Monday, March 2, 2015

Bob’s [Mexican] Chili Parlor

There is something disconcerting about two Chinese restaurants I frequently pass by. I’ve never eaten at Norm’s Garden in Hillsdale, nor at Wally’s Chinese Kitchen in Canby. Why? It’s because of Norm and Wally: I can’t get past the names. (Well, the reviews aren’t exactly stellar, either.)

Postcard, circa 1915
A century ago, Bob’s Chili Parlor in Spokane might have faced similar hesitation from potential customers who thought a fellow named Bob was unlikely to be an expert at concocting chili and tamales. But perhaps not; while there were few Mexicans in the Pacific Northwest at the time, an appetite for certain Mexican-inflected foods is evident from the 1890s. (See earlier blog postings on tamales and on Portland’s Castillian Grille, for example.)

Bob’s advertising postcard boasts that “Bob’s Chili-Con-Carne, has the world stopped for quality, taste and flavor.” The unusual dining space is only 4½ feet wide, but 100 feet in length; it has “a seating capacity of 50, and has 6 private boxes for ladies and gentlemen.”

Another unusual aspect of Bob’s business is noted on his postcard: “Anyone wishing the raw material such as Mexican Chili Peppers, Beans or Seasonings, can secure the same in any quantity from us.” That offer is detailed in this advertisement of December 30, 1916, from the Examiner in Colville, Washington, some 70 miles north of Spokane.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Beaver Falls on Beaver Creek

I recently bought two old albums of postcards, one of which includes a real photo postcard of Lower Beaver Falls on Beaver Creek. There must be a lot of Beaver Falls on a Beaver Creek, but this one is identifiable. How many times have we been down Highway 30 toward Astoria, and passed the townlets of Alston and Delena, and the turnoff to Beaver Falls Road? Many times. This time we took the turnoff.

Here’s that postcard view of Lower Beaver Falls, taken about 1920. Just above it is a primitive plank road crossing, and a splash dam, built to impound the creek. Why? To collect logs, then to pull the dam and send the logs roaring down the creek to a mill somewhere below—probably where Beaver Creek enters the Columbia at the townlet of Inglis.

Here’s Lower Beaver Falls today, reached by a muddy but easy trail from the road—which road, once upon a time, was the main Columbia River Highway to Astoria. Things looked different today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pioneer Vegetarians, and a Book Plug

Seth Lewelling (1820-1896) and his family were pioneer immigrants to the Oregon Country, arriving in 1847. He was a nurseryman, and settled near present-day Milwaukie. Among his notable horticultural accomplishments were the development of two delicious cherries, still popular today. The Bing cherry was named for Seth's Chinese foreman, Ah Bing; the name of the Black Republican cherry reflects his abolitionist politics. The family was Quaker, and it would seem that, about the year 1863, they also adopted vegetarianism. Here's an article from 1876 that describes the family's "singular" practice. (While other members of the family retained the spelling Luelling, Seth changed the form to Luelling at some point after this article was written.)

Willamette Farmer, Salem, November 3, 1876, page 1


Last week, in the midst of rain that fully sustains Oregon’s reputation for winter weather, though coming unusually early in the season, we stopped over a day at Milwaukee and took occasion to call on Mr. Seth Luelling, an old subscriber to the FARMER, and on of the most experienced nurserymen in our State. Mr. Luelling lives in the town and quite near the river, while his orchard and nursery extend over a good deal of ground between that and the railroad, half a mile distant. It is quite a treat for a person who enjoys fruit to see such a fruit house as Mr. Luelling has, containing hundreds of bushels of choice apples and pears, and to observe the process of gathering and putting away what still remained in the orchard. The Milwaukee Nursery also has a goodly array of grapes hanging upon the vines, of many different varieties, looking luscious enough to make an epicure’s mouth water.

Mr. L. showed us specimens of dried plums and prunes, raised and preserved by himself, that are excellent evidence of the future value of such productions to our State.

The nursery contains a very great assortment of fruit trees of all kinds, and the proprietors, (the firm is S. Luelling & Son), can fill orders to best advantage. They have made fruit culture a study for so many years, and attend to their business so conscientiously, that the Milwaukee Nursery has earned a valuable reputation.

