Tag Archives: Bohemians

Oldest Continuously Running Restaurant in Michigan: Sleder’s Tavern

by David Odziana, ThumbPrint News Staff Writer and Field Reporter

This article on Sleder’s Tavern was originally published in the January 2017 issue of the ThumbPrint Newsa wonderful publication filled with history, insight, life-hacks and just plain fun. We are indebted to the editors of ThumbPrint News and author David Odziana. Read and subscribe at their website: http://www.thumbprintnews.com/

Image provided by David Odziana.

For many residents of Michigan, a vacation often consists of driving a few hours north until they reach one of the many popular tourist destinations throughout the state.

Traverse City is one of the more popular vacation spots in the Lower Peninsula, enticing visitors with an array of year-round activities. The area once known as Slabtown and Little Bohemia has an extensive history, which is a big part of the beloved city’s charm.

Interior of Sleder’s, ca. 1885, with the famed spittoons resting on the floor. Image courtesy of the Bensley Collection, Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

Sleder’s Tavern is one of the most established buildings in the area with the prestige of being one of the oldest restaurants in the state. A Bohemian wheelwright named Vencel Sleder came to the area in the second half of the 1800s, and soon made the decision to construct a local tavern where residents could visit with friends over a home cooked meal after a long day at work. Since most able hands were busy working in the mills or on their land, only Sundays were available to work on the restaurant. This caused construction to complete the building to drag on for three years. The building was manufactured using rejected wooden slabs from the local sawmill; Sleder’s Tavern was finally finished in 1882.

Vencel conducted his business with the mentality that goodwill is good business, later becoming the company’s slogan that allowed the bar to survive many dark economic times. The second generation of the Sleder family to work at the tavern was Polly Sleder, who was well known for offering her household medical advice with each $1.50 case of beer. It was also said she gave patrons a free beer and a double shot of liquor for each case of beer purchased. Prior to inheriting the tavern, Louie Sleder’s first job at the bar was to clean out the 21 spittoons throughout the restaurant, receiving 25 cents for each one. By 1920, Sleder’s Tavern was faced with a great deal of uncertainty, as everyday life began changing drastically during this time.

Results of a Grand Traverse Prohibition-era raid with officers and sheriff’s deputies. G.T. County Sheriff David R. Campbell at the far left. Image not included in Ordizana’s original article, but Your Editors love this photo, courtesy of the Traverse Area District Library Local History Collection.

When Prohibition was enacted in Michigan, Sleder’s Tavern was already established for nearly 40 years, which gave the company a better chance of surviving the state’s dry period that lasted more than 15 years. Sleder’s secret for thriving during the country’s ban on alcohol was his special root beer, which was well known during the time. The mixture, which was actually a blend of rye and bourbon, was served in tea cups free of charge to all visiting law enforcement – this allowed the family business to flourish when a majority of taverns were forced to close their doors. Throughout the 1920s, local law enforcement mainly focused on out-of-town bootleggers who were bringing alcohol into the area. This continued until the 1930s, when state police decided to enforce the laws local police were ignoring. Sleder’s Tavern was quickly raided, and police discovered two stills, 231 pints of beer, 50 gallons of mash used to brew alcohol and six quarts of moonshine. Due to his clean record, Louie was only charged with possession, which resulted in a $600 fine, instead of the much stiffer punishment that came with a bootlegging charge. This raid was most likely a result of pressure from citizens, who collected 450 signatures to get local police to “exercise a higher regard for the moral protection of the youths of our city and a more thorough enforcement in dealing with violators of city ordinances, federal and state law.” Despite the fact that the petition didn’t mention alcohol or prohibition, it was assumed the paperwork was referring to the lack of enforcement on alcohol in the city.

Interior of Sleder’s Tavern today. Image contributed by Brooks Vanderbush.

During the 1930s, the building underwent a few structural changes. Prior to this time, men and women were not allowed to frequent the same area of the bar. Instead, the men drank in the main bar, while the women had their own section in the back, which they would enter through a separate door. After Louie opened up the two rooms to make one large bar and renovated the second story ballroom into living space, many of the regulars who frequented Sleder’s were not happy about having women in the same area of the bar.

The original, 21-foot mahogany bar of Sleder’s Tavern, as it looks today. Image contributed by Brooks Vanderbush.

Although some things have changed in the building throughout its 134 years of business, many original features still remain. Time-appropriate stamped tin adorns the 12-foot-tall ceilings, original light fixtures still hang on the walls and much of the historic collectibles still decorate the walls, but one feature tends to grab the attention of thirsty patrons more than anything else. The original 21-foot mahogany bar, equipped with an old brass foot rail and embellished with cherry wood on the sides, has remained in the same spot since 1882.

Exterior of Sleder’s Tavern today. Image contributed by Brooks Vanderbush.

