Bend’s past: One man’s perspective
Ellie Ocel/The Broadside
The only paved streets were 3rd Street and Harmon Boulevard. Awbrey Butte had a total of three houses on it.
Though difficult to picture, this image of early Bend was the reality of life in the early to mid twentieth century. Everett Belcher, age 99, has lived in Bend since 1923. He has seen firsthand the drastic changes that have occurred in Bend since its founding.
Even people who have lived in Bend for a decade have seen a transformation occur. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2010, Bend’s population was estimated at 76,660 people. By 2019, this number had risen to 100,421 people. This was a population growth of 31.0%. Belcher offered some insight into other changes that have occurred in Bend since 1923.
“Everything in the town was little farms,” Belcher said. “People had a cow and a couple chickens and so forth, and they had pigs.”
People used to take a trailer down to the Safeway and dump their fruit and vegetable scraps behind it, Belcher said. Then, people with pigs would collect those scraps and take them home to feed their pigs. This spirit of cooperation and community that existed in Bend in the 1950s continued up to the present, though the feeling is currently revealed in a different way. Eventually, as plastic bags became more common, people had to stop using others’ scraps to feed their pigs, as the pigs would eat the plastic and get sick.
Belcher attended Kenwood Elementary, now Highland Magnet School, and Bend High. He ended his education in the tenth grade when his father made him start to work. Before stopping high school, Belcher would make money by carrying lumber from the tractor or horse on which it arrived at a person’s house into their house. For each trip, he would earn 25 cents.
For fun, Belcher would attend movies at the Liberty Theater, next door to today’s Tower Theater. Every so often, the Liberty Theater would hold a raffle. People could buy a movie ticket and be entered to win about $20 in prize money. Today, this prize would be worth about $400 according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. It was on the days of these events that Belcher and his friends would go to the theater.
“Guys would come down and buy a ticket,” Belcher said, “but they didn’t want to see the movie, so they would just stand outside and wait for the drawing. If they didn’t win, they’d throw the ticket down so we would pick it up and go see the movie.”
Belcher and his friends used this method to watch a wide variety of movies without ever having to pay.
When Belcher moved to Awbrey Butte, he brought his early adulthood home with him. He transported the house from downtown Bend to midway up Awbrey Butte and added some features to the house for more space. He has lived in the same place on Awbrey Butte since the early 1950s, when there were only 2 other houses on the Butte.
“It was all sagebrush and junipers,” Belcher said.