Elsie's Tradition Endures in Falmouth

Original Owner Recalls Cambridge Decade

FALMOUTH. Mass--A small piece of Cambridge moved to this Cape Cod community 17 years ago and is still flourishing. Elsie Baumann, the original owner of the Elsie's Lunch restaurant, is here serving her brand of German specialties to strains of Bavarian music.

Old and New

The new sandwich shop, also called Elsie's, features many of the items that made the Square original part of Harvard lore--the "Fresser's Dream" sandwich, appelstrudel. Elsie's coffee, and the ever-present "Roast Beef Special."

And although Elsie and her husband Henry say their new venture is successful, it doesn't compare with the 10 years they spent in Cambridge.

"I was the mother of the [Harvard] boys," Elsie explains. "The mothers wrote to me, thanking me for taking care of their boys."

The Baumann's home is filled with Harvard--memorabilia--photographs, scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings, and hundreds of cards and letters. Included in the stacks is a bulging packet of notes from Karim Aga Khan '59, the spiritual leader of the Pakistani Islamic sect, music composed by Joseph Raposo '58, articles by Eugene Bell, and a book by poet David McCord '56 autographed "To my friends Elsie and Henry, who made Cambridge a better city."

On the shelves are Harvard steins used to serve root beer after football games.

The original Elsie's run by the Baumanns was not much like the current version, they say. A fresh bunch of flowers "to give the place a touch of home" took the place of today's video games and green sawdust Elsie remembers. They've enlarged it: I tell you, it was cozy then."

"Sometimes the students had no money," Elsie recalls, adding. "I gave them the sandwiches and slipped a brownie in."

"It didn't make me poorer, it made me richer," she says.

Born in Nuremberg, Germany, Elsie, who is 71 years old, and Henry, who is 80 years old, came to the United States in 1938 with two young sons and $4. Speaking no English they both worked to save to buy their own restaurant.

In 1955, they bought the corner shop on Mt. Auburn St. "We worked hard," Elsie says. "My husband was the soul of the business and I was the personality."

"Elsie came home every morning at 2 a.m.," Henry adds. "She wouldn't go home until the last coffee cup was clean."

Elsie had a heart attack in 1965, and the Baumanns sold the original Elsie's to Phillip Markell. They moved to Falmouth, and were so restless they opened a new restaurant one year later.