14th and Webster, c.1947 14

White Log Tavern restaurants (or White Log Coffee Shops) were a west coast chain of 24-hour restaurants in the 1930s and 1940s. Each restaurant was designed to look a small cabin, even if that meant putting a house-shaped façade onto a larger building.

The chain was started by Ken E. Bemis in Los Angeles. The company also operated California Kitchen restaurants. While most of the restaurants were in California and Oregon, there were some as far away as Kansas City, Missouri. 1 A 1939 appeals court case, Bemis v. People, indicates there were 3 different managing companies: White Log Systems (K. E. Bemis and R. L. Bemis), National Restaurant System (K. E. Bemis, R. L. Bemis, Fred L. Bemis, K. W. Bemis and B. Bemis Bilyeu) and Concord Company (Fred L. Bemis, K. W. Bemis and B. Bemis Bilyeu). Prior to December 31, 1937, there were 28 restaurants. 10 The 1939 directory lists both White Log System and National Restaurant System at 1431 Grove Street (now MLK Way). 9

Bemis designed custom china for the restaurants, which was manufactured the Technical Porcelain Company (TEPCO) of El Cerrito. 2,3,4 He also invented and patented a number of systems for use in the restaurants.

The 24 hour schedule seems to have made them attractive targets for robbers. 5,6,7,8

1939 directory listings 9

back of plate 21934 ad from Stanford Daily

Bemis Family

Kenneth ("Ken") Eaton Bemis (April 12, 1895 - April 27, 1968) was born in Geneva, Minnesota. Fred L. Bemis (F. L. Bemis above) was Ken's younger brother.

Ruth Lovell Maxwell (Bemis). While living in Minnesota, they had two children, Kenneth William ("Bill") Bemis and (Edith) Beverly Bemis (Bilyeu). Bill and Beverly were a noted dance team from an early age, performing under a variety of names. 11,13 They were also in two films, "College Rhythm" (1934), and "Rooftops of Manhattan" (1935), a short musical film. 12 They were also in some episodes of Broadway Brevities in 1937 and 1938.

In 1939, the Bemises were listed as living at the Athens Club. 9 They don't appear to have lived in Oakland long (the 1940 census lists an address in Los Angeles), but Ken's WWII draft card in 1942 gives 1431 Grove St. in Oakland as his mailing address, so he probably was in Oakland frequently.

Links and References

  1. Oakland Firm Defies Unions Oakland Tribune June 6, 1941
  2. TEPCO on restaurantwarecollectors.com
  3. Technical Porcelain on El Cerrito Historical Society
  4. El Cerrito was once a chinaware hot spot by Chris Treadway Contra Costa Times April 13, 2007
  5. Bandit Robs Tavern of $43 Oakland Tribune April 9, 1932 (4300 Telegraph)
  6. Bandits Rob Four Victims Oakland Tribune September 5, 1936 (519 - 16th Street)
  7. Gunman Holds Up Oakland Coffee Shop Oakland Tribune December 24, 1940 (346 - 14th Street)
  8. Bandits Rob Lunch Room Oakland Tribune May 15 1942 (42nd and Broadway)
  9. Polk's Oakland 1939
  10. Bemis v. People law.justia.com
  11. Movie Mystery Photo on Los Angeles Times
  12. Beverly Bemis on IMDb.com
  13. Danced to Fame Oakland Tribune May 21, 1935
  14. 14th and Webster Oakland History Center (note magazine rack holds January 7, 1947 edition of Look Magazine [h/t to David Mostardi on Facebook] and January edition of Better Homes and Gardens)