A history of the Smith Bros. Fisheries

“In 1924, a flood forced us to make progress,” admits Captain Oliver H. Smith. “The waters demolished our fish shanties down on the docks and compelled us to find other quarters. First we rented a vacant store. Now we own the entire city block. There are our offices, market, and the first Fish Shanty Restaurant. THAT FLOOD WAS A FORTUNATE CALAMITY!” Reference: Bringing Fish to the Pacific.

Note: Why be more than just fisherman? Aunty A: tells of thinking that they could do more than just fish and sell raw fish to Milwaukee and accept what ever price that was given. And, Aunty A's repeated "food service" work in hospitals, WWI, etc. Also, Delia Wassink Smith - a Dutch woman that hated to see anything goto waste - developed a recipe for whitefish roe caviar on in her kitchen.

CAPSULE HISTORY OF SMITH ENTERPRISES

By Lloyd Smith June, 2010
  • 1848 Gilbert Smith started fishing business on Lake Michigan with a small boat and seine net at Amsterdam, Sheboygan County.
  • 1889 Three sons: Delos, Herbert, and Roy had worked with their father. Delos and Herbert started their own fishing business at Blakesville. They were the first “Smith Brothers”.
  • 1896 Delos and Herbert brought the business to Port Washington as that harbor afforded them the use of a steam powered fish tug.
  • 1915 Herbert left the partnership and Delos created “D.H. Smith and Sons”.
  • 1920 Delos’ sons, Lester and Oliver, help expand the business to include smoking fish, pickled herring, and caviar processing.
  • 1924 After the devastating flood of 1924, a fish market was established on the corner of Grand and Franklin. Soon afterward Evelyn left her nursing career and joined the company. She worked at developing the caviar business and began experimenting with burbot liver oil. Then she decided to start frying fish in the market.
  • 1929 Evelyn “accidently” invents the first fish sandwich which led to the idea of a restaurant.
  • 1930 Delos retired and turned company stock over to Lester, Oliver, Evelyn, and Hope. Smith Bros. of Port Washington Inc. created, succeeding D.H Smith and Sons.
  • 1930s Wholesale business started in Milwaukee (Smith Bros. of Milwaukee Inc.); later moved to Port Washington. Started establishing fish markets in Milwaukee which increased to as many as 4 locations as time went on.
  • 1930s Established additional fisheries on the Great Lakes which grew to 5 locations with 8 boats.
  • 1934 Smith Bros Fish Shanty restaurant was opened on June 14, 1934 next to the market by Evelyn Smith with Frieda Ingersoll. It prospered from the start. It was followed by 2 more in the Los Angeles area after World War II.
  • 1940 Port restaurant closed for remodeling after 6 years of constant expansion of dining rooms and kitchen. The “Board Walk” restaurant opened in the old terminal building as an interim replacement. (future site of Best Western Harborside).
  • 1940s Delos’ grandchildren (4th generation) start to become active in the business.
  • 1946 Fish Shanty restaurant established in Walteria (later became Torrance), California.
  • 1946 Great Lakes fishing showing signs of decline leading family to begin to close fisheries in the years ahead.
  • 1948 Smith Bros. fisheries celebrates 100 years at a centennial party at Amsterdam (where it all started) and then back to the restaurant for dinner and dancing.
  • 1950 Fish Shanty restaurant established on La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, California.
  • 1950 Dairy Queen opened in Port Washington, followed some years later by another in West Bend.
  • 1953 Fire destroys Port Fish Shanty on Nov. 17th. Reopened Sept. 1954.
  • 1956 Purchased retail shop complex adjacent to and including Torrance restaurant property, California.
  • 1974 Best Western Harborside Motor Inn opened next to Fish Shanty in Port Washington.
  • 1979 Torrance restaurant sold, completing sale of all segments of retail shop complex.
  • 1986 Last fishing boat of Smith Bros. fleet sold.
  • 1987-88 Sale of all Smith Bros. businesses except Smith Bros Food Service.
  • 2001 Closed Smith Bros. Food Service

List of Smith Bros. Companies and their Functions

By Lloyd Smith June, 2010

SMITH BROS. OF PORT WASHINGTON, INC.
Original corporate entity (succeeding D. H. Smith and Sons)
- operated all fisheries except Sheboygan
- operated all fish markets
- Fish Shanty Restaurant in Port Washington
- Caviar Processing
- In the past: pickled herring; Burbot oil processing.
- It owned extensive Smith real estate including properties occupied by other Smith Bros. companies except those in California.

SMITH BROS OF SHEBOYGAN INC.

- operated fishery in Sheboygan. Capt. Roy Smith (brother of Delos) was COO and a stockholder of this Co. until he retired.

SMITH BROS FOOD SERVICE INC. - - - (WHOLESALE OPERATION)
- formerly Smith Bros. of Milwaukee Inc which previously operated as many as 4 retail markets in Milwaukee as well.
Wholesale foods and supplies - specializing in fish and seafoods – smoking fish - processing fresh fish. Located in Port Washington.

SMITH’S DAIRY QUEEN INC.
- owned Port DQ. (a Smith family partnership owned another DQ in West Bend).

WESTSHORE ASSOCIATES (LIMITED PARTNERSHIP)
- owned Best Western Harborside Motor Inn. Operated by Harborside Ltd., the General Partner (Lloyd, Lincoln and Bert). Limited Partners: S. B. of Port Wash., Oliver Smith estate, Evelyn, and Hope.

SMITH BROS OF CALIFORNIA INC.
- operated 2 large (Fish Shanty) restaurants in Los Angeles area, Calif.

MEADOW PARK INC.
- Owned and leased real estate which included an area of shops and the adjacent Torrance restaurant.

NOTE: individual ownership varied in each entity created after S.B. of Port Washington. Thereafter it depended on an individual’s enthusiasm and/or available resources for each particular investment opportunity.

The early years: From 1848

Roy Smith

History provided by Grant Smith
Roy Smith's passing

What I remember is riding in the car with my parents, Harmon and Verna, as they were disucssing's Roy's health. We were on the way to the hospital and Dad was talking about Roy taking on fluids. I asked if they would drain them and Dad replied "I'm afraid it is more serious than that". Roy died shortly thereafter. I believe he died of congestive heart failure.

My favorite memory of Roy is of him standing on the roof of our house in Hinsdale which was about 50 feet off the ground. He was about 80 at the time. My mom was scared to death that he would fall. I was in awe. It probably was when he cleaned the gutters. The man was fearless.

Roy's funeral was well attended and I spent a lot of time in the receiving line at the funeral parlor. Things slowed down a bit and Dad grabbed me and took me across the street to a charcoal grill to have a brat sandwich. As we ate our sandwiches, we watched the people lining up again, spilling out on to the sidewalk and waiting to pay their respects. Dad swept his arm towards them and said "Look, there it is, that is all that is important in life".
History provided by Lynn Smith
My recollection was (and I was about 10 at the time) that he began having problems with spitting up blood- or coughing up blood- and was taken to the hospital - and I don't know what the actual diagnosis was- but that they were either in the process of - or about to do an operation on him- when he died. It seems to me that he was in relatively good health up till about six months before he died- he was cleaning the gutters of our house in Hinsdale within two to three years before he died- with no problem.
History provided by Alan Smith:
Gilbert Smith, when a young man of approx. 18, followed the decree “move west young man”. He left his family, fishermen at Oswego, N.Y. on lake Ontario. He got on a tramp steamer sailing the great lakes with destination Amsterdam, Wisconsin. Where he knew an active fishing village existed. On his steamer trip he met another young man with the same general idea to go west.

When they reached Milwaukee, which at that time was just a small village, no bigger than Port Washington, but a good harbor at the mouth of the Milwaukee river. When the two of them reached Milwaukee, Grant said he was going to go north to Amsterdam and the fishing village, the other young man said he was going to go south to Racine, Wisconsin. They remained good friends through out their life. This other young man was J.I. Case of the farm tractor fame.

Gilbert hired on with a fisherman in Amsterdam, eventually starting his own company, marrying a young local girl Minerva Harmon Oliver. They had four boys and two girls. Delos, Roy, Herbert and Leland, girls Arlie and Christine. The boys worked the fishery with their dad until he died. Then Roy and Delos decided to move to Port Washington, Wisconsin where they had a rail line so they could ship their fish to Milwaukee, Chicago and beyond while fresh.

