My family moved to Oregon City from Cincinnati, Ohio when I was twelve – just as I was entering seventh grade. We fell in love with Oregon and Oregon City is a wonderful and historic community of 37,500 (2020) about twelve miles south of Portland.
And when I say “historic”, I don’t use the term lightly. To wit:
- Established in 1829 by the Hudson Bay Company on the Willamette River by the historically significant Willamette Falls, it became the first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains (1844).
- The city’s newspaper, the Oregon Spectator, was the first American newspaper to be published west of the Rocky Mountains.
- At the west end of the Oregon Trail, it became the final destination for many early immigrants.
- The Methodist Church – the first Protestant church west of the Rocky Mountains – was completed in 1843, the same year that a Provisional Government, under the jurisdiction of the United States, was established. (This beautiful church was right across the street from our first house on Center Street.)
(External Photo Attribution at the End of the Post – Above #1-2)
And then there’s the Oregon City Municipal Elevator with an incredible history and which “continues to operate as one of only four municipal elevators in the world and ‘Elevator Street’ remains the only ‘vertical street’ in North America.”
It was three blocks from our house and I used to take it every day to deliver part of my paper route on the lower level of OC:
“After years of discussion and conflict, the elevator, constructed of steel and wood, was placed into service on November 27, 1915, a day on which almost the entire population of Oregon City (3,869 persons) rode the elevator. The 89-foot ride to the top involved a wheezing, jerking three to five minutes.
Once at the top, it was necessary to cross a 35-foot catwalk that bridged the two sides of the city high above the chasm. When the elevator worked, it generally lowered the water pressure in the surrounding area. When it didn’t work, passengers had to wiggle out of a trap door and down a narrow ladder……(#3-4 on right)
Okay, just a couple more including a picture of our first house – we rented what was the original Captain Phillips House.
- Dr. John McLoughlin, known as the “Father of Oregon” built his house on the corner of Center Street and 7th Street – also in the same block as our house – shown on the right below.
- The original plat of San Francisco, was filed in Oregon City – the only federal district court in the west February 1, 1849.
Speaking of History – Don’t Forget Howell’s Lounge!
Okay – this is a blog about bars and breweries and the preceding paragraphs are for context because just across 7th Street from the McLoughlin House and only one block from my house was (and is) an historic watering hole – Howells Lounge.:
“In 1929, back in the days of Prohibition, Hannah Howell opened Howell’s Confectionary at 418 7th Street (it’s now at 508 7th). When Prohibition ended, she was issued one of the first Retail Beer Licenses in the State. In 1935, Hannah moved to the present location, boasting of the first electric beer cabinet.
Eventually, her twins, Frank and Charlie, took over the business and operated it until their retirement in 1978…..Frank and Barbara Johnson purchased it in 1981 and Barbara became the sole proprietor in 1994 and it stayed in their family until 2015 when she retired.”
Karen Beach Farthing bought the bar in 2015, after working for the Johnson family for thirty years. We had a great conversation with Karen and I’ll relate the good job she has done maintaining and improving Howell’s ambiance in my next Beerchaser post.
That’s Frank and Charlie in the photo below at the bottom of their original menu. You could get fish and chips for $2.50, a ribeye steak ($3.50), oyster stew (95 cents) and a deluxe hamburger for $1.10.
Current prices are very reasonable, but have obviously risen since the 1940’s. A ribeye is now $18.75, fish and chips $15.75 and the hamburger is $10. Of course, at the time of the original menu shown below, the US Census Bureau reported that “…in 1940, the median home value in the U.S. was just $2,938.”
In the late 1960’s, I would often see either Frank or Charlie standing in front of the bar when I rode by on my bike on my Oregon Journal paper route or when I was buying an oboe reed at Wally’s Music Store which was next door . (Wally’s is still open and thriving, but moved one and on-half blocks away after a fire in its original store.)
Howell’s always appeared kind of dark and mysterious with its idiosyncratic sign and I had never been in it. I decided that I should Beerchase with two of my good friends – also Oregon City High School grads – Jim Westwood (’62) – a former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter -, Pat Green (’65) and me (’66).
(As an aside – Jim and Pat were both Student Body Presidents at OCHS. I ran for that office and lost and probably out of the empathy vote, was elected Senior Class President.) #7
Pat and Jim are recently retired attorneys (both with distinguished careers) and all of us worked in large downtown law firms – Jim at Stoel Rives, Pat at Davis Wright and I was the COO at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt. Since I spent my career trying to manage lawyers, I assured them that we would be welcome in Howell’s and they could return with their good recollections in tact and scheduled a date.
Pat first practiced in Oregon City at a law office (Hibbard Caldwell) right across from the McLoughlin House on Center Street and a walk across 7th Street to Howell’s. He and some of his colleagues often lunches there and drinks after work because it was so close. The last time he was at Howell’s was in1984 – 38 years prior to our visit. Jim’s first foray into Howell’s was when he was six!