Louie Sleder was the last family member to own the tavern before it was sold. After changing hands a few times, Sylvia and Bob Classens purchased the restaurant in 1975. The couple’s main goal was to ensure the historical aspect remained. Renovations they accomplished were uncovering the original hardwood floors, redoing the paneling on the walls and constructing a Victorian style porch on the side of the building. In 1992, Brian and Deb Cairns purchased the restaurant from the Classens, and shortly after, the couple tied the knot on the recently constructed porch. When the Cairns took over, they changed as little as possible – all five of the Classens’ children, as well as many of the previous employees, remained employed at Sleder’s after the tavern got new owners. Today, Michigan’s oldest continuously running restaurant sits in the same spot at 717 Randolph Street in Traverse City. While much has changed throughout the city from the time it was known as Little Bohemia or Slabtown, Sleder’s Tavern stands as proof that some things can truly stand the test of time.

History of the Wilhelm Family with Special Attention to the Bohemian Settlement in Traverse City, Michigan

By Robert D. Wilhelm

Edited by Julie Schopieray and Richard Fidler

[Editors note: This is a transcription of a manuscript Bob Wilhelm wrote over a long period of time, with updates ending in 1986. Some spelling and punctuation has been changed, and transcriber’s notes for clarity are in brackets]

A Note by historian Al Barnes

Doing the Impossible

I would have said it couldn’t be done. When Bob Wilhelm told me that he was going to do the history of the Wilhelm family of Traverse City I gave encouragement. However, tracing the family from their roots in Bohemia, before the turn of the century, to the “new world” and thence onward in time to the present day, was a task for a research group and not for one person.

From time to time he contacted me and we discussed many problems. Months turned into years and he persisted. He discovered the power of determination born in the pioneer family. He reflected this determination as page after page of the story unfolded.

Completed, the manuscript is fascinating and inspiring. I am positive that no stone was left unturned and no name left out of the story if that name left an echo at any point in the story of the Wilhelm family. I would not have had the patience.

CHAPTER 1: Conflagration in Bohemia

Painting of Count Metternich by Thomas Lawrence, now part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Collection. The original work was first exhibited in 1815, but probably revised in 1818/9. Image courtesy of the Museum, and available at the Wikimedia Commons.
Painting of Count Metternich by Thomas Lawrence, now part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Collection. The original work was first exhibited in 1815, but probably revised in 1818/9. Image courtesy of the Museum, and available at the Wikimedia Commons.

Central Europe in the mid-1800s was in turmoil. Count Clemens von Metternich, alter ego of the emperor of Austria and the Hapsburg dynasty, was not willing to let the demands for reforms sweeping through Europe spread into the Austrian Empire.

There were several reasons leading to the wave of dissatisfaction. Because of the Industrial Revolution, massive numbers of country people flocked to the cities hoping to improve their living conditions. Disillusionment soon swept through the masses. Unemployment, unequal distribution of wealth, slums, and unhappiness with an absolute monarch led to widespread disorders.

The government moved with brutal efficiency to quell the rising unrest. The military and the secret police were used to stamp out opposition. To keep the military ranks full, all young men were required to serve seven years at virtually no pay. The future held little more than becoming “cannon fodder.”

The Hapsburgs in their many wars with other European monarchs, needed young men. Country peasant stock was in the front lines. The attitude was “Why waste your best trained soldiers?”

Alphonse Mucha, The Oath of Omladina under the Slavic Linden Tree: The Slavic Revival, 1926. Tempera with oil details on canvas.
Alphonse Mucha, The Oath of Omladina under the Slavic Linden Tree: The Slavic Revival, 1926. Tempera with oil details on canvas. Mucha was an artist focused on pan-Slavic Unity for much of his career. This is just one of his many works on the subject.

In Bohemia, during the 1848-1850 period, the pan Slavic desire for Slavic unity and independence was proclaimed by Bohemian leadership. Meetings for unity and independence were held in Prague, but the speeches by the leaders resulted in confusion due to different languages.

Riots broke out in Prague and the Princess Windisch Gratz, wife of the governor, was killed by a stray bullet.

The Austrian cannons destroyed the patriotic hopes by the bombarding of Prague. The Bohemians were not able to withstand the armies of the Hapsburg monarchy. The bombardment was the beginning of the end for the independence movement. The Austrian army remained faithful, and a new period of desperation  descended. It was so harsh that it made many yearn for the unhappy days under Metternich.

CHAPTER 2:  Ondrejov to “Cincinnati”

It was during the summer of 1853 that a pamphlet describing the wonders of Cincinnati, Ohio, was circulated by a land agent in the village of Ondrejov, Bohemia.

Village of Ondrejov, in relation to Prague, Checz Republic.
Village of Ondrejov outlined in red, in relation to Prague, Czech Republic. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Eva Wilhelm could not resist glowing reports of the mysterious land across the ocean. She started talking and tried to persuade her husband Joseph, a prosperous shopkeeper, to make the journey. Her pleading was rejected, but her brother-in-law and his wife, John and Mary Wilhelm, who lived in the nearby village of Cerna Buda, decided to go to America.

John Wilhelm was a tailor, but at the time he was dyeing and printing cotton fabrics. He was making a comfortable living for his family, but the future of his occupation was bleak. The talk of the area was Cincinnati, Ohio and its opportunities.  While others could not make up their minds, John sold his interests and the family left on October 23, 1853. They reached New York in December.

