Growing Up In Libertyville in the Thirties and Forties
A Stroll Around Downtown, Part III
On the other side of Milwaukee there was another gas station, then vacant lots going north to McKinley. For several years that space was used for carnivals and Christmas tree lots. There was another gas station on the east side of Milwaukee at Sunnyside, and in the forties the Buttemiller clinic was next to the North Shore station. At Milwaukee and Park there was a gas station owned by Wayne Gratz, that later became Gustafson Motors. Just east on the north side of Park there was a large funeral home.

 

My uncle, Frank Suydam, lived on Park Place, at the corner of Park Avenue. His grocery and gas pumps faced south onto the avenue. Next to his store there was a large white barn housing Exon trucking. Art Exon lived next door.

 

Bill Weidner's tavern was on Park, east of Second, and Harry Gratz had a gas station at Fourth, across from Boehm cleaners. On the northeast corner of Milwaukee and Park there was a restaurant, owned by Joe Wickersheim who sold after the war to Marvin Laycock, who was a survivor of the Bataan death march. Just north on Milwaukee there was a large house bearing the sign "Wayside Rest Home." Pete Larson, who operated a garbage service for many years, had a house and barn that housed his trucks on the northeast corner at Hurlbut. Our cousins, Tom and John Suydam bought the business after the war. Local wits asked what wages the Suydams paid. The answer was always "fifty dollars a week and all you can eat."

 

There was a gas station on the corner at East Maple across from Central park. That park was notable mainly for its use as an ice rink when the firemen flooded it. There was a jerry-built shack for warming and changing and often there was a bonfire going in front of the shack.

 

 

Public Service Building
Public Service Building Details
A large building on the Broadway corner had apartments above. The corner office was a real estate and insurance firm. There was a butcher shop operated by Max Haas. Max wore a straw hat and tossed in an occasional soup bone for free if customers refrained from asking him if he weighed his thumb along with meat. Paul Snethen had a barber shop in the forties and Hershberger's appliance store sold 78 records;in the early thirties some labels like Bluebird sold for thirty-nine cents. Columbia and other major labels were fifty cents. At some point John Vondracek, who had repaired radios at Titus brothers moved into Hershberger's.

 

Between that building and the Public Service building there were two large houses. A small block building housed Young's store which had moved from Church behind Taylor Drugs. That building was demolished later. The south house held, at one time, a hamburger place. The north house belonged to Dr. Smith, an elderly doctor who practiced there for many years.

 

The Public Service building went to the corner at Church. It was distinguished by a sort of tunnel which led to a landscaped area in the rear. The offices along the tunnel had windows onto the tunnel. At various times North Shore Gas and Public Service Electric had stores there. In those days the utilities had places where people could walk in and pay their bills, because many people didn't use checking accounts until after the war. A gas and electric store sold appliances. Public Service customers exchanged burnt-out light bulbs for new ones for many years. At various times that building held Gertrude's beauty salon, Chicy tailors, Engelhardt's linens and a savings and loan. There were apartments above.

 

Harry Taylor's drug store was on the corner. My cousin, Bill Wilson, worked there right before the war and became a partner (later owner) after the war. Bill had a handsome Mercury convertible and on occasion I got to ride with him into the country when he delivered prescriptions. Bill enlisted in the navy right after Pearl Harbor and that fall was blown into water from his ship during the North African landings. After recovering he went to the Pacific with a naval air unit where he was a chief pharmacist's mate. What with stress and tropical diseases his hair was white by the time he was discharged in 1945.

 

My father and his co-workers at the Public Service Company had a shop and office on Church behind the drug store. At one time Young's milk store was also there. Carl Schutze and his family had a house between the Public Service building and the telephone company building where my uncle, Murrell Suydam, worked. Mrs. Schutze was known for her cooking. The best cherry pie I ever ate came to us from her: a flaky bottom crust filled with fresh pie cherries topped with homemade whipped cream.

 

 

Milwaukee Ave looking north from Church St, c.1946
Milwaukee Ave looking north from Church St, c.1946 Details
The northeast corner of Church was a vacant lot that held the board honor roll of men in service in the war years. The building next to the corner lot held North Shore Gas at time, a cleaners and the shoe store and repair owned by the Jordan family. A flight of stairs led to the second floor where Stuart Matthews had his dental practice and residence. Park View tavern was laid out so that patrons at the bar sat facing south into the bar mirror. Those desiring a view of Park had merely to look out the front window. Sometimes my Uncle Murrell would take me into the Parkview and tell the bartender to "give the kid a beer." It came in a shot glass, tasted fine and nose-wrinkly. It was great to swagger out onto the sidewalk, hoping to be seen by envious friends. At one time Proctor's candy store was on the north end of the building. That was later a drop off for a cleaner until that section was down. The vacant lot next to the Triggs building at Milwaukee and Cook was used for parking, Christmas trees, fireworks and once in the thirties, a small carnival.

