A Lucky Break
- Sharon Nesbit
- Gresham Outlook - Features
At McMenamins Edgefield's latest creation - a good, old-fashioned pool hall - Lucky Staehly's spirit is alive and well
Lucky would be so proud.
McMenamins Edgefield opened a swanky new pool hall last Friday in the same basement area of the main lodge where crooked old men once whiled away the hours hoping for an eight-ball break.
The new joint comes with better tables, Hollywood lights, food and a supply of beer, wine and spirits that the old guys would have loved. And it bears the name of long time Edgefield resident Lucky Staehly.
Lucky, who died in 1993 at the age of 83, was 50 when an accident made him a paraplegic and brought him to Edgefield in a wheelchair. Devilishly handsome with a great tan and a drop-dead smile, he lived two decades at Edgefield with a broken body and an unbroken spirit.
Born John Jacob Staehly, he lived up to his nickname, lucky not only at the pool table where his eye-level perspective was believed to be an advantage, but also, say the whispers, with the ladies he charmed into his room.
For many of his 20 years at Edgefield he was a fixture on Halsey Street where he spent nice summer days sitting shirtless in his wheelchair waving to passers-by.
'His skin was like leather from all that sun,' remembers George Klinger of Troutdale.
A generation of kids grew up waving back and some stopped to buy him pop or ice cream.
'They called him The Waver,' remembers Jo Callister, former Troutdale resident, who worked in the office at Edgefield. As to Lucky's adventures after dark, Callister said, 'I wouldn't be surprised.'
Klinger, whose parents both worked at the county farm, said Lucky tended to stray from time to time, wheeling his chair to a Troutdale tavern. 'My father (Lewis Klinger) always had to go to Troutdale and bring him back, kind of a taxi service,' he said.
The stories and the characters of Edgefield are woven into the tapestry of the place by Tim Hills, McMenamin's historian, who observes 'pool has been a fixture of Edgefield life since the place opened as a county poor farm back in 1911.'
Most local kids, at one time or another, had a chance to join the pool games in the Edgefield basement.
Renee Rank, McMenamins' marketing director, sees the new poolroom as another dimension for Edgefield and something new to do, especially in the winter months. It offers a jukebox, two pinball machines, an English billiard table, vintage 1870, measuring 6-by-12 feet, as well as five pool tables and two dart boards. Another vintage table, a 4-by-8 foot 1918 Brunswick Madison, comes from the notorious Olympic Club pool hall in Centralia, Wash.
'It boasts a patina seasoned by illicit liquor, cigar smoke and dangerous propositions,' brags the promotional piece cooked up by Hills.
'Great,' said Richard Weeks of Eugene, 'but it needs a little more smoke.' Smoking is permitted in the venue, as well as television.
Another illicit attraction at the new Lucky's is likely to be the antique urinal in the men's restroom rigged with fanciful plumbing and gauges by Edgefield artist/plumber Jeff Allen. The boys have all the fun. Also in the men's room is a sewer pipe face, dubbed the Sewer Sultan, painted by Dawn McConnell.
The menu at Lucky's includes many McMenamins favorites and pizza from its new pizza kitchen.
Lucky Staehly came to Edgefield in May 1960, transferred from the county hospital. He arrived at about the time the old poor farm was being converted into the Edgefield nursing home facility. Once a state-of-the-art nursing home, Edgefield offered physical rehabilitation, and Staehly was zealous about lifting weights and keeping his physique. Hills' history recalls his blue ribbons for the 50-yard dash and slalom events at the Oregon Wheel Chair Games in 1977.
Edgefield was closed in 1982, and its patients moved to nursing homes throughout the Portland-metropolitan area. Staehly was transferred to a nursing home in Gladstone on Dec. 7, 1981. He died in Molalla on Oct. 19, 1993. By that time, Edgefield was being revived by Mike and Brian McMenamin, but whether Lucky ever knew of it or ever visited again is unknown.
Troutdale Historical Society genealogist Doneva Shepard traced Lucky to his birth in Wisconsin. His parents were immigrants from Switzerland.
The Staehly family came west in the 1930s, and Shepard speculates that Lucky Staehly may have worked for his older brother, Fred, on a dairy farm at Cloverdale near Tillamook. No record of a marriage has been found. The accident that made him a paraplegic is still a mystery.