One feature of the Luelling household strikes a stranger singularly, for the family are strict vegetarians and abjure tea and coffee, meat of all kinds, salt, pepper, spices, butter, grease in any shape and do not use fine flour even. We shall take the liberty of giving the bill of fare at the dinner table, judging from the zeal with which the whole family preach and practice the vegetarian theory that they will not object to a friendly notice. The drink was milk or water, the solids were mashed potatoes, flavored with milk without salt, cabbage nicely cooked with milk, baked squash, delicious baked pears with sugar or syrup, which we used freely, some of the best graham bread we ever ate, and such other articles as were consistent with the vegetarian principle. The only criticism we are disposed to make is that we enjoyed the meal exceedingly, and after eating abundantly, rose from the table well satisfied and conscious that no foundation for ill health had been laid by the gratification of appetite.

In this connection we cannot help but moralize a little over human nature and its weakness. We put entire confidence in the statement made by Mr. Luelling that during the thirteen years they have practiced this system of life, using cold baths also with regularity, the family has been free from disease, while all were more or less ailing previously, and Mrs. Luelling herself was a confirmed invalid. Mr. Luelling assured us that he had more strength now and better health, than when he was thirteen years younger and practiced the former diet. These things being so, we must conclude that the family possesses remarkable will power, or they could not turn appetite out doors and all become philosophers. Speaking of appetite, however, we were assured that appetite when once converted has a better relish for the vegetarian diet than it ever had in the olden times for “chicken fixings.
                                                 # # #
For more background on Seth and his horticultural accomplishments, as well as some most informative writing on vegetarian practices in early Portland (and there was pretty darned little written before now!), I recommend a new book by Heather Arndt Anderson, Portland: A Food Biography (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015). It's a fascinating read!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Christmas Goose

The Woman's Favorite Cook Book, 1902
In the mid-1970s our family went through major changes. After years of pain and travail, mom had died of cancer in the summer of 1976, and dad—Bud—continued to live on alone in the old family house on a hill, overlooking the mouth of the Columbia River near Warrenton. My sister Laural had recently graduated from college, and was living and working near Portland. With my partner John, I lived in the tiny town of Jacksonville, Oregon, where I was the librarian with a historical museum.
A Christmas gathering was planned to bring the scattered and tattered family together. A right proper feast was called for to reinforce our connections with one another, including our mother’s older and widowed sister, Dorothy, the dearly beloved aunt.
Bud was quite a decent cook, and he liked to try new things. He decided that this gathering we were to have a roast goose. While he had never cooked one before, he had recently seen a Christmas goose recipe, and this, he determined, would be the centerpiece. But a goose was hard to come by on the northern Oregon coast.
John knew where we could get a fine but frozen goose in Jacksonville, and we volunteered to bring said goose to Warrenton. However, there were complications. We did not own a car, we didn’t have the money to rent one, and neither of us had a driver’s license anyway. To take a plane, encumbered with a frozen goose, was even more improbable and expensive. So we cadged a ride with friends for the five miles to Medford, and then took an overnight Greyhound bus to Portland, 275 miles to the north.
It was an ordeal. Riding the ‘hound was seldom a relaxing journey in the best of circumstances; at night, with the Christmas crowds, with gifts and luggage and a frozen goose, it was hellish. The body heat of forty-odd passengers was unnecessarily supplemented by a fiendishly effective heating system that pumped hot air directly onto the goose that had to be wedged beneath our seat. We had insulated the goose with layers of newspaper, but we had to enhance its wrappings with our winter coats and hope for the best; we kept rotating the goose so it wouldn’t get hot spots. Sleep was fitful.
Our seven-hour trip ended in Portland at an ungodly early hour, and there we waited for Laural to arrive in the Blue Bomb, her much-beloved rattletrap baby-blue Nash Rambler of barely post-World War II vintage. The Blue Bomb carried us all, and the wilting goose, safely if not swiftly to Warrenton, ninety miles to the west, where proper thawing was in the cool garage.
Bud was delighted with our bird, and he had a jolly good time fussing over it. It went into the oven artfully trussed, and properly pricked all over to drain the plentiful goose grease. As it roasted, it sent out the most gratifying aromas. The recipe had warned there would be goose grease spattered wildly about the oven, but no matter.
The goose was a triumph of crackly brown skin and utterly delicious flesh. I have no recollection of anything else we ate at that dinner, the last family meal I remember in Warrenton. Bud, Laural, Dorothy, John, and I had a fine feast. The bird was a triumph: the best goose ever.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Radical Astoria

