The California Bar
The California Bar claims 59 years
in the same location on 33rd
Street. The present owner’s father,
Joe Hill, together with his brother,
Tony Hill, opened the Bar at 510
North 33rd in 1937. Joe and his
wife, June, and their family lived in
the apartment above the bar. Joe
died in 1977 and his son, Wayne,
together with his wife, Peggy, took
over the business and now reside
in the apartment. Actually, Wayne
started working in the store at age
16. He joined the Army during
World War II and came back to
work full time. The store was
expanded in 1958 by converting
the shop next door into a package
Wayne Hill, June and Joe Hill and
Wayne’s niece, Nancy
The California Bar was a popular meeting place for neighbors during World War II. With
gas rationing and a general lack of places to go and things to do, people came to the bar
to socialize and watch TV. First, to see the new black and white TV and then later to
watch TV in color. Wayne has many stories to tell, like the time his father and Mrs. Katie
Wilson from the California Beauty School, together with another man, hoped to make a
fortune by marketing a product that would straighten hair. The concoction was bottled
and ready for market. However, the enterprise ended abruptly when the first experimental
user lost all her hair!
Wayne and Peggy Hill
Another time a very nice couple was served at the bar and the man asked Joe if he knew
who they were. Joe might have recognized them had they been TV stars, but these folks
were radio stars — Fibber McGee and Molly Jordan

The Bar was a popular place for politicians to gather and talk. Wayne particularly
remembers John Cavanaugh and Red Munnelly. Joe Hill once ran for a political office, but
he was defeated. Sometimes jazz artists playing in the auditorium of the old Tech High
would patronize the Bar on their breaks. In May of 1987 the California Bar celebrated its
50th anniversary. Wayne and Peggy sent letters to as many old customers as could be
found, inviting them to a special week of celebration. The week turned out to be a busy
one with hundreds of old and new patrons coming in for the occasion.

Wayne is a great volunteer around town. He was honored by Keep Omaha Beautiful
(KOB) for his volunteer efforts with the Bakers/KOB Charity Gold Classic.


Hill, Peggy, Interview, March 1996
Gifford Park Neighborhood Association
P.O. Box 31462, Omaha, NE 68131-0462
Gifford Park
History Book