Etie's Cafe
By Cheyne Etie


 


[This booklet was written by Cheyne Etie in 1996 when he was a student at McAllister Jr. High. His dedication reads “I would like to dedicate this book to my grandmother, Martha Jane Etie. Without her years of snipping out articles and saving pictures, this book would not have been possible.”]

O’Neil R. Etie was born in Franklin, Louisiana, not knowing that he would become famous in Matagorda County, Texas later in his life. In his young adult life he met and fell in love with Ozieia Landry, who was also born and raised in Louisiana in the town of New Iberia. The Eties had their first son, Ashley, while they were living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

They moved to Old Gulf, where O’Neil worked for Texas Gulf Sulphur Company as a hoist operator for many years. Ozeia spent her days cooking for and serving meals to the many Texas Gulf Sulphur white collar workers who ate in the Etie home every day. Tables were set up in their living room and three times a day, the workers filed in for the family style meals. This service that Ozeia performed led to the idea of their first restaurant “The Old Gulf Cafe” on Main Street in Old Gulf where they served the people of Old Gulf for many years after O’Neil retired from Texas Gulf Sulphur. The Etie’s second son, Kenneth, was born while they were living in Old Gulf.

The Etie’s decided to move their business to Bay City in 1932 and located in a store front on Seventh Street, which they rented from Mr. Leopold Schwartz. The new restaurant, Etie’s Cafe and Confectionery, opened for business on January 14, 1931. The following article was published about their opening.
 

ETIE CAFE AND CONFECTIONERY OPENS SATURDAY

The Etie Cafe and Confectionery, owned by Mr. O. R. Etie, owner of a cafe in Gulf, for several years will open Saturday morning for business. This cafe is located in the old Gulf Cafe Building on the north side of the square and is a very attractive place. The interior is most artistically decorated, the wall behind the counter being beautifully painted by a young artist, Mr. Don Nezval of Richmond and the edges above the coat rack are painted in smaller designs. The tables and chairs are of walnut finish with leather seats, which will make it most comfortable and the long counter is of California redwood. The kitchen is equipped with large Frigidaire refrigerators making it always possible for the food to be in perfect preservation. Mr. W. H. Buell, formerly of Chicago, Ill., and Monroe, La., but a resident of Texas for the past several years having been chief steward for two years at the Galvez in Galveston and two years with the Houston Yacht Club in Houston, will be in charge of the kitchen. Mr. Buell will be ably assisted by Mr. Paul Lefler formerly of Cleveland, Ohio. Both of these men having had much experience in this field of work are very capable of making dishes most desirable to anyone’s taste. Mr. Allen (Doolie) Franz will be in charge of the fountain, which is enough said to assure the best drinks made.

Mr. Etie is very well known and liked and we feel sure he will make this cafe a grand success. We join Bay City in wishing him luck and our appreciation for choosing our city for his location. We are very proud of this outstanding attraction.

Mr. Etie wishes us to extend a hearty welcome to everyone to visit his cafe any time and to announce that hot coffee, cake and ice cream will be served from 2 p.m. till 8 p.m. free of charge, Saturday afternoon.
 

The prices on the menu were very reasonable, 25₵ for a Merchant’s Lunch, 35₵ for a Plate Lunch, and 50₵ for a four course dinner. A cup of coffee was 5₵ per cup with as many refills as you could consume. When Mr. Etie announced one day that he was having to increase the price of a cup of coffee to 15₵ per cup, some people said that people would never pay such a price.

Mrs. Etie introduced rice to the people of Bay City and it was never omitted from the choice of vegetables for the entire 40 years the restaurant was in business. It was always the first vegetable listed in the choice of six. Mrs. Etie cooked ½ cup of raw rice on the first day of business, and when the business sold in later years, they were cooking between 300 and 400 pound of rice a month.

In 1939, the cafe and Rosenzweig’s clothing store next door were the first businesses to air condition their buildings. Before that time the dining area was cooled by two huge fans at the front. Many customers came in just to sit in the cool atmosphere and sip a Coke.

