The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 24, 2013

Purse, mirror hint at Danville’s past

BY CAROL ROEHM
Commercial-News

When I shop at some of the local antique stores in Danville, I’m always on the lookout for items that originated in Danville, primarily spice tins from the Grab-It-Here stores or from the Payton-Palmer or Paxton grocery distributors that used to have warehouses in the city.

Once in a while, I’ll find something interesting from Danville that’s not a spice tin. Just recently at Sweet Repeats on North Street I found one such treasure: A black patent leather purse circa 1950s or 1960s.

The black patent leather was smudged with fingerprints and the dainty gold chain handle was broken, but I picked up the purse anyway and peeked inside. Lo and behold, it had a label that read: Berkowitz, Danville, Ill. This, indeed, was a find!

I remembered first learning about Berkowitz Luggage and Music on North Vermilion Street when I last wrote my Nostalgic Nuggets column several years ago.

It was the late Anna Owens, who died just last year, who brought the longtime luggage shop to my attention. In a Nostalgic Nuggets column that ran on March 8, 2007, Owens wondered if anyone remembered Berkowitz Luggage and Music Store on the east side of North Vermilion Street.

“I worked there when I was in high school,” she said at the time. “Not only did they have fine luggage, they also had expensive purses and billfolds.”

The late Joe Berkowitz’s family arrived in Danville in 1927 and opened the family business, Berkowitz Luggage.

Joe eventually would run the family store and added pianos, organs and keyboards in 1962, making the store Berkowitz Luggage and Music. He ran the store full-time from 1949 until 1986. Joe Berkowitz died in 2008.

With a little window cleaner, the black patent leather shines like new again and the gold chain handle has been repaired. I’m so glad to be the new owner of this piece of Danville history.

Does anyone remember Berkowitz Luggage and Music?

Mirror mystery

I’m always surprised when I receive an inquiry or response to a column from far away.

A few weeks ago, Carole Craig from Toledo, Ohio, contacted me for help gathering information about a 30-by-40-inch glass mirror that appears to have been manufactured in Danville.

“I got it from my mom who had it for years. I don’t know where she got it,” she said.

An old sticker on the back of the beveled edge mirror reads: Libbey-Owens-Ford Polished Plate Glass by Thirion’s, Danville, Illinois. The date of manufacture or purchase is stamped in ink on the back also and reads: Jul 22 1948.

Craig was wondering if perhaps the mirror was manufactured at the old glass factory in the Oaklawn neighborhood. The glass factory at 301 California St. became the Illinois Window Glass Co., owned by George Lemaire and Frank J. Thirion, in 1915.

She also wonders if the mirror has a connection to the late Frank L. and Helen G. Thirion who owned Thirion Glass Co. at 531-535 E. Main St. in Danville until 1971. Interestingly, Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co. occupied that same address until just recently. Now it is the home of House of Bikes.

According to the 1945 and 1949 Danville city directories, Frank Thirion and Son (Frank J. and Leon N.) were “dealers in all kinds of glass, plate, window, art, wired, colored, rough auto glass, mirror manufacturing and mirror resilvering.”

At some point, Frank L. took over the family business as president and general manager.

I found an advertisement online that was published in the April 20, 1962, edition of LIFE magazine, which promotes Libbey-Owens-Ford glass and lists the Thirion Glass Co. in Danville as a distributor.

According to an article published in 2003 in AGRR — an auto glass retailer magazine — Thirion Glass Co. was a union glazing contractor at the time it was sold in 1971.

Does anybody remember the Thirion family or Thirion Glass Co.? If so, please contact me.

Carol Roehm is the education reporter. Contact her at 477-5174 or by e-mail at croehm@dancomnews.com.