Date of interview: August 14, 1978
Place of Interview: 121 Gilman Terrace, Sioux City, Iowa
Interviewer: Martha Conrad
Transcriber: Judy Bride
Begin Tape 1, Side 1
MC: This is an interview with Bertha Kaled being conducted on August 14, 1978 by Martha Conrad at 121 Gilman Terrace. I am talking to Bertha Kaled of the Ye Olde Tavern for many years. I would like to ask you about your family history. Your father, where was he born?
Kaled: My father and mother both were born in Lebanon. My father came to this country in about 1910 and then went back to Lebanon and married my mother. They both came here in 1913 and went to Grand Rapids, Michigan. That's where I was born February 2, 1914.
We stayed there for a while, then went to Springfield, Massachusetts where one of my sisters was born; then later moved west and went to Lyons, Nebraska on a farm; and one of my sisters was born there; then from Lyons, Nebraska we came to Sioux City, and two of my brothers were born here in Sioux City.
Then my father and mother separated. My father went back to Lebanon. My mother remarried several years later and we moved to Walthill, Nebraska. I have a half-brother and a half-sister who were born in Walthill, Nebraska. We all went to high school in Walthill. I graduated in 1932, valedictorian of my class.
MC: No what was your father's name?
Kaled: My father's name was Alex Sayid. My stepfather's name was Alex Ferris. We took his name although he did not adopt us because he took us when were so young. We went by the name of Ferris.
MC: Sure, he was just like a father to you.
Kaled: Yes he was. He sent me to college. I went to college in Fremont, Nebraska-Midland College. There I belonged to the Midland A Cappella Choir, and traveled with them. [I] taught school in Macy, Nebraska for three years on the Indian Reservation. During that time my mother died in 1937. She was a young woman of forty-two, and I was the oldest of seven children.
MC: So then you were kind of a mother.
Kaled: Yes, I was. Then I left and went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for about a year or fifteen months, and came back to Walthill. In the meantime there was a teaching job open in Pender, Nebraska and I taught there for three years prior to my marriage. I was still teaching when Dave and I met. I taught the last day of school and we were married the next day.
MC: Oh, for gosh sakes! I was going to ask you about your teaching career in Pender. Do you remember any of your students?
Kaled: Well, several of them used to stop at the Ye Olde Tavern. Of course, it's been quite a few years. When they were youngsters, after they grew up I didn't remember them, but they made themselves known to me and told me who they were.
MC: Well, wasn't that nice.
Kaled: It really was. And they remembered me, of course. I couldn't remember them but we made some very nice friends and nice contacts that way.
MC: I bet you were a very nice teacher.
Kaled: Well, when I went to college I was rated a pretty high teacher because I was fond of children, and too, could put my ideas across.
MC: What attracted you to come to Sioux City?
Kaled: Well, my husband before we were married had the Ye Olde Tavern Sandwich Shop. It was just a sandwich shop at that time. We were married in 1941 and he had two children at that time. Then we started remodeling after our family started to grow. We needed income and the sandwich shop was not adequate . We were thinking of buying another restaurant to expand. We talked it over and decided that we owned the ground and we would concentrate all our efforts on one locality rather than expand.
MC: Can you tell me when that building was built originally?
Kaled: Originally it was built in 1928, but the building permit was taken out in May of 1927; it's on record. It was originally built by a man, Dave Higgin. He died shortly after the place was in business. Then his wife run it for three years. My husband bought it from his wife. He bought it in 1934. Then he married in 1937 for the first time and had the two children. Then he was widowed. He was a widower for about a year. He was married in 1937 and his wife died in 1940.
We were married in 1941. Then in 1943 we started to expand the business; we started to build on. Our first was just an ice cream parlor more or less. We didn't start to serve meals until 1952 when we decided that we would expand our facility into serving meals.
MC: That was a good decision.
Kaled: Well, it was hard work. My husband reminded me that I would have to carry most of the responsibility because he didn't know anything about cooking. I had never been in a restaurant kitchen before in my life. I had never seen a French fryer. So I had to learn from scratch as well as he. He took care of the business end of it and I took care of the kitchen.
