Thursday, September 18, 2014

Central Hotel, Troxel & Broadley, Props.

Perhaps I have learned some more about the photograph of a cozy dining room described in “Springtime Mirrored in Waldport."

A search in the crumbling issues of the R. L. Polk & Company Oregon-Washington Gazetteer at the Oregon Historical Society suggests that this is the dining room of the Central Hotel at Waldport. It seems to have been the only substantive eating place in the small town. In the period 1909-1912, “Troxel & Broadley” are listed as the operators of the Central Hotel. Coupled with information found online via Find a Grave, Historic Oregon Newspapers, and RootsWeb, I am thinking that the gentleman at the left is Thomas Edgar “Ed” Broadley (1865-1935), and that his wife Elsie Josephine (Troxel) Broadley (1882-1972) is facing him. Or is that Elsie’s father Charles Troxel (1860-1940)?
Charles Troxel

Ed and Elsie Broadley, 1899

The Troxel family is still evident in Lincoln County and vicinity, so perhaps my speculation will prompt some confirming—or diverging—information. Elsie and Ed were married in Pendleton in 1899, and they divorced (“due to his drinking”), perhaps about 1912; they had a son, Louis. The RootsWeb posting notes that “she had managed and cooked for the Waldport (Central) Hotel in 1909-1912.” “Her granddaughter, Betty, says… Elsie made the best homemade brown gravy using bits of leftover pie crust that had been browned,” giving the gravy “little crunchy tidbits.” Other foods were also mentioned: creamed peas, sugar cookies with raisins, and gooseberry pie.
Digital Oregon, A#96.52.13 N#644

Elsie’s mother was Nancy Georgeanna “Anna” (Hufft) Troxel (1864-1940). Anna was “partially crippled,” perhaps from a stroke, and used a cane. She helped Elsie and Ed run the Central Hotel for those few years, and she was reputedly “an excellent cook.”

Ben Maxwell, 1960, Salem Public Library

I’d like to think that for a time the Central Hotel was a warm and inviting place in remote and dampish Waldport, a place to get creamed peas with the beefsteak on an evening in May, a meal finished off with Elsie’s rhubarb pie. The gooseberries won’t be ripe until late July.

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?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Henry Theophilus Finck, Epicure of Aurora

New York Public Library
Though he was born in Missouri and died in Maine, he was an Oregonian. Though he achieved fame as a music critic and a popular writer about the likes of Wagner and Chopin, he also wrote about food (Food and Flavor, 1913) and love (Primitive Love and Love Stories, 1899) and gardening (Gardening With Brains: Fifty Years' Experience of a Horticultural Epicure, 1922) and travel (The Pacific Coast Scenic Tour, 1891). An unusual man was Henry Theophilus Finck (1854-1926).

Henry T. Finck was born in Bethel, Missouri in 1854, into a family that was part of a German religious farming commune headed by Dr. William Keil. The nucleus of that group soon moved west, and founded the community of Aurora, south of Portland. Finck grew up in that environment, and through diligent study he managed to go to Harvard, graduating in 1876. After a European jaunt, he began writing for the New York Evening Post; for four decades, he was a regular contributor to the magazine The Nation, and he authored more than a dozen books.

Among his writings are reminiscences of his childhood in Aurora, and about the delicious bounty of the Willamette Valley. Here are some tidbits.

 From The Pacific Coast Scenic Tour
“Concerning Oregon fruit I can speak from personal experience, as I was brought up near an orchard numbering two thousand apples, pear, and plum trees. For peaches and grapes the climate of Northern Oregon is hardly warm enough, and the apples and pears, too, are perhaps a little smaller than they are in California, but in flavor they are vastly superior. Indeed, neither in the East nor in any part of Europe have I ever tasted apples to compare with those in Oregon. … In most parts of the East an apple is an apple, and few people know or care about the names of the different kinds; but an Oregonian would no more eat certain kinds of apples than he would eat a raw pumpkin. An epicure is no more particular in regard to his brands of wine than an Oregonian is in the choice of his favorite variety of apples; and there are half-a-dozen kinds which I have never seen at the East, and the systematic introduction of which in the New York market would make any dealer’s fortune.”

“… I must acknowledge that I have never tasted any French chateau wine with a more agreeable bouquet than that of Oregon cider made exclusively of the finest apple that grows—white winter pearmain—and kept in bottles, unfermented.”

“In the matter of berries, Oregon is greatly ahead of California. The delicious wild strawberries on long stems are so abundant in May and June that they perfume the air along country roads like clover-fields. Blackberries are even more numerous, and a single county of Oregon would supply enough for all our Eastern cities.”
Sketch from Food and Flavor, by Charles S. Chapman

From Food and Flavor
“The Aurora hotel soon became far-famed; and when the first railway was built from San Francisco to Portland, the astute makers of the time-table somehow managed it so that most of the trains stopped at Aurora, though it is but twenty-eight miles from the terminal, Portland.
“It was plain German bourgeois cooking; but the sausages were made of honest pork and the hams had the appetizing flavor which the old-fashioned smokehouse gives them; the bread was soft yet baked thoroughly, the butter was fresh and fragrant and the pancakes melted in the mouth. As for the supreme effort of Aurora cookery—noodle soup made with the boiled chicken (not cold-storage chicken) served in the plate—the mere memory of it makes my mouth water, four decades after eating it.
“In justice to Portland, which in those days was in a benighted condition fully warranting the action of the railway men in making Aurora their culinary terminus, let me hasten to add that at present, with its Chinook salmon and Columbia River smelt, its hardshell crabs and razor clams, its delicious Willamette crawfish—rivaling the best French écrivisses—its fragrant mammoth strawberries, its juicy cherries, and its world-famed Hood River apples, it is hardly second to San Francisco as a gastronomic center. In Oregon, as in Washington and California, the epicure fares particularly well because the luxuries of life as are cheap as the staples and quite as abundant, if not more so.”

Henry Finck perceived the manifest culinary advantages of the Pacific Slope a century ago.