The Samoa Cookhouse
Wednesday July 6, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
In 1893, a lumber mill and the company town of "Samoa" sprung up on the North Peninsula across the bay from Eureka, California. Workers with families had homes while single men lived in bunkhouses and took meals in the cookhouse.
Entering the cavernous dinning hall, lumbermen found heaping platters of steaming food set on long oil-cloth covered tables. The fare was plentiful and hearty. Waitresses, assigned to feed forty men each, hustled to keep dishes filled. During the night shift the next day's breads, cakes, and pies were baked.
A special code of conduct developed during these dinners. The "boarding house reach" was OK, but never take food from a plate someone was holding. An unhappy patron could nail pancakes to the steward's office door to show dissatisfaction. And woe to the newcomer who unwittingly took someone's regular seat. The noisy mess hall was also a place for joking and teasing waitresses.
The logging mill thrived during the boom-years in the first half of the 20th century, but is gone now. Though famished woodsmen no longer feast at the plank tables, the Samoa Cookhouse is still open and today serves heaping platters of food, family-style, to hungry tourists looking for a taste of the past.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler with assistance from the Humboldt County Historical Society, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
McCormick, Evelyn. "The Samoa Cookhouse Still Cookin' After 100 Years," Humboldt Historian, January/February, 1993,pp. 18-23; McCormick, Evelyn. "Happy, Carefree Days of Old Samoa Cookhouse," Humboldt Times, January 1, 1967; and McCormick, Evelyn. Cookhouse Century: Lots of food and changes at the Samoa landmark," Times-Standard, May 19, 1993.