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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Rustic Manor

From 1947 to 1986, Victor and Marian Trybom operated the Rustic Manor Restaurant in Gurnee to delighted patrons.
One of the earliest views of the Rustic Manor Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge shown on a postcard, 1950. (Teich OCH1557)

Detail of Rustic Manor sign from a retouched photo by the Curt Teich Company, 1950. (Teich Job File OCH1557)

Victor Trybom (1895-1981) was born in Michigan to Swedish immigrants and farmers, Olaf and Sara Trybom. Marian Trybom (1903-1991) was born to Polish immigrants Antone and Mary Kotarski.

Victor and Marian were married circa 1923. By 1930, they were living in Gurnee, Illinois with their children Marjorie and Marvin "Moe." They gave up work on the family farm to find new opportunities.

By 1947, the Tryboms had opened the Rustic Manor on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Kilbourne Road in a house on the property. (Though most accounts give the 1947 date, the Village of Gurnee's website states the Tryboms were issued a liquor license in June 1945, and that was the start of the business).

The Tryboms added additions to create a sprawling log-style structure that reflected the popularity of the American Old West. During the 1950s and 1960s TV westerns and movies were hugely popular.

Postcard of the Rustic Manor showing its frontier fort style, 1951. (Teich 1CK1422)

Rustic Manor entrance, 1965. Curt Teich Company postcard. (Teich 5DK1527)

The western theme continued inside. The Rustic Manor was known for its taxidermy animal displays. In particular, there were mounted wall cases with gray squirrels in different scenarios, wearing clothes. (I wish I had a photo of that!)

One of the first things you encountered on entering the restaurant was the waterfall (above) that was so loud you couldn't stand next to it and talk. We would toss a coin or two into the pool, and then step aside to wait to be seated. Even though the sound of the water was overpowering, the environment this scene created made you feel like you were on an adventure. Teich postcard, 1959. (Teich 9CK62)

Postcard view of one of the dining rooms at the Rustic Manor, 1955. (Teich 5CK2346)

I often went to the Rustic Manor with my grandfather, who was especially fond of ordering the "Poor Man's Lobster." This was broiled white fish that came with hot melted butter served over a lighted candle. As a ten-year old, I thought that was fancy eating.

Menu cover from the Rustic Manor, circa 1960. (BBDM 2012.24.31)

A page from the Rustic Manor's menu, 1968. (BBDM 2005.3.1)

Rustic Manor drink menu, 1968. (BBDM 2005.3.1)

In 1986, the restaurant suffered severe damage when the Des Plaines River flooded. On January 8, 1987, shortly after completing renovations from the flood, a terrible fire broke out.

The fire was believed to have started in the barbeque pit from hot coals. (Photo courtesy of the Gurnee Fire Department.)

The back-to-back disasters were heartbreaking for the Trybom family and the restaurant's loyal customers. Initially, rebuilding was not allowed, because the property was located on a designated floodway. Through the State of Illinois, the designation was changed to “floodplain” to allow for the building project. However, the costs of a new building quickly dimmed that possibility, and the building was razed and the land sold.

Eventually the property was donated to the Village of Gurnee and dedicated as the Esper A. Petersen Foundation Park.

Twenty-five years later, the Rustic Manor and all its quirky charm are still missed by the community.

Santa and his sleigh and reindeer, 1959. Curt Teich postcard. (Teich 9CK61)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Paramount Pictures Search for the 'Panther Woman'

In 1932, Paramount Pictures held a talent contest in search of a leading lady for their film, Island of Lost Souls, the first screen version of H.G. Wells's novel The Island of Dr. Moreau.

The search for Lota, the Panther Woman, brought Paramount to the Midwest, where young women in Illinois and Indiana vied for the role. Contests were conducted by the Publix-Great State Theater Corp., and sponsored locally by the Waukegan News-Sun and Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.

On August 10, 1932, Miss Leona Bloom of 845 Ash Street, Waukegan, polled 5,320 votes to win the "right to represent Lake County" in the Panther Woman screen tests in Chicago. Leona Bloom (left) as pictured in the Waukegan News-Sun, August 11, 1932.

Miss Bloom received a two-day trip to Chicago where Paramount's screen and vocal tests were conducted. She stayed at the Hotel Sherman where accommodation was reserved for the contest winners by the Publix Theater Corporation. In addition, Miss Bloom received a porcelain miniature with an 18-karat gold plated frame.

Postcard of the Hotel Sherman at Clark and Randolph Streets, Chicago by the Curt Teich Company, 1942. The postcard caption reads: "One of the largest hotels west of New York, with 1,600 rooms, beautiful new dining rooms, elaborate banquet and convention halls." (CTPA 2BH323).

Photo of the young women competing for the title of "Panther woman." Pictured are: Leona Bloom, Waukegan; June C. white, Danville; Eleanor Wilke, Hammond; Sally Mansfield, Aurora; Wilma Jacobson, East St. Louis; Lillian Satterlee, Elgin; Eleanor Manning, Decatur; Margaret Stahl, Chicago Heights; Louise Pfund, Bloomington; Lavonne Long, Rockford; Ada Sellers, Alton; Kathryn Harney, Peoria; Lavette Carlson, Kewanee; Evelyn Gray, Joliet; Margaret Martinson, Michigan City, Indiana; and Mildred Huckins, South Bend, Indiana. Photo from the Chicago Daily Tribune, August 14, 1932.

The young women were taken to a Chicago studio for screen tests. The films were then sent to Hollywood for the executives to choose their new leading lady.

Ultimately, the studio's choice was Kathleen Burke (1913-1980), a dental assistant from Chicago. Pictured above in a publicity shot for her role as Lota, the Panther Woman.

Poster for Paramount Pictures' "Island of Lost Souls" starring Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau, Richard Arlen, Bela Lugosi, Leila Hyams, and Kathleen Burke, which opened 80 years ago this month in December 1932.

While filming the movie, Miss Burke's boyfriend from Chicago, Glen Nelson Rardin (1902-1987), often visited the set. The studio took issue with their leading lady going out with Rardin, claiming the "midnight snacks after working hours" could affect her acting.

Burke and Rardin married in February 1933, and divorced in November 1934.

Her success in the "Island of Lost Souls" led to many more screen appearances, most notably as the leading lady in "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1935) opposite Gary Cooper, and "The Last Outpost" with Cary Grant (1935).

Her final film role was in 1938, but she continued acting until at least 1940 when she played the part of Rebekah in the Biblical radio drama, "Light of the World."

I have not been able to find what became of Leona Bloom after her audition. If anyone knows, I would enjoy hearing from you. I imagine she got married and had a family, and perhaps wondered how life would've been different (for better or worse) had she been chosen as the Panther Woman.