"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


Home Movies

by  Phyllis Zeck

Corinne with Bobby and Mark

When I was a child Grandpa Gilbert was in charge of the movie camera.  It was expensive to buy the film and have it developed so you had to choose what you were going to record very carefully. Summer Sunday nights were movie nights.  It was always the same routine.  My father insisted we have barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs with corn on the cob and watermelon for desert.  Sunday was his one day off and mom always made sure his day was special.  Daddy would tumble the charcoal brochettes into the grill and pour on lighter fluid.  He’d toss in a match and with a “whoosh” the flames ignited.  Then the lid went on the grill.



Joseph Rachor (Papa Joe) and Grace M. Norder Winike Rachor

  While he waited for the coals to get hot, Daddy and Papa Joe would play horseshoes.  We’d watch from our swing set as the game commenced.  Daddy at one end of the yard, Papa Joe at the other.  Papa Joe would take his stance, one leg straight, one leg bent.  He’d rock back and forth 3 or 4 times as he brought the horseshoe up to his chin.  He’d take aim, pull his arm back, and let her rip!  The horseshoe slammed into the metal post with a clang and spun around a few times before coming to rest.  The dirt beneath the horseshoe flew up then floated down.  They never got tired of that game. Papa Joe was daddy’s step father.  He and daddy’s mother lived in an apartment on the second floor of our home.  Papa Joe worked for 7-UP.   I will never forget their classic slogan “You Like It – It Likes You”.   Nobody could tell a scary ghost story like our Papa Joe!

Cousins Toni and Gina

Grandpa would send someone out to his garden to pick tomatoes for the hamburgers.  There is nothing in this world like the taste of homegrown tomatoes.  Grandpa used to eat them like an apple.  He’d take a little bite so some of the skin was removed.  Then he’d take the salt shaker and pour on the salt.  Now a large bite, and tomato juice dripped down and around the tomato.  Delicious! After the dinner dishes were done Grandpa would pull the projection screen out of the closet and open the tri pod.  He’d pull the white screen up and latch it over the black hook.  Then he would set up the projector at the kitchen table.  We’d pull down the shades and the kids would clamor for seats on the benches around the table.  Grandpa would order that the lights to be turned off and the movie began. Of course there was no sound in those bulky older movie cameras but Grandpa was giving us instructions as he filmed us.  Run around the tree in the front yard.  Jump up and down.  Girls “brush the hair out of your eyes” and my arms along with my sisters flew up to our face to brush our hair back.

Some of my siblings and me

Then we hear the inevitable “snap”.  The film broke.  We’d all groan with a collective sigh and Grandpa would order that the lights be turned on.  He’d get out his splicing kit and lickety split, he’d have that film spliced and back on the projector.  The lights were turned off and we continued watching the movies. Several years ago my sister Lori and I collected that old film and we took it to a videographer and had the movies put on mini DV tapes.  I’ve added those movies to my iMac and now I can splice the movies to my hearts content. Click below for a 3 minute video of the Winike and Vincent (Auntie Phyllis’ Children) families.



Uncle Hank Takes Us for Coffee-and

by  Rob Winike


Coffee-and was a term invented by Uncle Hank. He loved rounding up us kids and taking us out on Saturday morning for Coffee-and Danish, Coffee-and Canolli, or even Coffee-and Sliders at White Castle. He just genuinely loved being in the company of a lot of kids.

On a hot humid Chicago July morning he might take us for coffee and ice cream sandwiches. During the summer breaks he might show up any morning of the week, and yell “Coffee-and! Anybody wanta’ go?!”

Yeah, hey! My brothers and sisters will spill out of their rooms like marbles, and when we still lived in the old neighborhood, cousins poured out of the apartments down the hall, floor to floor. When we were all packed into Uncle Hank’s 1948 Willys Jeep Station Wagon, we felt proud to be part of the “arrangement” we had with him. He would tease us with “How about some Coffee-and spinach?”

Sffpppt! We want Coffee-and Sliders! That was our favorite, especially on a cold, soaking wet morning. The arrangement was that he listened to us, and then decided where to go based on someone’s suggestion, be it from a bigger kid or a little one. He also loved his deli food, though, and had favored spots all over the South Side and West Side. These kinds of delis don’t exist anymore. The owners knew the tastes of their patrons like a doctor knows his patients. Uncle Hank enjoyed a bowl of chili, even for breakfast. Rail thin as he was, that might have been his only meal of the day.

He was reverent, but not churchy – before any sips or nibbles, he instructed us to bow our heads, make the sign of the cross and say “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, protect us.”

Uncle Hank lived with Uncle Paul’s family in one of two tenements the family owned. Ours was on the busy street, Harrison Street. His was on a side street across the alley, on Bell Avenue. Ours had only a pad of cement for a back yard, often cluttered with automobile parts and building supplies. His had a small patch of grass and a tall plank fence to keep out intruders. There was a chestnut tree in the middle of the yard with broad limbs strong enough to hold 5 or 6 kids at once.

