The Gottschalk family story, and todays Sellwood Inn
The Gottschalk family had few options, when the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 left them homeless. The devastating quake and ensuing fires caused by ruptured gas lines destroyed over 28,000 buildings, killed between 700 and 3,000 people, and left half the city without food, water and shelter.
While Elizabeth Gottschalk moved their three children Ann, George, and Elsie into safe quarters at a friend's house, her husband Wilhelm (Bill) continued to look everywhere for work.
The brewery where Bill had been employed was nothing but a mass of rubble, and he had grave concerns for the welfare of his family. Then he received an invitation from a relative in Portland about an opportunity to open up a saloon.
Leaving Elizabeth alone to care for the three children, Bill soon arrived in Sellwood looking for a solution. With the help of George Gottschalk Sr., who himself was working as a bartender in Portland, he purchased a small saloon run by Jules Rostian, and opened the Gottschalk Café and Beer Parlor on the corner of 17th and Umatilla.
Once he was settled, Elizabeth and the family arrived after a two day trip on the train, and were introduced to their new neighborhood.
Elsie Heineman recalled the ordeal the Gottschalks had to overcome, in an oral history about her family, compiled by her daughter Connie Shipley. While thousands of displaced families that had survived the Bay Area earthquake disaster would also write of their own horrors and revelations of these events, Elsie's family was one of the few with a Sellwood connection to it.
For the next 36 years, the Gottschalk family would call Sellwood their home, leaving behind lifelong friends they'd grown up with in Central California, and forging new relationships.
George Gottschalk Sr. died in January of 1909, unable to witness the opportunity he had afforded for his relatives. While Bill and Elizabeth ran the café, many relatives boarded with the Gottschalks when needed. Everyone pitched in, adults and children - cleaning, waiting on tables, cooking, and serving mugs of draft beer in the beer parlor to customers.
The children attended Sellwood School, grew up, and eventually married and started their own families. George Gottschalk Jr. helped tend bar during his early teens, and later worked as a conductor on the railroad - while Ann married local boy Stanley Poole. The couple operated a grocery store just catty-corner to the Gottschalk Café, and lived in a house at 15th and Sherrett Street.
Elsie Gottschalk met a loud and energetic Hungarian boy named John Tschida. John had immigrated to the United States when he was 14, and immediately went to work in various construction and lumber camps in the Northwest. He applied for a job as a fry cook at the old Seward Hotel, and later became a bellboy for the Multnomah Hotel in Portland's downtown district.
A romance developed, and Elsie Gottschalk and John Tschida were married in 1920.
Follow this next part carefully - there are two Elsies and lots of Tschidas in it!
Little Elsie Tschida had only been five years old when her mother Magdalena died from complications in 1931. Her aunt, Elsie Gottschalks Tschida (whom she was named after), and her father's brother, John Tschida, volunteered to take in little Elsie and her baby sister Bertie into their household.
After that, Victor Tschida, little Elsie's actual father, was still left with seven children to care for. Like the Gottschalks, Victor Tschida was left with few options. He decided that the remaining children would be divided among relatives or placed elsewhere.
Three of the boys - Johnny, Joe, and Victor Jr. - were sent on a train to live with their mother Magdalena's relatives in Canada.
Frank and Edward were taken to the orphanage at the Beaverton School for boys; and the oldest girl, Amelia, was raised by the nuns in Lake Oswego. Leo was able to stay with his dad until he was old enough to care for himself.
Meantime, Little Elsie and Bertie would spend the next two years at the Gottschalk Café. John and Elsie lived in a small room off the back porch, and Bertie stayed in a crib next to them.
Little Elsie had her own room on the second floor with a window that looked out over the backyard. John Tschida helped Bill run the bar, and spent mornings raising chickens in the back yard.
'One time I saw my uncle John hiding wine bottles under the wooden floor of a shack out in the back yard,' Recalls Elsie, 'And when I asked 'what are you hiding', he just put two fingers to his lips and smiled at me'.
Aunt Elsie expected both girls - one of whom was named Elsie also, remember - to help out in every way. 'My aunt told me: 'Elsie, we all have a job to do', and I was expected to wash down the walls of the stairways. It was really hard work for a little girl,' says Elsie Tschida Heineman today, in her lively Hungarian accent.
In those days, she spent every day riding on the new scooter that her aunt Elsie bought for her, when they walked into the business area of Sellwood. 'My aunt said, Elsie, now pick out a bicycle - and I did - but she said, 'no, not that one', because I think it was too expensive. So I picked out an all-wooden scooter with wooden handle bars and wheels.' Elsie's scooter was probably purchased at the Sellwood Cycle Shop located on the west side of 13th and Harney Street.
When his partnership with Bill Gottschalk failed to materialize, John became a salesman, selling punch boards and pinball games to store owners. John and the family moved to the Oak Grove area, and he later acquired a store on the west side of the river. For the next twenty years. John Tschida was the proprietor of John's Feed and Seed Company at 7133 S.W. Macadam, until it was torn down to widen the road.
When John, Elsie, and the two girls moved away, George Gottschalk returned to help his father and to continue the tavern business.
After 36 years in the Sellwood neighborhood, Bill - aged 82 - died on February 7, 1942. His wife Elizabeth (Kober) had preceded him in death by six years.
George Gottschalk lived upstairs and ran the bar during the evening for the next thirteen years, until he retired and moved to Lincoln City. In 1955, the Gottschalk was sold to Helen B. Luxa, who changed the name to 'Helen's Tavern'. By 1978, Carol Santangelo and Frank Wooley had purchased the tavern, and decided that The Sellwood Inn would sound more appealing to the neighborhood, and so it became.
George Grijalva acquired the tavern in 1991, and today, with the help of his son Jason, patrons enjoy the luxuries of microbrews and domestic beers. The pinball and punch board games that once distinguished the Gottschalk Café have been replaced with video games, Internet jukebox, and horseshoes. The hand-crafted bar and spittoons are no longer present inside the tavern, but customers can relax in the beer garden located out back - at what is now known as the 'Sellwood Inn Pub and Eatery'.
While times have changed, warm memories of the Gottschalk Café continue for Elsie Heineman - the memories of a little girl named Elsie Tschida… Who remembers waiting patiently by a glass gumball machine, watching for the little metal man inside with a shovel, to scoop up a colored gumball, drop it into the cup, and be whisked away by tiny hands to be popped into a tiny mouth.