Girls Just Want to Have Fun

The "Squeeze Inn"

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Tau Omega Tau Sorority (T.O.T.S.)


Miller Beach has always been an attractive getaway for folks from Chicago, certainly so for a bunch of young ladies from Forest Park and Maywood, Illinois in the years following World War One. They not only got away to Miller Beach, but they built a cottage which they called the “Squeeze Inn.” The house, built before Oak Avenue, still sits in the seventy-seven hundred block of Oak Avenue, much changed since the days when posts driven into the sand held the frame.


When the original Squeeze Inn was cobbled together is unknown, but it was located somewhere between the mouth of the Grand Calumet (where the concession stand is today) westward, quite possibly where the Aquatorium is today. When the City put into motion the building of Marquette Park the girls were told they had to move. (Footnote: Minutes of the Tau Omega Tau Sigma Sorority, February, 1921: “The City of Gary purchased the property on which our cottage was located for the purpose of establishing a City Park. Consequently, we were notified to remove Squeeze Inn. A building committee was immediately appointed and given full power to act in selecting and purchasing a new location for the cottage." For more on the park see my Park and Annexation page. )

The sorority’s building committee moved quickly to purchase a lot further east for the sum of $500.00 and laid the “foundation” for the New Squeeze Inn on Saturday, April 23,1921, officially opening on the 4th of July. Some fifteen men, several of whom were fathers of the girls, were sent letters of appreciation for helping construct their sorority house. Also thanked were four boys from the “No-Peek-Inn” for painting the cottage. In August the Sorority expanded their land by purchasing half of the lot to the west of their property. (Footnote: Minutes, March - August, 1921.] )

Perhaps no better description of life at the Original Squeeze Inn exists than the article written by Mrs. Edith Heilman, an associate editor of the Forest Park Review, when she returned from chaperoning the girls in August of 1920:

An excerpt from her column:

“Squeeze Inn,” in cold, geographical terms, is a shack-and-porch a mile from Millers Beach, Millers, Ind.

Practically speaking, it’s a little bit of heaven dropped from out the skies. Sunny days and star dotted nights and the lake breeze make it so. Sand flies and a giant species of mosquito are the rift in the lute. But let us dismiss them!

As before stated, they call this place “Squeeze Inn.” But whoever presided over the christening rites missed his guess. It should have been called “Squeeze Out!” We are heaps more out than in, and some of us bubble over even from off the porch and sleep on the sand with the stars for our canopy.

Picture if you can a shack 18 by 10 feet with a complement of a porch 18 by 18 feet; porch bigger than the house, you will note. The house proper holds cooking utensils and clothing and at present is so crammed with both that a human being hasn’t room to more than wiggle into and out of her bathing suit.

The cooking is done out of doors on an improvised stove, and I want to say right here that if you are finicky or “set” in your ways, stay away from the “Squeeze Inn!” Sand and charcoal is the basis of most of the menus, but what cares youth for such trifles?

And the girls themselves! Tall, short, black heads and blond – with a charming red head thrown in for spice! And when they all line up in their gayly colored bathing suits they’re a sight for sore eyes.

Fifty weeks out of the year they are stenographers, bookkeepers and general office girls. Out here for two carefree weeks that are Dryads of the Woods and Belles of the Beach!(Footnote: “Office Canary at Squeeze Inn,” Forest Park Review, July 28, 1920, pages 1&7. (While there is not a byline, Mrs. Heilman wrote a weekly column called “Chirpings of the Office Canary.”) The full article can be read in a new window by Clicking here. )

Eating was important!



The Girls' Patriotic Service League

While Mrs. Heilman goes on with many more words in her column, I asked myself, who were these girls, and why did they form an unofficial sorority here in the dunes of Miller Beach? The answer lies in friendships formed during World War One in the Forest Park/Maywood unit of the Girls’ Patriotic Service League. Service leagues, intent on selling Liberty Bonds, providing support to servicemen’s families and government programs, popped up all over America from the beginning of our involvement in the war.

On the front page of Forest Leaves on September 20, 1918 there is an announcement of the new organization of the Girls’ Patriotic Service League, one of five adult women sponsors being Mrs. H.R. Heilman. A call went out in September for “Every patriotic girl over 16 years of age…is invited to attend a rally given by the Girls’ Patriotic Service League…” The first rally was held October 4. By the end of October, the League was made part of the War Camp Community of Cook and Lake counties. (Footnote: Forest Leaves, Vol XII (1918) September 20, page 1; September 27, page 16; October 12, page 8; and October 25, page 11. For more on the War Camp Community see The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol 79, pp. 189-194: online at Jstor.org. )

Forest Leaves Newspaper, page one September 20, 1918.

