22 thoughts on “Right-A-Way, 1930

  1. Thin space; I’m guessing 20 feet wide, possibly less. Splitting a standard 50 foot wide evenly in-half creates two 25 foot wide lots, but this space does not look that wide. I wonder why it was called ‘Right of Way.’ Was the restaurant built in a former right-of-way, or did the thin space remind the owner of a right-of-way parcel?

  2. @Jon Wood: “I wonder why it was called ‘Right of Way.’”

    It’s “Right-A-Way”, as in the answer to “when do you want your lunch?”

  3. I think we’re use to the modern fast food experience of today (which has its own bleaknesses). This is 1930 fast food, and there were hundreds of these then.

  4. I love this photo. Close up details show a crystal toothpick holder, folded napkins, freshly pressed table clothes and a vase of spring flowers (freesias I believe which would have smelled delightful!). Looks clean and presentable during a very bleak time of history. I would eat here vs any American chain of fast-food ‘restaurants’ any day!

  5. I like the interior of the Right-of-Way Cafe. In Northwest Portland/ Pearl District, the Byways Cafe (NW Glisan ?) has an interior like this, no public toilet, good food, and lines out the door on weekends. Some say it’s the best breakfast in town. The interior looks and feels more expansive due to the large mirror behind the counter. Before 1990 or so, this restaurant served working people in the Warehouse District. The date of origin is unknown, but probably goes back to at least the 1950s, and some say the ’40s or ’30s. This Byways is a comfortable place to hang out despite its thin shape and largely window-less interior, as long as you don’t drink too much coffee.

  6. Sorry, but I feel driven to find out, where possible, who some of these folks are who are pictured more or less prominently in these old images.

    I think the nice lady shown here in 1930 in her Portland cafe almost certainly was or at least could be one Carrie Guernsey (born Carrie Alice Wilson) in Missouri in 1893. She died in Nebraska in 1957. Her 1957 obituary in the Oregonian describes her (under the name Carrie Guernsey) as a former Portland resident and the one-time operator of the “Right-A-Way restaurant at 13th and Powell.” In the 1930 census she is listed (under the married name Carrie Ferguson) as a lodger in a rooming house and “proprietor” of a restaurant (surely it had to be this one). She left a husband behind in Oklahoma around 1920 and moved to Portland. She married a Mr. Guernsey here in 1939 after former husband died in 1935. She continued to live here with her husband until about 1954. To make a long story shorter, she was for a time a self-supporting small business operator in the depths of the Depression no doubt struggling and somehow succeeding to make ends meet.

  7. There is a small, partially legible sign behind here that says: “Our Aim…(can’t quite decipher this) Courtesy”. Nice sign. Great message.

  8. @Richard – I greatly appreciate the personal biographical info you bring to the comments on these photos. I, too, am captivated as much by the people in the pictures as by the historical architectural, cultural and geographical details they reveal. Thanks for doing the digging!

  9. @igor1882: I don’t think there are posts next to the stools, but it can kind of look like that in an optical illusion sort of way. However, all those posts are lined up with the neighboring stool (but partially obscured at the top by the seat top) creating the illusion that they’re something other than just the neighboring stool’s seat post.

  10. There is no pressed tin ceiling in there. The walls and ceiling were papered and the pattern is showing through the oil base gloss paint. They should have used flat paint on the upper walls and ceiling.

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