Green River Star -

By Brie Blasi
Green River Historic Preservation Commission 

Downtown businesses host memories in Sweetwater Co.

 

Photo courtesy of Robert Hadley.

Park Grill chef George Hadley poses in front of the Park Hotel in Rock Springs with George Wadlow, the tallest man in the world, in the late 1930s.

Each time a business closes downtown, people tend to reminisce about all the good times they had there. This is especially true for restaurants because these tend to be places where people linger long after the meals are finished, while they socialize and make connections. Restaurants are where we have memorable special events like birthday parties and wedding receptions. Like an extension of the dinner table where family comes together, restaurants serve not only food but also community links. We have been lucky to have a few wonderful new restaurants arrive in downtown Green River in the last several months, but we also said a sad farewell to a longtime downtown eatery. As people reminisce about the special times they had in this particular business, it reminds us how seated our memories are in the places we spend our lives, even if they only existed there for a short while.

One of these short-lived but memorable businesses occupied a prime spot on Flaming Gorge Way between 1943 and 1945. Located where Mi Casita restaurant is today, it sat across from the post office (Sweetwater County Museum) and was nestled in between the Green River Merc/Piggly Wiggly grocery store (Tolly's Coffee) and Moedl's Drugs (Mast Lounge). In this location, chef and family man George Hadley found an ideal spot to start his own business, the Hadley Café.

George Hadley was born in New York City August, 1882. After leaving New York to train as a chef in France and Germany, Hadley returned to the U.S. and began a long career of preparing delicious meals for people in various locals. After arriving in Colorado, he met his soon-to-be wife, Della, whom he married in 1926. Together, they came to Wyoming and had three sons, Ray, Robert, and Russell. For several years, George worked as the chef at the Park Grill. This fine eatery was on the main floor of the Park Hotel, which once hosted all manner of guests arriving at the nearby railroad passenger station including Nellie Tayloe Ross, Wyoming's 14th governor from 1925-1927 and the first female governor in the United States.

George was working at the Park Grill in the late 1930s when another cause célèbre made the Park Hotel his temporary home, Robert Pershing Wadlow. Wadlow was something of a sensation during his short life due to a condition, hyperplasia, which causes high levels of growth hormones. Born in 1918, he stood 6 feet tall by the age of 8. At the time of death in 1940, he stood 8 feet, 11 inches tall. He officially remains to this day the tallest person ever recorded.

Known as the Giant of Illinois and also the Gentle Giant due to his pleasant disposition, Wadlow became famous when he began traveling with the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1936. He went on to do paid promotional tours and make independent public appearances until his death from an infection at the age of 22.

During one of his public appearance tours, Wadlow stopped in Rock Springs where Hadley had his photograph taken with him. Hadley poses in his chef's uniform and Wadlow's head brushes the awning of the Park Hotel entrance. Both look as though they enjoyed each other's company.

A few years after this encounter with the tallest man in the world, Hadley and his family moved to Green River to open a café. The Green River Star reported in the July 23, 1943 edition Hadley was opening a new restaurant decked out with both traditional café seating and a large dining room for private parties in the old Meadow Brook dairy building. Having been fully remodeled in the western style by Ida Grundell, the newspaper boasted that Hadley's café had "one of the most attractive interiors in the state."

Hadley himself proudly proclaimed, "I have made this the most modern restaurant in the state," after installing brand new cooking and baking equipment. Taking care of chef duties himself and appointing his wife, Della, as manager, the Hadleys looked forward to a successful grand opening.

And a successful grand opening they had. So successful, in fact, that by the end of the month, the Hadleys had to announce in the newspaper that they would be closed each Tuesday due to the high demand on their cooks.

"They must have their rest," George Hadley told reporters.

The chef who finally owned his own café was certainly appreciative of the high volume of customers Green River afforded him. He was quoted on July 30, 1943 thanking the town for its warm welcome.

"Some of the boys of Green River got together and gave us a wonderful display of flowers for our opening. All of this is appreciated by us. We will continue to make every effort to serve all top quality foods that are available on the market," he said.

Along with homemade pastries, the Hadleys promised a "good, clean, wholesome atmosphere" at affordable prices.

By July of 1943 when the Hadley's opened their café, World War II was in full swing and everyone was affected in some way. Most noticeably for café owners were food rations. Luckily for new café proprietor, this notice ran in the Green River Star just a few weeks after his opening:

Coffee Removed From

Rationing

Remember the days when you were served only one cup of coffee in the cafés – and you had to watch every grain of coffee at home, so that the last pound would stretch out until the next coffee coupon became valid?

That's right! That was only yesterday – today you can drink all of the coffee you want. OPOA Wednesday at midnight removed coffee from the list of rationed goods, and it can now be purchased without use of ration stamps.

At a time when downtown bustled with shoppers at the many shops and restaurants, patrons of Hadley's Café could buy a fine new dress from E.A. Gaensslen's millinery, get frozen foods from the new and modern O.P. Skagg's grocery store, and pop around the corner to enjoy a movie at the Isis Theater.

In July of 1943, Hadley's customers could choose from Gene Autry in "Gaucho Serenade," Barbara Stanwyck in "Lady of Burlesque," and the Cole Porter musical, "Something to Shout About."

Sadly, Hadley's café enjoyed only a short sojourn in downtown Green River.

Photo courtesy of the Sweetwater County Museum.

Parade on Flaming Gorge Way in 1949 or 1950. Moedl's Drugs and the Piggly Wiggly were both prominent businesses in downtown Green River. The Star Café in between those two businesses took over the space where Hadley's Café was between 1943 and 1945.

Almost exactly two years after the grand opening on July 13th, 1945, George passed away just shy of his 63rd birthday at the Rock Springs hospital from influenza and infection of the lung. During his time in Green River and Rock Springs, he had become an important member of the community with memberships in the Masons, the Green River Lions Club, B.P.O.E. of Rock Springs, and other organizations.

Della Hadley did not continue the business without her husband, but continued to cook at other restaurants for most of the rest of her life.

She passed away in 1979 at the age of 81, having spent more than 50 years in Green River. Along with working as a cook, she had served as president of both the VFW and American Legion Auxiliaries. She and her husband, may not have run the Hadley Café for long, but it certainly proved to be a place set firmly in the memories of many, including their son Robert who first inspired this article by contacting the staff of the Sweetwater County Museum with a photo of his father standing next to the tallest man in the world.

 
 

Reader Comments
(1)

cboswell writes:

A great story, Ms. Blasi. Keep up the good work.

 
 
 

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