLoughlin. (Bennett is referring to the flood of 1996.) No matter what they do, it’s not going to change that.”
“The last really good freeze where there was probably two to three of community playing on the lake was the last big freeze in Dec ’49-Jan ’50 and the Lake froze eight to ten inches thick. We had four or five days of near-zero temperatures. And that was the last real freeze. I mean, it’s frozen over many times since then, but there were people out there with snow shovels shoveling the snow off so they could skate, and sled out there, and there were many people on the lake that winter.”
“Once there was a young man drowning in the icy water at the end of 28th St. and another time a fire man drowned trying to rescue someone. These instances occurred in the same place, about 4 years apart…And several times I saw where people laid ladders down on the ice to crawl on hands and knees out to pull people out.”
“There was a family named Birkemeier, they had been here as long as-since the 1870’s probably. There was an architect and contractor named Dan who lived there and in my mother’s era he was the first one of the lake. If he went out and skated they knew it was ok.”
“I didn’t really ice skate very well, but I sledded on it. I biked on it and it entertained a lot of kids in the summer that came to swim. Nobody was afraid of it. They were swimming there through the early 50’s that I know of-maybe longer.”
“I just remember the old days. If it was contaminated then, nobody cared.”
“When the Kronberg Brothers began dumping surplus large river rock into the lake in 1954, it was the begging of the end of Kellogg Lake as we knew it.” -Floyd Bennett
16 Bennett is referring to the flood of 1996
Owen Street was born in 1925 and moved to Milwaukie in 1936, when he was 11 years old. He attended Milwaukie Junior High and was part of the first class to go through the 7th and 8th grade in the “new” facility that was built where the Waldorf School stands today. He graduated from Milwaukie High in 1943 and spent his senior year working the ship yards at Willamette Iron Steel on Swan Island. After graduating, he joined the service and married his wife, Gayle. When interviewed, he was 84 years old.
“<Oatfield Rd> goes down across the creek, right down at the bottom of the hill there was a house. At the time when we were going to high school the Beeches lived there- Marcus Beech, a good friend of mine. We were good friends in high school. So we built us a raft. We were going to sail a raft down the creek into the lake. Well, as you might guess we weren’t very good raft builders and we got maybe from here to the television over there and down we go.”
When Street was asked “How was the swimming?” he made a swimming motion with his arms, laughed, and said, “Muddy”.
“Ok, when I was in…all the neighborhood kids we used to …you know where all the condos are right now-there was nothing down through there except our paths to the lake and there was a little sand bar out in the lake and that’s where we used to fish and swim. And the water was never what you’d call clear. But kids don’t care-so anyway we found an old row boat there that somebody had left…Well, this row boat we found, wasn’t much. It had a bottom and some sides and it really leaked. So, smart like we were in those days, we says “we’ll just put some sand in it and plug up the holes.” So, smart as we were, we did that and so we’re out there maybe 30 ft and that sand didn’t hold! Down we go to the bottom of the creek and here I am in the water holding my fly rod in one hand and my fish in the other hand, going back to the shore.”
“Down by the railroad trestle-that’s all filled in. That all used to be water clear right out to the highway. And there was a footbridge there…the footbridge was across about 50 yards and that’s the way I went to school. Plus I used to fish off of it for croppies, blue gill and maybe you’d get a bass once in a while.”
His wife, Gayle chimes in,
“Cause what they did then, is what they’re all doing. Boys will be boys.” –Gayle
“I would say…no. I never caught a lot of fish, but it was enough to keep you coming back to fish more.”
“And right there where that home is-Willamette View-that wasn’t there. But there was a bluff and you could get down to the (Willamette) River from there. We would sit there and watch the rails throw logs. You’d see the guys that would put this big cable on underneath the logs and through the train. They had big metal skids clear down into the river. Shoooop! And they’d send it down there with a big splash.” –Owen
“That’s because you didn’t have TV in those days!” –Gayle
“And some of us were pretty good skaters. But I wouldn’t trust myself on a pair of skates now though! I fall down enough as it is.”
Well, I spent more time there in my younger years, but after I got into high school I had other priorities; no, not girls, because I never had a car. The street car track from Oregon City ran right by about 2 blocks away on Park Ave. There used to be a bridge there and a TB hospital too. McLoughlin to Park Ave, there used to be a bridge going across, with a little creek running underneath that bridge. And we’d get under that bridge and hop across the piles. Right there at the Evergreen Station there was an old mom-and-pop grocery store and my folks used to give me 50cents and I’d go down to the store to buy a quarter gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, and dog food. You’d get change…for 50cents. Now it costs a lot more than 50cents for just the milk.”
“Like I said, we didn’t own a car-we took the street car. Some of us used to go down to the Oaks Park and go skating and ride the street car home and you’d get to Island Station and there’s two of three of four of us and everybody would get off except one guy. He’d stay on the street car and you ride that from Island Station up to Evergreen Station-and it costs an extra nickel-so the guys that jumped off the street car at Island Station, you’d wait until the street car would take off again-then you had two steps to go to get in and you’d jump up the steps and hang on and ride up there to Evergreen Station-where the other kid got off and paid his nickel! So we took turns doing that.” – Owen Street
Jane Genz Hanno moved to Milwaukie in 1944 when she was twelve years old. Together with her sister Joan (below) she spent a great amount of time exploring the shores of Kellogg Lake near the home where their grandmother and great uncle were caretakers.
Joan Genz Malsom moved to Milwaukie with her family, including her sister Jane (above) in 1944. She was nine years old, going into the 4th grade. During their formative childhood years, the sisters spent much of their summers with their grandmother and great uncle, who were caretakers of the Robert’s Home on the north shores of Kellogg Lake. She described this time as a “big part of their lives”. After the Robert’s family passed away, the Hannos moved permanently into the caretaker’s home closer to Kellogg Lake.
