Memories of Campbell Street, Baker City, Oregon

By Phyllis Badgley

     Campbell Street has enjoyed notable importance in Baker City history.  I will highlight some of my memories of this throughfare, beginning at Campbell and Main.  In the 30's and 40's a brown wooden frame house stood on the north east corner.  A side porch was profusely covered with vines.  At that time Gus Levy family liver there.  Mr. Levy a pharmacist , worked at Levinger Drug store.  Later years the home was razed and a gasoline station built. It is today a pizza outlet.

     Campbell Street parallels the Geiser Pollman Park (1906). I have childhood memories of carefree days when we used waxed wrappers to make the high slide "slicker". We enjoyed picnics, reunions, and concerts by the Backer City Band.  As listeners, we sat on green wooden benches facing the huge bandshell. The music stirred feelings of patriotism within us. Mr. Frietag, director, was in full command of each performance.  He was a watchmaker (Palmer Bros.) by day and wielded the concert baton with equal precision.  Some of the elderly spectators sought repose in glider swings that rocked back and forth on sturdy frames.  My mother and Aunt used hand held fans to gently stir the summer air, as they listed attentively.

     The Rod and Gun Club, north across Campbell Street was built in the 20's as a meeting place for local sportsmen.  Mischievous children twisted the spelling and referred to it (disrespectfully) as God and Run Club.  In recent conversations with Baker businessman Joe O'Connor he indicated that he and Pat Murphy were charter members. O'Conner has saved the minutes of meetings that cover years of club activity.  He printed a club newspaper for an extended period of time.  The organization, evolved into Powder River Sportsmen Club but is no longer meeting at that location.  There were actively involved in establishing the Virtue Flat Rifle range.  The Campbell Street building was rustic design with a large fireplace on one wall.  I recall in mid-30's during Jubilee, a deep pit Bar-BQ was prepared outside.  My dad helped the crew dig the pit and tend the roasting operations.

     In more recent years Joe McEnroe established a leather shop it that location.  It presently houses a pizza parlor.

     The Natatorium, corner Campbell and Grove, was constructed of brick in the 20's.  The pool was fed by water piped a half mile form Sam-O-Springs.  Countless Bakerites learned to swim at the "Nat" under the direction of Archie Murray.  His wife ever present at the front desk and candy counter, was a soft spoken white haired lady clad in ankle length gingham.  For a small fee, black swim suits could be rented.  Typical chlorine order permeated the air in the shower compartment.  Showers were required before entering the pool and caps were also.  Entering the pool area, we heard sounds of splashing water, noisy yelling, and thumping of lower springboard.  Some swimmers were brave enough to climb the scaffold to the high dive. Not me!

     The upper mezzanine housed a ballroom, where elegant gatherings were held.  In recent years it has been restored to its former splendor. At one time roller skating was allowed on the deck above the pool.

     During WWII the building was converted for use in war industry, ammunition boxes were made there. At that time the pool was filled in with dirt and covered in asphalt. Later, after years of neglect the "Nat" was doomed for demolition, but saved from the wrecking ball by persistent efforts of Baker County Historical Society. The building presently houses the Oregon Trail Museum where artifacts are viewed by thousands of visitors each season.

    A business of long tenure on Campbell and East streets is York's Park grocery. Established in late 30's by John and Dorothy York, it was managed continuously as a family enterprise for sixty years. I recall meat dept, owner/managers Gerald Long and Orlin Cartwright. Paul York operated the business as a convenience store before selling and embarking on a new venture.

     Wendt's Floral and Seed business on East Campbell street was easily recognized by the long glass covered structure on the premises. The "green house" owned by Billy Wendt supplied residents with bedding plants, and cut flowers for Wendt's Main street floral shop. The downtown shop was managed by Margaret Wendt and Gladys Phy.  I recall that business at one time in the 2000 block of Main, before relocation to the 1800 block next to Tom Speros Trail Cafe.  The building, two doors form the corner had previously housed J. B. Bowen's Clothing store.  My mother used to buy my dad's black bow ties there. Wendt's Floral later moved to west side of Main in the 1900 block under management of Jack and Joan Wendt.  They shared 1/2 store front with Johnson Jewelry.  Final move was to the Glenn Miller building, SW corner Main and Washington.  The business was sold, and renamed...signaling the end of a 60 year era of Wendt's Floral. The location now, newly remolded house of Dan Mack's Jewelry.
     I mentioned Sam-O-Springs above, it was off Campbell Street to the South. Sam Oppenheimer had a bottling plant there and sold mineral water and soft drinks. Sam-O-bottles were sought by collectors today. I recall steam rising from the springs in the center gazebo.  Visitors gained access on wooden planks that covered a marsh. A golf course was established in the era, and country club later known as Fireside Inn was built at the end of Washington street.

     Smith Packing Company located their slaughter house on East Campbell in the 30's. the retail meat market was on East side of Main street in 1900 block. South of the slaughter house was the city dump and Chinese cemetery.  Most residents hauled their own garbage during that era, and apparently no rules applied to deter them from taking usable items discarded by someone else.  After the dump was closed and covered a rock chute and gravel business was established there.  The site today is the Westbound off ramp of the freeway.

Printed here with the permission of Baker City Herald

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