Crescent City lies on the California coast, just before the Oregon border. It is by the ocean and also features mountainous regions, and redwoods. For natural beauty, it is one of California’s best-kept secrets. But for all the city’s scenic charm, it also contains that staple of small towns that serves as a gathering place, a location for the acquisition of gustatory pleasures – the diner. This particular diner is called Glen’s Bakery and Restaurant, and its story is unique and inspiring.
Glen’s Bakery and Restaurant in Crescent City, California, has had an interesting history. In an article in the Del Norte Triplicate, called “Glen’s Bakery Keeps Them Coming Back”, Jennifer Grimes writes:
“The Glen’s saga began in 1947 when Ray’s father Glen left the Army with $400 and a dream to open a bakery.
He brought his wife and 13-year-old son Ray from Medford and moved into the old Enderts Building that used to be on 2nd Street. Glens opened shop in what could only be described as a colorful downtown.
In the early 1950s, many of the buildings downtown had second floors that were rented out. Several were inhabited by houses of ill repute or madams, according to Ray. The upstairs of Glens was such a place, but only for a couple of years, he said.
But as for the old Enderts bakery itself, I searched online, but could find no trace there, of the place itself. It would have been interesting to know more about that place, but the trail ends, if we try and wander down that road. At any rate, Enderts came under new ownership, and that is where we must begin our tale.
Although we have no proof of what the original Enderts bakery was like, there is talk, and speculation, and rumors, and there are tales. The bakery was down in the bottom part of the original building. The top part of the building had been run as a house of ill-repute, by the mob in San Francisco, which ran several such places in Crescent City, or so the story goes.
We begin in the year 1947, with the family having moved to Crescent City, to open up shop at the Enderts bakery location on 2nd street. Young Ray Jr. would get up, at the age of 13 & 14 years old, fry doughnuts and make deliveries before he went to school. He made these deliveries out of a Ford Model A truck. After school, he’d come back and help in the kitchen. At the time, there was no other bakery in town, and the bakery provided bread at a time when it was hard for people in Crescent City to get it elsewhere.
The original Glen, who’s given the bakery his name, was Ray Young Sr.’s father. Glen originally ran the bakery when it was on 2nd street.
In an article titled “As American As Cherry Pie” by Matthew C. Durkee, Ray Sr. describes Crescent City as it used to be, back in the days of the original bakery.
“This was a big town back then. We had two or three car dealers, two full newspapers, two dairies, two mortuaries, two theaters, eight mills, three fisheries, about 25 restaurants and about 25 bars. The Army Corps was dredging every year, and we had oil and lumber barges coming in here.”
On the website for Crescent City, the importance of the lumber industry is explained, and contributes to the town’s growth and contraction. The site states that, “The timber industry has historically played a large role in Crescent City’s Del Norte county’s economy. This dates back to the 1850s, when the area experienced a boom in settlement as a result of lumbering activity that followed the mining industry and the need to supply lumber for mining and housing purposes.”
But that settlement boom was followed by a decline. The city website states that:
“Shortly after 1950, the number of mills began to drop as the industry transitioned from one based on harvesting old growth timber to one that relies on younger, smaller, less valuable second growth that is relatively more expensive to grow.”
And with this transition, there were fewer lumber mills operating in Crescent City, and other businesses in the area became less profitable due to the downturn in the area’s general economy.
Then came the tsunami. The city’s website states that, “The topography of the sea floor near Crescent City has the effect of focusing tsunamis.”
In an article titled “California Town Still Scarred By 1964 Tsunami,” Peggy Coons and her husband Roxey, who were the keepers of the Battery Point Lighthouse at the time, recall the event, saying, “The water withdrew as if someone had pulled the plug. It receded a distance of three-quarters of a mile from the shore. We were looking down, as though from a high mountain, into a black abyss. It was a mystic labyrinth of caves, canyons, basins, and pits, undreamed of in the wildest of fantasies.”
