On Sunday night, September 25, 2011, a fire took down the iconic Milk Bottle and Ferguson’s Cafe in Spokane, WA. Now this may not seem like big news to you, but let me point out a few little things.
The Milk Bottle was built in 1935 and was a dairy store. It was featured in the movie Benny and Joon, starring Johnny Depp (be still my heart), Mary Stuart Masterson, and Aidan Quinn. One scene had Sam (played by Johnny Depp) recreate Charlie Chaplin’s dancing dinner rolls from The Gold Rush.
This was filmed at Ferguson’s Cafe, which is next door to the Milk Bottle. In the movie, you are led to believe that it was filmed inside the Milk Bottle. Ferguson’s Cafe was also built in the 1930s and has been featured in the movies Vision Quest and Why Would I Lie ( and the aformentioned Benny and Joon).
As a child, we bought our milk at the Milk Bottle, but it was then called Benewah’s Creamery. One summer (before I entered 3rd grade), my mom was talking me to my grandma’s house. She lived only 3 blocks from the Milk Bottle. We were heading out to the lake for several days. I was so excited. But my mom stopped at the Milk Bottle and had me run in and get a gallon jug of milk. Back then, the container was all glass. I grabbed the jug and ran to the car. Unfortunately, I tripped and fell on the glass jug, cutting my ankle.
Of course, I was annoyed because I wanted to go to the lake. My mom jumped out of the car, assessed the situation, picked me up and put me in the front seat. She then went into the Milk Bottle. I remember thinking, “jeez, I’m bleeding to death here and you want to get more milk?” I found out later that she was asking where the closest doctor’s office was.
She got in the car and we started to drive to my grandma’s house. But 2 blocks into the drive, there was a little traffic tie-up. My mom started freaking out. I was too busy checking out my ankle and all the blood that was pumping out of it. Yup, I severed an artery and was bleeding profusely. I was just kind of awed by the rhythm of the blood spurting out.
My mom really started leaning into the horn and yelling. So as the ever-helpful child, I thought I could add my screaming voice to the action. It was summer and the car windows were down. The honking and yelling caught the attention of a man in a 2nd story office about 25 feet away. Dr. Bell noticed the blood and came running downstairs, grabbed me, and told my mom to pull into the driveway of the Garland Theatre.
By this time, I was beginning to panic and the pain was setting in. Dr. Bell got the bleeding stopped, stitched me up good, and then pointed out that I had another huge gash on my leg. So he stitched that one up too. He said that if we had tried to drive to the hospital on the other side of town, I may have bleed to death. And of course, it didn’t help that I kept opening up the cut to watch the blood.
Mom was totally frazzled, so she called grandpa (he lived 1 block away). He walked over to get us, put us both in our car and drove us to his house. My grandma was disappointed that I couldn’t go the lake with her and grandpa, but they would take me at another time. Grandma started pulling out the groceries that were on the floor in the front seat. I had put my leg on them earlier. Unfortunately they all had to be thrown away due to the blood.
After everyone settled down (I was groggy due to pain meds), my mom drove us home. My brother came running out wondering why I wasn’t at grandma’s. I told him I decided not to go. He immediately asked if he could go. Mom said yes, so he grabbed his stuff and waited for grandma and grandpa to come pick him up. It wasn’t until he got home a week later that he knew about my accident.
As you can tell, the Milk Bottle has a special place in my memory bank. I would take my daughter there to eat. They had the best damn ice cream in the world. I just had huckleberry ice cream there in late August. (Obviously, they were no longer a dairy store, but had become a wonderful little cafe.) And we would go to Ferguson’s to grab breakfast.
Both of these places were an integral part of the Garland District. I knew it well because of where my grandparents lived. It was a sad day after hearing about the fire. But apparently they will both rebuild. And the community will support them and welcome them back with open arms and empty tummies. Because no one has better ice cream than the Milk Bottle!