Chapter 11

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At Jack's

Chapter 11  (1981-1990)


Since Vietnam, the United States has tried to act as peacemaker. Bad feeling between the U.S. and the Communist countries can make a small war very dangerous. With nuclear weapons on both sides, even the most minor conflict can become a World War. "It could lead to the End of the World".

All religions around the World have been praying since WWII for the conversion of Russia from Communism. With present developments, it appears that our prayers have been answered. I believe Presidents Reagan and Bush are responsible for this wonderful accomplishment but the American people are fickle, or better yet, forgetful. President Bush "hasn't done anything lately".

Today is August 1, 1992 and I am still a "Bush Man".



CHARLES BURKE and his Mother owned and operated the Funeral Home at 3300 State Street in East St. Louis. Charlie was a great guy, a real gentleman, and a great dresser. His first wife died young and he married Rosemary Mueller from Belleville. She survives him and is living in Scotsdale, Arizona. I sold the funeral home for them when they retired to Scotsdale. Virgil Calvert, just after he lost for Mayor, bought the business but developed health problems and lots of competition. Officer Funeral Home people owned several Burial Insurance Companies in Chicago and several funeral homes in the St. Louis area. They are wealthy people and very well liked in East St. Louis. Myrtle Officer is the society leader there and she and her husband Marion were well thought of.

Their son, Carl Officer, was elected Mayor for three terms largely due to their popularity. Carl got carried away with all the fanfare and media attention. He is an intelligent man and meant. well for the city, but his friends took advantage of him and the city. I believe that he left the office a much smarter man than when he went into the Mayor's office. I told him when he was first elected that he had a tremendous opportunity to do good for East St. Louis. He told me that this was his intention. Another fact about Carl Officer is that I don't remember that anyone accused him of benefiting finacially. Mismanagement by friends - Yes! Personally- No!



I received a phone call from a man that I thought a lot of, Russ DeGreeff. I have interviewed him several times and always enjoyed his company. He lives in St. Louis Hills (Southwest St. Louis, MO). In 1947, Store Mgr. Ed Merrill was killed on his way to work in an accident, and Russ De Greeff succeeded him for 23 years. Under his management a new store was built in East St. Louis at 10th & State Streets. This meant a big breakup of the downtown Collinsville Avenue area.

At the new location (10th & State Sts.) there was a large cave under the old Heim's Brewery. The old Frank Hauss Family had the original blueprints. Frank Hauss had three children Frank Jr. (Bud), Jordan, and Rosie (Hauss) Kling. Lee Kling, the son-in-law was Democratic National Chairman and the head of the Landmark Bank chain which recently sold out to Magna Bank.

Anyway, Russ and his wife have no children but they enjoy farms and horses. He talked about the "326 Club" and the "City Club" which became the "Illinois Club". Russ was a great friend of Lee Crank and they spent many enjoyable hours at our Bush's Steak House planning new and exciting things for downtown East St. Louis.

On May 25, 1975, the journal had a picture of the Sears Store with the story " East St. Louis Sears Store rose and fell with the City".



George Brichler was the last owner of the Brichler Funeral Home. George was married to Rosemary Connors who sold the building and business to John Barnes after George's death. The business had moved from the 2200 block of State Street in East St. Louis to 8300 West Main Street, Belleville, in about 1960. George and Rosemary had no children. Rosemary was the daughter of Mayor John Connors and is the aunt of Jimmy Connors, the tennis player.

On Friday, July 31, I ran into several people at Brother Jack's: Rim SAUGET, the developer; MRS. FRANCIS (DAHM) WALSH and MAXINE THOMAS who both came in from the Beauty Shop and both looked great.

TONY GOETZ who lived in the Apex Tavern Building at 15th Street and Lynch Avenue was there. Tony and ALEC GERGZITIS were great friends for many years. Tony is a regular at Jack's. I saw CHARLIE AND MARY KAY BEYERSDORFER who had several bakeries. One on Caseyville Avenue at 37th Street in East St. Louis and later in Fairview Heights.

