The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 1, Page 23.


Gleaned from Hither and Yon -- and Now and Then -- and Way Back When

By A. J. Bowser
(Published August 2, 1934)

And now, folks, I am going to tell you the story of Jakie Lowenstine, a man who left indelibly stamped on the history of Valparaiso and Porter county a chapter that his descendants may well be proud of. I am not going to deal in statistics or days or dates. I am giving the highlights only.

One day Al Heineman was vacationing in St. Augustine, Fla. At the beach he became acquainted with two Jewish gentlemen from New York city. A few days later Jakie Lowenstine appeared on the beach. Heineman saw him. The usual home town reunion took place, and then Al said he had made acquaintance of two people of Mr. Lowenstine's race that he would like to have Jakie meet. When the introduction was in process of being made, lo, and behold, the two New Yorkers were old-time pals of Mr. Lowenstine. They knew him when he was a jewelry peddler in New York. I am not going to follow our subject through his travels until he came to Valparaiso. It is enough to say that the first man to know there was such a man in Valparaiso was Al Heineman. At this time, 1885, Jim McGill, not our Jim, was the owner of the Grand Opera House building. Al had a lease on the upper floor. The down stairs was vacant. The Quartermass Brothers had quit business.

Lowenstine called up Heineman from Chicago and asked him if the McGill store was for rent that he would take it, if the rent was reasonable. The conversation ended in a meeting a few days later. The first man Lowenstine met in this town was Colonel Hoyt, the clerk at the Central House, where Jakie registered. The next man he met was Al Heineman. The deal was made, and in May, 1885, the Grand Opera One-Price Clothing House was born.

I first met Mr. Lowenstine in my office in Chesterton. He came with his two kids, Maurice and Abe, then in knee pants, to make arrangements with me for advertising in the Chesterton Tribune. He gave me a contract for half a page for one year. Wowie! that was an event in my life I will never forget. Then businessmen only advertised to help the poor devil of an editor along. They considered advertising an art of charity and a necessary evil. They hardly ever changed their copy, and when pay day came around they claimed advertising did not pay. Of course, such advertising could not pay. Well, Mr. Lowenstine went in for advertising in a big way. It was not long before his competitors began to wake up. Jakie Lowenstine was the father of real advertising and the newspapers of Porter county from that day to this, have him to thank for business they never would have got but for him.

I think Annie Fitzwilliams was his first bookkeeper. She was known as "Old Faithful" for years. Fannie Fitzwilliams was the cashier. And there was Lyde Fitzwilliams, also a veteran of the store. And there were Gene and Jim, the two star clothing clerks. Gene Stanton and Jim McNay were on the job for years. Both Jim and Gene are gone. And there was Walter H. Harbes.

And then there was Maude Sullivan, who kept the books for seventeen departments for years. The first typewriter ever pressed into service in the Lowenstine store was my old Caligraph. I bought it from Ed Green, second hand, and my sister, Bess, got a job in the store. She had to help balance the cash, write Jakie's letters and make herself useful in the business office. She needed a typewriter, and I loaned her mine to help her keep her job.

Well things ran along until one day the building changed owners. The new owner was not satisfied with the rent Lowenstine was paying, and so he boosted it up a notch or two. Now there is one thing Lowenstine could not take, and that was a bluff. He would call one every time. So, the Grand Opera House One-Piece Clothing Store was moved. Jakie bought the Odd Fellows building on Franklin street. He was not there long before the store got growing pains, and needed more room. Departments began to spring up, and something had to be done. So Jakie began buying up frontage to the north of his store.

He got as far as the Sieb building when he ran into a snag in the shape of John Seib. John wouldn't sell. So he turned to the south. He got as far as the building owned by Mrs. Joe LaForce. Then he struck another snag. He wanted to go to the south corner. But when a woman will you may depend on't. And when she won't there's an end on't. Then another snag appeared in the form of the alley. Jakie wanted to close it and build on it. After lawing for some time the alley was closed and soon the great White Front store building, the finest mercantile building in the city roe majestically, and its great space was filled with the needs of the people.

In the meantime the boys, Abe and Maurice, had grow up. They had been carefully trained under the master eye, and were competent to take up part of the load of management. Time went on. The boys got to thinking Dad was getting old fashioned. Their ideas of how to run the business clashed with the old man's. So one day Jakie got out, packed hi grip and went to California. He told me that it was better to do this. He said he realized he was getting old and that the new ideas fitted the new ways perhaps better than did his.

And then I did not see this man until years afterward. One day I was discharged from the hospital, very weak, but convalescing. Sister had brought me down town and parked me on Indiana street, just across from Memorial Hall. She went to the Lowenstine store to do some shopping. There she ran into Jakie, who had just come from California on a brief visit. "Hall-O B-a-a-s," he greeted her, "Where's H-a-r-t." She told him, and that old Boy Scout that he was, ran bare headed down the street to where I was, and got in the car with me. We visited for more than an hour, and ended by his inviting me to come to his California home and recuperate, and he not only invited me, but volunteered to pay all the expenses. That was the last time I ever saw Jakie Lowenstine. When he went I lost a very dear friend. And not only I, but the whole community lost a benefactor.

Those Lowenstine boys and girls - Maurice, Abe, Mandel, Nanette and Irene - have all made good. The father they all love has gone to join the fathers of his people - Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Moses, and yes, the Christ - for Jesus was a Jew. His memory is one that his children may always cherish. It is a priceless heritage to their children's children. Good bye old friend.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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