The John Frank & Bertha Fray Dicken House
102 Fifth Street
1927 – 1977
By Gail J. McCormick
The John Frank & Bertha Fray Dicken House is located at 102 Fifth Street in Molalla, Oregon. The architecture is Tudor and English Cottage Style. You will first notice the decorative gable-end half-timbering and arched window and door openings which give the house a Tudor appearance. A Tudor Style will sometimes have decorative stoneware chimneys with chimney pots. Occasionally, they might have an imitation "thatched" roof. Composition roofing is rolled at the edge to simulate straw thatch. This particular house has a stucco finish and attractive English garden landscaping. The house was built by Frank Dicken, who was a pillar of the community, and founded Dicken & Co., a dry goods and grocery store. The store served the community for over 50 years. The family lived in the house for over 60 years. Raymond Hatch, of Portland, was the architect who designed the house. Mr. Hatch also designed the 1926 Molalla High School building. The house is in excellent condition and is privately owned.
John Frank Dicken, known as "Frank", was born in 1886, at Iowa. His parents were Aaron and Luella Osterhoudt Dicken. Frank's parents immigrated from Iowa, where they were farmers, to Scotts Mills, Oregon, in 1895. The 1910 Molalla Census finds him living, as a 24 year-old boarder, at the home of Oliver and Mary Robbins. He lists his occupation as "general store salesman". In 1911, Frank married Bertha Fray Adams. She was the daughter of George and Kate Adams. Kate was descended from both the Adams and the Robbins pioneer families that helped found the town of Molalla. Bertha's mother's parents were Oliver and Mary Jane Thompson Robbins. Oliver Robbins was twelve years old when the large Robbins family crossed the Oregon Trail. Most of the family settled in the Molalla area and helped found the town of Molalla. For the Adams' family stories, see the Noyer-Adams Building on North Molalla Avenue and the George V. & Kate Adams House on South Molalla Avenue.
Frank had worked for the Robbins Bros. Merchandise Store from 1905 to 1915. On December 1, 1915, he opened his own store, handling dry goods and groceries, in the P. C. Fermann building on South Molalla Avenue. In addition to groceries, the products he sold ranged from wool caps and blankets to Dr. Hess Poultry Pan-an-cea; from dishes to garden tools and from ladies dresses to men's coveralls. In 1916, Dicken & Co. moved to the new I.O.O.F. building, located on the corner of East Main Street and South Molalla Avenue. Frank enlarged the grocery section and built a tile building immediately east of the I.O.O.F. building for the dry goods section. Dicken and Company was known as the "Store of Quality and Service". In July, 1933, Frank signed a pledge to comply with President Roosevelts's new Industrial Recovery Plan to help the country after the depression.
We are given a glimpse into Frank's daily life with an excerpt from an unusual obituary, written for him by Bob Todd, of the Molalla Pioneer: "Even though it has been some time now since we had watched Frank pass by our home on his way to open the store, usually at 7 a.m. sharp, six days a week. However, in our heart's eye we still can see that old blue Chevy, Frank at the wheel, cruising slowly down Molalla Avenue on it's way to the store. Except in memory, we will no longer see Mr. Dicken sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store, waving cheerily to all who passed by. To many early risers his "Good morning, how are you?" was the real beginning of the day. Without this friendly, warm greeting to start the day, things just didn't seem to go quite right somehow. We have also seen Mr. Dicken hard at work trimming lettuce in the back room of the store. His deft hands made quick work of a crate of fresh produce and, somehow, seemed to make things taste a little sweeter".
In March, 1944, the 40 foot high, two-story I.O.O.F. building was destroyed by a fire that almost consumed a whole business block. All of the businesses in the I.O.O.F. building were lost. Construction started and a new Dicken's store opened in April, 1945, adjoining the new Orcutt Drug Store. It was located on the corner of East Main Street and North Molalla Avenue. This Dicken's building still exists today and is owned by Gary and Joan Deardorff, who remodeled it in 1979, into modern office suites. It is located at 103-105 East Main Street. Frank's son, Ronald, joined him in the grocery business after serving in the military in World War II. In 1955, Frank sold the dry goods section to his daughter, Betty, and her husband, George Guild. The grocery later became Dicken's Thriftway. On December 9, 1965, the Dicken family celebrated their 50th anniversary in the grocery business in Molalla. Frank and Bertha were taken out to dinner at Arrowhead Golf Club, "where everyone enjoyed a large bulletin board filled with news clippings and ads of many years ago, as well as photos of the family, groups of townspeople and scenes of past years".
Both Frank and Bertha lived to a very old age. Perhaps a result of spending their spare time at their Shady Dell log cabin on the Molalla River. Frank died in 1977, at Molalla, aged 90. Bertha died in 1987, at Molalla, aged 97.
"All Northwest Lines Up for Recovery Plan", Oregonian, July, 28, 1933
Betty Guild, Unrecorded interview with author, April, 2019
"Dicken & Co. Store", Molalla Self-Guided Tour, by Judith Sanders-Chapman & Lois Helvey Ray, 2009
"Frank Dicken", Clackamas County Deed Records: Book 156, Page 379 & Book 190, Page 145
"Frank & Bertha Dicken", Molalla City Directory, 1953
"Frank & Bertha Dicken Marry", Oregon City Courier, June 30, 1911
"Frank & Bertha Dicken's House", Molalla Self-Guided Tour, by Judith Sanders-Chapman & Lois Helvey Ray, 2009
"John Frank Dicken", U. S. Census, 1900, Scotts Mills, Oregon, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, Molalla, Oregon, Ancestry.com
"John Frank Dicken", www.findagrave.com
"Merchant To Build Home", Molalla Pioneer, April 28, 1927.
"Molalla House Robbed", Oregon City Courier, November 2, 1916
"Mr. & Mrs. Aaron Dicken-Golden Anniversary Kept", Oregonian, May 11, 1933
"Mr. & Mrs. Frank Dicken Observe 50th Anniversary in Grocery Store Business", Molalla Pioneer, December 9, 1965
"Unnamed Building #839", Clackamas County Resource Study, 1984, Altier & Hayden
© Gail J. McCormick, 2017