Also ran into "Coach" JOHN J. O'BRIEN who retired in June of 1990 as Principal of Althoff Catholic High School. He served seventeen years as principal. BISHOP JAMES P. KELEHER praised John for his dedication to the school system over the past 37 years.

I also saw MARY KEALEY, DOROTHY SHAWEN, BILL DELANEY, MARY JOHNSTON , STELLA BARNES AND DIANE WALSH of the Hibernians and Historical groups. MARILYN WIEST of O'Fallon is President of the St. Clair County Hibernians and was helpful to me in writing the book.



STEVE AND RUTH KERNAN raised a lovely family on St. Louis Avenue and later on Hill Top. Children were: STEVE II married to MARGE LUNDY and was a member of the Board of Assessors, MARY RUTH, EMMY, PATRICIA and JACK. Steve was "Mr. Levee Board" and his grandson, Steve III, is Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of St. Clair County.

JOHN AND DOROTHY (MATEJKA) LARKIN; The Larkin family were oldtimers in East St. Louis and Dorothy's family were old time residents of Centreville. John is a retired Postal Worker, and after leaving East St. Louis, he and Dorothy have been living in Belleville for many years. John's sister, Rita Larkin, worked for the East St. Louis Police Department for years and retired.

BORIS JOHNOFF of the former "Embers" in St. Louis, and the former Holiday Inn in East St. Louis has retired from the Drury Inn organization and he and his wife "Nicky" (Nichols) are living in Columbia, MO.

BEVERLY SWEENEY of Little Rock, Arkansas wrote that she has two aunts living here. One aunt, JULIA BUTCHER, in Belleville and the other GLADYS GOWAN in East St. Louis.

J. B. SCHWABE of Cottage Hills, IL was assistant manager at Woolworth's back in 1939. "We found the people to be polite and accommodating. It was a safe and comfortable place for us to live, and entirely for people like us of limited income. We had no bad experiences while living there and work was plentiful".

MRS. FRANCES M. SPRICK of Green Valley, Arizona wrote that her husband, Louis, died in 1977. She was a nurse and has had a pacemaker for 20 years. She graduated from East Side High (1941) and Christian Welfare School of Nursing (1947). Then she and a friend were accepted for a year of Post Graduate study in New York City. She worked for DR. W. SCRIVNER, DR. L. A. RYAN, DR. WATERS AND DR. WEATHERS. Both of the latter were black and they did the first heart muscle repair surgery in the area. "East St. Louis High School was the equivalent to Junior Colleges now".

BETTY (FISHER) DOMESICIK of Collinsville, IL writes that the schools and teachers (1940) were excellent. "it was a safe city to live in (even in night time)". "I remember the Playdium, the Terrace, and Bush's Steak House which was run by Jack and Ed English and had good food".

MRS. ELIZABETH (GROMMET) BYINGTON of Sunrise Beach, MO writes that she had an Aunt Virginia (Thoene) Winstanley, who donated the land for St. Teresa's Academy.

Mrs. Byington attended the Winstanley Avenue Baptist Church and lived on Winstanley Avenue at the L & N railroad crossing. "All in all, it was a fine city and one I have never denied. East St. Louis had much patriotism". Her father opened Thoene's Department Store in 1904 at Collinsville and Illinois Avenues. Her grandfather owned Heim's Brewery at 10th & State Streets

"After dark, we would make light houses out of shoe boxes, cut designs in them, cover with colored paper and put a candle inside. Then, put string on and pull by neighbors' houses who were clapping for the winners. (What a "Hometown)".

MRS. WILLIAM CONNORS of St. Louis, MO wrote that she went to Alta Sita and St. Regis Schools and then to St. Theresa's Academy in 1941 and was one of ten children. One brother was an electric meter reader and another brother was a mailman. She is working on a family history and will send me a copy.