When the Winike family moved to Villa Park, it was pure country out there – part marshes and meadows from Salt Creek, with woods everywhere. Uncle Hank loved getting out of the city into the country, and drove over an hour to round us up and look for Coffee-and that might be good to have in our sleepy town.

A couple of Grandpa’s others brothers had Willys Wagons as well, but painted them a different color. They were ideal for big family outings. As in, outings with your BIG FAMILY!

By 1959, he’d already made several trips to Arizona and always returned with fantastic western stories, photos, and souvenirs to show us. He once gave me a mounted collection of Arizona rocks and minerals. Then he showed me how to make my own collection box, with cardboard divisions and cotton backing, so I could mount different kinds of bugs and butterflies on pins. He made me the collector of fascinating objects that I am today.

I remember some of the other uncles jibing him about driving all the way out to “the desert” for two weeks every year.

But he must have inspired at least a few of the Del Principes to embrace life in Arizona, because quite of few of younger generations and their families have, such as Uncle Frank’s son, Luke; as well as my brother, Steve Winike.

Gentle voice, calm and slow demeanor were the big things I remember most about Uncle Hank’s personality. He worked as an elevator operator in the old Sears building in The Loop, and retired from there after 61 years. He could never have stood it for so long if he wasn’t such a calm and patient man.

This is a 6-Transistor radio, identical to the one Uncle Hank gave me. It was a big upgrade from the first one he gave me from the junkpile. It even had an earplug jack. I tried listening to the World Series with it, during class, but the teacher took it away. I explained that it was my hearing device, but he wouldn’t hear of it!

Wizardry with gadgets and electronics was his forte. His workshop looked like a cross between Leonardo Di Vinci’s and Gepetto’s. We were never allowed to go in there without him, and only one child at a time. He’d say, “Do NOT touch A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G,” drawing it out to make sure we heard it, then, “Ya folla?”

To get into it, you had to go underneath his back porch, down a stairwell that he’d dug out himself, through a door with three locks. It was a short door, and he had to duck to go in. We would tease him, “You should get a bigger door, Uncle Hank!” He’d chortle and say, “I’m a short guy, what’sa bigger door for?”

Sly like a fox, he was. Coffee-and was his special and unique gift — to our parents, and especially my grandfather — to sleep in, with no kids around. Grandpa was Uncle Hank’s best friend, and he wanted to give his brother the gift of peace. They were the closest two brothers in the family with many shared enthusiasms, one being Chicago Cubs baseball.

It turns out, the best gift he ever gave to me, he’d reclaimed from a junk pile. A 4-transistor radio, rare back then, was a treat few other kids had. It allowed me to listen to Cub games after school and on Saturdays. Cousins and school chums would crowd around me to hear Lou Boudreau’s shouting and the crowd going wild at Wrigley Field. Later he replaced it with a 6- and then a 9-transistor model, which allowed hands free listening while you rode your bike. The early models had to be held close to your ear.  

Uncle Hank also taught me how to keep score with an official baseball scorecard, which made following the game on the radio a real-time experience. Not only was I more involved in the game, it taught me to envision things out of my range. It encouraged me to use my imagination. And to appreciate some of the special joys that only kids growing up in Chicago would.





Francesco Nova

by  Phyllis Zeck

Frank was the youngest of Pietro and Elvira’s sons, he was born in 1908.  His middle name means New.

 Elvira’s second child was born in 1889 and named Francesco.  He died as an infant in Pescasseroli, Italy.

Frank married Edith Veronica Vitullo and they had two children Muriel and Frank “Luke”.  

Frank worked for his brother Tony at the accordion store on Wabash Ave, in the Loop in downtown Chicago.  When Tony died from his injuries after a fall off a ladder, Frank took over the store.  Tony’s wife Margaret became Frank’s business partner.  Frank later moved the store to Cicero Ave & Madison St.

Luke’s daughter Lisa remembers the music stores well.  Her brothers took drum and guitar lessons and she used to listen to all the 45 records.



Amada (Hank)

by  Phyllis Zeck

Gilbert first row far right, Hank standing behind him

Amada aka Hank was born on Aug 1, 1898 in Chicago, Illinois and he died on Jun 9, 1969.  He and my grandfather were very close.  He’d visit us often in Villa Park when I was young.  He was always soft spoken and kind.  Hank was married to Anna wo was born in 1915 in New Jersey and he had a daughter named Kathleen (Cookie) who was born in 1940.  This photo was taken in the alley behind the music store on Harrison Street.  If anyone knows the other people in the photo, please let me know.





by  Phyllis Zeck



Emil and Rose Solomon had four children: Bernard (Bernie), Anne, William (Willie), and Eleanor.  They raised their children in the apartment above the music store at 5518 West North Avenue in Chicago.  Emil ran the music store until 1960, then Otto and Frank took over.

In the photos: top left is Emil, top right is Emil’s son Bernie, bottom right is Emil (possibly with his son Willie), and bottom left is Emil’s son Bernie with Frank (Luke). Click on any photo to enlarge it.