Mary and two of their four sons were ill when they landed. They were admitted to the Marine Hospital in New York where one of them, Frank, died the next day. The second ailing son, Anton, died about a year later. The other children, Emanuel (age 13) and John (7 1/2) were temporarily placed in a children’s home until their father could get a job, their mother would be released from the hospital, and a boarding place could be found.

Braiding on garments was fashionable at the time. Being skilled in the art and able to speak German in addition to Bohemian, John was hired by a German tailor. When his wife recovered from her illness, the tailor offered her a job. John was curious about how the tailor knew she was a seamstress. The tailor explained he had noticed the neat patches on his shirt.

Emanuel, son of John and Mary, began working in a map making business during the day and attended school at night learning English.

CHAPTER 3: Mass exodus: Ondrejov to New York

Despite word of tragedy and hardships in New York, Eva Wilhelm was constantly urging her family and friends to leave Ondrejov. By the fall of 1854 her persuasiveness overcame the apprehensions. The exodus began.

Joseph Wilhelm and his wife Eva; his brother Anton, Joseph Kyselka, Wencil Bartak, Albert Novotny, Frank Kratochvil, Frank Lada, Joseph Knizek and Frank Pohoral, all with their wives and children, the mother of Joseph  and Anton Wilhelm, and Pohoral’s unmarried sister were part of a group that finally settled in the Grand Traverse region.

Not all of the larger group settled in Michigan. Some migrated to Wisconsin. A cousin of Frank Kratochvil began the settlement of New Bohemia on Long Island, New York.

Even though Cincinnati was originally on the minds of the hundred migrants, not one settled there.

Unlike so many of the central Europeans who were totally destitute, this group, though lacking wealth, was nowhere close to being paupers. All of these families had the necessities of life even under the adverse conditions affecting Bohemia.  They all had common school education. Anton Wilhelm’s wife Jennie was a teacher. She insisted that her family speak English, the language of their adopted land. Even though her children could speak Bohemian in later life, they were one of the few who could speak English without an accent. The men had all learned a trade while the women were all skilled in some form of needlework.

It was a three day journey from Ondrejov to the German seaport city of Bremen. A week’s search to find a sailing vessel resulted in the group boarding the Herzogen Von Alderberg.

There were steam vessels available for the journey, but a letter from John Wilhelm warned about the dangers of the steamers because one had blown up in the New York area. The boat carried 120 passengers, mostly Czechs (Bohemians), including a Czech band whose music helped break the tedium of the long journey There were also eighteen unmarried Germans and an English family named Williams on the consist. Each of the families was expected to furnish his own bedding, and their ticks (a cloth case for a mattress or pillow was rather coarse flax grown on the farms, spun by the women and woven by the town weaver).

One of the Czechs had a feather bed, part of a bride’s dowry, made of goose feathers. This was stolen and resulted in great discomfort in the winter weather. In addition to the warmth provided, these feather beds could be used as collateral for a loan.

The first meal served aboard was smoked, salty fish. Because the supply of water was limited, the passengers suffered greatly. Seasickness was another frequent misery. Some of the passengers brought dried fruits, mainly pears and prunes. Ondrejov had a community drying house where they could bring their crops for a small fee.

The voyage lasted longer than scheduled, seven-and-a-half weeks. Food and water supplies ran low. A.J Wilhelm in later years recalled that the basic diet at the end of the journey was black bread.

Because of the suffering of the children, Frank Lada lowered a  small container attached to a cord into the diminishing water supply to relieve the distress. If a crew member should have observed such a happening, Lada would have been punished for breaking the ship’s rules.

When the boat finally arrived in New York, a number of children had to be admitted to an immigrants hospital for treatment. Many were emaciated from the lack of proper food and other discomforts suffered on the voyage. Many children died soon after arrival at the hospital and many other sick children lived a little longer. The large hospital ward was filled with rows of cots occupied by sick children.

Mothers were not allowed to be with their children in the hospital. Elizabeth Bartak’s mother pleaded with the nurses, but her requests were denied. She offered to scrub floors, a nurse tiring of the pleading pointed to a large dog and threatened her with attack. One day she arrived with patterns of lace. Going through the motions of knitting, the nurse understood she would make her some if she was allowed to stay. The offer was accepted.

A constant terror faced by the unsuspecting and trusting immigrants was the confidence men who preyed on all the newly arrived at the dock.  As the Herzogen Von Alderberg tied up at the New York dock these people were only too helpful. Speaking their native language, a stranger offered to take them to a clean, moderately priced hotel, They trustingly and gratefully accepted. When the immigrants were presented with the bill, they realized they had been fleeced. A fist fight erupted. The hotelkeeper and his accomplices locked all the doors and the men were not to be released until they had given up all their worldly belongings. Fortunately, through the efforts of John Wilhelm and some of his friends he had made during his year in the United States, the situation was brought to the attention of the authorities and a refund of the overcharge was ordered. The court also ordered that these dishonest practices should cease. This satisfactory ending was rare. Most of the immigrants who were fleeced lost everything.  Warning letters from the newly arrived to their family and friends back in Bohemia spread through the communities.

The carrying of money was especially dangerous. Unscrupulous passengers and crew members on the boats robbed the helpless. People waiting at the dock wanting to “help” the newly arrived disappeared as soon as they gained their worldly possessions.

