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

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4 comments...

  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

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