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home : current news : current news January 22, 2018


1/9/2018 12:57:00 PM
A glimpse of Sisters' past
Aitken Drug Store was owned by George and Grace Aitken. The original store burned in the 1923 fire along Cascade Avenue. The Aitkens rebuilt, and that enlarged store escaped the 1924 fire. It contained a marble-top soda fountain purchased from a Portland saloon. People came from miles around for huckleberry sundaes. photo provided
+ click to enlarge
Aitken Drug Store was owned by George and Grace Aitken. The original store burned in the 1923 fire along Cascade Avenue. The Aitkens rebuilt, and that enlarged store escaped the 1924 fire. It contained a marble-top soda fountain purchased from a Portland saloon. People came from miles around for huckleberry sundaes.

photo provided

+ click to enlarge

Did you know...

The blue building located at 101 E. Cascade Ave., which currently houses Drawstrings of Malibu clothing store, is officially known as the Aitken Building and designated as an historic building. At other times it was home to Sisters Olive and Nut Company and The Palace Hotel.

George Aitken was born in 1867, on a farm near Sublimity in the Willamette Valley. After attending business college in Portland, he returned to Salem to work in his father's grocery store. But adventure called and he left Oregon to work in a Virginia City, Nevada, gold mine. Next he traveled to Baker, Oregon, where he worked in a butcher shop as well as in a county office.

He came to Sisters in 1912 at the age of 45, and established the first Sisters newspaper, The Herald, serving as owner, publisher, and printer for several years. After discontinuing the paper, he purchased a drug store.

Mary Grace Cyrus was born on a ranch in the Gray Butte area northwest of Prineville on December 29, 1886, to Oregon pioneers Enoch and Mary Cyrus. In the early 1900s, they moved to a half-section land claim five miles east of Sisters.

Grace was very good at math and generally a strong student. After high school, she began working for Robert Smith, the local postmaster who owned the general mercantile store in Sisters. Five years later, in 1912, she was promoted to postmistress, a position she held until 1937.

George Aitken and Grace Cyrus were married in 1916, and worked together in their drug store. They raised two sons, Kenneth and Donald. The store burned in the Sisters fire of 1923. When it was rebuilt, the store was enlarged to include sporting goods, souvenirs, and a soda fountain. The soda fountain, purchased from a Portland saloon, had an antique marble counter backed by a large mirror.

George made his own ice cream in five-gallon batches, using rich whipping cream, and turning the crank by hand. Grace's huckleberry topping and George's ice cream brought people from Bend and Redmond just for the frozen treats. The ice cream was kept frozen in a special room with sawdust-insulated walls, filled with ice that George chopped himself from ponds he had flooded during the winter.

Civic activities kept George busy as he served for more than 20 years as secretary of the Squaw Creek (now Whychus) Irrigation District. He worked to promote community projects like the construction of sidewalks in town.

Although he had little time for it, George loved to fish and people conferred with him about where to find the best fishing holes and what lures to use. For a number of years, George was a member of the Oregon Fish and Game Commission and worked to see that local streams were kept stocked with fish.

It was George who suggested Wizard Falls on the Metolius River would be a good location for a fish hatchery and supported its construction. When the hatchery was completed in 1948, four years after his death, it was dedicated to George Aitken.

After George's death, Grace served for 16 years as the Sisters librarian, beginning in 1947. She died in 1975 in Madras.

Information from "That Was Yesterday," Wilson and Scott, and Ancestry.com.





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