One of Springfield's more colorful Lithuanian-American businesses was the Cara-Sel Lounge, 7th and North Grand Avenue, operated for 17 years by World War II veteran Tony Yuscius. Tony died at 86 in 2009 and was the son of Lithuanian-born coal miner Joseph and Marcella (Radavich) Yuscius. After Joseph died of black lung disease, Tony's mother, Marcella and her many children fell on hard times.
The Cohen family, who operated a grocery, and, later, The Mill Tavern and Restaurant, are said to have assisted Marcella—and many others—with grocery credit.
The hard times known by many Lithuanian families in Springfield, generated by death in or from the mines, not to mention mass mine layoffs, led youngsters like Tony and his siblings to work from a young age to support their families. The same conditions led many to launch small businesses as soon as possible.
Tony's business opportunity came sometime after he graduated from Lanphier. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre, earning three bronze service stars.
It's hard to know how Tony got the idea for the Cara-Sel Lounge. It plays on the word "carousel" with its colorful circus-themed décor and circular bar.
“Follow our bar round-n- round. You will certainly find your friends here.”
Tony and his wife Carol operated the Cara-Sel from 1951 until 1968. There were many neighborhood tavern and restaurant proprietors in Springfield during that period, so one can imagine it was a challenge to find a niche and stand out in the crowd.
After a more family-oriented start indicated by its circus theme and enlarged kitchen, the Cara-Sel hopped on the "mod" train sometime during the early 1960s, with mini-skirted dancing "go-go" girls at night, like those on popular TV shows "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" and "Hullaballoo."
"You'll enjoy a visit to the newly redecorated Cara-Sel . . . where there's always a Merry-Go-Round of fun amid the Circus Murals and rich, Confetti Colors. Serving Luncheon and Dinner Daily from the sparkling kitchen . . . and the smoothest of Mined Drinks from the Curvacious Bar."
The establishment really made an impression on those who still remembered it:
- "When I went there, it was a nice place for a couple of girls to go, have some drinks and maybe meet a couple of guys. I also went there on dates, like after a movie."
- "Go-Go girls would dance on the bar and in front of the bar—also in the back room."
- "I used to walk by the Cara-Sel on my way to Edison Middle School and Lanphier High School. Recently, I discovered that a girl I went to school with worked there in the 1970s."
- "When I was a boy, my father drove a truck and would arrive home on Saturday mornings, when I would accompany him to the Carousel for lunch. Late at night, there were cages and go-go girls, and still being in grade school, I would not have been welcomed. The Teamsters had their office directly across the street. One block to the east was the Pantheon Theatre, and next door was Palazollo's Soda Shop, where all the Lanphier students gathered. Noonan Hardware Store and Ben Franklin 5¢ & Dime were on the same block."
- "They had a left-handed/right-handed drinking club, and you had to drink with whichever hand behind the bar was lighted. We paid to join, and there was a fine for getting caught drinking with the wrong hand. The reward was a free meal and drink party once a year for the members. Neat place."
In an ironic twist, in the early 1970s, Tony and his wife Carol completely reversed direction and opened the "Northtown Child Care Center," a daycare they operated for 20 years. Tony had two brothers: Stanley and John Yuscius, and five sisters, Mary Yuscius, Ann Asher, Josephine Pavletich, Ardella Dodd and Patricia Bietsch.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.