Zion-Benton Times - Community News - Your Life

Evelyn Vonic Celebrates 100


April 20, 2018

Evelyn Vonic with her daughters, Judy Kosick and Louise Tapio

There was a big celebration for Evelyn Vonic at Rolling Hills Place Sunday Feb. 25 in honor of her 100th birthday! The celebration included a host of longtime friends; one of whom had gone all the way through school with her since grade school. This is Mary Kozina, who resides right next to Evelyn in the assisted living facility of Rolling Hills.

Centenarian Evelyn Bretzlauf was born on Feb 25, 1918 in North Chicago after two older brothers: Eddie and Harry, both now deceased. Some of her early fond memories include working retail in her parents' candy and ice cream store. "When I was going to school, I came home for lunch and had an ice cream cone every day!"

Her first job outside the home was in a downtown Lake Forest laundry for several years, to which she took a train and received wages of 19 cents per hour.

Her father was colorful character, a bootlegger who ran a tavern in North Chicago on 16th Street for several years-during prohibition. It was passed off as a gentleman's club where card games were played, but her father never got into much real trouble. The only food that was served there was on the Lake Michigan fish fries on Friday nights. "If authorities came into the bar, the bartender pressed a button that was heard in the kitchen and the workers dumped all the liquor down the sink. But the authorities took the sink apart and looked in the drain, so they knew what was going on. But he paid off the big shots--the mafia," she explained. "Dad even took my 14-year-old brother along in the car while he was bootlegging. Al Capone used to get my father out of jail."

How did her mother feel about all her husband's misbehavior? "She was the one who did all the work," was the answer.

The favored forms of recreation then were movies and dancing. People walked almost everywhere then, so generally kept close to where they lived. She met her future husband at a North Chicago dance where service men commonly frequented. Movies and dances were their common dates, as was the norm. Besides indoor dances, there were outside summer moonlight dances at the local Foss Park pavillion.

She tells that when her mother went to the movies, they were 10 cents, and it was also 'dish night.' This was one weekly night when movie attendees were given a free piece of china as they entered, that would comprise a part of a dish set. People collected those and eventually got their whole set of dishes. At the end of the movie, people often forgot that they had the dish in their laps, and when they stood, the noise of dishes clanking to the floor could be heard all around the theater.

When the nearby North Chicago foundry iron workers were on strike, where her future husband was in shipping, movie business was very slow, so theaters were actually giving three movies for a dime. Times were certainly different then.

Evelyn has fond memories of the downtown dime stores with their wooden floors and soda fountains. They had piano players too, and since Evelyn was a piano player, she especially enjoyed going to the Waukegan dime stores, like Woolworth's and Neisner's where a piano player was hired to play popular favorites of the day. This helped the store sell their sheet music, of which Evelyn collected many.

At age 23, she married, Larry Vonic, a marine, who has since passed away in 2000. She didn't learn to drive until after she was married. Her husband wasn't critical of her driving, just advised her to "watch the white walls." The couple had two daughters: Judy and Louise.

She used to be a water color artist, and was also an avid knitter. Besides knitting large afghans, for a number of years she participated at St. Anastasia's prayer shawl group. She also enjoyed line dancing enjoyed and playing golf. Beginning in 1981, she and her husband wintered in Brooksville, FL. for 15 years.

She has four grandchildren and five great grand children, all living locally, which makes it possible for the whole family to enjoy each other. Her life time philosophy is simply "Don't get into trouble," and as a mother she impressed that upon her girls too!


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