NE Union Avenue, 1929

A number man standing outside a residence at 532 NE Union Avenue (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard), 1929. For more information on the number man, click here.


City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2009-009.2446

City of Portland Archives, Oregon, A2009-009.2446


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

14 thoughts on “NE Union Avenue, 1929

  1. In this and so many of the other pictures of homes around this time period one can see the wire antennas above the roofs. I can only imagine the family huddled around their Kellogg, Steinite, Cleartone, Elkay, Workrite or one of the other many radios of the time, many in beautiful wooden cabinets. listening to Portland stations KEX, KFEC, KFIF, KFIR, KGW, KROW, KTBE or KXL, or South Portland stations KFWV or KGEH or Sylvan station KOIN. Ah, the days of the glowing tubes.

  2. In addition to the stations mentioned by Don Tucker, many were also listening to stations such as KDKA-Pittsburg, WBZ-Boston, KGO-San Francisco, WGN-Chicago, WWL-New Orleans and several other powerhouse stations of the day. DXing was a popular hobby that continued for several decades and was the spark that got many people into amateur radio. Including this old goat in the 1950s.

  3. I know I shouldn’t belabor the time-wasting fascination with discovering the actual identity of the most commonly shown VP “numbers man,” but there is a slim outside chance I may have spotted a close-up photo of him in other Portland Archives records (see citation at bottom of this comment). I offer the below for the amusement of other VP readers. Others may have better ideas (or better ways to spend their time). Or better yet access to a city employees directory (if such exists) for 1929-30. Which is what I was looking for when I stumbled across these photos.

    Anyway, in browsing PARC efile records I came across a series of photos taken in 1930 inside city hall to document overcrowding in the offices of the Public Works Administration. The PWA should be the bureaucratic home of “numbers man” and his immediate boss at the time these street-widening photos were taken, i.e. city photographer Lewis J. Bailey. One of the photos (out of 4 or 5) shows a man in the foreground seated at a desk amid a crowd of other male employees in a PWA office. It’s a profile shot (instead of the usual head-on shot we see in VP), and the suspected “numbers man” is hatless. The best identifying hint to me is the light-colored homburg hat sitting to his right on the desktop; I’ve compared it to all of the other hats these PWA employees are wearing in this and other photos in this series, and it looks to me like a very close match to the same style of hat shown always being worn by the principal “numbers man” in the numerous VP photos of him. Also, the man at the desk appears to be wearing the same style of eyeglass frames as our familiar NM. Unfortunately, I can’t see a pipe anywhere. The pipe-smoking NM in the VP photos usually looks a bit youngish to me when viewed straight on, but the PARC record photo seems to show the profile of an older man. Still, there may be some similarities in facial structure.

    I’ve always assumed that pipe-smoking “numbers man” was the one who usually assisted Bailey in his off-site photo assignments and other PWA work and would probably have a desk in Bailey’s office HQ. Bailey almost certainly took these “overcrowding” shots and would have an obvious vested interest in documenting overcrowding in his work spaces. So, it’s natural that numbers man might turn up somewhere in one of these record shots.

    Whatever. Sorry for the wordy foregoing, but I cannot copy jpg. or pdf files from PARC into this WordPress blog comment box (the software will not allow it). So, if anybody is interested or just curious, I’ve copied below the citation for the PARC record that contains a PDF copy of this interior photo of city hall ca. 1930. Go to and search on the cite number or simply the word “overcrowding.”

    A2005-005.1439.16 : City employees working at City Hall : overcrowding

  4. If you highlight Richard’s last sentence, right-click, and click “search Google for…,the resulting link will take you right to the “e-Box” containing the pdf he describes and more, including a very interesting aerial photograph of the North-ish waterfront (pre-harbor drive).

    Or, you could just click this link:

  5. When I was a teen in the 60s I used to play with my radio late at night to see what radio stations I could pick up. I think the most distant from Portland was one that was broadcasting from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.

  6. My mother lived in PDX in the late 20’s and I still have her old ‘log’ of broadcasting stations licensed in the US in 1927. I don’t know what the family had for a receiver but the stations logged are in three numbers which I assume related to the two tuned RF and oscillator conrols, in vogue before the superhetrodyne soon made receiving simpler. I was surprised at the early station owners, KFEC Meier & Frank, KFIF Benson P0lytechnic Institute, KFJR Ashley Dixon & Son (wonder who they were), KGW Oregonian Publishing Co,, KTBR Brown’s Radio Shop (??), KXL Love Electric Co.,

    I’m not sure how to search the VP picture archives but have been looking for pictures of the old Wilbur Jeffrey Jerman KFWV (later KWJJ) broadcast station building that was, I believe, sort of kitty corner and south from the old Greyhound Bus Depot? My recollection was being told by my mother that it and the land around it were acquired by the Hilton Corp and is where the Hilton was eventually built. He was a 2nd cousin of my mother and she noted he retired early and wealthy. I’ve been unable to find much about him

  7. Did any of you radio guys know Don Iverson? Also 1931 Oregonian article shows picture of Bailey and mentions his assistant but doesn’t name him.They took 5000 5×7’s in 1930. Principal purpose to assist engineering in planning improvements and determining damages to property by street widening projects. It also says they took “many feet of motion picture film”. I’d like to see that or maybe I have and didn’t know it.

  8. I guess we got a bit off topic. parents had one of those old console radios in our basement & when it snowed we used to sit on our steps & listen for them to say “Portland Public Schools are closed today”! YAY!

  9. The # in the photo is definitely not 532 – and Portland Maps shows that the art deco building (most recently a beauty school, formerly a bank) was built at that site in 1928, and it isn’t in the photo (although the Polk Directory does maintain that there were two structures on the site.

    If there was a 532, it would definitely have been on a street corner, and this one isn’t.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s