From the beginning, when Etie’s opened on Seventh Street, it was destined to play a major role in the history of Matagorda County. It became the common meeting place of the town. Anyone wishing to contact another individual stood a very good chance of making that contact at Etie's as well as in joining a good meal. A large table in the rear part of the dining room was the favorite meeting place of many of the area rice farmers and city businessmen. Some of the history deciding business deals of Bay City were initiated and consummated over that table. The county agents used this table gathering in the morning to keep abreast of agriculture in the area. It also made a good consultation spot and often more business was carried on at that table than at the office.

A bulletin board on in the restaurant, before in-car radio communication, was perfected. Oil well repairmen stopped at Etie’s after a job for coffee. If there was another job for them to go to, the office phoned Etie’s and the message was posted on this board. The the oilfield communication, with workers from Corpus Christi to Houston, often centered on Etie's bulletin board. The cafe was so well known around Texas, Sigman Byrd, a writer for the Houston Post, once wrote about the cafe.
 

Living Dangerously on The Coastal Prairies of Texas
By Sigman Byrd

There is no end of occupational hazards in this business. While innocently practicing my profession of newsmonger, I have been bitten by dogs, stung by wasps, shot at by people with firearms, detained by policemen and even threatened with assassination. My car has been stuck in sand and mud in remote places during torrential rains. I have often been sunburned, half-frozen, insulted, frustrated and lied to. The danger of sudden death on the highway seldom leaves my mind, and I must be constantly on the alert against indigestion and food poisoning.

But last week something new happened to me.

Having hit Bay City around noon, I stopped at Etie’s (pronounced “EAT-eyes”), for lunch. Etie’s is one of the half-dozen or so really good restaurants to be found in the towns of Southeast Texas. Besides excellent food and service, it has a snappy bulletin-board telephone service for traveling men and a number of other unusual features.

If the editor had wanted to get in touch with me on the road, he could have had his secretary put in a call to Bay City, and onto Etie’s bulletin board would have gone a message asking me to call the office.

Strangers in Bay City are puzzled by an electric sign on the rear wall at Etie’s that simply says: “FMBC.” Sometimes one of those letters will light up for a moment, then another. Again two or three will light up briefly at the same time; then occasionally the whole sign lights up.

Once two strangers sat at a table while one figured out that the sign had something to do with a radio station, FM, he reasoned, meant frequency modulation, and BC, of course, Bay City.

But his companion reasoned that each letter stood for the name of a waitress. Like Fanny, Mabel, Becky and Cynthia. And that was nearer right, although Etie’s has more than four waitresses.

FMBC simply means Front, Middle, Back and Counter. A lit-up letter is a signal from the kitchen meaning an order for one of those stations is ready.

And while your food waits on the bar between the kitchen and the pantry, is it getting cold? No, sir! For a battery of infra-red lamps keeps it piping hot.

That’s the kind of a place Etie’s is. And so I reckon what happened to me was my own fault.

When my steak came it was garnished with several little delicacies, including a large, plump, green pickled pepper, which I assume was one of those Italian-style peppers. So I held it by the stem and bit into it.

I got it. The doggoned thing squirted a stream of peppered pickle juice right into my eye. I howled with pain, and the waitress came with an ice cube wrapped in a napkin and bathed my burning eye. After a while I felt better.

“Didn’t you see the red flag?” the waitress asked.

Then I remembered. Sticking up out of the hot pepper was a little red warning flag, mounted on a toothpick. I had pulled it out without thinking and the hole left by the toothpick was where the hot pickle juice had squirted out!

The Houston Post
 

Martha Jane DeLano, daughter of Zack Warwick and Trannie Delano of Bay City, tells of her first time to meet the Etie family:

“It was on a Sunday afternoon when my mother and daddy and myself went to the cafe for lunch. For some reason I was not in a good mood and nothing about the new place impressed me, especially the smart teenager standing at the rear of the dining room.”

That smart teenager was Ashley Etie. Martha Jane and actually dated and fell in love and they were married four years later in 1937.

