Ollie Olsson



     We found a 1961 newspaper clipping from the Calais Advertiser the other day about Ollie Olsson and thought it was worth sharing. He was a simply wonderful man and good citizen who arrived in Calais as an immigrant in 1947. Most remember Ollie as the owner of the Angelholm Restaurant where Joe’s Pizza is now located but his enterprising spirit was felt up and down the Main Street and in many local civic organizations. 

Calais Advertiser article 1961:

     When you think of eating out in Calais you naturally think of Ollie Olsson, the gentle hard-working Swede who in a relatively short time has made himself an institution in the city.

     He came to Calais in 1947 after spending a few months in New York and two years in Florida where he was initiated into the restaurant business. He worked in the Mecca acquiring capital to begin his own business here. After six months he was ready. “I had $80 when I opened the St. Croix Restaurant” said Ollie. “There is still opportunity here in this country for anyone who wants to try.”

He went to sea

     But Ollie had not always been in the business of providing good food to hungry people. The sea and Scandinavia have always been inseparable and Olllie’s early years were spent with the sea. He was born in Hoegganas, Sweden in 1914 and the sea got him at the age of 14. From then until the end of World War II he was a sailor.

     His first voyage was made on the “Abraham Rydburg”, the last square rigger to sail from Sweden. It took her 200 days exactly to make Australia with her cargo of lumber. Eventually the vessel was sold to Portugal, and there the old masts and rigging were torn down and she was equipped with steam.

     Ollie recalls one strange experience during the Spanish Civil War. “We were sailing from Sweden to Spain with wheat when we were attacked by bombers. A bomb landed on the deck, broke through and exploded in the hold. The wheat shot out of the hold and covered everything like a snowstorm but they didn’t sink the boat.”

Expanding Business

     The St. Croix Restaurant was so successful that by the early part of this year [1961] Ollie was ready to expand. He opened the Angelholm in June. It was an excellent location, fulfilling a need for a place to eat on the North side of town and easily accessible to Canadians coming across the bridge and Ollie

soon found out there was plenty of business on Main Street for another restaurant, in fact, more than he expected.

     The Angelholm seats 62 guests and the St. Croix 80. In addition, the former provides take out service in the rear and the latter a banquet room for 45 guests. During busy seasons both restaurants are filled all the time. Ollie estimates that he serves about 800 people a day between the two locations. The Calais Lions, Rotary and Investment Clubs meet at the St. Croix Restaurant regularly.

Wife from Montana

     Ollie is the oldest of a family of 15, 10 sisters and 5 brothers, all the rest of whom are in Sweden. His wife Iris is a Montana girl and his daughter Donna lives in Billings, Montana.

     He is a landowner as well as a restauranteur. In addition to owning 600 acres on the River Road in Calais, he owns and operates a 1000-acre woodlot in Montana which he is planning to cut this winter.

He is a member of most of the societies in town, some among them the Masons, the Lions Club, the Calais Rod and Gun Club, and the St. Croix Boat Club.

     An employer of 29 people he is among the largest businesses in the city. From Sweden and the sea to restaurants in Calais, Maine, Bror (Ollie) Olsson has led a busy, exciting and successful life.

According to the article, the first place Ollie worked after he arrived in Calais was the Mecca. We don’t have a good photo of the Mecca in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s but if you look carefully just down the street from the Texaco sign, now the parking lot of the Post Office, you can make out the sign reading “Mecca Dine and Dance.”

The Mecca was a bit classier place in the late ‘40s than it became in later decades so we shouldn’t hold Ollie’s six-month stretch at the Mecca against his good character.



In 1948 Ollie gambled his savings from working at the Mecca on renting the dining room of the St. Croix Hotel shown above about this time. A post-World War Two parade is passing the hotel and the dining room. The sign at the top right reads “Dining Room and Coffee Shop” He continued to operate the St. Croix Hotel dining room for 18 years.


