Big Tim's nighty night

Imagine the look on Big Tim Englehart's face when he prepared to get dressed on July 20, 1916, and found "dainty lingerie" instead of a clean shirt in his luggage.

In the middle of a fatal heat wave 100 years ago, The Lake County Times considered light, breezy stories front page news. One of them was about a man whose suitcase didn't contain suits.

Big Tim Englehart, of Gary, acclaimed the duke of Ridge Road — not to mention a real estate agent, oil magnate and president of a big Southwest road construction company — blew into town after journeying several days from the Lone Star state.

"'Whew! This town is as hot as Texas,' said Big Tim as he mopped his expansive face with a $2 Dallas silk handkerchief. 'Come in and have a cup of coffee,' he said to a Times man as he opened the screen door of the Saratoga, Broadway's Delmonico," the July 20, 1916, story said.

Big Tim had a red valise when he rode the Wabash train from St. Louis. But it wasn't the one the porter gave him when he alit back home in Northwest Indiana.

"This morning when I went to open it to get out a clean shirt I was dismayed to find a lot of dainty lingerie. The infernal porter got my grip mixed up with that of a California lady," the story said.

"That lady is probably in great distress — here, girlie, give me some butter with these rolls."

Big Tim told The Times of his big plans.

"Bill Cain and I have a half million dollars worth of road contracts down in Texas. The climate kind of knocked out Bill for awhile, but he is getting on all right now. As soon as I get cleaned up in Michigan I am going to start some more building here. Deutsch and I are going to put up a building at 17th and Broadway."

In the news business, plans like these are common. But Big Tim had a big bankroll, too.

"As Tim got up to pay the cashier his wallet displayed a $56,000 draft on a New York bank issued by a Texas country in part payment for some road building. The figures nearly caused the poor cashier to faint, and the newspaper man clutched the cigar case for support."

Big Tim's next stop, he said, was to visit his friend Reilley in Hammond. Reilley owned a clothing store. Big Tim wouldn't have to resort to a choice between dirty clothes and lingerie after all.

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.