When George's Was Marlene's
Inside the history of the bakery that once stood at Webster and River streets in Montgomery, where George's Restaurant is now.
There was a time when Montgomery was known for its proliferation of watering holes.
Someone once remarked there were an exceptionally large number of ordinances on the books pertaining to the sale and consumption of alcohol. This was probably due to the many taverns that coexisted in the village and the surrounding townships. On the opening day of the new Riverview Park in 1899, the mayor of Aurora said, “This beautiful park will be a prohibition park...” It seems that the good law-abiding citizens worried about it then, too.
The Mill Tavern was built by Aurora Brewing Company, and run by Mike Glass in 1907 at the corner of Mill and River Streets; on the lot where the old cheese factory stood before it burned down. This was before prohibition and raises some question about what they sold, if anything, during that time.
After prohibition, the Tschannen brothers opened Shannon’s Tavern in the building that formerly served as Slip Meyer’s Boarding House. The Fox River tavern was built at the site of the dam and another, the Rainbow Gardens Tavern, opened on the corner of Sherman Avenue and Route 25. It was later called Chicken Jack’s Barbecue.
One of the most notorious bars in town was the old South Shore Inn, formerly the Riverside Hotel, owned by Al Tebeau. It was located on the southwest corner of Webster and River streets in Montgomery.
The police department, with its one-cell jail, occupied a small cement block building on the southeast corner. Mosley’s Oil Station occupied the northwest corner, and the barber shop/billiards hall took up the remaining corner. The close proximity of the jail did not seem to deter the customers.
If someone was over-served or rowdy at another bar and was ejected, he would head up the hill to The South Shore Inn. Bad behavior was thought to be better tolerated there. Rumors of scandalous behavior in the second floor hotel persisted, but it is hard to know if it was fiction or fact.
The South Shore Inn changed hands and became known as The Riviera.
Next, August (“Augie”) Bolatto bought the building and started Marlene’s bakery. He was famous for his cake doughnuts that he named after his daughter Marlene, as well as Marlene’s Angel Food Cake. His own version of Crispy Crème doughnuts and filled Bismarck’s, along with his famous apple pie slices, were very popular.
Bread was never his main focus, but when out-of-town bakeries (such as Peter Wheat) came into town with a new idea, he didn’t try to compete. They delivered fresh baked goods every day to housewives on a designated route, much like the milk deliveries from the dairy. Bolatto continued to concentrate on his cakes and doughnuts. These bread routes were short-lived and they had little effect on Marlene’s.
In 1948 the second floor of the building caught fire. It started when a proof box was left on in the bakery. One of the drivers arrived at daybreak, smelled smoke and called Augie. He raced down there, but a thorough search of the building didn’t turn up anything, so he went back home. When the second baker arrived, he knew there was a problem and called his boss to come back.
Augie, still thinking it was probably a false alarm, took his time returning to the bakery, only to find the second story enveloped in flames. The fire had shot up inside of the walls, and the top floor was completely destroyed. Luckily the couple and their child who occupied the upstairs apartment escaped without injury.
The first floor of the building remained intact, so Augie was able to continue baking and serving customers. After some repairs and remodeling, he expanded the bakery to include a restaurant.
As soon as his daughter Marlene finished school, she joined him in the bakery. She also worked in the restaurant, and it wasn’t long before her father turned it over to her to run. Customers from the Wallpaper factory came to pick up orders. The restaurant began opening at 6 a.m. to take advantage of the breakfast trade. Her father also ran a tavern in Aurora at the same time.
Over the years, Augie opened a variety of small businesses or enterprises in the big corner building. He began making and selling frozen custard, as well as regular ice cream packed in pints and quarts for home consumption. He started a curb service and hired two local girls, Joda Hansen and Virginia Edwards, to work as car hops.
Then the idea came to him to offer free outdoor movies on warm summer nights. Every Friday night families would bring their blankets and any portable seating they had to the parking lot next to the restaurant, and watch the free movies that were shown. In these pre-television days, it’s safe to say that every child in town and many adults turned out.
The list of businesses in that building kept growing and changing. At one time there was a car wash, then a laundromat, designed by Augie's daughter Cheryl and run by Marlene and her husband.
Augie once rented part of the building for a pizza shop. Two auto body repairmen got their start renting space in the back half of the building. They were Ted Kline and Wally Perez, who were well known for their fine work by the time they moved to Highland Avenue in Aurora and opened a larger shop. Later the Van Meters, a father and son, ran the body shop.
Marlene Bolatto Knur was interviewed for this story. She currently lives in Sandwich.