Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults. Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues. Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served. That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles! You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!
Is simplifying and spring cleaning in full swing at your house? Have you accumulated quite a collection of unnecessary belongings that need to go? In my house the answer to both is, yes! Luckily there are many resources to help you find where to donate or recycle these items.
Oregon Metro is my go to site for information on where to donate, recycle, or as a last resort dispose of as garbage. They have a database where you enter what you want to get rid of and it finds places to either donate, recycle, or dispose of it. There is also information on where to bring hazardous wastes, neighborhood collection programs, and tips on reducing waste in the first place.
211 Info is a clearinghouse of resources. Simply put in your zip code and "donation" in the search bar and it brings up a list of organizations that accept items ranging from glasses to camping gear. If you like more of a list format this is the website for you.
What about that growing collection of old electronics? Free Geek accepts donations of computers, phones, and other electronics. If able to be reused your device will be refurbished and donated back to the community, how cool is that! If it can't be reused your device can be recycled through Oregon E-Cycles. If you aren't able to make it to Free Geek, Oregon E-Cycles has many other collection sites.
Finally here are my my personal favorites:
- Have you noticed those green boxes popping up all around Portland? They are part of the Gaia Movement USA. They are an easy way to recycle your clothes and shoes. Use their map to find a drop off box nearest you.
- SCRAP accepts a wide range of art and office supplies. Just be careful not to leave with more than you donated!
- The Rebuilding Center accepts building supplies and it's a fun place to wander around for hours. They also offer a pick up service.
What library blog would be complete without mentioning that the Friends of the Multnomah County Library can accept your book and DVD donations? If you have a small donation your local library will be happy to accept it.
Do you have questions about recycling, donating your unwanted posessions to local organizations, or anything else? Librarians love questions, so please call, email, or text us -- or just ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library in person. We'd be happy to help you get more information, or even just help you get your curiosity satisifed.
I attribute the beginnings of my Anglophilia to two bears: Winnie-the-Pooh and Paddington. When I was a child, I loved Milne's stories and poems about Pooh and his Hundred Acre Wood friends, my mother's nickname for me was Roo, and we called snacks "smackerels". I knew that Winnie was based on a teddy bear owned by A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, but until recently, I didn’t know that the stuffed bear got his name from a real live one! The “real” bear, Winnie (short for Winnipeg), was purchased at a Canadian train station by a veterinary surgeon serving in WWI. The seller had shot the cub’s mother (not realizing she had a baby) and now didn’t know what to do with the young bear. Fortunately, Harry Colebourn came to the cub’s rescue and thus began Winnie’s adventure. You can read all about Winnie in a lovely new children’s book entitled Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. The watercolor illustrations are charming and evoke the era, and the endpapers have photos of Winnie, Harry, Milne and Christopher Robin (with his teddy bear).
For other true stories about children’s literature, check out this list.
Have you ever had trouble finding an obituary for a Portland ancestor who died around the turn of the last century? You’re not alone!
In the 19th century and even in the early 20th, newspapers often put obituaries in with the regular news, making them hard to find. This was also before it was common for Portland newspapers to include a "Daily city statistics" section listing the names of people who had died in the city recently. So it’s no wonder that it can be a big challenge to find Portland obituaries from before about 1910.
But I have good news for you: if your ancestor was a Portlander, and if they died within city limits 1881-1917, their death was probably recorded in the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths.
What is the Ledger Index?
The Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is a long list of people who died in the city of Portland 1881-1917. It’s quite a bit more robust than most modern death indexes -- in addition to the name and death date of each person included, it includes details like the address or name of the place where the person died, their cause of death, and (in some years) the name of the cemetery where they were buried. This additional information makes the Ledger Index a pretty decent substitute for obituaries.
Here’s what the Ledger Index actually looks like. The library has a microfilmed copy, which is why it’s white text on a black background.
Finding your ancestor
The Ledger Index is arranged by date of death -- because of this, it’s sometimes referred to as the “Chronologic Index.” If you know the date your ancestor died, simply go to that date and hopefully you’ll find them!
If you don’t know your ancestor’s date of death, try looking for their name in the Oregon State Archives’ Oregon Historical Records Index. This index includes most records from the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths. If your ancestor is listed, their date of death should lead you to the correct page of the Ledger Index.
Racial classification in the Ledger Index
There are some challenges to using the Ledger Index. The information in the Index is a primary source, created a full century ago, and it is a government record reflecting the mainstream standards and ideas of its time. There is no context or commentary to interpret the index for you -- you will have to provide your own analysis.
One thing these records show us is the unexamined racism of the past. The Ledger Index states the race of each person listed, often using terms that are decidedly not used in polite speech today: “Chinese,” “Colored,” “Half-Breed,” “Mulatto,” “White,” and possibly others. Some of these terms appear on detail from January 1882 at left. In later years, single-letter abbreviations are used. There is no key showing what the abbreviations meant, but I’ve guessed that “C” stands for “colored” (meaning Black or African-American); “W” for “white;” and “Y” for “yellow” (meaning Asian or Asian-American).
