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INTERVIEW WITH FLORENCE RAGEN
SEPTEMBER 1982

This is the transcript of an interview on tape with Florence Ragen made with the hope of telling her nine grandchildren something about their ancestry. It is very lightly unedited at this point. "F" is Florence; "S" is Susie Ragen, the interviewer.

S: Fauncie, let's begin this tape with your parents, your father for instance. Was he born in Portland?
F: Yes, he was born in Portland. Mt. Tabor actually which is a suburb of Portland now. In those days, it was country. He was born in 1859.

S: And he was a pharmacist; is that right?
F: Yes, not then, but later.

S: Was your mother born in Portland too?
F: She was born in Oregon City in 1861, I think it was.

S: Did she have bothers and sisters?
F: Yes, she had five of each, I think to start with. But when I came along, quite a few of them had died.

S: Did your rather have brothers and sisters?
F: He didn't have as many as she did. He had two brothers and one sister; as far as I know, that's all. They were all alive during my childhood.

S: So you had lots of aunts and uncles when you were growing up. But you were an only child?
F: I was an only child and I was born late in my parentís lives, so my aunts and uncles were all pretty old. I didn't have many cousins, at least not first cousins. I think there were four: three on my motherís side and one on my fatherís. It was two boys and one girl on my motherís side and one girl on my fatherís side. I had lots of distant cousins.

S: And you went to school in Portland? What schools?
F: I went to Hawthorne grade school and Washington high school. My mother had gone to school in Oregon City. And my father had gone to early school in Mt Tabor and all the way into Portland for high school. He got there someway or other; I don't know how. The high school, then, was on 14th and Morrison, I think it was, not far from Lincoln now. Then he had to go back at night so it was quite a hard experience, I imagine, but he was glad he'd been able to do it.

S: Would he have ridden horses then? Or was there a trolley cart?
F: I don't know how he got there; I never asked him that. Maybe by that time, they had moved in closer to Portland, because later my grandfather moved in right to where Grand Avenue is now and owned all that property up and down Grand Avenue on the east side and probably to the river. There wasn't any street then; it was just country. Maybe that's where my father lived when he was in high school; he couldn't have gone in every day from Mt Tabor.

S. Where was the house that you grew up in then?
F: I was born on 15th and Davis, and thatís near downtown Portland now. We had a small house and then my father had built on this other land two flat buildings.  There were two flats in each building. And those buildings are still there, at West 15th and Davis. If you come down to my apartment, Iíll show them to you; I can see them from where I live.

S: Iíd like to. How long did you live there?
F: Then we moved when I was about six. We moved over to what was called Hawthorne Park, and it was 13th and East Salmon. There was a big park that the Hawthorne family who had settled that property had made into a public place. So there I lived until I was married. And then I was; how old was I when I was married? Twenty-three or twenty-four, I forget which.

S: How did you meet Pops?
F: I guess I met him in high school. Oh, he moved across the street. Thatís when I met him. And he was also in my class in high school. So I started going with him in high school. We spent that winter (it was our senior year) which was a very snowy winter that year. Everyone that could get there would go out to Laurelhurst Park and skate. It was really loads of fun. We had to take the streetcar out there so it was really quite a trip.

S: So it was that cold winter that you got to know Pops?
F: And then the next year, we both went to Oregon State. But I didnít go with him so much for a while. It was just a good thing, I guess. I played the field with other people. He was only able to go to college one year because his father had lumber interests up in Washington; everything was going fine and then there was a very bad fire and it burned most of his timber down. So, it was quite a sad thing for them.

S: So they didnít have enough money to send Pops to college after one year. Then, when did you get married, Fauncie?
F: About four years after I went to Oregon State.

S: You graduated from college. What was Pops doing during that time?
F: He could only go to college one year because his father had three adverses. I canít think who he worked for; he had some pretty good jobs. Those times were not very prosperous. I forget even what he was doing when we got married.

S: Did he play baseball?
F: Oh, I know. He worked for a gas station and he had the job because he was a good baseball player. They had a baseball team and I forget whether they won the city championship. Anyway, it was kind of fun for him, but heíd much rather have gone on to college.

S: Fauncie, what can you tell me about Popsí parents? I understand their name was Ragenovich, is that right?
F: Ragenovich. His mother was just an American girl from California and his fatherÖ Where we they from now?

S: Was it Yugoslavia?
F: Yes, I think it was. I believe it was Yugoslavia, or close enough to there anyway.

S: Do you know what part of Yugoslavia or when he came?
F: No, I don't. But I imagine it was in his early twenties, as a young man. I should know. If I come across anything like that, I'll let you know but I don't remember.

