archive2009-14.pdxradio.com » Portland Radio

Chas. F. Berg - Founder of "The Hoot Owls" - His Story

(1 post)
  • Started 2 years ago by Craig_Adams

Tags:


  1. Craig_Adams
    Radio historian

    Today July 14, 1871 Charles F. Berg was born in San Francisco, California. He attended "Little Lincoln School" on Fifth St. near Market in San Francisco and later the "Hayes Valley School" in the same district. High School would not be possible for young Charlie. In about 1885 right after finishing grammar school Charlie went to work for George A. Moss, President of the "Gamossi Glove Co." with stores in San Francisco, one in the Phelan Building, at 800 Market St. and another location on Van Ness Ave.

    In 1895 Charles F. Berg became Manager of the Phelan location and living at 633 Eddy St. In 1899 Charles F. Berg married Sadie Dixon. On January 5, 1901 Charles & Sadie welcomed their only baby Forrest T. Berg in San Francisco. On May 7, 1902 Sadie Berg died in San Francisco when Forrest was 18 months old, and he was raised by relatives in The Bay Area. Also in 1902 George A. Moss sent Charles to Minneapolis/St. Paul to open branch stores and Charlie stayed in the Tri-Cites for five years.

    May 6. 1906 Charles ran a message at the top of an ad in The Minneapolis Journal: "For the purpose of helping out the California Gamossi stores, four of which were destroyed in the San Francisco fire. The following is a letter from G.A. Moss, President of the Gamossi Glove Company, to the local Manager:

    Oakland, Cal; April 25, 1906 -- 445 Thirteenth Street.
    Mr. Chas. F. Berg, Gamossi Glove Co., No 20
    610 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, Minn.

    Dear Sir -- Not a vestige left of 101 Post, 800 Market, 12 Grand Avenue, or 1210 Market. Following my usual custom, all were pretty well covered by insurance, but it may take months to realize on that. In the meantime bills are becoming due and cash is needed. We look to Minneapolis and Denver to help us out. Get up a sale and mark goods cheaper for cash. We need money at once. Do the best you can for us. Very truly,
    George A. Moss, President"

    On February 14, 1907 Charles, now back in San Francisco, married Saidee R. Rosenberg. On March 25, 1907 Chas. & Saidee arrived in Portland (from San Francisco) to live. Charles had purchased interest in a new firm to be called Lennon, Loughrey & Berg. (A.J. Lennon & J.D. Loughrey). Lennon owned shops in Seattle & Loughrey owned a shop in San Francisco. On April 9, 1907 Charles bought out John Allesina's umbrella shop (since 1899) and his stock of umbrella's at: 309 Morrison St., near 6th (Post Office, Opposite). On May 5, 1907 a new store called "Lennon's" of the Seattle concern, opened in the space. Lennon's slogan: "For Gloves & Umbrellas." They also sold hosiery.

    On October 17, 1908 Chas. F. Berg moved from Portland for San Francisco to assume management of Lennon's new Phelan building store on Market St. Berg had made the Portland store the most successful of the chain. Frank A. Gunn became the new Portland manager. Shortly after Berg's move to San Francisco, Berg & Lennon purchased Loughrey's interest in the firm. Then resold Loughrey one of the San Francisco stores, making Berg & Lennon equal partners in Portland, Seattle & San Francisco. Charles F. Berg became Vice-President of the company.

    On April 8, 1909 it was announced C.F. Berg returned to Portland to take charge of the Portland shop again. Berg said: "Portland as a place of residence and business is far ahead of San Francisco and that he is very much pleased to return and make this his permanent place of business and residence." On July 8, 1913 Charlie & Saidee welcomed their first baby Caroline Flora Berg. On December 4, 1913 Chas. F. Berg was elected President of the Portland Advertising Club effective January 1, 1914. On July 25, 1917 Charles F. Berg was elected President of the Pacific Coast Advertising Men's Association.

    On June 5, 1918 Berg opened "The Waist Shop" Lennon's Annex in the "Portland Hotel" courtyard (Post Office, Opposite). This shop had blouses & underwear. On September 1, 1921 the Berg & Lennon partnership ended with Berg keeping his two stores and Lennon keeping his three stores in Seattle. On October 23, 1921 the store name changed to "Charles F. Berg. Formerly known as Lennon's."

    In late 1922 son Forrest Berg moved from San Francisco to Portland, beginning work at Chas. F. Berg. At the time the store had no real job for him so he instituted a department of women's ready-to-wear and became its head. Forrest had received his early training in the business at the "White House" store, considered one of the finest of its kind in California and Forrest had worked in all of the departments.

    January 25, 1923 it was announced Charles F. Berg was President of a new radio show debuting in four days "The Hoot Owls" first meeting. This immensely popular KGW radio program was heard in the Northwest for most of a decade, as well as periods of time in the Western United States & Canada, via a chain of stations that included: KFRC San Francisco, KFOA Seattle, CFAC Calgary, KHQ Spokane, KVOS Bellingham, KMO Tacoma, KFJI Astoria, plus NBC Pacific station specials.

    The hour and a half variety show debuted January 29, 1923. The assemblage calling themselves The Hoot Owls, was founded and headed by Charles F. Berg. Most were Portland businessmen performing skits and having a good time entertaining listeners. The Hoot Owls were also a radio club, conducting weekly meetings over the air. Male listeners could join this club, receiving a Hoot Owls membership card.