I did all the cooking for three years. Finally my husband decided it was time for me to hire a cook because our business started to expand far faster than we ever anticipated it would grown.
So many years we wondered what it would do to the tavern sandwich if we started to serve meals, whether sales would drop. Instead it enhanced the sale of the tavern sandwich. Many times families would come in and parents would order meals and the children would order taverns. So it was really a nice family restaurant.
The first cook I broke in or taught my way, because she was working in a lunchroom in a small town in Nebraska, Lucille Graves. Of course, we started expanding the kitchen, putting dishwashers. We did all the dishes by hand for a long time.
MC: O, my, that was a big job.
Kaled: Yes, it was. We didn't live very far from the Tavern at that time. We lived at 1806 Nebraska, a distance of four or five blocks. Business was gradual in building up as far as wheals was concerned. It took people a long to realize that we were serving meals because they were so used to it just being a sandwich shop.
MC: And old Central High.
Kaled: Oh, yes, we had the students from Central High during their lunch hours. They used to come in with their brown bags and order a coke. Then after we started to serve meals we had to put a stop to that. They would throw away their lunch, which was a crime, and order a tavern and a coke. It was just a crime to see the good food going to waste. But that happened many times.
We saw changes at Central, too, when they used to just have two lunch hours and then they started having three lunch hours. It went over a period of from quarter to twelve until one o'clock or one-fifteen. A lot of people would come in before eleven-thirty to have lunch, or after one o'clock to avoid the...
MC: I imagine you had many teachers, too.
Kaled: Well, the teachers would come in at night a great deal of the time or during registration or on weekends. They had the students all day long and they had a lunchroom up at Central, too. Most of the teachers ate lunch up there or brought their lunches. They didn't come down to the Ye Olde tavern for lunch. They would come there at other times to avoid being around the students.
There was for a time that they were causing so much destruction that we had to put the Tavern off limits to them. Then that straightened them out because we disciplined them, we really did. The appreciated us. They would get mad at me for a little while and then I'd see them downtown and I'd be their long lost friend. They didn't hold any grudges at all. I don't know if they ever realized how much extra help we had to put on during the noon hours to accommodate them.
MC: They probably didn't realize it
Kaled: No, I don't think they did.
MC: How did you manage with the children and working?
Kaled: Well, they were in school, and I always had help at home. I did a lot of the work at home. During the war when we couldn't get chocolate syrup I used to make it with cocoa. I made all the pies and made home made chili. Then after we started to serve meals, of course, it was made there.
The children were on a strict routine at home and it was geared so that I could get away during the lunch hour. Before we served meals there was no need for me to be there during the supper hour. After we started to serve meals they were all in school and so it wasn't as difficult then. When they went to Hunt School, then the children who went to Hunt School, would come down to the Tavern for their lunch. I had them help on weekends and after school so they always were where I was.
Of course, it disrupted our home life considerably. Even though they were with me we didn't have too much home life because we were open seven days a week. Then after they started going to college we would close on a religious holiday. I just didn't feel that it was right to penalize them for coming home. So we always close on Christmas Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, so they could be home as well as...
MC: What was it like when you were teaching in Macy?
Kaled: Well, Macy was on a Omaha reservation, of course, and the Indian children came from outlying areas. We would bring them in by bus. The government paid the teachers and took care of the expenses of the school by the number of Indians that were enrolled and the number that attended every day. It was really a government school and so our pay was not very regular. There would be times when we wouldn't get our money for a couple of months.
MC: Oh, my goodness!
Kaled: Even in those days.
MC: Well, that must have been kind of hard.
Kaled: It really was, but then the people in town understood. They understood when we were paid and when we weren't so they were very cooperative. And it didn't cost very much to live in those days either.
MC: No, I should say not.
Kaled: The salaries were low but living was low, too. So everything's relative.
MC: Were you teaching during the Depression?
Kaled: I was going to school during the Depression. I worked part of my way through school. I was assistant librarian for two years, and I cleaned the dorm for my room for one semester. I used to help wait tables once in a while, substitute, "cause it wasn't a regular job. I never dreamed I'd be part of that kind of a work. It was all good experience. And it taught me a lot of things.
