When Chicken was King

Associated Poultry interior

As mentioned in the text of this weekends pull from Pacific Magazine, its subject, Associated Poultry, roosts on the shoulders of what for a number of years was a popular fried chicken house on Victory Highway, AKA Bothell Way, AKA Lake City Way.  It’s name, Coon Chicken Inn, and its decor, or parts of it, were the products of a Jim Crow culture that started to break up only in the 1960s with the civil rights movement.  As the “Epicurean’s Guile” map below shows, in the 1930s Bothell Way was strung with southern associations: Henry the Watermelon King, Lem’s Corner (at least I imagine Lem as a good ol’ boy),  Dixie Inn and Mammy’s shack. Now it all seems a naive combination of silly and half-witted offensive.   Below Ron Edge has curated illustrations and clippings from a Coon Chicken collection loaned to him for copying.  Read and study.  And now Ron explains.

In the 1930s chicken dinners were the main attraction and Bothell Way their stage.   The star arrived in the summer of 1930 in the form of the Coon Chicken Inn, owned by M.L.Graham and located at 8500 Bothell Way.  Mr. Graham relocated to Seattle in the late 20’s and opened the second link in his chain of “Nationally Famous Coast to Coast” restaurants. His first was opened in Salt Lake City in1924 and his third and last in Portland in 1931. He decided to expand his chain just as the Great Depression started and with his dedication to quality and his unique marketing skills he succeeded where many others failed.

Seattle CCI Opening August 1930

Seattle interior early

I was fortunate enough to meet M.L. Graham’s grandson, Scott Farrar, in 1999 when researching the history of the CCI. Scott generously allowed me to photograph and scan his grandfather’s scrapbooks. Mr. Graham had pasted his life into these two large volumes in the form of ephemera and photos. Many of the pages contained things relating to the Coon Chicken Inn and its history. I think the story of the early Seattle CCI is best told from selected pages from a couple of the trade publications of the time. I have inserted several photos scanned from these scrapbooks to augment the articles.

Western Restaurant May 1933 p6
Seattle kitchen
Seattle exterior
Gas ad December 1933
Seattle exterior
Western Restaurant April 1934 p6
Club Cotton
Club Cotton
Club Cotton
After Club Cotton addition
Soda Fountain Dec 1936 p10
Soda Fountain Dec 1936 p11
Soda Fountain Dec 1936 p12
Seattle bar
Soda Fountain Dec 1936 p13
Hoover Co. December 1936
CCI Post Card
Seattle CCI from the air

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