Kathleen Merryman, "The spirit of Steilacoom," The Tacoma News Tribune. October 31, 1991. (Excerpts).
W.L. Bair opened Bair Drug in 1895, coaxed it into a post office and trolley stop and bequeathed it to his daughter and her husband, Eudocia and William Leach.
Like any aging store, it fell into disrepair. Unlike most stores, it was resurrected by the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association and preserved as a combination museum, restaurant and unofficial command central for Steilacoom.
When she took over the business, Rosa Kreger thought she was having trouble with her appliances.
She thought the old stove was conking out and that the new one needed breaking in. She thought the dishwasher yearned for a service call, and that the hand mixer needed a spot to stay put.
Cinnamon buns and pies put into the oven at 350 degrees would trigger the smoke alarm after 20 minutes. No wonder - the thermostat would be jacked up to 500 degrees.
The brand new dishwasher invented new ways to break down - insulated wires frayed from the inside out, for instance
The hand mixer hitch-hiked its way through the restaurant, turning up in spots where no one remembered putting it.
And the $3 bottles of gourmet salmon sauce tried to fly.
A series of electricians, repairmen and gas company representatives have told Kreger there's nothing amiss with the machines. The patron who watched the sauce make a 5-foot lateral
leap from the top rear shelf of a display to the plank flooring stared at the shattered glass and said simply "That bottle didn't fall."
"That salmon sauce flew off. It flew," said the waitress who watched it happen.
That was three weeks ago. Since then, attempts to make the salmon sauce repeat its Evel Knievel impersonation on command have failed, but two more bottles have hit the floor without witnesses.
Kreger and her partner, Mchael Mason, and the rest of the staff have resigned themselves to having one too many cooks.
"We keep calling it Cub Bair," said Kreger, calling the store's founder, W.L. Bair, by his nickname. "He worked here the longest, and is very finicky about changes. He doesn't like all the changes we are making."
If it is the former merchant and postmaster, then he doesn't know how lucky he is. The building is owned by the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association, which must approve any change in its appearance. Its display cases are filled with antique remedies, candies and notions. Its soda fountain still fizzes up an authentic Green River.
Even so, new stoves, electric mixers, dishwashers and trendy sauces seem to irritate the heck out of someone.
"It's nothing bad. It just doesn't like the new stuff. Any type of new machine, it just goes wild," said Michael Mason, who works with Rosa Kreger.
It's a nice place for coffee in the morning, a pleasant place to meet friends in the afternoon.
But deep into the night, it belongs to history - or the people
who made history.
Kathleen Merryman, "The spirit of Steilacoom," The Tacoma News Tribune. October 31, 1991.
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