(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser. If you are seeing this post through an e-mail, please visit the blog by clicking on the title above to see all of the photos and so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)
As stated in Part I on Howell’s Lounge in Oregon City, unlike Jim Westwood and Pat Green, my companions on the trip, I’d never been to Howell’s before. I didn’t view the bar as having a family-type environment, but Jim’s first visit was when he was six.
Out of curiosity and based on the proximity to my original house in Oregon City, I suggested we Beerchase at Howell’s. Jim and Pat were both “howling:”
“Don, do you really think we can go back?”
We went late on a Thursday afternoon and ordered beers and it was great. Howell’s is the epitome of an old dive bar with a long bar at the front of the bar with stools (the original cast iron for the stools is still in place) and booths across from them when you walk in.
The bar extends towards the back where there are a few tables and then a large room with a step down to the right with a few lottery videos and several tables with the traditional red cushioned benches.
In the first post, I talked about the saga of the bar and how it integrates into the robust history of Oregon City. After we got our beers, I asked to interview the owner.
Fortunately, Karen Beach Farthing, who bought the bar in 2015 after working for the Johnson family (previous owners) for thirty years was there. She lives in rural Mulino and said that the pandemic made it hard to survive, but they pulled through.
“I worked fourteen hour days, seven days per week. Two PPP loans helped us get by.”
Karen was very friendly and spent a lot of time with us at our table. It’s obvious she has pride in the enterprise in which she has invested so many years – both as an employee and now as the owner. She’s in the photo with Pat and Jim below.
“Both young kids and old people love this bar,” she emphasized, and her clientele used to consist of a lot of mill workers at Publishers Paper and Crown Zellerbach when they got off the swing shift. Both mills shut down a number of years ago.
When I worked for the Clackamas County Commissioners at the Courthouse on Main Street – the lower level of OC by the Willamette River – the Commission Staff and lawyers from County Counsel and the DA’s Office would always head across the street to the beloved McNulty & Barry’s Bar after work. #1 (# External photo attribution at the end of the post.)
Karen said, however, that the Commissioners and judges used to drive up to the second level to Howell’s – probably to get some privacy and not have to be careful about their conversations. One of my favorite Commissioners, Dale Harlan, was elected after I left the County in 1979, and was the epitome of an outstanding elected official.
His wife Estle, when she saw the first post on Howell’s affirmed that premise when she commented in an e-mail, “Dale loved that place when he was a Clackamas County Commissioner!” #2
My late friend, Commissioner Harlan, deserves some additional narrative: Dale served valiantly in the European theater in World War II (Purple Heart after being severely wounded in the Battle of the Bulge).
After attending Stanford Law School where Sandra Day O’Connor and William Rehnquist were his classmates (1952), Dale was an excellent lawyer in private practice.
He served two terms in the Oregon Legislature (1965-9) and then two terms as a Clackamas County Commissioner (1983-1990). After his retirement, Dale became a good friend and I loved to hear his stories and about the many books he read. (The 1986 photo on the right below, shows Dale – middle -and fellow Commissioner, Bob Schumacher – left – who was an usher in my wedding in 1980.) #3
The Oregon City High School Connection
When I told Karen that Jim, Pat and I had graduated from Oregon City High School (a long time ago….), she motioned over to another table and said, “Those people also graduated from OCHS.” Since I always like to interview regulars at my bars, I walked over.
Sitting there at table of four were two of my 1966 classmates – husband and wife – Steve Mattesen and Jean Leach – both of whom I hadn’t seen since our 50th class reunion almost six years ago. And standing by the bar was Mike Gholston, who was one year behind us. (The big guy – a football lineman – who has the white beard in the second photo below.)
We had a great time and the next day, Pat called me (Jim now lives in Portland) and said, “Let’s return to Howell’s and take our wives to dinner!”
We did, which gave Pat and me the opportunity to try Howell’s famous rib-eye steak sandwich with Karen’s homemade potato salad. Our wives opted for a turkey sandwich, and fish and chips. The steak was very good and the potato salad earned its reputation.
Howell’s is a family/neighborhood bar and known for its great breakfasts – they have an extensive menu at reasonable prices. The bar also has specials almost every holiday:
“Join us for Easter Dinner! Glazed pit ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans and a dinner roll for $13.50 – HAPPY EASTER.
July 4th and 5th Special – BBQ Ribs, Potato Salad, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob – $14.00.”
The bar also hosts events such as karaoke and trivia nights several times per week.
So if in doubt about returning to an old haunt, take it from the three of us: “You can go back!” If you don’t have your own favorite place from years ago, try Howell’s Lounge in Oregon City.
And Speaking of Verdicts….
Another one of my high school classmates from 1966 is Laraine Aughenbaugh McNiece. Larraine was a good student at OCHS, but one who was independent and not afraid to state her opinion even when it was out of the mainstream. She was selected as one of the Girls-of-the-Month and the caption from the yearbook under the second photo reads:
“Individuality – lost in the world of conformity, characterizes October’s Girl-of-the-Month.” #4
She was one of the small group from our class that reconnected every ten years to work on our class reunions. She has been a a key contributor to those events over the years. And Laraine has a connection with Howell’s as will be shown below.
Laraine had an outstanding, albeit delayed, legal career as stated in a story in the Portland Tribune dated May 28th 2021 entitled: “Legendary Oregon City municipal judge leaves for South Dakota.”
“McNiece is the immediate past president of the Oregon Municipal Judges Association, but 30 years ago, no one would have predicted her rise to be one of the most respected judges in the state. She started as an attorney in 1990 when she was in her 40s, and worked as a legal secretary before that.”
And Laraine’s connection with Howell’s – not just when she worked as a legal secretary at the Hibbard Caldwell firm across the street? It goes back further as I pointed out when I introduced her along with other members of our Committee at the 50th Reunion. Laraine’s introduction went like this:
“Now many of you don’t know that the only lawyer in our class is Laraine. And not only did Laraine have a good private law practice, but she was appointed Oregon City Municipal Judge and even became the President of the Oregon Municipal Judges Association.
Now there’s a lesson here. When the rest of us were seniors and on Friday nights were going to pep rallies, football games, dances and then eating burgers afterwards, what was Larraine doing?
Well, she was dating older guys and having beers at Howell’s!”
Fortunately, the judge has a great sense of humor and I didn’t have to swear in her courtroom that the above story is true…..
Have a wonderful retirement in South Dakota, Your Honor. You made great friendships in our class and garnered the respect of the Oregon legal community and we all wish you the best. (The photo below was from her City of Oregon City retirement send-off). #5
External Photo Attributions
#1.McNulty & Barry’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=478103727657587&set=pb.100063738903207.-2207520000..&type=3
#4. Oregon City Class of 1966 High School Yearbook
#5. City of Oregon City Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/cityoforegoncity/posts/10157815898102414
I don’t know any of these people, but hey, still a lot of fun! Nice bar! s.
I just looked at Google Maps to confirm the location and saw that they are currently “busier than normal” at 11:00 on a Friday morning. Double the crowd of any other time of the day. Your post may have something to do with that!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much, David. I think, however, they’re lined up to get some of Karen’s potato salad…
LikeLiked by 1 person
Another good one, Don. And reading that Jim W. was at Howell’s when he was six reminds me of a book you both might enjoy and one that will be included in my personal newsletter this month: The Tender Bar. A beautiful memoir about a kid more or less growing up in a bar. Also has been made into a movie with, oh, what’s his name? JLo’s new husband. 😉
LikeLiked by 1 person
I will look forward to your newsletter, Molly. Thanks for the comment.