A Sign of the Times: Memories of the Eel River Cafe Are Unearthed After Recent Renovations
This brought back old memories to our locally famous storyteller, Ernie Branscomb, proprietor of the next door shop, Branscomb Center. He sent in this wonderful reminiscence.
Seeing that old Eel River Café sign brought back a flood of very fond memories for me. That old building, Garberville, and I have quite a history together. The renovations that are being made are critical to saving the building. The joke being that the only thing holding the building together is forty layers of paint. That is not altogether far from the truth. Clark Hodge, the owner for many years, used to close every March for the whole month and completely clean and paint the whole inside of the restaurant. The Eel river has gone through many, many renovations.
Back in the 50’s there was a sign on the south side of the building that featured Golden State Ice Cream. My Uncle Tom Newland and Carol Pancoast owned the Riverside Farm Dairy that sold Golden State Ice cream. Golden State was bought out by Formost Dairy Products and the sign was taken down. The Eel River had a complete soda Fountain with all the soda nozzles and Ice cream toppings. It had a very sophisticated ice-cream freezing system that used a brine immersion tank. I loved that old soda fountain and I maintained it for the owner at the time. The owner, Clark Hodge, had a twin brother that owned a café in Ukiah. Clark sold the Eel River to Ed and Iris Prindle. Ed did many modifications to the restaurant, including buying a brand-new Ice cream freezer and a new ice machine. I sold him the new refrigeration equipment and he gave me the old soda fountain.
Knowing that I loved that old fountain he gave it to me to remove it. It weighed about the same as a car. I hoarded it for about five years then a local fellow by the name of Win Benbow asked me what I was going to do with it. Actually, I had no place for it and knowing that he had the resources to give it a good home, I gave it to him. About ten years later it was still stored in the side of his shed. I have no Idea what finally happen to it. Love can cause a person to do some pretty foolish things.
The people that owned the Eel River and the people that worked there would read like a Who’s Who of Garberville of yore. I would list them but there are far too many, and someone would feel left out. There is a full-sized book that could be written about the history of the Cafe and the people that have worked there. As with any local small-town Café, there is a back booth that holds the town characters.
The waitresses back in the 50’s and early 60’s wore starched white uniforms. The dinner menu had veal cutlets, chicken fried steak, turkey dinner, fried chicken mash potatoes and gravy. Clark had a 20 Gallon stock-pot on a gas burner in the back, It was left heating 24 hours a day. He would put all of the vegetable and meat trimmings in it and make the Soup de’ Jure, the gravies, and sauces from the stock. He would place a turkey in the stock-pot over night and make his hot turkey sandwiches from the sliced turkey. He would also serve a hot roast beef sandwich, both were dished with mash potatoes and gravy. Served open faced.
I had better stop now I’m making myself hungry.