Delos settled in Port Washington while a bit later. Roy moved to Sheboygan Wisconsin to work a branch of Smith Bros. Sheboygan was advantageous because it cut down the sailing time to one of the very hot fishing spots, the northeast reef (about two hours sailing time from Port Washington.

Leland and Herbert decide to head west rather than continue to work the fishing business. Leland settled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and became a very successful business man. Married and had two sons and a daughter. Herbert settled in Montana herding his sheep in the flathead lake area. He lived out of a sheepherder’s wagon and his sister Arlie, who never married, joined him and did his cooking and house keeping. Herbert was very thrifty and all his spare money bought shore property around flathead lake.

Later in life when sheepherding was too much for Herbert, Delos talked Herbert and Arlie to return to Wisconsin and care take his 40 acres of lake shore wooded property south of Sheboygan. Delos had built a nice spacious cabin at “the Pines” that became the weekend spot for the Smith's and the many cousins as they grew up. Alan Smith remembers having "Easter egg hunts in the woods as kids" at the Pines. Alan remembers that "one time, Bert, my cousin, and I took some records from the phonograph in the basement of the cottage and used them as Frisbees in the woods. Little did we know they were part of Gramp’s Curuso’s (spelling) collection."

Delos, in order to cash out Herbert in Montana and give him some money in addition to his caretaker income, had Smith Bros. buy out his Flatlake properties. The first Smith Bros. board of director’s meeting after Alan Smith graduated from college we had a letter from an attorney in Polson, Montanta. He was offering us a price on the flathead lake property. Oliver said weren’t interested in selling.

A month went by and another offer slightly higher. This was also refused. Oliver contacted some people in Polson he knew to find out what was going on. He was told that the rumor was that some uranium had been reported found around part of the lake. We continued getting offers, one higher than the next so we played the waiting game. Finally word got back to us that it was not true and with it went the price back to not much more than we had in it. Probably another year the company sold it. If you drive around the flathead lake area all you can see are restorts and million dollar homes.

Roy Smith retired. The fishery in Sheboygan sold as fishing was declining and the city of Sheboygan wanted to develop their waterfront.

The other daughter of Gilbert moved out to Miles City Montana. Were she married and had several children.

After Delos retired from being active in the business he used to sit in a high back rocker in a little room behind the fish market in Port Washington. From his position he could see everyone who came and left by either of the doors of the fish market. He knew all the net and twine salesmen that traveled both sides of the lake. He kept a packed suitcase in this room and when any of the salesmen would stop in and offer to take him up the shoreline on their route he would call grandma Smith tell her where he was going and how long, grab his suitcase and off he would go.

Gramma Delia Smith was Dutch and came from the Cedar Grove area north of Port Washington. She was always a heavy woman as we knew her. She wore the traditional dress of the Dutch skirt to the floor with two petty coats. One time she was sweeping the floor and a mouse ran from a corner. She attacked the mouse with broom trying to sweep it out the door. It ran up the broom handle and up between her petty coats. She screamed and when Delos came into the kitchen she was hitting her lower body as fast she could try to make contact with the mouse. Delia was her name and she loved ice cream. Every night she would pop a large bowl of pot corn for Grampa and she would have her quart of ice cream. Delos would eat his pop corn down to a cereal bowl amount left. This he would save till morning and eat as breakfast cereal with cream.

Delos in the summer would make dandelion wine. He would pay Alan Smith 5 cents for a scrub bucket full of dandelion greens for processing. Evelyn Smith would pay Alan $5.00 for washing and waxing her car. Alan said "I always did her car twice to be sure all areas sparkled. I didn’t like being called back the next day to finish the job."

Lester joined the navy June 5, 1917 and was discharged July 2, 1919.

He went in as a 3rd class quartermaster and worked his up to 1st class quartermaster. His experience as a commercial fisherman was a big advantage but he still had to prove himself by doing quartermaster type duties on the great lakes.
6th Paragraph comments by Virginia
I remember the Easter Egg Hunts at the “Pines” . . being older, an early teen, I was one of the ‘hiders” of the eggs. I also remember “John the Russian” who was Grandma Smith’s driver at the time. He showed us the difference between the ‘good’ wild mushrooms and the Poisonous ones. We found and picked about a quart of the good Mushrooms, and Evelyn added them to a casserole she was preparing.

John the Russian, who spoke with an accent, would drive Delia out in the Country to pick up Rocks (not stones) for the Rock Garden she was building on the Chestnut St side of her home. I doubt that he had a Driver’s License, and doubt that he was a legal citizen. Lester Eidenberger succeeded John as her Official driver, I drove her only once “up by Pranges in Sheboygan”. She would sit in the back seat, watching the Speed gauge of her Studebaker (?) I was not to drive over 30 MPR! (torture)!

Page 2: comment on Grandpa Smith in his office: He kept a bottle of whiskey under that Rocker to entertain his many ‘drop in” friends. Once, I had to bring in coffee for a guest who became a bit tipsy!

3rd Paragraph: I also picked the ‘blossoms’ of Dandelions for Grandpa Smith, the traditional way to make Dandelion Wine. .. . .where did he make his wine?

3rd Paragraph: Evelyn had a big garden, which included about 20 Raspberry bushes. . Carol Smith and I and others were honored ? to be asked to pick them daily through the season. . We were allowed to keep a small amount for ourselves, but most were for her entertaining. . .we also helped to pick the vegetables: Green Beans, Tomatoes in Season.

Burbot Oil . . a comment and complement on the “vision” of our Auntie ‘A’ Not only did her Burbot Oil have the D and A Vitamins, but Now we know that Omega 3 Fatty Acids (fish oils) are commonly taken in capsule form by many of us and tests have shown they battle the onset of Alzheimers and other diseases.

Another Venture by Evelyn was the Ice Cream Store called “Dockside” which was built on the East Side of the old Gas Co Building in Port using rustic furniture and décor.

(I’m assuming there were Electrical Hookups) A Theater Company had come to Port & put on their wonderful Musicals before the City Hall building was declared “unsafe”. .( it then became a Tent Theater East of Port, continuing for many years) I was a volunteer ‘usher” and the floor would move as we led patrons to their seats. ( Morton DeCosta was the Director who had his red hair done at Angie’s Beauty Salon where Evelyn and most of the ladies in Town patronized) He was the ‘talk’ of the Town. . We thought he must be gay?

Hoping to capitalize on the Theater patronage, Evelyn, with approval of the Board opened in the summer of 1941??? We employees designed and named the Ice cream concoctions ala Baskin Robbins style, but unfortunately the venture did not make a profit and only lasted one season? We sure enjoyed eating up those wonderful creations. So, the investment in Freezers, Refrigorators, counters were used elsewhere.

Burbot oil

History provided by Alan Smith:
In the days before fresh fruits and vegetables were so readily available in the Winter month’s people had to supplement their diets with other forms of vitamin A and vitamin D. The standby was cod liver oil that was rendered from the very large and rich liver of the ocean cod the oil was heavy, offensive smelling and just as bad to taste. The customary use was a teaspoon a day. Some served it with a juice chaser but it didn’t improve it any.

In the Great Lakes there was a fresh water fish very much like the salt water cod. It was called Burbot or another name given was Lawyer. It was a cod or catfish like fish, bottom feeder boney like a cod or catfish with a very mild and almost sweet tasting meat. The amount of bones didn’t render it popularity among the fish eating public, with the exception being the price conscious Jewish trade.

Evelyn had in some way become aware of the similarity of the vitamin A, vitamin D content of the burbot liver. Because of its poor marketability the price of burbot livers was rock bottom compared to cod. Therefore, it was worth experimenting with.

On the dock in Port Washington we had a big rendering vat, about the size of a pickup truck in length that was located next to the net shanty as far from any other buildings as could be. In the winter months the burbot livers would be dumped into this vat, a fire built under the vat, and the livers would be cooked over night under the oil was rendered and rose to the top of the vat. The oil would be removed from the top of the vat, transported over to the restaurant cannery operation for bottling in a blue bottle similar to a milk of magnesia bottle in today’s stores. The bottled burbot oil was sold thru our markets in Port Washington and Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Journal ran a feature on it one year and Evelyn and Alan Smith went down to Milwaukee for a picture of Evelyn spoon feeding Alan a teaspoon of the burbot oil. It was all Alan could to do to keep a pleasant face for the picture. Birdie and Alan Smith have several blue burbot oil bottles on our kitchen shelf today.

Once fresh fruit started being delivered to our Wisconsin area the burbot oil business died a natural and thankful death.

The flood of 1924 "A FORTUNATE CALAMITY!"

