Highland News Leader

A Saturday night on the town cost a kid less than a quarter in 1930s Highland

Roland Harris
Roland Harris

Russell Hoffman, former editor of the Highland News Leader, sold the Highland News Leader but retained the News Leader print shop. Russ really wasn’t ready to retire, so he purchased Karl Aebischer’s print shop on Cypress Street and opened Alpine Printers. Russell helped two of his former employees, Judy Hartlieb and Linda Parker Kleinhoffer, start up the new Shopper’s Review in his building. The new Shopper’s Review was a free newspaper for the Highland area, with first addition on Oct. 2, 1984.

Russ started a column in the Shopper’s called, “From the Desk of Russ Hoffman,” and some years later, in September and October 1990 had four columns about the Turner Hall, which he called “The Old Turner Hall,” center of all activities. I will be using bits and pieces of those columns for this column.

“The present generations spend their free time at Highland’s Weinheimer Building, a structure for which we have to thank the late Frederick Weinheimer, who in 1949, honored his parents by leaving $150,000 for a recreational building, if the city would provide the site. (The city built the Weinheimer on the old Turner Hall site and had a bond issue that passed to provide the equipment and things needed for the new building, dedicated in January 1954.)

In Russ Hoffman’s columns, Russ tells about the 1920s and the old Turner Hall. “In the early 1920s, one of the big events of the year was the Sharpshooters Ball, held every January and the social event of the year. It was a dinner/dance with the food being served and eaten on the balcony. Dancing was on the main floor. All of the women wore their new dresses, and perhaps, this was the way to get new members and collect dues. About the same time of 1920, Joe Wick (a cookie salesman), son of the former Mayor Albert Wick, and Erwin Weder, then working in the office of the new Highland Dairy Farms Co. on 6th & Zschokke, which his father August Weder helped to organize, gave dances on Sunday nights called, ‘Wick & Weder Dances.’ (Erwin Weder and his brothers, who started Highland Supply Corporation, later purchased this Highland Dairy Farms building and added a fourth floor. This building is still their headquarters and Erwin’s son, Don, and his siblings maintain control of Highland Supply.)

“The last teacher of physical training at the Turner Hall was Lloyd Sistek, who was here in the early 1930s. By that time, interest in exercising was on the wane. (It has reversed now and is on the way back, also organic foods are on the increase, which was what we were eating in the 1930s.) The old Turner Hall went away, just like the corner grocery store and local meat markets. The history of the ‘Turnhalle’ is well documented in Pat Spencer’s ‘Centennial History of Highland’ but was not in our Sesquicentennial Book of 1987. With the Turners defunct by that time, no one sent in a story, so we missed it, just as we did with the popular American Legion Girls Drum and Bugle Corps, which dominated all competition during the mid 1930s.”

I’m happy to say that the Drum and Bugle Corps, Turner Hall and several of the mom-and-pop groceries will be represented in the new Highland Home Museum. I have been told that there were eight to 10 of these small, sometimes called “corner groceries” in Highland. Do you have any photos and family information of these or of other small businesses that didn’t do much advertising, but were a blessing to their neighborhood?

Russ also told about the Buster Brown and his Café, with the “Passion Pit” in the basement, for the teenagers and young adults. Russ remembered that you could walk uptown, with a quarter in those days, see a movie, have a Highland soda, popcorn and still go home with a nickel in your pocket.

Jean Herzberg remembered working evenings for Buster Brown’s Café one summer, running the popcorn machine and also washing dished for 10 cents an hour, and Russ remembered that he worked at the News Leader in the summer for $1 a day, which was 12  ½ cents per hour.

I can remember that my father, Irwin Harris, the barber in Alhambra, was cutting hair for a quarter and a shave was 10 cents, and he had few of both. He also had Roy Gartner, who was in high school at Alhambra at the time, shining shoes for 10 cents a pair, for which Gartner received 5 cents and Dad got 5 cents, as Dad furnished the polish, brushes and stand.

I came along a little later, and I still charged 10 cents for a shoe shine but got to keep the dime, because I bought my own shoe polish directly from Highland’s LaFrance Shoe Polish Manufacture, at 808 Broadway. We didn’t have to make a special trip to Highland as my Grandmother Willman was living at 8th and Zschokke.

We also purchased some of our groceries from my father’s aunt, Albirdie Myers, who was a clerk at the Highland Store Co. My brother Udell and I would also get a little bag of jelly beans or orange slices, free.

I will have Highland Store Co. photos and my LaFrance Shoe Shine kit with metal footrest in our Highland Home Museum. The shoe shine kit is almost like new, because we used Dad’s shoe stand to shine our shoes. The LaFrance shoes shine kit was free one Christmas, as I had purchased four cans of shoe polish and two new brushes and received the kit as a gift.

This shoe shine kit will be under “L” in the third room of the Highland Home Museum, as well as Aunt Albirdie Myers’ song she had published, entitled “Sitting at Mother’s Knee.” This music will be in the third room, under “M” for Myers. The publisher spelled her name Al Birdie Myers, because, at that time, men wrote most of the music that was published, she said.

See you April 22 or 23 for the grand opening of the museum. Tours will start at 1:30 p.m. and the last tour will start at 3:30. Call now if you have veteran photos, or photos we can copy, or something unusual for the museum. We may have space in that area.

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