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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

No butts about it, ashtray sparks mystery

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An old ashtray shows the property at 111 W. Walnut St., Greencastle, when it was Ernberg's Restaurant and Delicatessen.
As a veteran local auctioneer of nearly 40 years, Greencastle's De Eilar not only has a lifetime of memories but quite a cache of souvenirs as well.

He's got an old Greencastle cabinet bearing a bronze plaque denoting its homegrown history. Stored inside it are a number of old greenish Coca-Cola bottles, including one of the old rounded originals and a couple with "Greencastle" embossed on the bottom.

Nearby Eilar has an old jug from Ple-Z-ee, an old soft drink made in Greencastle years ago. On the crockware jug is written "Drink Ple-Z-ee, best soft drink on earth -- Greencastle, Ind."

Most everyone who has lived in Greencastle very long knows some of the history behind those items.

But even Eilar is baffled by the restaurant pictured on a glass ashtray in his possession.

A photo in the Banner Graphic last week of the old Rattray antique shop at 111 W. Walnut St. (being converted into the residence and office of local attorney James Holder) jangled Eilar's memory.

From his pocket, the old auctioneer produced a clear glass ashtray with blue images advertising Ernberg's Restaurant and Delicatessen.

With the same distinctive dormer and roofline that is there today, it is unmistakably the same building at the northeast corner of Walnut and Market streets.

The picture on the ashtray also shows a couple of large trees that are long gone and a stylish canopied entrance from the street.

"Looks like it was quite a restaurant in its day," Eilar offered.

Unfortunately, not even the longtime auctioneer or any of his contemporaries has the faintest idea when that heyday occurred.

"I've been an auctioneer since 1973," said Eilar, who still does specialty sales and estate sales, "and I don't remember it. I showed it (the ashtray) to Danny Bumgardner the other day and talked to several others but they don't remember the place."

It stands to reason Ernberg's was probably popular back when the old Commercial Hotel was in its glory at the southeast corner of Walnut and Jackson (the site of a First Christian Church parking lot since the mid 1980s).

One clue to its age is the phone number shown on the Ernberg's ashtray -- "Phone 25," it says.

That probably puts the date closer to the days of a live local operator than the era of the smartphone.

Greencastle defacto historian and onetime "Hoosier Know-It-Alls" TV game show winner Jinsie Bingham, of course, does recall the Ernbergs.

She says they lived across the road from her Bloomington Street home before they moved to Terre Haute sometime in the 1950s, she believes.

That means Eilar's ashtray is probably 50-60 years old or more.

For now Eilar is content to keep his unique treasure with his other Greencastle collectibles, like a distinctive bell from Gardner Bros. and other relics of our local past.

"It's just something I probably bought at a household sale," Eilar said, not remembering when or where. "I have certain things like that. When I like them I put them in a drawer. I've probably had it for years."

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Julia Ernberg had this business for a while at this location. She calledit a smorgasboard and most people in Greencastle had never heard that word. Mrs Ernberg was the widow of Otto Ernberg and he owned the Chevrolet/Buick dealership in Greencastle after the war in the late '40s. Mrs. Ernberg's daughter married Tom Carney, who operated the car dealership for a while. The restaurant only was in business for a year or so. I went there with my parents as a small child and the food was very good.

-- Posted by albert on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 8:06 AM

I have some old newspaper advertisements that says Julia Ernberg owned this "Ernberg's Resaurant and Deli" on 111 W. Walnut Street on 4/11/53. Only year I can find an ad.

-- Posted by Nit on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 8:31 AM

I am AnnaMarie (Carney DeGrande, Julia Ernberg's daughter...Mom did have a very good resaurant for little over a year....it was at the corner of Walnut and Jackson....the picture isn't quite accurate..but the place did have a big front porch and people enjoyed eating out there (just like in the big city)....served very good food...smorgasbord is well known today, as buffet...I am glad people remembered it.

-- Posted by Annie DeG on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 8:59 AM

I didn't move to Putnam county until about 1969 or 1970, so I naturally don't remember the place, but the story is very interesting. Thank you all for shareing.

-- Posted by interestedperson on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 9:21 AM

Mr. Ernberg's car dealership was located on north Jackson Street where Progressive Printing is now located and they had a used car lot across the street where the Banner's parking lot is and beside Doc James' office and Swick's restaurant

-- Posted by albert on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 10:33 AM

Mrs. Ernberg's establishment was before my time,

however, I do remember the car dealership and the Ernberg home on West Walnut Street. It was a beautiful home. Mrs. Ernberg was a very gracious


-- Posted by Foxridge on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 11:33 AM

My mother was the original manager there when it open. Julia had great ideas but Greencastle was not ready for it. Problem was the cost of the meal. Most people were use to paying 75 cents to 90 cents for a mealand her meals were quite expensive. She had a chef that was from chicago and he was cooking things that nobody had ever heard of. The restraunt was in the Roy Newgent house. After several months Julia had to close the doors.

-- Posted by daden123 on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 12:05 PM

daden123 is right in that Greencastle wasn't ready for culinary class and the price associated with it. They preferred going to the Lincoln restaurant, across from the post office and where the parking lot is and the Royal Cafe on

Washington street next to the VonCastle theater.

There was also the White Way across from the fire station and the Snack Shop across from Eitel's that were reasonably priced, but were hamburger places.

-- Posted by albert on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 12:58 PM

Yes, I remember now....it was in year of 1952 or 53....forgot it was Nugent house...yes, Mom had great ideas and just didn't work out...Dodie made the best ever pies for her, her husband was State Police

-- Posted by Annie DeG on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 1:17 PM

Another wonderful piece of local history shared by many. Thanks to all.

-- Posted by Nit on Thu, Jan 12, 2012, at 6:14 PM

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