Causes of death in the Ledger Index
This detail from a January 1882 Ledger Index page shows some familiar-sounding causes of death: “still born,” "consumption," “scarlet fever.” But read if you read through a few pages worth of deaths, you'll also find unexpected causes like “softening of spinal marrow.” If you find your ancestor’s death has officially been recorded due to something that doesn’t sound like it would kill a person, be prepared to draw gentle, careful conclusions. And remember, you may need to do some research to discover what a cause-of-death term meant in the past.
Portland deaths only
Another thing to beware of when using the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is that it only includes people who died within the city limits of Portland. And the city was quite a bit smaller 100 years ago than it is now!
Fortunately, the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has a very helpful map showing historical annexations to the city of Portland (pdf), which you can look at to get a sense for where city limits were during your ancestor’s lifetime.
Of course, people are mobile. The Ledger Index lists people who died in Portland, not people who lived there. Your ancestor who lived in Linnton or East Portland or St. Johns could well have died within Portland city limits, particularly if they died in an accident or in a hospital.
Using the Ledger Index, and getting help with it
You can consult the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths at Central Library. Ask at any reference desk, and the librarian on duty will help you get the volumes you need. To read it, you’ll need to use one of Central Library’s microfilm machines -- read more about that in my colleague Ross B.’s post Microfilm at the library.
But you don’t have to visit the library to tap the riches of this great resource -- librarians are always happy to help. Just get in touch with us by phone or email via Ask the Librarian, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions or help you plan your research.
In the meantime, happy researching!
Do you want to know more about finding other local obituaries? Take a look at my post Where is that Oregon obituary?
Or if you'd like to step it back a bit and learn more about family history research with obituaries, my colleague Kate S. walks you through some of the basics in her post on Obituaries 101.
Sometimes I get tired of the boys’ club that is our pop culture. I think “Give me some women’s voices.” You certainly won’t find women’s voices on Portland radio, so I have to start spinning my own musical choices. And find the books for women's voices. And I’ve been lucky lately.
I found the Slits’ guitarist Viv Albertine’s memoir Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys. I was transported to 1970s London where punk rock was just taking hold and young Viv was just learning to hold a guitar, and her own on the stage. I was floored by the two prominent men in her life: her father and her husband, who sneered and put down her music career. Viv triumphs though! This is a memoir about creativity, aging and empowerment. I found her determination inspiring.
Then I heard that Kim Gordon had a memoir coming out. I got goosebumps. I was more of a pop music lover or local music lover most of my life. My favorite bands in the 80s and 90s were local bands but that’s another story. But I knew of Kim Gordon at that time. She was a beacon of hope for women in rock. Yes, there were others. But hearing that she sang about Karen Carpenter in the song “Tunic” sealed the deal for me. Reading her memoir really fleshes out the story how she began with visual arts and dance in California. Her musical career with Sonic Youth starts in New York City with her relationship with Thurston Moore. This is a wonderful memoir about reinventing oneself, and finding truth and creativity.
Both women portray the healing power and strength of music and creativity.Their storytelling skills really drew me in as a reader. The musical settings and characters were very interesting for a music fan. Perhaps you will find their memoirs as inspiring as I did.
The last few weeks here in Portland have been heavenly! Nights so cold and clear that the star-scattered sky seems close enough to touch. Days washed with sunshine and the goodwill of people who can’t wait until summer. But I know this is an illusion. Summer isn’t here yet and soon we will be back to the rain and overcast skies that Oregonians know and love.
So what will I do until then? Maybe a book, movie or music will bring some of that warmth and goodwill back to my soul. First on my list is a good mystery. Nothing cheers me up like a puzzle well solved. Or a detective who, despite personal problems, can’t stop until justice is done.
Dr. Siuri is one such detective. His story takes place in Laos during the time of the Vietnam War. Although 70 years old and hoping to retire into obscurity, Dr. Siri is appointed by the Laotian Government as their head (and only) forensic doctor. In Coroners Lunch, the first book in the series by Colin Cotterill, Dr. Siri knows nothing about forensics, but luckily with his two talented and resourceful assistants, Mr. Geung, (a mentally challenged man the government wanted to fire for incompetency) and a young nurse Dtiu ( who is considered too plain and overweight to nurse in the hospital), he is able to solve political crimes without causing an international disaster.
Along with a good mystery and a steaming cup of golden hot tea, I am sure to be listening to the Moody Blues - the mellow spirit of their music belies the introspective lyrics of songs that can still make me ponder the meaning of life.
From Days of Future Past :"Cold-hearted orb, that rules the night, removes the colors from our sight, red is grey and yellow white, but WE decide which is right and which IS an illusion".
From A Question of Balance: "Why do we never get an answer, when we're knocking at the door with a thousand million questions about hate and death and war?"