History provided by Alan Smith:
The heavy rains and consequent flood that hit Port Washinton Wisconsin in August 6th, 1924 caused Sauk Creek to overflow its banks. The Smith Bros. Office Shanty, Smoke house and Net Shanty received most of the damage. The Office Shanty was actually washed of its foundation into the harbor. Fortunately the building remained upright so Lester H. Smith swam out to the building and saved the Accounts Receivables ledger that allowed the company to bill their customers and remain in business.

It was the damage from the flood that brought crowds of people out from Milwaukee and Chicago to see the devastation.

The corner that eventually contained the Fish Market was an empty Harness Shop. Smith Bros. rented this space and set up a counter to sell smoked fish to the crowds that came to see the devastation. People liked what was being sold and continued to come. Evelyn had introduced her original Fish Sandwich to a skat tournament in Port Washington and this french fried Perch Sandwich became a must for the customers.

As the demand for more complete meals expanded with cole slaw, German potatoe salad and finally the “Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie” as dessert (Alan Smith's mother’s recipe). The restaurant space needed was accommodated by leasing adjoining buildings, breaking thru walls to take on the additional space. We finally ran out of buildings to take over when we reached Haack’s Tavern. A pass thru their wall was provided so we could serve drinks dispensed by the Haack’s. According to Oliver we were now a full fledged restaurant. Frieda Ingersol who had been in a small lunch counter operation with her brother, came a board as the Manager. She was of the same school as Evelyn, quality and cleanliness.

Delos passes the Fisheries to his children

When Delos incorporated "Smith Bros" and then apparently retired in 1930, he gave Lester (the oldest) 40 percent, Oliver 35 percent, Evelyn 15 percent, and Hope 10 percent. This was common proceedure at the time, especially seeing both girls had careers - Evelyn in public health and Hope teaching. Neither were expected nor wanted to be active in the business by their father or their brothers.

Lester was "elected" president and CEO; Oliver was VP and head of fishing operations. Oliver specialized in gill netting; Lester in pound netting. Upon Lester's death in 1938 Oliver became president and CEO and Milford Schulte, a CPA, was hired as COO Schulte held this position until about 1950 when Lincoln was ready to take over. About the same time the entire next generation was "coming on board".

1935 was the Centennial Year for Port Washington, Wisconsin. The City Fathers had extensive plans for the entire summer for the returning former citizens as well as visitors. Smith Bros. also had their plans. To accommodate the expected crowds Smith Bros. added a large room on the back of the restaurant. This room was intended to be replaced or enhanced in the fall after things settled down. It therefore, was little more than a large clap board room with rustic decor and the cheapest of furniture. This addition was so well received by the public that in fall it was winterized, updated furniture and a large in room furnace added. At this same period of time a new Net Shanty was being considered for the Dockside. It was decided the new Net Shanty should be hurriedly built and used during the summer festivities as additional food service, just for smoked fish sandwiches and Fish Sandwiches and beverages. This was also fixturized with picnic tables and such.

In the haste of constructing the new Net Shanty, inadequate footings were provided which eventually resulted in the sagging of portions of the building which created the wavy Smith Bros. Fish sign that created so much attention from citizens and visitors as they viewed the building from the restaurant parking lot.

On November 17th 1953 the furnace in the rustic rear dining room, failed to reduce to late night out put and instead caused over heating which resulted in the fire that ultimately consumed the restaurant. The fire had been discovered by a night watch man from his high position at the Electric Company. He turned in the alarm, the firemen responding to the Fire House called our chef Hank Blasing who lived very near the Fire House. Hank beat the firemen to the restaurant and when Hank unlocked the kitchen door to enter, the sudden rush of out side air caused an explosion which ruptured gas lines and then the inferno really took hold.

Later the Fire Chief said that if there had been an off shore wind that night, which was very common at that time of the year, the entire downtown area would have been in jeopardy, for no one knew where the gas turn off value in the street was except the gas man that lived in Cedarburg. Thus the fire was being fed for some time buy ruptured gas lines.

There were long meetings to decide what to do after the fire: take the insurance money and call it quits, or everybody dig deep and supplement the insurance for a new structure.

The old restaurant was on the State of Wisconsin records as a Nautical Museum and of course all that went with the fire. The architects said that to recreate some of that feeling in a new restaurant we could do it with the woods we used. That is why we had some number, 7-8 not sure, different woods used thru out the building.

Attorney Ben Runkel was a big booster for the Smith’s in contrast to some others. He tried to promote with the City Council and other civic minded business men the idea that all future downtown remodeling after the new restaurant was built should be required to follow the New England Fishing Village theme as represented by our new restaurant building. There was too much small town jealously that stood in the way. Today you can imagine what a charming downtown area that would be and what the tourist draw would be.
Misc stories (Alan Smith)
During the Centennial operation the City decided to put on a huge fireworks display on the 4th of July. It was decided that the most outstanding spot for the display would be out in the lake a quarter of a mile or so. They anchored several barges out a quarter of a mile, had a professional outfit set up all the displays and then paid a number of our fishermen spend the day on each barge so that boaters would not tie up to the barges or in any way bother the operation. Well fishermen have to drink; they got loaded, and in the middle of the afternoon off went the fireworks and over board went the fishermen to be picked up boaters. Very little of the works were left for evening.

When fishing was exceptional on the Great Lakes, during the mild weather of summer we would send some of our tugs and crews to some of the hot spots. We would either rent some quarters on shore or bring in house trailers. One summer we set up in one little town in upper Michigan. As normal the crew would come in from a day on the lake, go to the nearest tavern, drink and eat, and then back to quarters. This particular day one of the crew said he was tired and didn’t care to go and would stay back in his quarters. The rest of the crew did the usual and returned later and found their mate on the floor covered in blood. They expected the worse and called the police. They washed the blood off of him and found out he had a beer. In opening the pop top on can he had in the motion pulled the released pop top past his face and cut off the lob of his ear. Blood-Blood the result

One other incident comes to mind. In the late 1950's (I think) it was Milwaukee that has some racial uprisings and rioters where rampaging in many of Milwaukee's main streets. The rioters came to 3rd street where we had several fish markets and buildings. On both sides of these markets had windows broken and merchandise stolen. Questioning the police later as to why our building s were spared they said it was "Because of your large 'SOLE' signs you had in the windows".

Port Washington Dairy Queen franchise

Comments from Virginia Haack
In the early 50's my dad (Oliver H. Smith) was excited about a Dairy Queen Store he discovered in Green Bay Wisconsin, and would stop every trip he made to Keweenaw, and back. . . He followed up on that possibility of having one in Port. The Franchise for exclusive rights to Port was $1000.00...He convinced Evelyn, Hope, Alan, Lloyd and and myself to go in with him to buy the Franchise. This was set up as a separate corporation. I scraped together $250 for my share and promised to be the Manager at $60 per week. I have no recollection of helping to build the building. . .(I had no money at that time, as my husband had left with our Dodge) so I think the partners built the building according to DQ specs.

I went with Lloyd to St. Paul Minnesota to the headquarters of DQ and in 4 days learned how to run a store; Bookkeeping, advertising, cleaning & sanitizing the machines daily, ordering mix and other specified ingredients to make the many products, more importantly "How to make the cone with the curl on top", The small cone was 5 cents at that time. . by next season it was 10 cents. We hired one employee, Lorraine was her name and paid her $50 per week (cash).

The first season was such a success that we bought the franchise for West Bend, which is how Gerry Mehring got into the business. . this one cost $2000 and now included Lincoln (along with the rest of us). And Gerry eventually became the Head DQ Honcho in Wisconsin. It is interesting to note that after the death of Delos each of the Smith enterprises required funding to get it started and individuals to form together into a corporation. So not all the family worked on all the various enterprises. And, in fact, each of the enterprises could have each family member with a different percentage of the corporation.

The name of the business was Boardwalk. Lloyd was helping the 2 seasons of operation and remembers the names of all those wonderful Ice Cream creations: ie Mile Rock, Sandy Beach, Loaded Fish Tug, etc.

