Monday, November 17, 2008

Just two old friends

Back in 1987, shortly after Jake's officially began being called diner, I was walking across the floor when a man stood up and introduced himself. His name was Bob Shotwell and he said, "I think it is about time that you and I met.". And so, began a friendship that today is still quite strong.

Right around the same time, I was looking to market Jake's better as it was now much larger than before and I had told Jake that we could no longer just rely on truck traffic to survive. Jake gave me a small marketing budget and one of his suggestions was to use radio. I remember trying to choose my station wisely and since we had taken a sort of western theme, I decided that KICE would be the best option for us. At the time, KICE was the premier country station in the Bend area and its large market included south towards Lapine of which I felt was very important in our marketing scheme.

I walked into KICE not knowing what to expect and asked for their morning show personality and was ushered off into a side room where two men were bent over a tape machine fixing it. It was there that I met my friend to this day, RL Garrigus.

In those two meetings, I met two of the most genuine, old school people that I have met in my entire life.

Bob was working for the Oregonian. He had brought in quite a few people to meet with him at Jake's and I soon found out that his favorite dish was one that had it's roots deep in Jake's, the Central Oregon Scramble. Originally called the Carl's special, it had been named after the main old cook from the former Jake's Restaurant who would make it special for anyone who wanted it. Carl was a character of his own and people loved his special including Bob. After having a hard time explaining the name to people, I decided to rename it. It was eggs scrambled up with various vegetables and cheese kind of like I have always made my omelets at home so I called it a scramble. I added Central Oregon to the beginning and so the dish was named as it is now on my menu. It later was added the title of "Bob Shotwell's favorite" which to still stands to this day.

Bob wrote the article on Jake's and myself that I felt was instrumental in the growth and popularity of Jake's within the state while also bringing in many local and state government officials when he would interview him. It was through him, that I met Senators, Congressmen, County Commissioners, the Sheriff, and even the governor's wife. I found that their were some of whom Bob was the only journalist that they trusted for an article in that when they said something was off the record, they knew that it would remain that way.

Bob's past was one that might easily make up a book or movie of it's own. In WWII, he was in the first wave at Omaha beach. I remember asking him about it and listening to his stories. When the movie, Saving Private Ryan came out, I watched in horror at the scene of the landing as it seemed to be almost a carbon copy of the scene that had been laid out to me by my friend of his own experience. Bob asked me if I felt he should go and see it and I said, "No, unless you want to relive it.". He did not and did not go to the movie. To this day, I am not sure it he ever saw it.

Bob's writing had also found other admirers and he had been twice nominated for the Pulitzer prize. I loved listening to his tales of old told to me in a non bigotry way. I grew to really admire the man.

And so did others in the area as in the early nineties, he became the first man in Deschutes County to have a day officially named after him. I was honored to be on the committee that set up the day. I remember well that committee was were I first got to know such people as the then Sheriff Darrel Davidson, County manager (who now has a building named after him) Mike Miers, and the head of our committee, the now deceased Dennis Maloney who was instrumental in the founding of such things as the Boys and Girls club. I remember Bob and I going together to his funeral.

Bob also was instrumental in the founding of the newspaper at COCC and began part time work on the radio for KICE where his paths crossed with my other friend RL. Bob would do some weekend work and other special shows that were aired on the station.

I was with Bob the day that the Oregonian let him go. They wanted new younger perspectives of the area. Talk about age discrimination. That one thing shook Bob down to his boots but he was not going to let it affect the way that he handled his life. He proudly walked on head high and wrote for many other magazines and news journals in the state and area.

He also ran for county commissioner. I was on his staff and watched him as he ran while just getting out of the hospital. As a matter of fact, as I remember, they took his official picture there while he was still in. I was with him at the court house when he was defeated in the primaries by Linda Swearingen. I saw again how he took the defeat with poise and grace.