S: Did he come by himself, Pops' father, or did he come with his family?
F: I donít know. I never knew his grandparents. They didnít live here so I don't know. Pops' father was a very nice gentlemanly man, though, well educated in his country and he spoke good English too, but he was definitely a Yugoslavian.

S: Then when did Pops have the name shortened?
F: Oh, it was after he'd gone that one year to college. So it was five or six years after that.

S: Before you got married?
F: I would not marry him unless he changed his name. .

S: Why?
F: I couldn't stand that name. Ragenovich. My parents couldn't stand it either.

S: It was too long?
F: Oh, yes.  It was just too foreign; that was all.

S: Well, it's hard to spell certainly.
F: I never discussed it with his father but he was a pretty good sport to go along with it.

S: So it was really you who wanted it changed.
F: Well, I imagine Louie did too, but he didn't put forth the way I did.

S: How did Pops get the middle name of Brooks? That doesn't sound very Yugoslavian.
F: The Brooks were some good friends of theirs. Maybe he was named after one of their boys named Brooks. I never knew them. That was when he was a little infant. I don't know when they first came to Oregon.

S: Where was Pops born?
F: It seems like he was born in Idaho or Montana. I think his brother Don was probably born here in Portland. There were just the two boys.

S: Did Pops ever have a chance to play with the New York Yankees? That's what Bunny thinks.
F: Heavens no. I donít know where he got that idea. He played baseba1l but not Yankee baseball. He p1ayed with the Portland Beavers, if they were the Beavers in those days.

S: Well, it's a good story anyway. How did he get started in the stock brokering business then?
F: Let's see. Now I was just thinking about my own father.

S: Well, tell me anything you want to tell me.
F: My father did not play baseball with the NY Yankees either. Nobody I knew did. Well, let's see. Pops, first, I think he was in the real estate business. He liked that very much but that was a very bad time for real estate. Somehow, I don't know how he got started in the stock brokerage business but heÖ

S: Do you know the first firm that he worked for?
F: Yes. I'm sure it was Dean Witter.

S: Fauncie, tell me something about your grandparents then?
F: Well, grandfather on my mother's side was Swiss or German; it wasn't French, I guess. His name was Switzer and he died before my mother was born. I guess I've told you about that story.

S: Tell me now for this tape.
F: Well. They must have had several children by then, maybe five. Well, I guess that they had the whole family by then because he died so soon. But this one boy had what was called "hip troubleĒ and there was no doctor in or around Portland that could do anything for him so they took him to California and left him. It was so hard to hear from -- there was no news unless a boat came in. And so they got terribly worried about him and my grandfather went down. My grandmother went too; they both went down. [Susieís note: must have been around 1860.] They found he had died. So they were bringing his body back and the ship was wrecked at Cape Mendocino in northern California and grandfather was drowned. My grandmother was pregnant with my mother; and she was put in ashore on a breeches buoy, you know, a rope. And how she ever got home I don't know. Maybe another boat came along and picked them up. Anyhow my mother was born in Portland in 1860. I mean in Oregon City.

S: Did your grandmother ever remarry?.
F: Yes, she did. They've always called him, my mother too, Mr. Kent. He was an awfully nice man, apparently. He died before I was born, but he was a New Englander, a very sweet man in every way. Of course, he was good with the children, and the children were on there way up in years because my mother was the youngest. After my grandfather Switzer died, my grandmother then married his brother. So then my Aunt Caroline (I called her Aunt Cattie) was his child. I don't know how long he lived, but then later, after he died, she married Mr. Kent.

S: So Mr. Kent was her third husband?
F: He was her fourth husband. Her first husband's name was Sandborn. My oldest uncle is Irwin Sanborn. He's been dead a long time. He was a steamboat captain. That was about the only thing people could do outside of farming, I guess, in this country and he died years and years ago. He lived in Oregon but he had a boat that he ran in Idaho on Lake Coeur d'Alene. My mother with Mr. Kent had another son; his name was Jimmy, Uncle Jimmy. He's dead too. He had one child only. None of them were very great about having children. My Aunt Mary had a son; he's long since dead. Caroline (I called her Aunt Cattie) had a daughter and she's long since dead. I'm the only one left. Oh, no, Jimmyís son (James Kent) he lives up in Kelso I think.

S: Now tell me about the Geer that's in Bunny's name.
F: That's my mother's family: the Geers were the feminine side of her family. They came from New England, right near the coast ofÖ I went out to their place once, saw their property. I'd like if you're back there sometime to look it up if you can hunt it up. I suppose they're dead now; they were very, very nice and their son, who was a Yale graduate, met us and was very nice. The original house was a log cabin but the next original house was still there, a great big New England house, a beautiful home. You could see where the log cabin had burned down in the corner of the property. The daughter and her family lived off in the distance, about half a mile, and she had a great big house, lovely home and she came over to meet us. They were very nice people. There was a daughter who I believed was the headmistress of some school in New England: Marianne Geer was her name. She wrote to me one time and asked me if I'd like to consider going to Europe with her. I don't know if that was before or after I was married but I didn't go. I donít know if I even answered her or not: wasn't that awful! I'm sorry that I lost touch with them; they were such nice people.

