Chapter 3

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Molla Ice
Bloody Isle
KC Hall
Idaho Surgeon

Chapter 3 (1911-1920)


By the early 1900's, the U. S. was one of the richest nations in the world. New York City and New Orleans became the largest and busiest ports in the world, loaded with steel, machinery and other goods.

The Federal Income Tax Law was enacted in 1913.

In June 1914, World War I started and within a few years, 30 countries were drawn into the war including U.S. Germany had developed a new weapon, the submarine. In May 1915, a German submarine torpedoed the British ocean liner Lusitania. Nearly 1,200 passengers drowned, among them 128 Americans. Finally in 1917, Germany decided to make an a11-out effort to end the war and sank many American ships. The U.S. joined the Allied Powers against the Central Powers. The machine gun was invented. In June 1918, the U.S. landed 250,000 American soldiers in France.

In the U.S., women took their places in factories, fields, and mines. Americans ate less so

that more food could be shipped overseas. Many Americans had days when they ate no meat. Others planted gardens. An armistice was agreed to by Germany on November 11, 1918. President Woodrow Wilson wanted a League of Nations but the U.S. Senate would have no part of it, so the U.S. worked out a Separate treaty with the Central Powers.

New inventions such as the radio, moving pictures and the automobile made life more interesting and pleasant. Flying machines were invented long before the 1920's but they did become popular in the 1920's. During World War I both the Allied Powers and the Central powers used airplanes to scout, spy and drop bombs. Charles Lindbergh on May 20, 1927 became the first pilot to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean and interest in flying skyrocketed.

Illinois in World War I furnished 351,000 people and was one of three states to furnish an entire National Guard Division. It was officially designated the 33rd. It was popularly called the "Prairie Division' and saw action at Mihiel, Verdun, Chateau Thierry and Meuse-Argonne. 5,000 Illinois men didn't return home.



Dedicated July 4, 1913, with first pastor, Father Peter Engel, at 25 Street and Ridge Avenue across from St. Teresa's Academy which opened in 1894 with Sister Salome of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood in charge.

St. Elizabeth Church was built by Bernard Tonies of the Parish with a bid of $41,050. Mr. Tonies was the father of Gary, Leo, and Eddie who were all prominent carpenters and builders in East St. Louis.

Herman Schandl of Belleville sent me a souvenir program for the dedication. He and his family spent many years around the 20th Street and St. Louis Avenue area. He graduated with me in 1940 from Central Catholic High School along with Eddie Schindler, Pat Sullivan, Don Kiefer and Hank Bauer.

The Immanuel Evangelical Church dedicated its $35,000. Bible School and parsonage located at 14th Street and Illinois Avenue in conjunction with its 25th anniversary. In the 1930's the minister for a number of years was Rev. Jaeger.



My parents John T. English and Viola Blanche Soucy were united in marriage on June 9, 1915, at St. Joseph's Church. Their first house was 1723 St. Louis Avenue with each of their families paying $2000. We lived there until 1931 when we moved to 1425 St. Louis Avenue and in 1940 moved next door to 1421 St. Louis Avenue.

St. Joseph's Parish was started in 1902 and the English and Soucy families were original members living within the parish for 50 years.

St. Joseph's published a beautiful souvenir program from 1902 to 1952 (50 Golden Years) and they had pictures of all classes except 1930, 1934 and 1935 which were the three years that my sister, brother and I appeared in. You might think someone didn't like us but those pictures couldn't be located.

In 1988, the old St. Joseph's got too costly to repair and maintain so they tore the old church down (which was quite a job) and replaced it with a one-story building. Old, big stately buildings are a thing of the past.

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World War I started in 1914 but we were able to stay out of it until 1917.

On June 6, 1917, over 14,000 men in St. Clair County registered for the selective service draft. (8,400 persons registered in East St. Louis and 2024 registered in Belleville). The U.S. Government selected a site of 640 acres in Shiloh Valley Township as a place for instruction of aviation for the Army (which became Scott Field).

