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Long-time local businessman got his start in early baseball


The Dutch Mill was located at the northeast intersection of Pleasant Street and McMaster’s Avenue, from as early as 1930 until the building was razed in the early 1950s. During the 1930s, it was operated by Oliver J. Vollet. Photo from Steve Chou’s files.


MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


On a Friday night in mid-April, 1936, in the hours after two neighboring businesses had closed for the evening, robbers entered each building in turn, in search of cash.


Oliver J. Vollet, 37, operated the Dutch Mill tavern and dance establishment at 3600 McMaster’s Ave., on the northeast corner of Pleasant Street and McMaster’s Avenue.


Directly across the street, on the northwest corner of that same intersection,

3601 McMaster’s, Frank B. Clay, 49, operated Clay’s filling station


Palmyra’s Marion County Standard newspaper reported the next week that the take was small: 50 cents from the filling station’s cash drawer, and approximately $15 from two marble machines located within the Dutch Mill.


The intersection

The look of this intersection has drastically changed from what it was some 87 years ago.


The Dutch Mill would be torn down in the early 1950s and replaced by the still-standing Immanuel Baptist Church.


The filling station operated by Clay was purchased by Alfred A. Ahlers in 1953, who built a restaurant on this lot, as part of his motel’s expansion. The entire Ahler’s restaurant and motor court establishment was later razed, and replaced by the CVS pharmacy.


Ollie Vollet

Oliver J. (Ollie) Vollet was born in St. Louis Sept. 6, 1899, to Joseph and Mary Oblinger Vollet, among the youngest of his parents’ large family.


As a youth, he took a liking to baseball, which would serve as an influence in later life.


In 1925, while still a young man of 26, he participated in the St. Louis Independent League, pitching for the Kuhs-Buicks team.

On July 25, the Kuhs-Buicks team was leading the league, with a stellar 6-1 record. Other teams in the division were the Meletio Sea Food Co., ranked second at mid season; the Shell team, ranked third; the Polish Falcons, ranked fourth; the Polish Cadets, ranked fifth; and coming in at the bottom was the Peoples’ Motorbus, with a dismal record of 0-7.


But as in all sporting contests, tides can easily turn. By the end of August, the

Kuhs-Buick Company team had sunk to fourth in the league, with a 10-10 record.

Rising to the top were the Shell team, with a 16-5 record, and the Polish Falcons, at 15-6.


Jack M. Van Pelt covered the championship game for the Monday, Aug. 31, 1925, St. Louis Star and Times. He wrote:


“Before a huge throng of 10,000 noisy rooters, Mike Donohue’s Shells won over the Polish Falcons by an 8 to 2 score in a game yesterday at the fairground which decided the championship of the Independent League. ‘Min’ Hardin, former big-leaguer and old-time Municipal League Hurler, was in rare form in turning back the Strumpites.”


Less than a year after that championship game, Ollie’s father died of cancer at the age of 62. Ollie had previously chosen for his wife Adele Cyrillic Theisman, and over the course of the next few years, they would bring two daughters into the world: Evelyn, born circa 1925, and

Kathleen Marie, born in 1928.

While in St. Louis, Ollie was assistant manager of Pierce Petroleum Company.

They moved to Hannibal by the mid 1930s, making their home for a time at 3701 McMaster’s Avenue. (Future site of Jimmie Link’s Open Air Market.)

After a stint as a salesman for a cheese company, Ollie Vollet became the proprietor of the Dutch Mill at 3600 McMaster’s Ave. The previous proprietor was Fred York, who in 1930 had been indicted on three counts of selling liquor during Prohibition.


Surveillance

The Palmyra Spectator described Fred York’s troubles in the Sept. 24, 1930 edition:

“It is understood that officers have been watching the Dutch Mill and other places in Hannibal for the past three months in an effort to learn where boys and girls are obtaining the liquor they are drinking. Plans are being made by the Prosecuting Attorney’s office to bring strong charges against York when his cases come to trial.”

Lewis O’Connor was the prosecuting attorney at the time of Fred York’s arrest.

On Jan. 13, 1932, Judge C.T. Hays of the Hannibal Court of Common Pleas dismissed all three charges against York. York’s attorney was J. Will Hays.


Prohibition ends

According to records found in the Palmyra Spectator (newspapers.com) Ollie Vollet regularly applied for and was granted a liquor license during the years he operated the Dutch Mill.


Highway widening

In September 1933, work began to widen the pavement of McMaster’s Avenue. This was necessitated by problems with traffic flow following the opening of the new high school and the highway department building on McMaster’s Avenue. Work consisted of the entire length of McMaster’s Avenue, from the Dutch Mill to Hannibal-LaGrange College. The previous width of the pavement was 18.5 feet, and the new width would be 29 feet.


Business sold

On Feb. 22, 1939, the Quincy Herald Whig made mention of the sale of the Dutch Mill Tavern, from Oliver J. Vollet to Theodore G. (Ted) Schweitzer Jr., 317 N. Fourth.


New business

In 1946, Ollie Vollet was the proprietor of Twin Cities (beer) Distributors, at 208 S. Main. The 1952 Hannibal city directory lists the address as 207 Collier, which was the previous location for P.W. Walterscheid’s wholesale beer distributorship.

The beer distributors that year were:

McDowell, 220 S. Main;

Northcutt, James, 100 Hill;

Rinella, A., 500 Bridge St.;

Schwartz Bros., 1222 Broadway; and

Twin Cities, 207 Collier.


The distributorship ultimately became a partnership between Ollie and Adele Vollett, and George R. Smith Jr., and his wife, Kathleen M. Smith (daughter of the Vollets.) Eventually, it became a wholesale food outlet, with offices in both Hannibal and Quincy, Ill.


Adele, George and Kathleen continued the business after Ollie’s death in May 1970, until Kathleen’s death in 1988.


Adele Vollet died in 1990 at the age of 92.


In retirement, George Smith was active with the Missouri Department of Conservation Fisheries Department, and helped collect and assemble mussel displays that depicted Mississippi River life. He died Feb. 26, 2018, at the age of 90.

Note: The building that housed Twin Cities Distributing was located roughly where the Hannibal Jaycee’s volleyball courts are now located, not far from the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.


Back to baseball

In July 1947, Ollie Vollet served as business manager for the Hannibal baseball club, a member of the St. Louis Browns’ minor league system.

Vollet announced in the Mexico Ledger that a baseball tryout camp “for ambitious youngsters” would begin on July 14, 1947, at the Central Association park. Those attending were to supply their own shoes, gloves and uniforms, pay their own transportation and living expenses. “Those who make good and are signed to contracts will have those expenses refunded,” the newspaper reported.


Next week: Frank B. Clay.


Olliver J. Vollet, a Hannibal businessman from the 1930s until his death in 1970, was a pitcher for the Kuhs-Buicks ball team, with the Independent League in St. Louis during the 1925 season. Top row, from left, Ollie Vollet, pitcher; Frank Saborosch, rf; John Hutchison, lf; Gus Meyerhoff, lf; Louis Koenemann, cf; Art Hostetter, coach; Frankie Kruse, ss; Irv Scuras, 1b; and Herb Desk, 2b. Bottom row: Dutch Oellermann, manager and outfielder; James McAndrews, mascot; and George Bruns, outfielder. St. Louis Star and Times, July 25, 1925.


Mar

The Dutch Mill was located at the northeast intersection of Pleasant Street and McMaster’s Avenue, from as early as 1930 until the building was razed in the early 1950s. During the 1930s, it was operated by Oliver J. Vollet. Photo from Steve Chou’s files.



Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.editor@yahoo.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com



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