When KICE dissolved, he looked for other work in the area and found himself at the new marketing tool business, Isky. The funny thing there was that he was placed in a room and in a chair right next to my very close friend, Frank Patka. Now, Frank and His personalities were both quite crazy and they soon had to separate the two so that all around them could better get their work done. Frank left and started Printer Resources while Bob continued on and later became an editor for Isky before they outsourced him into somewhat retirement.

I remember well in my worst of times. I was told that the sale of Jake's was imminent and that I could not tell anyone of it. After working a couple of days and listening to fellow employees talk of their future vacations and their recent big purchase, I dropped into a deep depression. It was Bob who drove to my house and informed me that the community knew of Jake's demise. He said, " I have just formed another committee and it is the "Lyle Hicks get on with his life committee. It consists of myself and Frank.", he said. That news and his friendship helped pull me up and give me the push needed to climb out of the abyss that I had plunged into.

Bob is in his eighties now, and is still working although part time. You will find him back on the radio down in Lapine on KITC working with the morning show.

RL was the news anchor and morning personality at the then KICE. I soon found him to be one of the few radio people that I had met who were genuine on and off of the air. His personality that you met on the street was the same as the one that you heard when you listened to him banter on air.

RL and his on air partner, Rick Evans were instrumental in getting the name of Jake's out to Central Oregon. I told him that I wanted advertising that was different that would stand out and not just be a thirty second read ad that someone might key out.

RL and Rick took that challenge and every month for a week, we would do something different and sometimes even wacky (like the time we ran a contest for Country rap or another time when we turned up the radio at Jake's and I did a floor show with a new dish while they walked me through the show on air). At the end of the week, I would take breakfast down to the station and insure that I would take a couple of cinnamon rolls for the rest of the crew. RL and Rick along with the other personalities that partnered with RL in the coming years would eat the breakfasts and talk about them on air. I would often try out my new dishes on them.

The idea worked tremendous and had so much impact that later, the radio station had to tone it down as other restaurant clients complained that they were personally endorsing Jake's.

Those were good times, when I enjoyed bantering on air with RL or just sitting around and talking about our lives and our kids. To this day, our kids are paramount in our conversations with each other.

I watched RL as he did so many things for the community that he loved. He was even the Easter bunny for the area. He would often be the voice at many fund raising events such as Easter Seals or the Great Drake Park Duck Race which I believe he still does.

For a while, after the demise of KICE, I lost touch with RL but only for a short time. He was soon back and a part of KSJJ where he is at to this day. It was RL who announced to the area on their morning show that Jake's might just be staying alive. That show was videoed and later used for the first part of the movie, "Jake's Truck Stop". That show also nearly stopped the sale of Jake's as the new owners were complained to by listeners but I feel was also instrumental in those same new owners giving me the chance of keeping the business alive.

In the early 2000's, I was asked again to be on a committee to honor a man with his own day. This time it was RL and Bob was the head of that committee. Once again, the county named the day officially, RL Garrigus Day. I remember how honored I felt to be on the committees of both days and I do believe that they are the only two men in Central Oregon to this day who have been honored in such a way.

Like Bob, to this day, RL and I have remained friends but for many reasons such as business and such don't see each other as much as we used to. The same goes for the relationship between Bob and RL.

So, it was a real treat recently when I was able to drive up to KSJJ with Bob to surprise RL. I watched and admired as the two hugged and we all stood around and reminisced of days of old. I am honored and extremely thankful for the friendship of these two great men.


Jake said...

Your stories are one of the great contributions to the local blogosphere, and I love reading them. While I have lived in this town all 30+ years of my life, I know so little about some of its history and it's people (though I know both of these names). Thanks for sharing!

diner life said...

Thanks Jake. Your compliment means alot to me.

Elise Michaels Media said...

Two of the BEST. MEN. EVER! Ok, you make 3, Lyle. Where was I that day? I don't know how I could've missed the ruckus the 3 of you probably made. I musta been back by the copier. Maybe next time I'll get to wedge in between Bob & RL!

diner life said...

Ya see, that is what you get for taking a coffee break. If I would of known you were around, I would have searched for you.

BTW, I really miss your blog. I understand busy, however, when you see me blogging alot, it is because i can't sleep.