Education and preservation

Brian comments: I remember taking a field trip as a young school kid to Smith Bros. Fish Shanty restaurant. There, my Dad, Lincoln D. Smith took my classmates and I on a tour - explaining how the fish was caught, processed, and prepared. I think Lincoln did this for *all* the kids growing up in Port.
Lincoln D. Smith tells the story of the School Children Tours of Smith Bros.
In reply to your request for the story of our school childrens' tours, what started at escorting local school kids and their teachers on trips to Smith Bros., caught the attention of teachers and administrators from schools in other communities all over SE Wisconsin (as far as Milwaukee, Racine, West Bend, Sheboygan and others). Most of the requests for these tours which I developed and conducted were in the Springtime when the teachers would plan a "field day" requiring a school bus for the days outing; but, because of scheduling and other reasons, some of these requests had to be delayed until later in the school year.

The usual format for the tours was to have the school bus and group arrive at the front door of the Fish Shanty restaurant about 1000, when I admitted them into the lobby and outlined the nature of the tour to them. I explained to them things that were in the lobby such as the Great Lakes diorama, chaburn and binnacle, diorama of gill net fishing. Then, I took the whole group through the restaurant, stopping in each room including the Shanty Bar, each dining room and explained the artifacts and decor items. Then, into and thru the kitchen and into the Fish Market, where I held up and showed them all the fresh fish on the ice.

After this, I led the group up the main stairs to the South Viking Room, where they took their seats and waited for the fish lunch which was served to all (except me, as I then went to my own home for lunch). This meal was the only thing that they had to pay for! After lunch when I had returned we went outside and I escorted the group around the west slip to our net shanty on the south side of the slip. There, I explained and demonstrated the construction and use of our gill nets. If we were lucky, about this time, our fish tug the Oliver H. Smith arrived back from its morning on Lake Michigan, and we saw the boat dock right before us, unload its fish and nets. After this, we walked back to our wholesale plant, where I showed them the processing of fish, including the smoke houses and finished products.

Now it was about 2:00 PM and time to board their bus and head back to their school. Field trip was over, and I could get back to my office and get some desk work done. This activity covered 20 or more years and many children were benefited. I enjoyed it too.
P.S. I forgot to mention that before serving their lunch at about 1100, I would show them the short movie in sound and color called
"The Fisherman's Boy" a commercial film made by a movie company at the Port harbor and starring Oliver Smith, himself portraying the old fisherman along with Danny, the fisherman's boy, who really was the son of our tug captain, Richard Nagrocki! Sadly, Daniel Nagrocki has passed away in 2006.
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This, plus the creation of Fish Day (for which Oliver H. Smith was involved) and other acts of education and preservation/conservation demands some study.

"Swim food is slim food" was the slogan on the fleet of delivery trucks.

Also, Oliver Smith's lamprey eel "fight". I think he was very active in the effort to eliminate or reduce the threat of the lamprey on the Great Lakes fisheries. He talks about it here: http://christmaswhistler.t35.com/smithHistory/1972-OliverH-EvelynCSmith-OzaukeeHistoricalSociety.html
Comments by Lincoln D. Smith
Many years ago, some time before she died, our Aunt Evelyn Smith (Auntie A), wanted to set up a scholarship fund that would live on and benefit high school students, who were interested in further education in the nursing field. Since we lived in Port Washington, it was natural to select the Port High School as the medium for handling and awarding the funds to deserving students as scholarships, on an annual basis.

She enlisted the help of my late wife, Maxine, to aid her in her wishes. Maxine and Aunt Evelyn worked out the mechanics to do this with the administrators of PWHS and the scholarships commenced the next year and continues to this day.

After Evelyn passed away, Maxine remained as the "go to person" until she, herself passed on in 1991. Then, the school looked to me for the family contact and every Spring, I get detailed papers from the Scholarship Committee of the High School, as to the selection process, and especially, the winning awardee.

This year, in 2008 for example, the students name is Hannah McCutcheon, who lives in Port Washington, with her parents. She was awardedthe scholarship amount of $750 toward her goal of a Pre-Nursing program at UW Stevens Point University.

Aunt Evelyn (and Maxine) would be pleased to know this, that her "gift keeps on giving"!

The move to the west: California

Comments by Virginia Haack (was Smith)
Virginia Haack (was Smith) accompanied Evelyn C. Smith to California in 1946 to search for a location for the expansion of the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty restuarant. The reason was to employ some of the key cooks and personnel during the winter months when the restaurant in Port Washington was losing money. Of course Evelyn had already discovered the comforts of the resorts in Riverside County, spas, resorts mud baths, and so on. We drove and stayed at a Columbia Hotel in downtown Las Angeles. The Columbia was a low class hotel, but the name was the attraction! Each day we contacted a realtor who guided us daily to restaurants and locations from Malibu down to Newport. Requirements were: near the ocean, on Pacific Coastal Highway and plenty of parking. Jacques French restaurant eventually was the choice.

At that time, Evelyn convinced the family in Port that this was a good move for the family business. Virginia "abandoned ship" with her other plans. It was not until August of 1962 that saw Roseanne Bouchard leave as manager of the Walteria Restaurant. Virginia jumped at the chance to replace her. Virginia drove out to California with Sherry entering High School as a sophomore and Sally in middle school as a seventh grader. The family was very sad that they missed so many family gatherings. Back in Port Washington. According to Virginia " took my daughters two years, at least, to forgive me for moving from Grandma and the family."
Comments by Alan Smith
California operations: Meadow Park – Smith Bros. of California

In visiting with Neil we got talking, amongst other topics, real estate values in California. Neil mentioned that he had recently been down to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Torrance. He commented how the area where the restaurant use to be and all the way down to Hawthorne blvd. on the PCH looked like a depressed area. This was in stark contrast to the area further south on the PCH. To Crenshaw blvd which looked very upbeat and well kept. Neil asked what we had sold the property for and we compared that price with the likely value of real estate in today’s market.

Later, after our visit on the phone, I reflected on the probability it was very likely the history of the Walteria-Torrance property had never been put down on paper. So I decided to put down my recollections while I still had them. So here we go!!!

When Smith Bros. leased the Walteria restaurant building and parking area from Gus Bauman in 1948, Evelyn had insisted that the lease contain our first “right of refusal" in the event Gus would consider selling the property. Gus and his family had quite a few acres of land behind the restaurant where he ran a very successful nursery. In fact, the begonia farm had a state wide reputation for the quality of begonias he grew. Customers he drew from around the state contributed substantially to our early success in our restaurant operation.

Our west coast "Fish Shanty restaurant" opened in mid January 1948. It was a defunct chicken restaurant that needed only some minor equipment changes and wall decorations to convert to a "shanty".

Lincoln and I were both out of service and were in our 2ND year of college in December of 1947. He at Carroll college and I at Beloit college when we came home for the Christmas holiday Oliver told us we had a job. Drive an old 2 1/2 ton stake truck to California. We were to take the truck loaded with nautical memorabilia and some furniture items to Walteria, unload at the restaurant, sell the truck and then fly back to continue college in January.

We drove out thru lower Minnesota, and when we got into the Dakota's Oliver contacted us and said the northern route had some bad weather on the way so we should head south to El Paso Texas and take the southern route into California via San Diego. This was fine with Lincoln for he had a girl friend that lived in Enid Oklahoma that would be on our route.

We spent a night in Enid so Lincoln could make his visit. The next morning we were up early to find the city blanketed in heavy snow. We checked at the front desk to find out when the city streets and the highway would be plowed. They said their only semblance of a snow plow was a road grader and it would be quite a few hours before it would be in the hotel's area. We had a schedule to keep so we rev’ed up the truck taking the middle ground on vacant streets. When we got to the country we just tried to stay midway between the fence posts on deserted highways. We drove 16 hrs that day to cover 400 miles.

When we got to El Paso we decided we would drive well into the night to make up time and to avoid as much driving directly into the sun as possible. We were out in the middle of nowhere at 9 p.m. when our truck lights went out. We put new fuses in every few miles until we had used up our fuses. No traffic at all, so one of us would lay on the running board and fender with a flashlight in one hand shining it on the white center line for the driver. We kept changing driver. We did not make much time but we were moving forward. After several hours, we came into a wide spot in the road with an all night filling station open. We had the mechanic look at our problem and he found where the wire going thru the fender to the light was rubbed raw and shorting out the fuses. With some tape and few more boxes of fuses we continued west without further problems.

