Guler Cheese may never really have existed to any great extent, but this whole story is too good to pass up because it involves a messy divorce.
A man named Homer Spencer attempted to create, starting in 1940, an American Roquefort in caves at Trout Lake in Washington State.
Reports‡ stated that locals had duplicated Roquefort at caves at Trout Lake, Washington state. Several testers pronounced it exactly the same of French Roquefort, though how is a bit hard to imagine as goat’s milk was used instead of sheep’s milk, but anyway, never mind, nothing seems to have come of it any further, and it was a mystery as to what happened to the cheese.
The answer to the mystery turned out to be that Homer and his wife, Dalia, went through a somewhat messy divorce that had to go all the way to Washington State Supreme Court ‡ ‡.
Whose interest wouldn’t be peaked? Purely from a cheese aspect, of course.
Here are extracts from the court records.
[Dalia Spencer] has no special education and is not fitted for any special work. She has a curvature of the spine, resulting from falls sustained in early life. Although this physical defect is not ordinarily noticeable in her appearance, it gives her considerable pain at intervals and prevents her from being on her feet for more than two hours at a time without rest. Relief from her ailment might be obtained if medical or other professional attention were given her over a period of a year or more.
[Homer Spencer] is an able-bodied man and, prior to 1940, was employed as a tinsmith and construction worker. In that year he entered upon the business of manufacturing and distributing cheese, and has been engaged in that vocation ever since.
It appears that in, and for many years prior to, 1935, Mr. Wade H. Dean and Effie M. Dean, husband and wife, parents of [Dalia Spencer né Dean, were the owners of a tract of land in Klickitat county containing about twenty-five acres, upon which was a large cave used for storing potatoes and, to some extent, for sight-seeing excursions. Mr. Dean and [Homer Spencer] at that time entertained the view that the cave was particularly adapted for use in aging and curing cheese of the Roquefort type.
Further investigation, research, experimentation, and correspondence fully established the fact that the cave is unique in its adaptability for the aging and curing of cheese of the Roquefort type; indeed, it appears from the evidence that representatives of the United States department of agriculture, who had officially visited and examined the cave, declared that the department had been searching since 1925 for a locale having attributes of the caves in Roquefort, France, and that this cave was the first one of the desired kind that they had been able to find, and that this one, and no others in the United States, met the required qualifications. An interesting two-page article, with photographs, descriptive of the cave and the enterprise presently conducted in connection therewith, was presented in the Seattle Times under data of September 24, 1944, and appears as an exhibit in the case.
Pursuant to the lease and the extensive preparations made in connection therewith, [Homer Spencer] installed the necessary equipment and has ever since conducted on the premises the business of manufacturing a Roquefort type of cheese, under the trade name of “Guler Cheese.” The lease and the business conducted thereunder constitute the principal items of community property herein and will be referred to in more detail a little later.
The records do show that Guler Cheese was actually produced in some volume, as Dalia and Homer fought over how to divide it up.
The item of “inventories” mentioned in the report shows 2,358 wheels, or 11,275 pounds, of cheese on hand, of the value of $5,423.93, figured on the basis of approximately $2.31 a wheel, or approximately forty-eight cents a pound. These figures, however, are based entirely on the estimated cost of production of the cheese, rather than upon its sale value, which, according to one portion of respondent’s evidence ranged from sixty-six to eighty cents a pound, and, according to appellant’s contention, based on other evidence of the respondent, approximated $1.20 a pound. Upon these figures, the value of the cheese on hand would be somewhere between $7,741.50 and $13,530, which would make the value of the inventories, and hence the business, considerably greater than that shown by the accountants’ report. Between the date of commencement of the action, April 28, 1944, and the time of trial, respondent manufactured 2,553 additional pounds, which, of course, are not included in the original report of the accountants.
It may be though that even though Homer tried to make a go of making Guler Cheese up until at least 1951 when it was written about in newspapers, the cheese disappeared sometime after that. It may be that Homer got discouraged with the divorce settlement and decided against making it after all.
“He is compelled, by our decision, to operate the business and to give to the divorced wife one third of the net returns. The ceiling of his compensation, as operator and owner of the business, is one third of the profits. He is condemned by this court to refrain from operating a business at the site in question and deriving any profit therefrom, unless he gives one third of the net returns to his divorced wife who has never been required, and is not now required, to make any contribution of time or energy to the success of the business.”
‡ “Created in Sunken Caves at Trout Lake: A NEW CHEESE. Seven Years’ Work Plus Quirk of Nature Duplicate Roquefort. Nancy Morris, Food Editor, The Oregonian, 1951.
‡‡ [DALIA I. SPENCER, Appellant, v. HOMER I. SPENCER, Respondent. March 7, 1946].