Alameda-Irvington rivalry produces memorable 1920 baseball game

This is a story about neighborhoods and about baseball. About community spirit, pride and rivalry. About fundraising. And about fun.

It’s Spring 1920 in Alameda: our recently platted neighborhood is still growing here on Gravelly Hill, streets not long paved, at least a third of the landscape consisting of vacant unbuilt lots. A new streetcar line carries Alamedans across the recently constructed Broadway Bridge.

6-4-1920 Baseball Rivalry

Detail from a story in the June 4, 1920 edition of The Oregonian.

Not quite summer, baseball fever grips Portland, where our Pacific Coast League home team, the Portland Beavers, is hosting visiting teams at Vaughn Street Park, a 12,000-seat grandstand that occupied several square blocks in Northwest Portland from 1901-1955.

Here in the neighborhood, kids of all ages are out on vacant lots playing ball. Which leads to inspiration for Alameda and Irvington moms and dads raising funds to do good works under the auspices of the Irvington Club: a Saturday afternoon baseball fundraiser, pitting neighborhood against neighborhood, at Multnomah field, today’s Providence Park (also known as Civic Stadium).

A series of articles in The Oregonian in May and June 1920 tells the story of a friendly neighborhood rivalry and a love for the game, in the tongue-firmly-in-cheek writing style visible in newspapers of the 1920s—a slightly over the top, sarcastic-ironic flavor of feigned bravado—that says “this is all in fun, we’re just playing it up.”

Let’s start at the top:

The May 27, 1920 edition of The Oregonian features the headline “ALAMEDA GANG GETS SET; Plans to humble Irvington being made,” calling for practice sessions on the old Alameda School grounds, which at the time was a collection of five temporary buildings at the edge of a dairy pasture on Fremont near where today’s school stands.

“The material for the team includes some 25 prominent residents of Alameda who have already signified their desire to return once more to their schoolboy days. It is desired, however, to have as strong a team as possible and Skipper Bale has invited all the neighbors of the Alameda district to turn out.”

By June 4, 1920 interest was building, and a photograph of the two opposing pitchers appeared in the front of the paper. The reporter was having fun with the story, referring to the pitchers as mound artists, flingers, chuckers and twirlers. The teams were forming, made up of neighborhood men in their 40s and 50s, a few of which had baseball or some form of athletics in their past.

6-5-1920 Baseball Hype

From The Oregonian, June 4, 1920. Um, interesting lingo from the 1920s…

As the week progressed, more stories appeared, bragging on the former baseball greatness of a few players and the extended age and questionable physical condition of others. Anticipation was amping up in the neighborhood and ticket sales were strong for the “greatest baseball fundraiser of all time.”

The final result, announced in the June 6, 1920 edition of The Oregonian:

      IRVINGTON BEATS ALAMEDA

“In a game that went 10 innings before a winner was decided, Irvington nosed out Alameda Park yesterday afternoon on Multnomah field by a score of 4-3. The players surprised even themselves by the brand of ball which they put up.”

Two days later, the story was still in the news as the untallied proceeds were being counted on behalf of the Irvington Club, and the neighborhood “elders” recovered their form:

      STARS REGAINING TONE

“The ball players of Irvington and Alameda Park who participated in the big benefit game on Multnomah field last Saturday afternoon are slowly recovering from their ‘charley horses,’ strains, bruises and ‘knocking cylinders.’”

“The baseball fans who journeyed out to Multnomah field last Saturday were treated to a real session of the national pastime and had much more enjoyment than if they had gone out to Vaughn street park and watched Salt Lake trim Portland.”

A thinly veiled reference to the Beaver’s near last place finishes in the Pacific Coast League of the early 1920s.

No final fundraising tally was ever printed, but for a few weeks in the spring of 1920, baseball and a friendly neighborhood rivalry gave people something to talk about.

Activist Parents and the Origin of Alameda School

We’ve written in the past about Alameda School and the portable buildings that preceded it. To be clear, there is much more to learn and write about the school itself, but recently we’ve come across some information that will make you want to go stand at the corner of NE 25th and Fremont and imagine a different reality (that’s a big part of what history is all about for us…trying to reassemble the pieces).

And since it’s the start of the school year, what better time to pause for a moment to think about our favorite local school?

We’ll remember that in 1914, the Alameda Park neighborhood was a blank slate with streets and curbs in, but less than 80 homes built. Still, there were kids, and parents who organized to push for the School Board to build a local school.

On September 3, 1914, the Board heard from a delegation of Alameda parents, and received a promise for further action:

From The Oregonian, September 4, 1914

Construction of Kennedy School on NE 33rd was underway which may well have just served to irritate Alameda parents, who felt there should be a school here too. By October, the Board was ready to provide a temporary solution, leasing a 200-foot by 500-foot lot on the northeast corner of 25th and Fremont for several temporary buildings:

From The Oregonian, October 2, 1914. Interesting unrelated note: the writer refers to the “overlap” area (see post from August 24th) as Alameda Park.

