Miss Pearl Tyre ran a boarding house at 1023 Washington Street in Boise’s North End from 1934 to at least 1951. She also ran an open kitchen where people in need could eat for low or no cost, if they were willing to exchange chopping a little wood or sweeping floors for a meal.
This classified ad from the June 25, 1949 edition of the Idaho Statesman was typical: “You may fill your plate with delicious home cooked food at the kitchen stove of the Ugly Duckling Kitcheteria. Wash your own dishes one at a time under the hot water faucet.”
The Ugly Duckling Kitcheteria? Yes. One can only guess how Tyre came up with the name, but a good supposition is that it may have come from one way she acquired her food. Each day the local Safeway store would clean out their display racks, tossing the slightly wilted, tragically malformed, and bruised fruits and vegetables. Tyre made regular trips to the alley behind the grocery to salvage discarded, yet edible food. She would take it home, clean it up, and toss the vegetables into a stew pot.
Miss Tyre—she never married—was not judgmental, though she had once worked with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which at times came off as a bit judgy. As evidence of that we produce this ad from 1949, which may give us another clue about the establishment’s name: “The Ugly Duckling was hatched from a swan’s egg in a nest of common barnyard ducks. He was thought ugly by his companions, but became the most beautiful bird of them all. Do not be afraid of the Ugly Duckling period in your life, for it may lead to a superfine swan’s status. Meals for working for them or cash, $2.50 a week. Ugly Duckling Kitcheteria, 1023 Washington St., phone 832.”
The proprietress was active in several women’s organizations and was a founding member of the YWCA in Boise. At one time she worked as the librarian at the Idaho State Law Library. But it is her Kicheteria for which she was best remembered by the men and women to whom she offered a dignified meal and place to stay. And it wasn’t just down and outers she welcomed. Miss Tyre invited students from Boise High School to eat a good lunch for a little money, as well.
The community stepped up to help when called upon, as this thank you ad for Thanksgiving indicates: “We are grateful for the food that poured in, in answer to our request at Thanksgiving. Never in the 15 years of the kitcheteria have we seen men and women so hungry, ravenously hungry, eating 3 big meals a day. We are endeavoring to give them peace of mind and nourished bodies, so that they will leave us with a better outlook than when they came.”
But there’s still that odd name, not the Ugly Duckling part, but the “Kitcheteria.” Did Miss Tyre invent that word? Perhaps, but we should note that it was trademarked by the Harrington Hotel Co., Inc in 1956. Their Kitcheteria was a Washington, D.C. self-service dining establishment begun following World War II. It served more than a million meals from 1948-1991. That’s probably more than Miss Tyre served in her 17-year run in Boise, but they could not have been served with more respect than the diners got from the lady of the Ugly Duckling Kitcheteria.