But things didn’t stay enchanting for long. They go on to state that, “Then the mammoth wall of water came barreling towards us. It was a terrifying mass, stretching up from the ocean floor and looking much higher than the island.”
Richard Gonzales, the article’s writer, describes the tsunami, stating: “It came by the light of a full moon in a series, it’s believed, of four waves. The first wave caused only minor flooding of shops and stores in the small downtown area near the shore. But Crescent City residents were familiar with high water. They had also had their share of tsunami false alarms. So residents and shop owners weren’t terribly distressed by the foot of water that flooded the lower blocks of downtown.” This explains why Glen and Ray Sr. were so relatively calm during the 1964 tsunami, as they watched the waves come into town.
But Peggy Coons expresses a more terrifying image of the tsunami coming in, stating, “When the tsunami assaulted the shore, it was like a violent explosion. A thunderous roar mingled with all the confusion. Everywhere we looked, buildings, cars, lumber and boats shifted around like crazy. The whole beachfront moved, changing before our very eyes. By this time, the fire had spread to the Texaco bulk tanks. They started exploding one after another, lighting up the sky. It was spectacular!”
What amazes me about tales of the tsunami, is hearing about all of the items that were shifted by the flood waters. On the beach at Crescent City, there’s a spot where you can see that one of the heavy concrete dolos was moved off of its base – that’s how powerful these tsunami waters were.
Peggy Coons continues: “The whole beachfront was a mass of destruction. Logs, boats, furniture, cars, along with buildings were tossed helter skelter. The lumber from three big yards was high on the beach or floating around in the water. The two small buildings, along with cars that had washed off the dock, had faded from sight. Some of the boat landings and small crafts were sailing around on top of the ocean in a dizzying pattern.”
At the time of the tsunami, my grandfather, Howard Soule, had a TV store near Pacific Power. My father relates the story of how a car was picked up by the flood waters and thrown through the window of the shop. Similarly, the window of the old Glen’s location was broken by the flood waters and had things thrown through it.
Let us examine the science of what happened that day in Crescent City, California. On March 28, 1964, the city of Crescent City, California, was hit by a tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of Alaska. This earthquake was an 8.6 on the Richter scale, and has since been upgraded to a 9.2. An earthquake of this magnitude is able to cause massive damage.
Jennifer Grimes writes that: “Glen’s like many other businesses, was wiped out by the wave. Ray tells a story of trying to save some of the equipment. He and Glen made a desperate attempt to pack up what they could and move it to their cabin by the river. But, a couple of months later, the river flooded and washed out the cabin and the equipment they had stored there. Those were hard times, but back then people here pulled together to help out, he said.”
In an article written about the 1964 tsunami in Crescent City, Bill Varble writes that, “The quake was the second largest ever recorded at the time, at 8.6 on the Richter Scale (since surpassed a number of times). The scale is logarithmic; the seismic waves of a 9.0 quake are 10 times stronger than that of an 8.0 quake. The difference in energy is even greater.”
This particular earthquake was caused by oceanic crust subducting beneath a continental plate boundary. Tsunamis – also known as seismic sea waves – can be caused by earthquakes, slippage of underwater faults, underwater avalanches, or volcanic eruptions. All of these cause an uplifting of the sea floor, creating vertical water displacement. Fault movement that does not displace water vertically will not create a tsunami. Often, the first wave of a tsunami is not the largest and there is a succession of waves. The tsunami that hit Crescent City came in four waves.
Seismic sea waves can travel thousands of miles to reach their destinations. According to Varble’s article, “At 5:36p.m. on March 27, 1964, 14 miles beneath Alaska’s Prince William Sound, the crust of southern Alaska shifted over the Pacific plate, releasing the energy of 12,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. The earth rumbled for three minutes. […] Four and a half hours later, the tsunami reached 2,000 miles south to tiny Crescent City – it would be the hardest hit.” In the Crescent City tsunami, 11 people died, and the tsunami had caused massive damage to the town. Varble reports that, “More than 5 million in aid in 1964 dollars poured in. Some structures were never replaced.”
