Kurt Krause and his family were Durham ‘pioneers’

Kurt Krause
Kurt Krause was raised in Durham in the 1940s but doesn’t have any photos from his childhood because his parents were busy feeding animals and making a living. BARBARA SHERMAN/TIGARD LIFE

As Kurt Krause was driving recently on Upper Boones Ferry Road, it brought back a flood of memories.

Kurt Krause, his wife Eleanor and two of their sons built a snowman.
Kurt Krause, his wife Eleanor and two of their sons built a snowman when they ran into snow on a trip. COURTESY/KURT KRAUSE

“There were six small houses built by the Shell Oil Company, and one is now Durham City Hall,” he said. “Our house was right across the street from them. My dad planted fir saplings on our property, and they are now towering trees.”

Krause’s family took a step up in the world in 1940 when they moved from what was called “Felony Flats” (Erol Heights) in Southeast Portland to rural Durham.

“We moved to 5 acres, and my dad and I built a house,” said Krause, who had an older sister and a younger sister. “He was a carpenter, and the house still stands today. We had a well, a septic tank and a drain field.

“Before we moved, my dad built a 12-by-12 bunkhouse on skids so we could tow it on a four-wheel trailer to our new home in Durham. When we were towing it, we crossed railroad tracks that made the load shift, and the bunkhouse skids hit the tires. I always said our car was hit by a house, which is also still there in Durham.”

The property was quite different from their home in Portland.

“The back part of our land was woods and Scotch broom, and it went to Fanno Creek,” Krause said. “In the front had been Pilkington Nursery, and there were a lot of trees they had planted to sell, but they must have left suddenly. We heard they went bankrupt. They left two rows of maple trees, plus there were arborvitae and Colorado blue spruce.

Kurt Krause’s wife Eleanor posed with their three boys as they were getting ready for Halloween.
Kurt Krause’s wife Eleanor posed with their three boys as they were getting ready for Halloween. COURTESY/KURT KRAUSE

“We had a cow and chickens and rabbits. During the war we all picked strawberries, raspberries, beans and hops. Our playground was in the woods. It was a nice place to grow up.”

One of the lessons from his youth that Krause retained is that “my dad didn’t want me to be a sissy.” He added, “He wanted me to do things more like a man, and I imparted that in my three sons. When we were outside working, I would ask, ‘How come my sisters get to sit inside and read books?’”

While Durham School still stands today, it was much different when Krause attended.

“I was in seventh grade and went to Durham School before it had indoor plumbing,” he said. “It had four rooms, and I was in a combined seventh-eighth grade. The seventh-graders sat on the left and the eighth-graders on the right. Mrs. Wiedemann would wheel in the piano and lead us in singing popular songs like ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,’ and I noticed she would start crying. Her brother was a general in Europe.

“My sisters and I rode the bus to Tigard High School. My older sister was four years older than me, and she was May queen at Tigard High – that was kind of neat.”

Two of Kurt Krause’s sons were excited for Christmas to arrive.
Two of Kurt Krause’s sons were excited for Christmas to arrive. COURTESY/KURT KRAUSE

While Krause was at THS, he was the advertising manager for the school newspaper. However, Krause said that it was hard to have a German name while World War II was raging.

Krause learned to drive when he turned 18. “Like most teens, we drove like crazy,” he said. “My car was not in the best condition – the brakes locked on one side. I was going fast down a big dip, braked and skidded off the road. I thought I was going into the creek, but I was saved by the denseness of the blackberry bushes. Still, I needed a tow truck to pull the car out.”

Another time, Krause’s dad told him not to drive on Halloween, but he sneaked out with the family car anyway. Next thing he knew, he drove into a hay mower that “some prankster had put in the road,” Krause said. “The next morning, I had to explain it to my dad.”

The family shopped at the Borland store and attended Tualatin Methodist Church (now the Heritage Center), where Krause’s mom was the Sunday school superintendent.

Like many other parents, Kurt Krause and his wife Eleanor took photos of their children on the first day of school.
Like many other parents, Kurt Krause and his wife Eleanor took photos of their children on the first day of school. COURTESY/KURT KRAUSE

Krause also had access to the Tualatin River. His dad had salvaged a lifeboat before the family moved from Portland and first put in oar locks before adding an outboard motor. It was moored at a friend of Krause’s dad by the 99W bridge near the Roamers Rest and Avalon Park recreation areas popular in those times.

“I remember Interstate 5 being built,” Krause said. “My parents thought they made a good investment when they bought a lot next to it, but then they learned they couldn’t connect a driveway to I-5.”

After graduating from THS, Krause went to Oregon State College (now University) to major in engineering, but he switched to psychology. Before he graduated, he was drafted and chose to join the Air Force, where he served for four years, mostly in Spokane, in the mid-1950s.

After earning his degree, Krause married his wife Eleanor and spent his career in human resources for high-tech companies while they raised their family in Alameda, Calif., before moving back to Oregon.