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.


Blogger Mike Barer said...

I remember you taking me there for ice cream sandwiches. I don't think I knew what an "ice cream sandwich" was until I started sweeping floors at the "shop" and that was our break.

9:52 PM  

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