Anna (Dufek) Brown was determined to make the journey to Leelanau County, Michigan.  Her father, fearing the worst, wouldn’t allow his daughter to carry any money. All of her possessions were placed in a homemade trunk. Most of the space was for her featherbed. She wore a paisley shawl around her shoulders for warmth. She was presented with an amethyst or garnet necklace which was to be traded in for money when she reached New York. Arriving in New York, the immigrant agent ripped the necklace from her neck and put it in his pocket. His only comment was that people didn’t wear such necklaces in America.

The shopkeepers in New York used small coins to make change. Many could not get used to the American money and were easily confused. Another tactic of the unscrupulous was to give a handful of small change. The floors would be covered with sawdust so it would be difficult to recover your money. (This spreading of sawdust was done in the Grand Traverse region during the lumber era by some of the bar owners. Presumably drinkers would have a hard time finding change that had dropped to the floor).

Despite the problems of “strength makes right” hundreds of Bohemians from the area around Prague made the journey. Disease brought tragedy to many. Loss of all worldly goods by many slowed down the new life opportunities temporarily.

The exodus to the Great Lakes area was in full flight.

Look forward to the continuation of the History of the Wilhelm Family by Robert D. Wilhelm in upcoming issues of Grand Traverse Journal.

(James) Vaclav Sleder, founder of Sleder’s Family Tavern

This excerpt comes to us from A Story of Traverse City, Michigan and some of the Early Settlers, written and illustrated by the artist Aldrich Farsky (yes, the Farsky featured in the May 2016 issue of Grand Traverse Journal). This was originally printed in Czech in 1908, in the national Czech publication Amerikan Kalandar. In 1977, Mr and Mrs. Edward Van Leishout and Mr. William E. Votruba translated the story in to English, which details the overseas immigration of the Czechs, as well as profiles a few of the more prominent Bohemain citizens of Traverse City, with an emphasis on their success.  A copy is available for reading at the Traverse Area District Library, Woodmere Main Library.

One of the early settlers featured is (James) Vaclav Sleder, the man who would found the long-standing Sleder’s Family Tavern on Randolph Street:

“From his home, Cvrovic by Klatov in Czechy he emigrated to Traverse City when he was 32 years ol.d Things were not exactly as he had envisioned them to be. With his solid faith in the future and a great deal of hard work, he managed to bring his wife and sons Louis 9, Joseph 7, Andrew 3 and daughter Margaret to his new home.

Victor Petertyl Wagon Works employees at the factory on State Street, 1891. (Note the Hannah Lay store on Front street in the background with almost nothing between them.) L-R: Vic Petertyl, Jim ? (woodworker), Wm. Abbott (horse shoer), Herman Koch (finisher), Albert Petertyl (blacksmith), Vencil Sleder (woodworker), Pat Robertson (helper and horse shoer), Chas. Weland (painter) and Anton Petertyl. (At the far left is either the Union Street Hotel or the back of the Masonic Building. Opinions vary.) Perhaps a member of the Sleder family can inform us the relationship between Vencil and Vaclav. From the Photo Collection at Traverse Area District Library Local History, 718.000001.100.
Victor Petertyl Wagon Works employees at the factory on State Street, 1891. (Note the Hannah Lay store on Front street in the background with almost nothing between them.) L-R: Vic Petertyl, Jim ? (woodworker), Wm. Abbott (horse shoer), Herman Koch (finisher), Albert Petertyl (blacksmith), Vencil Sleder (woodworker), Pat Robertson (helper and horse shoer), Chas. Weland (painter) and Anton Petertyl. (At the far left is either the Union Street Hotel or the back of the Masonic Building. Opinions vary.) Perhaps a member of the Sleder family can inform us the relationship between Vencil and Vaclav. From the Photo Collection at Traverse Area District Library Local History, 718.000001.100.

Having been an apprentice in Wagon Working in Czechy he had found work in the Gramfort Wagon Works, but on arrival of his dependents he found a better position with the Petertyl factory. Here he stayed for 12 years. At this time he invested his savings in a new building which soon became the most favored saloon by all. On the 2nd floor he operated a dance hall and entertainment center. Because of his friendly personality and direct, honest and free thinking attitude, he was respected by everyone.

Hunters on the "Onekama" returning from a Upper Peninsula deer hunt trip: L-R: Guy Cox, Jack Smith, Fred Emerson, Leander Muncey, Richard Emerson, Lewis Franklin, J.N. Martinek, Elija Cox, Gus Petander, William Smith, James Mahan, Louis Sleder, Charles Mitchell & Captain Emory, 1898. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 873.
Hunters on the “Onekama” returning from a Upper Peninsula deer hunt trip: L-R: Guy Cox, Jack Smith, Fred Emerson, Leander Muncey, Richard Emerson, Lewis Franklin, J.N. Martinek, Elija Cox, Gus Petander, William Smith, James Mahan, Louis Sleder, Charles Mitchell & Captain Emory, 1898. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 873.

