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Who remembers The Poodle Dog, the renowned French restaurant that opened in San Francisco in the Gold Rush year of 1849 and triumphed through multiple reincarnations and stops and starts until its demise in 1985?

Oakmont's Cal Lalanne (lah-LAWN) recalls the place, so well.

He owned it for a time in its latter years, and as a kid he regularly ate his fill at its elegant tables with his parents and the French-born granddad — Calixte Lalanne — who created the third Poodle Dog after the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the first two.

Lalanne, now 83, often thinks about his late parents, Louie Lalanne and Julie Bareillas Lalanne, and their parents and the family's famous restaurant. But Lalanne's memory and his heart have had a workout since a fat stack of old papers arrived in the mail a few days ago.

The documents came from Brenda Day of Hamilton, Ohio. She found them two years ago when somebody donated an antique dresser of drawers to the agency she works for, which serves disabled adults.

The drawers were full of rubbish and, scattered among it, many personal papers: Letters, marriage and U.S. naturalization certificates, photos, bills, canceled checks — and old menus from some oddly named restaurant in San Francisco.

Day told a boss about the personal documents, and he couldn't be bothered. "My supervisor instructed me to throw out the whole lot," she recalled.

She asked if she could keep them. Sure, he said.

So Day took the papers home and sorted them, finding that many featured the name of Catherine Baudorre Bareillas Perez. The name Lalanne appeared on others.

Among the menus, all from restaurants named The Poodle Dog or The Old Poodle Dog or some other manifestation, was one from the New Year's Dinner in 1918:

Fresh Shrimp Salad Mayonnaise, Chicken Giblets Printannier, Broiled Fresh Mackerel a la Maitre d'Hotel, Fowl Fricassee Sauce Supreme, Broiled Milk Fed Chicken au Cresson, Celery au Jus with Marrow and Mince Pie. Cost: $1.75 per plate.

Day was intrigued by the human history contained in the papers. "I thought it was fantastic. You'd have thought it was my own family, from my excitement," she said.

She was determined to get the papers to someone in the Bareillas-Lalanne family. She said from Ohio last week that she conducted an Internet search in 2008 but came up with no good leads on surviving members of the clan.

Day's mother pitched in and wrote to fitness pioneer and juicer maker Jack LaLanne, who was born in San Francisco in 1914. He wrote back to say he wasn't of the Poodle-Dog Lalannes.

Day gave what time she could to the search and also set the papers aside for long spells while occupied with a new marriage and a couple of household moves.

Recently, she renewed the mission and located on the Internet historian James R. Smith, who featured The Poodle Dog restaurant in his 2005 book, "San Francisco's Lost Landmarks." The book recalls it as "one of San Francisco's first and certainly its most famous French restaurant."

After Day assured the author she wasn't trying to sell the papers but wanted to return them at no cost to their rightful owner, he gave her a number for Calixte "Cal" Lalanne in Sonoma County.

Lalanne, a retired accountant, wasn't so happy when his phone rang at 7:30 a.m. on a recent Sunday. But he couldn't be more grateful now.

It took just minutes of conversation to convince Day to that Lalanne was the person she'd been looking for.

He knew all about Catherine Baudorre Bareillas Perez, his maternal grandmother, and the long and colorful history of The Poodle Dog. He told Day he figures the papers were in his mother's old dresser when it was sold in a Butterfield's auction after her death in 1980.

He can't imagine how it took 30 years for them to surface. Day can't either. Regardless, the Ohio woman was happy to package them up and mail them to Santa Rosa.

Lalanne's head shook in wonder as he and his wife, Wendy, flipped through them at their kitchen table.

"Oh for heaven's sake," he said. "Here's a life insurance policy my grandmother had for $411."

He eyed a century-old photograph. "My dad's sister died when she was 16 or so. I think that's her."

Also solemn is the original, typed letter that a U.S. Army officer wrote to Lalanne's grandmother Bareillas on Feb. 7, 1918. It informed her of the death of her son Jacques, Lalanne's uncle, from the explosion of a large gun during combat training at Fort Sill, Okla.

The papers have taught Lalanne a few things. But more than that they've transported him back to The Poodle Dog and strengthened his bonds with the long-passed parents and grandparents who handled and had reason to hold on to those documents of lives many years ago.

"It's a revelation, really," Lalanne said. "As much as you know, you don't know."

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.