S: How did the Geers get across the country then? When did they come?
F: They lived in New England. This book that I have can probably tell you lots more than I can. My grandmother came in 1847 by covered wagon. They came first to Illinois, I believe it was. The winters in New England were very severe and they thought they'd like another climate.. So then they stayed in Illinois for a while and then they came on to Oregon;≠ the book can tell you when. (Book by T.T. Geer: he was a governor here).

S: So the Geers were relatives on your mother side and your father's name was Gradon? Fauncie, your mother lived with you for quite a while.
F: Yes, after my father died, maybe eight or ten years. She lived with us first at our house on Salmon, 13th and Salmon. Then, in Riverwood.

S: Where did you and Pops live when you were first married?
F: In a duplex up on 23rd and Salmon.

S: Where were you married?
F: First Presbyterian Church.

S: What year was that?
F: About 1928. I'd been out of College about four years before we were married.

S: You were working at a newspaper?
F: I taught school one year. Then I worked for a newspaper. Don't tell anyone what I did; I was a cooking expert and I gave all kinds of cooking information.

S: Like a home economist. Was that your major in college?
F: Yes. First I started to major in business. Oregon State didn't have any liberal arts. I don't know why I went there except that I didn't want to go to Oregon. I guess that was the reason.

S: So you worked for a few years and then Bunny was born and you became a full time housewife. Bunny was born in 1933. Fauncie, tell me about the Cannon Beach property that your parents bought. I know that you and Pops, Bunny, Ronnie and Janis spent summers there when the children were small -- the house on Jefferson Street.
F: Gee, I was just a little girl then; I can't remember when that was. They wanted a place at the beach. They had had a place for about 15 years at what they called the north beach just across the Columbia and to get down there you had to take a night boat and then a full dayís trip by horse and wagon up to Long Beach where they had their cottage and it was just too much. My father didn't have much time; it took so much time to get there and back. They had it with my aunt and uncle; at least they used the property. Anyhow, then when I got to be five years old, my parents thought they should take me to the beach and I could have the experience of living at the beach for vacations. The Tillamook beaches were just opening up then and so they decided they'd like to look at the Tillamook beaches so, they didn't have a car. So they took the train to... I can't remember where they got off. Then they got off the train and met a real estate man; this man took them around and they didnít like them very well. It was very sandy; the wind was blowing the dunes. But they'd heard of Cannon Beach; there were some people on our block who'd gone to Cannon Beach; they were the only ones because nobody went there then. They decided they'd like to go to Cannon Beach. They stayed at the hotel down there a couple of nights near Tillamook and just didnít like it. So they got up early in the morning and climbed over Neahkahnie Mountain, which is no small thing. My mother was quite frail and not in very good health after a lot of stomach operations. They had to start at a time when the tide was low so that could get to Cannon Beach. If the tide was high, they would have been stalled at no place at all. When they came down and looked at that beach they thought they'd never seen anything so pretty as that beach. They'd gone before for twenty years to Long Beach and that's just a long beach; that's all it is. They started out walking and they looked at this and that and the other thing but there were no people to talk to until they finally got up to the Warren Hotel which is about a six mile walk besides climbing over that mountain. It was getting toward night and my mother was always white haired as long as I can remember: she got white hair because she had such stomach trouble. Anyway they went to the Warren Hotel and told them they'd like to see some property and arranged to see a real estate man. Anyway, they went to bed and the next morning this person met them. They didn't have cars then so he took them around in a horse and buggy and showed them some pieces of property. Even then property was extremely high compared to other beaches so they didn't buy a front lot. The front lots were the highest. But it turned out that a lot of those front lots caved away and caved away and caved away: people had a lot of trouble over them. They were ecstatic about Cannon Beach; it was so much prettier than Long Beach and the other beaches they'd seen down below so they finally bought four lots on Jefferson. They kept all four for a long time and finally sold the other two. I was just a little girl when we started going there Ė not even in high school yet.

