By Greg Giesy, Friendly Area Neighbors former Board member and longtime Friendly resident.
Originally printed in the Summer 2011 edition of the Friendly Area Neighborhood Newsletter.
Several neighborhood people were asked by Andrew, our newsletter editor, to write an article about Willamette Street both looking at the past and hopes for the future. Because I am a long-time resident and grew up in the Friendly neighborhood, he asked me in particular to talk on the past of Willamette Street.
My earliest memory of anything on Willamette Street was at about four years old going to the grocery store that is now Capella with my father (Willamette Street between 24th and 25th Avenues). He soon switched to the Big Y Market on 6th Avenue and then to the Little Y on 19th and Jefferson, which was a full service grocery store in those days, with even a butcher. There was a gasoline service station across the street from the Little Y so I didn’t see Willamette again until grade school.
I attended Francis Willard Grade School, and occasionally after school I was allowed to go to a friend's house on Pearl south of 29th. We would walk by the Eugene Drive-In Theater's sheet metal walls and past the drive-in's screen to a grocery store on the northwest corner of 29th and Willamette. The store had packages of flat gum with three baseball or football cards for two or three cents. The gum as I recall was terrible but we were after the trading cards.
The drive-in theater took up most of what is Woodfield Station today. The screen faced into the hillside, and home owners above could pay the drive-in a monthly fee to have a speaker (that you normally hooked to your car window) wired in their living rooms, so they could watch the movies with sound out their picture window.
Summers were partly taken up with swimming lessons at Amazon Pool. Willamette was the biggest street I needed to cross on my way to the pool because there was no Amazon Parkway at the time.