Rory Young recounts the tale of how there was an appliance store next to the old bakery. During the tsunami, a window was broken out of both the appliance store, and the bakery, and somehow, twenty-one televisions went from the appliance store, into the bakery.
But then, of course, the diner was rebuilt, and it is this one that the town remembers. In a YouTube video about the restaurant, Ray Sr. gives us some insight into what prices were like at Glen’s, back in 1964. The bakery was selling coffee for ten cents a cup, in those days. The highest-priced item on the menu was $1.75, which was steak and eggs. Needless to say, prices have gone up quite a bit since those days.
The diner as I recalled it in the early 2000s, had an old-time feel to it, with its wood-paneled walls, its inviting pink chairs at the wooden bar, it had rose-colored curtains and the outside of the restaurant was painted white, its lettering in black and silver. Black and white photos of old Crescent City graced the walls, and a redwood plaque hung on the back wall. The restaurant had maple work floors and butcher block work tables. Laura Jo Welter writes that Ray Sr. “[…] cultivated a favorite lunch spot for many locals and spent countless hours prepping his breads, pies, cookies and donuts before dawn, until he retired 35 years later.” As a child, I’d see Ray Jr. working in the kitchen and it looked like fun. I wanted to do that! Of course, I knew and cared nothing of child labor laws, and much to my disappointment, the adults cooked my food, but would not let me cook in the kitchen at Glen’s. Oh well.
The patrons wore jackets and baseball caps, because the weather was often cold, up on the North coast. Ray and Roberta Young were two of the nicest people you’d ever met, always smiling, always pleasant. And behind the glass display cases, were all the confectionary goods that a person could want – cookies, cakes, pies, and even hot cross buns for Easter. Ray’s sons, Ray Jr. and Rory, worked in the kitchen, starting at about 4am or so. I was a child when I first went to Glen’s, and I remember my father telling me how early work began there. I tried to wrap my child brain around the idea of how anyone could possibly get up so early, every day. And indeed, running a bakery and restaurant is a lot of work. That’s why you don’t see many of them, anymore.
Ray Sr. said so himself, in the article for the Daily Triplicate, stating, “I’ve worked 12 hour nights for the last 53 years. That’s why there aren’t many bakeries any more – too much work involved.”
These are the details that interest me as a writer – the work involved, the origins of things, the thinking behind the decision making, and the actions that helped to create something like a bakery. They don’t just pop up overnight and enjoy instant success. Success is something you have to build up to, as with anything. At any rate, what I find remarkable about the history of Glen’s, is how the Young family didn’t let the tsunami deter them from pursuing their commitment to community service and keeping the bakery and restaurant open.
In an article in the Daily Triplicate titled “Owner of Iconic C.C. Bakery Dies,” Laura Jo Welter writes: “The business was built anew from the ground up, this time on Third Street, where it lived on to become the well-loved institution it is to this day, even as the doors have been officially shut since Ray retired in 2009.”
The article “Old Digs, New Life” written by Jessica Cejnar for the Del Norte Triplicate, gives us further details on how the bakery was re-opened, by stating that “Glen Young reopened the bakery, on 3rd and G, with help from a 4.5% SBA loan.”
Ray Young Sr. met his wife Roberta in Seattle, at a skating rink. They were married for over fifty years, and had four sons, but one of them passed away when he was a baby.
Ray Sr. took over from Glen in the year 1973, running Glen’s bakery along with his sons, Ray Jr., Rory, and Ricky, who were best friends of my father, David Soule. Ray and Rory worked at the bakery since they were teenagers. Rory worked there since he was 15 years old. Ray Young Sr. picked up what he’d learned from his father, but other than that, hadn’t had a background in the restaurant business. As Rory explains, Ray Sr. had to basically learn to run a bakery “from scratch”.
