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From Liberty Gardens to Victory Gardens


As I was researching my article on the 1918 – 1919 influenza pandemic in Montavilla, I came across a news item about Victory Gardens in 1919. Why, I wondered, would they still be growing Victory Gardens months after World War I had ended in 1918?

With some investigation, I discovered this was intended was to help alleviate the food shortages in war-ravaged Europe. The gardens planted during the war were actually called Liberty or War Gardens. When Congress voted to declare war on Germany on April 4th, 1917, food was already in short supply in the United States due to crop failures and the Allied nations’ needs.

On April 11th, President Woodrow Wilson called on farmers to increase production. Retired businessman Charles Lathrop Pack said America would win the war “by fighting it with food…” and wanted to enlist civilians in this battle.

Pack believed urban gardens could contribute substantially. In March 1917, on the eve of America’s entry into the war, he founded the National Emergency Food Garden Commission (later called the National War Garden Commission) to advocate and educate the public on the importance of vegetable gardens. Backyards, schoolyards, and vacant lots needed to be brought into production. 

By the end of 1917, nearly 3 million war gardens (1,150,000 acres) were under cultivation in cities and towns. In 1918, that number grew to an estimated 5,285,000. Not only did this increase the food supply, it also freed up trains for war-related purposes. Adults and children on the home front were significant contributors to the war effort.

Source: Charles Lathrop Pack, “The War Garden Victorious”, 1919 (artist J. N. Darling); Google Books

On March 3rd, 1918, when Portland held a war rally at the downtown Auditorium, it became an official proponent of the movement. Supporters, of course, recognized that amateur gardeners would need assistance in orde to succeed.

Help came in a variety of ways. Local newspapers ran how-to articles on food gardening. Pamphlets, demonstrations, lectures, and classes were also available. Then the federal government provided an extra hour for after-work gardening by initiating Daylight Saving Time on March 31st, 1918.

“How to Succeed with the War Garden”, planting table
Source: The Sunday Oregonian, April 14, 1918 (Historic Oregon Newspapers)

Montavilla School was an important contributor to the preparedness campaign. Montavilla students already knew how to grow food. The school had joined the national school garden movement in 1914, by making gardening a part of the curriculum. A committee of teachers, with the assistance of Parent-Teacher Association gardening committee members, helped to supervise gardens both at pupils’ homes and on the school grounds.

Garden at Montavilla School with Mt. Tabor in the background
Source: The Sunday Oregonian, May 31, 1914 (Historic Oregon Newspapers)

During the war, the Montavilla school garden was transformed into a Liberty garden and then into a Victory garden in 1919. (For more on Montavilla School, read about efforts to improve students’ physical fitness with a playground during that era.)

Montavilla School Garden (Note the Montavilla United Methodist Church center, back)
Source: The Sunday Oregonian, March 23, 1919 (Historic Oregon Newspapers)

Nationally, urban gardeners were urged to preserve excess produce by canning or drying processes. Again, Montavilla students were trained and ready.

In 1915, the school canning club provided vegetables for school lunches. In 1918, at the Multnomah County Fair in Gresham, members of the club, supervised by Mrs. C. A. Williamson of the Montavilla PTA, took part in competitive canning demonstrations. Montavilla students also raised chickens and rabbits— another aspect of the food preparedness effort— winning prizes at the fair.

“Canning Club at Montavilla School Is Practical Delight.” Both boys and girls were members.
Source: The Sunday Oregonian, October 10, 1915 (Historic Oregon Newspapers)

The Montavilla schoolyard and family backyards were not the only places where war gardens flourished in Montavilla.

Vacant farmland belonging to Alfred Curtis Ruby, then vice-president (later president) of the Montavilla Savings Bank, also came into production in 1918. Ruby granted permission to the Portland chapter of the Girls’ Honor Guard, a national organization of volunteers committed to war-relief work, to plant five acres of his property in beans.

The volunteers met on Memorial Day, May 29th, at the corner of 82nd Avenue and East Glisan Street, so likely they used the Ruby property that later became Montavilla Park and Multnomah University. (For more on the Park and University, see “Montavilla Gets a Playground” and “What Are Those Old Buildings?” )

Honor Girls Plant Beans in Five Acres”
Source: The Morning Oregonian, May 31, 1917 (Historic Oregon Newspapers

American citizens also helped augment the national food supply by harvesting farm crops. With so many men engaged in the war, there was, not surprisingly, a shortage of farm labor. Women, girls, and boys were encouraged to help pick crops like berries and cherries that might otherwise spoil.

Although my research did not uncover specific individuals in Montavilla who did such work, I know from other accounts that summer picking was customary here. (For more on this topic, see “Berry-Picking Time” ). Surely Montavillans heeded the call to this patriotic duty and would welcome some extra money at a time of high food prices. Some enjoyed work holidays at farm camps, others, like mothers with families, did day labor at nearby farms.

Several organizations organized the farm labor pool. Women could contact the Oregon Women’s Farm Reserve, an affiliate of the Women’s Land Army of America, with headquarters in downtown Portland. Boys were assigned by the US Boys’ Working Reserve, the Catholic Boys’ Working Reserve, and the Boy Scouts. Additionally, teachers, like Emily B. Johnston of Franklin High School, organized teams of girls to work at farm camps.

Oregon Women’s Farm Reserve members in their new uniforms called feminalls
Source: The Oregon Daily Journal, July 5, 1918 (Historic Oregon Newspapers)

Besides gardening, harvesting, and preserving, Americans were also urged to eat less, to minimize food waste and to reduce their consumption of foods in short supply, such as wheat, potatoes, and meat. 