WANDA (CICHOCKI) KUEHL of St. Louis, MO remembers East St. Louis with very fond memories. She and her husband run a Security Company NO Digital Electronics). She went to St. Joseph's Grade School and East Side High School. The East St. Louis Library was near the High School and was one of her favorite places. She writes that State Theater had a continuing serial on Buck Rogers and the 20th Century. She also mentions State Park where she was able to board her horse and enjoy, riding. All five of her children were born at Christian Welfare

JOHN D. COCHRAN, attorney of Park City, Utah, sent a note about his fond memories of his youthful days in East St. Louis and everyone's attitude together with the freedom allowed the youth by the community. (He was formerly known by his middle name which was Delinor Cochran).

RAMONA KICIELINSKI of Fairmount City, IL worked for Jimerson Furniture and ROY WEISS. Her husband was known as "RED MURPHY" (MERK KICIELINSKI). He worked for AMAX and was bartender for Leo Klimas Tavern on Caseyville Avenue. She wrote a very interesting letter.

GLADYS GOIN of Carbondale, IL writes a newsletter for her nursing home and is quite a joke teller. She sent me a newsletter and she is very clever.

RITA MAE (HOUSER) KOHLER of St. Louis was a 1939 graduate of St. Theresa's Academy and attended their 50th reunion. She was a good friend of my late sister-in-law, NORMA JEAN (BURNWORTH) ENGLISH. We had excellent educations and "You only realize these values later in life. I remember how beautiful I felt St. Joseph's Church was; the Christmas Mass with the beautiful music and trumpets and singing was magnificent. When they sang "Holy God", the volume seemed to rock the Church.

GEORGE W. TRIPP of Emmons Title Co. of St. Charles, MO graduated in 1940 from East Side High School. He also wrote about the good schools and excellent education.

DOLLY (HOGGE) REDDEN of Rossville, IL wrote that her Uncle, ALVIN GEBHARD, was a Master Mechanic on the Illinois Central R.R. who sent her a four page letter which she transcribed. He gave Dolly and his daughter their "only" doll. His daughter's name was Lola Mae. Dolly winters in Sebring, Florida. Alvin, the Uncle, writes from Fayetteville, Arkansas, at Christmas of 1987:

"When I was a yearling of a boy Christmas merchandise never came out until after Thanksgiving day. Today, the secular is in conflict with the spiritual!.

Midway to Christmas came cookie making time. We were allowed to decorate the cookies anyway we wanted. Each camel and chicken was gaudy with raisins, silver shot, and red and green colored sugar.

The program began with the invocation asking God's blessing upon all assembled.

Then Santa would come from behind the Christmas tree, through a window that mysteriously had been opened, sounding his hearty ho-ho-ho.

Those childish fears and innocent pleasures have long since been replaced by the more prosaic and mundane problems of modem life.

Today's child, who has so much any day of the year, can never understand why the memory of these little things would stir up to the very core of our being, years later memory, the master magician who can recreate a vanished world.

What a beautiful letter!

Dolly added a postscript that the doll she received was "the only doll I ever received and she lies in the bottom of my cedar chest now."

Dolly enclosed a two page typewritten letter of her own. Space doesn't permit me to add, but hopefully another book will come. -Author.

MAYME "HOGGE" McCORMICK of O'Fallon, IL was one of ten children in Alta Sita across from Virginia Park.

They played "hide and seek" after dark and also roller skated without any fear. She played on the softball team at Clark Jr. High competing with teams from all over the city.

"East St. Louis was my whole world and I was safe and happy. No need to put bikes away or lock your car up. We never locked our doors at home. Christmas was special with Collinsville Avenue shopping and attending the Majestic. Labor day was special with the big parades we had at Jones Park. We all met at Argonne Drive and picnicked all day, watched the ball games from the bleachers and the bands that were in the parade would get out in the field and put on a show for us. As usual, we had a guest speaker. That was a special time for all East St. Louis. Children ran free and played, went to the pool to swim. They took boat rides on the lagoon and was a special treat".

