The Baggage of Youth

My own personal favorite that year was the saucy Rodgers and Hart tune, The Lady is a Tramp.


They converted Portland’s giant Public Market building into the Oregon Journal’s printing plant in later years. I toured the operation. Eventually, the city tore down the ugly behemoth. Today, the land is part of a beautiful, two-mile promenade and park along the Willamette River.


Jack Devlin was a big, tough, craggy-faced cop with a problem. He was an alcoholic. He’d been suspended from the Portland Police Department for drinking while on duty, one too many times.

When my mother started going around with Jack, however, he was in the middle of a come-back. He’d gone on the wagon. He’d joined AA. He’d won another chance to make it on the force, albeit part-time. They brought bim back on special assignments: crowd control, VIP visits, directing parade traffic, that sort of thing.

My grandfather never quite approved of him because Jack was hard-line, anti-union, while Jim Dewey remained a determined, craft union man all of his life. Labor politics made no difference to me, however. I liked Jack Devlin. He laughed loud and gloriously.

Of all the lovers my mother had over the years, he was the only one who happily bonded with the family. We became good pals during the all too brief time in which he was a part of our lives.

Once, he came along with us when my mother and grandparents and I had a wet, comical day, scooping buckets of smelt during the annual Sandy River smelt run. Another time, he took my mother and me on a picnic alongside a small creek in the woods, where he set a gunny sack trap and we landed about a dozen crawfish.

Jack and I sometimes played handball at the park on Sundays. We pitched pennies. We arm-wrestled-—-sort of. He bought me an illustrated edition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” to add to my growing book collection. He taught me the beginnings of chess. And he was good-with my mother, too. They had playful times together.

While he lived with us, Jack pushed me to do my best. He’d tell me, “Give it all you got, Byron—-then a little more on top of that.”

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