Source: The Morning Oregonian, April 4, 1918; Historic Oregon Newspapers

On January 26th, 1918, Herbert Hoover, head of the US Food Administration, called on American women to follow new rules regarding food consumption. For example, when baking, they were encouraged to replace a percentage of wheat with other flours or, if buying commercial products, like bread and pasta, to select items with lower wheat content. Mondays and Wednesdays were declared wheatless days, Tuesdays meatless days. Ideally, one meal every day should be meatless. 

With fanfare, The Oregon Daily Journal reported on April 30th, 1918, that the perfect “war loaf” had finally been perfecteded by a committee of bakers. This used only 40% wheat flour, supplemented with barley flour, corn flour and potatoes.

Newspapers ran recipes to help housewives cope with the new rules. Here’s an example:

Recipe for Rice and Cheese Fondu
Source: The Oregon Daily Journal, October 20, 1917

For fun, I tried this recipe (see photo below). My advice: don’t make it! It’s bland and has way too much liquid. After removing the excess liquid with a baster, it had the consistency of rice pudding, but without the flavor. 

Rice and Cheese Fondu made in Montavilla by Patricia Sanders
Photo by Thomas Tilton

Bland food was but a small part of the sacrifices made by American families during and after World War l. In Montavilla, as in other communities across America, patriotic citizens grew gardens, picked crops, preserved foods, and, in a myriad of ways, rose to the call to combat starvation in Europe, and to support our troops.


I want to thank Jerry Lynne Treinen and Peg DeVries for proofreading my article and making many valuable suggestions.


Historical story ideas? Questions about Montavilla’s past? Also share a love for neighborhood history? 

Comment on the article at the link in the heading. Or you can reach out to Pat Sanders at pat.montavilla.history@gmail.com.

Read all of the “Montavilla Memories” articles by Pat Sanders here

How the COVID-19 pandemic makes the case for guaranteed basic income


Millions of Americans are now practically forced to stay in their homes, that is, if they are lucky enough to have homes. Some are without their usual meager income and unable to afford their bills. Many are limiting their trips to the store, not just to protect themselves, but also to protect others.

Many Americans have recently lost their jobs, their healthcare, and without a stay on evictions, would be on the verge of losing their housing. It remains to be seen how they will pay if the debt is merely pushed off to another date. 

One thing that all these Americans have in common is that they are in this predicament through no fault of their own. Not a single one of them created COVID-19— yet they all suffer from an event, or series of events, beyond their control.

Nor is their restricted freedom the fault of their government, which is taking appropriate action by restricting movement, just as it does by restricting drunk driving. Even libertarians agree that the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the rare times where it is appropriate to restrict otherwise paramount freedoms. 

Those Americans who are currently falling into poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic also have something in common with many other Americans who were in poverty before a global health emergency: they are there through no fault of their own.

Certainly some people are in poverty as a result of their own poor decision making, and I don’t want to discuss whether or not we should include a person’s IQ in the relevant list of factors beyond their control. But even in the best of times, ignoring IQ and focusing solely on choices, there are some people in poverty through no fault of their own. 

So why does the government act to help those falling into poverty right now but not during more normal times? Why send “relief” payments to ordinary Americans during the COVID-19 lockdown but not when it is simply the result of run-of-the-mill injustice?

Because the number of people currently in or entering into poverty is a much larger portion of America than during more normal times. And because the government doesn’t like to see such a large portion of the population struggling so severely. The government prefers to have a much smaller percentage of its people desperate. Too many and there is a real risk of large scale unrest. 

The “relief” payments, though often lauded with pandering discussions of the economic hardships people are facing, are not being given out of concern for the people. Yes, the payments are intended to relieve the burden of poverty that many are facing, but only as a means to prevent the large scale unrest that the government fears. 

Now I am open to hearing arguments as to why our society should allow a percentage of its population to languish in poverty. Certainly it benefits the upper class to have desperate people willing, more-or-less, to do undesirable forms of labor for low wages. But I’m not so sure we want to make exploitation a lynch pin of our defense of poverty.

Personally, I would rather brag about how we don’t tolerate exploitation. I would rather brag that we are certain not a single citizen of our nation is pressured to take a bad job with unfair conditions or pay because we give every single person a basic income that is at or above the poverty line. 

And if you are worried that people are getting away with free money for doing nothing, remember that like now during this pandemic when people are refraining from going outside in order to help society, there are plenty of things that we do regularly for the same reason. For instance, recycling, and not littering.

Just think of a guaranteed basic income as payment for doing the unpaid things that society benefits from. From an individual’s perspective, littering and throwing away recyclables are excellent economic decisions since they save time, and time is money.

If we want the poorest people in the nation, people who are a few hours of missed work away from being homeless, to spend some of their time doing things like recycling, perhaps we should pay them for it.

So for those wondering why the American government is willing to help people with one particular cause of poverty beyond an individual’s control, but not to help with the usual ones, you have my answer. 


Darren McCormick is an amateur philosopher applying to masters programs in political science. When not giving kids chess lessons, he examines local practices and governance through a lens of political theory.

Contact Darren:

Doing good work in a time of crisis


When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Oregon Governor Kate Brown to issue a stay home order, many of the state’s unsheltered houseless population were left wondering where they would be able to go. Many of the services they rely on daily began issuing social distancing requirements or shutting down entirely due to the pandemic.

In response to the crisis, communities and organizations have mobilized to address the issue of sheltering the extremely vulnerable houseless population during this crisis.

