Hidden History: 3010 NW Nicoli

Sometimes in my search for the odd and unusual, I come across something truly remarkable. Enter the ordinary numbers of an address into Google, perhaps your own and you may be shocked; the not always pleasant past may seem uncomfortably close.

Such was the case of  3010 NW Nicolai. Here, in what today is an otherwise unremarkable building, a series of tragic events unfolded on a warm summer night back in August 1960 which ended up costing Martin Becker his life.

3010 was once home to the Arrow Cafe that stood at the edge of a vast WWII housing tract on the historic site of Guild’s Lake and later, Lewis & Clark Exposition. After the war, the area filled with industrial plants and the little restaurant did a brisk lunch trade with blue-collar workers.

We don’t know much about Martin, except that he was the owner of the Arrow and had a bad temper. He once drunkenly busted into his estranged wife’s apartment and threatened her life. When police arrived at the scene a struggle ensued, ending with a bloodied Becker booked for the night in the county lockup.

August 15, 1960 was as ordinary a day as any other. At 5 o’clock the waitress left for the evening and Becker remained to finish up his duties. While checking stock in the walk-in, the heavy insulated door shut and latched behind him. He tried the handle, but quickly realized that it had been removed months ago after malfunctioning. Trapped, he must have begun to panic. He began making a ruckus in the hope that passerby might hear through the open back door, grabbing any and everything he could find: resturant-sized cans of corn, tomatoes, eggs and smashing them against the walls of the fridge. Now in full panic, he grabed a heavy can of ham and beats upon the door making some progress but not quickly enough. The fatal cold shivering his body, he desperately crushed the delicate copper cooling lines, releasing the  methyl chloride gas carried within. The sweetly acrid smell of the gas may have alerted him to its potent toxicity and quickly he hammers shut the ends of the tubes to prevent more from escaping. Finally, covering his face with a wet towel he attempts to escape the deadly fumes to no avail.

The morning shift arrived to find the back door ajar and Martin’s car in the lot. Foul play was initially assumed what with the cash register open and empty and door open. Fearing the worst, they avoid opening the cooler. Within it, Martin’s body lay facedown and lifeless on the floor of the now warm walk-in refrigerator.

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