“The lake was not pristine- Joan
“It wasn’t!” Jane chimes in, “It was very muddy. (This would have been around the 1940’s.) And actually the mud build up was about as deep as the water was. I mean you’d step in the water and sink. We were never supposed to go into the water-our mother was always a worrier. I remember once I was wading and I was probably up to my knee in mud and I cut my foot really bad.”-Jane
“One year…well, we kind of have different memories about this-but this is the way I remember it; a row boat just washed up once. I don’t know it was not real big. It probably would have been 1947-anyway it had lots of leaks in it, but we would just row down with my mom and dad and go have dinner in the Mac’s Pitt, which was the place to go…And we had to keep bailing. We all had a pan.”-Joan
“In the summer time, because it was so shallow, the carp, these great big huge carp would be laying on top of the mud but their top fin-their dorsal fin-or whatever you call it would be sticking out and this uncle of ours that was the grounds keeper, he would go and stand on a rock there and he’d stand with a pitch fork and put them in his garden for fertilizer. We were told that they weren’t good to eat.”-Jane
“One thing I always think about that was really interesting, I wish we could have looked into it-but when the water was really low, we were walking along the bank up towards Milwaukie, Maybe two or three lots away…we really weren’t supposed to leave that property, but we would. Anyway, we came across a tombstone. And it had a name, and you know-we could never find it again when we wanted to go back.” –Joan
“It always really haunted me-and we were never supposed to be there anyway and then the water came up and we could never find it again.”-Jane
“There were lots of trees-fir trees and oak trees”-Joan
“Yes, the oak trees and the fir trees and white dogwood trees!” –Jane
“And we each had our own branch on this fir tree.” –Joan
“See we’ve written the same things here!” –Jane
“Yes, they were real bouncy and they were our horses and we each had our own.” –Joan
“We had two brothers and an older sister-but she was prissy. She was just much older than we were.” –Jane
“There was a big gully. It had roots hanging out from the sides and we played Tarzan there on the river.” –Joan
“And I got to be Tarzan’s mate Jane.” –Jane
“And there was a big snake that we watched for days-like a water snake…you know for days and days we’d see it swimming, and we started throwing rocks at it and one day we saw a thing sticking up out of the water. So this girl that lived next door, she was a brave one, she got a pole and fished it out and it was dead. And she rolled it out with a pin and there was a frog inside.”-Joan
“It had all of these lumps in it, you know, and she was a gutsy one-Sarah Branland (Sarah Branland later became Sarah Holmes when she married the son of Ex. Oregon Governor Robert D. Holmes) – and she rolled it out with a stick. And we did find-you remember the big turtle-you know I hate to guess how big it was. Things look so big when you’re tiny. But it seems to me it was pretty big. And of course there were the mallard ducks. There were no geese that I remember-certainly not the Canadian geese that swarm the city now but there were tons of mallard ducks and china pheasants19 .”-Jane
“The piece of property we lived on had probably every kind of apple tree imaginable. Every kind of peach trees-pear trees and my great uncle had his huge garden. You know we would just eat out of the garden and sit up in a tree and eat apples.”-Joan
“I think one of our favorite memories, the Roberts family belonged to a wealthy church that’s still in existence out in Beaver Creek, and on the 4th of July they would always have a big picnic on that property and our uncle-actually he was our great uncle-would spend at least 6 weeks maybe 2 months preparing the property and then of course when the picnic came he would celebrate by getting loaded. He made quite a few trips back and forth to the Mac’s Pitt. Then he would buy tons of fireworks and at that time they were all legal and as soon as it got dark we’d go down and he’d put on a show over the lake for us.”-Jane
“The way the property was; you’d drop down say an acre from Lake Rd. and then it leveled out for maybe three acres, and then there was another drop down to the lake. And the year of the Vanport Flood the water came up level to that evened off place. It really did flood. It made (Kellogg Lake) twice as wide…And there was a year too, prior to that, and as close as I can remember it was probably ’44 or ’45 it froze over. I don’t remember if I was still in Junior High or if I was in High School but we walked from the footbridge all the way up to the creek (on the ice).”-Jane
“My mom, she was kind of like-it was like she was camping out-and so in the summer there was an old wood cook stove down by the lake. And she had all her pots and pans and had them in cupboards and that’s where she cooked all summer if it wasn’t pouring down rain.”-Joan
“And then one of the last memories I have, and this was when I was an adult because after Joan got married and I got married and she moved away and then I moved back a couple of years later to an adjoining property up in a big house on Lake Rd…then when my kids were in school, I started a 4-H group. We were having our initial meeting with all of these little boys and I was going to take them down for a marshmallow roast down on Kellogg Lake. You know our kids, my kids, didn’t really go down there that much because it was pretty well un-taken care of and overgrown. We built a fire to do our marshmallow roast on and we built it on top of a wasps nest! And all of these little boys were running helter-skelter. One of them ran all the way to his home up on Guilford Drive, which is quite a ways down. I came running back with a can of bug spray.”-Jane
Butch Davis has lived in Milwaukie twice. The first time he lived in Milwaukie was between the years of 1943-45. He was in grade school and attended the original Harmony School for 4th and 5th grades and moved on to Milwaukie Grammar in the 6th grade. Coincidentally, he was enrolled in the same 6th grade class as interviewee Joan Hanno. He shows an old black-and- white photograph of their class, where his teacher’s (ironically named Mrs. Crab) face has been entirely scribbled out. After leaving Milwaukie, he returned to the community in his adulthood and was 74 years old when interviewed.
“Oh ya, I had a lot of good memories! Those were my grade school memories of swimming in Kellogg Lake; at the dock, by the footbridge and the railroad bridge. I’m the only kid in the family so I just had the run of the place…In fact I probably went to the movies about every night. I also played a lot at the fish ladders and watched the log trucks dump logs in the Willamette River near the fish ladder. There were a lot of log rafts by the boat ramp.”
“I lived in apartments next to Vic’s Tavern. Across the street was this famous place, the original Mac’s Pitt. My mom worked there as a waitress for years. It’s a beauty salon now. And the apartments are all tore down now too, but that’s when I learned about Kellogg Lake.”