Village Portland reports: Portland’s advocates rally an outpouring of support and calls for action during the coronavirus crisis

When COVID-19 hit, Clackamas County put out an urgent request to get as many at-risk houseless individuals in motel rooms as possible. Do Good Multnomah was one of the organizations that answered that request. Over the last year prior to the crisis, they had been working with multiple groups and organizations to help the houseless community in different ways.

One of their most recent partnerships was with Clackamas Service Centerwhich is also helping the houseless community during this crisis– to staff and run their warming shelter over the winter. Through their partnership with CSC they were able to get a head start on the program due to pre-existing relationships with the service center’s clients.

Jeremiah Kelton, an emergency outreach specialist, and Stephanie Billmyre, a social worker, are running the organization’s motel program. “The aim is to get as many of the at-risk and elderly homeless off the streets as fast as possible” states Kelton.

So far, they have placed 72 individuals in rooms spread out over six different motels in the Portland area. The motels are not named out of respect for their client’s privacy.

The organization started their work around March 25th, according to Kelton. They plan on adding more people to the program, ultimately sheltering around 120 people. The program is being funded by a $500,000 grant from Clackamas County.

Kelton cites the cramped spaces of shelters as one of the main reasons the organization decided to use motel rooms to help people socially distance and isolate themselves. “Our main criteria are that a person be 60 years of age or have pre-existing, underlying health issues”, Kelton states about the requirements to get into the program.

Enzel Chillingworth is one of the clients of CSC that was placed in a motel room so she could properly isolate from others. “This group [Do Good] is amazing and I love both Stephanie and Jeremiah for the work they are doing!” Enzel stated.

Enzel Chillingworth and her two dogs.

Prior to this, Chillingworth had been living on the edge of houselessness in a derelict 1987 Winnebago RV parked in the driveway of a friend’s house not far from Clackamas Service Center. According to Chillingworth, she ended up in this living situation abruptly in order to get out of a violently abusive relationship a couple year prior. Her rent was $300, but she said that the tiny space was never enough for her and her two small dogs.

I’ve known Enzel for two years; we met during the time I volunteered at CSC. I’ve also been working along side the Village Coalition to raise money to buy a tiny home for her that would be placed on private property.

Enzel described her daily routine before the pandemic as: waking up in the morning, feeding her dogs and some stray cats, getting ready for the day, and then heading out for either Clackamas Service Center or to whatever job she was working that day.

“When everything started to shut down, I was worried about work, of course, but mostly about the completely unsheltered homeless living along the bike trail and on the streets around the city,” she said. “I figured this would leave them with nowhere to turn or go when in need.”

The types of work she does varies, but during spring and summer each year, Enzel spends her time working for the carnival company Funtastic Games during summer gatherings like Cinco De Mayo or Rose Festival. The rest of the year she works odd jobs.

With Rose Festival and many other summer festivities in Portland cancelled due to the public health concerns, Chillingworth’s prospects of summer work vanished quickly as the situation evolved rapidly to address the concerns of spreading the illness.

“I enjoy working the carnivals during the summer because of all the smiling kids’ faces”. At the end of fall 2019, Chillingworth was diagnosed with serious medical issues and has been receiving medical attention.

Even while receiving medical attention, Chillingworth was still going to the center to get food boxes and services while also doing what she could to help the other houseless individuals that frequent the center. “The people at Clackamas Service Center are amazing as well because they are still open and offering some form of help when most everything else is closed.”

According to Billmyre, while they have these individuals safely sheltered in their rooms Do Good is also “case managing to get resources like medical and housing for them as well”. Lacking a clear projection of when the crisis might subside, Billmyre foresees the program changing in the future.

According to her, with proper funding the organization might be using the motels as transitional housing while they work to get individuals into houses and apartments of their own.

There are other examples of this model being implemented around the city as well. Jupiter Hotel, located on SE 8th Avenue and Burnside Street, has partnered with Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services to shelter some of the houseless during this crisis too.

Furthermore, three sanctioned tent encampments have been approved by the City and a large coalition of nonprofits and outreach groups– including Street Roots– are working diligently to get campers to the locations.

The pandemic has shown that quick actions are needed in order to protect the health of the at-risk and highly vulnerable houseless population of Portland, but also the nation at large.

To conclude, Chillingworth shared that “I was freaking out when all this began but thanks to the kindness and hard work of Stephanie and Jeremiah, I have been able to gather my thoughts on the situation and calm down some. I wish more organizations would follow their example!”  

Editor’s note: Portions of this story first appeared in Street Roots.


Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty. 

Contact Cory:
Facebook: Cory Elia 
Twitter: @therealcoryelia

Montavilla and the Flu Pandemic of 1918 – 1919


The Sunday Oregonian – October 27th, 1918
Source: Historic Oregon Newspapers

Being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we frequently hear about the 1918 or so-called Spanish flu pandemic, which was the worst pandemic in history up to that time. Scientists put total deaths worldwide as somewhere between 50 and 100 million. The U. S. experienced between 675,000 deaths, with more soldiers dying of the flu than were killed in battle.

But what can be said about how Montavilla fared during the outbreak in Portland that lasted from early October 1918 to early February 1919?

This is a difficult question to answer. 1918 and 1919 Portland newspapers ran stories on the flu in Portland almost daily, but few included information about Montavilla. Then I searched for “W. H. Hamilton”, owner of Montavilla’s only funeral parlor. Bingo! Two notices about the funeral of influenza victim Corporal Bert Barnes

Here was conrete proof Montavilla did not go untouched. Not that he was the only victim; a few more could be identified by address in the newspapers’ lists of the latest flu deaths.

