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Ruby's Kitchen is a distant, charred memory

I'm curious about Ruby's Kitchen mentioned in Sunday's paper in the article about Italy and the old photograph from the Mail Tribune that's in the Rome airport. It indicated the search continues about why the photo is there.

But I was also wondering about what happened to the old restaurant. I seem to remember that it was on the old highway near the Siskiyou Summit but the memory is a little hazy.

— J.S., Medford

We also wondered what happened to the restaurant mentioned in passing in the Off The Beaten Path column, J.S.

Our sleuths in the SYA library were able to determine that Ruby's Kitchen burned to the ground on Aug. 13, 1955, roughly a dozen years after the photograph which graces the Rome International Airport bookstore was taken. The business was owned by "Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Dickinson" of Klamath Falls, according to the short article.

But we were all scratching our collective head when reader Guy Parker in Prospect sent in an e-mail that shed a bit more light on Ruby's Kitchen.

"Your article on the Rome, Italy, airport Sunday made a brief reference to Ruby's Kitchen, a greasy spoon on old Highway 99, on the Oregon side of the Siskiyou Summit," Parker wrote. "This brought back memories for me of a summer night in 1954 or '55."

At the time, he was employed as a wildlands firefighter by the Oregon Department of Forestry at its Table Rock Road station, he wrote.

"A report of a structure fire came in well after dark, maybe even in the early morning hours," he continued. "A crew of three or four of us responded in an early-50's GMC pumper with a heavy load of water that might do 55 mph on the level. We ground our way through Medford, Phoenix, Talent and Ashland on pre-Interstate-era Highway 99. It was pretty slow going when we hit the Siskiyou grade."

When they reached Ruby's Kitchen, it had already burned, he wrote, noting that no other firefighters had responded to the remote blaze.

"There was little left for us to do but mop up the perimeter to prevent any spread of the remaining embers into the state-protected surrounding forest," he concluded. "Ruby's Kitchen was history."

Meanwhile, you can expect a follow-up on how the old photo came to be displayed at the Rome airport as soon as the information comes to light, J.S.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.