The Stagecoach Restaurant downtown by the Greyhound Depot. The Ranch Restaurant and Chuck's Steak House on Portland Road NE (now Lum Yen's). Ren's Drive-In #1 on 12th Street at Rural Avenue, Ren's #2 on Commercial Street SE--both home to the famous Round Dog. Johnson's Pancake House and Randall's Chuck Wagon in the 3100 Block of South Commercial. Lil' Bill's Hamburgers across Commercial Street from Wendy's--home to the infamous Peanut Butter Burger. Bring back the memories of your youth in Salem? These are just some of the businesses owned and operated over the years by the family of our guest today, Bill Johnston, Jr.
As part of our Yesterday's Voices series which chronicles the hardworking folks who helped shape Salem as we now know it, Bill and his son Ben shared their family story, undoubtedly one of amazing entrepreneurial spirit and determination. Bill said they always thought they were of Scottish lineage, but recent DNA tests show the family hails mostly from England and Ireland. Who knew?
The Johnston family came to Oregon in the 1800s and settled in the Wasco County area of northeastern Oregon, along the Columbia Gorge. Bill's grandfather, Charles "Chuck" Johnston, made his home in The Dalles where he owned a grocery store and also a drug store under the name Johnston & Slogum. They eventually branched out into other small towns in northeastern Oregon, such as Heppner, having as many as 4-5 stores.
Bill's father and mother, Bill, Sr., and Erma, started their entrepreneurial career in The Dalles. It was there that Bill, Sr., became a top salesman for National Credit Card company in 1940.
A Ren's No. 2 soon opened at 3135 Commercial Street SE, later razed to become Johnson's Pancake House (later site of Rock-n-Rogers). This venture was then followed by Randall's Chuck Wagon across the street at 3170 Commercial Street (now the location of the Fussy Duck store).
The Johnston family is a prime example of folks who shape the towns in which they live, fully committing to maintaining strong relationships that always lead to strong communities. We all benefit when commitment like this spreads through the our local community--it's encouragingly contagious!