Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Mike asked me to write something about Lutcher's Cigar Store. The domain of Louis Lutcher is long out of existence.

If a fire had not collapsed the block between 3rd and 4th on West Main in Walla Walla, the times might have spelled it's end. I remember Uncle Dave commenting about the late Lou Epstein, "He sits in his office bored. He has outlived his peddlers (clients)."

Lutcher's is hard to define. It was a thing of its day. Advertising itself a the place to come to for "big and thick milkshakes", the beverage of choice was more likely beer. The grill was constantly spattering volumes of grease from burgers, chops, and eggs sunny side up or over.

The setting was two storefronts 120' deep conected by an opening halfway down. The front was a tobacco counter on the wall opposite the stools of the diner section. The air throughout the place was redolent with a blend of pipe, cigar, and chewing tobacco mixed with the smoke of the kinds you had to burn to enjoy.

The clientel mainly wore coveralls. Among other things it was a social hall.

Several pool and billiard table were constantly in use and people were usually waiting for seats at the two or three card tables. I believe at one time there was a barber shop there.

Louis presided behind the tobacco counter which also had magazines avaible for purchase including the X rated ones behind the counter. I was intrigued with the magazines but tiring of the poses of the slutty females I began reading some of the articles that were interspersed to give them a redeeming factor so they could be transported interstate. I don't know if the editors read them or bought them by the page but many of them were quite good.

Louis was banker to many of the hands who herded sheep or spent weeks working at an outlying farm. They would collect pay in a lump and would cash their checks and write their balance in a book. After a shave and bath they would proceed to get drunk. Their instruction was, "If I come back for more than X dollars, don't give it to me even if I threaten to get violent because I will be drunk and won't remember in the morning."

Charley Snider told me he had been at the court house as the jury dispersed in a trial of a guy who had passed a bum check on Louis. Apparently the prosecutor had produced the deposit slip showing the results of a weekend of activity. The juror indicated the panel had found the culprit innocent based on the fact that anyone who deposited that much money woudn't miss $100.00 not realizing that a good part of the deposit was from checks Louis had cashed for his customers as a service.

If you needed to hire a tree faller, a roofer, or a farm "cat" operator they were usualy among the pool or card players.

I used to take my breaks there playing the pinball machine that rewarded the player with the highest score the right to have his innitials displayed on the multicolored backboard. Several times I was high player only to come back shortly to find I was topped. I never did meet my nemisis who evidently hovered in the area to protect his moments of glory.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Burl asked about "Scotty"

We all called him Scotty. My dad called him Scotty MacGee. Uncle Dave sometimes referred to him as Magee. He was known around Walla Walla as "Barney".

If it should ever come up on a trivia quiz, his real name was James Cook.

Like Tyrone Power in "Nightmare Alley" Scotty started out as a bright young man. Even in his later years, he avidly read the daily newspaper. Uncle Dave who seemed to be able to comunicate with even the most taciturn on a personal basis said Scotty once confided that he had been jilted by his true love in Scotland and shipped out to the United States.

His love life dashed his attempts to shorten his life through binge drinking proved almost as futile. He lived well into his seventies.

Scotty's association with B. Barer & Sons went back at least to the early 1930's. I can remember back to the time I lived on Seventh Street behind St. Mary Hospital seeing Scotty go by riding on the tail gate of a truck. The truck as I remember was equiped with a 48" round ripsaw blade for cutting tree parts into fire wood. The saw was totally exposed and ran on a direct drive from an auxillary car engine. This was the time Libertarians refer to as the good old days.

In those days common drunks were rounded up by the police and could pay off their fines by working on city jobs. I often saw Scotty riding on the tailgate of a city garbage truck.

B. Barer & Sons accumulated freshly butchered cow hides. There was a technique to broadcasting shovels full of of rock salt to just the right thickness to preserve the skins untill picked up two or three times a year by Pacific Hide Depot out of Spokane. Scotty was a master of the art. He also was pressed into service to rescue the hides from the brine filled six foot deep "pit" when shipping time came.

Another chore that required Scotty's services was breaking batteries. To reclaim the lead and antimony electrodes for shipment to a smelter it was necessary to free the recycleable parts from the hard rubber cases which in those days were hauled to the city dump.

The "cleaning" was done with a small hatchet. This meant that the the hyrdrocloric acid solution and the also highly toxic lead residue splattered into the face and all over the body of the hatchet wielder. Slickers and goggles were provided but the employees found them encumbering and mostly opted to ignore them.

Coupled with the fact that he often spent long periods sleeping under the Northern Pacific loading dock with no bathing facilities available and his habit of not changing a worn pair of overalls but adding another pair you can see why he mostly rode on the back of trucks rather than in the cramped cab with the driver.

Scotty eventually came to the point where he could no longer do the demanding physical work. The Barer family had over the years utilized his services for mowing lawns. He now also was given the position of lawn waterer as well. At 35 cents an hour he also daily charged the coal hopper of grandmother B's Iron Fireman furnace.

An interesting sight in his filthy overalls, scraggly beard and tobacco juice running down his jowls he plodded daily from the taverns on lower main past the Whitman College frat houses and town mayor Dorsey Hills's mansion to hydrate and prune the yards of the various members of the Barer family.

At one point Uncle Dave reminded Scotty that at the age of 65 he was eligible to draw social security. Scottty demured at first stating that no matter how low he sank he would not live on charity. When it was proven to him that the money was indeed taken from his pay, he agreed to apply and was awarded the stipend of $35.00 per month.

With this money he could rent a small hovel on West Main. The checks came to B. Barer & Sons.
He would endorse the check and take cash.

A jokester once sought to have fun baiting Scotty approached him at Horrace & Al's eatery and proclaimed to all present that if this miserable derelict could produce any mony he would give him twice what he had on his person. Scotty then reached into his pocket and pulled out
a wad of bills. The jokester hoist on his own petard then made good on his promise.

As mentioned above Scotty lived well into his seventies on a regimen that would ensure early death to most people. I guess I can call him the most unusual person I ever met.