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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Folger’s at the Brand Café

The summer 2014 edition of Oregon Humanities magazine has a short post from Dave Kenagy, “Starting from Osmosis,” about coffee, how much he likes it, and how he began drinking it. It all began at the Brand Café in Redmond in 1956, when Dave was four and went there with his father. Dad a penchant for the coffee, “one dime with refills”; while his father sipped his coffee, Dave took his “by osmosis”; and so his own journey with coffee began.

The menu from the Brand Café of about 1955 indeed shows that coffee was a dime. And it wasn't just any coffee, but Folger’s Coffee, a longtime San Francisco-based brand much favored on the West Coast in the 1950s which went national in the 1960s. And not just a cup for a dime: “Folger’s by the Hour, 10c” proclaimed the menu.

As the postcard above shows, the Brand’s décor was spartan, but with a distinctive flair. The name reflects the motif, which featured “what is believed to be the largest collection of authentic livestock brands in the world.” Two sets of Texas longhorn cattle horns punctuated the wall of brands. The girls have been sitting below the horns for nearly an hour now, drinking Folger's ….

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Wooden Bill of Fare

 Here are a couple of Oregon foodways oddments: banquet menus printed on wood. Both menus make a nod to regional foods, and both make it clear that eating locally wasn’t easy, even in the 1920s.

The “Road, Rail and Sail Banquet” was held in Marshfield (renamed Coos Bay in 1940) in the spring of 1925. Apparently in celebration of transportation, the chamber of commerce offered locally-produced cottage cheese, cheddar cheese (Melowest brand), butter, and ice cream—and indeed Coos County was prime dairy country in the 1920s. The crab was no doubt local, possibly some of the vegetables, but the pineapple, olives, cigars, and coffee had to come a long ways to Coos Bay: by road, by rail, by sail.

The “Oregon Products Banquet” held in Bend in 1929 was clearly an earnest endeavor by the Woman’s Civic League to promote local products. While Bend was, like Marshfield, very much a lumber town, irrigation had brought some crops to the area, notably potatoes. The dairy products and the turkey may be local and the cabbage salad and fresh vegetables are attributed to the farmers of nearby Tumalo (in February!),  it would appear that many items were imported from a far piece of the state: Del Monte peas, cranberries, celery, apples. And coffee, of course: that had to come from beyond Oregon’s borders. Ah, but the retailers were local!

Notice, however, the presence in Bend in 1929 of chain stores: Piggly Wiggly, Safeway, Woolworth. The chains-vs.-the-little-guys would become a major issue, especially in groceries, in the next couple of years in Oregon.

Small Town Good Eats

 Menus from small town eateries are usually predictable in their offerings, as much so today as they were seventy-odd years ago. The good eats at the White Restaurant in The Dalles, Oregon, as presented in this menu from about 1940, feature breakfast: eggs, bacon, sausage, hotcakes, some omelettes (plain, cheese, ham, bacon, jelly, or Spanish). The menu also lists a modest assortment of steaks and chops, sandwiches, salads, soups, beverages, five potato preparations and a scattering of vegetables, plus raw, stewed, or fried oysters, and “Chinese noodles”: pork or chicken.

Tipped into the menu when I acquired it was a loose sheet of daily specials, a typed listing on carbon paper. In comparison with the White Restaurant menu, it is quite ambitious. At the top, it says BIG MEADOW CAFÉ, crossed out and replaced with Camel; also, the notation Lovelock, Nevada, 1,263 pop. At the bottom is the suggestion, “’STAR DUST’ AT THE THEATRE.” So what’s that all about?

Google made it surprisingly easy to find out—sort of. On January 27, 1940, Andy Milich of Lovelock, Nevada, was killed in an automobile accident. According to the Nevada State Journal, Milich was “the proprietor of a chain of business establishments throughout the state, including the Big Meadow Café, Nevada Bakery and Camel Café in Lovelock, Montana Club in Tonopah, and the commissaries at Silver Peak, Getchell, Copper Canyon, Stardust mine and other mining districts.” And the movie Star Dust, starring the teenaged Linda Darnell, came out in 1940.

But what was that daily special sheet from Lovelock doing tucked into a menu from The Dalles? And why were the offerings from Mr. Milich’s restaurants in a Nevada desert town of 1,263 residents seeminglyso much broader and varied than what was found in The Dalles with its 6,266 residents? Ah, and where will you find an abalone steak with tartar sauce today?