“In the old days in WWII they had a life raft…It had a center cut out and it was about yay thick (he indicates) and it had cloth and painted over cloth all the way wrapped around it and I think it was a life preserver for the ocean-but somehow the kids would jump off the foot bridge into the center and we did see a kid one time hit it real bad and just scraped up the side. It was kind of docked-just lying around.”
“Well, we used to swim off that footbridge. Plus, they had a big dock down there and I swam across a couple of times before Kronberg filled it.”
“There was a sandbar up from the railroad tracks along highway 99, about three blocks over. It was all wooded area back then. You had to come down the woods to where we would swim, and lay around, and sunbathe. It really wasn’t a nice swimming hole. When you walked into the water you would sink into the silt to your knees. It was terrible feeling.”
“I used to catch mud-doggers down there. One time, when my mom worked at Mac’s Pitt I brought a whole box of mud-doggers. I thought they were trout-and I brought ‘em right into the restaurant and she just about flipped out. Because they were just ugly lookin’. If you know what a mud-dogger is.” -Butch Davis
Dick Shook was born in 1937 and moved to Milwaukie with his family in 1943, when he was 5- and-a-half years old. His father moved first, from Illinois, in search of wartime related work. The family followed later by train, after spending a summer in Kansas with his mother’s family, and enrolled Dick in Milwaukie Grammar. He was 71 when interviewed.
“I don’t remember much of Kellogg Lake except there was a foot bridge across the lake and there was also-underneath the railroad tracks-there was a walkway that was two boards wide. Most of the people used the foot bridge and then some people just for fun would go on the walkway underneath. And then of course the brave people walked on the railroad tracks. I never did that. But I did walk underneath the railroad trestle on the boards underneath.”
“Of course the apartments that are on the south side of the lake weren’t there. And the white house that’s down there, of the politician that died recently was there. Of course those houses that are along Lake Rd, the older houses, were there. As I recall Lake Rd was fairly well built out to Oatfield Rd. Then from Oatfield on out it was pretty sparse. In fact in high school it was our drag strip. You know what drag racing is? I didn’t do it. I went to high school and graduated in ’55 so it was at that time. And I don’t know how many years they did it after.”
“I think McLoughlin went in, in the late 30’s. It was called the super highway. There was a sea plane base on the water front and the Milwaukie Inter-Urban Station trolley line was in back of Vic’s Tavern. Then there was Island Station which was farther south. That area is still called Island Station.”
“I had a friend in grade school, where the Post Office is now and that vacant lot in back of the auditorium-used to be where the feed mill was for Milwaukie. It was spelled really funny-anyway there was a church in there. I can’t remember what it was- but my friend lived in a house that was in back of the church right about where the Post Office is now. So I remember going down there-but I don’t remember going to the lake at all in that point of time.”
“We played in the creek above Oatfield Bridge a lot-even fished some. A friend of mine caught a trout here in the pond by the Junior High. In fact it made the paper and was out of season. But actually most of what we caught were bullheads and little small fish-like croppies. We did it for fun-not to catch fish to eat. Although I think the creek was probably pretty clean in those days. I heard tales of the mess that they made when they put the sewer in-I don’t remember that. And I’m not even sure when they did that-I guess in the late 60s.”
“They used to form up log rafts right off the mouth of Kellogg Creek. If I recall before they built the truck dump there-they had a railroad siding where they could pull in and unload the railroad cars into the river and then they would make up these big log rafts and float them downriver into North Portland. I think a lot of these logs were coming out of Molalla. There’s a branch line that runs up through Molalla. I think it’s still there. It goes through Canby. And there was a private logging Road up there that they ran extra wide log trucks.”
“The revetment there was built when they quit bringing logs in on the railroad-so they built that for trucks and the trucks used to dump there. In fact if my memory serves me right, that was put in by the Caffel Brothers. Caffel Brothers had a Cedar Mill in New Era-it’s where you go up the bank and away from the river. But Caffel Brothers exported logs. So they would take their rafted logs and I think they put them on ships in Longview. When they put in this revetment for the trucks, they moved it further west.
It used to be further back. I think they put in a lot of fill around there. So they drove those sheet pilings for the truck dump and then back filled.”
“Now in high school too, we used to-where the sewage treatment plant is-you probably heard this-it was a gravel sorter. (Dick Jones) was a couple of years behind me in high school and we were both in the Rock and Agate Club. We were the geeks. But anyway we would go down there for the club, or as individuals, and a lot of the gravel was dredged out of the river and so we would sort through the gravel piles looking for agates. I remember finding some.”
“One big flood was in 1964. I remember because we had just bought a piece of property off of River Forest Dr that was not on the river but across from the river and it came up on the property a little ways. And in ’62 I was working for the railroad and there was a huge wind storm. We were living in Oregon City and my folks were out of town-and I left work and drove up to the folk’s house to make sure everything was alright and when I got home and the front window was gone and the top of the roof. The storm was really bad. And all these trees were blown down. I know the river went across McLoughlin in ’64 but I don’t remember what else.” -Dick Shook
Scott Griffith was born in Sellwood in 1953 and moved to Milwaukie in 1955 when he was two-years old. He still lives in the same old farm house on the corner of 27th and Lake Rd where he grew up. During his childhood, the home sat on 12 acres of farmland and a hayfield that was originally settled by the Olson family sometime before 1915. When interviewed, Griffith was 56 years old and much of the family’s land has been developed by the Milwaukie High School.