If black clouds and pouring rain put me in the the mood for for a movie, I might pick the Secret Garden -I love the version that features Maggie Smith as the bitter Mrs. Medlock, Linda Ronstadt's airy song Winter Light and a beautiful sleeping garden just waiting for the innocence and stubborness of Mary, Dickon and Colin to wake it up. The beauty of the ending that shows them dancing on the sunlit meadow always restores my faith in life again.
It's almost enough to make me hope I will wake up tomorrow to clouds and the sound of rain falling.
Our guest reader is Steve Sheinkin, an award-winning nonfiction author and this year's speaker at our Teen Author Lecture.
I started out writing screenplays and comics, and then, because I wasn’t actually making any money, I got a job writing history textbooks. Now I’m trying to make amends for that particular crime by writing nonfiction books for teens that are actually fun to read. When I visit schools and describe my job, there’s usually one kid who raises his hand and says something like, “Oh, so you do homework for a living?” It’s not true, though I guess I do spend a lot of days just sitting at my desk, reading and taking notes. I happen to love it. I think of the research process as a sort of nerdy detective work.
In my free time, or while traveling, I love to read crime and detective novels. Everything from the original stuff, like James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity and the short stories of Dashiell Hammett, to Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley books and Richard Stark’s Parker novels. Right now my absolute favorite is the incredible Martin Beck mystery series, a set of Swedish police procedurals written by a wife-and-husband team in the late 1960s and early 70s. I’m also tearing through Shigeru Mizuki’s History of Japan, a series of four 500-plus page graphic novels (last volume due in July) combining the artist’s own lifestory with that of the last 80 years of Japanese history. Not too ambitious, in other words.
In terms of movies, these days I mostly go with my kids, 8 and 5. When I get a chance to watch a movie that doesn’t have Spongebob (don’t get me wrong, he’s cool) I go for 1940s noirs, like Out of the Past.
Though I like comedies too, and actually just the other night my wife and I decided to show our kids one of my all-time favorites, the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. My five year old declared the opening scene “boring,” and marched off to bed. Then he came back ten minutes later, just to see how things were going, and he watched Harpo rolling up his pant legs and jumping into the obnoxious vender’s vat of lemonade, and he laughed so hard he literally fell off the couch. So I consider that a success.
I won’t try to list styles or music or bands, it’s too hard, but I’ll tell you a story about one of my favorites, Elliott Smith. I know he had Portland connections, but he also used to live in Brooklyn, where I was born, and lived for years as an adult. Once, after a move to a new place, I started getting mail addressed to Elliott Smith. Couldn’t be that Elliott Smith, I figured; this was the late 1990s, so he was fairly well known. But it turned out it was him. He’d just moved out, the women on the top floor told me, and the crazy landlady downstairs, this fake-orange-haired troll who’d come out of her room to shout “You’re nothing but a couple of waiters!” to the aspiring filmmakers on the second floor, used to berate Elliott too, and eventually drove him out of the building. I’ve always wondered if she shows up in any of his songs. Wish I’d gotten the chance to ask.
For more great recommendations, customized just for you, try My Librarian.
This summer I was over at my mom's going through some things from my youth and found several diaries from middle and high school. I glanced through the entries that mostly consisted of "Went to the football game", "Hung out at the mall", "Stalked the cute guy who works at the bowling alley". Given my lack of meaningful (or even remotely interesting) teen years writing content, I am always somewhat suspicious when I see teen memoirs. What could they possibly have to write about in their short lives? Well plenty it turns out! In her brand, spankin’ new book, Popular a memoir: Vintage wisdom for a modern geek, Maya van Wagenen tells us about the school year she spent figuring out the meaning of popularity and trying to achieve it. At first, this sounds like what many middle and high school students attempt, but here’s the twist: she used a book written for teens in 1951 for her popularity experiment!
When Maya’s family was clearing out the house one month, she came upon a book her dad had bought at a garage sale, Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide, and thus was born an exciting but scary idea. Each month of her 8th grade year she would read a chapter and then put into practice Cornell’s advice. Hilarity ensues as she buys and wears a girdle, tries out a bunch of different hairstyles including a Princess Leia-esque do (“Love your buns, Maya!”), and infiltrates different cliques at their lunch tables. Does Maya go from being an introverted sort-of-slob to a neat-as-a-pin, pearl-wearing popularity princess? Can advice from the 1950s still be relevant to today’s teens? Read Popular and find out!
Take a look at this list for some memorable teen memoirs.
The winners of the Oregon Book Awards were recently announced! From a number of excellent finalists, Portland’s own Emily Kendal Frey was awarded the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry. I’ve been reading the award winning book, Sorrow Arrow, and it’s a real treat - a wild emotional ride between poignant sadness and some rather hilarious moments, and memorable lines such as “You sit in your body, quietly making blood.” The book transpires in brief lyric lines, sometimes disjunctive and sometimes tenacious, in a series of untitled poems that build upon one another in a wonderful wall of feeling.
Are you interested in reading books by Emily Kendal Frey and other Oregon poets? Here’s a booklist for you.