St Clair County purchased almost $12,000,000. of War Savings Stamps.

Scott Field became part of aerial mail from St. Louis to Chicago and got a $1,200,000 federal grant to erect a new hangar.


PROHIBITION (18th Amendment)

On June 30,1919, prohibition was enacted and closed the saloons at midnight. St. Clair County was bone dry for the first time in history. The death of John Barleycorn was not marked by boisterousness.

As a sidelight, the first female speeder was arrested and fined one dollar.



On August 28th, 1920, bells were rung in celebration of the victory of women in obtaining suffrage (right to vote). Mrs. Carrie Alexander Bahrenburg was the pioneer in this movement in East St. Louis.



From 1911 to 1916, there was a steamboat "Steamer Frank" that made excursions on Pittsburgh Lake in Lake Park (Now Holten State Park after being called Grand Marais for many years). Mr. Joseph Geppert Sr. was the captain and owner. Geppert had the boat built in the back yard of his

24-steamerfrank.tif (86666 bytes) saloon at 19th and Market Streets. The boat was 93 feet long with a 22-foot beam. It was kept at a dock and operated by John Wies at 7500 Missouri Avenue and rented for parties, using the lake from 36th Street to the Bluffs. Dedication day saw Joseph and Johnny Geppert, Henry Buschlager and daughter, Thomas Frie, purser, who is holding up a bottle of beer; Mrs. Lizzie Geppert, 82, of 1703 Missouri Ave. and her sister, Mrs. Annie Shadel of St. Louis, and Mrs. Mary Geppert of 2700 Ridge Ave. Topside are Mr. and Mrs. Ferd Roedner, Mr. and Mrs. George Adolph, Mrs. Jenny Shadeland, and Mrs. Lydia Geppert Qualls. The picture was submitted by John Renick, born at 124 Exchange Ave.

His uncle was Frank Blaha who owned the Canadian Club on 10th Street; and who worked for many years at the packing houses. Later he operated the Blaha's Laundramat in my brother Jack's building at 98th and West Main, Belleville. The building burned down in 1978 from an electrical short.



In 1915, the "Live Wire Class" was started by Rev. Wilson. It was an all boys organization. Those remembered of the first class were twins Harold and Harry Ross, Walter Reed, Byron Baker, John and Walter Warden, Lester and John Harris, Norville Bennett and Walter Radel.

Robert R. "Bob" Thomas took over in 1917 and performed a religious miracle. He was a leader in business, politics and the church. He was City Treasurer in 1916, Republican State Central Committeeman from 1928 until his death in 1944, when he was State Chairman of the Republican State Central Committee.

With the "Live Wires" he was a leader, not teacher, of the class. Most prominent teachers were Noel Spannagel, Chief Engineer at Famous-Barr & Co., and US. District Judge Fred L. Wham of Centralia.

The members met every Sunday at 5 a.m. at Hill Thomas Lime and Cement Co. Helpers on the phone were Howard Thomas, Harold Kelly, Lawrence Eisiminger, Donald Gehrig, Donovan Eller, Louis LaDue and Glen "Art" Shepard.

There were no denominational talks to the "Live Class" which included boys of Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths.

Thomas' efforts were directed at getting each boy to become a member of the church his parents attended. In the late 1920's, the "Live Wire Class" had more than 700 members. The name spread to Ohio, California and other states and was a great force for good in East St. Louis.

Alice Mace Nowland took over the dual roles of organist and music director in 1928 until 1978 and did an outstanding job. She left her estate of $105,640 to First United Church for music related expenses.

In June 1949, Noel Spannagel's committee for the church decided to move to the Northeast corner of 69th and State Streets.

Rev. Arthur B. Smith was installed as pastor on June 1953. Later, the church was moved to 1303 Royal Heightsts Road in Belleville.