“Well, ok, I always try to find things to do-so usually when I would find myself hanging out around Kellogg Lake it was summer time-vacation-something like that. And you’re too young to drive and you don’t have a car. And you fly model airplanes in the field and stuff. And I would go fishing down at the dock in Willamette down there. So I’d go fishing for croppies-and we could walk around Kellogg Lake and we’d kind of climb around the outlet of the dam there around Kellogg Lake. I remember one thing that I loved doing was to dam up the flow. You know-use a piece of plywood and we’d take the plywood and shove it down and shut off the fish ladder or whatever it was and look for the fish that were flopping around down there. I seem to remember fishing at Kellogg Lake. I remember fishing but I don’t remember much about ever catching anything. I just remember the water was always muddy. The river actually was kind of clear and you could look into it, but I never really knew why (the lake was muddy). It wasn’t moving or turbulent. So why was it always this mucky brown?”
“But, you know, I never really cared much for the lake. For one thing, I can’t swim. I’m afraid of the water and there wasn’t really any good areas to walk down and walk around it. It was just real steep and it fell off into the water. So you didn’t have any paths or anything.”
“Most of the time I was climbing around down by the trestle…Up on top and on the bottom-oh ya, the thing about the top is that you have to be careful that you don’t get out there when a train is coming-when you get out there about mid-way, you’re out there listening because a train could come up on you. And one time-well they have this one little side thing you could drop out on. But they would say-well if the train is going by really fast it can suck you in and stuff to scare you. But more of the time I just went underneath-on that walkway that went there. I had friends that lived on McLoughlin so I’d go through there all the time. Well the walkway was there-I don’t think you were really supposed to use it-but it was there. I remember back in the early 70s a friend of mine-had a brother-they lived up that way where those Lake apartments are. And they used to walk to school all the time and one time his brother wasn’t paying attention and one of the boards was missing and he walked off-fell and should have been killed.”
“Ya, it worked real well. But there weren’t any kind of side rails or safety. And then at some point I remember a couple of the boards would be missing, so you had to walk to one side or the other. But when I was doing it early on-it was still pretty solid. I was a common thing to go across. But I don’t really think we were supposed to be doing it.”
“I don’t remember ever seeing anybody in a boat (on Kellogg)”
“It just felt mushy, mucky. It’s always had that brown look-never clear. So that’s got to be all sediment. But that would be cool to be able to walk around and have a passage way. As a kid-I would have spent more time down there.”
“But you know-being afraid of the water-I didn’t want to fall in. That was the main thing. I wanted to walk around it-but you couldn’t do it the way it was. That’s why I’m thinking if they turned it into a stream and you’ve got paths to walk around on, it would be cool.”
“We used to go down there in the wintertime. Sometimes it would freeze over and I had a friend of mine that I think one time we walked across it. It was just when you had those really cold (winters)-I mean I probably only remember it freezing over a half a dozen times. I remember hearing stories from my dad or grandfather about when the Willamette froze over and they drove cars across it. And I’ve never really seen ice on the Willamette-But it was cold enough to be able to walk out on the ice out there (Kellogg) and it hasn’t been like that for a long time. That would have to have been probably the late 60’s. Another time he got out in the middle and it started to crack. You hear that ‘crack-crack-crack’ you know and then you get on your hands and knees and crawl back. You know, the stupid things you do as a kid.”
“Growing up here was great-because Milwaukie had a vibrant downtown and we had all the stores down there and the theatre and the Dairy Queen and the hobby shop. I was really into model airplanes back then. You could just window shop. It was really self-sufficient too. You could get whatever you wanted; hardware, grocery, but I remember that at some point there was Thriftway, Safeway, and Albertsons all within walking distance. I could pick either one. Or walk over to Safeway and it was just like 6 blocks away. Sometimes we delivered to people who weren’t there and they’d leave the door unlocked we’d go over to these nice expensive places, go into the kitchen, set things on the table. If there were items that needed to be kept cold we put them in the refrigerator and we’d leave the bill.”
“Well it’s a real school community, so that’s why you need stuff for them to do. There not much downtown to do. When I was growing up there were things you could do. You know gradually that all went away; the stores, the hobby shop, even the-what used to be the Dairy Queen-it was Libby’s Too, now it’s the little gambling shack. There was Libby’s and Libby’s Too-it was a little hamburger spot and it was the Dairy Queen. The Dairy Queen was a good place to hang out. You could go to a movie and go to the dairy queen, stop at the Melissa’s Five and Dime, or go to the hobby shop, or candy land. There were two drugs stores. The one where dark horse is where I got all of my comics. I was a big comic reader. That’s why the owner of Dark Horse came back, because that’s where he used to buy all of his comics too.” -Scott Griffith
The Decline of Kellogg Lake
The decline of Kellogg Lake began in the 1940’s and was the result of several inter-related factors. Firstly, as the Lake’s long-time neighbors and admirers grew into adults, got jobs in Portland, became married and had children of their own, they were slowly drawn away from the Lake.
Additionally, World War II spurred a shift in the physical and cultural shape of Milwaukie. Wartime housing, like Kellogg Park, sprang up at unprecedented rates, bringing new residents and significantly altering local land-use. OR 99 E, otherwise known as the “Super Highway” was built in the late 30’s, which moved traffic by Kellogg Lake more quickly than ever before. As these activities changed the character of Milwaukie, their effects were in turn, reflected in Kellogg Lake.
