Memories of the original "Moreland Market"
By DANA BECK
Special to THE BEE ( June 2010) - A Community Newspaper
It could have been a scene from the Maltese Falcon or Casablanca.
Gerald (Jerry) Griffith, only 17, entered through the door at 8003 SE 28th in Eastmoreland .He placed a package of cold cuts into the refrigerator, and then slipped a bill onto the kitchen table. “Who is it” called a soft feminine voice.”Just the delivery boy from theMoreland Market “, replied Jerry. “Can you come upstairs please?” Hesitant at first the young man climbed the steps and entered the bedroom. At the dresser stood actress Mayo Methot, and opposite her on the chassis lounge sat Humphrey Bogart.
As he rose from the lounge, Bogie asked if Jerry could stop by the local liquor store and bring him back a bottle of whiskey. Then he flipped him a $20dollar bill from his wallet and said” keep the change kid”.
Not just another typical day for the lad from Lexington Street.
Jerry Griffith is a member of a select group which I would call “The Sellwood Natives”. Delivered by Dr. Nicholson at the Sellwood Hospital, Jerry attended Sellwood School and graduated in 1947 from Washington High School, being instructed by the same teacher as his mom when she was a teenager.
As a youngster Jerry would prowl the streets of Sellwood aboard his “Silver King Bike” from Sears. His prized possession was won during a contest started by the Westmoreland Pharmacy, then located at the intersection of Bybee Street and Milwaukie (now Starbucks). Whichever kid could hand out the most coupons in the neighborhood and entice customers to shop at the Pharmacy, would win the nifty two-wheeler. Jerry was declared the winner of the bike, which came in handy when delivering the morning newspapers.
The Oregonian distribution office was located in a small wooden shack on Milwaukie Avenue just across from the G & G Bakery run by George and Gertrude. When the weather was not rainy or cold, the baker Eric Kollosa would place a wooden plank across two empty buckets and set his warm fruit pies, hot out of the oven, outside to cool, before placing them under the glass case inside for customers to buy. Early one morning, once Jerry had gathered his newspapers into his carrier bag draped across the neck of his bike, the smell of Eric’s fruit pies provided too tempting for the young man. He waited patiently for the baker to saunter back inside to attend to his ovens, quickly he scooped up one of the small pies and dashed out into the street riding swiftly away to attend to his morning deliveries.
Each week was an adventure for a lad like Jerry. Fishing among the pylons in the Willamette or flying model planes along the open fields of Westmoreland Park . In the summer other memorable interests included a one hour ride on the Sellwood streetcar that wound through the tall buildings of downtown Portland, then over to the carnival atmosphere at Jantzen Beach Amusement Park. On Saturday afternoons with nickel in hand, Jerry and his school chums spent most of the day viewing a double feature at the Firefly Movie House. Also included for that small fee were coming attractions, a few black and white newsreels and sometimes stage shows. Prizes were awarded from the numbers on your ticket during the intermission. The Firefly Theatre was just a few blocks away at the Southeast corner of 13th and SE Spokane.
During his teenage years Jerry helped his dad J. Esta Griffith with a variety of jobs at the Westmoreland Market located at 7015 Se Milwaukie, now occupied by the St, Marie Shop. Some of his duties included answering phones, delivering orders, and shoveling sawdust onto the slippery cement floor. Later he was trained in the fine art of slicing, sawing bones, or cutting and wrapping of the requested beef, chicken, pork and even deer meat.
Esta Griffith purchased the market from A.J. Faircourt in 1933. For the next 33 years the Griffith’s butcher shop would outlast a variety of other Mom and Pop businesses that were unable to survive the Depression and were forced to close. Competition from the major chain stores like Piggly Wiggly and Safeway was the fatal blow that eliminated many of the family owned stores in the community.
Over ninety percent of the success of the Westmoreland Meat Store was dependent upon call- in orders from the surrounding residents of Sellwood, East Moreland, Garthwick, and Waverly neighborhoods. The Griffith family survived the closure that many independent small owners had to incur.
Meats, poultry, cottage cheese and sauerkraut were delivered to patrons in the family vehicle, a two door 36 Ford with metal signs advertising Moreland Meats on both sides of the car. In 1938 Esta finally decided that it would be beneficial to buy a larger vehicle to transport his goods. He and his wife Mary took their first vacation in ten years. They visited the New York World’s Fair, traveling by Greyhound Bus from Portland. On their return home they stopped at the Detroit car factory and drove back across the country in a roomy new 39 Ford sedan, which would make deliveries more efficient for the workers at Moreland Meats.
Jerry’s memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving were not a time for celebration in the Griffith family. Jerry and his dad would make a trip to the NW Poultry warehouse on Union Street to hand pick the 10, 20 or 30 pound turkeys’ for their customers holiday dinners. These were New York dressed Turkeys. The birds were sold de-feathered with heads, wings and feet intact and it was up to the master meat cutters’ slicing techniques to shape the turkeys to perfection.
A metal instrument called the “turkey leg cracker” was used to break the legs and pull the tendons away from the desired meat. Then the heads were chopped off with a sharp knife and the insides of the turkey cleaned out and disposed of. The birds were then washed, wrapped up in butcher paper and delivered to the anxiously waiting customers and businesses throughout the community.
