Tom Weber


family history, Christmas doctor, immigrants


My father, Dr. John Peter Weber, was born to German immigrants in Creston, Iowa in 1888. At the age of eleven he realized he wanted to become a doctor. After finishing the eighth grade in 1904, sixteen-year-old John rode the rails to Montana to help lay railroad tracks, intending to save his wages in order to continue his education. Treated brutally by his foreman, he left the railroad construction job and traveled to Portland, Oregon, searching for work in the lumber industry. The young man from Iowa fell victim to a pickpocket on the streets of Portland. All his savings were gone. Unable to find any employment, John sank into illness and despair. He was living on the street, sleeping under a bridge, and surviving on one meal a day from a soup kitchen for the homeless on Burnside Street. Every now and then he was arrested for vagrancy. The police would throw him into a horse-drawn paddy wagon in which a little mountain of twisted bodies heaved and tossed against each other.