Tigard Woman Celebrates 100th Birthday

Helen Riverman Mason
Helen Riverman Mason

When Helen Riverman Mason was 10 years old, her family traded their a house in Portland for “a big old farmhouse” on five acres on Garret Street in Tigard. The year was 1930, and the family had a tough time adjusting to using an outhouse and pumping their water from a well.

Helen, who turned 100 years old Oct. 9, had seven brothers, and after three weeks of roughing it in Tigard, her brothers asked their parents, “Can’t we go home?”

There was a creek running through the property alone with a well. “If we didn’t save enough water to prime the pump, we had to go to the neighbors for water,” Helen said. “It was rough.”

But the countryside also brought joys. Helen said she was an Oregon ranch girl and enjoyed riding horses with a group of girls. Her first horse was named Peggy, and her second horse was a wild Mustang that had been captured and tamed and was named Penny. “I rode her quite a few years,” Helen said.

“My mother had a hen and put some duck eggs under her to hatch,” Helen added. “When they hatched and headed to the water, the hen was terrified, but she herded them around like they were her own.”

The old farmhouse was located on the lower area of the property, and the family built a new house on the upper part. While the house was under construction, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

“My brothers and dad were working on the new house, and my mother and I went down to the old house to fix dinner,” Helen said. “We turned on the radio and heard about Pearl Harbor. I ran up the hill to tell everyone, and they all gathered around the radio.”

She said of the new house complete with indoor plumbing, “The day the house was finished was a glorious day.”

Helen graduated from St. Mary of the Valley School in Beaverton, hitching a ride every day with her dad who worked for the BPA in Hillsboro. “He drove three of us girls and four boys to school every day,” Helen said. “In those days, we didn’t have seat belts and sat on each other’s laps.”

Helen said that when the family moved to the Tigard property, it was on Summers Street. “Then the Boy Scouts came by,” she said. “They were working for Washington County, which was renaming streets and putting up street signs. Our street became Garrett, and I felt bad for the family next door named Summers.”

After high school, Helen went to work for the phone company as one of the last operators hired “until they put in dial service and didn’t need us anymore,” she said. “It was a fun job. I got to meet people. When we moved into the farmhouse, an old phone was there, but money was scarce so we had it disconnected. But because of my operator job, I got to know all my neighbors because we could listen in on the calls. I was a substitute and would work all the shifts.”

Helen also worked for an income tax office for a couple of years, and after her dad died, her mom sold the family home on Garrett, and she and Helen bought a house together on 90th Avenue.

Helen’s life changed when Art Mason hired her as an office girl at his appliance store, Mason’s Appliances, on Main Street in Tigard. They fell in love and got married, moving into an apartment for a couple of years.

“We were at Mom’s house all the time,” Helen said. “She liked to travel, and we were there so much that we built an extra bedroom in the house and moved in.”

Helen lived in that house until she moved into Hearthstone at Murrayhill a few months ago.