When asked about the last time they had used Kellogg Lake, interviewees responded;
“Truthfully, I think (the last time I used Kellogg Lake) was as a kid, I’m afraid. Oh I still went down there occasionally when I was a junior or senior. (This would have been around 1935.) Well, I have to tell you; I don’t know. My problem was that I got a job in Portland and it took so much of my time…I lived in Milwaukie but it was just like they say…the bedroom. So there were a lot of things that happened that I wasn’t aware of.” -Bob Hatz
“Well (my grandpa Birkemeier) died in ’42 and (my sister Jean) got married around that time and lived in the apartments for a couple of years. It was before I went into the service in WWII. So I would say it was about ’42 or so. After my grandpa died my sister bought the house. She was starting to raise kids and pretty soon she decided that she didn’t want to raise kids on the lake. It was too much worry of keeping track of them and my aunt out on the farm died so that house became available. So she moved from the lake out there. I don’t think I’ve been down there since Jean’s family lived there and that was in the late 40’s.” -Don McLaughlin
“When (Don’s sister Jean) lived there and started having kids I would baby sit there. But at that time I don’t remember going out on the lake anymore-too much. Because I wasn’t going to take these little kids and I was growing up. Yes, the last time I remember being down there on the lake was wintertime-but that must have been before Jean. We went down when Sweetland lived down there, not on the lake, just to see him and see the house and visit with him. He always wanted us to come down. It had changed so much to me because I remember going from the house down to the lake and it was kind of a steep slope bank that kind of leveled before you got onto the little thing-but maybe I just can’t remember it because it’s hard to remember when you get old.” -Adele Briggs Wilder
“It wasn’t too many years ago that sewage probably was a problem. Because our house was on septic tank and we didn’t have enough ground for the drain field and it would come oozing out the bank.” -Don McLaughlin
“I haven’t been down there for years.” -Joan Hanno
“Well, apartments go all the way down to the lake now. You can barely see it.” -Jane Hanno
“As far as our property, it’s so different now because it’s all apartments where it used to be just farms. It’s hard for me to see.”21 -Joan Hanno
“I don’t think there were many that swam in the lake (since) maybe back in the 30’s. That’s when my father ice skated on that lake. The last time I was there was probably, like I said, when I was junior high school (this would have been up to about 1940) because in high school Helen and I were both busy. We played sports and we had homework and I used to go down to (the Bennett) house a lot, but we sort of outgrew that part of our lives. We were on our bicycles then. We both had bikes, so we would ride into Milwaukie and down to the swimming pool and…(Kellogg Lake) wasn’t important to us anymore. Ya, and all defense housing came during the 40s and my husband and I lived there a couple of years and that’s when we moved to Oak Grove. So I really wasn’t too familiar with any part of the Lake except just driving back and forth on it over McLoughlin. And of course we were married and had other things going on. We both worked and started our family early, so that part of our lives…well, the Lake just didn’t really have much significance.” -Helen Ellis
“Oh god-I can’t tell you. It’s been years (since I’ve been down to the Lake). After I got out of school and went into the service and came back home-I wasn’t very concerned about the lake. Well, you’ve got those condos down there and you can’t get down to the lake. Then you got all this land filled in there by the railroad trestle…To me the change that I see is for the worst. With all those damn condos down there-it keeps kids from going down there and playing in the lake. I assume there are kids around there- that are my age when I was going down there.” -Owen Street
“People have cars now and there are so many parks and other places like the beach. People are a lot more mobile now than when he was younger. When he was young, I mean-it was an occasion-I mean a real annual occasion when you went to the beach.” –Gayle Street
“People might walk across (the trestles) when I was a kid, but there wasn’t anything to do. You know you had blackberries down there. There was kind of an area where you could get down to the trestle and there was kind of a bank down there. I think I can remember seeing somebody down there fishing once in a while but there was no park area. There was no area to hang out. So you’d go down there and got bored after awhile. I always felt disappointed, you know, as a kid. I’d go down there and I’d just…and I just remember being disappointed that there wasn’t more I could do down there. I actually remember that feeling of being down there like ‘Here’s a lake. There should be something to do. But there’s no boats, no access.’ You’re just climbing through all of this brush. With steep edges and its mucky and you wouldn’t dare swim in it. I don’t think I ever saw anyone swim in it. I guess there was no one in 50 years that wanted to do something about it. But it seems like some years ago, they may have cleaned up some of the brush that was around it. I remember it being a lot more overgrown than it is now. Now you can kind of go down there and see the lake. There for awhile you couldn’t even see the lake through the brush. When it was really overgrown, it was foul. So you really couldn’t get down there. I don’t think Dogwood Park was even there. I mean the land was there, but it was just packed with brush. Again-the only place to get down was by the dam or by the trestle. I remember just-you know you-having all of this time on your hands when you’re a kid and you want stuff to do and I remember hanging out down there and kinda being bored…
“But it was a quieter area then. Now I can hear the traffic at nighttime. I remember when I was a kid, being on the front porch, you just couldn’t hear anything. You just hear the crickets and something faint in the distance. And now you just have your ears full. They cut the trees down by the lake for the Lake Apartments. So all the sudden there’s more openness and more traffic and you can hear that roar of the sound of the traffic and I’m just surprised how loud it is. And I thought ‘I’m far enough away’ but it travels” -Scott Griffith
The decline of Kellogg Lake as a recreational amenity was seriously amplified by the infamous filling at Kronberg Park; which interviewees commented on extensively.
Kronberg Brothers was a Milwaukie-based real estate agency, owned and managed by Lee and Robert Kronberg, selling commercial and residential properties beginning in 1938. In the early 1950’s Kronberg began inviting gravel and construction companies to dump excess river rock and building debris directly into Kellogg Lake to fill in the lots they owned along the south shore.
The goal, allegedly, was to expand the property, thus increasing its market value. At this time, property ownership along the southern shore extended into the lake bottom, to the center line.
Consequently, the Kronberg Brothers argued that the filling was restricted to their own property and was entirely legal, which created a regulatory challenge. Despite growing neighbor discontent, some 50,000 yards of heavy rock refuse was hauled into the lake. North-shore property owners, represented by Krause & Evans, challenged Kronberg in County Court. Unfortunately, these initial efforts were unsuccessful but after years of appeal and protest, these concerned neighbors took the issue to the state and were able to put an end to the dumping. Unfortunately, before achieving this success, dumping in and around Kellogg Lake had become excessive. The Kronberg dumping had spurred nearly a decade of illegal dumping that significantly deteriorated the recreational appeal of the Lake.
During the interviews, the Kronberg issue rarely needed much prodding. Some interviewees even attribute the fall of Kellogg Lake almost exclusively to this fill activity and the years of unregulated dumping that followed.