Visiting ministers started coming. Dr. Frank L. Eversull, ex-educator [former principal of East St. Louis High School and President of North Dakota Agricultural College at Fargo, ND], who was retired and living in Columbia, Illinois, with his wife, Mildred, was prevailed upon to accept the pastorship in 1950. He was succeeded Rev. Fred M. Cornell.

(This history of the First United Church was written by Carl Baldwin newspaperman and author).



The founder of the Coal & Ice business, C. C. Molla, started the operation in 1889. Residence, office, stables, and barns were located at 817 Bond Ave. in East St. Louis. C. C. Molla Sr., and his wife Louisa, had three daughters 10 sons. Most of the sons went through some phase of the business. As they grew older or married, each pursued his individual endeavors.

John H. Molla went into the ice and coal business at First Street and Missouri Avenue on the Terminal Railroad sidetrack with an office, scale and garage. His son, John E., joined him in the business about 1937. Later they leased the office and yard of George Lorius at 4200 State Street from the Alton & Southern Railroad Co.

Click here to see an advertisement for Molla Ice & Coal Co.

In the 1930's, George Lorius, his wife and another couple took a motor trip out West and never returned. Many police stories have been published over the last 60 years, but nothing has been heard of the party of four since.

John H., John E. and Charles Hubert operated the business until about 1951. John E. Molla entered the insurance and real estate business at that time. In 1948 he was elected Trustee of the Levee District where he served until about 1964. He has been one of my closest friends since shortly after World War II.



Herb sent a number of interesting things to me. Among them: "Survey of Bloody Island" and the "Southern Illinois National Bank Souvenir Program 75 Years (1869-1944)".

Click here to view a "Survey of Bloody Island"

In 1944 the Board of Directors of the Southern Illinois National Bank were: Edward A. Cunningham (grocer), James P. Flannery (building materials dealer), A. C. Housh (M.D.), Edward J. Hollman (milling business), Charles G. Kurrus Sr. (undertaker), Joseph Nebel (Hunter Packing Co.). Paul S. AN (bank president), J. A. Harszy (V.P.), Herman H. Jost Sr. (treasurer), A. C. Martin (V.P.), and Nell R. Hayes (cashier).

Herb Abegg wrote about his parents, Frank and Antonia (Weihranch) Abegg, who were in the Abegg Grocery store at 3544 Bond Ave., Alta Sita, and belonged to St. Regis Parish where Father Feeney was pastor for many years (from 1920).

Herb and his wife Irene (Sumner) Abegg live in Caseyville, Illinois.

Herb's brother Elmer Abegg, was business manager for the Sheet Metal Workers Union and is married to Mildred Sykes. His sister Delores was married to Francis Goelz. His brother Leo Abegg is a retired meat cutter, and he and his wife Dorothy live in Belleville.

Herb was with the management of Prince Gardner until retiring. He gave me a quotation, "Much has been omitted that might have been said."  This is most appropriate for my book.



Ora C. Avault, from Clearwater, Florida, wrote that she taught school for 35 years under D. Walter Potts, superintendent of schools, and gives much credit to the wonderful schools of East St. Louis.

About 50 years ago, a Vic Moser, of Moser's Grove loaned her two books; The History of East St. Louis and Resume of East St. Louis Businessmen and she later gave them to Martha Lynn Connole who was on the library board of East St. Louis.

She remembered the flood of 1903 and the raising of Collinsville Avenue when it was to be paved.



Marie G. (Rampold) Woodrich from Orange, California, reported that she and her brother, Emmett Rampold, were both delivered by Dr. R. L. Campbell, and she was a niece of James D. Shawen (cousin of J. D. Shawen).

Emmett Rampold was a timekeeper for Moore Bros. Construction Co. and her father worked at Tri-City Grocery until the subway was built. He and her mother opened their own grocery store at Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and attended Sacred Heart School and Church where Monsignor Gilmartin was pastor. She remembers the Odean Theater at 10th Street and St. Clair Avenue. She also mentioned that Paul Waller (attorney) was a grandson of the Mulqueens.