After running his business for 10 years Mr. Sleder turned the active management of the saloon over to his oldest son Louis, who continued his father’s practices and profited likewise. He enrolled his 2nd son in an engineering school and the youngest son entered the army for the duration of the war against Spain. It so happened he was discharged about the same time as the second son completed his schooling so finding himself with two fine sons to take over his other duties, Mr. Sleder began to devote his time to volunteer work and good deeds. It was on such a mission that he lost his life. A fellow C.S.P.S. [note: the Czech-Slovak Protective Society] member Mr. J. Ryant has [sic.] passed away and Mr. Sleder volunteered to notify people of his death and make arrangements for the lodge sponsored funeral. This was Dec. 17th 1905. His horse became frightened and ran away throwing Mr. Sleder out of his sleigh in such a manner that he was fatally injured.

After his death his three sons managed his business interests with such good judgement that everything prospered. They soon invested in a brewery which was remodeled, by son Joseph, (who had become a fine engineer), until it became a modern, well equipped and attractive as well as prosperous business, which permitted the three of them to own 2 of the 21 saloons in Traverse City at this writing with very good prospects of expanding still more in the future.

Certainly the 3 sons have proven that the good example their father set for them was not wasted.”

For a complete list of persons listed in this 49-page story by Farsky, see the catalog record at the Traverse Area District Library’s online Local History Collection.

A Boy’s Diary, 1919: Life in Traverse City through the eyes of a 15-year-old

by Julie Schopieray, dogged researcher and regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal

Recently the Traverse Area Historical Society received an email from a woman in Kalamazoo who, while visiting Traverse City, had purchased a “Boys Diary” at a local antique shop. After reading it herself, she wanted to donate the book to the History Center, only wanting in return any information on who the author of the diary might be, and what happened to him. We accepted her donation and I had her send the book to me. I was excited about the challenge of identifying the author.

The day it arrived I began to look for clues that might lead to who the young man was. There were no last names mentioned, only first names, and the parents were only identified as Mama and Dad. Starting at the first page, I jotted down every name mentioned. By the time I got to the March entries, I felt I had enough clues to take the names and compare them to the 1919 city directory. I entered only first names into the database and they all seemed to match well with one particular family.  That along with a very important clue about a box of candy, I came to the conclusion that this diary belonged to someone connected with the Straub Brothers & Amiotte Candy Company.  “The factory” was mentioned many times in the diary and when “a box of candy” was used in the same sentence, I knew I was on to something.

Anton F. Straub family home at 536 W. 8th Street, ca. 1970s. From the Local History Collection, Traverse Area District Library, 770.062907.77.

Next, I figured a birth year of the young man, taking the year (1919) and the fact that he was a freshman in high school and age 15, so assumed his birth year was 1903. When I looked at the Straub families listed in the 1920 census,  I saw one who had a son, Robert, who was born around 1903. As I looked further in the database, I found a passport application for a Robert C. Straub, which listed his exact birth date– June 12, 1903.  A-ha! I immediately flipped to the June 12 diary entry and saw he had written about all his birthday gifts. I had a perfect match! I was then able to connect all the first names mentioned to family members. Robert was the youngest of three children of Anton and Molly Straub. He was 8 years younger than his next sibling, Anton jr. “Tony”, and 11 years younger than his sister Helen. The  Anton F. Straub family home was at 536 W. 8th st. Their house is a twin to the home of  Anton Straub’s brother John, who lived  next door.

Straub Bros. & Amiotte building on West Front Street, home of the candy factory, ca. 1905. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 3006.
Straub Bros. & Amiotte building on West Front Street, home of the candy factory, ca. 1905. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 3006.

When Robert Straub received the diary on his 15th birthday in 1918, the first World War was still raging in Europe though there were some signs of peace. Many of the city’s young men were off serving in the armed forces and citizens purchased Liberty Bonds to support the cause. The influenza pandemic was affecting the entire country, and the local economy witnessed its first real hit the year before when the Oval Wood Dish Company, one of the town’s largest employers, packed up and moved out of town. The local labor movement made news due to complaints of low wages paid to the girls who toiled long hours in cigar and other factories. The Straub Brothers & Amiotte Candy Company  factory on the corner of Front and Hall streets, was producing candy, marshmallows, and other confectionery delights at a high rate, but at very low pay to the mostly young women who staffed the factory. One account stated the owners had claimed that the factory could “get all the girls they wanted for $4 per week” when a living wage needed for the time was better than $15 a week.  However, for the owners of the candy company, life was good. 

Robert Carl Straub, 1921. From "The Pines," Traverse City High School Yearbook, 1921, held at Traverse Area District Library.
Robert Carl Straub, 1921. From “The Pines,” Traverse City High School Yearbook, 1921, held at Traverse Area District Library.

Robert Carl Straub, the youngest child of Anton and Molly Straub, faithfully wrote in his diary nearly every day for the year 1919. The following excerpts are a condensed version of the diary.  It had been given to him on his fifteenth  birthday in June 1918, from his cousin Irene and it starts the first of the following year. His handwriting is neat and easy to read. The life he describes tells the reader that he comes from a fairly well-off family. He is responsible, doing his daily chores and attending to his studies. He works on the school paper, plays basketball, participates on the debate team and does well in school, but as a young teen always seems to have time and money to spend on movies and fun with his friends. He loves ice cream and mentions it often.  He even works on and drives the family auto around town, taking the family on errands and friends “out for a drive”. (14-year-olds could get a learner’s permit in Michigan in 1919. It was raised to 16 in 1937)  The spelling is Robert’s. Notes in brackets are added by me to identify people and places mentioned.