By Thanksgiving week 1914, the buildings were in and so were the kids:

From The Oregonian, November 24, 1914

Over the next several years, the portables multiplied into a compound of buildings and by October 1919, Alameda parents (there were more of them by now) held a rally of sorts, signed a petition and expressed their readiness to levy a tax against themselves to build a building:

From The Oregonian, October 29, 1919. Note that additional portables had been added to the mix since the first two in 1914.

On an interesting side note, Dr. C.J. Smith was a notable Alamedan who while serving as the President of the State Health Board was nominated by the Democratic Party to run for Governor against James Withycombe in the election of 1914. The Smith family was very active in Alameda community affairs. Despite his pleas and the voices of the community, when school started in 1920, the Alameda portables were bursting at the seams with nearly 150 students. Something had to be done. By mid-October 1920, School Board Director W.F. Woodward had been to see the hardships, and parents submitted more petitions.

From The Oregonian, October 15, 1920

Which is exactly what they did. A bond issue was passed and school construction began to catch up with the growing student population across Portland. One year later, on October 27, 1921, the School Board selected a contractor and construction soon followed leading to the school we know today (the building of which is another story for another day).

The following year, homes were built on the property where the portables stood. In fact, there may be a few missing pieces to the story about the location of the portables. The northeast corner of 25th and Fremont has had a house on it since 1919. Perhaps the reporter meant the northwest corner of 25th and Fremont, though we’ve seen multiple references to that northeast corner. Possibly by the early 1920s, the portables were moved onto the current school site–which was a dairy pasture–as the neighborhood expanded.

Regardless, it’s an inspiring story about neighbors making a difference. And it still makes us wonder what the corner of 25th and Fremont looked like with six portable buildings and 150 students. And tip our hat to the parents of the day who helped make it happen.

Old School

Alameda School, 1923. Picture taken looking southeast from the corner of NE 27th and Fremont. OHS image OrHi 105623.

We received word last week from Portland Public Schools that they’re sharing an inventory of their many historic properties, including our favorite Alameda Elementary School, and nearby Beaumont Middle School.

You can find these reports and many others at this link, which is interestingly housed within the Office of School Modernization.

Looks like Alameda faired well in the analysis in terms of its historic integrity, but Beaumont–due to many alterations made over time–did not. Both buildings were designed by George Jones, the one-man Portland school architectural institution (actually two man institution, his father Thomas had also been architect for the Portland School District years earlier).

The good news for Alameda Elementary School is that it scores well as a candidate for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Perhaps a small group of interested parents and historic building fans might be up to the task…? Count us in if we can find a quorum.

Be sure to have a look at these other posts related to Alameda School.

The First Alameda School

When most Alamedans think about our lovely old Alameda Elementary School, we are probably thinking about the beautiful and classic building that stands today on NE Fremont between 27th and 29th. Built in 1921, this school has been the neighborhood hearth for generations.

But did you know there was an even earlier Alameda School? I came upon this tidbit while reviewing 1914 articles from The Oregonian, but never dreamed I’d find a photo of the place. You can imagine how pleased I was to find this remarkable shot of the first school in the neighborhood, built in 1915. Check it out:

"First crop of radishes and lettuce at the Alameda Park School, Portland, Oregon, June, 1916. Even in the primary grades children may learn much about the science of growing things. Courtesy L.A. Alderman"

The original caption reads: "First crop of radishes and lettuce at the Alameda Park School, Portland, Oregon, June, 1916. Even in the primary grades children may learn much about the science of growing things. Courtesy L.A. Alderman"

The photo is from a book published in 1919 by Rand McNally called “Vocational Guidance for Girls,” by Marguerite Stockman Dickson. You can have a look at this book (a remarkable story all on its own), thanks to Project Gutenberg, by clicking here.  The Alameda photo is in Chapter V, where you’ll find some other interesting photos from Northeast Portland.

The caption clearly identifies this as the Alameda Park School in Portland, Oregon. That’s us. Pair this up with the news story from The Oregonian on September 18th, 1914 and we can begin to fit some pieces together. Take a look:

From The Oregonian, September 18, 1914.

From The Oregonian, September 18, 1914.

Things to ponder:

  • This original small school building was viewed as temporary when it was first built. Only a relatively small percentage of homes had been built in the neighborhood by then, so it was clear there would one day be a real need. Not so much in 1915, but local kids still needed a local school.
  • It was first imagined in context with a school up the road in the Beaumont neighborhood, which was also to be temporary. Like Alameda, that neighborhood was just starting out in 1915.
  • The newspaper indicates that one site for the school was at the top of Gravelly Hill, NE 33rd and Fremont. It also says the site being offered by J.J. Cahalin was on Fremont between 25th and 26th, the next block west from the current site of the Fremont United Methodist Church. I didn’t find a follow-up story, nor have I looked at the property records, but my hunch just from looking at the photo is that the Cahalin site was selected over the one at the top of the hill. I’ll run that down next time I’m looking at property records, but that just seems likely.
  • Interesting to note the tall windows, lattice-work porch and woodstove chimney. And the fact that the kids had a busy and productive garden.

Where did it sit exactly? Who built it? Who was headmaster? Mysteries yet to solve.

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