Story #3 posted Wednesday, May 27, 2020
"Ford, Morse and Mora Celebrate Monterey"
By Peter Hiller
When Tirey L. Ford retired from his professional life as a lawyer, the 18th Attorney General of California and a California State Senator, shifted his attention to writing his study of the history of Monterey – Dawn and the Dons – which was published in 1926.
Ford’s love of Monterey and the surrounding area evolved during a period of time in which he lived at the Hotel Del Monte. A wonderful web of people stimulated Ford’s interest in the area as his daughter married Samuel F. B. Morse, the owner of the hotel and Tirey’s son, Tirey Jr., became the general manager and superintendent of Del Monte Properties, Morse’s property corporation.
There is no doubt that Ford and Morse knew each other from their mutual membership in the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. The friendship continued when Ford was in Monterey which had become Morse’s permanent home with numerous conversations about the history of the area. Morse persuaded Ford “to undertake a thorough and painstaking study of this playground in California, and under his encouragement and with his aid I have essayed to record its history,” stated Ford in the Foreword of Dawn and the Dons.
It comes as no surprise that another mutual friend of both Ford’s and Morse’s and fellow member of the Bohemian Club – Jo Mora - also played a large role in the creation of Ford’s book. Jo Mora had moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1920 to complete his homage to Father Junipero Serra at the Carmel Mission. Jo spent time in the Sierras as had Ford, and they both shared a profound love of California and its history.
Tirey turned to Mora for the numerous illustrations that would complement the text. He wrote in the book’s foreword, “The illustrations of Jo Mora need no encomium from me. Their artistic excellence in supplemented by a faithfulness of detail that gives to them a real historic value. Mr. Mora has placed me under a deep and lasting obligation which I cannot hope to repay but which I gratefully acknowledge.” The maps Jo drew for the end pages of the book are arguably the first commercial cartes Jo created and would lead to one of the most significant components of his artistic career.
Ford goes on to write, “I believe I have gathered every essential fact connected with the history of California.” Jo Mora’s preexisting love of his adopted state – California - and his outstanding ability to express his visions with pen and ink made him the perfect partner for Tirey Ford. It is amazing to have the ability to create a scene that only exists from one’s visualization yet needs to be rendered pictorially and accurately.
Tirey concluded his foreword by stating that, “The gathering of the material and writing of the story have been for me a labor of infinite delight.” For Jo Mora, the depicting of Monterey history was a labor of love.
Dawn and the Dons remains a comfortable read about Monterey’s history to this day but must be searched for now on the aftermarket of used books.
Story #2 posted Friday, May 22, 2020
By Robert Finley
Strong communities form the foundation of any great city and Monterey is no exception. Residents of “California’s First City,” whether born-and-raised here or transplants, have forged its heart and soul over its 250-year history. Whether it be in churches, cafes, markets, or bars, generations of Monterey’s populace have gathered on its streets and forged a milieu that is eclectic and hospitable. One of Monterey’s most revered gathering places, Hellam’s Tobacco & Wine Shop, has upheld this tradition by welcoming anyone who walks in to indulge in some of Monterey’s distinctive camaraderie over a fine cigar or a glass of wine.
The story of Hellam’s Tobacco & Wine Shop begins in 1893 when recent transplant Frank Hellam opened a cigar stand named The Climax Cigar Store, or simply The Climax. In the years prior, Frank operated a popular bootblack stand on Alvarado Street. His customers would often tip him in cigars, which sparked the idea in Frank to explore the burgeoning cigar industry. Selling “the best 5- or 10-cent cigars in town,” he ingratiated himself to the community as he developed a reputation for being honest and a friend to all. For someone like Frank, who had spent years train-hopping across North America, there must have been something about Monterey that felt like home to someone who didn’t have one.
As the years rolled on, Frank continued to plant his roots by urging his relatives to join him on the Central Coast. In 1899, he married another transplant, a German named Amelia Plapp. As Frank’s business ventures expanded, so did his family. The Hellams built a house that still stands on Scott Street where all seven of their children were born. In honor of the city that allowed them such prosperity, the Hellams named their first-born son Monterey “Monty” Hellam.
By 1904, the cigar stand transformed into a storefront on the ground floor of the newly-built Monterey Hotel, almost exactly on the footprint of where the stand was originally located. With ample lounge space, the Climax could now better facilitate the communal aspect of cigars, inviting Montereyans, Californios, and strangers from abroad in for a smoke and friendly discourse. The store was known for its regular cast of “chair warmers” along with those who conducted their businesses from there, offering automobile repairs, poundmaster services, and transportation arrangements. As the Climax further cemented its status as a place to unwind, it also grew to become one of the largest retail and wholesale cigar stores in the country.
