Q. As I drive east down the 1000 block of West Main Street, I often look at the painted sign on the brick wall that towers over the old House of Charles salon. The part that stands out is “Edler’s Fresh Shrimp Daily Mixed Drinks/Home Cooking.” But if you look carefully at the very top above the Edler’s, you’ll see more faded lettering that says “Geo. Krug Saloon.” For obvious reasons, I’ve always wondered who George Krug was but I’ve never been able to find out anything about him. What can you tell me?
— Donald Krug, of Belleville
A. It’s too bad he’s no longer around, because you probably would have enjoyed sharing a brewski with this family namesake who was a beloved community leader for decades.
And if you ever needed a sign put on your building, you should have hired that painting company, because the “Geo. Krug” you see has been up there for more than a century.
Never miss a local story.
His somewhat sudden death earned him top-of-the-front-page headlines in the Jan. 18, 1907, News-Democrat, which called him one of the city’s best-known citizens.
“Hale and hearty with a happy word for everyone, the news of his death was received with genuine regret by hundreds of Belleville citizens,” the paper reported. “He had long been a leader in the affairs of West Belleville, and his advice and counsel will be sadly missed here.”
Quite a tribute to a man who had grown up in Flonheim, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, before immigrating to the United States at age 14 during the height of the Civil War. His family settled first in Carelton, Ind., before moving to Belleville in 1867. Here, just after his 23rd birthday, he met and married Lizzette Ehret and set out to make a name for himself in his new home.
He apparently had little trouble winning friends and influencing people. Sure, he ran his saloon, which popped up in the Belleville City Directory as early as 1884 at 1018 W. Main St. But, more important, he was involved in enough civic organizations to keep several men busy.
For the last 27 years of his life, he headed the West Belleville Workingmen’s Benevolent Association, a name likely left over from the time before 1882 when Belleville officially annexed the village of West Belleville. He also was elected alderman from Ward 4, earned a spot on the St. Clair County Board of Supervisors and served as a hoseman and secretary for the West Belleville Fire Department.
His list of memberships was lengthy, including the Belleville Turnverein, Knights of Pythias, the Brewer and Stubblefield Lake Hunting and Fishing Club and, of course, the Retail Liquor Dealers Association. Perhaps he even had live music in his saloon, because he was the long-time president of the Konthal Liedertafel singing society and, a year before he died, first vice-president of the National Saengerbund German choral society.
But about 10 days after toasting the arrival of 1907, Krug suffered “an attack of stomach trouble” and spent the next week in bed.
“No serious results were anticipated until shortly before midnight (Jan. 17) when he was stricken with an attack of paralysis which resulted fatally at (2:10 a.m.),” the News-Democrat reported later that day.
He was survived by his wife, son George and daughter Lizzie and buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery. In his memory, the Konthal Liedertafel “indefinitely postponed” a masquerade ball that had been scheduled the night after his death.
By 1908, the Belleville City Directory listed Krug’s old watering hole as Brennfleck, Valentine & Sons. Krug’s son, George Jr., would make it big in business at a company whose name you might recognize. It started in 1904 as the General Roofing Manufacturing Co. in St. Louis, but in 1917 changed its name to Certain-teed Products Corp., which now does more than $3 billion in business worldwide. In 1937, Krug became controller at the company’s New York headquarters while his dad’s painted name continued to weather on the wall of that old Belleville saloon.
Stamping ground: After a recent column on trading-stamp redemption centers, a woman wrote to suggest that there was an S&H Redemption Center in the Bellevue Park Plaza, saying that she remembered her mother getting a stroller there for her sister in the 1960s. I’m always reluctant to contradict a reader, but I found no record of such a store in the city directories. Instead, I’m thinking she may be remembering the Ward’s and Aldens catalog stores that were fixtures there until about 1976. Now, of course, you can find them at www.wards.com and www.aldens.com.
As for the original question of the S&H store ever being at 127 E. Main St., I’d have to say that’s a no, too. The Valu Store was there through the ’60s and ’70s until Second Debut took over in 1978.
What is a pysanka?
Answer to Thursday’s trivia: In the beloved series of Dr. Dolittle books, the parakeet’s name is Polynesia, but it probably should be Polyglottal because she is the one who teaches the good doctor how to speak a wide range of animal languages. As a result, young readers still fall in love with Gub-Gub (pig), Jip (dog), Chee-Chee (monkey), Dab-Dab (duck) and Too-Too (owl), among others. The name Polynesia, by the way, was thought to be first coined by French writer Charles de Brosses in 1756. It’s a merging of two Greek words meaning “many islands” and now refers to more than 1,000 islands that dot a triangular region of the south-central Pacific Ocean with Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island as the vertexes.