It started with the Englishwoman. And the one from Scotland.
It involves a super-secret shortbread recipe, some elaborate hats and boxes full of mismatched cups and saucers.
Once a year, West Linn is the site of a genuine, old-school, flashback-across-the-Atlantic English tea -- and it's hosted by the West Linn Riverview Lions Club.
"I love seeing everyone come back every year," says Lori Anderson, Lions vice-president. "We get lots of returnees, kids who grew up and now bring their kids, whole families. Some of them get all dressed up in tea party dresses, hats. We love doing this for the community."
Event co-chairs Maggie Ray and Nikki Landau have been at this a while, long enough to know how to run the kitchen at the historic McLean House like a well-oiled machine. On June 3, everyone is at their battlestations. Someone slices delicate tea sandwiches with mathematical precision -- per the instructions from the kitchen generals. Someone washes fruit and another brews tea. Scones must be dolloped with jam and clotted cream and trays of thumbprint-sized lemon tarts must be filled.
The summer tea party started 25 years ago when Anne Gosling and Mabel Dickson, two Riverview Lions members who were both natives of the United Kingdom, suggested a formal English tea as a fundraiser for the civic group, which donates its proceeds to the library's summer reading program. Dickson's husband, Dan, offered to make his family-recipe shortbread (and later passed it on to Lions members), along with scones and empire biscuits.
The club solicited donations of china teapots and cups and was flooded with remnants of family tea sets, which they scatter on linen-covered tables festooned with flowers. There are three kinds of sandwiches, cut into delicate small shapes, scones, lemon tarts and tea -- lots of traditional black tea.
Landau and her helpers laugh and kid each other as they work in the kitchen.
"We have way more fun than the men do," Landau says with a smile, referring to the other West Linn Lions Club, which is all men. Riverview Club is all female, save one male member.
According to Anderson, different members of the club prepare different menu items and pay for the food supplies as their personal donation to the fundraiser. Anderson makes Empire cookies, which are filled and frosted. "We get together the night before and make all the sandwiches and cut them just before serving. The gal who makes the salmon salad for sandwiches buys a whole fish, poaches it, debones it and makes the salad. Everything is so fresh and so good," she says.
As the 50 or so seats fill up for the event's first round of seating, Victor Meindl, the only Riverview male, circulates between the tables with refreshments of sugar cubes, lemon or tea -- all the while wearing an impossibly tall top hat.
According to club member Sue Thalman, the Lions enjoy dressing up in black and white to serve tea to maybe 200 people. They show up at the historic McLean House in the week before the tea and clean it from top to bottom.
"Everyone is involved, everyone has a job. I love working with my fellow members to put this on every year."