The only other incident we had was at the border check station from Arizona to California. California at that time was very concerned about their fruit and vegetable productions and was very strict about any bugs being brought into the state. Thus when we pulled up for inspection in one of the stalls we were asked to roll back the tarp over the bed of the truck as well as set our suit cases on the ground for inspection. They went thru the load and our suit cases with no problem other than the 45 minute inspection delay. Meanwhile in the stall next to us was an Okie from Oklahoma. Moving everything he owned to California. The back of his station wagon was stuffed to the roof, and the tarp covered trailer also stuffed, but not very neatly. The customs officer asked him nicely to roll back the tarp and put his suitcases on the ground. He said there was no way he was going to do that. It just took him too long to load and tie down to mess with it. The officer kept asking, the driver kept refusing. The officer finally pull out his gun and demanded the trailer and the back of the stationwagon be all unloaded on to the ground. He was still unloading when we pulled out of our stall, on the road again.

We had no further incidents, reached Walteria, unloaded, sold the truck, flew back to Wisconsin, and returned to college.

The restaurant opened in mid January 1948 and was an instant success. So successful that in early1950 the board of directors in Port sent Evelyn out to look for another location thus La cienga, another defunct chicken house, became another "fish shanty* in early 1950.

In 1956 Gus Bauman decided to retire, so according to our lease, we had the first right of refusal.

We purchased the 11 plus acres in the fall of 1956. Oliver, Birdie and I went out to consummate the purchase. We stayed in Evelyn's home in Redondo beach (Evelyn had bought a home because she made so many trips. It was much better for her to have a comfortable home instead of a hotel room).

The purchase price was $500,000 and we, the stock holders, came in with $200,000 split according to our percentage of stock. My share as I remember was $50,000.

Refer to the enclosed sketch (below) to relate the contents of the purchase. A and B remained the Bauman property after our purchase and was run for many years following our purchase by Gus's son Jack Bauman. We always maintained a fine relationship.

A-part of begonia farm with a house on it for the hired nursery manager
B-main begonia farm display and sales area

Smith Bros. property in Walteria, California.
Contents of our purchase (above):
  • C-Pet shop
  • D-Legitimate theater
  • E-Smith Bros. restaurant
  • F-Row of 3 small shops-realtor-floral shop-art store
  • G-Kasden's la tienda antique store{ wide reputation for outstanding quality & variety
  • H-Small local post office
Bauman's sold section "A" a short time after our purchase. Sale price was $120,000 and a developer built an apartment house about 1958.

Oliver, on one of his trips sold to the Kasden's the portion outlined in red for $80,000.

This, as Evelyn maintained, was a big mistake, for it compromised the property by taking that chunk out of the portion of the property that faced pacific coast highway. Oliver's rational was that it kept Kasden's located next to the restaurant which kept them as a feeder to the restaurant. Results of this sale came back to bite us later in a big way that help to number our day!

The restaurant and the rest of the buildings in the purchase (except for Kasden’s) were wood frame, one story, with shed like roofs on the front facings. This gave them a very western “small town” appeal.

The back dining room of the restaurant was one of Gus Bauman’s glass enclosed nursery buildings somewhere along before our purchase this glass building became part of the restaurant building. In the center of this glass building was a water outlet that was converted to a source of water for a service station. This was a very popular dining room because the glass walls all looked out into the nursery grounds and the rows and rows of all types of colorful plants and flowers

This area along the PCH was still quite rural at the time of our purchase, so we only had septic systems.

As time past the unincorporated area we were in called Walteria, was surrounded and absorbed by the city of Torrance. Torrance was a very progressive city and with expansion came all the requirements of building and health codes.

Our location became a problem for the city of Torrance because of septic system breakdowns, plumbing and electrical problems. Finally in the early 60's Torrance gave us the ultimatum that we either rebuild according to all new codes or they would shut us down.

We found out in the remodeling process that there were seven abandoned septic system, also the water in the service station was still connected to the nursery's watering system and we had been serving the public water not approved for public consumption.

Evelyn had a very good friend who owned a highly respected kitchen design & equipment supply company. As we all know a restaurant began and ended with a kitchen and the rest of the building was merely an enclosure for the kitchen in Evelyn's eyes. Therefore, she relied very much on the kitchen designers and their recommendations for other aspects of the design and construction of a new restaurant the owner of the kitchen design company (his name is a missing part) had a design man he said was the top of the field. He had even branched out into doing design for movie producer Otto Preminger. The gentleman was Lyle Wheeler. Lyle said that at one time we were unique with our restaurant, but that so many fish and seafood operations had come down the pike that we needed a new identity. He said the American Indian theme had not been exploited on the west coast and felt it had the color and appeal to make a very popular operation. (I didn't find out until later when I moved to California, and worked closely with Bill Kaiser, manager at La Cienega, how strongly he argued against a new direction rather than a re-work of our theme).

Bernice Stark, the manager at the Walteria restaurant was a friend of Evelyn when the were both at Columbia hospital in Milwaukee. When we opened the Walteria restaurant in 1948 she moved out to California to manage. In the early 60's Bernice decided to retire. Virginia moved her family from Wisconsin to California at this time to take over the operation. When Virginia started reporting back to Port the new concept for the new restaurant we were excited. There was a restaurant with a very native Indian design north of Madison, Wisconsin which was doing great things at the time and we could just envision the same type of operation in California. The Indian in deer skin, the teepee, birch bark canoes, colorful headdresses all sounded great. However, as we found out later on the west coast native Californians thought of Indians as the the Arizona Navajo sheep hearder with mud hogan and no color. Quite different than the Wisconsin version of an Indian.

The building went forward and a really beautiful rendition it was a two story building with a crossed log design over a block building. A porte co-chere extended from the building out to a beautiful pool with a fountain at property edge facing PCH a hugh indian headdress sign rose 25 ft above the pool. It was all impressive and the interior was done with as much class and authenticity.

The one item we forgot was that at the time of the sale to the Kasden's we both aqreed that if either of us rebuild or added on we would not build forward from our buildings toward PCH which would prevent either of us from infringing on the exposure from PCH. We did just that. They took us to court, we had to take down the porte co-chere and with it went the allure of the building to just a one dimensional, flat face building with no character.

I had just arrived with my family on our move to California when I had to appear in court to defend our position. Never felt so nude in my life. There was absolutely nothing to say to defend our position.

The restaurant had a run for a bit while it was new. We gave some of our old stand-by dishes from the shanty new names and look, but once the uniqueness wore off so did the business.

In the mid 70's we considered a remodel back to the shanty theme but it was just too expensive to justify.

I moved my family out to California in July of 1964. Evelyn was slowing down and wanted to have some one else oversee the California operation. Also our plans were, if the Indian Village restaurant took off then we were going to take the rest of our building and build a modern day Indian Village and related shops. I had taken real estate classes in Milwaukee. In the evenings after I finished at the fish stores. When I got to California I continued real estate courses in off hours and final got a real estate brokers license. History didn't work out so i never used the license.

The post office was not renewed so we sold that strip land in the early 70's for $75.000.

We closed the Indian Village restaurant in mid 70's and leased to a western motif restaurant called the cattlemen. They had little success and after one year they bought out the remaining two years of their lease for $50,000.

We then put the balance of the property consisting of C-D-E-F on the block at $600,000

The city of Englewood, California west of Los Angeles and near the ocean was at once time a very elite city. However, when the Los Angeles airport located next door it slowly lost its luster and properties were neglected and values went in the tub. Mexicans and blacks moved in and whites out. In its prime it had a huge big church, Assembly of God, that had all the elite as members. As the elite moved out and settle in Palos Verdes, the ocean view property above Indian Village, the church attendance declined. It was move the church or close the door.

The decision was to move the church which was our salvation. They were the only one willing to pay our price.

After the sale they completely gutted the restaurant. Moved walls, stripped it of all wiring. Re-wired, paneled, complete do over and never spent a cent. They had members in all the trades that volunteered their labor. All equipment donated including a beautiful set of clareden bells. They have a very active membership and have even built their own school in another section of Torrance.

Here is a recap of the real estate transactions over the years.
Original purchase $500,000
Restaurant remodel $400,000
total $900,000
Portion sold $80,000
Portion sold $75,000
Lease buyout $60,000
Final sale $600,000
Net (negative) ($95,000)

This does not take into account the profit years from 1948 to 1968 nor the loss years from 1969 to 1973.

