China Lantern, Beaverton 1950s
In the 1950s when this colorful menu was in use, the China Lantern restaurant in Beaverton, Oregon, had two claims to fame.
Locals praised the quality of the Chinese and American food (it was common in this era to offer both types of food in a single restaurant), commented on the charming hostess and efficient waiters, and thought it was a nice touch that kids left with gifts of ‘double bubble chewing gum.’ For many families, it was their favorite place to eat for years.
What most of them didn’t know was that the China Lantern was also the front for a gambling den run by crime boss Jim Elkins.
Elkins, who started his underworld career by manufacturing moonshine and who shot a security guard in a robbery, moved on to run gambling rackets and nightclubs. He was noted for his brutality and for having local politicians and Teamsters in his pocket.
He featured prominently in the McClellan Committee investigations into organized crime – its chief counsel was Robert F Kennedy and its full name was The United States Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management - that commenced in 1957 after he agreed to cooperate with two Oregonian journalists Wally Turner and William Lambert.
The journalistic duo, who were nicknamed FishFace and BugEyes by the gangsters and corrupt local bigwigs they were trying to bring down, recorded hours of audio with Elkins, persuaded him to give testimony and later won a Pulitzer Prize for their work.
The scandal was reported widely, including in TIME and LIFE magazines, and locals were astounded to read that the China Lantern had such a double life.
Elkins’ career as an underworld crime boss ended with his part in the hearings and he died in a car accident in Arizona in 1968 at the age of 67.
The China Lantern closed shortly afterwards.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.
All printed in USA.