Mary Fox and Bonnie Ross

Recorded August 7, 2020 Archived August 24, 2020 33:26 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: lsk002322


Mary Fox (64) speaks with her mom, Bonnie Joyce Ross (91) about her memories of growing up in Portland during WWII, her experiences in foster care and raising a family of her own.


  • Mary Fox
  • Bonnie Ross

Recording Location


Venue / Recording Kit


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00:02 Hi, my name is Mary Fox. I am 64 and today is August 7th. 2020. We are in my mom's apartment in Gresham, Oregon and I'm going to be talking to my mom.

00:21 Good.

00:27 How is

00:29 Born on

00:33 710 29

00:36 + 9

00:38 My relationship is Mary is my daughter.

00:44 So Mom, I'm just really glad that we are able to have this discussion. You are so full of so many memories and so as we've talked over the last couple of weeks about what we wanted to talk about now. I think you kind of know what you want to share with us right to share. What happened to me and on 1941 and what was that that was on a Sunday?

01:14 And I was outside playing dodgeball with my friends in the neighborhood and Northeast Portland.

01:23 When the news came over the radio that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.

01:31 Now it was on December 7th 1941.

01:36 II

01:39 Started seeing people running out of their houses the young men and young boys to join up with us in the service of their country and the gentleman that was sitting on the porch across the street got so excited that you forgot that he unbuttoned his pants.

02:02 And he stood up Suddenly and his pants fell down.

02:07 And that was quite an experience, but he ran in the house and but that was all forgotten due to the emergency of the day.

02:18 But from now on this country mobilize.

02:25 And I

02:27 On December the 8th the mobilization of Oregon started with the Red Cross setting up stations for wrapping bandages.

02:43 The Uso started fixing up the building downtown which would be known as George White service center for all the service man that would come to this part of the country.

02:56 And

03:00 We also had van stands around town OneMain Bandstand was up near the her down there the Old Post Office where they would try to sell war bonds and they would have Entertainment movie stars would come and sing or dance and also

03:26 We started collecting cans the young people got their wagons out. They started collecting all metal things to turn in for the government to use in building ships and planes and things.

03:44 And then

03:46 And you were in high school right now through high school years the war started on December 7th, 1941 and I just started High School in September. So from then on everything was very busy.

04:05 And lots of my friends young boys and even women young girls that were old enough like seniors. They all headed down to sign up for the war effort.

04:19 Now an impacted how you lived at home too? Cuz there's a lot of things you had to do and rations and different things. We had ration books for sugar and other food items and you couldn't buy certain things unless you had a stamp to give with your purchase and then we had ration books for gasoline.

04:53 And I'm not sure what else but I know you couldn't have a whole lot of pairs of shoes for one thing because if you got a hole in your shoe.

05:06 In the bottom of your shoe, you had to put cards from decks of cards in there and keep that covered because that wasn't going to get fixed.

05:18 We didn't have you couldn't have nylon stockings anymore. So from then on we had to use leg.

05:28 Paint

05:30 Different colors that stupid spray on your legs for it to make it look like you had stockings on.

05:39 And seems like I remember you said you would paint a line down the back of you were going to go out and wanted to be real fancy. Then your friend would paint a line down the back of your your legs. So it would look like the seam of a stocking and anyway, that was a lot of fun, but I belong to a club in high school who's President her mother was the cook at George White service center.

06:14 And it turned out that all the members in this club that I belong to which were upperclassmen like juniors seniors. We all got to help serve down at George White service center on Saturdays and Sundays. So we got to serve all the servicemen that came in.

06:37 And most of the servicemen were from the east coast and most of our men from the West Coast or sent to the East Coast.

06:46 So that was quite a mix was it scary? It was scary because all the houses had to have what they called blackout curtain. So we had to have patrols at night around the neighborhoods. Everybody was involved in that in the neighborhood and make sure there was no light coming from any windows or anything because it could be seen from the air.

07:17 And the people that smoked couldn't smoke outside where anybody could see them or anything because the the glow from their cigarette would also show up to airplanes in the sky.

07:34 And then we had

07:39 Practice Air Raids with the airplanes that were our own plane that would fly over at night and they would announce that they were having a practice raid and then they would report back if there were any lights showing from the ground up so that way they were able to

08:03 You are correct that

08:08 And I don't know there were just a lot of things.