Interestingly, Corporal Barnes fits the profile of the most at-risk victims to a T. He was in the prime of life and in the military. Persons between the ages of approximately 20 and 40 accounted for roughly 50% of global deaths. With World War I still going, it’s hardly surprising that influenza was rife, given the crowded conditions of military camps, battlefields, troop ships, and hospitals.

In fact, the first reported cases of mass infections came from military camps, beginning with Camp Funston, Fort Riley, Kansas in March, 1918. As the flu traveled from the Eastern US to the West, troops stationed at the posts nearest Portland— Camp Lewis (near, Washington), Vancouver Barracks (Vancouver, Washington), and Fort Stephens (near Astoria, Oregon), where some Montavilla draftees were assigned— all had significant outbreaks.

Corporal Barnes was stationed at Vancouver Barracks. Clearly, this placed him at risk of infection.

Barnes had deep Montavilla roots. His grandparents and parents came to Montavilla from Kansas in the late 1890s. Bert was living in Montavilla with his parents when he registered for the draft at age 22 in 1917, and still lived with them in 1918 shortly after he married his wife Iva.

On Wednesday evening October 9th, 1918, the Barnes family and their guests gathered at Montavilla’s Grace Baptist Church (SE 76th Ave and Ash St) for the wedding of Bert’s sister Ida and Private First Class Arthur Bradley.

It was a big wedding, with some 50 guests and 20 soldiers from Vancouver Barracks forming a guard of honor.

Since The Morning Oregonian had declared the very day of the wedding that the flu was under control in Portland, probably few of the family and guests were worried about contagion. But if you read the article carefully, you would have noticed that City Health Officer George Parrish had cancelled his trip to the health officers’ convention in Chicago, and that he had warned Mayor George L. Baker that an epidemic may be at hand.

The Barnes wedding was among the last large gatherings legally permitted in Portland for the next five weeks.


The day after the wedding, October 10th, life changed abruptly and dramatically.

Public officials were all too aware of the devastation wreaked by the influenza epidemic. Fearing its spread in the Northwest, the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service ordered all mass congregating to cease in Oregon. Although Portland then had only a handful of diagnosed cases, Mayor Baker reluctantly complied.

What did that mean for Montavilla? 

Although Montavilla was essentially a Portland suburb, it was a very active, engaged community, and the ban would be a hardship. Montavilla School had to close. All eight of its churches must stop holding services. The Scenic Theatre at northwest corner of SE 79th Avenue and Stark Street could not show movies. Montavilla’s several social halls could not hold meetings or events. The Montavilla Reading Room closed. Grocery stores and other businesses could stay open, but they were supposed to prevent crowding.

New rules would also be applied to crowded cars of the Montavilla and Mount Tabor streetcars lines that Montavilla residents relied on to get them to work and downtown shopping. Fresh air was considered beneficial, so windows had to stay open. Overcrowding was prohibited. As new cases and deaths rose, City Health Officer Parrish ordered all side windows removed and police enforcement of the non-crowding rule (Morning Oregonian – October 21, 1918).

The City posted a long list of ways to avoid getting or transmitting the flu. Keep at least four feet between individuals. Do not spit in public places. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Keep your skin and clothes clean. Exercise. Keep your windows open. Do not use someone else’s cup, utensils or towel. Consult a physician immediately if symptoms appeared. And so forth…

“It’s good for a hundred sneezes.”
Source: The World – October 7th, 1918

Public education was also critical. The teachers— furloughed, but still getting full pay— became part of district teams to help in that effort. Montavilla teachers, headed by school principal, Jesse McCord, went to each house and business in the neighborhood explaining how to avoid the flu and ensuring that the epidemic regulations were being followed. When they encountered homes with infected persons, they presented a quarantine card with instructions about how to display it.

As elsewhere, Montavilla’s doctors and pharmacists would have been busy. In 1918, Montavilla had three physicians: Dr. C. B. Zeebuyth and Dr. J. T. Le Fevre on NE 80th Avenue as well as Dr. W. G. Scott on Division Street. Doctors were expected to attend to flu patients and to report new cases to the City Health Bureau, which tracked the progress of influenza. Physicians who failed to report cases promptly could be arrested. 

Your local doctor could give you a vaccination based on a serum developed by Dr. E. C. Rosenow at the Mayo Clinic and produced in Portland laboratories.

This seemed to benefit some patients, but since that advice was based on stopping the spread of bacteria (which scientists at first thought caused the flu), it was not really effective against what was much later identified the H1N1 virus. (By the way, there were researchers and public health officials in 1918 who regarded a virus as the cause.)

“E. F. Pernot, City Bacteriologist Inoculating a City Employee with anti-Spanish Influenza Serum”, The Sunday Oregonian – October 27th, 1918
Source: Historic Oregon Newspapers

Drug store business, of course, flourished. In 1918, Montavilla had two drug stores that could supply common remedies, like aspirin and the new Vicks Vaporub. L. V. Dickson operated Dickson Drug Store at Stark Street and SE 80th Avenue and W. E. Fowler owned The Drug Shop on Glisan Street near 80th Avenue. Although drug companies advertised, and drug stores carried, medicines supposed to prevent or cure the “Spanish” influenza, there were, in fact, no effective pharmaceuticals at that time.

After the ban was imposed, flu cases and deaths increased. By October 25th there had been 1,771 cases and 90 deaths in Portland. The public was urged to stay home and go to stores only for things they absolutely needed. Gyms were ordered closed.

The Oregon Daily Journal reported a possible peak on October 29th, but, during the first week of November, the numbers climbed.