The Green Family has a rich history in Oregon City dating back to the early 1900’s.
There’s Pat’s grandmother, Rosa Green:
“One of the more well-known figures in recent Oregon City history, She was a Sunday school teacher for 25 years and was past president of the Oregon City Chapter of Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
Mrs. Green was a constant letter writer, a published author and part-time philosopher whos remembrances appeared many times in the Enterprise Courier. She had lived in Oregon City since 1915 and between 1918 and the time of her death, more than 680 letters to the editor had appeared in various area newspapers over her name.”
This Oregon City legend lived for years in the historic home on the lot in which the Hibbard firm built it’s office (shown in the photo above) – across the street from Howell’s.
Rosa’s legendary annual dinner in which luminaries from all over Oregon attended (those who didn’t, tried to wangle invitations) included former Governor Tom McCall; journalist Doug Baker; Oregon Supreme Court Justice Ralph Holman; entrepreneur and then Chief of Staff for Senator Mark Hatfield, Gerry Frank; and historian/writer, Steward Holbrook among many others.
Since Rosa was the President of the WCTU and no alcohol was served I would wager that at the conclusion of dinner, a number of these notables walked across the street and had a nightcap at Howell’s and said “hello” to Frank and Charlie! (Left to right – #8 – #12)
During the many years Rosa hosted these dinners, I think we can also conclude that the diners included a wide-eyed young Pat Green at various stages of his life……
Bill Green, Pat’s Dad, who passed away in 2017 at the age of 98, was also well known in Oregon City and like his older son, Pat, was Student Body President at OCHS.
“Bill was one of the last surviving members of the OCHS Class of 1937 and was Student Body President…..After several years delivering mail as a letter carrier, U.S. Senator Maureen Neuberger appointed Bill as the Oregon City Postmaster. Bill chaired several civic organizations and positively influenced the lives of many young people as a Boy Scout leader.” (Oregon Live #14)
I will always owe Bill a debt of gratitude because after I got out of the Navy and moved back to Oregon City and was trying to figure out what to do with my life, he hired me over the Christmas season and I worked in the Oregon City Post Office and drove a mail truck for a few months.
And finally, Forrest Green – a name which oozes with sustainability (known in high school as Frosty,) and Pat’s younger brother, established his reputation as a nationally known musician when he still in high school as reported in a 2012 Thebeerchaser post:
“Until the late ‘60’s Forrest Green was a typical high school student – a class officer in his junior year at Oregon City High School and a talented musician who started his own garage band and a group called The Rising Sons. In 1967, Forrest’s senior year at OCHS, he got a call from Don Grady (who also starred as Robbie in the hit sitcom ‘My Three Sons.’ )
Grady had become aware of Green’s talent on the keyboard and asked him if he wanted to tour with his group, Yellow Balloon. Forrest, with his parents’ blessing, became the envy of his classmates and played with Yellow Balloon which released a song with a title identical to the group moniker. Although “Yellow Balloon” was their only hit, it climbed to # 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. The group disbanded after their tour and release of one album.”
(Below – Forrest’s Promotional Pictures – #15 -#16 – and Forrest, Bill and Pat)
Don’t Forget Westwood…
And Jim Westwood was no shrinking violet. He lived about three blocks from me (and Howell’s) on Jefferson Street. His mom, Catherine, was a beloved teacher of Latin and French at OCHS. Jim’s notable exploits after high school and before his legal career are chronicled in this 2013 post where he was named Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.
Now Back to Howell’s….
We went late on a Thursday afternoon and ordered beers and it was great. Howell’s is the epitome of an old neighborhood dive bar with a long bar with stools (the original cast iron for the stools are 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 there’s a large room with a step down to the right with a few lottery videos and several tables with the traditional red cushion benches.
Stayed tuned for the next post on this old-time watering hole and a tribute to a retired Oregon City Municipal Judge.
Cheers – Don ’66!
External Photo Attribution
#1. Former Oregon City First Methodist Churchhttps://www.waymarking.com/gallery/image.aspx?f=1&guid=4ef07c18-f00d-4668-8447-af3c31ad6991&gid=3.
#3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_City_Municipal_Elevator#/media/File: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Encmstr 16 December 2006
#7. Howell’s Lounge Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/147299205331546/photos/
#8. Wikimedia Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_McCall By Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington – Charles A. Sprague Tree Seed Orchard Dedication, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51782505.
#10.Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ralph_M_Holman.jpg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1977 Oregon Secretary of State, distributed by Marion County, Oregon to voters without a copyright notice 1970.
#11. Oregon Historical Society https://patch.com/oregon/portland/gerry-frank-dies-8th-generation-oregonian-who-championed-state.
#12. Wikimedia Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stewart_Holbrook#/media/File:Stewart_Holbrook.png This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1963, The Oregonian, September 25, 1941
#15 – #16. Photo credits are shown on the images.