The Highland Rim Historical Society is fortunate to have a few copies from an early Portland newspaper called The Portland Herald, thanks to former City Historian, Patrick Meguiar.
The Portland Herald office was located in a building that sat on the corner of Russell and High Street, location of today’s City Hall. In the Nov. 27, 1931 issue, Editor Norman M. Morris described the early days in Portland in his editorial titled “Portland in 1931 Versus 1930.”
Mr. Morris is focused on the fact that many folks around have been adversely affected by the economic Depression the United States was experiencing. Portland, however, was getting back on “it’s feet” after their worst days following the Portland Bank’s closing in 1926. We thought it might be interesting to see Portland...90 years ago. The article is verbatim except for a few notes.
“A visit was made by the editor this week over the city of Portland and surrounding vicinity, on a hunt for the brute, so called “Depression.” The animal could not be found anywhere, neither any trace of him, but on the contrary we found the following.
“A fifty-thousand-dollar High School just completed (later reports revealed the cost of the school was $70,000), and one of the ablest bodies of teachers in the State assembled with enough fine boys and girls to fill this building to overflowing, the grounds were being landscaped, driveways laid out, ball and tennis grounds were there in plenty and a prosperous 1932 before them.
“On Main Street in the City, two brand new buildings were observed, one erected by Mr. David Potts the other by Dr. E. F. Peden. The Potts building (location of Milo’s Coffee Shop) is made up with two brand new stores that would be a credit to any city. The Peden Building, (location of Mrs. Marla’s Academy of Dance) modern in every respect, and the last word in engineering ingenuity, steam-heated and the bottom floor occupied by the Hester Chevrolet Company and the upstairs floor by doctors and dentists, and many business firms.
“Main Street is also adorned by two beautiful new garages, which were completed this year. (I believe these to be Bigbee’s Service Station at the southwest end of Main Street where the Strawberry Park is now, and Roney’s across the street on the corner of today’s Broadway and Church Street.)
“The Highland Rim Hotel, modern in every particular, and just recently finished is one of the show places of town and much activity can be seen there any day or night. (I believe this was the Hotel owned by Florene Payne on Church Street.)
“On Mill Street, we found the enormous warehouse of the Strawberry Crate Company, Inc., being dressed up with a brand-new roof and coat of paint to follow in connection with a general overhauling.
“This Warehouse is being filled everyday with thousands of complete Strawberry Crates for the coming season, and upon a close examination we came to the conclusion that this company is manufacturing the best crates we ever saw. This crate has at least ninety percent of yellow poplar end frames, and every dividing rail is being sawed and ripped out of lumber, instead of clipped out of veneering, as other firms do, and as has been done here in the past.
“This process is expensive but makes a divider far superior to anything on the market. The tops of these crates are being made this season so they will not warp by drying thoroughly and the splitting open in the center with a fine band saw.
“The crate sides and bottoms wrap squarely around the heads in making this season, owing to the installation of a very expensive head for one of the wire bound machines which sews one side of the crate adversed to the other.
“The factory building proper has just been overhauled and is newly painted. A new boiling system has been installed which ensures red hot logs every hour of the day, which is responsible for smooth cut veneer, which is absolutely necessary in the making of a good-looking crate.
“Our local people should be proud of this package this season for a good-looking crate helps to sell the berries at a better price.
“In looking out into the surrounding territory, we found the best prospect for a good berry crop for the spring 1932 season that we have ever seen and people who plan and look ahead will buy a conservative number of crates this year in our estimation and this will help our local factory, which of course all want to do.
“Tobacco barns were found overflowing with the finest air cured and dark fired tobacco. All out houses were filled to overflowing with corn and hay, the barnyards and chicken yards were full of fine fowls, and all odd lots had pigs. Fall plowing was greatly advanced and winter oats, wheat and rye fields are looking like one vast green carpet spread over the earth. Strawberry fields are being plowed for the coming season.
“Mr. Calamity Howler, don’t you think that Upper Sumner County is a bad place for you to try to hibernate? People should fall down on their knees and thank God for his many blessings to us this year, instead of coming to town and standing on the street corners and trying to holler calamity without an audience.
Johnny Freedle is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.