Island Senior: Memories of lower Spring Street

Posted May 3, 2022 at 1:38 pm by

Fri­day Har­bor suf­fered a great loss recent­ly when fire took some of our most cher­ished his­toric build­ings, shock­ing­ly gone overnight. While we reach out to help those whose lives and liveli­hoods were irrev­o­ca­bly impact­ed by the loss, once again, whether we want to or not, we face the per­sis­tent life les­son of the inevitabil­i­ty of change.

As an old-timer, I’d like to share a glimpse into my own mem­o­ries of the oth­er side of low­er Spring Street, a streetscape already rel­e­gat­ed to mem­o­ry. Whether by fire or by the relent­less crush of devel­op­ment we have lost a great deal over the years. In my life­time this whole side of low­er Spring Street has changed entirely.

Join me then to revis­it the loca­tion of my first real job at the Fri­day Har­bor Cafe that in the late 1960s sat right smack-dab in the mid­dle of that block. Scribner’s Mar­ket (lat­er Whitey’s) was on the upper cor­ner and below was the Low­er Tav­ern and Moose Lodge.

As a teenag­er it took some courage to pound the pave­ment but I was hired for the sum­mer and returned the fol­low­ing sum­mers through­out my high school years. Esther Hill­berg, the own­er and cook, was famous for her sour­dough bread. I remem­ber her punch­ing down her dough and slap­ping it while fel­low wait­ress Don­na Grossarth and I thought it was hilar­i­ous to cry out from the kitchen, “Esther! Stop hit­ting us!”

I worked the break­fast shift and my first job in the morn­ing was to feed the alley cats out back. The cafe had booths on one side, a few tables, and a horse­shoe counter where local guys would hang out drink­ing coffee.

The walls were dec­o­rat­ed with fish­net and fish­ing floats, drift­wood, pho­tos of fish­ing boats, and even­tu­al­ly my own high school senior pho­to was added to a col­lec­tion of oth­er such dis­tin­guished employees.

As we regroup and rebuild after the recent fire, low­er Spring Street will con­tin­ue to change. What I hope lingers from our past is a spir­it of gen­eros­i­ty, warmth, and friend­li­ness, a hardy resource­ful­ness and gen­uine authenticity. 

Pho­to cred­it: The Fri­day Har­bor Cafe (1970), cour­tesy of The San Juan His­tor­i­cal Museum

You can support the San Juan Update by doing business with our loyal advertisers, and by making a one-time contribution or a recurring donation.


  1. Won­der­ful mem­o­ries, Peg­gy Sue! I loved that place. And while you were work­ing with Don­na, I was work­ing with her moth­er Alice at ICC–Alice Grossarth and Mary Eldred were a great team of nurs­ing assis­tants who taught me a lot with their patience & gen­tle humor.

    Comment by Judith Carter on May 3, 2022 at 6:36 pm
  2. I do remem­ber that place , I was only 10, brings back fond mem­o­ries of a qui­eter time, it’s hard to watch these pil­lars of our town just be memories,Rex Guard

    Comment by Rex on May 3, 2022 at 8:30 pm
  3. I loved her sour­dough bread and pancakes!

    Comment by DianeBuganski on May 3, 2022 at 8:59 pm
  4. What a won­der­ful arti­cle. I have lived here 42 years and hark­ing back to some of the ear­ly days–what the town looked like and who some of the “char­ac­ters” that made our town won­der­ful is great. I think you should have an on-going col­umn. The Update is a great newspaper.
    Plus–the font is big enough for aging eyes–a big plus

    Comment by Janet Wright on May 4, 2022 at 9:04 am

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting a comment you grant the San Juan Update a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate, irrelevant and contentious comments may not be published at an admin's discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0