Hello! Hello! Hello!: Remembering The Cottage Kitchen Ladies

Carolyn Kelsey(seated), Allyn Goss, and myself at 12 in a familiar setting.

Carolyn Kelsey(seated), Allyn Goss and myself at 12 in a familiar setting in 1965.

One day Grandma and I were looking for a good luncheon stop.  And we found one, just a short walk away from the Obstinate J Ranch where we spent our summers.  A large blue and white sign declared:  Cottage Kitchen.  We decided to give the place a try.  When we opened the door, a voice rang out “Hello!  Hello!  Hello!  And how are you folks today?”  And a friendship began that lasted for many years.

Mrs. Carolyn Kelsey was a tall lady, somewhat bent over that liked to smile and talk.  Miss Allyn Goss was just the opposite;  she was short, taciturn and rarely smiled.  However, you could tell that these ladies respected each other, although they did get angry with one another on occasion.  “Dear, you forgot to turn on the stove!”  “I’ll try to be more careful, dear!  And they would scowl.  But usually they were the best of friends and each had her own tasks:  Mrs. Kelsey made the shakes and Miss Goss cooked the burgers.  Raisin pie was their calling card and every two weeks or so they would make delicious chocolate tarts.  They also kept their shelves full of home-made jams and jellies prepared from the finest fruit available.  During the Holidays, they enjoyed making bread for their neighbors and friends.

Cottage Kitchen became our favorite place for lunch and also for snacking after dinner.  We used to tell the ladies about our river trips and would often enter in quite informal attire.  They didn’t mind, though, and would listen to our latest inner tubing or rafting adventures, hanging on every word.  And Mrs. Kelsey would add her boisterous enthusiasm to Grandma’s.  However, one thing we didn’t like was Snoodle.  He was a mixture of a schnauzer and a poodle and inherited the worst traits from both breeds.  Whenever we wanted to use the rest room, which was behind a screened door, Snoodle would race up to the door, barking furiously and had to be restrained by Mrs. Kelsey.  He certainly was a great watchdog for the two ladies.

The years I spent at Cottage Kitchen were among the happiest of my life.  However, time started to creep up like a shadow and soon the ladies lost their agility.  It became harder and harder for Mrs. Kelsey to walk, so Mom insisted that we help her serve the meals and wait on customers.  Eventually, Mrs. Kelsey couldn’t work at all and Mom took her to her heart doctor.  On the way and back, she was complaining and fretting.  This was certainly not the Mrs. Kelsey I knew, and she died soon after.  Suddenly, a part of my life folded into unpenetrable darkness, and the doors of Cottage Kitchen closed forever.

The following description of the story of the ladies of Cottage Kitchen is excerpted from a 1965 article by A.L. Day in “Trail Tales”, a column of the Mail Tribune:

These two(Carolyn Kelsey and Miss Goss) met in 1925 in New York City where both were receiving instruction and training in the art of food preparation at Schraft’s and later at the Consumer’s Cooperative.  Both of these institutions are considered tops in the U.S. for their superior courses in food preparation, and its supervision.  Upon completion of their schooling, they decided to go into business for themselves, and have operated restaurants at some of the best spots on the Old Boston Post Road, from Darien to Lime Rock, Conn…

After the war they decided to combine a sightseeing trip of the West with a visit to Mrs. Kelsey’s daughter, who lived in California.  So, selling their restaurant in Beaver, Penn., they pointed their car 270 degrees and headed for Crater Lake, which neither had seen.

Leaving the lake they headed south on 62, toward their original destination, but nightfall caught them at Riffles on the Rogue where they rented a cabin for the night.

So impressed were they with the view of the river and the scenic beauty of the surrounding country, that Mrs. Kelsey says she suddenly spoke out, “This is it,” and they both liked the location so much they decided in less than an hour that this would be the site of their future home and business…

No tastier palate pleaser compares with the Cottage Kitchen old-fashioned tomato preserves from an Old New England family recipe, and don’t overlook those jars of pie cherries, cherry marmalade, pear butter, and apple butter.  It is a delightful gustatory experience just to read the labels.

The ladies made one emphatic point regarding their goodies, and that was that they used only the finest of locally grown wild fruits, berries, and sugar;  and the best obtainable vegetables, spices and vinegars–no additives, no preservatives…

These are two very happy people;  justifiably proud of their accomplishments, pleasantly reminiscing the past, certain of the present, and with a cheerful attitude toward the future…

Some Thoughts On Fly Fishing And The Rogue River

Fly fishing was de rigueur for my Dad.  In Oregon, he would fish from after breakfast until shortly before dinner.  After dinner, he would usually put on his heavy waders and come trudging back as darkness fell.  He would do this virtually every day of our one month summer vacation from the end of July until right after Labor Day.