January 1–Diary for the year 1919. Shoveled off walk in the morning… I find this is a pretty big page to fill with one days happenings. Got in bed at 15 minutes to two. Reason: went on a sleigh ride and had a11 o’clock supper at the church. Went to Wahl’s [a confectionery & ice cream store in the Lyric Theater building on Front St.]  for first time in 1919. Also first sundaes.

More snow. Shoveled off walks. Fixed fire all day long. Went downtown in the afternoon and bought two records and a bottle of ink. Total bill $2.45. Also went to factory. Played Dad solitary in the evening and came out one to the good.

More of that junk you call snow, also more walks to shovel after I got up at 9:30. Went downtown in the afternoon and also went to the factory. Went to the show in the evening and saw George Walsh in “On the Jump”. He was mostly on the jump. Thus, another perfect day was ended when I began snoring.

School was  to start today but it was posponed  on account of the “flu”. That is hard luck in one way and good luck in another way.

Went downtown twice in the morning and once at night. Exchanged Kate’s wedding present and also took it to the house. Went skiing in the afternoon at the Golf Grounds. Got home wet and tired but all there. Had three dishes of Ice Cream today. Only bought one myself. Kate Wilhelm & Frank Turner were married. I had some bride’s cake and groom’s cake. Picture shows closed. Bowling allies closed. Some DEAD town. Darn the “flu.” Wahl’s open. Some lively place.

Went to the Commission Meeting after supper. Began at 8 p.m. and it let out at 10 p.m. Some time there. The whole commission better study up on parliamentary rule!  Spent 25¢ for Ice Cream.

Fixed the fire and shoveled a little snow. I got a gallon of cider from Morgan’s. Went to the factory. Went downtown and spent 10¢ for a dish of Ice Cream. After supper Dad and I played solitary and I came out to the bad. Dad won ten games and I won six. Revenge is sweet… Some swell day. Sun was out and it (weather) was very warm for winter.

Joy! Joy! Joy! no snow to shovel.  Dusted the dining room. Afternoon: Took a treatment from Miss Swan. [Sisters Lottie and  Ella Swan ran a chiropractic office from their home at 247 Washington st.]  Went downtown in the evening and walked up and down the street with Levi. Spent 25¢

…Put another coat of paint on our Bobs [bob sleds]. Then Levi and I went downtown. Had dinner and then we went skiing. No good. Very good sliding as we borrowed a couple of sleds and went sliding… After supper we put another coat of paint on the bobs and then five of us went sliding in the moon light. Great sport!…

Got up early and went over and got some “Liberty” Kraut. [during WW1 it was common for German-sounding foods to be renamed. Sauerkraut became “Liberty” kraut, etc.]  Uncle Johns‘ were over for dinner. Mama took a treatment… We had the Edison fixed.

…wrote a letter to Helen. Made a aeroplane with my model builder…

Anton "Tony" Straub, Jr., ca. 1919. From the Hanley Wilhelm Album, 769.000000.150.
Anton “Tony” Straub, Jr., ca. 1919. From the Hanley Wilhelm Album, 769.000000.150.

…Monday, no school… After dinner went downtown and had my hair cut, drew $1 out of the bank, payed Hamilton and Steinbergs. Bought Tony a pair of socks for his birthday. We all went over to Tony’s for his birthday supper…

Went to school all day. Aunt Lena came over for dinner and super and stayed all night. After school I wrote my last book review. Studied after supper… but could not sleep as they were playing the Edison all night long. A.A. meeting after school to disband all winter athletics. This semester will end February 15. No spring vacation and one extra week in June [all due to the flu outbreak].

After dinner, I took a treatment from Miss Swan. Then I took a letter to Uncle Mike and a package to the Red Cross Rooms. Then went downtown and to the factory.  After supper, I shined Dad’s shoes and went to the dentist. Then I bought a pair of stockings and went to the show. Saw Tom Mix in “Fame and Fortune”. 

Sunday morning went to Sunday School…After supper, I shaved my upper lip and went over to Irene’s.

Monday, went to school all day. After supper I played basketball at the church till 9:30 p.m. I handed the names of the scouts of Troop 1 to Geo. H. Curtis at noon.

Had a Algebra test and got my Physiology paper. Got 92. After school I came home and popped some corn and then studied until supper time. After supper I went to the Athenian Meeting. [debate team]

Czech-Slovak Protective Society (C.S.P.S.) was a national Bohemian social club. Pictured here is a Christmas Party held in the Traverse City Hall, 1911. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 1802.
Czech-Slovak Protective Society (C.S.P.S.) was a national Bohemian social club. Pictured here is a Christmas Party held in the Traverse City Hall, 1911. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 1802.

Went downtown after school and paid H. & L. Co.  and Johnson Grocery bills. Went to the factory and came home with Dad at 5 p.m. Unusual event. [his father worked long hours and often evenings] …went to the Chamber of Commerce supper at the C.S. P. S. hall. Mama got a postal from Karl Umlor written in Germany.