08:15 But

08:17 We had a four-bedroom house. I lived in two bedrooms in the main floor and two bedrooms upstairs.

08:28 And so

08:32 My foster parents decided to rent rooms.

08:37 So we rented rooms to people that came here from lot of people came from Southern States to work in the shipyards cuz we were right on the coast.

08:50 And so we had people in our house too and both bedrooms on the main floor. We had people upstairs in the upstairs bedrooms.

09:05 And then we had one in the basement who was in at the Italian man, and he love to sing.

09:12 So we had a lot of music around the house full house. Yeah, and then we had meat was rationed. So a lot of times we had what they called peanut butter meatloaf and what little bit of meat you could put in it the rest of it you put in bread and eggs and things and mixed it with the peanut butter and the little bit of meat, but boy, it was really good after it was cooked.

09:45 And so then we had

09:50 I don't know what else.

09:54 We were able to invite the servicemen and women from George White service center to our homes. If we wanted to have them for Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other time. We were allowed to ask them to come to dinner on Sundays. They could come and go to church with different families.

10:21 And I met a lot of nice nice young man that way and that was the u.s. So right song.

10:33 From The Uso that came there were service people and we were allowed to ask him to come over if we wanted if they wanted to come over to his house and then the cook at your try to service center had some property outside of Portland and she would

10:58 Volunteer to have any service person from George White service center come to her home and we had all the club members the girl and we would go out and have wiener roast and and marshmallows and we had a whole table set up with all kinds of food for the service people and we had a bus that picked him up at George White service center took him out to mrs. Cleaves house and

11:36 We played games and we just had a really really good time and everybody enjoyed it and then the bus would take the servicemen back to the George White Service Center and they could go about whatever they were going to do.

11:54 A stalking, you know many times in the past. You've always said how it felt like the whole country was pulling together during this time. Everybody was pulling together. We we had people there offered to help the Red Cross and help pick up anything newspapers, whatever they could.

12:18 They could do to help but they just wanted to help.

12:22 And then we had what they call the latchkey kids and all the kids whose parents were helping like the Red Cross rolling bandages and thing they all wore their has key around your neck, and that's why they were called lack speak in.

12:40 Lots of good memories. I'm thinking, you know, you were born during the Depression and then you lived through World War II and then raising kids in the sixties in the seventies. You've seen a lot of history in the making right? And what do you worry about with your family now?

13:05 Well, I don't know if I should say it but I am worried about what's going to happen to our government.

13:14 I'm very worried that rules and regulations.

13:23 Could be put on our people that they would think maybe were normal.

13:30 But with all the rioting and things that are going on now in our cities, especially hearing or and Portland.

13:39 I'm just afraid of what might white things might end up being for my children and my grandchildren and I'm afraid we're going to lose our freedom if we don't watch out.

13:54 Yep. Yep.

13:58 You've seen a lot of change in the decades and

14:04 II after the war was over.

14:10 I worked for the telephone company is a long distance operator.

14:16 And my teacher that was teaching me usually went to McElroy's Ballroom on Saturdays night after work. So she asked me if I would like to go with her cuz she didn't like to go alone. So I said yes.

14:36 And in that process that's where I met my husband.

14:41 And Weaver Weaver married 73 years.

14:49 Miss July 29th, and he passed away.

14:55 But I'm just in June he he not dad died on June 8th to this year part meant for 30 years and firemen put on a nice ceremony. And then the Navy he was in the Navy.

15:17 He was in three battlesons and now I'm one of the South Pacific and into other area so he had three metals.

15:27 And so I was presented with a flag from the Navy and applied from the fire department.

15:35 And I was very happy with the ceremony. It was really nice honor to him.

15:42 He is a great man.

15:45 You're not many people can say they've been married as long as you guys were no course. He was near the end. I had to he had to be in a care center while Dad was 9 years older than you.

16:06 And I

16:10 We had a very nice family two girls two girls and a boy and I'm proud of all my children. They've all done well in their life, but we've always told him if you want anything extra then what we can provide for you you'll have to work for and they sure did each one of them.

16:35 And that's how they got their car.

16:38 And my youngest daughter bought a boat and a hang glider.

16:43 And a car

16:45 And we had

16:50 Very interesting life and you've been the best mom ever. I like to play with my children during a day.

