Bars (taverns) in Early Brillion
This will start a series on historical businesses in Brillion
The Real Giese’s
The Real Giese’s is a fourth generation family bar located at 116 N. Main Street. The ownership was taken over by Scott Giese in 2003. His dad Ronald inherited the business in 1986.
This bar has a rich history in Brillion, being one of the first taverns built in Brillion in the late 1880’s by first owner, Peter Falck. Falck owned and operated the tavern until he eventually sold it to Lewis Giese in 1924. The tavern changed names from Falck Saloon to Gieses. Lewis and brother Rob ran the tavern until Lewis sold the business to the second generation son, George in 1936. In 1943, George contacted Bang’s Disease and gave half of the business to his brother, Arvin Giese. Arvin then gave his portion back in 1948, when he was institutionalized for a short period. George owned the business solely until 1961, when he gave half back to Arvin again. IN 1964, Arvin changed the name of the bar to Planters Home, although most people still referred to it as Giese’s.
In the early years, whiskey and wine came in barrels. There was a lady’s parlor in the back, where women spent their time while the men finished games of sheepshead and skat in the tavern. Women weren’t allowed in taverns in those early days. In the rear of the saloon was a stable owned by Giese’s. The stable brought in German and Bohemian farmers who spent their time in the bar playing cards and drinking while their women shopped. During Prohibition, farmers brought in moonshine which was stored underneath a fake floor under the stables. Rob and Lewis served the moonshine in the bar. Rumor has it that the saloon was raided once. Lewis was home ill that day so Rob ended up serving several months in the House of Corrections. The city later condemned the stables and converted them to city buildings and a parking lot.
In 1938, Arvin’s claim to fame in his previous occupation was a “Fat Lady” in the circus. Arvin, age 22, weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 540 pounds and dressed in drag for the amusement of many. His chest measured 96 inches and his waist was 108 inches around. Giese maintained his weight by eating eight meals per day. He also worked in a night club. In his circus act, Giese impersonated a fat lady. His slogan was “500 lbs. of hospitality at your service’. In 1938, he attempted to gain enough weight to compete for the World Championship Fat Man Title, but the man he had to beat, weighed more than 730 lbs.
In 1947, he moved back to Brillion to help his brother George run the bar. Arvin co-owned and operated the bar until his death in 1980. After Arvin’s death, legal complications involving the last will and testament not being properly written, forced the Giese family to buy the bar business back through a Sheriff’s auction in order to retain ownership. George continued to run the bar until 1985, when Bob Giese took over management and had the name changed back to Giese’s. He managed the business until 2003.
More recent changes were made when Ronald’s son Scott took over in 2003, including changing the name to The Real Giese’s, as well as restoration of the inside and outside. It has the original oak bar, and the same ceiling that Peter Falck put in when the building was first built. There are stories that the back bar was part of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1939. However, that has not been verified. [Information taken from the Brillion 125 Year Book, by Zander Press]
A side story:
In the late 1870’s and 80’s, there were 3 saloons in operation in Brillion. It was never disclosed what the three saloons were, but 2 had dance halls, where they had all night Saturday dances. When these came into being, the old settlers in town were scandalized. If any young people attended they usually went home promptly at twelve o’clock. When Sunday night dances were introduced, the old settlers wondered “What is this town coming to?” and were even more upset. There was only one capital crime in Brillion during that time and that was a “whiskey murder”. A bunch of “Scandinavian “ woodcutters, high on liquor, were coming down the street on a Sunday afternoon and met a number of Irish boys from Maple Grove and unpleasant words were exchanged. The Scandinavians , went into their boarding house nearby, took up guns and fired at random into the bunch on the street instantly killing a young man. The shooter was sentenced to prison for life, but as rumor has it, he was pardoned some years later.
In 1876, Chas. A. Thompson , a local school teacher, organized the Lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars. This was a temperance society composed of both sexes, and within a couple years had a membership of about 80. Soon after, a Templar of Honor was instituted, membership consisted of adult men. They soon reached a membership of 50 or more. Because of these two orders , changes took place. Drinking became decidedly unpopular. Practically all the young ladies were members of The Good Templars and if a young man did not belong to one of the lodges he was out of luck when he sought a young lady’s company. One of the saloons closed up, literally put out of business and the one remaining business was so reduced that he took the first opportunity to sell out. One was in connection with a hotel, which was continued as a Temperance Hotel, and the proprietor’s two sons and two daughters joined the lodges. Eventually many of the leaders of those lodges, gradually moved from town and new people took their places. Interest waned and both lodges gradually died, but they left an influence that lasted for many years and very few ever resumed drinking again. We don’t know whether or not Giese’s was one of the bars. We have never found proof one way or the other. [Info taken from the “Pioneer Boys Story of Brillion” written by Elmer Fuller]
K& J Inn
Another well known establishment was K & J Inn, located at 206 S. Main Street. Barney and Monica Jensen were the first owners. They sold it to a Kramer, who owned the business for a short time. He sold it to Kermit and Mabel Cmejla and Ken and Joyce Stellbrink bought it from them in 1969. Stellbrinks owned and operated it for 41 years.
The walls were decorated with Joyce’s favorite entertainer, Elvis, from the Giant Velvet Elvis that hung behind the bar to various songs played on the juke box.
Not much changed in this little bar throughout the years. They were involved in the local tavern leagues, and hosted bean bag, dart leagues and pool tournaments. Several of the patrons could be found playing one card game or another with Joyce on any given day. Just a nice, friendly neighborhood bar and a favorite hangout for many area residents.
It was a sad day on Sunday, August 28, 2011 when the Inn caught on fire and was considered a total loss. Joyce got the call while sitting in a waiting room in a hospital where her 92 year old father was having hip surgery. She rushed home to find her business engulfed in flames. She and Ken bought the bar after working at his parent’s bakery downtown and Ken found he had a bad allergy to the flour. They began looking into other businesses and bought the bar soon after it became available.
They ran it for roughly three decades until Ken passed away and then Joyce ran it by herself for another 10 years. [ taken from article in the Brillion 125 year book published by Zander Press]