His preparations, though, would begin toward the beginning of July.  Then, he would take out his fly tying equipment and begin making flies for the trip.  I remember seeing flies shining in his den with many different colors.  He was quite an expert at creating flies, and usually had an abundance of them ready to be dropped into the water for trout, and, most importantly, summer steelhead, which he loved to barbecue or put into the freezer for future eating.

Dad learned about the art of fly fishing from the chauffeur at Rogue’s Roost, Joseph Chevigny and river guides Glen Wooldridge and Bob Pritchett.  The latter initiated him into the art of boating, and locating steelhead holes on the Rogue River.  From an early age, Dad could find steelhead water and navigate a navy surplus raft.

Dad always enjoyed fishing the Upper Rogue.  He tried to teach me how to fish, but trout was all I could manage, and, besides, I didn’t want to pull fish hooks out of my ear, which happened almost every summer with Dad!  But I did learn to appreciate and love the river and all its natural habitat as well as do some inner tubing and rafting.  Swimming across the river was never one of my talents!

In the early years, the Rogue River was a pristine mountain river, its color a pristine blue and so clear that you could see trout swimming or salmon spawning.  All that changed when the Lost Creek Dam was built in the late 1070s.  Because it was an earthenware dam, it increased the amount of silt that floated downstream and the river’s clear beauty disappeared with it.  In the years that followed, more and more people used the river, though without the respect early residents had shown.  At one point, the river was declared unfit for swimming and a major effort was made to bring it back to its natural state.

I’m grateful that I saw the Rogue River in all its splendor.  The short videos that follow show my Dad fly fishing on a truly magnificent river.  I hope you enjoy them!

The Map That Ray Drew

Fishing map drawn by Ray Minehan.

Fishing map drawn by Ray Minehan.

Rogue’s Roost and many other spots on the Rogue River were known for excellent steelhead and salmon, so to provide their guests with a fishing map, Nion and Phyllis Tucker hired sketch artist, Ray Minehan.  He drew a limited amount of sketches that are all numbered.  This is #22.  It is supposed that the maps were drawn in the late 30s or early 40s. The Roost had been purchased by the Tuckers as a picnic site from Walter and Alice Bowne in the 1930s.  At that time, there was only a small cabin and nothing to suggest what would become the magnificent Rogue’s Roost.  The Tuckers then bought other parcels from different landowners to complete the finished residence. Joseph Chevigny was the chauffeur and fisherman in residence.  He and my Dad used to go fishing together.  It was Joe who taught my Dad about the art of fly fishing.  The area near the Roost boasted a huge spawning bed and great steelhead fishing.  Joe created his own fly that he called the Chevigny fly.  My Dad copied it and made numerous flies that he gave to friends.  He renamed the fly, The Rogue River Special, and the name stuck.  It is still used by fishermen today. The upper left of Ray’s map shows the elegant Roost with its spacious lawn.  The main building in the center opened out to a deck over the river.  It was not unusual to see jack salmon or steelhead jumping in the sparkling water.The lower left of the map shows the result of a fisherman’s efforts: a large, tasty fish ready to be eaten.

A few comments regarding some of the places mentioned on the map: 1.  The town of McLeod no longer exists.  It was subsumed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a visitors’ information center for Lost Creek Dam.  2.  Casey’s Camp was an extention of the original Casey’s Auto Park.  Today it is called Casey State Park. 3.  Round House(a stone house) was built by Emmett(Sno-Cat) Tucker(no relation to the Tuckers of Rogues Roost) and eventually became the famous Obstinate J Ranch until it was sold and the name changed.  4.   Beagle was a pioneer community that began in 1885 and ended in 1941 when the U.S. Army took it over to establish Camp White. 5.  Sunset on the Rogue included a gas station, store for food and fishing, and cabins.  It still exists today!  6.  California on the Rogue offered a gas station and cabins. The name has been changed, but the buildings remain.  I knew the owner during the 60s, Mr. Sullivan.  I brought a geode to him from the North Umpqua region and asked him if there could be any crystals inside.  He said, “Nah!”  When I got to the Obstinate J Ranch, I split the geode and found it full of reddish-brown quartz crystals!  7. Captain Black’s refers to what became Black Oaks.  The place currently belongs to the Donald L. Donegan family and encompasses some of the best steelhead water between Dodge Bridge and TouVelle State Park.  8.  Dowden and Hardy’s should be reversed.  Hardy Rapid Class 2+ contains an enormous hole in the middle of the river that must be avoided.  Dowden refers to Dowden Falls, today known as Gold Nugget Falls Class 3+.  Every summer rafters and kayakers float the left channel of the falls that includes two large drops, especially the last one!  The campground provides a beach with great views of the lower drop.  A great place to relax and reflect on nature’s wonders.

