William Edward (Bill) Dunn (1918-1986), Great Grandson of Michael Dunn

Bill's Paternal Ancestry:

To summarize information covered elsewhere, here's a recap of Bill's paternal family line:

Pierce Dunn: Great great grandfather, believed to have emigrated from Ireland to England, probably in the mid 1800s;

Michael and Bridget Grace Dunn: Great grandparents, emigrated from Ireland to England, then to the U.S. (Illinois) in 1858;

William Edward and Josephine Lauer Dunn: Grandparents, lived in Illinois, moved to Missouri, then back to Illinois;

Eugene Michael and Hazel Nolan Dunn: Parents, lived in Illinois, moved to Arkansas (Eugene) and Indiana (Hazel).


His Maternal Ancestry:

Edward and Mary Ellen Kavanaugh Nolan: Great grandparents, emigrated from Ireland to the U.S. (Illinois) in 1852;

Edward Francis and Mary Ring Nolan: Grandparents, lived in Illinois;

Hazel Lorretta Nolan Dunn and Eugene Michael Dunn: Parents.


His Immediate Family:

His parents, Eugene Michael Dunn (1898-1969) and Hazel Loretta Nolan Dunn (Youngs) (1899 -1994) were married in Indiana in 1917 and had two children. They were my generation's father, William Edward (Bill) Dunn, and his sister, Rita Jane Dunn.

My mother reported that Eugene abandoned his family sometime after Bill was born in 1918, came back some years later, stayed long enough for Hazel to get pregnant with Rita, who was born in 1928, and left again, this time permanently. None of my generation ever met Eugene, or had even seen a picture of him until I began assembling our family history. After starting to gather our information I met a long-lost second cousin, Mary Green Starasinic, who provided some photos of him.

After I started this project, Rita’s daughter provided copies of several family documents. Hazel and Eugene’s application for a marriage license says he was a bookkeeper and that his parents were William Edward Dunn, after whom Bill was named, and Josephine [Barbara] Lauer, both of Steger, Illinois. Their stories are covered elsewhere in this blog.

With my father, I recall occasionally visiting relatives in Steger as a small youngster. I have no recollection of who they were or how I was related to them. However, after being widowed, that’s where his grandmother Josephine lived until her death in 1942. Also, I've learned that some of his cousins lived and worked in Steger for many years as well. Their stories are also included elsewhere in this blog.

I found Eugene as a child in the 1900 and 1910 censuses, living with his family. His page of this blog includes links to those censuses and other information about him. The
1920 census shows Eugene living in Chicago with Hazel. His occupation was "clerk - die casting" – from which I surmise that he was employed in a clerical job with some sort of factory at that time. Even though Bill was born in 1918, he's not recorded with his family in the 1920 census, which seems odd.

Hazel’s baptismal certificate is interesting. It’s dated 4/24/1961, which means she’d have been 61 years old if that’s correct. A more likely date is 1901, when she’d have been two years old. It was issued by Sacred Heart Church in Joliet, Illinois, and it shows her name as Lauretta Hazel (no other source says this).

Her father’s name was Edward Francis Nolan, her mother’s maiden name was Mary Ring, and both family lines have been traced back to those who emigrated from Ireland. The information we have about them is covered elsewhere in this blog.

To make a living, Hazel worked in retail as a sales clerk. She later married Darrow M Youngs (1903-1982), whom the 1930 census reports was a salesman of candy products. He was with his previous wife in 1930 and the census shows that he had children from that marriage (three in 1930), but he and Hazel had no children together.

Surprisingly, in an era before current sophisticated treatments were available, Hazel survived both colon cancer and breast cancer and lived to be age 95. Hazel Loretta Nolan Dunn Youngs was a gentle and caring person - and was very much beloved by all of us who knew her.



Bill was born July, 6th, 1918, in Chicago, Illinois. Because his father left the family, Bill dropped out of school as a teenager - age 13, I believe - so he could earn money to help support the family. He was a highly intelligent person, but that was the end of his formal education.

His mother was Catholic, and long ago I'd heard that Bill was raised as a Catholic - and even served as an altar boy. Although I'd heard that said of him, I'd never seen any evidence that it was true. However, my mother had several old photo albums labeled by dates - which I currently have - and on the opening page of the first album is a photo with a caption "William E Dunn - age 7". It's him as an altar boy, but somewhere along the line he left his religion behind. As far as I know, he never attended church as an adult and I never heard him express an interest in spiritual matters.

Bill married Fleeta Claire Jones, aka Fleeta Claire Field (Field being her mother's maiden name), in mid-1940. He met her while he was working at a White Castle restaurant in Chicago, where he was reportedly known as “The Wolf of the White Castle” - a "ladies man", if you please. We have a photo of him, circa 1939, outside a White Castle - and he looks very dapper in his dark double-breasted suit and white shoes, so it seems likely the report could be accurate.