We know that running the bakery on 3rd, took a lot of hard work, late nights and early mornings, and determination. But it also took money. This is shown when Ray Sr. shows off, in a YouTube video, the first mixer bought for the bakery, back in 1949. He explains that this mixer was the same price that a new Chevy automobile would have been, at the time.
Also, one of the secrets to the longevity that Glen’s enjoyed, was that the bakery endeared itself to the people of Crescent City, throughout the long years of its history. This is shown in an anecdote shared by the article by Laura Jo Welter: “Take care of the community and the community will take care of you," Young was remembered to have said to his older son, Ray Jr., when asked why he didn't close up shop one winter in the 1980s. A fierce storm had knocked out power for the whole town, and most other businesses closed their doors. But Glen's remained open by candlelight, warmed by a gas-powered oven, so people would have a place to go for a hot meal, Rick Young said. This was characteristic of Young's whole philosophy in owning and operating a bakery in Crescent City, and that of his father before him.
It is these instances of connection to the community, that you do not see at the larger commercial dining places, and it is these gestures that show why many people prefer small-town dining to larger venues. Modern work culture stands in stark contrast to the values exhibited in small-town, family business diners like Glen’s. In an article titled “A ‘Permatemp’ Economy: The Idea of The Expendable Employee”, the staff of NPR ponder the subject of how modern workplaces treat their employees. We can contrast this with how Ray Sr. treated his employees at Glen’s. Sociologist Erin Hatton states that, “What I’m talking about here is this model of employment, the way we think about workers…There’s this new model of employment where we think that every penny that we spend on a worker is a penny taken away from the bottom line.” This view, held by many modern employers, has led to an erosion of the relationship and loyalty that employers and employees have with one another.
Hatton explains that the temporary help industry sold employers on the idea of temporary employment over hiring full-time employees. However, Hatton explains that temporary workers may look like a good solution, but that there are cons to this idea as well, stating, “If employers are looking for loyalty, well, you’re not going to get them from temps. If they’re looking for, perhaps, creativity or high productivity, you may not get them from temps either.” She also explains that, “[…] for most people, this kind of job is all about insecurity, lower wages, instability, and uncertainty.” I would argue that this assessment is true not just of temp jobs, but of many jobs in modern society. Now let us contrast this with how Ray Sr. treated his employees at Glen’s.
In her article, Jennifer Grimes writes: “Joe Jager, owner of Acme Painting Company has been a regular at Glen’s for 27 years. It’s the last surviving icon of the old Crescent City. Especially the old downtown, he said. There’s always somebody in there you know. And what I like about it is, I basically don’t have to say anything, Ginneen always knows what I want, said Jager.
Ginneen Thompson has been on the wait staff there for 23 years. Others on the staff say they’ve been there 26 years and 14 years. “I’m real fortunate to have these employees. They’re terrific people’, Ray said.”
Here, we can see that the issues that modern employers create for themselves, are largely nonexistent. It is evident, from what Grimes relays, that insecurity, instability, and uncertainty are not an issue here, with employees staying on for so long, and that loyalty plays a much larger role than in other jobs.
In an article titled “Why Do We Believe That Employees Are An Expendable Resource?”, Crystal Spraggins states that, “Employees are our greatest asset” has become such a hollow phrase, any marketing department still including this language in its company’s promotional materials should be ashamed.” It is hard to believe that the environment of work can have deteriorated to this sorry state of things in the year 2017, but it is unfortunately true. The articles I’ve researched on the subject, look back at the 1970s and point the blame directly at this phenomenon known as the Never-Never Girl, which was the invention of an advertisement extolling the virtues of temporary workers – that the “Never-Never Girl” never asks for a vacation, a raise, or any other fringe benefits. She “Never costs you a dime for slack time. When the workload drops, you drop her.” And that is a terrible sentiment, encouraging employers to have no loyalty whatsoever to their employees.
