Why Cottage Grove

Twenty-eight years ago Chuck and I moved from Southern California (the land of eternal sunshine) to the unpredictable weather at Cottage Grove Lake. March 1989 was our introduction to a textbook Oregon springtime. One minute the sun was shining and the next it was raining cats and dogs. In fact, it rained 11 inches that month breaking all previous records.

On move-in day, we discovered that those rains had saturated the ground so much that our humongous moving van got stuck in the mud and had to be pulled out by Taylor Towing. You can only imagine how embarrassed our driver was when a woman (!) tow truck driver arrived to pull him out of the muck.

In California, our neighbors and friends all asked the same questions. “Why Oregon? It rains there. And why Cottage Grove?” ‘Why’ indeed.  Moving to Oregon was not on our bucket list. We weren’t retired and no jobs awaited us. We were, however ready for a little adventure and living by a lake was our lifelong dream. My husband’s mantra is “let’s go” and my motto is “When in doubt follow your heart.” So we did.

At the time I remember describing the town of Cottage Grove with words like small, quaint and charming. The population hovered around 8,000 people but it had all the basic facilities one needed: banks, grocery stores, doctors, a hospital, veterinarians, a newspaper, restaurants, gas stations, schools, churches and a donut shop! You know, a regular town.

Our C.G. adventure actually began in 1987 when we were touring Oregon in our little Tioga RV. I thought of it as a temporary stopover on the road of life. What I did not know was that this place would capture our hearts.

We discovered Cottage Grove by pure happenstance. We had left Crater Lake in the Tioga with our Honda motorcycle perched on the back. After several weeks on the road we needed a place a decent lunch, a shoe store for new motorcycle boots and a place to spend the night. Our AAA map said C.G. had it all! 

On that first visit, we discovered there was no Fast Food Row of places like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, etc. But there were other places to eat including the wonderful but long gone Copper Rooster coffee shop at the Village Green. Coming into town we also passed the historic Dr. Pierce Barn, and the Village Shopping Center that housed a Hub clothing store, Tiffany’s Pharmacy and a grocery store. All of those businesses are now history.

It was only later that we would discover the Gateway Shopping Center where Merchant’s Donuts became Kaiser’s Country Donut. There, thanks to the morning coffee guys, we got to know the locals and to appreciate the area’s lumber and mining history. 

Main St. was the shopping hub. Downtown was bustling with business. There were antique stores, hardware stores, banks, pharmacies, gift shops, Ruth and Elsie’s Dress Shop, a jewelry store, The Bookmine, Schweitzer’s Men’s Wear, Homestead Furniture, two shoe stores owned by the Hoover family and more! At that time Safeway was located where the Community Center is now and across the street was a Cornet store (the local five & dime). 

That day we got some good advice and made two memorable purchases. First, we had lunch at tiny Tilly’s Top Hat Pies. Oh, my! My husband said that tears ran down my face after just one bite of Margaret Tilly’s apple pie a la mode. It was that good. 

At Self-Selecto-Shoes, manager Mike Thiess found us just the boots that we needed and then asked where we were spending the night. He suggested that we head out to C.G. Lake and Pine Meadows Campground. We did and that is where we fell in love with the place that we now call home. 

So much has changed in nearly three decades. The town has grown. Businesses have come and gone. A landmark has been destroyed and others have been built (Opal Whiteley and Bohemia Parks). We even have traffic jams! Still, every spring as the rains come down, the flowers bloom and the grass turns green, we feel blessed that we heeded the call to a new lifestyle and moved to The Grove. 

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail — [email protected].