When World War II broke out, Pete joined the army. After the war, he returned home and took over management of the family’s thriving Greek restaurant. That’s when Pete Zanetos packed away his horn for good. No regrets? I wonder.
After a night out dancing, we usually made a beeline for some lovers’ lane, or we took our dates to a late night eatery. Or, sometimes both. “Hey, let’s go get a hamburger and a Coke!”
One of the liveliest and most popular joints for teenagers on the eastside of town was the Coon Chicken Inn. Coon Chicken Inn—a descriptive, full-flavored name from a time when attitudes and stereotypes that would set off alarm bells today, once passed unnoticed.
Equally offensive by today’s criteria would be the bizarre entrance to the place. A giant, round, cartoonish head of a laughing Negro jutted out from the center of the low-slung building, like the entrance to some grotesque, boardwalk fun house. You walked through the wide-open mouth of this caricature to get to the front door.
The pop-eyed Negro in the chicken coop was a cliché, of course, right out of black face-, vaudeville. Subtlety had nothing to do with it. Up until World War II, ethnic humor, sexual jokes and the free use of racial and sexual stereotypes were staples of popular humor—from sophisticated covers of magazines like The New Yorker all the way down to weekly zingers by an array of famous comedians on national radio. It was another era.
I first met Vic Collin at Coon Chicken Inn. We were both feeding the flashy, “nickel in the slot” jukebox. Vic was a football star at Grant High School, where they called him “Ripper.” Years later, Vic and I worked together in both Portland and Los Angeles.
Nobody expected the Reno wedding of Agnes Peterson and Eddie “Double Thumb” Daniels to last. Agnes and Eddie were a couple of tough, independent people.
“I give them six months, maybe less,” Emma Lindquist had predicted.
“Maybe a year,” my mother countered at the time.
Yet five years had passed since Agnes and Eddie returned from their boisterous Reno weekend. In their uptown Portland flat, they hosted a small party to celebrate their fifth anniversary. Throughout most of the evening, they clung together on the couch like a couple of newlyweds—still very much in love.