Got to school before light and wrote my algebra test from 8 to 10 a.m. After 10 went to the factory and got a check and a box of candy which I took up to Dr. Martin. Had physiology final from 1-3…then went downtown and sent a Valentine to Helen and Grandma.

…Shoveled off the walk and carried out the ashes…went to the factory and got a box of candy and came home with Dad. Betty Gordon’s birthday…I gave her a box of candy. Walt Thompson and I went to the show at night and saw Arbuckle in “Camping Out”.

First day of school new semester. 1st hr. Mec. Drawing–Connell. 2nd hr. Geometry–Petertyl. 4th hr. Botany–Anderson. 6th hr. Caesar- Gordon. 7th hr. English–Eddy.

School all day. Played basket-ball after school at the Cong. Gym. “Red” Higgins is our coach.

Gave a book review. Went to the factory. Went to the basket-ball game after supper Results- Freshie 29, Sophomores 14. Went to Wahl’s after game. Spent 5¢. Won 10¢ on the game.

Mama’s birthday. Bought her a fern. Went to Athenian meeting after supper.

After school got a book at the library then came home and studied. Had Athenian picture taken at noon at Smith and Price.

Bought Irene a address book for her birthday…Night school after supper. Debate after night school. T.C. & Petoskey on “Minimum Wage” TC 0, Petoskey-3.

Went with Uncle John. He took his car out. Went downtown… put 3¢ in a slot machine & got out 15¢ at Wahl’s.

Did not go to S. S. [Sunday School] but helped work on the car. Got it all ready to take out. Went out riding with Uncle John, Tony, Evelyn & I.  Shaved my upper lip.

Helped put paper together after school [school paper]. Went to freshman game…went to Grand Opera after game.

Went to factory & to West Side Bakery. Took a treatment.

Sunday [March 30] All clocks set ahead one hour. [Daylight Savings Time had started one year earlier]

Went downtown with the car…Athenian after supper. On debate- “Universal Language should be adopted” Negative 3 to 0. We won.

Had picture taken at Smith & Price after school. Dad & Ma went to Liberty Loan Mass Meeting at Opera House.

Got my picture proofs. Rotten!!! Sat over again for three more pictures. Dad took everybody to the show.

Went to S.S. Dad, Mama & I went to McCool’s Restaurant  for dinner. Took Aunt Lote’s for a ride in the afternoon. Had ice cream for supper… after supper…had more ice cream.

Scout meeting after supper at Boardman. Julius Hanslowski is our scout-master.

Got my pictures. $6 a dozen. Harsch & I went out in the Asylum Wood for flowers after dinner.

Started on my eighth plate in Mech. Drawing.  Harsch & I distributed Liberty Loan posters after school…

Went to school and gave Andy our flowers for botany. Everybody helped clean out the garage.

May 2- Got up at 4:45 a.m. and went fishing…at Asylum Creek. Got one trout.

May 10- Karl Umlor arrived in the city at 6:15 p.m and makes a swell officer.

Dad, Tony, Harsch and I went fishing to the Platte. Results: Dad-1, Tony-3, Harsch-0, Myself-1 (I caught the biggest fish of the bunch)

Got interest from my Liberty Bonds and put $2 in the bank.

[May 30] Memorial Day. Put flowers on soldiers grave…then came home for  Dad & Mama and heard the ceremony at the cemetery. Marched in the parade…then went to T.C. vs. Boyne City basketball game.

Went to the club house after school. [Wequetong Club on the bay] bolled  97. Spent 35¢.

Had dinner at the Whiting….Took the folks to church at night and went riding with Uncle John. Had a puncture.[tire]

Athenian meeting was held at Dr. Houston’s house on the peninsula. I was elected president for the next semester.

June 12 [Robert’s 16th birthday– this is what a 16-year-old scout got as gifts in 1919!]  Diary from Irene; a first aid kit from Helen; a sewing kit from Mrs. Kernan; $5 from Dad with which I bought a $3 pair of tennis shoes; a blanket from Mama and a canteen from Mike. Got 89 on Science final… 90 on English final… 95 on Algebra… Went to doctor and prepared for camp.

Botany final.. then finished my Mech. Drawing. Got 97 on my Geom. test. Caesar final…got 96%…school out at noon. Bought $8 camera …at Scott’s Drug Store.

Had a very good dinner at the Whiting Hotel. Took Dad to the ball-game after dinner then went riding. Had to change a  tire and inner tube. Took Mama to church then went to the club.

[July 3] Went swimming at Aunt Alice’s cottage at East bay.

Went to the club house (Dad, Mama & I). Beat Dad 2 games of pool and went 50-50 at bowling.

[He Took a trip to visit his sister Helen’s in Chicago between July 8- Aug. 3]

Aug. 12. Went to see the circus unload…Saw the circus parade. Went to the show grounds &  to the side show.  Evening, took Mama, Aunt Lote & Virginia to the circus. Dad & I went to the show.

Aug. 20.  Wreck on the P.M. R.R. near the poor house. We went out. I drove Anderson’s roadster back. Met Dad & went back to the wreck.

Sunday. Went to Hotel Pennington for dinner [In Interlochen]. Took Mama over to Tony’s & then went to the club. Spent 23¢.

