Friday, June 29, 2012

Best Meal in Oregon: the Grand Central Hotel, Clatskanie



The dining room looks pleasant enough, and the napkins are displayed in a spectacular fashion, but the caption is probably a bit of hyperbole. At the right, there is a sign on the wall:
COMMERCIAL TABLE
MEALS 50 CENTS
Traveling salesmen were the bread and butter, so to speak, of small-town hotels such as this one. This photo postcard was mailed to Clatskanie from Tacoma, Washington, on August 11, 1913.

At the left is another wall sign:
SKIM MILK
SERVED HERE

What would that be about? A Google search led to the annual report of the Oregon Dairy and Food Commissioner for the period from October 1, 1910, to September 30, 1912. In that report, the Grand Central Hotel in Clatskanie was cited for illegally serving milk that had been skimmed and had an unacceptable butterfat content of a mere 0.25% (at least 3% butterfat was required, and if skimmed it had to be noted).

So the sign is very likely a response to having been caught whisking the good stuff off the milk and not owning up to it. The hotel that boasted of serving the best meal in Oregon was a cheapskate house. The floor looks neat and tidy, though.

4 comments:

  1. "The hotel that boasted of serving the best meal in Oregon was a cheapskate house." Where is your "historic research" to validate this comment? If you would've taken the time to dig further, sir, you would have discovered that the Grand Central Hotel in Clatskanie was owned by accounts I have taken the time to research, several proprietors, one of which was apparently my late Great Grandfather. I only discovered this recently and have not been able to identify all partners assoicated with this establishment. He and at least one of his other partners (J. W. McDonald) in the Central Grand Hotel, left Garden of Eden, Nova Scotia in the late 1800's and for the most part, walked across North America. (They rode a train 200 miles across Illinois.) The four teenagers, decided that they didn't want to stay in Nova Scotia and starve, but rather sought out opportunities here in America. They all earned their citizenship and in return, gave back to their community. My great grandfather was Chief Deputy Marshall for Columbia County, a fisherman, master carpenter. He and my grandfather spent a number of summers in Alaska building canneries for Libby, McNeil & Libby. The Central Grand Hotel was home not only to traveling salesmen, but to those who had no home there in Clatskanie. You are correct in the citing for not having enough butterfat in their milk and you are most likely correct in your statement that that is the reason the sign was posted. However, to imply that it was a "cheapskate" establishment only illuminates your lack of interest in finding the real story behind the picture. It's easy to drive a desk and tell a story. It's a whole lot harder to build a life in a country that's still in it's infancy itself.

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    1. I appreciate the added information on the Grand Central and one of its proprietors, and I thank you for that. You've added another dimension to one of the stories suggested by this photograph, and I hope you will tell us you great-grandfather's name.

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  2. George Donald Sutherland ~ Born at "The Garden" ~ Garden of Eden, Pictou, Nova Scotia, May 4, 1868. From his 1952 obituary: "The lure of the West took young George and a friend (actually there were several) to the Pacific Northwest, after he had spent a short time in Rhode Island. He first landed in Astoria (Oregon coast), where he spent about a year, then went to Marshland, and on to Clatskanie in 1880, where he spent his twenty-first birthday.
    Mr. Sutherland spent at least 20 summers in Alaska, where he was a carpenter foreman for Libby, McNeil and Libby Company. (Building canneries for the fishing industry.) ...He was in the logging industry for some time and carpenter work was his vocation. For a number of years he was city marshal in Clatskanie and for a long period was deputy sheriff for Columbia County.
    He and Julia M. Davey were married on March 16th, 1894 and to this union three children were born. Georgia Violet, the eldest, passing away when only a few hours old; Catherine Ellen and the youngest, George (my maternal grandfather)."
    From newspaper accounts, he also was a member of the Macabees, a master carpenter, on the school board and was a proprietor in the Grand Central Hotel. His wife's family, the Samuel M. Graham's, had come to Marshland, Oregon from Adel, Iowa in 1865. In Marshland, they raised Guernsey dairy cattle, had a fruit orchard and their home was the local post office. *James McDonald, mentioned in old news articles as a proprietor of the Grand Central Hotel, was one of the young men who came west with my great grandfather.
    In speaking with dairy cattlemen at our local fair this summer, Guernsey cattle are not used for dairy production as much as they were back in those days. In fact, the pure Guernsey breed is on the decline. Why? Because of the extremely high butter fat content in their milk. So, as Paul Harvey would say, "Now you know the rest of the story."

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  3. I am a descendant of Samuel M. Graham's brother Charles. Charles' daughter Julia married James J. Geary, they are my great grandparents. One of their daughters, Nellie was my grandmother, her daughter my mother Patricia. Born and raised in Clatskanie and as a child I spent many visits with the Geary's/Grahams.

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