I like to think that you and I are probably somewhat similar. We admire old buildings. We like history. We desire beauty in architectural design. Do you ever imagine the stories and people that came before, when you are in the older parts of town? I do. Functional, smart design delights us too. We like flaws and quirks. Okay, maybe that’s just me. We are hungry for something authentic…..something more than a slapped together strip mall. (Were you happy and hopeful when the Beverly Hills Plaza Shopping Center on Dodge was in the middle of a rehab years ago, then removed their shake shingled roof and facade on the east side to reveal, SURPRISE, the old Varly Drug Store hand-painted sign underneath? That was wonderful for all of about a week. Then they made the fatal design flaw of turning the beloved midtown shopping mall into the cheap NoDo knock-off that it is today.) Some of us don’t mind if it’s worn. In fact, we prefer it worn. Mr. Cassette and I say, all the more to love. We crave smart structures that were built to last. Materials that will show a touch of wear become more beautiful with time. I am assuming, of course, that you have an inkling of what I am talking about.
One of the most rewarding experiences in writing this blog has been the sharing of stories and information. The idea of branching off from my personal Facebook page was that I had hoped to reach more people, meanwhile I wanted to learn more about Omaha from others, hear great stories and memories. It is happening and it has meant the world to me. I have already met new friends, thanks to your personal emails and comments. After I wrote Mysteries of Omaha: 812 South 42nd Street, (please see the original article Mysteries of Omaha: 812 South 42nd Street), one of the readers, Mark Franz, commented and included a link to a photo of our Mystery Property. I was so thankful and was immediately taken with the photo. John Savage, local photographer, snapped the photo in 1955. Previously my sources at the Durham Museum had suggested that getting permission to use John Savage’s photos might be met with some difficulty, as Durham does not have full rights to the Savage collection. For this reason I had not been looking into Savage’s work nor was the Durham staff. After seeing the link that Mark shared, I knew I had to get permission to use this fantastic photo. So thank you, Mark. And now let us move on to Part Two….
1955. South 42nd Street looking north. (Photo courtesy of the John S. Savage collection at the Durham Museum Photo Archive. Copyright held by the Omaha World Herald. With gratitude, Durham Museum and the Omaha World Herald granted permission for use in this article.)
We figured out in Mysteries of Omaha: 812 South 42nd Street that the Wiig Insurance Agency occupied 812 in February of 1955, the time of this photo. We can finally see how the sign looked. I had no idea. The remnants of that very sign’s anchors are still on the building to this day. The font is just marvelous. I love the hanging tail of the “g.” I have been obsessing over this image of the building, which is architecturally identical to how it appears now—including the brick and stone façade, even the asbestos tiled roof. Where is that sign now? I dream it is in some warehouse somewhere. It looks like there is a circular, neon sign in the window. I smiled to see how little objects made their way to those window sills even back in 1955, still lining that ledge much as they do today.
I found this September 7, 1955 ad for Calvin Wiig Insurance Agency from the year Savage’s photo was taken.
It would appear that the Wiig-Codr Underwriters Co. continues to this day, although out in West Omaha now. Check them out at http://wiigcodr.com/static-front-page/about-us/.
Jim Codr, son of Frank Codr, of Wiig-Codr Underwriters Co., was so kind to give me permission to use these photos showing Calvin Wiig (far left) and Frank Codr (second from left).
I am not sure of the names of the other two. A nice looking group. This photo is just tops and I love that fancy, futuristic, office equipment.
Another great photo, kindly lent by Jim Codr of the Wiig-Codr Underwriters Co. staff.
Mr. Wiig is standing on the far left and Mr. Codr is seated. Omaha is so small, it probably won’t be long until we know all of these great gals’ names. Notice the Herbie Husker notepad on the desk, a staple in any successful businessman’s office.
I had written previously that this short block (from Leavenworth to Mason on 42nd Street) had enjoyed an established history as barber and beauty shop businesses. The classic striped awning in the photo faintly reads Pat’s Barbershop. After some research, I found that Pat’s Barbershop leased 808 South 42nd Street and their close neighbor was Weir Cleaners and Tailors in 806 South 42nd Street.