I picked up this ca. 1915 postcard photograph at an antiques store in, of all places, Astoria. It shows the staff of Toveri, the Astoria Finnish-language daily newspaper that was the voice of the western district of the Finnish Socialist Federation from 1907 to 1931. They are posed outside their Taylor Street offices which also housed the newspaper's book publishing arm, the Pacific Development Society. The convoluted history of Toveri was tracked in "Ethnicity and Radicalism: The Finns of Astoria and the Toveri, 1890-1930," by the late P. George Hummasti  (Oregon Historical Quarterly 96:4).

Find the Teachers—Then THINK!

During the early 1920s, and the brief but frenetic heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in Oregon politics, this postcard was one small instrument of alarm and persuasion. At issue in 1922 was a vote for or against a bill that would abolish private elementary and high school education in Oregon. The target: Catholic schools. The purport: “Americanization.” Other potentially affected parties: Lutheran and other religious schools, and private schools and academies.
This postcard points to another fear: from a few nuns who taught in public schools. The Committee on Americanization of Public Schools was an arm of the Klan in Oregon, and its secretary, Fred L. Gifford, was the head of the Klan in the state.

The law passed. It was, however, ruled unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court before it went into effect. See the Oregon History Project for a biography of Gifford, and the Oregon Encyclopedia for Eckard Toy’s piece on the Klan, along with links to other ephemera and related items.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

To London and Holland

We’ve been to Denmark, and we’ve been to Norway. We haven’t yet made it to Berlin, but we have perused nearby Waterloo. This past weekend, we hit both London and Holland.

Hotel at London, 1945
Ben Maxwell photo, Salem PL
We did all this by automobile, and without leaving the state, for all those places are Oregon communities. Last weekend, en route to and from a Restore Oregon historic barn workshop at the Hanley Farm near Jacksonville, we made a side trip to London, a crossroads community south of Cottage Grove. Somewhat known today as the site of Territorial Seeds’ test acreage, London had a slight flourishing in the early years of the twentieth century as a mineral springs resort, with the Calapooya Mineral Springs Hotel and a bottling plant. The London post office opened in 1902 and closed in 1918, but a school, church and a few houses remain to mark the townsite.

Holland—named for a farming family, not the Netherlands—was a post office from 1899 to 1954, situated in the Illinois River valley south of Cave Junction. We passed through on our way home from a splendid overnight stay at the Oregon Caves Chateau (on its last night of the season).
Holland General Merchandise, September 29, 2014

Denmark and Norway, both on the southern Oregon coast, mark the presence of immigrants from Scandinavia. Waterloo is a curiosity, and so is Berlin, five miles from Berlin in Linn County. Waterloo got its name from a family feud, which had dire results for one party. Berlin is derived from the Burrell family and their casual hostelry; colloquially, Burrell’s Inn. When a post office was to be established in 1899, Burl Inn was a suggested name; Berlin was a compromise. The post office closed in 1937. See the entry on Berlin in Lewis McArthur’s Oregon Geographic Names for another Berlin tale from World War II—very curious!

I nearly forgot--we've been to Rome as well. The photo depicts Terry's mother Dovie Jess on a bridge over the Owyhee River near Rome, on the "old" I-O-N Highway. That's the road between Boise and Winnemucca via Rome: the Idaho-Oregon-Nevada highway. Rome was reputedly named because some of the Owhyee River cliffs were thought to resemble the ruins of ancient Roman temples. You can see a few fragments to the right of the bridge.