Ashley and Martha Jane owned Etie’s Cleaners just three doors west of the cafe. They sold the cleaners and moved to Lake Jackson where Ashley worked for DOW Chemical in plant protection.

In 1944 Ashley entered the service and served as Seaman Second Class USNR until he received an honorable discharge in 1945. After his discharge, Ashley helped his father with the cafe.

During the time of the war it was hard to run the restaurant because of rationing of food. Mr. Etie had to keep very extensive records of sales, number of people he served, and any other information that was necessary to replenish his supplies. These records provided the information to the ration board as to whether he got one ham or two, 10 pounds of bacon or 20 pounds. These records are now in the archives at the Matagorda County Museum.

Eventually, in 1952, Ashley and Martha Jane took over the restaurant because of O’Neil’s failing health. In the morning when Ashley opened at five o'clock there would be people waiting to get in. The back of the cafe was still the gathering place at the big table, sometimes there would be as many as 25 to 30 people back there talking and drinking coffee.

My grandfather was a man known for never passing up a challenge. He once walked from Bay City to Van Vleck because he was challenged by his friends Vernon Leissner, Jack Wiginton, Arthur Holloway and Bill Gordon. E. B. Reddoch of Taylor Brothers Funeral Home arrived with an ambulance and Sheriff J. B. Cole served as his escort. It took him about one hour and 45 minutes to walk the distance. He earned $25 from his friends by completing the challenge which didn’t require use of the ambulance.
 

Ashley Etie Wins Against the Odds

Ashley Etie, Bay City cafeman, literally walked off with, or for, $25 Friday morning and settled once and for all time the question of whether or not he could walk from his cafe to Van Vleck.

After Etie gathered up the money contributed to the pot by Vernon Leissner, Jack Wiginton, Arthur Holloway and Bill Gordon he started his trek to Van Vleck. The pot resulted from a discussion.

With no deadline to meet, he strolled casually down Seventh Street, chatting with friends and coffeeing with competitors, but several showdowns were reported.

One slowdown came when for a gag, E. B. Reddoch of Taylor Brothers Funeral Home, arrived with an ambulance ready just in case, and Sheriff J. B. Cole showed up with his Mercury as an escort. A cameraman was also available, but the news picture will have to wait until Monday, so much retouching being necessary.

After his stroll of about an hour and three quarters Etie arrived at Van Vleck, $25 richer and many minutes fewer. Time was about 11 a. m.

As a sidelight item the Tribune received a call from an excited woman asking what all the excitement was out on Seventh Street this morning. “Why the ambulance roared up, with the sheriff there also, and a news photographer. They all went up to a nicely dressed man. But what happened?”

The Daily Tribune

TAKING CARE OF ASHLEY—When Ashley Etie, Bay City restaurateur, took up the dare of Jack Wiginton, Vernon Leissner, Bill Gordon, and Arthur Holloway to walk to Van Vleck for a purse of $25 he was well attended for at least part of the way. Friday as Ashley was strolling down Seventh Street, Van Vleck bound, he was surprised when a Taylor Brothers Funeral Home ambulance driven by E. B. Reddoch, and the Mercury of Sheriff J. B. Cole showed up for mock assistance. The press was available for a picture, and two of the instigators Wiginton and Leissner, also showed up, probably checking to see that Ashley went straight to Van Vleck, instead of ducking up through Boling.

The Daily Tribune
 

At the time Ashley and Martha Jane took over the cafe, their oldest son Kenneth Guynn was 13 years old and their middle son Neil Warwick was 10. Both boys helped in the cafe after school..

Louis Wade,  their third son, grew up in the cafe and experienced many different adventures. His most vivid memory is of when he almost burned down the cafe. This is the way he tells the story: “I was playing with sparklers in the kitchen and threw one on top of the coolers, where it landed in a box of dishes that were wrapped in paper. The box started on fire and I started crying and ran to the front dining room to alert my folks. The fire department was called, but the blaze was put out long before they arrived.” Needless to say, my father never played with sparklers inside again.