17:02 So we can go down to West Moreland Park.

17:06 And take the lunch. We feed the Ducks. Sometimes we played tennis. Sometimes we rented out tandem bicycle and rode around and by the time dinner to pay my head and clean house yet. So I stayed up half the night cleaning the house. So it would be Queen when their dad got home. So somebody told me it would catch up with me some day and it has

17:36 Yes, we didn't talk about this. But what advice would you give to young moms now?

17:42 Is spend as much time with your children as you can because as you get older, I'm sorry.

17:56 As you get older time goes quicker.

18:00 And I never believed that but now I know it does.

18:04 And I have fun with the men but let him be their own person.

18:10 Don't try to interfere in their lives. Once they grow up and you were a good model for that.

18:17 I know you always were with us and always helping us with school and and you know, I spent time with us and that was something that was very secure my eye on what was going on at school. So I was room mother to two of my children and they went to Sellwood School in Southeast, Portland.

18:46 But things were beginning to change at school.

18:51 So I think my name was on a list somewhere because I was kind of a watchdog, but I wanted to know what was being done and you know that you have that paper to fill out sometime asking questions about our family and questions that were really nobody else's business.

19:15 And you were not to put your name on the paper.

19:19 And hand it in and when I saw what it was I was very angry and I went up to the school and I talked to the principal about it.

19:30 And he said well, we're just trying to get to know the children better. And I said what those kind of questions they are just very personal and you shouldn't be asking him.

19:41 And so I got my name on somebody's list.

19:46 And then when my youngest daughter got her report card from Sellwood, she had all straight good grades. I don't remember what they were giving our letters or numbers. But anyway, she was always in the top and then when I was trying to get cupcakes and things made cuz I was running late as a room mother. I wanted her to read me a recipe and she could not read and she was in 5th grade.

20:19 I found out so I went up to the school again.

20:24 And then when I got there.

20:27 And park the car all the windows in kindergarten class are open.

20:34 And the kids are hanging out the window with the worst language. You could ever hear from me young kindergarten person.

20:43 And I went into the office and or went in and knocked on the the door of the class and I asked someone is your teacher here and the youngster said yes. Do you want to talk to him? And I said no, thank you. So I went up to the office and I had my daughter youngest daughter taken out of school taken out of that school.

21:12 And

21:14 She didn't was registered in a Christian school private school.

21:21 And she really learned.

21:23 Many many things will you always were paying attention to what was going on children are going

21:43 And be a part of the process.

21:46 Cuz we had a lot of different problems with.

21:56 Our son because he wanted to graduate from Sellwood and go to Benson Polytechnic school, which was a trade school.

22:09 And because probably because of me being in the school Limelight. They wanted him to go to Cleveland so they can keep track of it will my husband and I both had to go up and talk to the principal.

22:29 And advise him that their father went to Benson and their grandfather went to Benson and our son wanted to go to Benson so he could learn a trade because I didn't think we'd be able to pay for college and that way he can get a job.

22:48 And saw my name was on another list.

22:52 But then that's alright fight for my kids.

22:56 And we all know that you would do that. Yes, you were always behind us.

23:05 I I know that we just had a lot of fun my husband builds the house that my kids were raised in and for a while we didn't have anything in the basement, but boy it sure made a good skating rink at sure did have a cement floor and we are we did a lot of roller skating.

23:34 So if you could hold onto one memory in your life, what would it be?

23:40 I think raising my kids would be the first raising my children.

23:48 And then being a grandma.

23:52 And a great grandma.

23:54 And I just love kids.

23:57 Family, so lucky to have you well, I don't know about that. Everybody loves you.

24:07 Because I was in foster homes.

24:12 And that I learned a lot of lessons what not to do.

24:17 And how you treat people people

24:21 And I was put in three or four different homes. And by the time I was six years old.

24:30 I ended up in one last place.

24:33 With two people that didn't really care about me. I was more of a glue to hold the marriage together.

24:41 And the man was an alcoholic and the woman likes to slap you around and call me a dirty names.

24:51 And I used to have to sit in the garage in the car.

24:55 When he was drunk while he held a loaded 45 automatic threatening to kill himself and I was supposed to talk him out of it.

25:07 That's incredibly hard.

25:10 And I'll never forget that.

