I was a teenager in those days when World War II engulfed the world. My cousin, Virginia, was a couple of years my junior. Together we explored the corners of Portland, Oregon, by foot, streetcar and bicycle. There were just a few movies that we missed seeing. We made lots of trips to the zoo, and the library where we were thrilled with room after room filled with books, and a sound proof room where we could check out albums of show tunes and play them by the hour. At the recreation hall we jitterbugging to “In the Mood” and at Jantzen Beach, which must have been influenced by New York’s Coney Island, we rode our first roller coaster. It was summertime when we first got there and until school started again, we made new friends in this strange place and we hung out together.
A special spot where we spent a lot of time, was called, The Rainbow. It was a restaurant on Broadway in downtown Portland, and the front doors on the art deco building, opened wide as we passed by its magic eye. This was enchantment for a pair of country kids. We had just been spirited away by silver streamliner from Chillicothe, Texas where every baby was counted to reach 2,000 souls, to a metropolis choking with population largely transplanted from other places because of the war. Here smoke belched from three major shipyards twenty-four-seven. Farmers, store clerks, factory workers, businessmen had all come to Portland from around the nation. They dressed in leather outfits, pulled metal hoods over their faces, picked up welding rods and set about putting together Victory ships.
Our parents worked in one of those shipyards, welding seams together below the decks, seams that kept the giant ships afloat. For Virginia and me the city of Portland was ours to explore and we tried to touch all the bases inquisitive kids want to see. To us the art deco doors of the Rainbow opened by magic to urge us inside. Today I emptied a special drawer where I keep my Portland momentos and opened a menu that I had kept from those days.
It’s dated, Saturday, March 24th, 1945, and a note at the bottom asks, “Have you bought your Defense Stamp to-day? Ask the waitress for one.” Still another notice states that all prices listed are at or below the ceiling prices by O.P.A. regulation. The highest prices from April 4th 1943 to April 10th, 1943 are used. The menu lists everything from breakfast items, soups and sandwiches, to “To-Day’s Special Dinner” and “A la Carte.” Looking at those items is a shock when comparing them with today’s tab when eating out.
All dinners included vegetable or chicken noodle soup, potatoes, vegetable, salad, pie, ice cream or pudding and a choice of coffee or buttermilk. The entrees were: Fried Oysters, Cole Slaw…….$.85, Breaded Veal Cutlet……….$.85, Fried Salmon or Halibut, Tartar Sauce…….$1.10 or Roast Young Turkey, Dressing, Cranberry Sauce…….$1.40.
You could have two broiled pork chops for $.65 or breaded veal cutlet for $.60. Sandwiches were anywhere from $.20 for peanut butter to $.35 for a tuna fish. Hamburgers were $.25. The drink selection is interesting with coffee with cream for a nickel and buttermilk ten cents. Cokes were not offered but they had eastern beer for a quarter and western beer for 20 cents.
Virginia and I favored the back of the menu where a list of the fountain milk shakes, malts and sundaes was offered. Here’s a sample of the sundaes: Pineapple Special, $.30…sliced pineapple, vanilla ice cream, pineapple sherbet, pineapple fruit, ground nuts, whipped cream and cherry on top.
The Rainbow Aristocrat, $.30… vanilla and chocolate ice cream, hot fudge syrup, cake, ground nuts, whipped cream and cherry.
This morning I watched three different shows on television and each featured some “informed” person who described the horrible things that happen to folks who eat a lot of ice cream. Know what? I don’t care. I like ice cream. It tastes good. In fact I believe I’ll get out in the kitchen and see if I have all that I need to build a Rainbow Aristocrat. And while I sit back in my recliner and enjoy it, I’ll think about Portland and Virginia and 1945 when I weighed about 40 pounds less.