    The KGW Hoot Owls had their own "owl" names as well. Charles F. Berg was known as "Grand Screech" owl, although he was originally "Grand Bubo", then "Grand Eagle Owl" and "Grand Imperial Eagle" before settling for Grand Screech. The program occasionally featured guests. Singers, musicians, vaudeville acts, you name it, playing Portland engagements, were asked to perform, which promoted their theater shows.

    No one on the program was paid, including The Hoot Owls. There were no commercials. The program also conducted many broadcasts helping less fortunate with benefit shows. On December 3, 1925 The KGW "Hoot Owls" combined with "Portland Police" to create the "Sunshine Drive" in which the "Hoot Owls" would raise a fund over their variety show of 600 food baskets for destitute families in 1925. In Nov 1926 the "Sunshine Drive" became known as the "Sunshine Division."

    On November 1, 1928 Charles F. Berg was elected President of the "Congregation Beth Israel" where he would serve for two years. Charles had been Secretary of the congregation for four years and a trustee for the past 12 years, the longest in point of service of any member of the board at the time.

    In November 1929 Berg's became incorporated as "Charles F. Berg, Inc." with Charles as President and Forrest T. Berg Secretary-Treasurer & General Manager. Forrest knowledge of women's coats, suits and frocks was said by Charles to be extensive and Forrest Berg now had the final authority at Berg's on matters pertaining to his specialties. The new Berg slogan was: "The shop smart women prefer."

    On February 1, 1930 Charles F. Berg moved into their enlarged three story women's department store in the Dolph Building at: 145 Broadway and was opened for business. Formerly in the location of the "Sweet Sixteen" store (since 1921). With this opening "The Waist Shop" in the "Portland Hotel" courtyard was shutdown. The renovated building, built in 1902, featured ornate and lavish interior fixtures such as a Tiffany-designed elevator. The facade included inlays of 14 Karat gold.

    The new Charles F. Berg store was not only expanded in all lines of previously carried merchandise but several distinctly new lines were added. The new shops within the main store handled millinery, foundation garments, shoes and accessories, such as handbags and costume jewelry. This was regarded by the Berg's as the only logical step in the expansion program that started as an umbrella, gloves & hosiery shop.

    On Thursday September 1, 1932 Charles F. Berg died at age 61 in his store at: 615 S.W. Broadway of a heart attack. He had known for months that his heart was failing. Doctors had long ago forbidden him to proceed faster that a slow walk. He was stricken at 4:30pm. Physicians were called and ordered that he remain at the store where he died at 7:45pm. Members of his family and several close personal friends were at his side at the end. It was learned that he died as he had lived--with a smile on his face, wisecracking to the end, that the blow might fall more easily and that his loved ones might be spared every possible measure of grief and sorrow.

    Berg had often said he preferred---death while still active in business and civic enterprises. Charles had persisted in the old notion that a customer is a friend and that business is much more than just making money. Berg was one of the best known in the city, devoting a great deal of time to civic activities. Charles had been a member of 38 civic clubs and organizations. His club and lodge affiliations included: Shriners, Elks, Rotary Club & Portland Ad Club.

    On Friday September 2, 1932 ad: "In respect to its Founder, Charles F. Berg, the Chas. F. Berg store will be closed all day Friday and Saturday." The Hoot Owls assemblage fell apart when their leader, Charlie Berg died. Charles had been on almost every show since its beginning. The Hoot Owls managed to stay together for the holiday "Sunshine Division" food basket drive because Charlie would have wanted that but now the Hoot Owl get together's were painful. It just wasn't the same. Their last show aired on January 6, 1933.

    On Sunday September 4, 1932 Funeral services were held for Charles F. Berg at 12 noon at Temple Beth Israel. The body lying in state at Chapel of Holman & Lutz until 9:00am. Then lying in state at the temple from 10:00 to 11:30am. Honorary pallbearers were Governor, Julius L. Meier; Mayor, George L. Baker; Judge, Robert Tucker & Hoot Owl, Frank J. Sardam. Burial was at Beth Israel cemetery. Flags at Portland City Hall and public buildings were flown at half staff in his memory.

    Oregon Governor, Julius L. Meier: "I have known Charlie Berg ever since he came to Portland, known him closely and intimately, both in a business and social way, and it was a real shock to me when I learned Thursday night of his passing. He had a most wonderful personality, was a most lovable fellow, was a real leader in his city, Charlie Berg will be missed."

    Portland Mayor, George L. Baker: "Charles F. Berg was one of the greatest civic assets Portland ever had. He was one of the most loyal friends in the world. He was one of the most generous men I have known. He was one of Portland's keenest business minds. I shall miss him. Portland will miss him."

    On September 7, 1932 "A resolution expressing the city's sense of loss in the death of Charles F. Berg and appreciation of his public service was prepared by City Attorney Grant at the direction of the council. The resolution said:

    "Resolved by the council that in the passing of Charles F. Berg the City of Portland and the State of Oregon lost a loyal citizen whose civic sense of duty prompted him to render without hope of fee or reward valuable public service. In his public relations with his fellow citizens he exhibited the rare combination of sound judgement, clear understanding of all facts and a patience and toleration toward differences of opinion that when he made a final decision it was universally respected. The council acknowledges for and on behalf of the citizens of Portland his valuable public service, his business ideals and the geniality of his social relations with his fellow-men. The council mourns his passing, but it will ever revere his deeds."

    Special Thanks to Joel Miller who helped make this Radio biography more complete.

    References: The Minneapolis Journal, The Oregonian, The San Francisco Call, Wikipedia.

    Posted on July 14, 2014 - 07:14 AM #