MC: You bet. They claim experience is the best teacher.
Kaled: The irony of it all was the busier I was and the harder I worked the better grades I made. When I was lax about everything, then my grades weren't that good. The important things were, I kept up very well.
MC: Tell me about the Kaled family orchestra.
Kaled: Well, my husband used to play violin when he was a young man. After he started working at the packing house his fingers would get so stiff that he couldn't work the violin, but he always had a love for it. He insisted on starting out the oldest boy with a violin, and gradually as each one of them showed an inclination toward music, we let them choose their own instrument if they wanted, but they all had to take a certain amount of piano.
Well, then Al started on the violin and Marion chose a clarinet. Jim didn't want to choose anything, but his older sister kind of talked him into a baritone horn. She would carry him back and forth from school. It was a great big thing; keep carrying it back and forth so he would be part of it, they used to have orchestras in school and someone would teach.
So we started giving him private lessons as well as their class lessons. Then David played the cello and Mary Jean decided she wanted violin. Well, I don't know if she really wanted it or not but she took Al's old violin, and then we got Al a new one. Then Sally wanted to play flute. They all had private lessons, and after they got started we used to have a formal orchestra rehearsal at home every week.
They got so they would play for different things, different organizations and so on. They played for many Junior High schools but they would not play for Central because that's where all their peers were. They drew the line there. They just wouldn't play.
MC: I bet that was fun.
Kaled: Well, it was. You know, after they got older, I think they appreciated it more. But at the time it was really a struggle to get them to practice and to get them to realize what a good thing they had.
Incidentally, the tavern was so much a part of the children's lives that they enjoyed coming home. And after I had to sell, they were reluctant about coming home because so many of their friends are not in Sioux City anymore. They used to have a rapport with so many of our customers that used to come in. Now they're hesitant about coming to Sioux City. They come to see me for a day or so and then they are ready to go.
MC: That's too bad.
Kaled: Just one of those things. I couldn't work anymore.
MC: Do you remember some of the other people that worked for you?
Kaled: Mrs. Roger Story worked nights. Marie Walch, Mrs. Roy Walch, worked for quite a few years. Mrs. Tony Riddle was the night supervisor for a long, long time. Cecil Boyle helped for quite a few years. He worked days most of the time. When we had Tavern Days, Ye Olde Tavern Days, for the Quota Club last October, Mrs. Walch and Mrs. Riddle helped me make the taverns. We served 875 people in less than two hours at the "Y". They stood in line from Jackson Street to the lobby, that long line to get served. I guess the tavern really made its impact on Sioux City.
MC: I guess the Kaleds did, too.
Kaled: Well, they were all part of the operation. I can't talk about the tavern and not talk about my family. They're almost synonymous. I was really very sorry to have to sell the Tavern because of my health. None of the children wanted the responsibility because a restaurant is hard work and very confining. You have to be very dedicated to it. It served as a means to send my children to college. Even though they helped, they earned part of their way, too.
MC: How many hours of a day would you stay open?
Kaled: We would open at seven in the morning and close at midnight. Long hours and seven days a week, except the three holidays. All the employees had a day off, so it meant we had to have a relief shift also.
MC: You had quite a few employees altogether.
Kaled: We had about thirty-six employees at the Ye Olde Tavern. And when I owned the bakery, before I sold it, we had seven employees there. So all in all, I think at one Christmas I had forty-two employees at our Christmas party.
MC: What was the name of the bakery?
Kaled: Ye Olde Bake Shop. We baked all of our dinner rolls and sweet rolls. We did not bake all the buns. We did not have the facilities to do that because we did serve an awfully lot of taverns.
MC: Did you buy your buns from Old Home?
Kaled: We started out buying from Iowa Baking Company at one time was on Pierce Street. Then Old Home bought out Iowa bakery, so we bought Old Home buns. We would trade off some time. We would buy Wonder. Whoever would give us the best bun because we used nothing but the finest meat.
MC: You didn't have time for socializing.
Kaled: No, I really did not but I made a lot of friends. I entertained at home periodically. It was hard. We didn't have time for family get-togethers too often.