To put their marriage into the context of what was going on in the world at that time, here are some headlines from that period:
■ German occupiers disband Dutch States-General/Council of State;
■ SS rounds up 31 German/Polish/Dutch Jews in Roermond Netherlands;

■ France falls to Nazi Germany; armistice signed, France disarmed;
■ Marcel Louette seeks opposition group "White Brigade" on Antwerp;
■ RAF bombs Schiphol;
■ France signs an armistice with Italy during WW II.

So, they were married before the U.S. became involved in World War II when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941 - but the war was was raging in Europe.

Trivia: WWII ended in 1945. However, there were some Japanese soldiers on isolated islands in the Pacific who never got the message that the war ended (or they believed it was a trick) and they fought on for years afterward. The last Japanese soldier to surrender was Second Lieutenant Hiroo Onada who emerged from the Philippine jungle in 1974 to finally surrender. For more on that subject you may want to see if your library has a copy of his book, "No Surrender - My Thirty-Year War".

Trivia: White Castle, for those who aren't familiar with it, is the oldest American hamburger fast food chain, known for square burgers which were priced at five cents until the 1940s, and remained at ten cents for years thereafter. For several years, when the original burgers sold for five cents, White Castle periodically ran promotional ads in local newspapers which contained coupons offering five burgers for ten cents, takeout only. The typical White Castle restaurant architecture features a white exterior with a tower at one corner to resemble a medieval castle.

Bill and Claire opened a tiny grocery store in Chicago around 1941, but it was during WW II, and apparently didn’t last long. I hadn't even known of its existence until beginning this family history. We have a photo of Claire in that store and in the picture is a photo of me as a baby. My birth certificate records that at the time of my birth he was a laborer at Youngstown Sheet & Tube, a steel mill in northwest Indiana, so that was apparently his job, while she ran the little store.

Trivia: Financial info from that era:
Bread: 8¢ per loaf
Milk: 51¢ per gallon
Eggs: 59¢ per dozen
Gas: 18¢ per gallon
Postage stamps: 3¢ each
Car: $810
House: $6,558
Average annual income: $1,906
Minimum wage: 30¢ per hour


Military Service, His Lack Thereof:

We have a photo of him, circa 1943, which is believed to be his ID photo for the steel mill. As I thought about the timing of when this was taken, I found myself wondering why he didn’t serve in the military during World War II, which was underway at the time.

I did a bit of research and found that there was a draft classification applied to those for whom military service would cause “hardship to dependents”. The classification was called III-A and applied to “men with dependents, not engaged in work essential to national defense”.

It was drawn to my attention that because the production of steel was so crucial at that time, he may have been in the category of those whose work was essential to the war effort. In looking at the draft classifications, it's possible he may have been classed as III-B, "Men with dependents, engaged in work essential to national defense".

So, the evidence suggests that either because he was married and had children starting a year prior to the U.S. getting into the war and/or because of his job in a defense-related industry, he was exempt from serving.


Info from His Social Security Death Index:

Name: William Dunn
SSN: 347-09-3546
Last Residence: Hammond, Indiana, United States
Born: 6 Jul 1918
Died: Dec 1986
State issued: Illinois


His Businesses:

In one of Claire's albums is an interesting photo. The caption says, "The '47 Dodge - Our business 4/10/49". The picture on the link shows what it would have looked like, but his had a large box-type affair on the back that made the back a covered area. What's interesting is that the signage on his truck says, "Supreme Baking Co, Calumet City, Illinois". That causes me to think that before he did business as "Unique Bakery Service" and/or "Unique Donuts" (discussed below) Bill must have done business as Supreme Baking Co. I don't recall having known that before seeing this photo.

Trivia: The Calumet City address is of interest as well; it was just across the state line from where we lived. I recall that Bill had some kind of business relationship with a man in Cal City whose name I think was Jack Gannon or Gannis. I remember having been with Bill on occasion when he met with this man, but I have no idea of the nature of their business dealings. However, as I recall, the man owned a strip joint in Cal City - which was widely known as a "Sin City" in that era. It was heavily populated with strip joints and taverns and was infamous for its prostitution in those days.

Trivia: The picture of the truck is taken from the front of our house in East Chicago. Supermarkets as we know them today had not yet come into existence, and across the street is the little mom and pop grocery store/meat market where we got a lot of our food as I was growing up. It was owned by immigrants from Europe - Poland, I think - who came to America to escape the ravages of World War II, as did many of those in our neighborhood in the 1950s.

In any event, Bill became an entrepreneur, owning a bakery and several donut shops called "Unique Donuts". The production of his goods took place at the bakery location at the corner of Cherry St. and Calumet Ave. in Hammond, Indiana. The merchandise was retailed at that shop and was also delivered in vans to his other locations in the Calumet Region, as that area of northwest Indiana is called.

He didn’t start out with physical locations, however. Nor did he manufacture his own merchandise in the beginning. It's my understanding that he was working at the steel mill full-time while getting his bakery delivery business underway on a part-time basis.


