Joyce Day Meuse, Tillie Gort employee and long time PG resident was the Guest Columnist in the May 26 edition of our monthly “Keepers of Our Culture” column in the local Cedar Street Times.
Welcome to Tillie Gort’s Cafe—Local Favorite Since 1969…
Old Gort would like to express his appreciation toward each and everyone of the astonishing variety of our customers. The young, the wise, people of the business world, followers of the spirit, family folk and loners, grandmothers, musicians, carpenters, students & teachers, working folk, those just passing through, and the perennial “regulars”, whose loyalty keeps us alive during the slow times… We all share one thing in common… The love of good food and good company in a comfortable atmosphere. —Rosie 1976, tilliegortscafe.com
After I had my second child in Pacific Grove it was time for me to get a job. I had been to Tillie Gort’s Café at 111 Central Avenue. All the folks that worked there seemed so cool to me. I went back a number of times to beg for a waitress job from Steve, one of the owners. He finally relented and I got the job, which lasted for nine years.
Each shift crew consisted of the cook, the backup,—who did dishes as well as food prep—and two wait staff. Our customers were mostly locals who came in regularly for lunches and dinners. Some folks came in daily for a cup of coffee and small talk. I remember when the people who began the Monterey Bay Aquarium would often come in for lunch, as well as the people from across the street who worked at Digital Research, an early computer company. Our opinionated cook had nothing but disdain for the computer geeks.
Soup Maker and Baker
Eventually I became one of the soup makers and bakers who could earn extra money aside from our wait shifts. We had a special vegetarian soup made fresh every day. The daily special was a half sandwich with a cup of soup. There were a number of us who got paid to make the huge pot of soup, then put up a colorful sign on a paper plate and post it for our customers. A few of us also made Black Bottom Cupcakes, Jager Pie, No-Meat Loaf, and the wonderful Annie Laurie’s Shortbread. I loved the homemade cheesecakes that Arlis would make.
There were many characters who worked there and many became lifelong friends. We had daily fights over what music would be played in both the dining rooms and kitchen. Usually, the cook had his or her way. After work at night when we did cleanup and put the restaurant to bed we played upbeat and pretty loud music. All of the crew would join together in a trash can train the night before pick-up.
The owners had made a list of duties for the wait staff on poster board in the kitchen. You would go down the list of things to do before opening, and after closing. The staff was free to trade shifts as long as our days were covered. We had wonderful Christmas parties hosted by the owners—who gave each a Christmas bonus. A local photographer and sometimes employee, John McCleary, would take an annual photo in front of the restaurant. Many of the photos are still displayed on the walls at Tillie’s.
Those of us who worked and came to eat at Tillie’s made a wonderful heart connection that has continued into the present. Many of us still gather on Thanksgiving Day for an annual get together. We all still feel like an extended family.
Looking back on my life, working at Tillie’s was the best job I ever had.
“Life in Pacific Grove”
Personal stories such as Joyce’s continue to pour in on the website, www.lifeinpacificgrove.com, from our community and beyond. This week I received a telephone call from Jan Straley, in Sitka, Alaska, who is assisting Nancy Ricketts, Ed Rickett’s daughter, in her 90’s and who also lives in Sitka, to write and submit her story about growing up in Pacific Grove. She promises the portrayal of Doc Rickett’s will be a personal one of husband and father, and not as the famous marine biologist, friend to John Steinbeck. [after this column ran, I spoke with Nancy Ricketts – delightful woman, 92 years young – and she is sending all of her PG stories for our book!]
As the June 1 deadline for submitting stories is approaching, all stories are being read, catalogued, edited and prepared for book design and layout – my most creative and favorite part of creating every book I publish. Some stories are still being written and for those of you I extend the deadline to June 25. Book illustrator Keith Larson may still be seen around town sketching iconic PG sites, such as the Butterfly House, Centrella Inn, City Hall, Victorians, parks and beaches.
Chautauqua Days Book Launch Celebrations
We’re also in the planning stages for “Life in Pacific Grove” official book launch on October 6, 7 and 8. You may purchase books inside Chautauqua Hall with The Heritage Society of PG, in the Pioneer Section at the PG Public Library, and a special display at the BookWorks, now owned by Nell and Margo, a former owner of Tillie Gort’s Café. There MAY even be a reunion of former employees of Tillie’s—stay tuned!
Thank you for expressing your community spirit! Also submit by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or snail mail your stories to Life in Pacific Grove, P.O. Box 722, Pacific Grove, CA 93950. Book proceeds to benefit the PG Public Library.