The Etie’s main chef, Tilton Tellison, took over where O’Neil left off with the cooking. Tellison remained an employee for many years. Wheatie Rice was also another long time employee who washed dishes for the cafe even before Martha Jane and Ashley took it over. Wheatie was not only an employee but a close family friend. He has passed on now and is buried in the Etie family plot at Cedarvale Cemetery.

In 1960 O’Neil Etie died. Nine years later a fire occurred and burned the cafe to the ground. Wheatie Rice was the one to discover and report the blaze that night at 10:30 p.m. Mr. Leopold Schwartz and his grandson, Moise Simon, were the first customers served on opening day and Moise Simon was the last customer to be served on the night of the fire. They were the landlords for the building.
 

Bay City Fire Damage Put At $100,000
By Post Texas News Service

BAY CITY—Firemen fought a wind-whipped ‘fire’ that destroyed the Etie Cafe—a Bay City landmark—and an adjacent vacant store for seven hours before bringing it under control about 6 AM Monday.

The fire, which was reported at 10:50 PM, was aided by strong north winds that soon blew it out of control. Bay City Fire Chief Morris Richardson estimated the damage to the building and equipment at $100,000.

There was minor smoke damage to two nearby stores, he said.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, Richardson said.

The Etie Caeé was first opened in 1918 at Old Gulf, 20 miles south of here, at the site of the first sulphur field discovered in Matagorda County. In 1932, with Old Gulf rapidly becoming a ghost town, the Etie family moved the restaurant to Bay City.

The Daily Tribune
 

A year after the blaze, the cafe reopened in a new building. The John M. Corbett home was demolished and the new building was built in its place on the corner of Avenue F and Third Street. The building was leased by the Eties and then completely furnished and equipped by them also.

The cafe the décor was done in French style with marble topped tables and tile floors. The main dining room was just to the right as you enter the front door. The coffee shop was straight ahead in the rear as you enter the cafe. The coffee shop was the gathering place for businessmen and farmers alike. Many business deals and tall tales originated there at the front round table of the coffee shop.

The door of the new building once was the door to a paddle wheel riverboat chapel. Small ball bearing hinges were necessary to hang that door. The cornices inside came from the old Corbett House which was torn down to make way for the building.

In 1973 Ashley died and Martha Jane was left to run the cafe by herself. For two years she managed and then decided to sell realizing that it was just too much for one person to do on her own. Neither of her two remaining sons, Neil or Louis, was interested in taking over the business.

Martha Jane Etie sold the cafe in 1975 to the Driskols. The Driskols stayed with it for five years and then sold to the Butlers. The Butlers, Robert and Carol, were both graduates of Texas A & M and did a fine job of upholding the Etie name and quality for seven years. During the time of the Butler ownership, my mother, Mary Long, went to work for the Butlers as a waitress and cook. My mother remained employed with the butlers for a short time.

The Butlers sold to the Eckarts who later closed the cafe and it remained closed for nine years. The building began to deteriorate and age from its emptiness.

The Vela family purchased the building in the mid-1990s and brought the cafe back to life although it no longer bore the name Etie's. The Etie name did not disappear with the removal of the sign. The name could still be seen around Bay City on a license plate of a sporty little purple car driven by Martha Jane. She has kept the memory of Etie’s alive by generously passing on what she remembers on to the younger generation. They are memories the family will treasure forever and will continue to pass on to their children. The family continues to live in Bay City and contribute to the history of Matagorda County.
 


Fresh Sea Food And Local Meats Served By Etie's

Mr. and Mrs. O. R. Etie, owners and operators of Etie's Cafe in Bay City came to Matagorda County in 1919 when the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company first started operations. Mr. Etie remained in the employ of this company for 13 years and then opened a confectionery in Gulf, which he operated for two years.

Five years ago they moved to Bay City and opened their present business and through the medium of good food at reasonable prices and excellent cooking and service they have built up a business that is really something of which to be proud.

Their equipment includes Frigidaire refrigeration throughout with a large box in the kitchen and two smaller boxes in front. They purchased their meats locally and their sea foods from Corpus Christi and Palacios. These are received fresh three times each week.

