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February 3, 2016  


Barton Pipe Organ

"In the 1970s I was a waitress in a restaurant, Sally's Stage, at Devon and Western. It had a tremendously large, beautifully rich sounding pipe organ. Where could it be now?"
–Karen McCluskey, Third Lake

Sally’s Stage was a Rogers Park restaurant where your deep dish pizza came with a side of vaudeville-style entertainment, including the pipe organ our viewer remembers. It was a 1926 Barton 3 manual 10 rank pipe organ that the owners of Sally’s, Joe and Mike Bortz, bought to one-up their other restaurant, a popular ice cream parlor named Doctor Jazz with an antique, working nickelodeon.

When they opened Sally’s Stage in 1973, the Bortz brothers decided the only way to outdo themselves was with an old theater pipe organ. They eventually found one in a Fond du Lac, Wisconsin theater. It was later replaced with an even bigger organ, a Barton 3 manual 14 rank organ. That one came from the Paramount Theatre in Hamilton, Ohio. It was mounted on a platform that would dramatically rise up out of the stage, and the organist would lead diners in a sing-along or play a game of “Name That Tune.”

Today, that organ plays on at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, where it’s used for concerts and silent film accompaniment.

Sally’s served up other entertainment too – magicians, mentalists, comedians, dancers, ventriloquists and singers. Amateur night was another big draw – anyone was invited to get up on stage and share their talents, however questionable. Patrons could send singing telegrams, or “Sally-O-Grams,” to other diners. It even had roller-skating hosts and a skating track around the dining area!

The concept was successful enough that the Bortz brothers opened a second Sally’s Stage in Lombard. But when the economy ran into trouble in the early ‘80s, so did Sally’s Stage. Joe Bortz said that the blue-collar families that were the restaurant’s mainstays just weren’t going out anymore, and the Bortzes sold the business in 1983. The new owners tried to revive Sally’s Stage, but that fizzled too, and the curtain closed for good on Sally’s Stage in 1986.

Our thanks to Joe Bortz for the photos they shared with us for this story.

sally o gram

Sally-O-Gram, Sally's Stage not only famous for its Barton Theater pipe organ, roller skating hosts and hostesses, sing-a-longs, pizza and ribs, but also famous for the Sally-O-Gram which could be delivered by a messenger in various costumes.