Feb 22 2014

On Monday, February 24, at 7 p.m., Kennedy School hosts a special History Pub about a remarkable Portland gathering spot that for two decades attracted the likes of Empire Builders, Supreme Court Justices, federal judges, vice kings, mob bosses and Hollywood royalty, and seemingly everyone in between. Dad Son LeonardMore importantly, it served as a professional and social club for Jewish men who at the time were banned from joining the city's existing private clubs.

At left is a photo taken around 1930 of Leonard Kaufman, standing with his young son, Leonard, Jr. The younger Leonard will be a featured speaker for the night's presentation to talk about his dad and all the characters, legends and events tied in with his dad's "store." 

It will be a great night - we hope to see you there.

For exactly 20 years, from 1930 to 1950, Leonard's place at SW 6th Avenue and Oak Street in Downtown Portland was a bustling, dynamic men's hub, the epitome of a "Third Place" (First, there's home. Second is the office, and last in the trio of man's pivotal places is the community gathering spot; i.e. the pub, the café, etc.). This one, though, filled the additional, very meaningful role of an unofficial clubhouse for Portland's Jewish men, since at that time Jews were denied entry into most all of the private social and athletic clubs throughout the city.

Leonard'sLeonard Kaufman opened his place in direct response to this flagrantly discriminatory practice. Formally called the Leonard Kaufman Lunch and Cigar store, its basic but extremely well-presented offerings included a large and fine selection of cigars, a lunch counter featuring the fare of a master chef, a bookie who took bets on horse races and sports events, and a card room that during the War Years ran 24 hours a day. 

Not fancy or very big, Leonard's was always welcoming and proved exceptionally well-suited for business meetings, debating the plays of last night's ball game over a corned beef sandwich and a beer, or playing a hand or two of cards in the back.

As the saying goes, "It's not the character of the place; it's the characters in the place." And this was so true of Leonard's, starting and ending with Leonard himself.  Leonard Kaufman was a gregarious and kind sport, born in raised in Portland. A perfect host, he valued friendships much more than money and kept them far longer than any fortunes he ever made.

Leonard genuinely liked people and was happy talking to most anybody. Through earlier jobs as a traveling cigar salesman, sports radio announcer and race wire operator, he came to know and befriend all kinds of colorful and important characters around the country, and on either side of the law: Jack Dempsey, Moe Annenberg, Ralph Capone (Al's brother), William O. Douglas, John Wayne, Gus Solomon, most all of whom came to the café & card room at one time or another.

In 1950, Leonard Kaufman died too young. He never was allowed to join the Multnomah Club, the Arlington Club, or the others (the admittance of the first Jews to such clubs was still several years away), but he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had created, nurtured and sustained a special and historically important place where his fellow Jewish professionals, friends and neighbors, gathered regularly and freely.

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Comment on this Posting:

#1 Lane Forncrook

I have a menu that was my late aunts, and I think it might be from the Leonard's in Portland. I'm not sure as it does not have any address. I know it is from the 1930's because of the prices. Is there anyone that could help me figure this out please have them email me. Thanks Lane Forncrook Medford Oregon

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