Remembering Klamath’s ‘A. Brizard Company’

There are a number of memories of both the old and new A. Brizard Company, Inc., in Requa and Klamath. For me it was the large red metal building at the end of Redwood Drive that doubled as home for the U.S. Post Office, run by Klamath Post Master Earl Morgan.

In 1913, A. Brizard, Inc., purchased the store operated by the Samoa Mercantile Company.  Ruth Roberts, Del Norte historian and curator of the McNulty Home Museum in Crescent City shared her memories in May 1963, of Requa when her husband was office manager for the Klamath River Packer’s Association.

She recalled the fishing village as it was in 1917:

“A. Brizard Company in Requa was more of an institution than a general merchandise store. Brizard’s was the general meeting place of the community, with the only telephone in the area,” she penned. “There was a stage in once a day from Eureka, with mail and newspapers, vegetables, and every other day fresh bread. It was a days trip from Eureka in 1917.”

“Aside from the stage, the major amount of supplies, cannery equipment and machinery came by water,” Ruth added. “When Marvin (Buster) Meng became associated with Brizard in Requa, most of the stores supplies were carried there by gasoline schooners operated by Nelson Steamship Company in Eureka.”

“Enough supplies were brought to last six or seven months. Canned salmon often made up the return cargo to Humboldt Bay,” Ruth concluded.

“I remember the A. Brizard Company in Requa as a bulwark of community security and friendliness. Their managers were always superior people with the interest of the community and citizens at heart,” Ruth opined.

Ruth wrote of William Barney, the Brizard store manager, calling him  the ‘leading spirit’ of the community.

“He took care of personal problems, insurance, etc., and kept valuables and important papers in the company safe,” she recalled. “As a young man, ‘Barney,’ as he was known, studied medicine, and had a great flair for doctoring.”

“He set minor fractures, patched up wounds, and gave general aid and comfort to the ill. Most of the Indians had more faith in him than an ‘MD,’” she continued.

“In cases of serious illness, he always assisted in getting patients to the one physician in Crescent City, 25 miles away,” Ruth wrote. “I used to make sick calls with him during the salmon packing season when many Indians came from Weitchpec and the Lower Klamath to fish and work in the cannery.”

“They lived in cannery cabins. Often there was illness and accident among them,” she remembered.

She described Barney’s many ‘acts of mercy,’ including the laying out of the dead, writing: “The cannery made Redwood coffins for them.”

“My husband, C.H Roberts and ‘Barney’ conducted a ‘voluntary business’ bureau,” she stated. “Before the packing season opened they went over the names of the fishermen and cannery workers and determined their financial ratings, thus protecting them from pressure spending.”

“The payroll for the season at the cannery was approximately $100,000. Employees drew what they needed on Saturdays, and the final payoff was made at the end of the season,” penned Ruth. “Accounts were settled and supplies purchased.”

“Buster Meng and his brother worked with ‘Barney’ before the store was moved to Klamath, on the completion of the Douglas Memorial Bridge in 1927,” Ruth recalled.

Nearly 28-years later, Meng was still employed with Brizard, having risen to the position of manager.

It was December 21, 1955, when a raging Klamath River overflowed its banks and flooded the town of Klamath. The muddy water destroyed or damaged much of the business district and scores of homes.

“A. Brizard Inc., was not spared in this,” company president Robert Matthews, recalls of the tragedy. “Within a few hours, everything we had at the Klamath store – fixtures, merchandise, had gone down the river.

“Manager ‘Buster’ Meng stayed to the last-minute putting merchandise off the floor, onto shelves, thinking that the flood had reached its peak. He was certainly loyal to the core,” he stated of Meng.

The flood not only reached the shelves, it destroyed the building, washing it from its foundation and onto a nearby lot. Meng remained in the store until ordered to leave by Civil Defense officers.

Unfortunately, Meng’s home washed away during the flood. However, it took only eight weeks for A. Brizard Company, Inc. to open a new market place in Klamath, this one on Redwood Drive, jus’ north of Hunter Creek, where my memory of the store begins and ends.

The store closed shortly after my family moved into our new home on Redwood Drive in 1967. But the post office remained in the building until the federal government constructed a modern stand alone building in the new Klamath town site.

After both the post office and the store had left, the Simpson Lumber Company used the building to house equipment. Today, all that remains is a concrete foundation surrounded by a over-growth of blackberry vines.

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