The Removal Of A Dam And A Tragedy

Gold Ray Dam had been a fixture for about one hundred years.  But, under pressure from the Oregon Fish and Game Commission, a decision was made to remove it.  The reason being that it provided a major obstacle for salmon swimming upstream and impeded their growth.  The dam itself was not really doing anything.  Above it, a slough had formed, creating a water sanctuary for hundreds of riparian creatures.  These life forms had thrived for over a century, but disaster was about to overtake them…

A long battle for the removal of Savage Rapids Dam ended several years ago when it was finally taken out.  The people involved in the job were cautious as to how much water they would let out at any given time and no major incidents occurred.  Above it, a placid lake had formed, but there was nothing like the teeming slough in back of Gold Ray.  The river at first created a mean rapid, then settled into a more mild Class 2 with just a few rocks to dodge.  The river cut a wide swathe where there had once been a more narrow and treacherous drop.  It reminded folks of the effects of the 1964 flood, which did precisely the same thing.

When the removal of the Gold Ray Dam went from paper to action, the dam removers felt a surge of confidence based on the successful removal of Savage Rapids.  But, alas! Hubris and carelessness overtook them.  Instead of moving cautiously with measured steps of removal(as had been the case with Savage Rapids), they took large chunks out of the dam, while underestimating the power of the river in back of it.  The result was an ecological catastrophe.  Suddenly, the river burst through with a violent roar and moved away from the habitat that had depended on it for sustenance.  Thousands and thousands of water creatures perished.  Photos published showed fishes faces in shock.  These pictures brought a truly affecting quality to creatures that were caught and eaten at will.  And, irony of ironies, the removal of Gold Ray, which was intended to preserve the salmon and other species,  ultimately contributed towards their destruction.

It must be said that many people from the Fish and Game tried to save as many species as they could.  But their efforts caused only a mild dent in the tragedy that had occurred.  Let us hope that in the future, dam removers will show the same consideration for habitat as dam builders.

A video showing Class 2 Gold Ray Rapid today:

Pearsoney Falls Revisited

Pearsoney Falls lies just west of Prospect and below the North Fork of the Rogue River Gorge, which plunges over boulders to join the Middle Fork.  The falls is reached via an entrance on the south side of Mill Creek Drive.  The trail is at the upper end of the parking lot.  The falls is the first of many before the spectacular Mill Creek Falls that drops over a cliff to join the two forks of the Rogue River.

The video below shows Pearsoney Falls in its grandeur in 2009.  

Rogue’s Roost: Paradise In The Wilderness, Part 2.

“There was a trail down each side of the river, and, at the upper end of the Roost complex, there was a swinging bridge across the river…  The bridge was supported by approximately 5/8 inch steel cables, which in turn were supported by large wooden timbers at each end and anchored to large fir trees.  The sides of the bridge consisted of wire fencing approximately two 2x12s about two inches apart.

A short distance downstream from the bridge were the tennis and croquet courts, then the main lodge.  The main lodge included a large kitchen area with a separate dining room for the servants along with two bedrooms and a bath for the Chinese cooks.  The main dining room was long and narrow with a fireplace in the middle of one side, built-in buffets on each side of the swinging door into the kitchen, and a very large, long dining table, which was placed down the center of the room.  From the dining room, there were steps down into the screen-enclosed “summer” dining room, which was a delightful spot furnished with bright-colored canvas chairs and a rustic handmade table.  The screens reached from the eaves to within about two feet of the floor and continued around two sides of the room.

From the summer dining room there was a door into the living room and another door leading to the deck over the edge of the river.  There was a large fireplace on the deck directly opposite the huge fireplace in the living room.  The fireplace in the living room was large enough for an adult to walk into and consumed huge logs, many of which were purchased from my Dad(Gus), who cut wood in the wintertime when there was not too much farm work to do…

The deck over the river was a delightful spot.  There was a large alder tree around which the deck had been constructed, and built-in seats on either side of the fireplace, which I guess would be approximately 15×45′.  There were cracks between the decking boards and , in typical ten-year-old fashion, I used to to like to lie face down in the spring sunshine and peer through the cracks at the water rushing below…

In the area of the Roost…, the river was wild and especially beautiful with many excellent fly-fishing riffles and deep holes.  I remember one particularly interesting spot directly down from the swimming pool area.  There was a huge boulder the size of a small house on the edge of the river.  The water was deep and dark and there was a whirlpool near the big rock.  It was fascinating to watch sticks and leaves being sucked down into the center of the whirlpool …

I have many happy memories of the hours spent curled-up in one of the big leather chairs with a good book, a stack of records on the phonograph and a cozy fire in the fireplace.  It was a fairy-tale sort of place for a financially poor little girl who was actually living in the lap of such luxury…”  –Evelyn Ditsworth Walls

Although,  Rogue’s Roost no longer exists(it was washed away in the ’64 flood), it left indelible memories.  For me, it represents childhood in its most ethereal form.