In Forest Park and Maywood, the young ladies assembled for military drills weekly, went on hikes, listened to talks by returning servicemen, and perhaps more important to the forming of friendships, they cooked and served in the monthly “Home Welcome” banquets for servicemen throughout 1918 and 1919. The first mention of these young ladies coming to the Dunes is in July of 1919 when there is a note in Forest Leaves of P.S.L. units planning a trip to the Sand Dunes of Indiana for some time in August. A review of that trip says that they went to “Port Chester, Ind.” which had been the area, now Ogden Dunes, where the Prairie Club had held their pageant in 1917.

Parties, and service, continued for the young ladies. During the two-week vacation in July of 1920 that Mrs. Heilman wrote about, the last Friday featured a party with some forty-five guests, among them boys from the University Settlement camp located two miles away. These boys were from the Chicago Stockyards neighborhood for a vacation in the dunes. (Footnote: “’Squeeze Inn’ Campers Home From the Dunes,” Forest Park Review, August 28, 1920, page 6. )

By the time of the August, 1920 two-week vacation described above, the girls had formed the Sorority.

In April 1920, an organized club of Maywood girls, working under the auspices of the War Camp Communty Service, disbanded and twenty-five of these girls formed what is now the ------------------
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OMEGA TAU SIGMA SORORITY
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Lauren Wilson was elected President; Altha Beecher, Vice President; Helma Daehn, Treasurer and Leona Lloyd, Secretary. (Footnote: Minutes, April, 1920. )

Over the following decades the house became vacation home for these girls, their families and friends. It became sort of a “time-share” cottage whereby a schedule of occupation was set up for vacation getaways. Sometime in the late 1940s or early ‘50s a proper footing and block foundation was installed under the cabin. Exactly when the Sorority sold the cottage, now a proper house, has yet to be determined.

One unfortunate result of Oak Avenue being built in 1925-1926 is that the outhouse south of the cottage had to be abandoned.
Whatever the case, the TOTS girls continued to own and use the house until the mid-1950s. The last pages of the minutes/history book, while not the end of the sorority, contain this entry from 1940:
All our dreams have to come true. Water installed at the cottage. Gas and a stove. Electric lights. No more hauling until our backs are broken. No more starving while the pork chops burn, and no more eye strain trying to see what the king and queen are doing on the porch at 12.25. Leila, you sure did a swell job, and we guarantee we will take care of you if you have trouble with the painters union. The curtains are swell and we feel as if we are on Park Ave. with our own grandeur.”


Appendix:


1920 Charter members of T.O.T.S.

Altha Beecher Maywood, Illinois
Helen Beecher "
Cora Belz "
Gertrude Belz "
Meta Belz "
Alma Bond "
Aurelia Carr "
Della Billinger "
Leila Billinger "
Frances Chaltin "
Rose Chaltin "
Helma Daehn "
Ella Ellenberg "
Katherine Guy "
Marie Guy "
Sadie Hankins Forest Park, Illinois
Lillian Koven Maywood, Illinois
Eleanore Larson "
Leona Lloyd "
Ella Luurs Melrose Park, Illinois
Tillie Mau Forest Park, Illinois
Hazel Moutaw Maywood, Illinois
Doris Peters ...."
Charlotte Quast ...."
Laura Wilson ...."
Ebba Young Melrose Park, Illinois

Acknowledgements and Photos:

This page was inspired by Mr. Harry "Bud" Jacknow of Forest Park, Illinois whose aunt, Miss Sadie Hankins, was a charter member of the sorority. She left many photos and the minutes book to Bud who sent copies of the photos to Bruce Ayers in 1999. Bruce's son Gene handed them over to me. Intrigued, I contacted Mr. Jacknow.

I'd also like to thank Mr. Geoff Ross at the University of Illinois main library for his help in finding the 1918 issue of Forest Leaves which gave me more information on the founding of the Girls Patriotic Service League. Librarians are the best!


Endnotes:


Page created April, 2020

© Text copyright: Steve Spicer

Feel free to email me: steve@spicerweb.org