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Safari Club: the stuff of local legend

by: CONTRIBUTED BY JANE PARK. - Glen Park after shooting a lion in Zimbabwe in 1973.When asking around town about the Safari Club, you hear lots of stories.

Some people will claim to have stolen and returned the elephant’s foot, or to at least know someone who did.

And legend has it that hair kept growing on the foot.

That’s just how people talk about the Safari Club, a famous Estacada destination in its heyday.

Everyone has a story.

Some people went in for late night waffles during high school.Others tell of dragging the bear on wheels — holding a tray of matches — outside.

Others tell of bar fights and waitresses in black dresses with leopard-print yoke. For others, it's a childhood memory of waiting in the buffet line.

The former hot spot drew hundreds of people to enjoy the menu, entertainment and wild atmosphere. And, of course, the hundreds of exotic taxidermied animals set up in elaborate displays so that patrons felt as though they were dining right in their habitat.

“My dad got 99 percent of the animals,” Mike Park said of his father, Glen Park. “He had been into hunting all his life. Ever since he was a little kid hunting squirrels and stuff.”

As a grown up, Glen Park was in the “lumber and logging business” and employed several hundred people.

Mike Park said his father “worked almost all the time” and was a “fanatic” about having his lumber mill clean and running smoothly.

Glen could also fly planes, and would often fly his own while conducting business.

Big game hunting was an “outlet” for Glen. Mike said his father had been around the world 23 times.

Mike accompanied his father on two hunting trips in Africa in the late 1960s. It sounds like quite an adventure.

Back then, there were few guides and because of the high cost of the trips, few other hunters.

“Botswana, when I went there, was mud huts, it really was,” he said.

Mike recalls his father being injured when a Land Rover backed over him during one of the trips.

From all of his hunting trips to far-off countries, Glen had amassed a huge collection of taxidermied creatures.

Glen had been wanting a place to display his collection for quite some time.

“It takes a big place to show them all,” Mike said.

Glen Park sold his lumber company in 1968. And in the summer of 1970 he purchased a building that had been a “sportsmen’s club” and the building next door.

by: CONTRIBUTED BY JANE PARK. - Glen Park with his son on safari in Kenya in 1972.After combining and remodeling the buildings, the Safari Club was born. More than 100 of Glen’s taxidermied animals had found a home. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

“It was so unusual to do something like that,” Mike said.

One local resident remembers it this way: “When it was done it was like walking through a dead zoo."

“In its day it was something. It really was,” said Mike, who ran the club with his father and eventually took it over.

The Parks ran the place from 1970-1986.

Mike fondly recalls the marketing schemes he used to draw moneyed Oregonians to the business.

He sent invitations and advertising materials to every judge, doctor or lawyer he could find in Clackamas and Multnomah Counties.

He must have been pretty successful with his advertising. He remembers getting 400 reservations for a typical Friday or Saturday night.

by: CONTRIBUTED BY JANE PARK. - A menu from the Safari Clubs early days.“I was doing a million dollars in food back in the 1970s. And that was unbelievable for any restaurant,” Mike said. “We’d get so busy it almost drove me crazy a couple times.”

Locals remember how there’d be no parking for blocks around the Safari Club on a busy night.

“It was a destination for a lot of people,” said Barbara Mattson, owner of Barbara’s Flowers and Coffee.

Justin Venetucci, owner of Just In Video, remembers the Safari Club being “the biggest draw in town.”

After 16 years with the Safari Club, Mike sold the business in 1986.

There have been other tenants, but the business hasn’t been up to its former glory in quite some time.

As for the animals, many are still in the building. Mike removed some and donated some to a museum in Tillamook. The rest were sold with the building.

by: JIM CLARK. - This is what the Safari Club looked like in 2011.Back in 2011, new tenants reopened the Safari Club and added 20 new animals, but more than 40 of the original animals remained.

But now the building is closed.

Ken Quinby, who is the property manager for the Safari Club explained that the current tenants have moved out and locked the doors but continue to pay rent to the building’s owners.

Their lease expires at the end of October.

Quinby said that he has suggested to the owners that the building be subdivided to make it “viable for several small businesses to move in.”

“They’re open for almost anything at this particular juncture,” said Estacada City Manager Bill Elliott.



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