The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Ted Cox Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Tiah Edmunson-Morton.

June 7, 2016


Theodore William Cox was born in 1947 in Eugene, Oregon. His father, a logger, suffered a major accident while working in the forest, and soon after the family moved to California to manage his aunt’s peach ranch. Farming only lasted a year, and the family soon transitioned to operating ice cream shops outside Santa Monica and Eagle Rock. Cox’s extended family had remained in Oregon, buying and operating the Albany Ironworks Foundry, so Cox frequently returned to the area and spent his high school summers working for his uncle. During the school year, he competed in track and field for Montclair High School, a passion that he continued to pursue during his college years, adding football and rugby later.

Cox attended Chaffey Junior College for two years, and then transferred to La Verne College, graduating in 1969. When he was finished he put in an application to the Peace Corps and was selected, traveling to Sierra Leone and spending two years teaching high school science and physical education. As his tour came to a close, Cox was offered a different Peace Corps position, this time as the national track and field coach for Belize, a post that he accepted.

The two years that Cox spent in Belize made a big impact on his life. Not only was he afforded the opportunity to train athletes and raise the prominence of athletics in the country, but he also led a data gathering project that would later form the heart of his master's thesis: developing standards for fitness parameters for youth in Belize and contrasting these guidelines with similar efforts in the United States.

Cox left Belize in August 1973 and enrolled at Oregon State to start a graduate program in Physical Education. A few weeks after arriving in Corvallis, the Director of Women's Athletics approached Cox and asked if he would be willing to coach OSU's women's volleyball team, the first volleyball team at the university to be formed under the new collegiate rules governed by Title IX. Cox agreed and remained in this role for two years.

After Cox graduated from OSU in 1975, he found work at Linn-Benton Community College teaching first aid classes and physical education, and he also took a job at a restaurant in Corvallis. After a couple of years, he decided to open his own restaurant, and in 1977 he opened the doors to the Old World Deli, housed in a historic building in downtown Corvallis. Lacking much training in running a restaurant business, Cox decided to keep it simple with sandwiches and soups. He struggled for the first two years, working eighteen hour days on his own. (At one point he did supervise a temporary employee – his mom.) Gradually, revenue increased and he was eventually able to hire a part-time employee. From the outset, the Old World building was designed to be a gathering spot, with space provided for live music and activities including lectures or readings. Over time, the Old World Deli became a community gathering spot, and eventually Cox broadened his business to include the sale of homebrewing supplies.

Cox's interest in homebrewing broadened to include the study of beer history and beer appreciation. Soon he was teaching his own beer and wine tasting and making classes at OSU and at the deli, which led pretty quickly to the founding of the Heart of the Valley Home Brewers, a local hobbyists' group. This club soon decided to organize a festival, which would come to be known as the Oregon Homebrew Festival. And though he never pursued brewing professionally, Cox did have his hand in an important new business for the growing microbrewing community, providing space and assistance to Oregon Trail Brewery, which has occupied a corner of the Old World building since 1987.