By the sea, by the beautiful sea in Seaside.


Photo by Veeka Be from stock.xchng.com

I think all of us are attracted to water, be it a lake, river or ocean.  And my best memories of childhood (and some recent years) are from time at all three locales:  the river at Zig Zag, Oregon; Crater Lake (the most beautiful blue lake in the world), and the Pacific Ocean at Seaside, a small oceanside town 70 miles from Portland.

As long as I can remember, we always went to Seaside in the summer.  My father had come ahead before our sojourn to Los Angeles and San Francisco for Roller Derby, and sometimes he brought managers and occasionally skaters.  Uncle Oscar would be there at the same time along with our cousins.  We would spend all day on the beach, running in and out of the Pacific; in recent years I put my foot in the ocean and it literally curled with the cold, but what do you care when you are little.

There is a wonderful picture of Sid Cohen (who used to work for the Mob) walking next to me in a shirt and tie on the beach, carrying my little beach bucket with his 6′ 4” 280 pound body next to my tiny frame.  And we would go fishing up in Astoria (this is where the robber baron John Jacob Astor made his money buying furs from the Indians) on the Columbia River and I caught a 35-pound Chinook salmon.   Unfortunately, you don’t catch Chinooks or almost any other salmon in the Columbia now.

My dad was always happy and relaxed at Seaside.  The main street, Broadway of course, was very honky tonk with a salt water natatorium up near the end of the road, a ferris wheels, bumper cars, and all the junk candy and other items you would expect to find at the beach.  At the end of Broadway was the turnaround, officially marking the end of the Lewis and Clark trail, with statues of both there, and the promenade (prom) running for a few miles north and south.  You could stroll on the prom, ride your bike, or just sit on a bench and look at the ocean.

Seaside has never been known for its weather; it generally is cool and damp, but I always loved it.  When the sun was out, it was truly spectacular.  When we were on the beach (this is before World War 2), we would look for the glass floats, generally balls, that held up the fishing nets in Japan and would break away and follow the warm current all the way to the Oregon Coast.  One of the reasons it so rarely snowed or froze in the area was because of the Japanese currents.  We also would go crabbing off the pier for Dungenes crab (no limit then) or at low tide go clamming for the razor clams which are only found in the northwest coast of the US.

My Dad and Mom (named Rose) loved that area and wanted to build a home there.  I did not know at the time that my mother was very ill, having been misdiagnosed and suffering with breast cancer which was virtually incurable at the time.  I found out later that he had taken her to the Mayo Clinic and other advanced medical centers in order to prolong her life.  She never complained so Gloria and I were unaware what was going on.  They bought a piece of property, about 2 and 1/2 acres right on the ocean just south of the city limits with a forest on the land.  It was just adjoining Tillamook head and was called the Cove.

I think my father knew that they would never build on the land, but felt it gave my mother something to look forward to.  I believe that in 1940 he paid $3000 for the site.

After my mother’s death and we moved to Chicago we of course had Lake Michigan nearby, but it was  nowhere near the same.  On our occasional visits back to Oregon we would take short trips to the beach.  Then after my Dad remarried and moved to Encino, he started going to Oregon again.  His wife Belle had a family house in Gearhart, a very quiet and small town north of Seaside.  I stayed there several times, but there was no talk of building anything in Seaside.  My father contacted the Holiday Inn people with the idea of them putting a hotel there, but they felt that the market was too small at that time.

After my father’s death in 1978 the Seaside land became Gloria’s and mine.  We then found out that because of restrictions on septic tanks, no new building was allowed in that area.  However, after a few years the entire district was annexed into Seaside, and Gloria and Ken and I decide to develop a street, build a house for both our families to use, and sell lots.  Her son-in law Bruce came up with the name of Keepsake Drive, which had at least one letter for each of our children and grandchildrens’ names.  I won’t bore you with all of them.

The lots were sold, our house was built (a Victorian theme) and a small lot in front was donated to the city by Uncle Oscar and us, to be developed into a park.  I was in LA with Ticketmaster and got a call from a very upset Gloria.  She told me the city council had decided that there wasn’t money to develop the park…..the only public location on the ocean….and they would build restrooms on half, and sell the other half for development.

At Gloria’s urging I flew up to Seaside, and we attended the meeting at which the park project was to be officially dumped.  I must say I gave a fiery speech, stating that my family did not give the land to Seaside to become a toilet.  The mayor, a very smart man, said fine, you raise the money, we will build the park.

So Gloria formed a 501.3C and we started fund raising.  She was a whirlwind whipping Ken and I and all the neighbors into fevered activity.  She found out where she could get benches which were recycled and we started selling them.  We sold hundred of bricks to family, Seasiders, friends to put their names on.  I got a hold of Willie Nelson’s manager, and he did two concerts for us, one in Astoria and a second in Seaside.

I had recently moved to Sonoma and become friends with Tom Smothers, and he and his brother played for us in Seaside.  All of the Seltzers and Weinsteins showed up, we dedicated the ground and today there  is a tiny, beautiful park in Seaside, just around the corner from the house we built.  There are warm showers for the surfers (one of the great surfing spots in the US; don’t tell anyone), and benches at the top of a small hill.  And one of those benches has the name Leo and Rose Seltzer on it, so don’t tell me they didn’t get to that beautiful spot by the Cove.