“I hated to see that happen. It was near the beginning of the end.” -Bob Hatz
“Instead of filling that in, if there was a way to have gotten down there and done some nice things.” -Don McLaughlin
“Oh ya, the neighborhood was pretty upset about that. It just kind of gradually happened. They just kept filling it in and filling it in, which made that end of it more narrow, and there was a lot of dissention about that for a long time. And I didn’t really like it, but see, after I was married when I was 21 and then my husband and I lived in Portland for awhile, and then at Kellogg Park which was the defense housing, so I was out of touch a lot with the lake.” -Helen Ellis
“I have been in the immediate neighborhood forever. And this was a disaster when Bob Kronberg filled Kronberg Park. He violated every rule and regulation and thumbed his nose at the City when they tried to stop it and he thumbed his nose at the Fish and Wildlife when they tried to stop it…
“When this happened, people started pulling their boats out. They were disgusted… “Here, this will give you an idea (he indicates an aerial photo). That is right on top of the fill. There was a rock crusher right in here on the Willamette. This was a box company here. They built boxes, wooden apple boxes. They took this site and put a big rock crusher in here and they stripped rocks. But certain rocks, about this big (he indicates about the size of a fist) or bigger, that didn’t get crushed went down a shoot into a pile and Bob Kronberg got onto this. So the Kronbergs went to the court house and paid $5 or so and they didn’t claim the Heirs of Purchase, which actually was an illegal transaction because the heirs actually had to write off on the thing. And so, he just paid for the quit claim deed and then he, for free, these people could get rid of this rock. They’d cross right over across here, and then they dumped, right here. It was river rock. They were dredging the river. They had two dredges out here constantly for years…
“They (the gravel company) were mining gravel, sand and gravel. So they hauled it for nothing and then dumped millions of yards into Kellogg Lake. And this whole thing that comes out there…you go over there and look the water’s right up to the highway…In fact I was in my backyard one day and I saw two cars collide one of them went in the Lake and clear out of site. So it was deep enough for a car to go out of site…
The problem with the rock fill that Kronberg dumped was that it came down and actually he went beyond the property that he had acquired on the quit claim deed. Well actually it was County property-because the bottom of the lake was all privately held and you could go to the County and get an affidavit from the heir of the owners if you could find them and pay a very modest fee- $10-$15-$20 bucks, it wasn’t very much, to take a part of that land. That’s what Kronberg did, only he did it illegally. As far as anybody could tell he did not get any affidavits from anybody. And that’s pointed out in this letter from Al Combs25. He researched it and went to the County and went through all the records of the transfer. It was not legally developed. He filled out to as far as he thought he could, but by the time Al Combs got involved and finally wrote the Governor, and the Governor turned it over to some department, they found he was dumping beyond his property line, because the dump would roll…There’s a quote that he was going to fill it and apply for a zone change to commercial and then sell it. That was his plan…He was able to do it and he just didn’t take no for an answer…
“When (Al Combs) wrote that in ‘65 it had been going on for years by then. Everybody had been fighting everybody. But finally, the government did get it stopped and got some of it cleaned up. Parts of it got cleaned up. On this side of the railroad trestle, people would pull in here and they started dumping everything in there. They should be put in jail but instead they named a park after him. Anyhow that was the beginning of the end of Kellogg Lake as everybody knew it…It was a mess and the foot bridge started to rot in the 60’s…
“When all that (Kronberg filling) was being dumped in there…probably 20 truck loads a day. I mean there were two trucks (going back and forth) dumping 20 yards at a time. We had our boat-we had two boats in the water when that started…I don’t even know what happened to them…they’re gone. People started dumping on the other side of the railroad…My hope was that they would clean up the lake after.” -Floyd Bennett
“Well they put that fill in-that’s one thing they didn’t have when I was here. Second, it just looks dirtier, even dirtier than when I was growing up. That’s about all I can tell you.” -Butch Davis
“I was over there digging through (the filled area)….I remember being a kid digging through the dirt. And I was getting these bottles from a pharmacy. There were like these cobalt blue bottles that had chemicals. I remember one was like ‘Bithmis sub- salphate’ or something. I was collecting these bottles that weren’t broken. I think a pharmacy had burned down somewhere and they were using the ruins for fill. And there were plenty of chemicals in it and (the ground) was all colorful…What I remember walking through there and seeing stuff-so I started to dig and found those bottles. Ya, they were filling it in. I didn’t know quite what they were doing with it. It looked like they were just filling it in and getting rid of the lake. I just remember it was fun to find those chemicals. I was into chemistry and I wanted to build rockets. But you know, when you think about it, it probably wasn’t a good thing to just be dumping it into the ground. You couldn’t do it today. I think it was in the mid 60’s, because I was younger. I probably would have been like in Junior High.” -Scott Griffith
Concerned citizens did respond to the deterioration of Kellogg Lake. In addition to research and advocacy conducted by Al Combs in effort to expose the illegality of Kronberg’s filling, Oregon Legislator and lake neighbor, Monroe Sweetland organized a community clean-up of the lake in 1959. At this time, the lake was drained and neighbors cooperatively collected trash and debris from the lake bottom. But this effort was quickly over-shadowed by continued dumping and disinterest in the Lake’s future. The photos below depict the dump sight in 1968, about 15 years after the beginning of the filling, and 9 years after the community clean-up effort organized by Sweetland.
About two decades after Monroe Sweetland’s initial attempt at revitalizing Kellogg Lake, his daughter Becky, followed his lead by forming a citizen group intent on preserving the recreational integrity of the Lake. The group, Friends of Kellogg Lake, predominantly worked throughout the late 70’s and 80’s to protect lake-side property from large-scale residential developments. As part of this effort they successfully lobbied toward the inclusion of Kellogg Lake, and its shoreline, in the Willamette Greenway, a zoning ordinance providing increased protection of metropolitan waterways.
