Croatian Stories in the Fairhaven Historic District

 
E.M. Day Building (now Dirty Dan's Restaurant) on 11th Between Harris and Mill
 
During the 1930’s the E.M. Day Building, was Elmer’s Place Restaurant and Card Room and later the Stag Beer Parlor and Restaurant. Dr. Peter Elich, who grew up on the Southside remembers when he was just a little boy, his grandmother would send him the block and a half from their home to the saloon to tell Nono, the Croatian name for grandfather, to "come home, it is time for dinner". His Grandfather, Andro Mardesich, would be playing cards with some of his old "Slav" buddies. Nono would take him by the hand and they would walk home together to dinner. "Nono” owned the So. Bellingham Grocery near 11th Street and Mill (the site now occupied by Fairhaven Bike & Ski) and was one of many fishermen who immigrated from the island of Vis, located in the Adriatic Sea. From the 1920’s through the 1940’s, most of the homes from 11th Street to 13th Street, just behind Taylor Dock, were owned by people of Croatian descent. 
 
The Schering Block (now Renaissance Glass) at the corner of 10th and Harris
 
In 1910, the "Dry Ballot" closed all drinking establishments.  When the Elk Saloon closed, the second floor was turned into a public hall 50 x 80 feet in size.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s, the top floor of the Schering Block became known as the Croatian Hall. It was used for dances and celebrations by the large Slavic community of southside fishermen and their families. 
 
On April 13, 1931, over 1,000 people made their way to the Schering Block for the grand opening of the Croatian Fraternal Hall.  The Croatian Fraternal Order occupied the building from 1931 to 1947, using the top floor public hall for celebrations by the large Slavic community of southside fishermen and their families.  Croatian Community Dances would be held on special occasions, usually a Saint’s birthday with Croatian families traveling from as far away as Tacoma to attend the event. 

 
Music was a big part of the Croatian celebrations and was provided by the Tamboritza Club, who practiced in the Schering Block.   The tamboritza is a mandolin-like instrument traditional to the Croatian community. This group of teen-aged girls and boys were known as the White Flour Sack Band, so named because their parents could afford only the tamboritza, with flour sacks serving as make-shift instrument cases. The Girls Club, which also met in the Hall, would provide entertainment by performing skits, gently poking fun at beloved individuals in the community.