Now:
  • Restaurant is a church
  • Kasden's is a electronics business
  • Begonia is high end condo area
  • Shops & theater now part of church parking
  • Post office is now fast food restaurant
Comments by Virginia Haack (was Smith)
Comments to Alan’s letter re Meadow Park:

Walteria Fish Shanty:
  1. In January of 1947 Evelyn and I drove to So Calif and contacted Realtors for the purpose of buying or renting a suitable facility for a West Coast Fish Shanty.
  2. After looking at possible sites from Malibu down to Newport Beach, Jacques French Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway, in Walteria was the best location: had ample Parking, easily accessable from Pacific Cst Hy , a small, but suitable kitchen, attractive Begonia Farm Nursery site next door. The Board of directors approved Evelyn’s plan to expand . Several years later, a Chicken Restaurant on La Cienega’s Restaurant Row in Los Angeles was chosen as the Second Fish Shanty.
  3. Bernice Stark was chosen as Restaurant Manager. She was given the recipes from Port Washington, which I had spent hours in the Port Washington Kitchen adapting Frieda’s recipes, converting to gallons, quarts, cups, Tbs & tsps: Chowders, Salad Dressings, German Potato Salad , Lemon Meringue Pie, etc. . through the years these recipes were revised to Calif tastes, and different types of flours, vinegars, cooking oils, Potatoes, etc.
  4. Bernice had a friend, Elizabeth Bilmier who was an experienced Large Quantity Cook , and was hired as Kitchen Manager. Elizabeth, who was very cost conscious, would drive early in the morning several times weekly to the wholesale Market in L A to purchase produce and other foods.
  5. Scholte, our Port Accountant set up the bookkeeping ledgers, banking and cash systems.
  6. The Kitchen was designed to incorporate French Fryers, Ovens, Broilers, Walk in and Reach in Refrigerators, Freezers for the Whitefish, Trout, Perch, Pike, plus Ocean delicacies as Shrimp and Lobster Tail. After several years of success, Evelyn had a Planker built to Broil Fish in the Dining Room, using a wooden Fish Plank in a Mesh Screen which she had designed and Patented. Artificial Charcoal Briquettes were a new innovation and used successfully for this exhibition cooking.
  7. Roseanne Bouchard was hired when Bernice became ill. . can’t remember the exact dates that Roseanne worked at Walteria, then went to La Cienega as Bill Kaiser’s Ass’t. I do remember I was asked to replace Roseanne in Walteria, after Alan and his family moved there. I and my 2 daughters moved to Torrance and soon was involved with plans to demolish the entire Restaurant building and helping to develop the already planned Indian Village, along with Evelyn, Oliver and Alan. ( See Alan’s detailed account of the reasons for this transformation) Oliver had already purchased a home on Mustang in P V, wanted me to live with him, but I declined as I needed to find a place to live close to Schools for Sherry and Sally, then 15 and 12. We found an apartment in Torrance within walking distance of Schools, and the Restaurant.
  8. (I think I’ve already noted in a previous note , that Evelyn was enamored with Hollywood, the Movie Industry, Lyle Wheeler, et al ) and we all went along with the ideas.
A Side Note: When Walteria was opened, Evelyn decided to buy a home near by. . she found a 2 Bedroom 2 bath in Redondo Beach on Knob Hill, and was very generous to allow overnighters, as myself, Oliver and others who needed a B & B. Her property in Redondo Beach included Oil Rights to a share of Off Shore Oil Drilling. . which, when Evelyn eventually sold she kept the Oil rights, donating that clause to the Congregational in Port which over the years since receives some kind of income?

The Early Years, cont

SORRY TO REPEAT THESE STORIES, which add to your editing! i.e.: Calif. Rest. Staff, Burbot Oil, Names of former Restaurants

The Move to the West, Cont.

“under Comments by Alan” correct ‘Chicken Restaurant’ to French Restaurant, 2nd location on La Cienega was the 2 story Chicken Restaurant under the Management by Bill Kaiser and was another success story.

Under the paragraph re the back Dining Room, add my previous notes on the Fish Planker area, using Evelyn’s Patented Fish Planker.

Under Paragraph Evelyn had a very good friend, who was Fred Schmid, a recent widower. . Evelyn had an ‘eye” for recent widowers! His son, Fred Jr. designed our award winning kitchen. . very much overbuilt, as was the entire Restaurant building,

The Paragraph starting Bernice Stark is a repeat of my earlier comments under Calif. Rest which also mentions Elizabeth Bilmier

Correction on my move to Calif.: NOT 1961, but Sherry, Sally and I left Port the end of Aug ’62 to get to Walteria in time for School. . taking time to visit tourist spots along the Way, My Alma Mater Iowa State in Ames, the Rockies, The Black Hills, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Hoover Dam, and Calico Town.

Prior to the Opening of the Indian Village, I enrolled in 2 semesters of an evening Executive Business Course at UCLA, as I felt I needed more basic knowledge in areas of Accounting, investments, finance. . Smith Bros. paid for 1/2 the tuition, and since I had no money for investments, I passed on the insider tips to Evelyn. . She made a ‘mint’ she said on Johnson & Johnson stock, as the Birth control Pill was just introduced. . My final presentation was to establish an organizational plan for a New Restaurant: Organizational Chart, Job Responsibilities & Procedures.
Evelyn C Smith adding comments by Virginia
Homesteading: I remember her telling me that the trailer, or shack, was registered in her name. She occasionally visited, but it was mainly occupied by either Herbert, Leland, Arlie to qualify for the residence.

Establishing the Fish Shanty Restaurant

Don’t forget the Hearth-baked rolls from Peter’s Bakery next door, used from Day 1 on. Peters Bakery profited from Evelyn’s creation of the Fish Sandwich. In Calif. we had to get a Bakery to bake those “hearth-baked” Rolls which she somehow got the Recipe from the Port Bakery.

Burbot Oil: This story is repeated several times

All Electric Kitchen: Evelyn specified that all of the stainless steel cooking counters were built to be 2 inches lower than the standard height. . because all of the cooks at that time were ladies (Frieda Ingersol, Frieda and Flora Husting, Clara etc.) and the lower working height meant easier on the back working conditions.

Comment on WWll: later during the Cuban Missile Crisis she had Roy Uebele stock pile a 6 months’ supply of Coffee, as well as ordering we in Calif. to do likewise. . .it took a long time to use up that coffee. .

Boyfriends: the first “Friend” I was aware of was ‘Frank’ the detective. Carol and I thought he looked like Dick Tracy, usually wore a brimmed hat and he had one eye. He was from Milwaukee and regularly included at family gatherings. (Hope said the wife was in an institution)

Another friend was the Sales Manager (cannot remember his name) of the furniture company Smith Bros purchased all the Knotty Pine Furniture. He was from Chicago, but did not drive. Evelyn invited him to visit her, and with Evelyn at the wheel, driving North they had an accident, and he broke his leg (we suspected perhaps he distracted her driving) He became a ‘house guest’ for weeks, while he was recovering. . what a deal, Nurse and cook. . never heard how much damage to her car?

Another “friend” was a Calif. man who was a friend of Ely Headley and his wife. . Oliver and Evelyn became good friends of the Beachcomber Headleys. . I too attended several of their Soiree’s at the Headley’s home in Buena Park. . but this charming Gentlemen was also a Friend. . . and Evelyn was “charmed”.. She invited him to Port for a visit at her home.

At the urging of Hope, Ned was assigned to check out his License Plate while parked in front of Evelyn’s. . can’t remember the ‘rest of the story”, but we didn’t see him again. . so evidently he didn’t pass the test.

The last Pursuit that I know of was in Sun City, again I can’t remember the Gentleman’s name, but he was originally from Washington Island, his wife was terminally ill, and when she died Evelyn baked several Pumpkin Pies (his favorite) which I took to the home, and found out thru the grapevine that this man already had a “close” lady friend. . oops.

End of the “Evelyn Tabloids” from Virginia

The end of an era

When the time came to liquidate our operations, there were some reports that some of the younger generation were disappointed with the fact that the operations would be sold. When Alan Smith took over for Evelyn C. Smith in California, her health was going down hill, she made a point of emphasizing to him that “It never was our intent in developing our Smith Bros. operations that it should continue from generation to generation. Everything has its day and time and the challenge is to see when our time is changing and to sell the operation before it sells you.”

Alan goes on to say that "Evelyn was the best business head in our wide family."

Here is a great write-up from Uncle Lloyd about Aunty A

Please, if anyody has additional insight to these "stories" please let me know. Lenys mentioned, "Did you know how Evelyn got the name 'Aunty A'? It started with Neil as a baby. He couldn't say Aunty Evelyn...but said Aunty A instead."
Love,
L

Lenys Walden

July 2008

Evelyn C. Smith 1893 - 1986

Highlights and Anecdotes
From the memory of Lloyd Smith

NURSING EDUCATION

Graduated from Columbia Hospital School of Nursing in 1914.

