What’s one thing truckers are known for? Drinking coffee. Gallons and gallons of coffee. They’re also quite loyal to the truck stops and cafes they patronize along their routes. One such cafe in Umatilla boasted what they thought was the largest collection of personalized coffee cups in the area, all displayed on shelves throughout the dining room.
The Coffee Cup Cafe was located on Highway 730, just west of Umatilla, at the time the May 6, 1981 story appeared in the East Oregonian. It had recently been reopened by Ellen Smith after sitting shuttered for three years when the old Husky truck stop cafe closed its doors. The coffee cups — more than 2,000 of them — had been boxed up and stored, but were slowly regaining their place of distinction.
“Miss Ellie” Armour, who worked as a cook at the old truck stop before it closed, said she had been visiting the cafe off and on for about 30 years and remembered truckers paying a dollar to have their names and the outfit they drove for put on a cup, which was shelved in a numbered spot. When the trucker would return to the cafe, he would give his number and a waitress would retrieve his cup. Some cups were stored upside down, in respect for a trucker “who will jam gears no more.”
Smith, former assistant manager of the King City Truck Stop outside of Pasco, Wash., said she thought opening her own truck stop would be “exciting and a challenge.” She hoped to bring the cafe back to its original truck stop glory, featuring home-cooked food and a place where truckers could stop in for a personalized cup of joe and old-fashioned hospitality.