"East St. Louis was a very, very special place to grow up in. It breaks my heart even today, that things are so bad there. Because people say 'You were raised in East St. Louis?' They don't know what a wonderful place it was. And it will always hurt. If I could wave a magic wand and change it back to yesterday, I'd love to be there with all my family and have my nine grandchildren raised there. To just be as happy and safe as I was, on the 4th of July to go to Lake Park and watch the fire works across the lake. I was in the pageant they held there. So from one end of East St. Louis to the other end was home to me. I thank God for the wonderful years I spent there as a child and a Mother and it lives in my heart.

"'I'm so glad that I saw your letter in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I'm sure you have memories like mine.

"I hope this letter helps you and it has made me feel so good to share some memories of those days as they are truly the happy days of my life. Good days. (I lived there from 1935 to 1970)."

ELIZABETH C. RALEIGH of Belleville wrote that growing up in the 1930's as a kid, "I had so many fond memories". Her father worked at Armour's and he took her to the Stockyards. He built his own Bar-B-Que stand at 13th Street and Baugh Avenue and her mother had her own recipe for Bar-B-Que sauce. Elizabeth had iced soda in bottles (Ne-Hi) and got ice with her Uncle in his Model-T.

She learned to drive in Jones Park where she played a lot of tennis. She played bugle in the Rock Jr. High Drum & Bugle Corp and 1st clarinet in the East Side Band at East St. Louis football games. They had blue and orange uniforms and the instructor was Mr. Tillison with an assistant Carl.

She worked at Red Goose Shoe Store at 2800 State Street and "was as happy as a lark".

She was a member of the Winstanley Baptist Church and still attends the same Church in Fairview Heights. Her minister in East St. Louis was REV. LAMB and the deacons were R. J. Cox (R. J. Cox Monument Co.) and R. M. BAGWELL, a pattern worker. 'World War II split our group up with the young men going off to war, our happy groups were split up and everyone went his own way.

"I took your card to Sunday School Class meeting and several will be writing you as they took your name and address". (Thanks for a beautiful letter - Author).

ORILLA HELFRICH (BRENDEL) of Smithton, IL wrote that she lived at 18th Street and Baugh Avenue and 8th Street and Ohio Avenue. She went to Jones Park to swim and -rode a bicycle to the roller rink at 20th & State Streets. She spent a lot of time at the Knights of Columbus Building where her cousin's (HINIE ZITTEL AND ELEANORE GRAY) had their wedding reception. She was in the Drum & Bugle Corps and the advanced chorus at East Side. "East St. Louis was a wonderful town - No crime or locks". She was raised by her Grandmother "with no automobiles either walk or bicycle".

ROBERT DOUSSARD of Belleville, IL writes that he remembers the Majestic Theater with their bank-nites and free dishes to the ladies. He recalled that the Esquire and Roxy Theaters were owned by STATE SENATOR LOU MENGES, the Waverly Theater (40th & Waverly) was managed by CHARLIE BURNS, the Home Theater at 17th & Gaty was owned by BOB DAVIS and the Playdium by JOHNNY PERKINS.

JULIAN J. ALTROGGE AND DIANE WALSH sent in their recollections of old East St. Louis. Diane resides in Belleville and is a member of the St. Clair County Historical Society. She wrote a nice letter and passed along an interesting letter from her cousin, Julian J. Altrogge of Indiana, PA. Julian's Mom was a cousin of FLORENCE AND MARGARET HUSCHLE who lived at 1720 State Street.

Julian's dad worked at Liebschitz Jewelry (later Altrogge's Jewelry). He remembers a strange big man bet $100 against a ring that he could lift an automobile. The big man lifted the car and won. He recalls Pittsburgh Lake when it was across from Aluminum Ore Co., and the Vitaphone system which was used to make the first talking movie. He saw Marlene Dietrich (who just passed away) in "Blue Moon".

