I have been going through my old photo albums and finding Omaha pictures. Nothing special. No real artistry. Just buildings that caught my eye as a young person. In September of 1988, according to my ball point penned note, we were in town. On this early evening I had huddled under this awning by the little neighborhood Pickwick Bar sign on the southwest corner of 10th and Mason. Not old enough to go to a bar, we had no doubt, dropped into the Neon Goose restaurant. Possibly afterward or before. The Pickwick was in the adjacent bay, on the northern end of what many of us call the Neon Goose building (1012 South 10th Street). My camera faced northeast, across 10th Street and captured the rooftop of the then Western Heritage Museum. (801 South 10th Street.) It had been the Union Station and now it is the Durham Museum, but back in 1988, it was the Western Heritage. I didn’t know it then but a year later the Pickwick Bar would close up for good. Months later the Neon Goose would spread out and into the Pickwick, refashioning it as their party and banquet room. I do remember, on occasion if the Neon Goose proper was overflowing, they would seat your party in this additional space. Dark and vast, decorated with the owners’ surplus antiques, it felt awkward not to be in the original restaurant. Just my young girl thoughts. Years after that I would feign a sort of swing dance on a number of nights with friends at the Stork Club in that same space, although I was mostly there to show off my vintage clothes. The Burlington League bar now holds the keys to that corner.
Based on my amateur photograph, I’d go on an amateur sleuthing mission. This article is developed from a short post I made on Facebook in June of 2023. I figured I would share it here on my website, as many of you are not on FB.
How the once Neon Goose building stacks up today. Unfortunately nondescript industrial from a distance, but I suppose, streamlined tidy, for those who like tidy. Up close, it is a lovely rehabilitation. The Neon Goose claimed 1012 South 10th Street as their address long ago. There are actually four doors with four accompanying bays. I realize that these building numbers seem to shimmy and shake over time. I remember an antiques shop and a to-go quiche spin off of the Goose’s in these close quarter bays. The entrances were not sunken in behind this “bridge” wall, as they are now. The pale U.S. Postal Annex building parallel to Mason Street is now called the Rail and Commerce building at 950 South 10th Street.
The Burlington League (1002 South 10th Street) is now on the corner, where the Pickwick Bar once was. See what I mean–stately rehab.
The Abridged Pickwick Bar History
I found a 1947 Notice of Incorporation for the Pickwick Bar. Not to be mistaken with the bar in the Pickwick Station, featured in my book. Emil and Jeanette Adam would own and work the Pickwick for 40 years at two locations. Mrs. Adam proudly called their establishment a “workman’s bar,” putting their three kids through college in those hard years. In other reports they had four children.
I tracked the Adams’ original Pickwick Bar to 510 South 10th Street in the most recently “Lucile’s Old Market” building. This was once the home of Omaha’s Orange Lady: Lucile Schaaf. Rescuer and Saint, RIP. Just south of 10th and Howard Streets. The Adam couple operated their bar at this location from 1948 to 1975.
Pickwick Bar Inc. 510 South 10th Street. Dixie, Mgr??? Good for 10¢ in trade. These tokens thought to be used from 1949-1957. Essentially worth a free drink at a later date.
Bob Wilkerson was so kind to send over these great Pickwick Bar matchbook covers from his collection. He noted, “Some of them list Dick Rummel as manager but one of them has Dixie Rommel as the manager, which might help you in your mystery about Dixie. However, other questions arise. Rummel? Rommel?” Thanks to you, Bob!
From 1948’s The Unionist. I drop this in because our dear friends’ the Brothers Lounge family members’ owned Theodore’s Place at 10th and Jackson, another great watering hole, right by the Pickwick Bar.
The Adams moved their Pickwick Bar in about 1975 to the 1012 South 10th location.
The 1012 South 10th Street File
Looking northwest on 10th Street with Mason intersecting to the left. The old Burlington Station’s southern facade is on the right. On the far left is the old 11th Street viaduct bridging over the railroad tracks. Starkly missing is the Postal Annex building, on the northwest corner of 10th and Mason. Creator: Bostwick. Publisher: Durham Museum. Date: 1909
Magnified–the southwest corner of 10th and Mason. What would become the Pickwick Bar. This angled door hints that it possibly always was a local tavern. Creator: Bostwick. Publisher: Durham Museum. Date: 1909.
Although I could not find this 1012 South 10th Street address in the local papers until the early teens, this photo shows the building was standing.
OWH Harmony Inn advertisement from 1941, when they opened.
I would discover what I am calling the Neon Goose building, at 1012 South 10th Street, in the early teens (prior to this date it was housing) functioned as a pool hall, tailor, bakery, lunch counter, soda fountain, and the Melrose Café. In 1940 the well known Firmature’s Trentino Café rented the gracious space (briefly) and in 1941, Omaha Famous Angelo DiGiacomo had converted it to the Harmony Inn. They became famous for their steaks and live entertainment. DiGiacomo was born in Carlentini, Sicily and supposed entered the bar and restaurant business in the 1930s, according to his son, Richard. The Harmony Inn was a hit. They say huge acts such as Ella Fitzgerald and Nelson Eddy played here.
Bob Wilkerson was so kind to send over these delicious, vintage Harmony Inn matchbook covers from his swell collection. Thank you, Bob!
