Bob Wian, creator of Bob's Big Boy, the original double-deck
hamburger, has become a legend to the rest of us, but to Dotti Wian
Weis, her brother Bob was just an ordinary boy.
The Wians, Robert and Cora, and their three children, Dotti,
Katherine and Bob, left Philadelphia about 1924 and came to Glendale.
Wian opened Jewel City Furniture Store, invested in real estate and
became wealthy enough to build a large house on Royal Boulevard in
the just-opened Rossmoyne tract.
The current homeowners, David and Nancy Naylor, have a copy of a
permit issued in 1928 to contractor John L. Taylor for the
three-story house. Situated on a steep slope, the dwelling had a
double staircase leading to the front door. The first-floor entry had
a ballroom, a billiard room and a tiled staircase leading to the
second floor living, dining and kitchen areas. The third floor held a
suite for Robert and Cora, while the two sisters shared a bedroom.
Bob's room was on the same floor.
Weis said she was 8 and her brother was 14 when they moved in. "He
had a car, an old Model T that he worked on," she recalled.
The Wians lived on Royal for an idyllic year, Weis said, until the
stock market crash of 1929, when their father lost his business and
declared bankruptcy. He put the house on the market and the family
continued to live there until it sold. "My father was so honest that
he took the bankruptcy as an honest debt and sold everything to pay
people back. He was one of the few men that did that," Weis said.
Wian got a job as a traveling salesman for Maier Brewery. When
Weis was about 11, the house finally sold at a great loss for $11,000
and the family moved to Hollister Street. The three children attended
Doran Street Elementary School, Wilson Junior High and Glendale High
and took part-time jobs to help out.
Weis worked as a carhop at the Rite Spot on Colorado Street, where
her brother had also been employed. She was still in high school when
Bob, who had graduated in 1933, sold his 1932 De Soto convertible for
$300 and bought The Pantry, a "little tin shack with nine stools on
Colorado." It was next to a wine shop and a nursery. Weis was still
working at the Rite Spot when Bob opened his new place, but when the
Rite Spot applied for a liquor license, she had to leave, so she went
to work for her brother.
Eventually Bob acquired the surrounding land and expanded his
hamburger stand into the Bob's Big Boy franchise.
"My father helped him. My dad had a good head on his shoulders and
my brother was very ambitious," Weis said.
Next time: Weis recalls her Rossmoyne neighborhood.
* KATHERINE YAMADA'S column runs every other Saturday. To contact
her, call features editor Joyce Rudolph at 637-3241. For more
information on Glendale's history visit the Glendale Historical
Society's Web page at www.glendalehistorical.org; call the reference
desk at the Central Library at 548-2027; or visit the Special
Collections Room at Central. It is open by appointment only.