On November 7th, false news of an armistice agreement sent throngs of Portlanders— presumably some Montavillans among them— into the streets, ignoring the ban on crowds, in joyful, if slightly premature, relief over the war’s end. 

The real armistice was signed on November 11th and Portlanders woke to newspaper boys’ cries of “Uxtr-e-e-e! “Uxtr-e-e-e” (The Morning Oregonian, November 12th, 1918). As the news spread, people headed into the streets again. The Mayor proclaimed a holiday, so factories, stores and offices closed. Workers helped swell the exulting throng.

Oregon Daily Journal – November 11th, 1918
Source: Historic Oregon Newspapers
The Morning Oregonian – Tuesday, November 12th, 1918
Source: Historic Oregon Newspapers

As the crowd grew, so did the noise. Every sound maker conceivable– from auto horns to cow bells to tin cans to saw blades— contributed to the glad din. It was loud enough, wrote one Oregonian reporter “to kill the most courageous ‘flu’ germ”. “The ban was liften [sic] by a higher power than the mayor’s order,” exclaimed The Oregon Daily Journal of November 11th. 

War was at an end! Our boys were coming home! Flags bloomed everywhere— on cars, on homes, on people! Influenza be damned! 

The apparent cost of Monday’s public celebrations was 310 new cases of influenza. Among the new deaths was Maria Faber, 62, of 1904 East Washington Street (Montavilla).

Mayor Baker announced a victory jubilee with a parade and other patriotic events for November 16th. Then he rescheduled it for November 28th. Then he delayed it until the signing of peace terms. Since peace negotiations would not begin until early January, the mayor proposed making the annual Rose Festival a victory celebration, which is what happened.


State Board of Health graph, Portland cases & deaths, Oct. 10th – Nov. 16th, Sunday Oregonian – Nov. 17th, 1918
Source: Historic Oregon Newspapers

The November 17th Oregonian graph (above) shows the flu having peaked and apparently declining, so the State Health Office lifted the ban on November 16th. City Health Officer Parrish cautioned Portlanders to continue taking precautions, since the epidemic could recur.

Mass events were again allowed. Downtown stores, markets and theaters immediately filled with crowds.

Since Thanksgiving was coming up, Mayor Baker proposed that church services include patriotic songs, so these became mini-victory celebrations. Hope Presbyterian Church (at the northeast corner of NE Everett St and NE 78th Ave) hosted a community Thanksgiving service for all the Montavilla churches.

Also on Thanksgiving Day, an athletic event was held at Vancouver Barracks as a farewell celebration for members of the Spruce Production Division  a unit of the United States Army that produced wood products needed to make aircraft), who were soon to be homeward bound, now that the war had ended.

Two weeks later, on December 8th, Corporal Barnes succumbed to influenza at his home, just 11 days after his 24th birthday.

He was given a full military funeral in Montavilla with two squadrons from Vancouver Barracks. The procession formed at the W. H. Hamilton Funeral Parlor (at the northeast corner of NE 79th Ave and Glisan St). From there the entourage proceeded to Grace Baptist Church for services, then to Brainard Cemetery (at NE 92nd Ave and Glisan St) for the interment. 

On April 4th, 1919, Montavilla School held a memorial service to honor the memory of alums who gave their lives in World War I: Bert H. Barnes and Lee Meadows. Likely Barnes was also remembered at the Grace Baptist Memorial Day service on May 24th. We can presume the Barnes family attended both.

At the end of December and early January, the number of cases and deaths in Portland continued to rise. In order to get the recurrence under control, a Consolidated Health Bureau was formed with Dr. E. A. Sommer as director. Sommer blamed the spread on carelessness and public apathy.

The Oregon Daily Journal – January 27th, 1919
Source: Historic Oregon Newspapers

The flu peaked in mid-January and, then, began to decline. 

On February 8th, 1919, John G. Abele, Health Officer of the City of Portland, proclaimed the epidemic in Portland over.


The epidemic may have ended, but memories of the dual trauma— influenza and war— did not soon fade. In spring semester, the school curriculum emphasized health and hygiene as well as how to avoid the flu. Pupils again planted and tended the huge Montavilla School garden. Patriotic groups sponsored various war memorial events.

A sub-theme of this Montavilla story is what today we’d see as the need for social or physical distancing. Throughout this story, we’ve seen examples of how exhortations to avoid close contact with others was ignored: weddings, impromptu parades, streetcars, funerals, shopping, to say nothing of the unavoidable crowding on military bases. 

Portlanders, and presumably Montavillans, were not vigilant enough and the “Spanish” flu infected and killed more than it should have. I have yet to find an official count of cases and deaths in Portland, but as of January 23rd, 1919 there had been 16,355 cases and 1,151 deaths, according to The Morning Oregonian (January 24, 1919).

Vigilence is still a problem in our current coronavirus pandemic. Scientists now know transmission of a pathogenic virus can be extraordinarily subtle: take the recent case in Germany where COVID-19 may have been transmitted from one employee to another simply by passing a salt shaker in a company cafeteria.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from weeks of reading about the 1918 – 1919 pandemic: it’s don’t let your guard down too soon. And, please, DON’T pass the salt!

Photo by Patricia Sanders

For more on the 1918-1919 influenza in Portland, see:

OPB reports: “When Portland Went on Lockdown: How Oregon Reacted to the Pandemic of 1918”

Ivan M. Woolley, “The 1918 ‘Spanish Influenza’ Pandemic in Oregon”, Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 3 (1963), pp. 246-58. Available through JSTOR database, Multnomah County Library website (requires member sign-in).