25:12 It's probably one of the worst memories.

25:22 And my partner was from Benson High School and they usually would wait with me on the corner until I got a bus to go home and it would be around 10 the time. We got out of class in this particular night. He got sick.

25:38 So his dad had to come and pick him up.

25:42 And I figured I could just go home by myself. So I had to transfer from one bus to to another and while I was standing on the corner. I knew someone else was there, but I never looked at them and then when I walked out to see if the bus was coming.

26:02 Which it wasn't then I walked back to the curb.

26:08 This person walked up behind me and grabbed my arm and said come on baby. Let's walk and I jerked away from him and I ran out in the middle of the street and I looked the one way for my best to see if it was coming and then I was out looking for the other bus that went in a totally different direction. There was nothing there and I was so scared. I had a vacant lot in front of me and a vacant lot behind me. And I just I just knew that was going to be the end of me and all of a sudden a bus appeared in the middle of street and I got on it and to this day. I think that God brought that bus

26:58 When I needed it, I'm sure he did and didn't the bus driver help. You forget it. He said go sit down. He said I'm going to take you someplace where you can get to a phone. And so he took me down there to a drugstore near Grant High School. It was on his route and he had me going and call and he said I'm going to wait right here until you come to the door to Signal me to let me know that you got a hold of someone so that's what I did.

27:38 And my foster mom came and pick me up. So he was very very nice man. I never did pay for my ride.

27:49 Well, that's a pretty scary story.

28:02 Yes, and you never ever mimicked any of those behaviors that you grew up with? No, we're always so kind and generous to everybody family to have you mom. Well, I love my kids is your ways your life ain't looking back on your life. Is it different than you thought it was going to be?

28:28 Different than I thought it was going to be.

28:31 Well

28:34 Yes, it was from what I remember when I was little cuz I remember.

28:40 My dad

28:44 And he had come to whatever place I was staying and he took me out for breakfast on Christmas morning and he given me a great big doll. So I took the doll with me cuz I wasn't very old and we went on a streetcar up to Henry tea leaves for breakfast.

29:11 He was a very nice man.

29:14 But I never saw him again after that. This was your biological dad.

29:26 A nice turnout Fan Company

29:29 And that's where my foster father worked at the Eastern outfitting company and they knew each other. So there was a connection there between

29:40 My dad and I

29:43 My foster parents that saw they got a hold of me.

29:50 So thinking back on your life and and where you're at now, how would you like to be remembered?

29:58 I have I have no idea how I'd like to be remembered.

30:04 Just a plain ordinary person. That's all I am now your anyting from plain and ordinary.

30:15 The person I love my family and we can agree with that for sure and I wanted to make sure that we had Christmas cuz I never had Christmas. We were all out in the beer parlors looking for.

30:31 My foster father it was drunk all the time, but I met a lot of

30:38 Nice people I even got to go down to Liberty Theater in downtown Portland into in the morning. I made sure my hair was calling and I was in high school and I made sure that I had everything looking just right cuz when you walked in the back end of the Liberty Theater was a big bar and there was every service man in the world in that place because it was a really nice nice place.

31:08 And I

31:11 Sorry, I've been in a lot of beer.

31:16 Anyway, I had a very I would like to write a book someday. That's a little bit late now. It's never too late.

31:26 Is there any wisdom you want to give to the family?

31:31 No, just live your own life and and and enjoy each other and don't let anybody.

31:39 Interfere in your daily plans other than your family because we had a lot of that in our marriage.

31:49 Henry's mother couldn't let go of him and she tried to break us up, but I wouldn't leave so

32:00 You were dedicated.

32:02 My family meant everything to me and we knew it to.

32:07 If this was our our last conversation, is there anything you would want to say to me? I would say that I was the luckiest person in the world. They have you and you were such a good little baby girl.

32:24 And I love you very much and I'll and I'll help me so much in these last time now. I love you more than I can even say or that you would even know.

32:36 And I I feel like I need to say it all the time, but I know you know it I mean the world to me you really do and I love my youngest daughter Kathy and my son named very much and they feel the same about you. That's one thing you've taught us. All is to care about each other again care about family.

33:02 But we had a lot of good times. We sure did lots of good memories and all the grandkids. Love you. Oh, yeah.

33:15 Yes, we're very fortunate family. Yes, we are.