(Note: Paul Waller sent several pictures of my brother Jack and I, in 4th Degree K of C full dress at Bishop Albert Zuroweste's installation in 1948).

Marie also mentioned that her California neighbors are Jane (Peters) Lossner, Doris (Walsh) Cochran and Jean (Peters) Baldwin. Jean Baldwin sent me a copy of Mel Torme's autobiography "It Wasn't All Velvet" and I will come back to it in the 1930's chapter.



The Ainad Temple was built at 609 St. Louis Avenue, East St. Louis, and is still in excellent condition, with a security fence and a 24-hour, 7-days- a-week guard.

Eddie Price and his bride to be, Dorris Wood, have given me much information about the Shriners and their magnificent temple.

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Warren Jordan and his wife (from Jordan Printing Co.) were able to get the picture of the temple. Dorris Wood was able to get me a 50 year program from State Savings & Loan Co. She was secretary to John Henne (Taxpayers' Assn.) and she was also a secretary to Alan Watson.

Scottish Rite Bodies were located at 14th St. and College Ave. and now have a multi-million dollar building at 1267 N. 57th St., Belleville. Bob Perkins is deceased and the organization is now headed by Ron Miller, a Belleville insurance agent.

There was always a fine spirit and friendship between the Shriners and the Knights of Columbus of East St. Louis. Whenever either would have a big week-end meeting the other group would share their facilities and beds. It made for a very unified and happy occasion.

The membership of the Shriners was too numerous to list them all but I remember Bill Harrington, Jit Nichols, Tom Potts, Walter Bader, Larry and Wes Broz, B. 0. Cooper (State Auditor and my next door neighbor on Oak Knoll in Belleville), Larry Snyder, Dr. Ralph Knewitz, C. L. French, Joe Barnes Sr. & Jr., Ray Burton, Russell Beebe, Harold Baker Sr. & Jr., Jack Schmidt, Forest Creason, Russ Maxwell and the professional ball player, Bill Walker, who later operated the "Glass Hat".



The Knights of Columbus Council 592 began with 35 members in 1901 at the old Lovington Building in the 400 block of East Broadway. Today, it has over 900 members and had a succession of meeting places, such as the Odd Fellows meeting hall at Ninth Street and Illinois Avenue across from the library. Then, in 1922 (my birth year) built their large edifice at Washington Place and State Street. There they stayed until 1968 when they moved to 9400 Lebanon Road. In 1989 they bought some land in Fairview Heights at 5400 Old Collinsville Road, their present home.

30-kchall2.TIF (46420 bytes) The K. of C. Building (1447 State Street) was leased to the Federal Government, for a now defunct federally funded employment program, for one year. It fell into a long time vacant period and it was wrecked by vandals. I was called on by the Trustees to sell the property which I did. The purchasers were the Rev. Lemuel N. Moore and his church (Community Mission Church of God in Christ). They are located immediately behind the K. of C. Building site and later received a Federal Grant to have the structure torn down. They are using the grounds for parking lot and eventually will build their own new church at this location.
I know that you remember the old K. of C. Building which cost $500,000 to build in 1922. It contained 42 rooms for men, ballroom, bar and lounge, swimming pool (I learned to swim there), basketball court, handball courts, and four bowling alleys. I will talk more later on the Knights of Columbus (I am a 3rd and 4th Degree) and the wonderful receptions, dances, etc. and their annual picnics.

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K of C Yukon Follies (1943)

Click here to read an East St Louis Journal article on the destruction of the K of C Hall



Robert S. Smith, M.D., was born in 1906 and now resides in Boise, Idaho. He wrote an autobiography titled "Idaho Surgeon" containing his memories of East St. Louis from 1912 until he left the area. I think his work is beautiful and we are reprinting with his permission.

Click here to read excerpts from Robert S. Smith's Idaho Surgeon



On to Chapter Four


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