The Huffington Post recognizes this sorry state of modern work as well, with an article from September of 2017, titled “The Era of The Expendable Employee Needs to Stop”. Gil Laroya writes that, “Workers, who show up day after day, doing what they’re told in exchange for a dollar. The employee paradigm, over its time, has evolved into something that is not ideal – the concept that ‘You do as you are told, because I pay you, and I can fire you’. But before this concept became the rule, we had a different form of employment. We were all, in fact, independent owners. And during that time, nobody had the ability to fire anyone, because nobody had the power or leverage to. We see too many examples of people who do their work in fear of losing their jobs. Today we are all expendable, and it really needs to change.”
One of the reasons that Ray Sr. was a great man, was that he never treated people like they were expendable. But even with loyal, hardworking employees, running a restaurant in a small town has its challenges, and an owner has to create ways to draw in customers. In the article titled “Surviving As A Restaurant In A Small Town”, Donna Eigen provides suggestions for building a base of customers. Eigan writes, “If you run a small-town restaurant, you probably don’t have much competition. But you probably don’t have much of a customer base either. You can fix that by expanding your geographical reach. Create a specialty that will make your restaurant famous and bring customers from miles away.”
And indeed, Glen’s Bakery and Restaurant had its own specialty menu item to draw in customers – one that people would
rant and rave about, write about and tell their friends about, and that specialty item was Glen’s cherry icebox cookies. Laura Jo Welter writes that Ray Sr. was “known for his irresistible cherry icebox cookies and infectious humor and possibility.” She goes on to write that, “Even after he’d retired in early 2009 and the doors were closed, Young and his cherry icebox cookies continued to have a following.” Former Triplicate publisher Michele Postal added that, “He would go to the bakery by himself a few weeks before the holidays to bake up a batch of his famous cherry icebox cookies, and open the bakery one or two days. He was a good neighbor to us and a kind man.”
Inside Glen’s, Ray Young Sr. had photos and articles of the U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier – a ship he’d served on while taking a break from the bakery, during the Korean War. This was a time in his life that Ray Sr. was particularly proud of.
In his article for the Del Norte Triplicate titled “As American As Cherry Pie”, Matthew C. Durkee writes about the history of Glen’s, and what Crescent City was like in the early days of the establishment. In the article, Ray Sr. talks about watching the old building on 2nd street, being destroyed by the tsunami. “Glen was working in the bakery when the first wave hit, but he left when the second wave came up. Together, he and Ray watched the third and largest wave from the hill.” As a writer, I feel like this is the good stuff, right here, where the action is. Ray goes on to explain, “We watched transformers blow up and fires starting. We said, ‘Let’s go home. We can’t do anything about it.’” Durkee writes that, “The next day they returned to begin the cleanup. […] everything in the shop was coated with a slick layer of cooking grease.”
But despite all the setbacks, Ray Sr. loved Crescent City. Rick (or to me, Ricky), said, “He really loved Crescent City. It’s not too cold or too hot – he would say, ‘We’ve got the best weather in the world, and that goes for the people too.’”
Ray’s wife Roberta, however, didn’t seem to be so keen on moving to Crescent City, where it rains much of the year, the rainfall nourishing the redwood forests of the coast. In Durkee’s article, Ray states, “Back then, it seemed like it rained 350 days a year, and she cried 250 days. It’s gotten a lot better over the years, but I’ve joked that I almost had to lock her in the trunk to bring her home.” But despite this initial difference in their feelings about the place, Crescent City, California, soon became home for the Young family.
Determined to keep the bakery and restaurant going after the rebuilding process, Ray set about working hard and rebuilding the customer base and infrastructure of the business as well. Originally, he and his father Glen tried to salvage whatever items they could from the wreckage. Some of the equipment did end up being salvageable and was used in the new location.
Eigen’s article states that one of the things that a restaurant especially needs in a small town, is good customer service. Eigen writes that, “All the great food, ambiance and daily specials won’t keep customers and attract new ones if they don’t enjoy their dining experience. Offer excellent service with a smile and value for the money and your customers will keep coming back and help you grow your business through word of mouth.”