With a seating capacity of 60, with both counters and tables, there are times when their establishment is filled to capacity because their patrons know that they will get an ample supply and well-cooked food served promptly efficiently and tastefully.

Matagorda County Tribune, August 10, 1937
 

Ashley Etie Dies
Resident of Bay City For 51 Years

Ashley Etie, 56, veteran Bay City restaurant owner and long-time civic leader, died early this morning at Matagorda General Hospital.

Mr. Etie, who resided at 2416 Ave F, had been a resident of Bay City for 51 years.

Services will be conducted at 3 p.m. Thursday at 6th Street Church of Christ with Allen Brown of 6th Street Church of Christ and Louis Wright of Cleveland, Tex. officiating.

Interment will be in Cedarvale Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Bay City Funeral Home.

Survivors include his widow, Martha Jane Etie of Bay City; sons, Neil Etie of Houston and Louis Etie of Bay City, and a brother, Kenneth R. Etie of El Campo.

Mr. Etie had recently been in ill health and hospitalized with a heart ailment.

He was born Feb. 18, 1917 in Sulphur, La.

Etie’s Restaurant on the corner of Ave. F and 3rd was noted throughout the Gulf Coast area for its fine cuisine.

Mr. Etie had maintained a tradition started by his late mother. Early in the days of Texas Gulf Sulphur, his mother handled the job of feeding the company’s white collar workers.

When they opened a restaurant on 7th Street it was destined to play a major role in the history of Matagorda [County]. It became the common meeting place. Anyone wishing to contact another individual stood a very good chance of making that contact there.

A bulletin board hung in this restaurant before the time car radio communication was perfected. Oil well repairmen stopped at Etie’s after a job for a cup of coffee.

If there was another job for them to go to, the office phoned to Etie’s and the message was posted on this board.

Then, in March of 1969, tragedy struck.

A fire, of unknown origin, destroyed the 7th Street restaurant.

The loss was estimated at $30,000.

Undaunted, Mr. Etie set to work to build an even bigger and better restaurant.

On April 26, 1970 Mr. Etie proudly opened the doors of the present establishment.

The restaurant location was previously occupied by a house that was one of the early landmarks of Bay City. Mr. Etie took this into consideration and incorporated the cornices of the house into his inside arrangements.

The door to the restaurant also had a special significance. It once had been the door to a paddle-wheel riverboat chapel.

Active in civic affairs, Mr. Etie had served as a member of the City Council for 12 years and served as a volunteer fireman during the early years of its operation.

He was an avid fisherman and, when he could get away from the press of business, enjoyed going on fishing expeditions with his many friends in the community.

The Daily Tribune, Wednesday, November 14, 1973

ASHLEY J. ETIE

Ashely J. Etie, 56, a resident of Bay City for 51 years passed away in the Matagorda General Hospital November 14. He had been a member of the city council for 12 years, operated the Etie’s Restaurant for 30 years, and served as a volunteer fireman in the early years of its operation. He was an avid sportsman and spent many hours with the countless number of his friends fishing. Survivors include: wife, Martha Jane of Bay City; 2 sons, Neil of Houston and Louis of Bay City; 1 brother, Kenneth R. Etie of El Campo. Funeral services will be held Thursday, November 15, at 3 p.m. at the 6th St. Church of Christ with Mr. Allen Brown and Mr. Louis Wright officiating. Interment will be at the Cedarvale Cemetery. Services under the direction of Dick R. Elkins of Bay City Funeral Home.

The Daily Tribune, Wednesday, November 14, 1973

Mrs. O’Neal [O’Neil] Etie Dies Following a Lengthy Illness

Mrs. Oseia Landry Etie, 53, died at the family residence Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m., following an illness of several months.

Besides her husband, O’Neal [O’Neil] Etie, she is survived by two sons, Ashley and Kenneth of Bay City; two sisters, Mrs. Destine Etie, of Beaumont and Mrs. Effie Broussard of Port Arthur; and one brother, J. J. Landry of Freeport.