The name of the park?  Seltzer Park, of course.  please visit when in Seaside……just sit on a bench and look onto the ocean.

Gloria


Gloria and Jerry

My sister and I went through a lot together early in life:  our mother dying when she was 12 and I was 9, being uprooted to Chicago from our comfortable family existence in Portland.  From the first day we arrived in Chicago Gloria and I started to save  coins so that we had enough money we could move back to Oregon.

Dad tried his best……it was just different after being with our mother and grandmothers most of the time and our cousins (the Weinsteins and the Seltzers) no longer being around.  Eventually Oscar’s family also moved out to Glenview, so our cousins were there.  Then Dad brought our grandfather and grandmother Seltzer to Chicago also, but none of us was quite the same in the new environment.

We had a new stepmom Lois who neither Gloria or I ever got close to.  That 2nd marriage ended in a bitter divorce and Gloria was more intent than ever on leaving when she could.  I was starting to have a good time as cousin Bob and I would go to Chicago every Saturday and peruse the camera stores and other downtown delights and end up at the Coliseum and come home with my dad.  And my grandfather took me to see the Cubs for the first time……it just happened to be the World Series (how many alive can say they saw the Cubs in the World Series?), and my sister started at Niles Twp High School in Skokie, where my cousins and I eventually went and graduated.

Gloria bonded with the best friends of her life at Niles.  Her group was called “The Pearls”…..I don’t remember why.  They did things together for the rest of her life:  trips, cruises, parties, etc, even though she moved to California and then Oregon….and that tells you a lot about my sister.

After Niles she went to Smith College for a year and then started in at UCLA.  By then she and Ken Gurian were going together and they were married in 1948 at the Bel Aire Hotel, one of the greatest Hotels anywhere.  They had their 50th anniversary celebration there in 1998 and the Hotel was so gracious in the way they hosted them.  I of course, was at both gatherings.

Shortly thereafter both Ken and Gloria went to work for the Roller Derby in New York and New Jersey.  Ken managed, announced on TV, and did a multitude of other tasks.  Gloria ran the box office and pretty much managed the in-house stuff.  My father paid them no more than he would the other staff and they had no special privileges.  She took care of the skaters’ problems and other tasks outside of her job, and of course she and Ken had to listen to the complaints by the skaters and others about Roller Derby.  She did have some great stories though and perhaps I can get Ken to tell them when he does his next blog on next years of Roller Derby (until 1955).

Finally when the long run ended in the East, Ken took a job with Riker Laboratories and they moved to Encino  California where they bought a house on Gloria street.  And David, who had been born in the west, was joined by sister Phyllis and younger brother Keith who were born in the east.  And this is when Gloria started demonstrating her becoming the matriarch of all the family.

I am sure because of the loss of our mother at such an early age who was never replaced in our lives, Gloria was impelled to make certain that all near and extended family would not be deprived.  And it was further accentuated when in her early thirties she also acquired breast cancer and eventually had to have two masectomies and as was done at that time treated with heavy radiation.  She was determined it would not slow her down.  She became a travel agent and took trips to everywhere, always wearing the same dress when photos were taken, whether in Moscow, India, Cuba, or in Fiji while scuba diving.  It makes for a great album.  She hosted all birthdays and occasions, and for her friends and families’ childrens’ Hanukkah celebration, she would make clothes for everyone.  And for Passover, she would have two sittings of at least 40 people.

Finally the Los Angeles climate became too much for her irradiated lungs and asthma (she never complained) and she and Ken moved to Seaside, Oregon, to live by the ocean.  She still arranged the Pearls annual gathering, hosted dozens of family and friends for the 4th of July celebration, planted her garden, took care of the family and visited them all.

She started to develop real shortness of breath and was unable to take care of all she wanted.  She had a rare heart condition and an experimental valve had been developed, and it was decided that she would go to Vancouver, BC where the doctor who had created the valve would operate it on her and hopefully she could go back to her normal live.  We were all in Vancouver and the operation was a success.  We all saw her in recovery and I asked her if she was going to be able to dance again and she smiled and squeezed my hand.  We all went to dinner and then got a call to come back to the hospital.  It seemed she had started bleeding internally and somehow it hadn’t been noticed and she was too weak to recover and died.

We were all in shock and couldn’t believe it when the doctor came out and told us…good sense keeps me from saying here what happened and what should have been avoidable.  No matter what, this woman who was my closest relative and someone I never had a real disagreement with (and that goes for my relationship with Ken also) was gone.  The irony that she had lived for well over 40 years as a cancer survivor and  should have never died in a way that was probably avoidable kind of jumps out at you.

Her daughter Phyllis who lives in Portland has very much taken over the reins of the matriarch.  She is also a cancer survivor who has befriended and been befriended by the Rose City Rollers in raising funds to fight cancer.  And I can’t forget Linda, Keith’s wife, who was at the side of and learned so much from Gloria.

The money we raised to leave Chicago?  One day we just split it up and I don’t remember what I did with my share.