 

The corner building at Cook held the Triggs market, Lovell's Drug Store (later Petranek's), and a National Tea grocery. On the second floor Willis Overholser, the village attorney, had his law office. The Honeywell photo studio was there for many years. They had large portrait cameras. The photographer ducked under a black cloth cover to operate the camera. A Japanese man with one arm (Takeguchi) worked there. Ed left shortly after the war started and never came back. He may have been placed in a detention camp by the government. It is difficult now to believe the level of hysteria that prevailed after Pearl Harbor, even thousands of miles from the Pacific.

 

Just east on Cook was Harry Pester's blacksmith shop. He was still there after the war, but his outhouse had fallen victim to vandals. He allowed kids to stand in his shop doorway to watch him at the forge. Franzen Lumber ran down to First. It had its own rail siding which also served Libertyville Lumber on the east side of First. At Franzen Lumber you could walk through the main building on the tracks, even when the yard was closed. The rail freight and railway express were on the tracks on the east side of First. The northwest corner of First and Cook was the site of the village street and water departments. The corner building was adjacent to another right on the street which processed water softeners. Trucks were stored in a large garage at the rear. Simon "Sam" Alkofer was village public works for many years on two different tenures.

 

Going west up Cook there were two or three houses and a shortcut path that led to School street. The Paul Odom family lived in one house, from which they ran a taxi service. Ted Odom lived there as well. He was known for having a trap line that he ran during the thirties and perhaps later. Various trappers had lines around the Des Plaines and around Butler Lake. There was a building that held a harness shop in the thirties, then later an auto parts store, next to the alley that led to Enderland's tavern. The tavern's front door faced west toward Milwaukee, but the view was of the rear of the stores on the main street.

 

 

Milwaukee Ave looking north
Milwaukee Ave looking north Details
The building at the corner of Cook and Milwaukee was rather usual in layout. The corner store for many years was C.O. Carlson's men's store, later taken over by Howard Thompson. Mr. Carlson was village clerk. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, suspenders, arm garters and was never seen on the street without a hat. Kids referred to him as "C.O. Plenty," after a character in the Dick Tracy comic strip. Schanck Hardware was the next store as you went north on Milwaukee. It had doors onto both Cook and Milwaukee and, in effect, wrapped around the corner clothing store. It was a classic hardware store of that period with narrow board floors that were kept oiled. It had a high, tin ceiling and ladders that moved horizontally to access the high shelves. It was a large, gloomy space that clerks lit up by pulling strings attached to bulbs hanging from the ceiling. There was a tin shop floor toward the rear, along with an elevator operated by pull rope. A garage opened onto the alley behind. Our next door neighbor, Harry Helfer, was a part-owner of Schanck's.

 

The second floor had a large room used by the village players. Scotty Robertson's barber shop looked onto Milwaukee. Scotty was a bright, friendly man with a notable burr in his speech. He had two barber chairs, a magazine table, a coal stove, and a counter that held the cash register and the candy that kids got after their haircuts, which were twenty-five cents at one time. Occasionally, Scotty would ask some boy seated on the plank that spanned the chair arms if he wanted a shave. That was usually good for a laugh. Scotty shaved necks after stropping his razor on a leather strap attached to the chair. A dash of bay rum and snapping of the covering sheet and you were ready to see the world. Scotty had served in WWI and enlisted for a second time. He barbered on a cruiser that was sunk in Pacific, if I remember correctly. Right after the war he was back in business, looking none the worse for wear.

 

The next building held Ace Hardware, owned by Ernie Griffith. Emory Kirkman worked at Ace and lived on Cook at Brainerd. The next store was J.B. Morse men's store. During the war that space became empty and was the Wildcat Den, a youth center where kids could play ping pong, talk and dance. My brother Don was general factotum and tells the story that I "got flipped on the ping-pong table by Helen Kristan and looked pretty silly." I don't remember that occasion. Decker and Neville Drugs had a classic soda fountain of that period and a big magazine rack in a window alcove where you could stand and thumb magazines. There were wooden booths and a pay phone booth toward the rear. Bill Decker lived in a large, handsome house on Cook west of Brainerd. Mark Neville, Rena and their kids, Arlene and Mark, lived next to us on Brainerd. Mark was generous with cardboard signs for kids building scenery for model railroads. The store had a good selection of Comet model planes, flying and solid models that sold for a dime. Extra large flying models cost a quarter. Arlene Neville was very popular in high school, went on to become a professor at Lake Forest College, married an administrator there and eventually moved to Los Angeles. Mark, Jr. was a dentist.

 

A boyhood friend, Chuck Jamieson, got an evening job at Decker and Neville jerking sodas. He was big on ice cream and told me that he could eat all he wanted on the house. After two or three days he told me that his sweet tooth was sated. Mrs. Neville told my mother that their all you can eat ice cream policy had never failed with soda jerks. There were apartments above.

 

 

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