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.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Springtime in Waldport, Redux

Alvin McCleary, left; Myrtle Gay Kent, far right
I have learned some more about the photograph of the cozy dining room described in “Springtime Mirrored in Waldport." Many thanks to Colleen Nickerson of the Waldport Heritage Museum of the Alsi Genealogical and Historical Society for identifying two of the people in the photograph.

My own first search for information about this photo, in the crumbling issues of the R. L. Polk & Company's Oregon-Washington Gazetteer at the Oregon Historical Society, suggested that this might be the dining room of the Central Hotel at Waldport, as the Central was the only eating place noted in the gazetteer. In the period 1909-1912, “Troxel & Broadley” were listed as the operators of the Central Hotel.

The Troxleys. It's not them!
Coupled with information found online via Find a Grave, Historic Oregon Newspapers, and RootsWeb, I postulated that perhaps Thomas Edgar “Ed” Broadley (1865-1935) and his wife Elsie Josephine (Troxel) Broadley (1882-1972) were the man and woman at the left in the photo. This was a particularly enticing speculation, because Elsie was reported to have been a fine cook, according to a family history posting on RootsWeb by Elsie's granddaughter. "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. 

But my speculation was in error. The same photograph is in the Waldport Museum collections, and there the fellow on the left is identified as Alvin McCleary, and the woman at the far right as Myrtle Gay Kent. Both Alvin and Myrtle were at times employed at the Alsea Housel in Waldport, known after 1914 as the Wakefield Hotel. Capt. H. J. Wakefield (1847-1916) was a prominent Lincoln County citizen, a county commissioner (Lincoln County was formed in 1893), an emigrant from England, and owner of a hotel in Waldport. In 1899 in Yaquina he married Hannah Rose, who had just arrived from their mutual home town of Skegness, England; the two had know each other for many years. Mrs. Wakefield is listed in the Polk Gazetteer of the early 1900s as the proprietor of the Alsea House in Waldport.

Hotel Wakefield, Waldport, F. Sasman photo. Oregon Digital A#96.73.7 N#980, UO/OSU

I know rather little of Myrtle Gay (1893-1955). In 1916 she married Andrew Dixon Kent (1884-1953), who was an amateur baseball player, fisherman, Waldport city council member, and mailman. We know somewhat more about the gentleman on the left, Alvin McCleary (d. 1951), who was the adopted son of Louis and Maria Southworth. Louis Southworth (1829-1917) was born into slavery, came to Oregon as a slave in 1853, and purchased his freedom from James Southworth by 1858. In 1873 he married Mary Cooper; the couple took up a homestead in the Alsea Valley in 1879, along with Mary's young son Alvin McCleary, who had been born in the West Indies.

While the life story of Louis Southworth is well known, that of Alvin McCleary is not. He appears in the pages of the Lincoln County Leader as the proprietor of a Waldport meat market in 1908 and 1914. After the death of Captain Wakefield in 1916, the captain's widow, his niece, and Alvin McCleary signed a card of thanks in the newspaper. In 1919, Mrs. Wakefield made an extended trip to her home in England, and Mr. McCleary was in charge of the Wakefield Hotel in her absence. His proprietary stance in the photograph of the dining room is thus well earned.

That Fred F. Sasman took the photograph of the dining room, the exterior view of the Hotel Wakefield, and this charming photo of Myrtle, puts all three images in the period 1911-1914, by comparison with other Sasman photos shown in Oregon Digital. What remains puzzling is that the photograph below of Myrtle (posed at the heretofore unmentioned Baldwin House hotel in Waldport) is identified as Myrtle Kent, May 1911; however, she did not marry Andrew Kent until 1916, by which time Sasman was in dental school in Portland. More threads to unravel!
Myrtle. Oregon Digital N#2811

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.