Ask for Rose. The last line of many classified ads in the Chicago Daily Tribune from the 50s and 60s. Rose Podulka advertised for bartenders, waitresses, tenants, cigar girls, and piano players for her bar, the Rainbo Club. Rose’s grandson, Howie Japlon, remembers:
I would pretty much have the run of the place and spent a lot of time on the bowling game and checking out the barstools and climbing up onto the stage behind and above the bar. My mom and Grandma would converse in Polish. Sometimes we would go around the corner to eat at Brown & Koppel’s.
There was a craps table near the entrance and a dice roller cage thing. And Grandma would often sit in the far corner reading the paper at a table under one of those iconic police interrogation style lamps. On our visits, Grandma often kept the front door locked and would peer through the diamond shaped window to check out who wanted to enter. She wouldn’t let you in if you didn’t look “right”.
Bartenders had to speak Polish, be sober, have a personality, and were not expected to make mixed drinks. Waitresses needed to be white and attractive. Their work shifts ran from 7pm to 4am. Ads for pianists and guitar and accordion players specified girls who were able to play requests. Often in German or Polish.
In the mid-60s ads to sell the bar began to appear.
WBBM reporter Alan Crane, who owned the bar for some years in the 80s, recalled in a Trib item that the distinctive Art Deco clamshell stage was a reproduction of one that Ziggy Podulka had seen in San Francisco. He had it built for his wife, Rose, to play the polka music she loved. Another article tells of a fellow WBBM broadcaster taking the stage to sing. By 1985 Crane wanted out of the bar business.
Since 1985 the bar has remained mostly unchanged, while the neighborhood outside its door has become unrecognizable. Today’s Rainbo has more in common with Rose Podulka’s 50s and 60s polka bar than with any of the current establishments along Division Street. The Rainbo’s bartenders no longer have to speak Polish, but they’re still rarely compelled to make mixed drinks. It’s a neighborhood bar without a neighborhood.