S: Then you went with Danja and Pops and your children for many summers, I understand. Were all three children, Brooks, Ronnie and Janis born when you lived in the Riverwood house?
F: Let me see now. I'm trying to think. After we were married we lived at 13th and Salmon. There was a very cute duplex on 23rd and Salmon and some of our friends lived on that street. We moved there and it was a cute duplex for those days. It had a living room, dining room and kitchen on the first floor and upstairs there were bedrooms. It was quite elegant for our state of life at that time. And then next to us lived a crazy couple named Elma and Guida and I don't know what they did; they both worked. They were absolutely the goofiest couple: there was nothing wrong with them; they were just people that you had absolutely nothing in the sun. in common with. Then those people moved out (we lived there for at least two years, maybe four) then another couple moved in. They played at some nightclub; they were musicians. Then after that, they'd bring their playing friends over and play the piano and the orchestra for half the night.

S: When Bunny was born in 1933, how did you get that name from Brooks? Why did you call him Bunny?
F: Because he was such a funny looking little fellow, with black hair, lots of it. He looked like a Bunny.

S: And then Ronnie was born when you were in the Riverwood house?
F: Yes. No, let's see. We moved to Riverwood without any children. So Bunny and Ronnie were born there.

S: And Janis was born in the Iron Mountain Boulevard house that you built in 1941?
F: Yes, I think she was. We lived in that Riverwood house for eight years but we lived there for at least two years without any children. Then Bunny was born and then Ronnie.

S: When did you build the Iron Mountain House?
F: It was just at the start of the Depression, I know that much.. We got caught in the Depression but it worked out all right. I'll have to figure that out.

S: Fauncie, who was the person that was called Grandmother Petch who lived in California?
F: That was Louis' mother. She remarried. She left her husband; he was the sweetest, nicest man, but I guess maybe he didn't do very well financially for her so she left and divorced him. Her family lived in California. Then she married Mr. Petch. I believe she brought him up here one time. He seemed nice enough and she was a very nice sweet person but anywayÖ

S: So what became of Mr. Ragenovich then?
F: Well, he changed his name to Ragen too because the boys were changing theirs. Well, he final1y died. I forget what kind of work he did do. He was gone a good deal of the summer time. He didn't live with us .He boarded some place downtown, down by the Park blocks or something like that. And I think maybe he and Don had an apartment somewhere until Don was married to Beth.

S: Now Don lived with you for a while didn't he?
F: Yes, he lived with us when we were first married. He was a dickens. Oh, he was a devil at that time. He just did things that used to make me so mad! The poor thing; the reason was that he was so unhappy because his father and mother were getting a divorce that he just couldn't control himself I guess. It was a sad, sad thing. One Christmas after we left that little house on Salmon, there was a very nice house up on Madison between 15th and 16th. That was during the Depression and the builder couldn't sell either one of them. So we rented one of them. It was an elegant house for us really. That was when Don was in college. He had a room there when he was on vacation; there were three bedrooms and a big party room in the basement so we could have a little party there. The house was nicely finished; it was a beautiful house. We got the rug that was our dining room rug when we were there; it was a very beautiful rug at that time. We were so proud of it and so happy with it. Now Uncle Don is the sweetest person and so nice, but then he was annoying. He was unhappy about his father and mother breaking up and it was harder on him than on anybody. He went to college for two years and then he had to stop that and then he worked.

S: Then Don married Auntie Beth and they had two boys Doug and Gary.
F: Beth is a Catholic and he was married over at the Catholic church over in Irving. I forget the name of it. It was a very pretty wedding. Do you know what the Alexander Court is? That great big uglyÖ well it isn't ugly: it was the finest residential apartment hotel in Portland for ages. It was fight across from Fred Meyer down there on 20th. Anyway it was a morning wedding and then we went over there for breakfast and it was lovely, very nice.

S: What can you tell us about your wedding? I know you still have your dress.
F: I guess I'll have to think about that. I can't think who my attendants were. I'm sure Helen Lawton was one. She was always one of my best friends. They had come here from Iowa in the years of the Depression.

S: Who gave you away?
F: I donít know. I'll have to askÖ I don't know who I'll ask. Somebody gave me away. No, I think my father was at my wedding. Yes, I'm quite sure he was. I think he gave me away. He died not too long after that. I think we were married in about 1928 and he died in 1929. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Anyway, I've got my wedding book and I'll show it to you someday.

S: I'd love to see it. Is there anyone that we've forgotten that you'd like to talk about?
F: I can't think of anybody. I had no brothers or sisters and only three cousins in my lifetime. It's all I can think of at the present time. If I think of something startling your book will not be published, I don't suppose.

S: I really appreciate your taking the time to do this tape Fauncie. I think that your nine grandchildren will appreciate having a written record of some sort about yours and Pops' history.
F: I wish it were more, more romantic, orÖ

I am interested in your perspective on what you found to be interesting within this interview of my grandmother. If you could please send me feedback, I would be grateful.  Thank you.



 

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