Main St., Rockport, MA

By Ida Fredriksen Corliss

I had belonged to the Folly Cove Designers for quite a few years but resigned so I could sell things that I had printed, in my own shop.  I hired a shop “The Amethyst Shop”, which Ruth Spor had just renovated on Bearskin Neck, she had put in a small bar and five stools and wouldn’t rent it to me unless I would make it into a sandwich and Coffee Shop.  I thought I could cook with one hand and sell my block prints with the other.  Before a week was out I had taken my Prints to be sold in a Scandinavian friends gift shop and I was making chowder, sandwiches, and cake with both hands.

I had to have a name for the Shop and being of Swedish and Norwegian decent, I happen to hear over the radio a story of “Ole Bull” the famous Norwegian Violinist who had come to America touring the country, but now had decided to bring some of his Country men here to settle.  In 1852 he bought about 12,000 acres of land in Potter County, PA, near Williamsport in Kettle Creek Vally and settled a colony calling it “Oleana’.  I read up on it, the name intrigued me, from my father’s heritage, so I selected “Oleana” to be the name of my Shop.  It was in 1949 one of Rockport's hottest summers, the year that tons of enormous Tuna’s were landed on Bearskin Neck, and processed on Tuna Wharf.

The summer quickly went by with more business than I could hardly handle, from 7:00 in the morning till 7:30 at night, then baking cakes and cleaning up till midnight.  I was in the restaurant business.  I closed on Labor Day, exhausted!

The next year I worked for Mrs. Higgins at Hedlunds, because the rent on the Amethyst Shop was raised to $1,000.00, which I felt was too much.  I had only worked a few days at the Hedlund’s, when Alex Marr came to see me and suggested I take the Butnam Restaurant, which had been empty for two years.  It was a long shot, as Route 128 had only been finished as far as Beverly.  I hired it, but couldn’t open, as I was committed to Mrs. Higgins until Labor Day.  On the day after, my husband and I went to Boston and bought all second hand equipment, and ordered a counter with 14 stools to be made, with that and a few tables that were already there “Oleana-by-the-Sea” was started.

We opened October 11, 1951, a Thursday, it was overwhelming, we served over 1300 people from thursday morning until Sunday night, it was a madhouse, open at 7:30 in the morning until 7:30 at night.  I had ten in help including a chef.  I didn’t know what I was getting into.  We had really hit on something this time, if we could manage it.

I had intended to run this alone and with my husband’s after work help, but he had to give up the job of selling cars and be my partner in “Oleana”.  Both of use were rank amateurs as far as a restaurant was concerned, but we both knew it had to be clean, and the food should be good and absolutely made with fresh ingredients.  I had been brought up on a lot of Scandinavian food, as all around my home in East Gloucester where I was born, were Norwegians and Swedes, and I had to learn to cook very young, as my Mother died when I was seven years old and I was the youngest of ten children.  There are only two of us left now, my sister Asta Louise (Mrs. William More) and myself.  (Asta died in 1990)

In 1955 we were able to buy the building from the Butnam Insurance Co. and as we had been fairly successful, we dared to enlarge a bit.  We went back toward the water making more room than our original 5 tables.  This also made an additional row of windows over looking Sandy Bay.

We had by now established a very good business, although still small, people came and enjoyed it.  We had added window boxes and small trees, set in buckets, on the Main Street front to make it look attractive, they were the first on Rockport’s Main Street.

With a good view now of Sandy Bay everyone wanted a window table, which at times was difficult to do.  We served mostly plain American food, but had our Specialties such as Swedish Meatballs, Inlagd Sill (pickled herring in sour cream) Fish and Clam chowder, Lobster Stew, and my dear friend Hjordis Parker’s Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries; everyone liked it and came back for more.

