Satisfiying Patrons For Nearly 90 Years
For almost ninety years Smeads Pub has stood strong at the corner of Evergreen Way and 34th Street, serving fine food and drinks to the people of Washougal and its visitors.
But who was Smead?
Smeads Pub opened for business as a gas station, general store and a small lunchroom cafe back on March 13, 1931 as I.T. Smead’s. Ira Thomas Smead and his wife Clara purchased the land in 1924 but it took seven more years for them to realize their dream.
Born in Kansas in 1890, Tom Smead’s family name was originally Schmied. His great-grandfather immigrated to Indiana from Switzerland in the early 1800’s. By 1900, Tom was living in Washougal, WA, with his parents and eight brothers and sisters. Although his parents were farmers and he lived with them, by 1917 Tom made his living as a gill net fisherman and was one of only a handful of people who owned a car in the area (although he split ownership with some friends).
After Tom registered for the draft for World War I, Tom’s uncle, head of a draft board in Hutchinson, KS, changed the family’s name. The original German-language spelling of Schmied was anglicized to a more English-sounding Smead, likely due to anti-German sentiment rampant in the US during the war. Although no records exist of Tom Smead serving in World War I, he soon found himself on a different adventure.
Clara Ruth Hayden was born in 1893, three years after Tom, in Montana to immigrant parents from Sweden. Little is known about her early years other than her mother was committed to a mental hospital in Montana in 1895 for unknown reasons. In 1912 Clara married Archibald Merrill, a baker, in Spokane, WA. She was only nineteen at the time with a baby boy following two short years later in 1914.
That same year Clara, her husband Archibald and one of his brothers opened a confectionery store in Spokane. Business went well and the family prospered. Good times, however, did not last. In 1918 Clara suspected her husband of having an affair with one of the shop girls at their store. Her suspicions were confirmed after spying her husband and his paramour early one morning through the basement window of the store. Clara said nothing. Instead she packed up her belongings and headed off with her young son to live with an aunt in Washougal.
Although Archibald came to plead his case, Clara stood her ground. A judge soon granted them a divorce but let young Richard, Clara and Archibald’s only child, choose whom he would live with. The boy, enticed by his father’s gifts and candy, chose his dad. Now single and without a child to care for, Clara was soon working at the Pendleton woolen mill as a weaver and renting her own place.
Tom and Clara met in 1920 and within the year were married. Two daughters followed, one in August 1921 and the other in September 1924. Only a month before their second daughter’s birth, Tom and Clara purchased the property that would eventually become Smead’s Pub. Records show there was at least one building on the property in addition to the Smead’s house, perhaps even two or three. While this would provide the young Smead family with rental income, Tom continued to work as a fisherman in the area.
In 1931 the US government was building and paving highway US 830 which, fortuitously, passed right by the Smead’s family property. Realizing the golden opportunity right in front of them, Tom retired from fishing and, with his wife Clara, opened the gas station and small lunchroom cafe on Friday, March 13th, 1931. Even though it was during the Great Depression and not many people owned cars, the family still sold 13 gallons of gas on opening day.
Less than a year later, Tom transferred ownership of the property and business to Clara on January 26, 1932, for the grand sum of $1 along with Clara’s “love and affection.” Romantic though it might have been, it was a good decision, as was adding alcohol sales in 1933 following the repeal of the Volstead Act and Prohibition on December 5th, 1933.
As one of the first taverns in Washougal, Smead’s Tavern, along with the gas station, the general store, confectionery store and lunchroom all on the same premises, it was well-positioned to succeed. It did. For the next seventeen years Tom and Clara ran their business, cementing themselves as a fixture in the community and area. In 1950, Tom and Clara sold Smead’s Tavern along with the gas station and store to Mark and Margaret Pearson.
The name of Smead’s, however, stayed.
Over the next sixty years, Smeads Pub changed owners, had robberies, fights, shootings, fundraisers, birthdays parties, karaoke and, along the way, thousands of satisfied patrons. Currently owned by Kimber and Dave Eckman, Smeads Pub is entering the new decade with amazing plans for its future.