I remember Mom turning our station wagon down the gravel road, which dropped sharply to the river.  I can still see the lush vegetation on either side of the road, the narrow bridge crossing the irrigation ditch and the ineffable beauty of the surroundings.

I remember the feeling of remoteness and seclusion.  And I always felt a sense of awe when we arrived at the entrance.

I recall walking on the deck and looking out at the rushing river below.  When I looked at all the boulders which stretched across the river, I couldn’t understand how a boat could go through.

My clearest memory, though, is walking the path from Rogue’s Roost through a garden to come out on a clearing to the roaring sound of the Rogue River.  There was a small beach from where you could watch the river plunge over moss-strewn boulders and pour over a large drop-off amidst a series of huge, volcanic boulders.

Rogue’s Roost will always remain a part of my most magical and mysterious childhood memories.  And from time to time it beckons, calling me to an untroubled world where the doors to this kingdom open once again, and the river flows by undisturbed.

A Special Holiday Card Gives Tribute To Black Oaks And Donald L. Donegan

Have you ever heard of Black Oaks?  No.  Then, I’ll tell you.  Black Oaks is a beautiful estate consisting of a main house, whose deck spreads out to embrace the swift waters of the Rogue River, and a series of smaller dwellings, each with their own features.  There are black oaks on the property, but it got its name from Captain Black, who lived there in the 1930s.  Since then, the estate has witnessed several owners, including Harris Allen, director of the Rogue Valley Ranch School, a private academy for troubled youths.  But that was many years ago.  Now the Donegan family are the watchful owners of the estate and the llamas have replaced the cries of wayward boys. I remember driving out to Black Oaks along Pine Gate Way, being sure to keep to the branch which led to the river.  Don, a bluff man with light hair, of Irish vintage, would lead me to the deck which his wife, “Pammy”  had already furnished with glasses of cold lemonade and an inviting platter of chocolate chip cookies.  Lively conversation would follow, with Don taking on an authoritarian air, exuding the confidence of a CEO used to being in charge.  I listened carefully, not always agreeing, but imbibing the wisdom of this successful businessman.  And so  we talked, while we gazed out at the rushing river so resplendent in its blue dress, not noticing the time which was also rushing by.  One visit followed another until one day the table was vacant, and Don’s voice had disappeared among the pine…

“As usual the Rogue River flows past our doorstep and presents a wonderful autumn aquacade, which rivals the best of Hollywood’s Esther Williams productions for our viewing pleasure.  Lithe silver bodies cut and turn through the water, acrobatically jumping, churning and thrashing as scores of the huge salmon jockey for the best spawning spots in the clear, gravelly shallows.  After years of traversing the oceans, they return from hundreds and perhaps even thousands of miles to deposit their own offspring from the same spot they originated.  Quite a sight to see, and a vivid, turbulent reminder of the Cycle of Life! Generally, autumn announces its arrival at Black Oaks with a magnificent splash of vibrant orange, yellow and red leaves fluttering in the breezes.  But this year has been a little different.  One of our showiest past performers just off the corner of Don’s home office had to be removed this past spring because of damage the roots were causing to the walkways and septic system.  And somehow the other surrounding trees and shrubs seem to have taken note of the loss and are presenting a more subdued mien in their attitude of mourning. Perhaps this is fitting as this particular autumn lacks its usual sparkle for me because Don is not here to share it…  Don passed away on September 16 after several years struggling against the erosion of time, physical failure and the odds against living forever.  For someone who was not expected by the doctors of the time to live beyond his twenties, he took great pleasure in trying to make the most of each day of his life and he experienced a certain glee.. after he reached 80… One close friend… reminded me of our younger days in California when Don and three other inseparable comrades loved to play gin rummy, hunt and swap stories over cocktails.  Because Don had chronic health problems…  the other fellows thought Don was sure to expire first, but like the good card player he was, he turned the table one last time and was the last to fall…”(Holiday Card from Pam Donegan)