The left –over turkey necks were collected into a bucket and placed in the deep freeze to keep for Grandma Griffith to use at a later date. When the time was right, she would gather the old heavy soaker from her basement and boil the turkey necks on the stove, adding her desired spices and ingredients. All of the family members were invited every year for an evening dinner at Grandma Griffiths “necking parties”.
Bybe Avenue Grocery in the early 1960's with DKW delivery van
Need Milk? Running low on bread? Forgot to pick up greens for that salad tonight? Call Belmont 6-3249, and place your order at the “Bybee Avenue Grocery”. Jerry Griffith, the deliveryman, will be sent out in the afternoon with your order….
Hard to believe? Such was life in the 1940’s and ’50’s – a much simpler and more trusting time.
Located near the southwest corner of Milwaukie and S.E. Bybee, the Moreland Market – about which we told you last month – and the Bybee Grocery were two of just a handful of small grocery stores located in the Moreland-Sellwood neighborhood. It was the vigilance and dedication of J. Esta Griffith and his family that contributed to the success of their business as other small shops folded under the pressure of chain stores.
Family photo from 1943-44. Bill Griffith is visiting home during a leave from the Navy. From the left: Jerry & Bill's Grandparents Eva and Bill Newton; next is Jerry (wearing one of his brother's officer caps), brother bill in uniform (Lieutenant Junior Grade, Navy Pilot) - and Jerry's parents, Mary and Esta Griffith.
Esta Griffith operated the Moreland Market for nineteen years, and then a golden opportunity arrived in 1952. The Bybee Avenue Store next door at 7011 S.E. Milwaukie, owned by Carl Ritterspacher, was posted for sale. Carl and his family had worked their store for the previous 31 years, and they were ready to retire. Griffith figured he was the right man to buy it, and with a larger staff now needed to operate two stores, Esta called upon his oldest son Bill Griffith to help out.
Bill was placed in charge of the produce section. Twice a week he would travel to Union Street and pick out the best vegetables and fruits to sell. During any slow time, his experience as a carpenter meant he was assigned to make extra shelving, do any remodeling, and make any repairs needed.
The two stores were always a family affair. Esta, and his father in law William Newton, shared duties as premier meat cutters at the Moreland Market -- William gained his butcher experience informally, by being the lead sawyer at the Eastside sawmill. And Esta’s wife, Mary, was always there to fill in when needed. Many of her duties included waiting on customers, filling call-in orders, and managing the accounts, besides raising two boys. Her youngest, Jerry, was the grocery checker, until he was old enough to assist in home deliveries in their 1939 ford Sedan.
Mary Griffith was always there to greet you at Bybee Avenue Grocery, while her husband, Esta, worked at the Moreland Market next door. This is what you would see upon entering the Bybee Avenue Grocery. This photo was taken sometime around 1955-1957.
Mary was responsible for leasing out the 300 frozen food lockers located at the rear of the store. Lacking the modern conveniences of today, patrons without refrigerators paid a monthly fee and key rental for access to the out-door lockers day or night.
Cases of canned goods were purchased and brought back to the store from Hudson’s Wholesale Warehouse off S.E. 17th on Ochoco Street – today, the Goodwill Retail Outlet. When the canned goods arrived at the store, a coin was flipped, and the loser had the privilege of fielding the cases of canned goods as they were unpacked from the car and slid down a steel ramp into the depths of a cold and perpetually dark basement.
Bill Griffith’s son, Scott, first started working at the market during his Junior High years. He reminisces: “I remember getting eggs at Jackel’s Farm on Lake Road in Milwaukie. They were packed in a wooden crate of soft hay, and once I got them back to the grocery it was my job to fill the cartons to sell the next day. I was told that if I broke one egg, I would have to eat it raw. Never did break one!”
One of the store specialties was Ken Poole’s homemade cottage cheese from his dairy in Tillamook. A 5- gallon milk can was filled half full of curds, and topped with a gallon of fresh whipped cream. The cans were sealed, then shipped by train to Portland’s Union Station. The Griffith boys were called upon to rush down to the train station and bring back this store delicacy for the clientele to enjoy. Not quite meeting the health standards imposed on dairy products of today!
The Bybee Avenue Grocery / Moreland Market delivery van was retired after closing the stores. Here Scott Griffith (Bill's youngest son) is looking in on friend, Fred Haggerman, as they play with it in the back yard of the family home in Milwaukie, Oregon. Photo is from 1969.
By 1966, the Bybee Avenue Grocery could no longer compete with Safeway, where the Meyer Boys and Girls Club is today, or Kienow’s, where today’s QFC Market stands, in Westmoreland. Esta decided that it was a good time for him to retire, while his sons continued their careers in other fields…
Bill Griffith attempted a variety of jobs. His favorite was as head janitor at Dale Ickes Junior High on Harmony Road in Milwaukie. Bill passed away at the early age of 53, but his son Scott has assumed the responsibility of being the caretaker of the family history, and he produces photos at Galaxy Productions.
Jerry Griffith would spend the next 25 years as a grocery clerk at Kienow’s. Retired now, and living in Milwaukie, he spends time golfing and connecting with past friends. Reflecting on the past, Jerry observes, “Gone are the secure years of prowling the streets of Sellwood on a spanking Silver King bicycle, or the innocent pranks of stealing pies left to cool outside of the G & G Bakery.”
And, he remembers well how every day was a new adventure for a young boy growing up in Sellwood and Westmoreland in the 1940’s.