In 1961, while still operating the St. Croix Hotel Dining Room, Ollie opened the Angelholm at the other end of Main Street, and it is the Angelholm that most of us remember today. The Angelholm never lacked for customers even though Ollie was serving hundreds daily just a few blocks up the street at the St. Croix.

The caption above reads as follows:

The Restaurant Angelholm opened its doors to the public last week introducing a new place to dine out in Calais designed for pleasant and informal meals. The restaurant is owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Bror Olsson. Shown in the photo on opening day are: Mrs. Ethel Thornton, Martha Elliot, Lorraine Hayward, Margaret Jackson, Cecile Coleman, Rosita Waycott, and owner Ollie Olsson. 

    

   



Ollie was even involved in the Wickachee when it was renovated in the early ’70s . . .

From the Calais Advertiser:

New Wickachee Dining Room to open in Calais Friday

     When the new Wickachee dining room opens in Calais Friday afternoon June 21st [1974], it will be the high point in the career of Bror “Ollie” Olsson and his wife Lillian. The new two-story dining establishment is the culmination of months of planning and construction. One hundred and sixty people can be seated up and down stairs in the beautifully decorated dining rooms which are licensed for cocktails. The kitchen itself is a marvel of modern food preparing techniques and equipment, including even the walls, of stainless steel.

     Ollie Olsson, modest in his accomplishments, is high in his praise of the Border city which he says, “has given me just about everything I have.” He arrived here on July 5, 1948 with $80 in his pocket. He had had a venture into the restaurant business in Florida in 1946-47 before coming here and prior to that had been in the Merchant Marines. Going to sea when he was 13 years of age, he left his home town of Angelholm, Sweden and sailed for so many years that he has lost count of the number of times he sailed around the world.  

     “I don’t think there is a country in the world that you can reach by water that I haven’t been to,” he said, adding that during World War II he crossed the submarine-infested water 43 times, 24 of them aboard ammunition-laden ships.

     After he arrived in Calais, Ollie went to work in the St, Croix Restaurant which he eventually leased and managed, and then in 1961, built the well known Restaurant Angelholm just a couple of blocks from the from the Ferry Point International Bridge on upper Maine Street.

     While that restaurant prospered he became active in local organizations, including the Masons and Shrine Club and also the Lions Club in which he has served as president and district governor.

            The new Wickachee sits where the former restaurant by the same name sat for decades. Ollie and his wife, Lillian, who has also been in the restaurant business for several years, bought the old Wickachee and an adjacent rooming house in May 1973, operated the establishment throughout last summer, and then, in October, began construction of their new pride and joy. Born in Calais, Lillian Theriault Olsson was brought up at Fairhaven, Deer Island, N.B. Ollie will be the chef, Lillian will be “out front” watching over the tables and waitresses.

     The building was designed by John E. McLeod; the general contractor was John Hornbrook and the electrical contractor was Orville Hartford — all from Calais.  

      The spacious new restaurant with its comfortably colorful interior, will provide for many people on both sides of the international border a delightful adventure in dining and their many, many friends in the St. Croix Valley wish Ollie and Lillian all success in their new Wickachee.




And of course there was the Tee Hee across from the St. Croix Hotel. Ollie had no reservations about putting Cecile Coleman in charge of the Tee Hee. She was one of his employees when he opened the Angelholm.

The St. Croix Courier wrote fondly of Ollie in 1982, providing some interesting insights into the restaurant and hotel business in Calais.

Good memories of St. Croix, where locals lunched for 84¢


By Tammy Wells, Staff Writer

The St. Croix Courier, November 17, 1982    CALAIS — Bror ‘Ole’ Olsson, owner of the Restaurant Angelholm in Calais, is a busy man; but he’s never too busy to chat about the first restaurant he owned in Calais, the dining room of the St. Croix Hotel.

     Currently the owner of the Restaurant Angelholm in Calais, Ole Olsson came to Calais 34 years ago on November 1, 1948 after 18 years in the Swedish Merchant Marine. He lived for a short time in St. Petersburg, Florida, and then found his way to Calais.