Ray believed in the importance of having a good, loyal customer base as well. In the article by Jennifer Grimes, he talks about his secret for how Glen’s managed to stay in business for so long, stating, “A lot of it is determinism and hard work. And, of course, the main thing is the customers that have stood by us.” Grimes writes that, “One secret to Glen’s success is the large and loyal following that crowds the old-style diner.”
Those who knew Ray Sr. (or “Big Ray” as he was sometimes called) as I did, fondly remember how he was always sweet and smiling, such a genuinely good man, no matter what storms life brought his way. He’s a man who genuinely cared about the people in his life, from his family and friends, to his scout troop, to his employees and customers. His was a life lived with a large heart, open wide to all the world. For me, it’s easy to write about him because I knew him, and I can still picture him in my mind as though it was only yesterday, the last time I saw him. I see his bright, warm smile in the depths of my memory. His work ethic reminded me of my grandmother, who stayed busy until her dying day. Ray had this same sense of dedication to his work, working tirelessly into his golden years, and doing it all with such a pleasant, happy attitude toward life.
Durkee writes that, “Ray starts work every evening at 7 and bakes until 6 am: hundreds of cookies are made by hand, as well as bread, cakes, doughnuts and pies. Everything is made from scratch, the same way he and his father have done it since 1947, and with most of the same equipment, built to last.”
In Jennifer Grimes’s article, she describes Ray Sr., stating, “Dressed all in white and splattered with flour and batter, Ray Young still has a fire in his eyes when he tells the story of Glen’s Bakery and Restaurant. It has survived 53 years in Crescent City.” And that’s how I remember him as well, a dynamic and hard-working man, even in his older years.
But all good things must pass, eventually, and it eventually became time to sell the restaurant. With food costs increasing, running a bakery and restaurant became increasingly more costly and difficult. Ray Sr. stated in Durkee’s article that, “It hasn’t been bad except for the fact that in the last six to eight months, the price of food has gone up so much we can’t keep up. It’s made a hell of a difference on everything.” Ray Sr. had to close the bakery in 2009.
But after a while, the business was sold to new owners and the building was renovated (which it seemed to need), and eventually re-opened. In the article, “Old Digs, New Life”, Jessica Cejnar writes about how Kevin Bingham has renovated the bakery and restaurant, to give it new life. And it sounds like quite a project. Cejnar reports that, “Kevin Bingham has been replacing the plumbing and the roof and tearing out the floor at the old Glen’s Bakery and Restaurant since October 2014. After putting more than $500,000 into getting the old bakery up and running, Bingham says he plans to be open by the city’s annual Fourth of July celebrations.” Best of all, Bingham knows and loves the history of Glen’s. Cejnar writes that, “Bingham said he’s loved Glen’s Bakery and its history since he moved to Crescent City in 1991 from Arizona. He pointed out that since Enderts Bakery had been around since at least 1932, he’s in the process of reviving one of the town’s oldest businesses.” So it’s good to see that the tradition of Glen’s, is being preserved for future generations, and that the business is passing into good hands. Ray Sr. would be proud.
Ray Young Sr. passed away in December of 2015, at the age of 82, having lived a good life. His obituary states: “Big Ray was beloved by all who met him. His easy smile, infectious laugh, giant heart and unending positivity drew young and old to him. Above all, Ray treasured the time he was able to spend with his family and friends. You couldn’t leave from a visit with Ray without receiving a big hug and being reminded about how much he cared. Ray also cherished spending time with his ‘boys’ from his time as a Scoutmaster for Troop 10 and Troop 78. Ray had the unique ability to make friends feel like family and to make everyone feel welcome.”
And that is the story of Glen’s Bakery and Restaurant, which became a well-loved locale in Crescent City, run by the equally-loved Young family for many, many years.