In 1958 we decided to enlarge again so we extended the Dining Room 16 feet toward the water, making a large Bay Window with seven panes from floor to ceiling facing the Sea, thus giving a wide view of Sandy Bay from White Wharf to front beach, with air conditioning and a new baseboard heating system and paneling with a driftwood finish.  We had a wonderful crew of Finnish decent and all got along very well, some working for many years at Oleana.  I tried to hire for summer months, High School girls for breakfast as many were earning money for College.  I asked a girl near Easter time if she had bought her Easter bonnet - she replied “of course not, we have to work on Easter Sunday”.  Much to my surprise they came in on East Day wearing hats they had made of Fruits and Vegetables looking much like Carmen Miranda!  It was such a hit they had their picture taken and the picture was splashed across the front page of the Gloucester Daily Times.  We really had a lot of fun at times besides working so hard.

In 1959 I went with my sister Emma Kinsella and dear friend Hazel Brady to Norway.  She had been there quite a few times.  I went to get acquainted with my father’s people who lived in Tjome, a small city south of Oslo, near Tonsberg, very much the size of Cape Ann.  There are to large bridges and its surrounded by water on a Fjord.  I was met by my relatives and was welcomed and feted as only the Scaninavians know how.  It was one of the most memorable times in my life.  A party was given with over 50 relatives that lived near and in Tonsberg.

My sister Emma and my friends and I went from Tonsberg, by bus, boat and railroad up past the Artic Circle to Bodo, then by Coastal Steamer down to Bergen.  All this time I was absorbing the feel of rugged Norway and it’s gracious, warm and lovely people.

I came home so excited and stimulated that I talked my husband into buying the old Bank Building next door that had been vacant for two years, and join it to our present restaurant.  We hired Kendall & Young, local wonderful Architects, who became as enthused as we were.  With my knowledge of Norway, and with books, pictures and a lot of talk and planning, we tore down the walls between the two buildings and in five and a half weeks re-opened as “Oleana-by-the-Sea[, Rockport’s year round restaurant  This was on February 2nd 1960!  Main Street suddenly came to life again.  There was a steady stream of hungry townspeople and out of towners, pouring in and out to look the place over and eating delicious meals again.  There were so many beautiful flowers from friends and companies that did the remodeling, that it was hard to tell whether it was a new Flower Shop that had been opened or a restaurant.  It was Old Home week with all the regulars and outsiders coming to congratulate us.  It would take paper and time to describe how beautiful the local craftsmen had made our restaurant.

We now started a real luncheon Smorgasbord that was such a success, and reasonably priced at $1.45, that people came from all around to enjoy it.  The cheeriest place to eat and meet.  You could replenish for more and more.  The Old Vault of the National Bank was blasted out, windows put in, and was called “The Money Room” the wallpaper having copies of Treasury Notes and Old Coins on it.  The Norske Room had a striking white plastered Norwegian designed wood burning fireplace, a handsome carved wooden screen decorated in traditional Norwegian colors, and handblocked prints framed in its enclosure.  It gave the room a colorful flavor of Scandinavia.  It’s Old World Decor, with its hand wrought ligting fixtures, designed and made by our own Shorty Lesch, gave the rooms a charming atmosphere.  A carved overdoor wooden decoration, of Norwegian design, that are seen on Stubbors (an outside building on stilts used to store meat, fish and clothing) was made by Barbara Simpson.  All this was to make “Oleana” one of the most striking eating establishments on the North Shore.

At Christmas time from December on, we wore authentic costumes and some that had the design of the Scandinavian Nations and it was like on big Party - especially the night of the Christmas Pageant.

Chrip and I carried on until 1971 when his health prevented him from actively working and I too had to give up.  We turned “Oleana” over to our manager John Maki.  We made an arrangement with him to buy it over a period of years.  He ran it for a few years, then leased it to Richard DeMuele who at that time was chief cook.  He, his mother Janet, and father Charles, have been owning and managing the Restaurant since 1978.

This past year 1989 it was auctioned off and sold, now “Oleana-by-the-Sea” is no more.

Ida Fredriksen Corliss