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Stories of the Oaks

Working for Robert at The Oaks was the best part of many lives

Those who returned after a long absence were like chicks coming home to roost; early training was given for "Honey Do" projects; the joy of giving was learned and an "Anonymous Giver" created.

One of many teen employees became a business owner. Each summer he would return to work at The Oaks. His point was not to forget employees in entry positions. In addition, he had an opportunity to learn more of Robert's management style. All of his wages were donated to a charity.
One year, a patron reported the Monkeys had the mumps to the Health Department.

Knowing the Rhesus monkeys have pouch like cheeks that allow them to temporarily hoard food and they loved strawberries, E.H. picked up a box of strawberries while walking down the midway with the inspector.

Rhesus have pouch like cheeks that allow them to temporarily hoard food. One time the Health Department sent an investigator when the monkeys saw the special treat on its way, they hurried to empty their pouches.

The inspector was satisfied the monkeys were healthy. It is unclear if E.H. explained how the Rhesus hoard food or not.
Bear 1
circa 1915
Ostrich, brown bear, Rhesus monkeys, squirrels, ducks, peacocks and geese called The Oaks home over the years. One of the most notable residents was a monkey named Lucy (a favorite of all the employees and many patrons).

One day a prankster put a bumble bee into a wooden match box and handed it to Lucy. She was curious and trusting so she picked up and opened the box. She was stung. About 2 weeks later, the same prankster returned. Again, he handed a wooden match box with bumble bee to Lucy. She took the box, put it to her ear then set it down and walked away.

JoJo Emperor of Oaks Domain
Emperor of everything caged at The Oaks again this year (1938) is Jo-Jo, a sleek-coated Rhesus Monkey now residing at No. 33 Monkey Row, Oaks Park, Portland. This famous simian rules his domain by divine right and ability as a diploma tat a taking tempo. Quarrel among simians are settled with taking sagacity and his fees are in kind, being the choicest tidbits of the fare Manager Bollinger supplies in generous amounts at each feeding.

Jo-Jo is now 7 years old. He has been at The Oaks since 1932, having arrived in care of a sailor from his home in Travancore, India, at that time. Here his leadership as a "pup", became at once outstanding and with the years he arrived at his present command of his subjects step by step as should be the way of monarch of Simiana Ten other Rhesus monkeys are now members of Jo-Jo's entourage and to see them in action is always one of the thrills of visiting The Oaks.

Bear Isle 2
Edward & Robert Bollinger Feeding the Bear

The bear were kept on Monkey Island where 7 to 10 monkeys were housed. Monkeys were moved to one of the picnic dining areas. After over 20 years of entertaining the patrons (mid-1920's to late 1940's), they were sent to the Portland Zoo.

Mr. P. T. Barnum approached Edward Bollinger. He was interested in purchasing brown bear for his circus. After watching them for a bit, he decided to purchase only two. When Edward asked why only two, he was told they had exhibited the balance needed to learn to roller skate.

Gentlemen of the era wore diamond stick pins. One day a gentleman reported that an Ostrich had swallowed his. Employees were assigned to "search Ostrich deposits." A few days later, it was found, cleaned and returned to its owner.

Another time employees were assigned to "search deposits" the Ostrich had picked up a set of keys. They were found and returned.

Raising the ferris wheel - Mr. "B" (Robert Bollinger) was running the rope to provide power to raise the ferris wheel. With the wheel half installed and the "High Man" standing on a top spoke, Mr. "B" got his feet tangled in the ropes and almost fell. The "High Man's" life flashed before his eyes; Mr. "B" gained control of the rope with no more than an inch to spare.

Preparing the barge for the 4th of July fireworks required a tug and small work boat. One time the work boat was between the tug and barge when the backwash from the tug flipped it. The workers scrambled on to the barge. A quick thinking employee snagged the work boat with his toe.

Although Robert did not drink, he took pleasure giving away bottles of whiskey and Champaign. One day, he was on his way to deliver a bottle of whiskey when his help was needed. He set the bottle down along the midway. An employee came across the bottle, thinking it belonged to the midway boss, he picked it up and waited for the commotion to start. Nothing happened. Later he found out it belonged to Mr. "B"

In 1956, floodwaters were in the park. Several buildings were evacuated. A couple of Oaks employees were resting in the living room of The Bollinger House (aka The Oaks Museum located at the old South entrance to the park). They rolled marbles across the floor to determine where the water would enter the building first. The Bollinger House was raised after this flood.

One snowy winter night (around 1939) rink employees made sure all patrons were safely on the streetcars then they went back to skate to Lane Lewis (organist of the time). About 2 am, residents from The Oregon Yacht Club entered the rink seeking tools. The snow was so deep and heavy on the roofs of club members' homes, they were in danger of sinking. Oaks employees gathered tools and helped clear the roofs.

If you think a women's work is never done - try raking leaves at The Oaks. One pile, the size of a car, was finished about quitting time. The next morning, it had been scattered by a car. Unhappy workers again raked the leaves into a pile; however, this time, there was a picnic table under the leaves. On the 3rd morning, a car had found the picnic table under the leaves. No one claimed the car.

Robert was speachless with anger when he found out several years later.

Short on credits for your degree? One Department Advisor suggested a working lab but rebuffed working as a 'carny' at The Oaks. The Advisor's mind was not totally closed and agreed to talk with the folks at The Oaks. After this talk, class was started with a discussion on the wonderful experience provided working with Robert Bollinger provided.

In days of old, "the Boss" (Edward Bollinger) played cards with one of the ladies.  When he won, he told the lady to go home and practice.  If she won, he told her not to come back until she could play like a lady.

World War II Days:

Skaters from The Oaks presented a floor show for the men in Camp Adare. The army provided transportation in the form of a cattle truck. Oh, what a fun and wonderful memory.

One sailor, feeling very important, ordered a coke at the rink. Not realizing his coke was being mixed (syrup had to be put into a glass and carbonated water stirred in), he grabbed the arm of the server and demanded his coke. She responded by throwing it in his face. The sailor left and returned with Mr. "B" expecting an apology. Mr. "B" listened to her side of the story.

Then told the sailor "Good help is harder to find that good customers. Leave her alone."

Rationed shoes were made of cardboard; beer was kept cold in tubs of floating ice. One Sunday afternoon, the shoes disintegrated and beer was served by "barefoot maidens."

At the end of a long day, employees were cleaning up the floors. Robert make a comment that was not well received. He found himself cleaning the area alone.

The 1948 State competition at the Imperial Rink was stopped by a member of The Oaks Skating Team. While skating his Men's Free Style Routine, he did a "show" stopping "14 Inch Split Inseam jump. The judges allowed a substitution of pants then the "show" resumed. Although he did not win, he did receive the largest round of applause.

A bookkeepers secret: always have money in the checking account before mailing checks. One bookkeeper learned this secret over lunch with Mr. "B" through a gentle lesson that was never forgotten.

KWJJ broadcast the following ad for The Oaks. "Ladies come in free with a male partner. Be sure to come Monday night - it's cheek skate night."

There was a key entrusted to me that was once used by Mr. "B". Not a locker, door, nor safe lock would fit this little odd shaped silver key. But very important was this key; it opened the dispenser box for the paper T. No longer outside the restroom door ladies-in-waiting would be. Since this little silver key was entrusted to a lady such as me.

Tuning the organ is done late at night. One of the tuners forgot his ear plugs. Mr. "B" ran quickly into the ladies room and came out with substitute "cotton" ear plugs.

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Updated 04.27.2014