Mr. and Mrs. Etie moved to Bay City from Old Gulf and established Etie’s Café which they have operated for seventeen years. Mrs. Etie, until her health failed, assisted in the managements of the café and her genial and lovable disposition endeared her in the hearts of thousands.

Rosary will be read at 8 o’clock tonight at Taylor Bros. Funeral Home and Mass will be said at the Holy Cross Catholic Church Tuesday at 10 a.m. Interment will be in Cedarvale Cemetery.

Pallbearers will be Buddy Broughton, Allen Caldwell, F. A. Breeden, Ed. Johnson, J. Blinsky and Euell Head.

Taylor Bros. will be in charge of the funeral arrangements.

The Daily Tribune, May 31, 1948

 

O’Neil Ralphael Etie Family

O’Nei Ralphael Etie, who was born in Franklin, Louisiana, and his wife, Ozeia Landry Etie, who was born near New Iberia, Louisiana, lived in Sulphur, Louisiana, where Etie worked for the sulphur company. They moved to Gulf, Matagorda County, Texas, in 1918, where Etie was employed by the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company as a hoist operator. Ozeia Etie served meals in her home for the office workers of the company, and later opened a cafe on the main street of Gulf. They had two sons: Ashley Jostph, who was born in Sulphur and Kenneth Raphael, who was born in Gulf. Both sons attended school in Gulf. The Eties were members of the Catholic Church.

In 1932 the family moved to Bay City where on Christmas Eve, they opened a restaurant—Etie’s Cafe—at 1725 Seventh Street. Ashley joined his father in the restaurant business after his marriage to Martha Jane DeLano in 1937. Ashley served in the United States Navy during World War II. Kenneth attended Shriner Institute in Kerrville, Texas, and following his military service, attended the University of Georgia. He enlisted in the United States Naval Air Corps during World War II, and later transferred to the United States Marine Corps. Kenneth married Mary Beth Smith in 1946. They lived in Bay City, moved to El Campo for a time, and then returned to Bay City where they became managers and operators of the Bay City Country Pro Shop and Golf Course. They were members of the Catholic Church.

In 1952 Ashley and his wife assumed full management of Etie’s Cafe because of the ill health of his father. The Eties recalled the days when they offered curb service and a soda fountain, and served the “best steak in the house” for sixty cents (and they did not sell one per week!). Before the days of “papers,” a blackboard in the cafe served to announce incoming calls for oilmen and salesmen, or to deliver other messages. The one thing the family recalled with pride was that rice was on their menu twice daily for the forty-three years they were in business, thereby recognizing Matagorda County’s biggest crop. The business continued in the same location until 1969, when the cafe was destroyed by fire. The restaurant was rebuilt on the site of the Judge John M. Corbett home at 2416 Avenue F and opened in 1970.

Ashley served on the Council of the City of Bay City for twelve years during the term of Mayor R. C. Gusman, and was also active in the Bay City Volunteer Fire Department. After Ashley’s death in 1973, the business was sold, but retained the name, Etie’s.

Ashley and Martha Jane had three sons, all born in Bay City. Kenneth Guynn, Neil Warwick and Louis Wade. After all were graduated from Bay City High School, the two older sons attended Sam Houston State University and Louis attended Wharton Jr. College. Guynn died in 1966. Neil served four years in the U. S. Air Force and lived in Corpus Christi. Louis married Mary Jean Long in 1981 and they had one son, Cheyne Ashley.* Martha Jane became Tax Assessor-Collector for the City of Bay City, having been employed there in 1975. The Ashley Etie family were members of the Sixth Street Church of Christ and Mary Jean was a member of the Catholic Church.

O’Neil Etie died in 1960 and was preceded in death by his wife, Ozeia, who died in 1948.

Martha J. Etie

Historic Matagorda County, 1986, Volume II, pp 148-149

*Louis and Mary had another son, Dustin J., after the writing of this family history.
 


Photos courtesy of Matagorda County Museum
 


 

Copyright 2010 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

This page was created
Oct 2, 2010
This page was updated
Oct 2, 2010
   

HOME