On the salt-shaker story, see:

Reuters reports: “Pass the Salt: the Minute Details that Helped Germany Build Virus Defences”


Historical story ideas? Questions about Montavilla’s past? Also share a love for neighborhood history? 

Comment on the article at the link in the heading. Or you can reach out to Pat Sanders at pat.montavilla.history@gmail.com.

Read all of the “Montavilla Memories” articles by Pat Sanders here.

Portland community members prepare for rent strike due to lack of support during COVID-19 crisis


The closure of a vast majority of business establishments and subsequent layoffs of employees has resulted in thousands of Portland renters asking themselves something important during the COVID-19-induced economic recession:

How will I pay my rent?

This question and concerns regarding it have been asked of City officials like Portland mayor Ted Wheeler since the crisis began.

It even resulted in one activist taking control of a podium and voicing concerns during a press briefing by the mayor. In their message, they called for a rent freeze, as have many renters here in Portland.

The Oregonian reports: “Multnomah County, Portland suspend evictions during coronavirus outbreak”

Lat week, the City of Portland announced that it’s allowing tenants impacted by COVID-19 to delay paying rent during the state of emergency declared Thursday morning, March 12th. The order gives renters six months to pay their back rent after the state of emergency has ended.

An eviction moratorium was also declared. Gov. Kate Brown made the no-eviction order statewide late last week, but advocates have said that’s still not enough.

Oregon Renters Rights shows renters how to delay paying their rent.


A petition has been formed appealing to Wheeler and Brown to offer some form of financial support or a suspension of rent for the thousands of workers impacted financially by the shutdown of businesses.

The response to this came from Wheeler and was that the City of Portland has no legal standing to implement such a rent freeze / suspension of rent.

Photo by Keller Laura

This resulted in a Facebook group being formed called PDX Rent Strike 2020 (with 326 members) and a community page called PDX Rent Strike (with 1,328 members). On the page it is stated the purpose of the page is to facilitate “a group to coordinate actions in regard to the upcoming rent strike”.

The group’s new website PDX Rent Strike is here.

Photos by Elliot Young

The rent strike is planned for the month of April 2020. Even though there won’t be a physical gathering, an event page has been created.

Organizers for the groups spoke about the movement on KBOO’s Wednesday Talk Radio Program for those more interested.

One of the main organizers for the group and event is Randall Gravess, who stated that the movement has already drawn national attention and other cities may follow Portland in the rent strike. “At the end of the day we are looking at a massive economic crisis, and once again our government has chosen to save billionaires”, Gravess said. “I wanna clarify— we are demanding a rent suspension not a rent freeze”.

Gravess states that the group demands are directly tied into saving as many lives as possible during the pandemic.

The group demands are: free healthcare, no work, no rent, release of prisoners, and housing of the homeless. “Our intention is to come together as a community and make it clear we will not pay for this crisis. The rent strike is a tool to protect the millions of suddenly unemployed Americans who individually would be evicted for not paying but who can stand together to present a united front.”

The toolkit shared by the organizers, including a sample letter to landlords and how to organize your neighbors.

As an urban studies and an renter organizer, Olive jumped into this rent strike movement because she wanted to make sure renters were informed and being taken care of. She said she only speaks for herself, not the group or organizers.

(Olive didn’t want to include her last name for fear of future retaliation from landlords and for work purposes.)

“People can’t make this month’s rent,” she said, and the ones that can are terrified to use their last bits of cash when they have no stable income.

There’s going to be bailouts for the banks, airlines, cruise lines, and many other industries— and she said she thinks there should be one for renters and for home owners holding a mortgage.

“We don’t want anyone left behind, but that doesn’t mean we don’t understand the larger social dynamics,“ she said for her support of small property owners who may not be paid rent in April.

She made it clear that she doesn’t want to see a repeat of the 2008 crisis, where banks got bigger and many in the middle class lost their homes and businesses.

There are resources for renters, Olive said, at the group page and rent strike toolkit above, adding that the property lawyers she has talked with don’t really recommend a rent strike because it’s risky to the individual renter. She said she couldn’t give legal advice, but the rent-delay order requires renters to reach out to their landlords. There is a sample letter on the Rent Strike site.

“People who are calling for a rent strike— they have no other choice,” she said. Even if folks don’t have to pay rent during the crisis, they still won’t be able to pay all the back rent built up when it’s over— and Olive said she doesn’t think they should have to pay it back.


There have been a few different movements formed in support of community and the homeless. One movement that has been seen in Los Angeles, California is housing homeless individuals in abandoned or foreclosed homes.

Though squatting to house folks during the outbreak have been proposed and discussed by some rent strike advocates, nothing of significant size like the movement in Los Angeles has happened here yet. However, there are homeless individuals attempting this on their own.

A Portland Metro local homeless man reached out to Village Portland recently and explained that he was cited for trespassing— by officers in full gear with rifles— while trying to squat in a house for shelter during the outbreak.

He stated “I’m as scared as anyone else and was looking for a safe place to stay”. 

Some people making calls for more squatting, Olive said, but it’s more difficult in Portland because there aren’t blocks of empty houses like in places like Detroit, Michigan

Olive pointed out that the squatters in Los Angeles (part of Moms 4 Housing, started in Oakland, California) are providing shelter, fixing up the houses, building community with pre-existing neighbors, and even planting gardens.

Squatting can be a win-win for communities, she said: “Would anybody really be upset if they refurbished it [a house] and added value?”


City officials are working to find ways to provide enough room to shelter Portland’s homeless. Oregon Convention Center was opened along with the Charles Jordan Community Center. The Jupiter Hotel also announced they would help to add 81 more beds for the homeless during the crisis. 