MC: I imagine all your children attended Central.
Kaled: All of them attended Central. I saw them all graduate except one. I was in the hospital at the time of her graduation.
MC: That's a lovely time, I think, when they graduate. I imagine you have pictures.
Kaled: Yes! When I moved from the big house I didn't know what to do with them. I knew that I wanted to save them for the children. The only one that came when I moved from the big house was my oldest son, so I gave him the box of pictures and I told him that they were not all his but they were in his safe keeping for the time being. There are a lot of pictures. Pictures when the children were small. My husband used to like to take pictures.
MC: What has impressed you the most about Sioux City?
Kaled: The friendliness of the people. I never fail to go downtown that I don't see someone that I know or knows me. It has been my home since 1949, and I would never feel at home anywhere else. I know that the weather is severe here for me because of my illness, so I try to get away part of each winter. I'm always glad to come home.
MC: Oh, yes, there's no place like home.
Kaled: This is where I've had all my business associations. Now I'm quite content to stay home.
MC: Did your father have a business?
Kaled: No, my father was a very sick man. They didn't diagnose it as what it was, but he shook all the time. Some people call it St. Vitus Dance. It wasn't epilepsy
MC: Some people call it palsy.
Kaled: It could be he had palsy but they didn't diagnose it as that. My mother had to work. At that time she had a boarding house here in Sioux City, before she was married.
MC: Do you remember the name of it.
Kaled: No, it didn't have any name, it was just her home. My mother worked very, very hard and she was not well. She had a bad heart. She died after she remarried. She was well thought of in the community because when she died they closed school. They closed school in Macy where I was teaching, and all the teachers came down for the funeral.
MC: She must have been a beautiful person.
Kaled: She was. My only resemblance to her is my height. I think Abe would be very pleased this interview is being conducted. (Eds. Note: Abe was her husband)
MC: Ye Olde Tavern was a very popular place.
Kaled: Especially for family eating. We thought seriously when my son was here, my son came after I took ill, and he helped manage the place with the help of the old employees. He did until I sold the place. He thought about putting up a portable bar and I'd discouraged it because of our family clientele. I don't think it would have made an awfully lot of difference.
MC: Getting back to Ye Olde Tavern, I like to have you tell me a little more about it.
Kaled: Well, the children all helped after school and on weekends. Even though they resented having to work sometimes, I think now they realize how much it really taught them. All of us are dependent on somebody and we are all dependent on our customers. The respect and the courtesy that we showed our customers meant they were learning that kind of respect and courtesy to other people regardless how they felt about the individual, they were a customer.
Unless they got the kind of service and what they really wanted to eat they wouldn't come back. Our livelihood depended on it. They were made to understand that. All the money that went in the register did not belong to us. It belonged to the business. The bills had to be paid first, and what was left was ours.
MC: So that taught the children what they didn't learn in school
Kaled: I remember leaving town for about two weeks and left my oldest son and one of the night supervisors were in charge. I wrote out a card so he could write checks because I had reports to fill out for quarterly returns, etc. I told him what they were, what they stood for, how much it was, and had them all signed. All he had to was sign the checks. When I came back he looked at me and said, "Mom, how do you pay the bills? How do you keep up with the bills?" I said, "Well, now, you know that all the money that goes in the register is not ours."
MC: Right. So he learned a lesson.
Kaled: He had a lot of respect for people in business.
MC: I'd like to thank you very much for this interview, Mrs. Kaled.
Kaled: Thank you for asking me. I feel very flattered and very humble, because I really feel that I owe a lot to the people of Sioux City. They were kind to me.
MC: That's great. I bet they miss you.
Kaled: I miss them equally.
MC: Do they come and visit you sometimes?
Kaled: Once in a while when I have to have things done here at the house someone will come to the door that I didn't know by their name, but I knew their face, and say, "This is where you live!"
MC: I think that's great. The next time I see Lucille I'm going to tell her to be sure to come and see you.
Kaled: Thank you. I see her periodically.
MC: Thank you very much.
Kaled: Thank you. I'm very glad to know who you are. I've seen you but didn't know your name.
End of Interview.