Went to the club & to the factory. Went to Amiotte’s for supper. Stayed until 10:30 p.m.

Went to  the Little Tavern for dinner then to Tony’s. Went to the club until 4 p.m.

Sept. 8 School all day. Went to the club after supper. Was elected president of the sophomore class!

Dad & Mama went to the Golf Club dinner Dance. I stayed home.

School all day… football game after school. Athenian after supper. Then went to the club but as no one was there, I came home.

The sophomore class was going to have a beach party at East Bay but as it rained, the party had to be held at Boardman school.

Hamilton's Clothing Company, advertisement, undated. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 4636.
Hamilton’s Clothing Company, advertisement, undated. From the Grand Traverse Pioneer and Historical Society Collection, 4636.

Bought a new suit with long pants at Hamilton’s. Some price! $45. Did some shopping.

Was going to take Mama and some ladies to the fair after school, but the car wouldn’t go…bolt on the battery was loose. Went to the fair after supper. [he went to the fair the next three evenings after school]

School all day. Received a wire that Grandma had another stroke. Ran errands after school. Went to court after supper Trace got fined for shooting a bird.

[Oct 10] School all day. Had dinner at school. Dad had two of his fingers cut off in the morning. I got excused from school early. Stay home at night. Evelyn came over and kept house for us.

Washed the dishes. Mr. Musselman came over to see Dad. Charley shaved Dad and the Dr. also came to fix his hands.

Put air and dis. water in the car. Went to the bank. Went to Dr.s with Dad after dinner.

School all day. Took Dad to the barber shop. Went over to Musselman’s after supper. Eleanor showed me how to dance.

Oct. 26 Turned the clocks back an hour…The Dr. came. Went to Aunt Lotes for supper. She had a faint and a gas attack.

School all day. Basketball after supper. Sophs 30, Faculty 28.

Went to S. S. Hung around Wahl’s all afternoon.

School in the morning. Out of school for armistice day in the afternoon.

An example of what it took to change out a tire, when poor Robert's were punctured. Henry J. WItkop and Dave Youker changing the tire on Witkop's Napolean car, ca. 1920. Image courtesy of Bean Collection, 850.051007.87.
An example of what it took to change out a tire, when poor Robert’s were punctured. Henry J. WItkop and Dave Youker changing the tire on Witkop’s Napolean car, ca. 1920. Image courtesy of Bean Collection, 850.051007.87.

Went to Manistee to see the football game. Went with Ted Johnson. Had two punctures.

No school. Went to the bank. Got $4.24 interest on Liberty Bonds. Went downtown & to the garage [had a flywheel put in the day before].

Thurs. Nov. 27 Thanksgiving. Tony’s & Uncle Max here for dinner. Played basket ball at night. Packed for my trip to Flint.

School till 7th hr. Then went to the M.E. church to decorate for banquet. Went to the football banquet. Got my saxophone.

Shoveled off the walks. Studied quite a bit. Went downtown in the afternoon… got 2 collars & a pair of mitts. Sent for 2 instruction books for my saxophone. Spent $2.04.

Fixed the fire. Tony came over and we blowed on the saxophone and then went downtown.

School all day. Downtown after school Show after supper. Had a bad storm. Spent 50¢.

Shoveled the walks. School all day. Gave my report. Athenian after supper.

Went to the dentist at 10 a.m. After dinner took the car to Petertyl’s to get it painted. Went to the bank for my Victory Bond and my Xmas saving club money. Went over to Boardman. Bowled 101 and 133.

School all day. Played my saxophone. The instruction book for it came today. Cold out. 10 below zero at 8 o’clock.

Went to the dentist. Bought all my Xmas presents. took my saxophone back to get it repadded. Got $2.71 interest on my Liberty Bond. Bowled 118, 120. Show after supper. Spent all together $16.50. Bought me a chemical outfit and a collar.

Thurs. Dec. 25. Christmas. Stayed around the house a while then we all went over to Kaufmans. Dinner at 2:30. then we took Mike to the train. Got  a Saxopohne from Dad Sweater, gold cuff links, sheave holders from Mama.  A knife from Helen & Mike, Two pair of socks from Tony & Evelyn, writing paper from Aunt Lote & Uncle Mike, a tie from Mrs. Kernen.

Went to… Giddings and played pool. Shoveled off the walks. Played basket ball at the Cong. all afternoon.

Had a early dinner and then went to the train with Helen. Went to the bank and downtown with Dad. Got $7.84 interest. Bowled 114, 135. Went to the Elks for supper and to their dinner dance and then went to the midnight show at the Lyric. Spent 31¢.

[Dec. 30, 1919] Thus this diary comes to a close after one successful year of keeping.

More research was conducted and I found out what this young man did after 1919. The summer following his high school graduation he went on a trip to Europe then attended the University of Michigan, graduating in 1926. He then moved to Chicago and started a business, the Robert Straub & Co., a sales promotion company.  He married in the early 1930s, living and working in Chicago until 1972 when he and his wife moved back to Traverse City to retire. Robert died in 1998 and his wife in 2005. They had no children.

Julie Schopieray is a regular contributor to Grand Traverse Journal.