We have winners. They are: Helen McFeron, Cris Erbst, John Werner, Ray Norton and Glenna Johnston.
Charles O. Portfors is the answer for Week 66 of Orofino History Trivia, a special feature to celebrate the history and heritage of Clearwater Country.
Tuesday: Deputy Sheriff
Wednesday: Michigan woods worker
Thursday: Orofino Chamber president
Friday: Orofino mayor
Saturday: Clearwater Timber Company fire warden
Monday: Converted a livery stable to a garage
Tuesday: He owned the Ford dealership at the corner of Michigan and Main.
Harriet Reece, his granddaughter shared these remembrances:
I was the first grandchild on either side of my family so held that special closeness with my grandparents. When I was in third grade my parents lived in Oklahoma City and since I had several younger siblings, my grandparents persuaded my parents to let me live nine months with them in Orofino. It was an adventure for me to travel to many scenic areas of the west with them on the way back to Orofino. They were indulgent, but strict. Grandma (Nina) always had to have the table set when Grandpa came home from work at the garage. Even if she hadn't started supper, he felt it was on its way soon. It was during this time that I joined the church. Grandpa joined me in answering the call and we were baptized at the same time in the Christian Church in Orofino.
Every Friday night the Portfors would go to watch the movie at the Rex Theatre, no matter what was showing. I often accompanied them to their regular seats about the middle of the theatre on the left side. That was a big social event for many of the townspeople in the 1930's. We always bought popcorn.
When I was in sixth grade my parents moved to Orofino within a half block of the Portfors home. By then Grandpa (younger members of the family called him Papa) deemed me old enough to start learning good business practices. He taught me about saving, spending wisely, different ways to write checks, and a number of other things that have been useful all through my life.
Since my father was deceased, Grandpa Portfors gave me away when I married Bill Reece in the Methodist Church in Orofino. He was always there for us to give advice or comfort. When each of his great grandchildren was born, he gave them $1,000 worth of stock in a mutual fund with their parents as custodians. While I was going to college I would periodically receive a letter of encouragement from him with a $10 bill. In those days that was big money.
After retirement, he went to the Ponderosa every day for coffee with his friends. He lived to his mid 90's, but was confined to a nursing home his later years. His mind was still sharp as ever, and we loved to hear his stories about the early years.
Harriet also wrote this biographical sketch:
Charles O. Portfors was Orofino mayor from 1947 to 1951 and was a force in molding the early day commercial development of the area.
A staunch Republican, he served as chairman of the Clearwater County Republican Committee and took on civic duties and lodge work.
Charlie, as his friends knew him, was born at Wasa, Finland, July 31, 1875, of Swedish parents, John and Anna Portfors. His father was a farmer in Finland until 1885 when he came alone to America and located in Northern Michigan.
Charlie received his early training in the schools of his native country. When hew was 16 years old, in 1891, he was came with his mother to America and the family loaced in Kenton, MI.
Charlie worked 10 years in the woods of Michigan before coming by train to Troy to join his brother, Fred. After looking over available land, Charlie took up a homestead on 170 acres in the St. Joe River drainage. He began working for Nat Brown, manager of the Clearwater Timber Company. For about a year he ran compass for Theodor Fohl before being assigned to timber cruising.
Charlie surveyed the timber for the Northern Pacific Script. This cruise determined the price Clearwater Timber Company paid the railroad for the timber on land given them by the government.
When his work allowed, he stayed at a hotel in Troy where he paid $3.50 per week. While there he met Nina Mae Saunders, a waitress in the hotel dining room, for her uncle. On Oct. 31, 1906, they were married. Their two children are Francis A. Portfors and M. Dorothy Portfors Dobson.
The family endured many hardships in the five years required to prove up the homestead. After the fire of 1910, Charlie was afraid of losing everything by fire, so he sold the 160 acre homestead for $7,000 and moved to Orofino where he was Fire Warden for Clearwater Timber Company. In 1916, the family moved to a farm in Weippe and in 1917, he and his friend Harry White opened up a garage.
"We bought the livery stable and converted it to a garage, opening in the spring of 1018. We did repair work and I hauled fire fighters to the Bungalow. When the train came in, there'd be a dozen or more cars lined up at the depot to take the men to the fires. I had the newest car so a lot of the 'higher ups' wanted to ride with me and I got extra trips.
"My partner died in the flue epidemic of 1921. I traded the garage for a farm in the Teakean area." Portfors said in an interview before his death at the age of 96.
Charlie took a job as deputy to Clearwater County Sheriff Pete Shea until 1922 and then went into the garage business with Theodore Fohl. They later dissolved the partnership with Portfors becoming the sold owner. In 1928, he built his own garage at the corner of Main and Michigan streets in Orofino, took on the Ford dealership.
He served as president of the Orofino Chamber of Commerce and in 1964 retired from the Clearwater County Draft Board after 22 years of service. He joined the IOOF Lodge in 1901 and the Rebekah Lodge in 1902. He held top offices in the Masonic Lodge, the Eastern Star of Orofino, the Scottish Rite Shrine and the Elks Lodge.
Charlie joined the other early day residents of the area in carving a future from this untamed land with strength and wisdom.
Photos: Top--Charles O Portfors, Second--CO Portfors in front of his cabin at Freezeout near Clarkia, Third--Probably a photo of him at his desk in the early days of the garage (Photos courtesy of Harrie Reece)
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