This movement has already drawn the attention of more frustrated citizens and resulting in community members posting pictures of graffiti dedicated towards the movement around Portland.

Gravess foresees that “America is likely to be the only country where Coronavirus leaves more people bankrupt and homeless than it kills”.

For those hoping to get involved or find more information, Gravess suggests that folks should check out the Facebook community page where a number of graphics and toolkits are provided.

“If people want to get involved, we ask that they begin organizing using the toolkits provided and contacting their neighbors. The more decentralized the process is the more likely we are to succeed.”

Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty. 

Contact Cory:

Facebook: Cory Elia 
Twitter: @therealcoryelia

Efforts emerge to support small businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 economic downturn


Local and state officials are working to provide relief for Oregon’s business community— and as of Friday, March 20th the federal Small Business Administration has approved Oregon’s disaster declaration for COVID-19.

For more information, and how to apply go to the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans page here. The Oregon Economic Development Association wrote that there was a two-to-three-week timeline and five days for disbursement on the loans.

Apply for SBA Disaster Loan Assistance

According to its website, the SBA can provide up to $2 million to help “meet financial obligations and operating expenses” that could have been met if the disaster hadn’t occurred.

SBA EIDL fact sheet

Efforts in Portland

Wheeler said that on Monday, March 16th, he authorized a task force led by his office and Prosper Portland, the City’s economic development agency, to assist small and large employers and their employees struggling with the economic impacts of COVID-19.

In a press conference Tuesday, March 17th, Mayor Ted Wheeler discussed how the City was working to mitigate the downturn’s impact on small businesses in Portland.

“Every option will be on the table to support the resilience and the recovery of our local economy,” he said.

Watch the business-focused part of the Tuesday, March 17th press conference, or read the highlights below.

Update: On Wednesday, March 25th, Portland announced $1 million for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 economic downturn, the Oregonian reported. The city will prioritize women- and people of color-owned businesses, with some conditions, according to the executive director of Prosper Portland.

The biggest news, however, that came out of that press conference is that the City barred evictions, and is allowing tenants impacted by COVID-19 to delay paying rent during the state of emergency. He also announced that the City’s tenants and borrowers would have a three-month deferral on rent and loan repayments.

Wheeler said the task force is also partnering with major employers and small businesses, front line communities, labor partners, work force development partners, and foundations. Wheeler also acknowledged cooperation from key City and County partners and Business Oregon.

Wheeler said he met with downtown property owners on Tuesday as well.

To help vulnerable businesses, Wheeler said Prosper Portland was immediately making $150,000 in grants available in a partnership with the Jade District Neighborhood Prosperity Network.

As home to many Asian-owned business, Wheeler said the Jade District is “amongst the hardest impacted by the economic downturn related to COVID-19”.

With time, Wheeler said he expects resources will be expanded to other areas.

Grants are being awarded to businesses in the Jade District and Old Town, and immigrant owned businesses and / or API owned small businesses are prioritized.

The Jade District Steering Committee also added $50,000 to the program. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m., March 23rd. Apply to the Jade District-Oldtown COVID-19 Small Business Response Fund here.


Wheeler said he is convening partners in the private sector to develop a commercial eviction strategy and other financial relief. He also thanked private landlords who allowed their tenants to defer or forgo payments.


For non-profit organizations impacted by the downturn, the Oregon Community Foundation has established the Oregon Community Recovery Grant program. Guidelines are still being formulated, but you can get more information and apply here.


Also on Tuesday, East Metro Economic Alliance called on small businesses across the state to share with the Governor’s Office how they’ve been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Share a story with Leah Horner (leah.horner@oregon.gov), Brown’s Jobs and Economy Policy Advisor.

Tina Granzo was helping spread the word about the EMEA campaign on social media. She served on the Montavilla East Tabor Business Association for four years, and knows that a lot of small businesses are suffering.

She wrote that the help will be good, but it needs to come quickly. “… with some businesses, the owners put everything they had (all equity) into their businesses and (as with Bipartisan [Cafe]) did things like pay employees a living wage, taking much less for themselves,” Granzo said. “So, not much of a back-up or safety net (even while waiting for help).”


Wheeler said he would be meeting with banks and credit unions on Thursday, March 19th, asking them to make sacrifices because he knows they are sitting on substantial reserves.

“As tenants are unable to pay rent, landlords and build owners would then not be able to pay the mortgage they are due,” Wheeler said at Tuesday’s press conference. He said he’ll ask the banks and credit unions to give them more coverage during this cash crunch.

Thursday, Wheeler said they would also be convening their two task forces and meeting with the business community on Thursday.

As of Monday morning, March 23rd, there’s been no update from the mayor or governor on these business-related initiatives.


A survey of more than 900 Oregon businesses by Built Oregon found that respondents are losing an estimated $4.8 million in sales. See some of the results of the survey below. The survey was first reported by Portland Business Journal; find more details here.

When asked for what kind of help they needed, many business owners responded: no-interest loans to cover rent and payroll; emergency working capital loans; and assistance for workers, according to the story.

More calls for action from the Portland business community:

At the federal level, the United States Chamber of Commerce has called for bridge loans for the 68 million American workers that are employed by enterprises with more than 500 employees.


Negotiations over relief measures are moving fast in Washington D.C., and as of Sunday afternoon the Tax Foundation reports:

“… the Senate released an updated version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The bill builds upon an earlier version of the CARES Act and is intended to be a third round of federal government support in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis and associated economic fallout, following the $8.3 billion in public health support passed two weeks ago and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.”