AFTER GRADUATION

She took a job as industrial nurse with the Northwestern Malleable Iron Co. in Milwaukee.
Here she initiated a food service for their employees, something unknown at that time in
Industry.

WORLD WAR I

As a young graduate nurse, Evelyn joined the army nurse corps and was sent to a MASH unit in
France. Here the nurses had to feed their patients and staff as well as care for the wounded.
Two instances I was told of

1. She went AWOL to England after a British army officer she had treated. Returning she
beat the threatened court marshal.

2. One morning she was late for duty. While rushing around a tent she collided with an army officer, knocking him “head over tea kettle”. He was General “Blackjack” Pershing,
supreme commander of the allied expeditionary forces in Europe. She did what only Evelyn
would do: Had her picture taken with him.

AN ASIDE

When in Port she loved to swim in the harbor. This was before the harbor was rebuilt
in 1934 for the power plant.

AFTER THE WAR

Evelyn was mustered out of the Army Nursing Corps. in 1919. She took a course in public health nursing.

PUBLIC HEALTH NURSING

She became Sheboygan County nurse in 1922 . She became very active in public affairs , and got to know Herbert Kohler , Sr. head of the Kohler Co. , as well as Mr. Warner , publisher of the Sheboygan Press . She garnered their [and others’ ] support to create a
TB sanitarium and a children’s camp .

HOMESTEADING

She took advantage of the federal government “homestead” program. If a WW I veteran
went out West, registered a 40 acre tract of government land, built and maintained a house
on it for 20 years, it was his/hers free. She did this near Polson, Montana.

UNKNOWN DETAILS

Sometime in her early years she became active in women’s right in the Milwaukee area . All that I know about this is that through this , she became a friend of Golda Muir , a Milwaukee Jew , who after WW II became the first Prime Minister of Israel .

A HOMESTEADING TALE

So as not to lose her homestead , Evelyn had to visit there often . She told this story to a gathering of bereaved family and friends at our house the evening of the day my mother , Florence , had died of cancer at the age of 45 : Once while visiting her homestead she stopped by a small area hospital . She noticed a nude man being wheeled in on a cart with a tractor seat spring protruding out of his rectum . He lived alone up in the hills , became constipated , and tried to relieve himself with the spring . Once in , he could not get it out . Evelyn was not famous for her sense of humor , however her wisdom in the timing of telling this tale broke the tension and lifted some of the gloom for all of us .

JOINING THE BUSINESS

All of Delos’s children were given stock in the business when he retired . The boys , Lester and Oliver , got by far the most because they were operating it . Evelyn and Hope who had other professions , were given far less . After the 1924 flood which destroyed our fishery buildings on the dock , they opened a market on the corner of Grand and Franklin St . Evelyn saw an opportunity . . She was interested in promoting/developing fish products . The boys were not at all happy with the idea of her joining the business but really were powerless to stop her . She started deep frying fish [ perch ] in the fish market about 1927 . One Sunday a man came in wanting something to feed players at a card tournament in town . He was happy with fried fish , but how could card players eat them while playing ? Evelyn secured rolls at a nearby bakery and the fish sandwich was born .

ESTABLISHING THE FISH SHANTY RESTAURANT

The sandwich business was so successful that in 1934 Smiths took over the store next to the market . Evelyn set up 3 tables of 4 and a 12 stool counter . She hired Frieda Ingersoll who had worked in her brother’s restaurant . They actually flipped a coin to see who would serve and who would cook . Fate was on our side ; Frieda [ with an apron full of recipes ] became the cook and our long time kitchen manager . Evelyn [ the server ] had a much superior ability of organization and administration . During the next 6 years business increased at such a fast rate that it required constant renovations . By 1940 the restaurant had expanded in size to 250 seats and had become known nationally . It was listed in the first and EVERY issue of Duncan Hines “ Adventures in Good Eating “.which was published annually throughout the country for many years .

WISCONSIN RESTAURANT ASSN .


It was not long before “ Smith Bros . Fish Shanty “ and “ Evelyn C . Smith “ became familiar names to many of the state ‘s restauranteurs [ mostly male in those days ] . In the late 1930s Evelyn became one of the organizers of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and served as its first Secretary .

BURBOT OIL

Evelyn never forgot her medical training. The Great Depression was upon us. Many people , unemployed , could not afford a balanced diet making the value of vitamins more important than ever . Cod liver oil was a key source of important vitamins . The burbot is a fresh water cod . It was underutilized in Lake Michigan . Evelyn had its liver analyzed and results showed a superior vitamin content over the cod . She set up a rendering plant on Washington Island to extract the oil and we were in business . The oil was sold in cobalt blue glass bottles . Despite its strong fishy flavor (a negative it shared with cod liver oil), burbot oil was a huge success for a number of years until two things happened at almost the same time : 1) the supply of the burbot dwindled 2}the big pharmaceutical companies developed a synthetic oil that was a lot cheaper . After this we were soon out of that business . The bottles used were blue to protect the oil from becoming rancid .We had a quantity of bottles leftover that later became valuable when cobalt became scarce and those bottles were no longer produced . Evelyn ‘s favorite “burbot oil “ story is as follows : Because of the depression the majority of Port’s industrial workers were unemployed . Evelyn put an ad in the local paper offering free burbot oil [ bring your own container ] to Port residents on Saturday mornings . She noticed that one boy came in every week with a 2 qt. pail . After a while she questioned him as to why he wanted such a large quantity . He told her that his mother used the fish oil for cooking . It is hard to imagine what the strong fishy flavor of burbot oil did to the taste of the food.

ALL ELECTRIC KITCHEN

When Evelyn started deep frying fish the method was simply putting the product into very hot fat or oil and guessing the needed temperature because there was no way of gauging or adjusting the temperature . Then Edison Co. [ GE ] developed a fryer that had an adjustable thermostat . A salesman with Wis. Electric Power introduced this electric fryer to Evelyn She immediately embraced this improvement and worked with the salesman in our kitchen to promote electric commercial kitchen equipment . This was so successful that she forged an agreement with the president of Wis. Electric Power that if we maintained an all electric kitchen in our restaurant , Wis . Electric would provide FREE repair service for any and all of the electric equipment in that kitchen . This was honored for over 35 years until Wis . Electric discontinued their repair dept .

WORLD WAR II [ WW II ]

This war started only 20 years after the end of WW I so that war was fresh in many adult minds . Evelyn prepared the restaurant for wartime operation by buying items she knew would be scarce .
She also had staff home can [ among others ] hundreds of jars of tomatoes . When help became short she instituted “time and ½” pay on Sundays and holidays.
Three nephews, Bert, Lincoln, and Alan, were in service during the war. A standing policy in the restaurant was that any servicemen who came into the restaurant by themselves [not with a civilian] their meal was free.

K. P. GENERATOR


The fishery at Keeweenaw Point on Michigan’s upper peninsula was acquired at about the beginning of America’s entrance into WW II. It was located 8 miles from the closest road. Access to the fishery was by boat only. There were 5 buildings and no electricity for lights, making ice, or running machinery . The operation gained importance as the war went on, as we needed all the fish we could produce. An electric generator would solve many problems. So Evelyn picked up the phone and called Herbert .Kohler Sr., President of the Kohler Co. “Herb, this is Evelyn Smith. I need a generator”. “ What did you say, Evelyn?” She repeated her statement. “Jesus Christ Evelyn, don’t you know we’re at war? All of our production goes to the army”. “Herb, we’re really in need of a generator” – and told him our situation. “Well damn it, if a truck backs up to loading platform 6 at 2 A.M. Sunday, I don’t know a thing about it. “Bless you, Herb”. We got the generator: 4 ft. wide, 8 ft. long and 5 ft. high. It was transported those 8 miles to the fishery balanced on an open pound boat and a constant flurry of prayers. Both the prayers and the generator worked very, very well.

AFTER THE WAR

All aspects of our business (fish) prospered during the war. At its end and with another generation coming into the business expansion seemed logical. The success of the restaurant put it at the top of the list. The site must have 3 qualifications:
1. A warm climate (for the older generation to retire to).
2. Near a sizeable body of water [ atmosphere ] .
3. A large fast growing area..
The Los Angeles area fit those needs. Here Evelyn founded the Walteria restaurant in 1946. La Cienega opened in l950. In 1950 I was anointed to drive Evelyn and Frieda Ingersoll to California in Evelyn’s big 12 cylinder Lincoln Zepher. On the way back, Evelyn decided to stop in Las Vegas. At that time there were only 3 casino hotels on the strip. She said, “We’ll stop at the Stardust, but only for an hour.” She IMMEDIATELY hit a jackpot, IMMEDIATELY cashed in her winnings and took a seat in the lobby assuring us we could continue to gamble for the rest of the promised hour .

