Thursday, February 7, 2013

Growing up in Skokie

My great-grandparents, Peter and Catherine (Lochner) Heinz, purchased a house with an attached tavern sometime between 1930 and 1935. Located in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, the tavern was named the Skokie Inn and later changed to the Skokie Club. Peter allowed his customers to drink on credit and at the time of his death on December 5, 1942 there were more I.O.U.s in the cash drawer than cash.

Peter and Catherine Heinz's house. The Skokie Inn was situated
just behind the house and was joined by a breezeway.

When my grandparents divorced in 1943, Grandma Dorothy and her three daughters (ages six, seven and nine) moved in with the recently widowed Catherine. Catherine helped the small family by providing them a home on the second floor of the house and Dorothy helped Catherine in the tavern.

Dorothy and the girls about 1938.

There really was no good place to play at the house; there was no backyard and the tavern grounds mostly consisted of parking lot. During the winter, the girls would throw snowballs at passing cars. Unfortunately for them, they got caught. They had to face the driver and their mother in the kitchen at home. Dorothy was so embarrassed that she paid the man $15 and the girls had to work to pay her back.

Dorothy in the snow.

Another favorite pastime for the girls was to go into the tavern's kitchen after school to dance with Cobb the cook. The girls would dance on his feet to the music on the radio. It was a sad day for them when Cobb left for another job.

Peter and Cobb taking a break outside the
Skokie Inn about 1940. The girls don't know
if "Cobb" was his first or last name.
In November 1945, Vincent Heinz (their father) petitioned the court for more liberal visitation rights. He and his new wife had purchased a home and were leasing a tavern in Chicago located on the same street as the Skokie Inn. Vince filed a second petition placing some restrictions on the girls–they were to stay out of the tavern part of the premises in Skokie and were to be in bed by 10 p.m. every night. Up until that time the girls (now age 9, 10, and 12) had free run of the house and tavern. They were not appreciative of the restrictions placed upon them by the court. I find it interesting that these restrictions were place on them in relation to their mother's residence by the request of their father who also operated a tavern.

Vincent Heinz wearing what looks like
a long coat, c1933.

Dorothy and her girls lived in the Skokie house for six years. They moved to Galesburg, Illinois in 1949 when Dorothy married again. Although they had an unconventional upbringing for that period of time, they were loved and knew it.

The inspiration for this post came from this week's Sepia Saturday challenge. The image prompt has snow, lamp-posts, long coats, barrels, and buildings, with snow being the most prominent feature. I have to admit that I was a little intimidated by this one. You see, I am a desert rat. I have lived most of my life (at least since the age of 3) in either southern Texas or southern Arizona. It almost never snows in either of those places and that's the way I like it!

But, after some anxious pondering, my mother came to the rescue again. She was born and raised in northern Illinois where they get lots and lots of snow. And I remembered this photo of her and her sisters at the approximate ages of eleven, nine, and eight (Mom is in the middle and is the oldest).

Mom and her sisters about 1944 or 1945.
Although it is not visible in the photo, the girls are standing in front of the house that was attached to the Skokie Inn.  There is a Schlitz sign behind the girls advertising that the tavern served Schlitz on tap. There is another partial sign behind them. If you examine the photo below, a little closer shot of that sign, you can see "Atla..." above the word "Tave...". This must be a sign for Tavern Pale Beer which was brewed by Atlantic Brewing Co. (I found an interesting history for this brewery on Bob Kay Beer Labels). Tavern Pale Beer was produced in kegs for the tavern trade. This sign was advertising that the Skokie Inn served Tavern Pale Beer. The signs are not lamp-posts, but Alan gives us license to interpret his prompts any way we wish so I have decided to let them stand in for lamp-posts. I found no photos of barrels in my collection of family photos, but we can all imagine the kegs of beer in the tavern that would look like barrels.