Friends of Kellogg Lake’s organizational activity ebbed and flowed throughout its two-decades of existence, and its last burst of energy spoke clearly to citizen’s desire for a restored, urban, natural area. During the late 1990s, the City of Milwaukie became interested in multiple community development and enhancement prospects around Kellogg Lake and slowly began gaining ownership of the lake bottom, and drafting plans for the Lake’s future. As planning for the Milwaukie Light Rail intensified, the City began exploring options for transit-oriented development around the area of the Kronberg filling. Wide-spread community opposition, lead by the Friends of Kellogg Lake, kept this latest incarnation of development at bay and demonstrated that, despite the lake’s contamination and general state of disregard, citizens remain strong advocates of an urban natural area for people and wildlife. A new solution for Kellogg Lake needed to be sought.
Kellogg Lake Today: the Milwaukie Presbyterian Church
While the Friends of Kellogg Lake were advocating against large-scale residential and transit- oriented development, another movement was taking shape on Kellogg Lake’s north shore. The Milwaukie Presbyterian Church, under strong leadership from Shirley Stageberg, began exploring how their congregation could educate themselves and directly restore the native landscape on their property. Their exemplary efforts have provided a model for property ownership and community involvement opportunities in this sensitive area.
Stageberg moved to Milwaukie in 1983 and became involved with the Presbyterian Church around 1990. But it wasn’t until very recently, that Shirley became deeply invested in the Lake. With the help of Joining Hands, a Presbyterian mission program, Milwaukie Presbyterian began fostering a relationship with a sister organization in Bolivia, which was comprised of members from several church denominations and non-governmental organizations. In January 2008 Stageberg visited Bolivia with a delegation, further anchoring her investment in that partnership. One of the program’s goals was to campaign and share information about local water issues. Their Bolivian sister organization chose to campaign against water contamination from the mining industry. The Bolivians invited those from the U.S. to conduct investigations of water issues in their own areas. The Milwaukie Presbyterian Church chose to focus on Kellogg Lake.
According to Stageberg, when members of the congregation began talking about Kellogg Lake, the misinformation was astonishing. Some parishioners even thought that Kellogg Lake was associated with the Kellogg Wastewater Treatment Plant; that it was a holding facility for contaminated wastewater. Most had no idea that the lake was actually fed by natural streams and springs, contained native habitat, and had been deeply cherished by some Milwaukie citizens.
A team of individuals from the congregation began organizing hikes and canoe trips around their five acre property and inviting local ecologists to come and teach them about the land and it’s potential. They compiled a report on Kellogg Lake to send to their sister organization in Bolivia. By then, the effort had gathered such momentum and interest they didn’t want to stop there.
Within this same year the team applied for and received a “Dollars on the Ground” grant through theClackamas Soil and Water Conservation District. They received $645 which allowed them to contract professional services to remove blackberries from the upper, exposed area in preparation for future tree planting. Church members matched the funds with 132 hours of volunteer labor, and spent this time removing invasive plants from three-and-a-half acres of wetlands on their property. When the money ran out, they simply kept working on an unpaid, volunteer basis, pulling more invasive plants and researching additional grant opportunities.
In the spring of 2009, they partnered with several organizations, applied for, and were rewarded $7800 through Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods Grant Program. The grant funds 157 hours of professional restoration services, materials for small, low-impact infrastructural improvements like trails and a staircase, 650 native plants, and the continuation of their efforts to conduct community outreach and raise public awareness. Interviewee, Helen Ellis is a member of the church and has been involved in their projects;
“However, now I’m taking more of an interest in Kellogg Lake again because our church, the Presbyterian Church, is helping to clear off that bank. Yes I worked on that several hours last year and I signed up to also work more with the berry bushes and things like that. We’re trying to make it more of a park area. Yes, it’s kind of a heritage thing for me. I’m kind of coming back to my heritage.” -Helen Ellis
The Church will continue this work throughout 2010, until their grant cycle and funding through Metro is exhausted. However, if their history and ambition speaks for anything, they are not likely to stop there.
Responding to Change; the Future of Kellogg Lake
“I’m not sure I’d fight it if I knew all the facts. But I’d sure miss the lake. It’s my Walden.”
In response to Kellogg’s current conditions the City of Milwaukie has been conducting planning for a large-scale effort, the Kellogg-for-Coho-Initiative, to remove the Kellogg Dam and re- naturalize the Creek and its native stream-side habitat within the 14 acre lakebed. This effort has included extensive public involvement and consultation.