Weir Cleaners and Tailors apparently shuttered their business in 1959.
I was able to find this ad from the World Herald on April 26, 1959. Cissel Puffers!!!
In 1955 the east side of 42nd Street, (which was a gas station when I was young, then some kind of convenient store (?) and now appears to be a UNMC parking lot along with a row of discreet townhouses set off the road), there were also a whole string of intriguing, little time capsule sounding shops. 811 was the RCA Service Co. Inc. 809 was Bert Graves’ Graves Time Shop (watch repair). Haunting, in the best way. 807 was leased by owner, Harold Clark but it appeared to be his wife’s shop–Hazel’s Beauty Salon. I had a pretty good time finding out about Hazel Clark. Below is an ad for Shina Dish soap where a number of midtown beauty operators were asked to weigh in their experience with Shina. The best part is that these salons were all right around the area. It also allows us to see what beauty operators looked like in March of 1957. This was not the Most Wanted List hanging at the post office. I think I might need to frame this ad.
I love it. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is Hazel Clark of Hazel’s Beauty Salon.
I swear on my Liberace collection that I did not pen that beauty mark on Hazel’s photo. She is so wonderful and I do adore her quote about Shina Dish.
Just a little bit more about Hazel Clark and then I will move on….I promise. In this OWH article of September 21, 1954, I found out that Hazel’s Beauty Salon was the out of town business float winner in the Oakland, Iowa parade three years in a row. Three years. I wonder what the connection to Oakland was for Hazel? I really like this photo of the pretty hog calling girl. This is a good read if you have more time to give. Hog calling and a poultry throw. Feminine, indeed.
Next to Hazel’s Beauty Salon was Esquire Shoe Repair. What must their sign have looked like? Jumping back to the west side of the street and down to the corner at 4201 Leavenworth Street is home to Benson-Williams Drug Company, a popular, local drug store. Notice that their sign advertises Sealtest Ice Cream. (Check out Mysteries of Omaha: 5120 Mayberry Street for the history of Sealtest Ice Cream.)
Omaha directory from September 1940, listing the three Benson-Williams Drug Co. locations. I had never heard of this chain previous to seeing this fantastic sign in the 42nd Street photo.
To me, the second most extraordinary clue from this original photo is seen at 4206 Leavenworth, site of the Hinky Dinky Grocery Store. Hinky Dinky was one of the many incredible family-owned Jewish grocery stores in the Omaha area. (I plan to write more about the history of Hinky Dinky in a future article.) I was astonished to see this photo because I had assumed Charlie Graham Body & Service had been on the corner of 42nd and Leavenworth for all of time. I had absolutely no idea that Hinky Dinky had been there. Parson’s Top and Body Shop is seen just north of Hinky Dinky at 708 South 42nd Street. I definitely remember seeing this business. I am not sure when it closed. At the top of the hill is UNMC. (Some things never change.) Standard Chemical Manufacturing Company is seen on the far right side of the photo. Standard Chemical was a regional manufacturer of livestock chemicals. I am pretty obsessed with their vintage logo.
This is one of Standard Chemical’s metal signs from the late 50’s probably seen in local stores as advertisement.
Lastly a detail of the sign on the truck seen passing on Leavenworth Street. A shout out to our friends in Wahoo. The sign reads, “Saunders County Fair & Rodeo Aug 25-26-27 WAHOO, NEBR.”
2016 photo of shortened corridor. 808, 806 and 4201 Leavenworth have been razed.
1955. Photo courtesy of the John S. Savage collection at the Durham Museum Photo Archive. Copyright held by the Omaha World Herald. With gratitude, Durham Museum and the Omaha World Herald granted permission for use in this article.
This ongoing mystery now has a third part to the story. Please check out Mysteries of Omaha: 812 South 42nd Street Part Three.
Oh my gosh….and I didn’t even mention the cars. Miss Cassette is not much of a car person but I can see that they are far superior to today’s cars. Someone please tell me what they all are. I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment by clicking on the header title. If you would like to send a private email, please do so at email@example.com. Thank you, Omaha friends.
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