By Bill Lundquist
Pilot Staff Writer
Wednesday was an eclectic mix of art, collections and even history for 54 participants of Hospitality Tours.
Fittingly, the morning started with tea and coffee at The Tea Room in the Abbey Mall at Oak and Redwood.
One participant said, "If this isn't your favorite place to eat, you haven't been in town long," but The Tea Room is even more famous for owner Fran Alden's collection of 1,371 teapots.
Actually, it was 1,371 in November, not counting the miniature pots and the 125 teapots Alden keeps at home, but she said more arrive every week, if not every day.
She has no idea if her collection is some kind of world record.
"I don't know the value of the teapots," said Alden. "I didn't set out to do this."
When the restaurant opened, only one small corner of it was called The Tea Room. Alden figured anything with that name needed a few teapots for decoration.
"The teapots just started coming in," she said.
They never stopped coming. She once arrived for work and found a box of 15 teapots sitting in front of her door. She never learned where they came from.
Most of the teapots in the collection were given to her, said Alden. "The most I ever paid for a teapot was $6."
She showed off a brass teapot from India, and one from Russia with tea-making instructions in it written in Russian.
Alden said her most treasured teapot is not her largest or smallest, but one given to her by an old friend who, as a child, used to play with it.
The friend's mother also used to play with it when she was a child. The teapot came to Oregon in a covered wagon.
"It was very precious to me," said Alden. "The friend had a granddaughter, but said I'd appreciate the teapot more than she would."
When tour participant Bill Hiltz learned her collection now exceeded 1,500 teapots, he said, "So you don't need any more."
"Oh yes I do," said Alden.
Once a year the restaurant closes for two weeks. The Aldens go on vacation while their employees hand wash every teapot.
She said her husband John is actually descended 10 generations from the famous Pilgrims John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. She doesn't have a teapot from that era, however.
The Tea Room is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Alden said all the pies, desserts, chili, soups and biscuits are made by hand every day. She also makes cakes for weddings and other special occasions.
The tour went a couple of blocks down Oak Street to Words and Pictures bookstore and art gallery to watch artists Buzz Stewart and Jay Mosby sketch in watercolor.
Co-owner Pat Stewart said Buzz went to art school and has worked in the fine arts since the 1970s.
The Stewarts opened their bookstore and gallery in 1988 where Blockbuster Video is now located.
They moved to Oak Street in 1998 and added to the building to make room for the art gallery.
Pat said she wants to add on again to make more room for art, but the Brookings construction boom has her waiting in line for a contractor.
The tour traveled a few blocks to the KURY radio station, where owner Vern Garvin took participants back to the days when Brookings wasn't exactly booming.
"Brookings was a ghost town," said Garvin of the days between the closure of its mill and the lily bulb boom.
"You could buy any house you wanted for $200." He said he knew a teacher who bought a lot in 1948 for $15 and built a house.
"It changed," said Garvin, cracking people up with the understatement of the year.
Garvin said his father came to Brookings in 1912, and his mother in 1915. He was born in Gold Beach because that was the only place in the area with a doctor. He said Brookings had a population of about 200 at the time.
As one of the few residents still in Brookings who lived through most of its history, Garvin is involved with the Chetco Valley Historical Society Museum. He sees his job as maintaining historical truth.
He entertained the tour participants with photos and information about the old days of Brookings.
He said locomotives used to run down Railroad Street, where his office now sits, to bring lumber and logs to the long wharf in Chetco Cove.
The Japanese bought enough logs just prior to World War II to cause a small boom in the Brookings economy.
When the war came, it resulted in another boom by cutting off supplies of Easter lily bulbs from Japan.
Now, nearly all the Easter lily bulbs in the world are grown in Harbor and Smith River.
Garvin explained old photos of Brookings and nearby logging operations. Brookings got its start as a company mill town, and Garvin said the Brookings brothers brought in architects to build the town.
Some of that architecture still exists on Redwood Street above Coast Auto. Lee's Dragon Gate restaurant was once the old company mess hall.
Garvin said homes from that era on Pacific Avenue were built on foundations of redwood block that still hasn't decayed.
He told of the days when all the electricity in Brookings came from one diesel generator. When arc lights accidentally touched at the theater, all the lights in town went out.
Garvin also told of the old days of radio, when a lot of disc jockeys were needed to run KURY.
He said the station now has the most modern equipment and could practically run itself if everyone left for a week. Listeners can hear the results 24 hours a day at 95.3 FM and 910 AM.
After lunch at the Whaleshead Restaurant, the tour drove up Rainbow Rock Road to see the copper-crafting studio of Sharon Vaughn.
Vaughn has worked in wood and silk-screening, but said, "What I like to do right now is copper."
She demonstrated how she brings colors out in copper by heating it over an open flame. She uses pencil-type burners to focus flame and create swirling patterns.
"The colors depend on the weather at the time and the size of the piece," said Vaughn. "I don't know exactly what I'm going to get."
Sometimes she uses chemicals to produce colors like blue.
The result can be anything from a small piece of jewelry to a large hammered copper table.
"It's an interesting product," said Vaughn of copper, "Warm. I sand it and shape it and steel-wool it. I have the space to play with it now."
Those interested in Vaughn's functional copper art can call her at (541) 469-6395.
February's Hospitality Tour will return to Gold Beach on the 18th. The tour is free. Call Jan Norwood at (541) 469-4909 to reserve a spot.
Norwood is also hosting ballroom dance lessons at her home 7-9 p.m. Feb. 14, Valentine's Day.