The Climax remained a social hotspot in Monterey for decades; while it shifted locations over the years, it never closed or left downtown Monterey. In 1933, the Climax rebranded as Hellam’s Tobacco Store and remained within the Hellam family until they sold out of the business in 1999. Today, Hellam’s Tobacco & Wine Shop maintains the tradition of hospitality and fellowship that has cemented Monterey’s status as one of California’s most remarkable cities.
Story #1, posted May 19, 2020
"How to train an Abalone: Pop Ernest Doelter, The Abalone King"
by Tim Thomas
Also available in PDF
Almost every city in the United States is famous for unique and special food items. When you think of Philadelphia you think of cheesesteak, Chicago, deep dish pizza, Bangor Maine, lobster, Seattle has Dungeness Crabs and good coffee, Baltimore, crab cakes, New York, lox and bagels and in Portland Oregon, its donuts. And of course, San Francisco wouldn’t be San Francisco without Dungeness crab sourdough bread. And what about Monterey? Well, Monterey has the most unique and often the most sought-after food item, abalone. And it was a German chef and restaurateur named “Pop” Ernest Doelter who, in 1908, put it on the map at his small Alvarado St. restaurant.
An abalone is a big marine snail or gastropod from the genus Haliotis. Abalone may be found in most oceans of the world, usually in cold waters, Abalone goes by many names—sea ears, ear shells, Venus’s ears and muttonfish. But the word abalone comes from the native people from Monterey the Rumsiens, who called them aulun. Early Spanish settlers called it abulon, based on the Rumsien word, and linguists today trace the word abalone all the way back to that word, aulun, that started in Monterey several thousand years ago.
Abalone played a very important part in lives of the Rumsien. They ate it; used the shells to make tools like fishhooks, shovels and bowls; made beautiful abalone pendants to decorate baskets; made jewelry; and traded it to other California Indians for things they couldn’t get in Monterey, like obsidian used in making arrow and spear points. They also were known to be the first abalone divers based on burials found in Monterey showing "surfer's ear" or boney growth in the ear canal due to spending a lot of time in cold waters.
Sometime in the early 1850s, an “abalone rush” brought Chinese families to our shores gathering not only abalone but eventually creating the California squid fishery, but that’s a different story. Beginning in the mid-1890s, Japanese abalone fishermen, arrived bringing with them new skills and technology to commercially harvest abalone in the deep waters of Monterey Bay. Because there was no local, or even statewide market for abalone, no one knew what to do with it then. The abalone being pulled out of Monterey Bay by those Japanese divers was primarily for the markets in Japan.
Pop had first came to the Monterey Peninsula in the 1890s when he was working as a personal chef for a wealthy San Francisco family who would vacation at the Hotel Del Monte. He fell in love with the Monterey Bay area and vowed to someday return and open a seafood restaurant.
In 1907, a small family restaurant on Alvarado St. closed, Pop saw an opportunity and packed up his family to move to Monterey. That first restaurant, called the Café Ernest, specialized in a very popular seafood item, oysters. At the turn of the 20th century, people didn’t eat a lot of seafood, at least not here in Monterey. Most of the seafood then being caught in Monterey Bay was for the San Francisco markets. And the oysters that Pop was serving were coming by train from San Francisco.
Oysters like most seafood does not stay fresh very long and it was not uncommon for trains to be delayed. This delay was for a variety of different reasons including breakdowns and cows stuck on the tracks. Often, by the time the train arrives at the Monterey station, Pop’s order of oysters was ruined! So he was always looking for something new that he could serve, something local that he could keep fresh.
Pop was fascinated with the abalone and wanted to figure out a way to serve it without using lye and other strong agents to soften it up. Sometime in the spring or summer of 1908, he brought some abalone into his restaurant and began to experiment. After several days of experimentation and being the good German chef that he was, he finely came to the realization to treat it like schnitzel. Once removing the abalone from its shell, you pound it, -drag it through an egg wash and cracker crumbs and cook it quickly in olive oil, and thereby create the abalone steak.
Soon people came from all over, far and wide to eat fresh abalone steaks at the Café Ernest.Many would leave songs and poetry in the restaurant’s guest book like:
Oh! some folks boast of quail on toast,
Because they think it’s tony;
But I’m content to owe my rent
And live on Abalone
Because of Pop’s recipe, the demand for fresh abalone, not just in Monterey, but throughout all of California grew tremendously! In 1916 over 600,000 pounds of red abalone were unloaded at the Monterey Wharf. By 1929, the California abalone industry was generating close to a million dollars in revenue, of which 75 percent came out of Monterey Bay. Monterey had become the true abalone capitol of the world.
Pop took something that was once described as “like eating a rubber boot” and transformed it into an international epicurean delight that is still enjoyed today and crowned him the “Abalone King.”