I grew up in a suburban town in the San Francisco Bay area. Like Alhambra, where my husband Andreas was raised, Lafayette was (and still is) a quiet community with good schools, pleasant parks, and attractions both cultural and natural nearby. I could hardly wait to finish high school so I could get out of there and go somewhere (anywhere!) less wholesome. But a few years later, married and with kids ourselves, my husband and I moved our family from LA to Medford so they could have the same kind of childhood we’d had. Of course, like us, they could hardly wait to grow up and get out. Truth be told, Andreas and I looked forward to the day the house would be empty and we could move on too. But now after a few years away we are starting to remember what we liked about small-town Medford.
Medford’s actually grown a lot since we arrived in 1991 with our carload of small children. But it retains much of the semi-rural charm that attracted us.
It’s the kind of place where people drive trucks.
A couple of blocks away is the best donut shop ever
Logging is over but the wine industry really took off during the years we lived there. Southern Oregon makes excellent wines now
And this is the northwest, so of course we have our craft beer, too. Quality Market in our neighborhood used to be a small full-service grocery store with the best meat counter in town and handy home delivery service. I was sad when the family sold it a couple of years ago and the new owners turned into a mini-market/liquor store. But my now-adult children are very pleased that the new place offers growlers to go (refillable beer jugs, in case you didn’t know).
When we first moved to Medford, they were just putting the finishing touches on the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, an old movie house renovated into a performance space. Now the local public radio station has purchased another long-closed Medford movie house and is restoring it to its former glory. Pretty soon the Holly will be the venue for lots of great musical acts on west coast tours. On Saturdays now you can visit the building and see what they are up to in there.
Every month the Medford Food Project collects donations for local food banks. Alice is a neighborhood coordinator. I went out with her on Saturday morning to do the rounds.
The Americans among you have probably heard of the Fruit-of-the-Month Club, a popular corporate holiday gift. In 1937 orchardist brothers Harry and David Rosenberg of Medford came up with the idea of perfect seasonal fruit delivered by mail order subscription each month. Nowadays the company’s orchards, packing and processing plant, shipping department, call center, and retail store make Harry & David one of the valley’s biggest employers. Most everyone I know in Medford has worked there at one time or another.
To find all those pristine Fruit-of-the-Month specimens the company also produces a whole lot of (by their standard) less than perfect fruit. It’s a bonanza for Medford canners when they sort it out and offer the rejects to the public. Midsummer heralds the weekly Peachapalooza. People get in line on Saturday morning with empty wagons, boxes, strollers, grocery carts, and crates and wait eagerly for the “go” signal so they can load up on Harry & David peaches at 20 cents a pound.
It’s kind of a nice place, Medford.