Bygone Days of Baker City

By Phyllis Badgley

Many changes have taken place in Baker (City) over the years. As I tap my memory I'm reminded of various establishments that lined Baker's business district, in an earlier era.

Do You Remember?? When Tom Speros, a pleasant man of Greek heritage, owned the Trail Cafe, Corner of Main and Court, in 1930s. I recall being invited to their home and witnessing Mrs. Speros sitting at an upright loom, weaving "old country" designs with a large wooded shuttle. Trail Cafe over the years changed owners and name. In 60's owner Lyle Davis featured chicken cacciatore on the menu. He employed a crew to cook it at the old Heilner grocery building. Davis marketed the chicken product commercially.

The East side of the 1800 block on Main in 1930 housed Bowen Clothing Store, Baker Cafe, owned by the Mon Lee family and Gwilliams Bakery before they built their brick building, corner Main and Church.

The Bowling Alley was located in mid-block. We rolled Duck Pins there. Duck Pins are smaller than normal bowling balls, they are held in the palm of your hand, with no holes drilled in them. At that time, there were no machines to set pins in place, that was done Physically by young boys who earned money as pin setters. The Bowling Alley late moved to the basement of K. P. building on Washington St., Jim Littig was manager.

Olsen Furniture was in the 1800 block, Frank Olsen owned the store, and later successive owners included e. Nero, Al Cannon, and Ed Kanerva. The Log Cabin and Mint Tavern were established next door. I chose to hurry by them on my way to Western Auto at the corner of Main and Valley, where T. V. Office is located.

Do You Remember?? When the Stage Depot was located on the corner of First and Court Streets? Next door on Court Street Surbeck Bros. had a confectionery, where they sold cigars and ice cream. There was a marble-top counter with 6 stools. Surbeck Brothers were each of small stature. One had a thick mustache. Their business attire was white shirt, black bow tie, and 6 inch black sleeve protectors elasticized at the wrist.

I recall Heilner Grocery store in 30's bordered the alley on Court Street. Across that alley, Neuberger and Heilner an, established clothing store faced Main Street.

At one time, Neuberger and Heilner considered retirement, they leased the building to Emrich Furniture Co., prior to Emrich moving to the corner of Second and Court. Herman David came from Eastern U.S. and maintained the clothing store in smaller quarters next door. Later, Bob Bratt operated Ryder Bros. there before a move to J.C. Penney location, corner main and Valley where it continues under the ownership of the Dodson Family.

Do You Remember?? A Barber shop of the late 30's located on East side of Main near Court? It was operated by Mr. Petticord, later by Carl Cloud. At one time Joe O'Connor located his gun shop nearby, and Mrs. Daveez sold hemstitching and embroidery supplies there.

Ted and Jo Curtis opened a jewelry store next to the Royal Cafe. The Royal Cafe opened about 1937-38, as I recall, under the ownership of Jack Eng. It was then the only cafe that stayed open 24 hrs. so they enjoyed lively patronage after local dances. Jack Eng was an expert photographer and his fine prints grace the walls of many Baker homes.

The Wagner Studio was in mid-block of 2100 Main. During the era 1920-40 Mr. Wagner took professional portraits. I remember him using a camera with glass negatives, leather bellows, mounted on a tripod. He used a headcloth when he stepped behind the camera to check the image. I'm told that my parent attempted to get wedding pictures taken at Wagner Studio, 1920. Mischievous friends pursued them, intending the groom would wheel the bride down Main street in a wheelbarrow. Dad and Mother convinced Mr. Wagner to let them out the back door of the studio and they would return later for pictures. They eluded the pursuers and drove to Pleasant Valley, caught a train, and went to Weiser, Id.

Harley King Picture studio was located on Broadway between Main and First, in the 30's and 40's. Carl and Vivian Holman established their portrait studio in mid-40's in 1800 block of First Street, across from Eltrym theater. Later moved to 2100 block of Main. I recall the Bob Gambs studio of 40'2, Esther Munk studio on Court St., in 50's. Duncan studio operated during the 70's. Duane Coles studio located in Palmer building in 1980. Consider these dates approximate (from memory, not research.)

A group of Bakerites interested in amateur photography organized the Powder River Camera Club. They met, shared ideas, sponsored contests.

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