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Pospisil: Omaha's south side was always more than its nicknames
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Pospisil: Omaha's south side was always more than its nicknames

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The Brown Park subdivision in South Omaha, shown from Goat Mountain in 1915, also included Dog Hollow in the foreground.

An October snowstorm mangled and uprooted Omaha’s trees, flinging broken branches into power lines and leaving parts of the area powerless and shivering for days.

Dog Hollow, Goose Hollow, Frog Hollow, Goat Mountain.

When it comes to colorful Omaha neighborhood names, the city’s south side stands alone.

Certainly topography played its part. South of Dodge Street in the older sections of the city, east of 48th Street, there are hills and rills. It’s where the melting pot of immigrants settled to fill the factory and the stockyards jobs. The enclaves of Poles, Czechs, Croats, Irish, Lithuanians and more gave descriptive names to their neighborhoods.

Let’s start with Dog Hollow, which was in the Brown Park neighborhood near 17th and P Streets, and Goat Mountain, which was a block east. Part of the land has been used for Gomez Heritage Elementary School.

When Dog Hollow and Goat Mountain were in the news in the mid-1960s when a community renewal program was proposed, Omaha Sun Newspaper writer Gerald Lamberson consulted old-timers for the origin of the names.

Brown Park — the original 1887 plat was from 17th and Q Streets to the southwest — was home to a colony of immigrants from Bohemia. Many families clustered their homes in the hollows to help contain the heat in winter and maintain coolness in the summer.

The story goes, Lamberson said, that it was not unusual for a Czech settler to have two or three dogs — spitzes, German police or shepherds. “Since the homes were built in the winding hollows, it seemed logical for the dogs to roam in this habitat too — and so the name ‘dog hollow.’ And a common sight was seeing dogs running from tree to tree, sniffing, smelling … and on to the next tree.”

Goats were among the barnyard animals kept by the Bohemians. But because the hollows weren’t good grazing ground, boys would have to take the goats up on the hill and stake them out.

“There were so many goats on the hill that it soon became known as goat mountain.” And because their work was done once the goats were staked, the boys would bide their time playing sandlot ball. “These boys would belt the ball down the mountain, race around the paths and have a good time. Some of South Omaha’s better ball teams were formed on Goat Mountain.”

Goose Hollow was a Lithuanian neighborhood south of Q Street. Its boundaries were roughly 33rd to 36th Streets, T to V Streets. In 1955, South Omaha historian Mose McKeon told the South Omaha Sun about the geese and their fate. It seems paved streets hastened their demise.

Many of the Lithuanians raised geese as a source of income. Quite talkative at all hours, the birds roamed at will on the unpaved streets and alleys. Then the area was annexed and the roadways improved.

Said McKeon: “The geese, accustomed to walking upon dirt roads and unused to city ways, got sore feet from having to walk on the hard pavement. They did not thrive as they had before. Then automobiles came along and either scared the wits out of the geese or killed a lot of them. As a result, the raising of geese declined as an industry and the old name of Goose Hollow was almost forgotten.”

Frog Hollow was north of 33rd and L Streets. The following is my late colleague James Ivey’s description of Frog Hollow from an excellent 1976 special section he authored on South O:

“The water was cool and clear. It coursed through the ravine to turn south at what is now Dahlman Avenue. The water drew them, by the hundreds, after the turn of the century. They nailed up their shacks and moved in their families. Every day they got on the dummy train coming south of Sheelytown and rode to work in the packing plants. The valley was alive with frogs and they called it Zabno — Frog — Hollow. They remained there until the railroads evicted them and filled the ravine.”

Near Frog Hollow was Prohibition Hill, an oxymoron considering it was a saloon district.

Indian Hill, a name that has endured through an elementary school at 32nd and U Streets, also became known as Irish Hill. It was the area around St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 36th and Q Streets. McKeon, the area historian, claimed that the section originally was undesirable land.

“No one lived there except maybe a few hermits and a lot of jackrabbits,” he said in 1955. “The packing houses needed workers, so they imported a lot of Chicago ‘Indians.’ Not the … Indians of Nebraska. They settled up on the hill and used to come down to work out of the underbrush and weeds. Thus the district became known as Indian Hill.”

Other settlements on the south side included the Romanians, between P, Q, 33rd and 36th Streets; the Serbs, around 30th and S Streets; and the Greeks, at 22nd and P, 28th and R and 33rd and Q.

One more moniker was the notorious Bloody Corner at 28th and R Streets. In 1921 police records showed that there were eight murders in six years at that intersection with three “soft-drink parlors” (bars) and a fleabag hotel on each corner.

That South Omaha nickname deserved to fade away.


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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Email stu.pospisil@owh.com

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