Pio Past: Cookie Lady turns chips into dough

For almost 120 years, The Pioneer has reported on news from the Whitman campus and surrounding community. Pio Past pulls old articles from past decades from the Penrose Library archives to give modern readers a glimpse of campus history.

Originally printed October 3, 1991, story by Tammy McLavey, staff writer

She didn’t hear me when I rang the doorbell in the back, so I went around the side of the house to make sure someone was there. Peering in the window, I could see her now, curled up in an afghan in the corner of the couch, watching Lawrence Welk on TV. When I knocked she sat up, smiled and promptly came to the door, flipping on the light switch only to see someone she had never met before. Without hesitation, she opened the door and I introduced myself to Mrs. Paula Bemrose, the Cookie Lady.

“It all started out as a church program,” she said. They were raising money for her church and living next-door to a college campus, so it seemed only natural to sell cookies. That was ten years ago: she has been selling cookies out of her home at 423 E. Alder (behind Anderson Hall) to Whitman students ever since. “There was no place to stop. And I enjoy it too much,” Paula said. Last year she sold 314 cookies. Business has not been quite so booming yet this year, but Mrs. Bemrose seemed confident that students’ behavior will change with the coming of winter: “When the weather gets cold and they make a pot of coffee, they need something to go with it, besides a Slurpee, you know.”

But what’s the advantage of selling cookies? “They’re my way of getting acquainted with the college kids. There are always a few each year that come often. And I’ve made some good friends selling cookies,” she said. One such friend was an ‘86 graduate of Whitman, who lived with Paula her senior year and is coming back from Alaska to visit for Thanksgiving. “It was a lovely relationship,” said Mrs. Bemrose. As far as things go, she hasn’t had any bad experiences selling cookies: “No bad experiences. Cookies are good experiences.”

Her selection includes chocolate chip, molasses ginger, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and an occasional batch of sugar cookies. “I sold them for 1 dollar a dozen. I don’t really care if I make any money, but I’d like to come out even at least.” Accordingly, she has raised this year’s prices to 10 cents a cookie, but popular opinion says they are certainly worth it. One student coined them as “Scrumpdiliumptious.”

The simple peace that comes in a cookie seemed baked into the essence of Mrs. Bemrose’s home and into the grain of her own character. Her hours, for example, are “anytime up ‘til bedtime.”

“Come in and ring the door bell,” reads the sign on her back door. “And if I don’t hear it,” she told me, “come bang on the door. I always turn on the light to see who it is, and I can tell the college kid from other people.”

The Cookie Lady modestly showed surprise that I wrote continually during our interview. “I think you’re going to have more than anyone wants to know about me,” she said once. She told me very openly about her friends, her life and her cookies. “And are there any secret ingredients?” I asked. “No secrets,” she laughed. “I could give you my recipes anytime. No secrets, just good ingredients.” Just like you, Mrs. Bemrose.