Catherine (Lochner) Heinz standing in front of the house
in the 1940s.  Note the partial sign behind her.
I think I hit on all the elements of this week's Sepia Saturday prompt, even if I had to stretch it a little. And I hope you were entertained by the story. Just to show you that it does sometimes snow here in southern Arizona, here is a photo of the one and only White Christmas I have ever had.

Tucson, Arizona, Christmas Day 1987.

Visit the Sepia Saturday blog for other stories and vintage photos with the theme of the week.

Thanks for dropping by.


  1. The 2nd and 3rd photos are my favourtite, D & the girls and D. in the snow. Posed they may be, but the spontenaity is wonderful. You can almost see the cold wind blowing in the snow one.

    As for the last image of Tucson in the snow, that doesn't look like the Arizona I've seen in the movies - almost bizarre.

  2. Seeing snow on a cactus is a real surprise! Poor Dorothy did the best she could raising 3 girls on her own, so boo-hiss on Vincent for adding to her troubles (although on the surface the restrictions sound like good ideas). And what a jerk that driver must have been to fuss about little girls throwing snowballs.

    (How clever of you to hit all the thematic points -- you get snow from me, and that's all!)

  3. I loved reading this part of your family history. The nature of the court restrictions surprised me. Never heard of anything like that before. It seems to me that education of your children is your own responsibility.
    Been to Tucson twice. The nicest thing I saw there were flowering cactus after it rained for hours on end. As Tony said, a cactus in the snow, that's bizarre!

  4. Very interesting part of your family history and some great memories preserved in those photographs. I enjoyed reading it very much, thank you for sharing.

  5. I never knew that it ever snowed in Arizona!

  6. A great collection of photographs. And any photograph that included an inn or tavern is guaranteed to be a favourite of mine.

  7. I was in Tucson several months ago on holiday from Australia and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the desert. It's a surprise to see it covered in snow in your last picture!

  8. I thought it was interesting that your great-grandparents purchased "a house with an attached tavern" and not "a tavern with an attached house."

  9. Well that hit the entertainment button for me as you had hoped. Great pictures with a really interesting story attached.

    No I wonder if we could persuade you to do one more thing for us and switch of word verification? Most osf us on SS got rid of it ages ago and find that comment moderation does the trick.

  10. Seems like most folks were intrigued by the snow on the cactus. We don't see it often, but it has happened a few times in my lifetime. I will have to do a post on it sometime. Snow on cactus may be bizarre, but it is mighty beautiful to behold.

    Postcardy, I didn't think about the arrangement of the me the house was more important since that is where my mom lived but I suppose the tavern was more important to my great-grandparents since that is where they made their living.

    Little Nell, I have turned off the word verification and will try the moderation for a while. That was a setting I never really looked at before. Thanks for the tip.

  11. The girls apparently had a wonderful childhood, full of unique experiences and as you say they knew they were loved. I can see them dancing on Cobb's feet..I used to love to do that with my Dad. The snow on the cacti is a lovely image.

  12. Enjoyed your family stories and photographs. Good times can be had at family businesses attached to homes.

  13. Imagine. Operating a tavern on credit.
    Interesting post. Love the snowy photos and the family history.

  14. Sherri, this is a fantastic post, full of great pictures and vivid memories. Thanks so much for looking everything up and sharing this with us. I loved it!

    Kathy M.

  15. Thanks for sharing such interesting photos and your stories- I always enjoy pictures with bits and pieces of signs and such- but often if you investigate long enough it helps pin point where it is! My grandfather lived most his life in Arizona- and yes even his ranch saw the once in a life time snow fall- never lasted long- but he loved it just the same!

  16. I really liked the story you told in words and pictures -- these bits and pieces of our lives are connectors between us humans, or so it seems to me. Thanks for an interesting read. BTW I loved how your mom and aunts are so intently looking at someone or something. Wonder what or who it was.

  17. "Christmas 1987" sure is pretty,
    due to the unusual mix of cactus and snow possibly.

    After all of this talk of taverns, kegs and beer, I could drink one right now!!