The Tax Foundation will provide updates as the happen.

Portland’s advocates rally an outpouring of support and calls for action during the coronavirus crisis


Since the first case of coronavirus in Oregon was announced on February 28th, tensions in the Portland metropolitan have been increasing. But even in the face of this crisis, volunteers and officials are taking steps to respond to the outbreak’s health and economic impact— and special steps to protect the unhoused.

As of Monday morning, March 17th, there are currently 47 confirmed cases in Oregon, (two in Multnomah County, 14 in Washington County, and two in Clackamas County) with one death in Multnomah County.

One of the most complicating issues for health officials is the lack of data on how widely the virus has already spread. The virus may have been spreading in Washington State for six weeks prior to it first being detected.

Click the image to reach OHA’s COVID-19 webpage.

Health officials have reported that even if an individual isn’t showing symptoms they could still spread the disease. It has been advised— by the federal Center for Disease Control and other officials— for people to avoid all social gatherings, practice social distancing (about six feet), avoid groups, and practice good hygiene like regular hand washing.

If you think you are sick, stay home, call your doctor, and separate yourself from others. For more specific advice, ask your doctor and follow the link in this paragraph.

The unhoused’s vulnerability

The most vulnerable to the coronavirus are the elderly and immuno-compromised of the community. The homeless population includes a large number of individuals who fall into either or both of those categories. With their constant exposure to the elements, close quarters when receiving services, and lack of consistent sanitation options, homeless are some of the most vulnerable in the current crisis.

By the 2019 Point-In-Time count, 4,017 people are living on the streets that could be exposed to the virus. If this population is not properly supported during this time of community crisis the devastation the virus creates could be exponential increased.

There are a number of things being done to help this vulnerable part of Portland’s population. Vendors from Street Roots have formed outreach teams which are visiting camps to inform campers— who may lack a source of news— about the virus and handing out sanitary supplies. There have also been 21 mobile emergency hygiene stations placed throughout the city.

Local government response

The Joint Office of Homeless Service has implemented a number of things to help address the issue.

Recommendations from Multnomah County for the shelters are to spread beds out six feet apart. While that would create a decrease in beds, winter shelters have been opened to ensure capacity was not diminished due to these new requirements and hundreds of more shelter beds are planned to be added.

Also, a moratorium on towing of what are considered to be “abandoned” vehicles— which might be occupied by homeless individuals— has been stopped as well by the order of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who heads  the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

And just recently, County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Wheeler announced a ban on evictions, but no rent freeze or assistance at the moment. A protester took the podium around 25:00 in the video in to call for a rent freeze or strike until assistance can be given. After that a short Q&A was held for members of the media.

He also sums up much of the actions taken by local government. Watch the video by clicking below:

Citywide services

Meal services throughout the city have also been advised, and have been conducting sanitizing cleanings on a daily basis to control the spread of the virus. Most continue to serve as usual.

Volunteer and advocate-run meal services— like Free Hot Soup— have also stated they would continue to serve the homeless downtown with precautions in place to reduce spread of the disease.

Medical facilities like Kaiser Permanente have also been working to help during the crisis to address the situation on the street. They donated $100,000 to Central City Concern to help prevent the spread of the virus and provide CCC the ability to test for the disease in the homeless population.

Editor’s note: After publication, a representative from the Joint Office of Homeless Services got back to us, so we’ve updated the story to include their input. Additions / clarifications in the next two paragraphs are italicized.

If someone in a shelter has symptoms of a respiratory illness or is vulnerable to serious symptoms, JOHS is allowing shelter providers to place them in a motel room for quarantine purposes. There have already been some issues with this which resulted in a group of elderly homeless women being turned away by a hotel manager out of fear of the virus.

The County government issued an order on Tuesday that bans motels from refusing people in those circumstances going forward.

No one living on the streets of Portland has tested positive so far, County officials said, but testing has just started in that population.

It has also been announced that the City would reduce the number of sweeps conducted on homeless camps. This will be done by increasing the threshold of what is deemed needing to be swept. The reasoning behind this is to also reduce the risk of spreading the virus if it should be in the homeless population. There is concern being expressed to the City, however, that the sweeps need to stop entirely to fully contain the situation.

The homeless camp sweeps continue during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Anthony Bencivengo

The broader community response

There has also been a formation of community members trying to help people who may not have not been prepared for a situation like this. A Facebook group called COVID-19 Portland Oregon Area Community Support has been created and has attracted over 2,600 members since its creation on March 12th.

A statement by a moderator of the group says “this group exists for solidarity and mutual aid of the working class in and around Portland”. 

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Another Facebook group that has formed is called PDX Covid-19 Mutual Aid Network. That group has around 2,300 members and the aid for that is being supplied by a GoFundMe which has been set up.

No photo description available.

Join one or both groups to offer or ask for help.


The situation in Oregon has been changing quickly and several places have closed abruptly causing citizens to worry about their financial well-being. Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency on March 12th. On the afternoon of March 16th, Governor Kate Brown ordered all bars and restaurants to close except for takeout or delivery food which will last for four weeks. This has furthered concerns of financial instability across the state.

Addressed to Brown and Wheeler, a petition has also been formed entitled Request for Relief for Rents, Mortgages, Sweeps, & for UBI by Portland City Council candidate Rachelle Dixon in hope of them address those issues. 


Cory Elia is a journalist, photographer, videographer, documentary director & producer, radio personality & podcaster. His journalistic focus is on politics, protest, and poverty.

Contact Cory:

Facebook: Cory Elia
Twitter: @therealcoryelia