According to the Durham Museum site, the Harmony Inn endured a fire in 1942. Creator: John Savage. Year: 1942.
But the Harmony Inn, sometimes called the Harmony Inn Café, continued on into the late 1970s, possibly with different ownership. In 1978 the property was on the market. All of this was mind blowing to me and helped illuminate why the 1979 Neon Goose felt like a ghost dream as a child. It was decorated so wonderfully in antiques and fine lighting but it had a coating of the past that we do not see, smell or even perceive these days. And now I know why. This building had lived by the time my family was eating at the restaurant.
Another interesting view. This one, an aerial. The downtown and railroad yards. Union Station and Burlington Station. About 1947. An aerial view of the south side of downtown Omaha from the northeast. The Morewood Warehouse and Union Transfer Co. are in the foreground. A sign painted on a building along the 10th Street viaduct reads “Shop at Sears Roebuck and Co. and Save.” Creator: John Savage. Publisher: Durham Museum. Date: circa 1947.
Magnified for your pleasure: The Neon Goose building. Again, notice the angled door. Creator: John Savage. Publisher: Durham Museum. Date: circa 1947.
The Arrival of the Pickwick Bar
Part of a massive list of 1970 Union bars borrowed from The Unionist. They suggested “clip it out and carry it with you.” Can you imagine? Killer Bar Names!
The best photograph of all time was shared by Carol Mills Adam to a FB thread. She wrote: “Outside the Pick Wick Bar, 1002 S. 10th Street. Emil Adam’s 1971 Ford Ltd out front. Circa 1979.” The camera faces south across Mason Street. As evident, the “bridge” wall is missing out front on 10th Street. I enjoy the little kids coming down the sidewalk with a Big Wheel and a tiny bicycle.
Great photo shared by Carol Mills Adam to a FB thread. “Owner of Pickwick, Emil Adam (front right). And his three sons James Adam (back left), Larry Adam (back right), and Robert Adam (front left). Daughter Jean Adam is not in picture. Circa July 1979 at the 1002 S. 10th Street location.” I could not love this photo more. Not only to be able to see the Adams family but to pore over the artifacts within the Pickwick Bar. I miss handwritten signs.
Fantastic Neon Goose sign as photographed by T. Crow in the 1980s. Awwww the good ole’ days of the Neon Goose. Did Omaha know about quiche before the Goose?
OWH April 7, 1979.
Mac Thompson and Bill Johnette had owned the whole stretch of the Neon Goose building since April of 1979. It is said that they never raised the Pickwick couple’s rent from $175 a month in all those ten years, allowing them to retire on their own terms.
Carol Mills Adam shared the actual clipping that I found my information from to the FB thread. OWH August of 1989. “Hanging up bar towel.” Beautiful photo.
Said of the Pickwick’s closing day in August of 1989: “Although it was closing day, it was business as usual around 7 p.m. A number of men came from work to have a drink. Others were playing cards. Adam shared jokes with his patrons. Sinatra, Dorsey, and Miller were playing on the jukebox. Pictures of children and grandchildren were displayed behind the bar. The walls were filled with Cornhusker memorabilia and old beer advertisements. The bar offered cold beer, shots of whiskey, beer nuts, sandwiches, cigarettes. Even disposable razors. The air was filled with smoke, but the bar was clean.” Terry Chalup, long time patron: “Coming here after work has been like sitting on the porch,” he said. “Jeanette and Emil have been like a mom and dad to us.”
This unpretentious officers’ room filled with local giants and the souvenirs of a life sounded like my kind of place and I only regret I was not old enough to go inside. I am looking for photos of the Pickwick Bar. (If you have any, please get in touch.)
The Neon Goose closed unceremoniously in 1997. At that time it was unknown whether is would reopen again. Months later, the original owners launched YoYo Grill at 119th and Pacific Streets.
Deb Kirshman and Sean Campbell launched the Stork Club in the summer of 1998. Swing music, big bands, dancing, merriment. It was a great, short-lived idea and in a class of those cool Omaha one-offs. As I had mentioned Omaha’s Stork Club later moved into what was then logged as 1012 South 10th Street but I seem to remember that the bay where the Stork Club had bands and dancing was where the Pickwick was—in the northern most corner. I might be remembering that wrong. I began to dig and I found out that the Stork Club also expanded to the south, into the old Neon Goose restaurant and began serving food in later 1998. And then they were gone. The Stork Club was only around from 1998 to 1999. I did not take this photo of the interior. It is from 2013’s FB page for the Stork Club. I would love to give credit.
Then we had:
Goofy Foot Lodge
House of Loom
I seem to remember the Neon Goose building getting a sprucing up in the 2010s.
How the entrance to the Pickwick Bar looks today.
I’d sure love to hear from you on this one. If you have any photos or information on the Adams family, the Pickwick Bar, this Neon Goose building or the essential quality of the neighborhood bar, please share with us. Thanks to Carol Mills Adam and the Adam family. Thanks to T. Crow. Thanks to whomever took the Stork Club photo.
Take care, Miss Cassette
PS–a bonus article that did not get sent out properly through email: The Arms & Ammo Building Update.
© Miss Cassette and myomahaobsession, 2023. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Miss Cassette and myomahaobsession with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.