MANAGEMENT

Virginia was my boss in the restaurant . At that time she was the manager of the Port Fish Shanty which had burned down in 1953 . I graduated from Hotel/Restaurant School at Michigan State in 1955 and started as asst. manager to Virginia . Virginia really taught me most of my operating knowledge . Evelyn was the General Manager of all three restaurants . She headed the planning of the rebuilt facility . Then she retired from active management of it after it reopened in 1955 . However she still thereafter maintained her title and a varying element of control as long as she lived . Although Virginia [ and I ] “ managed “ , Evelyn kept her thumb on things ; often at a distance – sometimes not . One of the first things she impressed on me that I never forgot was about managing PEOPLE . She told me , “ you must always be uniformly tough but fair with every employee whether you like the individual or not “ .

BREAKING HER NECK


When Evelyn was about 85 Maxine Louise (Lincoln) would stop at Evelyn’s home every day to check on her. One day this occurred prior to Evelyn taking a shower. She had a very large shower stall with a built-in seat. When in the shower that day she slipped and fell, striking her neck on the seat. From her experience she realized her neck was broken and she should not move. A heat lamp was on and she was able to pull her robe (off a hook) down on her. She doubted that anyone would find her before Maxine’s daily visit the next day. She just laid still and waited. She was right. The doctor warned us that because of her age it could be fatal. However she fully recovered

INTRUDER

Not many years before she died, she was awakened one night and discovered a young man urinating in the toilet in the bathroom next to her bedroom. She grabbed the guy, who was obviously intoxicated, pushed him to the back garage door, shoved him into the garage, then locked that door and the garage doors electronically. She then called the police who arrested him. He was the son of a neighbor and was also “known to the police”.

BOYFRIEND

This happened in her late 80's. Acquaintances introduced Evelyn to this man who was in his early 70's. Over the years she had her share of boyfriends but had never married. The introduction soon evolved into weekly visits. He was a man of means: from Texas and whose livelihood came from oil and cattle. Evelyn’s appearance changed immediately as she now had her hair done weekly, and new clothes were evident, etc. I never met the man personally. There was plenty of discussion and details traded throughout the family. This went on for a number of months. Through a combination of skepticism and concern I called the company attorney and asked him to investigate this guy. He laughed and laughed. Then he told me I was too late. Evelyn herself had beat me to it! Her intention was soon evident. She staged a party at her cottage to introduce him
“to some family and friends”. It was lavish (for the setting) with a 2 hour cocktail period followed by a wonderful catered dinner. Present for him to meet included our attorney, banker, accountant and spouses. Family members included Hope and Earl Huwatschek and Lincoln and Maxine Smith. Everyone was prompted to ask him as many personal questions as possible. The party was a success–Evelyn never heard from him again .

THE END

At age 93 Evelyn suffered a serious stroke. She was unconscious and the doctor told us the end was near. It was decided that the nephews in Port would all take 2 hour shifts to be at her side in the hospital. I had the feeling that she would pass on on my shift. She did and did so in the most peaceful manner. When the heart monitor went flat, I waited a few minutes and then went to the nurses’ station asking if I could call the family. They told me “no” because her brain waves had not ceased. It took almost 45 minutes for that to happen. That really did not surprise me , as that certainly was Evelyn..

History of the Smith Family Ownership of The Harborside Motor Inn

The hotel site was owned by Smith Bros. of Port Washington, including the restaurant parking lot east of Franklin Street. It was purchased from the Wisconsin Electric Power Co. (now WE Energies) in 1943. The former electric generation plant for the electric railway (“interurban”) that ran from Milwaukee through Port to Sheboygan was located where the hotel now stands. We had a liquor store on the northeast street level and freezers (Wholesale Dept.) on the lower dockside level of the building. It was otherwise empty. West of that building up to the old wholesale plant was surface storage for boats and wholesale trucks. This area was part of the Smith Bros. of Milwaukee Wholesale Dept. Building parcel. It was leased from Smith Bros. of Port Washington, who purchased it from Ubbink Coal & Dock Co. in about 1960 after they went out of business. It became the hotel’s west parking lot. The entire area was long recognized by the family as being underutilized.

In June 1965 a committee composed of Dan and Mary Smith and Lloyd and Toni Smith was appointed to study “future directions for Smith Bros. of Port Washington Inc.” In regard to the area above, the No. 1 suggestion for its use was a motel.

In 1969 a committee of Lincoln Smith, Ned Huwatschek, and Lloyd Smith was created to study the potential of the entire west slip area. Its report in 1970 concluded that either a retail store building or motel replace the old electric terminal building.

The decision to proceed with planning for a hotel was made in 1972. Advisors recommended the entity be a Limited Partnership which was named Westshore Associates. The General (operating) Partner was a subchapter S corp. The stockholders were Lloyd Smith, Bert Smith, and Lincoln Smith. It was called “Harborside Ltd.” Lloyd Smith, president of that company, was named general manager of the hotel. The Limited Partners were Smith Bros. of Port Washington, which owned all the land, Oliver Smith, Evelyn Smith, and Hope Huwatschek. Bray Associates of Sheboygan was hired as architects in 1972. A 60 room hotel was planned. A number of franchise companies were contacted. Holiday Inn and Best Western were the most attractive. Holiday Inn was dropped from consideration because it required a complete restaurant operation, which obviously would compete with the Fish Shanty. Best Western was selected. Best Western is a membership organization, not a franchise, and therefore had fewer requirements and considerably lower fees.

The city was willing to vacate Franklin Street south of Grand Avenue but the Plan Commission would not approve the number of parking places as long as the Dairy Queen remained on the east parking lot. This was resolved by the DQ Corp. selling its franchise to Gerry Mehring of West Bend, who moved it to another location. (Gerry, a nephew of Florence Smith, previously managed the Dairy Queen in West Bend and later purchased it from a Smith family partnership).

Oliver contributed a lot of helpful advice and ideas regarding the planned construction especially as to the site and the positioning of the building as being adjacent to the harbor with its history of varying water levels and wave action. Unfortunately, Oliver died in 1973 and never saw the construction completed.

The Best Western Harborside Motor Inn opened July 19, 1974. After its first manager did not work out, Don Bauer was hired and successfully managed it for almost 15 years before he retired.

The 80’s witnessed the 4th generation of Smiths approaching retirement age. In 1987 it was decided to sell all Smith-related businesses and real estate. During this process, in 1988, Lloyd and Toni Smith bought out Bert and Lincoln in Harborside Ltd. and subsequently all of the Limited Partners of Westshore Associates, thereby acquiring ownership of the Harborside: the business, building, and land including both the east and west parking lots.

In May 1993, an addition of 36 upscale rooms over the east parking lot was opened, increasing the hotel’s size to 96 rooms. David Smith was instrumental in promoting the idea that the addition be on the east end with the view of the harbor and lake versus an alternative to build over the west parking lot. He convinced Lloyd after taking him to the roof, pointing out the views of Port harbor and Lake Michigan to the east, and saying those were the views that would sell. He was right. Bray Associates designed the four-story addition featuring suites and mini-suites built over the east parking lot.

A key construction problem for the addition was that by ordinance we could not lose a single parking space. Lloyd personally took on the challenge of preserving parking spaces, creating 9 rooms and suites per floor, and at the same time meeting Best Western specifications. The support columns had to be placed on the surface so as not to lose any parking spaces yet go up through the entire structure above for the necessary support without interference with room layouts. After a lot of sweat and fears it did work out.

In October 1995, David left his executive position with Choice Hotels International to accept the general manager position at the Harborside. Lloyd and Toni let it be known they would be completely retiring soon. In early 1996 there was a name change to Best Western Harborside, dropping "Motor Inn" from the name as the hotel was repositioned through this and a partial renovation.

In July 1998, David consummated the sale of the business and real estate to Great Lakes Hospitality group. The new owners later switched the affiliation to Holiday Inn. The name was changed to Holiday Inn Harborview.

Lloyd Smith
February 18, 2010

1948 Centennial celebration


Help!!! I need stories about the centennial celebration!!!

2-Due:
Research: Duncan Hines "Adventures in good Eating" Google books indicates copies are to be found (1939) at the Uni of Minnesota library.