How He Got Started in Business:

He started in business by buying bakery goods at wholesale pricing from a man by the name of
Joe Biegel, owner of Biegel’s Bakery in Roseland, Illinois, on Chicago’s south side. He’d drive there at around 3-4 a.m. every morning to pick up his inventory. There were many occasions on weekends and during summer months when, as a kid, I’d accompany him on trips to Biegel’s to help him load his walk-in truck, in which he had installed racks to hold the bakery trays.

To sell his goods he would drive his truck full of merchandise to outlying rural areas that didn’t have easy access to the stores available to city-dwellers. The truck was equipped with a large bell he'd ring to alert the customers that he'd arrived on the scene. They'd then come out to the truck to buy his merchandise.

Using the business name of Unique Bakery Service, he established routes that he’d cover on a rotating basis on various days of the week and deliver both fresh bakery goods and ice cream products to his customers. As time passed, his business outgrew his ability to handle it all himself, so he added trucks and hired drivers to do the same thing he was doing – take the merchandise to his customers’ doorsteps. We have a picture of three walk-in bakery trucks he owned in the mid-1950s.

In the post-World War II era of the late 1940s and early 1950s, Wal-Mart, supermarkets and large grocery stores hadn’t yet come along. So, his approach was, indeed, unique and it was a service that was appreciated and valued by his customers. For many years he prospered with this approach before deciding to open stores and produce his own merchandise.

He also had wholesale customers - grocery stores and restaurants - to whom he delivered bakery goods as well. I worked for him as a route driver in my late teens and early 20s, and my siblings and I worked in the bakery in various roles when we were youngsters.

In the 1950s he had other business ventures as well. I recall going with him to the Route 30 racetrack in Schererville, Indiana, and being vendors of products (I don't recall for certain, but it may have been ice cream bars and popsicles we sold). He also owned three-wheeled ice cream bikes (similar to the one shown at the link). As a youngster I rode one of them in the summer and sold ice cream bars and ice cream novelties any place I could find groups of people
gathered. Parks where people gathered for softball games were a favorite venue.


The Mothers of His Children:

Bill and Claire had five children between 1940 and 1948, began living separate lives sometime thereafter, and were divorced in 1957. They had an unusual arrangement, both before and after the divorce. Claire and we kids lived in the large house in the front of the property they owned and Bill lived in one of the two apartments in the rear of the property. So, although they lived separate lives, both before and after their divorce, they lived on the same piece of real estate for several years while doing so.

In 1960 Bill married Jeannine (Jean) Wells, who had three children from a previous marriage. Bill and Jean had two children, and this marriage ended with Jean’s untimely death. Bill spent his final fifteen years or so with Ann Girski, who had four kids from previous marriages, and they had one daughter.

In all, he had three families, fathered eight biological children, had three stepchildren, and played a father role of sorts with Ann's four kids, for a total of fifteen kids. That group have grown to adulthood and the extended family now includes Bill's numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.


Stock Car Racing:

For hobbies, Bill was an occasional golfer, but for a period of time had a passion for stock car racing, or what has now evolved into NASCAR. He owned - and drove - stock cars in the 1950s, and we have a photo of one of those cars in our archive. From a current perspective it seems like a hazardous hobby for someone with as many kids as he had at the time.

I have memories of going to a Blue Island, Illinois, racetrack as a kid and watching him race. It was alway exciting to be part of his racing activities, even if only as an observer.

His brother-in-law, Hank Erickson, for one, was involved in helping to keep his cars running, if my memory is correct. I think Peter Tumbiolo, another brother-in-law, may also have been involved at some point as well, although I'm not sure of that.


His Sister, Rita Dunn Erickson Tumbiolo:

Rita Jane Dunn (1928-2007) married Henry (Hank) Erickson, and they had one daughter. For a period of time when I was a kid, Rita, Hank and their daughter lived in the second rear apartment on the East Chicago property where we lived.

My recollection is that Hank was a milkman. (For younger readers of this blog, a milkman was someone who drove a truck and delivered milk - in glass bottles - and other dairy products to the homes of customers.) Rita’s marriage to Hank ended in divorce, and Rita later married Peter Tumbiolo; he and Rita had one son. I recall that Peter worked part-time for Bill in the donut business - bookkeeping, I believe. If I recall correctly, his full-time job was at Inland Steel, another steel mill in northwest Indiana. I don’t remember what his job there was. However, as a kid, I remember liking Peter a lot. Rita was widowed when Peter died.

I remember Rita as being very sociable, and have fond memories of spending time visiting her as a youngster. My recollection is that there were always lots of friends around, people dropping by, lots of camaraderie and laughing, especially when family gatherings took place.

Although she had no formal training as a nurse, she worked as an assistant to our family doctor, Dr. Richard Schulfer, for many years prior to his death. In a short biographical sketch prepared for our family reunion in 1999, Rita provided the following info: “Retired from the medical field, now working in retail… I like the Internet and love working in my son’s garden. I’m a frustrated interior decorator. I enjoy some arts and crafts. Not all.” Her obituary said, “Rita was a lover of animals and plants. She was an experienced seasonal interior decorator.”

Last updated 5/31/09

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