     Ole spent a few months working at another Calais restaurant, then arranged to lease the dining room of the St. Croix Hotel, then owned by Daniel and Irene Hanson, on Calais’ Main Street.

     Ole can remember when, at the St. Croix, a weary traveler could get a cup of fresh-brewed coffee for a nickel, a hamburger for 15 cents, and a slice of home-made pie for a dime.

     Ole maintained the dining room of the St. Croix for 16 years, from 1948 to 1964.

     In those years, there were no motels in the city, and salesmen, plying their goods to their merchants, stayed in hotels such as the St. Croix Hotel. Olsson remembers that during hunting season, the hotel was busy all month, with eager out of state hunters hoping for a deer to take home.

     In those days just after World War II, the St. Croix Valley was a busy corner of the world. The Seabees were just leaving their Quoddy Village base, the St. Croix Cotton Mill, located in Milltown, New Brunswick was going full tilt, and the numerous factories and plants the lined the St. Croix River made the area a center of commerce and industry.

     Olsson, who maintained a separate staff from the hotel, had a total of nine employees, including himself. There were two cooks, two dishwashers, and four waitresses. The cooks each got a salary of $30 a week, the dishwashers $20 and the waitresses got $12. The hotel staff consisted of three persons in the lobby, three chambermaids, three barteners [sic], and the owners, the Hansons.

     Ole estimated that over the years when he was involved in the St. Croix Hotel operation, approximately 2,000 persons worked in the hotel; some working for less than one month.

     In fact, John Allen, who is now the manager of the Paris Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, has roots in the Calais area, as his mother once worked as a cook in the St. Croix, says Olsson.

     During Olsson’s years at the hotel, there were 52 rooms, a bar, and the restaurant, which seated 85 people.

     The first two floors of the Hotel were for guests, with the third reserved for hotel staff. Olsson lived in the hotel for seven years. The dining room also served as the meeting place for the Rotary and Lions clubs: where members bought their luncheon for 84 cents.

     “They got upset when I raised it to $1.00,” Ole chuckles.

     In 1961, Olsson purchased the former William’s Fish Market on Main Street, built an addition, and started the Restaurant Angleholm. For three years, Ole ran both the St. Croix dining room and his new restaurant, then shifted his attention solely to the Angelholm. Next year, in November, Ole celebrates 35 years in the restaurant business.

     Ollie died in September 2002. His first wife Iris is buried in the Calais Cemetery but we we’re not sure about Ollie.

BROR ‘OLLE’ E. OLSSON

   CALAIS – Bror “Olle” Edvin Olsson, 87, husband of Lillian (Theriault) Olsson, died Sept. 8, 2002, at a Bangor hospital. He was born in Angelhom [sic], Sweden, October 23, 1914, the son of Edvard and Marta (Jonsson) Olsson.

     He owned and operated restaurants in Calais for 50 years. Olle was a lifetime member and past president and past district governor of the Calais Lions Club. He was a member of the St. Croix Lodge No. 46 of Calais for 45 years; a member of the York Rite Bodies of Calais and Anah Shrine of Bangor.

     He was predeceased by his parents; his first wife, Iris Olsson; one brother and three sisters. Surviving, in addition to his wife of Calais, are two daughters, Donna and her husband, Seth Weston of Billings, Mont., Melody Olsson of Calais; two stepsons, Michael and his wife Jeanne Goodine of Mesa, Ariz., David and his wife, Kathy Goodine of Alexander; 12 grand- children, seven great-grand- children, three brothers, seven sisters, all of Sweden, nieces and nephews.  

     Services will be held 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, 2002, at the Calais Methodist Church, Main Street, Calais. Gifts in his memory may be sent to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, care of Anah Shrine Center, P.O. Box 735, Bangor, ME 04402-0735. Arrangements by Memorial Alternatives, 1225 Broadway, Bangor.    


Leave a Reply