His dad's cars were a Chrysler touring car with "isinglass" flaps, a Maxwell, and Essex and a Rickenbacher. His neighbor owned a "Moon Jewett".

He also remembers the J. S. steamer before the Admiral and St. Paul. His uncle, Hienie Poettgen lived on South 97th street in Belleville (behind my Real Estate office).

NELLIE AUGUSTINE FALKENHEIM of Highland, IL writes that she lived in East St. Louis for forty years and attended the First Presbyterian Church at 13th Street and Gaty Avenue. She had three daughters that got a good education at Monroe, Rock Jr. High and East Side High schools. She got a Masters Degree at Illinois U. and is owner of three Sylvan Centers. One daughter was secretary of National junior Achievement. She knew Al Fastabend at 14th and State Streets and later of 8315 State Street. She lived in the South End as a kid and got coal from the Railroad Yards to heat their home. In the 1930's her husband worked at Kratzmeyer & Rochelle's (16th & Illinois) and was cut to $14 per week for a sixty hour week working Fridays and Saturdays until 9 P.M. His job included dressing live chickens and turkeys. Her landlord was D. LEROY MORGAN who reduced the rent to $13 per month. She had cresoline or kerosene lamps and it cost five cents to walk across the Eads Bridge.

PAUL F. BROWN, M. D. of Maquoketa, Iowa was asked to give the main speech at his East St. Louis High School graduation (the 50th reunion was held in 1990). His letter is seven typewritten pages and I'll not try to paraphrase it. The letter is so good that I have decided to put it in completely.

Following is Dr. Smith's speech given to the people attending the 50th reunion of the East St. Louis High graduating class of 1940:

Click here to read Dr. Smith's nostalgic reunion speech

CHARLES AND CLARE SPICUZZA of Fairview Heights, IL wrote a three-page typewritten letter. Clare also mailed pictures of her May Queen selection at St. Teresa's Academy. She also sent pictures of her Mother and Father with her as May Queen in 1940. Her grandfather, Maurice F. Tissier had a grocery business on the "Island" in 1875. He was also the editor of the East St. Louis Herald and an early City Clerk under the first Mayor, John B. Bowman.

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Her Father, LOUIS F. TISSIER, was the operator of a real estate and insurance agency and the founder of the East St. Louis Grocers' Association.

Their family home was located at 513 North 24th Street and Louis Tissier and his wife had four sons and six daughters.

CHARLES SPICUZZA was a graduate of Central Catholic High School and a long-time Officer in the East St. Louis' Knights of Columbus. He was responsible for my selection as "senior Knights of Columbus" in August of 1992.

Thanks Charlie, and you too Clare, for your well-written letter. I wish I could have put your letter in its entirety because it was so interesting.

ROSE MANSFIELD of Belleville was the mother of five children. She was also a teacher and an author. She was, the editor of the St. Clair County Historical Society journal before she passed away several years ago.

Our daughters were schoolmates and friends. Rose. was a friendly and lovely lady.

HUNTLEY AND BLAMER was the fourth largest plastering contractor in the United States during the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. There were two Blazier brothers and two Huntley brothers. TERRY BLAMER, the eldest, started the business with the Huntleys' father and became a giant company.

They were all good customers of Bush's Steak House and entertained lavishly in their fashionable homes here and in Florida.

Tom BLAMER AND HIS WIFE, NAN, are special friends of ours and we visit them in North Fort Myers, where they have a large recreational vehicle park. They are nice people.

BILL AND VERNA (NICHOLS) HORSTMAN are good friends of the Blaziers. Bill is retired as head of Central Trades.

The East St. Louis High School Reunion held August 17,1990 had a good attendance and everyone had a great time. On the committee were WYATT And MARGE RAWLINGS, RITA ROEWE, PAT SPENCER AND DOROTHY (ANDERSON) HEALY.


Click here to see even more former East St. Louisans at Brother Jack's




On to Chapter 12


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