Oren Cook was a large man with a
gentle soul. He was also very strong, having worked as a
blacksmith for several years. There is a family story about him
being challenged by some friends to show off his strength.
Apparently, he won the bet, because he managed to lift the front
end of a bus off the ground! He was also known for his wonderful
sense of humor. He kept a small book in his pocket with notes
about jokes he loved to tell. (None of them were crude, in fact
he was remembered as being a man who never used cuss words). He
had a photographic memory for jokes because all he had to do was
read a couple of words from the joke and he could remember it
Throughout his working years he
held various jobs, including taxi driver, working for a saw mill
and an ice cream factory, a blacksmith and a truck driver. It was
while working in Baker for the ice cream factory that he managed
to obtain his "secret" recipe for root beer.
Apparently, the owners of the ice cream factory encouraged him to
open the first root beer stand in Baker, Or. using this secret
recipe. His root beer stand became a great success, and he
eventually added a small grocery story and gas station next to
it. When the economy took a down turn, he decided to sell it and
move to Portland.
During his early retirement years,
he and Iva managed several motels on the Oregon coast. They often
spent their leisure hours competing in local dance contests and
won several prizes for ballroom dancing and waltzing. After
retiring, they bought a travel trailer and often spent the
winters in Mesa, Arizona, where they would meet up with friends
and relatives who had trailers of their own.
Oren loved to work with wood and
spent many leisure hours building small wooden items for the
garden. He also loved to collect and polish ocean agates and had
quite a collection of them.
Iva is remembered as a loving
mother and wife who loved to knit and had a green thumb with
indoor and outdoor plants. She loved to garden, and everywhere
they moved (which was often) she would plant flowers and tend the
garden with care. After their daughter, Margie, passed away they
helped to raise their granddaughter for a while before she went
to live with the eldest daughter, Helen and her husband, Gene
Dooley. She also attended "normal school" before she
married Oren, to learn to teach the lower grades. No one knows
how long she taught school.
Although there is little known
about Ivas younger days, she did tell her children about
growing up and migrating westward with her family from Missouri.
Apparently, her father and several of her brothers worked for the
railroad and the family actually lived on the train as they
helped to build the railways. Research and memories have
indicated that several of the Cook boys worked on the building of
the Sumpter Valley Railroad in eastern Oregon. The family photo
album is filled with photos of the railway cars with the men
standing nearby, and several shots of Iva standing on the rear
landing of a railcar.
As one of their grandchildren, I
have fond memories of spending times with them during their
visits to California, or during our visits to Oregon. I
absolutely loved them and thought they were the greatest and most
wonderful people alive, equal in my eyes to my other
grandparents, of course! Each Christmas, grandma Cook (Iva) would
knit each of us girls a pair of slippers and I always looked
forward to receiving them. They were very comfortable, and by the
time each new Christmas arrived, the old pair was just about to
worn out. I wore them often. I have photos of my grandfather,
Oren and me when I was about three years old, with him holding me
by my knees (which were rigid) above his head. Not only was he
strong, but he managed to train me to keep my legs rigid while we
both performed this feat.
Sandra Branson Young