During this oral history project, interviewees were asked to respond to this project concept and offer suggestions for how they’d like to see the lake remembered;
“Truthfully, I got mixed feelings. I don’t want it to go-but the way it is-it’s not good. It has to go. Like I say, I’ve got many good memories about swimming and row boating and fishing and ice skating and doing everything on the lake. During the summer months- that was basically where we went. It was good. But the creek was there before. It was ideal…Well, it could be remembered like it originally was before Kronberg ruined it.” – Bob Hatz
“Well I will just remember it like it was in my day. All of our relatives that knew all of this stuff are long gone and we didn’t have brains enough to ask them.” –Don McLaughlin
“Yea, isn’t that sad. You just don’t think about it. I’d like it to be remembered by a really nice park at the corner with some history someway of how it was.” –Adele Briggs Wilder
“But here’s something that I don’t understand; because the carp became such a nuisance, they drained the lake years ago, I think they’ve even drained it twice, just by opening up the gate under the bridge there. Now they talk like it’s going to take a million dollars for a new bridge in order to drain the lake. Why can’t they just open the gate they used to open and let the water out? The other thing that urks me is that they talk about restoring the salmon. I grew up there on Kellogg Creek and I never saw a salmon. And we were growing up during the depression era; if there had been salmon there we would have been catching them to eat. And have our lives been diminished because they don’t go up the creek? I don’t think so.” -Don McLaughlin
“You know what I think they should do today-now that they have that park. Personally I didn’t like it when they filled in that park. But anyway, what they should do is put a ramp down there and put boats on the lake and let people do things down there. We either spent all of our time at the lake or out at the farm riding the hay wagon.” -Enid Briggs
“Well, I’d hate to have (the Lake) go away-but economically, environmentally if it’s ok…and of course with us living in Oak Grove now, we don’t have as much to do with that lake, except with the church. And, of course, the older we get, we’re probably not going to be hauled out there…Well, I think we need some waterways around and some parks and that type of thing around the community. There is so much building going on and the land is being gobbled up by all kinds of building. So I really feel that we need to have water as much as we can around where it’s feasible. Well I’d say make it more like a park setting if possible with a plaque with a little bit of history on it.” -Helen Ellis
“I would like to see them spend the same amount of money that they’re proposing to spend on this thing to just drain it and bulldoze all the crap out of it. But I will remember it as it was when people along the lake all enjoyed the lake. There were some very nice houses built along the lake. Anyhow, I just hate to see the thing go. And I’m not sure when they’ll ever get funding to do it. It’ll be 100 years before it is done.” -Floyd Bennett
“I’d hate to see it disappear. But if it’s going to be for the better-then that’s ok-because maybe we’ve seen its usefulness go. Well I’m supposed to be dead in a couple years anyway, so…and in my mind I’ve got the memories of it. And that’s good enough.” – Owen Street
“I think if they can make it natural and have fish go in there, that’s the way it should be. I think it was just bad judgment when they closed it off. But I’m not from here, so it’s different. Maybe we’ll get some eagles nesting! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” -Gayle Street
“When they first came with this idea, I was kind of opposed to it, because that Lake’s been there forever, and it is part of Milwaukie. But then the more I heard about it and read about it, you know, I’m very much in favor of it being removed. But even with it removed I don’t think we’re going to get big fish. I think we’ll get some steelhead and coho in there especially if we can enhance those cold springs in there. The fish biologists that were at the meeting that day , I learned a lot from them about what the different fish need.” -Dick Shook
“It’s just one of those things. Of course Kellogg Lake is historically important to Milwaukie, but the creek will always carry on the historical legacy of Kellogg’s history with its name. In one sense, removing the dam is bringing us back to ancient history like when Whitcomb first founded Milwaukie at the “meeting place of rivers”. – Madalaine Bohl
“Milwaukie needs to have more around the creek. We used to ride our bikes to Elk Rock Island. Sometimes you couldn’t get over to the island because the water was too high. But when you could, we would go over there and play all over the place. But you have to take advantage of the scenery…I wish they would remove the sewage treatment plant in Milwaukie and also put in a park or a restaurant (near the water front).” -Butch Davis
“I think that’s the main thing that I’d like to see is for the fish to have a way to get back up here and make it healthy. It just never seemed like a healthy place. It always just looked like a mosquito breeding ground and muddy water. So I’m not really reminiscent of the lake itself. I’m really excited about the fact that it might go back to a stream… I just love the idea of getting it back to a more natural state. There’s a lot more reason to go visit it. And wildlife is having such a tough time. If it gets taken back to a natural state eventually-the wildlife will come back.” -Scott Griffith
Summary of Conclusions; Remembering Kellogg Lake
Kellogg Lake has transitioned through many phases. Documented accounts of the early settlement of Milwaukie outline its contribution to industry. Specifically, the power it provided to the Standard Mill led to the invention of pure white flour which helped feed the California Gold Rush, while the space at Kellogg’s confluence with the Willamette acted as a staging ground for the logging industry. But little is known of how it was used or regarded by everyday citizens until around 1918. This is where the oral history begins with Ernie Bisio and Bob Hatz.
By this time, farmers had begun using the Lake to irrigate agricultural land sprawling along the sparse hillside on both sides of Lake Rd. The stories of interviewees beyond this point tell of how Kellogg Lake was recreationally used and enjoyed by its neighbors, especially youth, for the next three decades.
Interestingly, these memories repeatedly make subtle hints at the slow degradation of the Lake. The interviews outlined above include multiple accounts of carp domination, increasingly turbid and mucky water, and other signs of its deterioration long before the dumping began in the 1950’s. The 60 years since are characterized predominantly by the Lake’s decline, punctuated by brief moments of civic revival efforts.
Today, the Lake faces the heavy impacts brought by increasing urbanization throughout the region and is highly contaminated. The fish ladder is nearly a century old and has received only sub-par improvements, the most recent in 1999. It provides safe fish passage for State and Federally listed endangered fish species during an extremely narrow set of flow conditions; while the lake has become more attractive to scores of invasive species of fish, plants, and other wildlife than to those species that are native to Oregon.
Despite the fond memories of long-time residents, it’s fair to conclude that Kellogg Lake does not hold a special place in the hearts of most current-day citizens. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Milwaukie citizens have no interaction with or affection toward the Lake. To this end, not one potential interviewee responded to this Oral History’s outreach efforts with fond memories of Kellogg Lake since 1960.
“What I get is. ‘Oh where’s Kellogg Lake?’ They don’t really know that it’s there. You don’t really see it (when you’re) driving everywhere.” –Adele Briggs Wilder
Aside from the work underway at Milwaukie Presbyterian, casual everyday glances from immediate lake neighbors, and City of Milwaukie efforts, very minimal regard is paid to Kellogg Lake by today’s citizenry. As a result, degradation continues to be its dominant feature.
But we are all invited to the challenge of combating this. Oral histories in particular remind everyone to keep memories alive through telling and asking for stories. They call on us to pay homage to a culture of remembering through storytelling and using those memories as an entry point to project us into the future.
The current incarnation of Kellogg Lake tells only the later chapters of its story. But this document attempts to demonstrate that many members of our community have other, valuable stories to tell; about the early days of sledding, ice skating, or swimming in deeper water or of their interest and investment in a restored open space, for people and wildlife, that is still to come.
According to hydraulic analysis conduced by the US Army Corps of Engineers in February, 2002, fish passage through the Kellogg Dam is characterized as “good” only 3% of the time during winter months and less than 2% of the time during summer months.