Though not a terribly common name, there are a lot of Bollers out there. Ancestry.com claims to have 72,000 Boller family records in its database, with 25,000 Boller family trees! WOW!
As we mentioned at the outset of Our Boller Story, the name Boller -also Böller – is of South German and Swiss German origin – and it can have two different meanings.
First, a Boller is a name given to someone who came from any of several German communities named Boll – such as (see map above) Bad Boll. Boll is derived from the Middle High German topographic word – bolle, and it means ‘a rounded mound or hill’ or ‘a round container’. In Middle Low German, bolle can mean ‘anything ball shaped’.
Second, in South German and Swiss German, bollen means ‘to bluster’. So a Boller can be a nickname for ‘a noisy, blustery person, place or thing’. Yup, Winnie the Pooh knows what that’s like!
Boller is used in other languages as well. In Hungarian, Böllér is an occupational name for a butcher’s apprentice. In Norway, a boller is a sweet bread, and instead of just being a simple yeast dough that is lightly sweetened, cardamom is added to spice it up!
So, now that I’ve introduced you to the six generations of Bollers in my family line, let me bring you some stories about other Bollers out there who made a name for themselves around the turn-of-the-century.
First up – let’s venture out east to South Beach on Staten Island. South Beach is a neighborhood on the East Shore of Staten Island, New York City, situated directly south of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge (see map above).
South Beach on Staten Island thrived around the same time as the heyday of New York’s Coney Island. The 15-acre Happyland Amusement Park, an enclosed park with numerous attractions and landscape features, opened on June 30, 1906, to a crowd of 30,000 people. Upon its opening, the park contained a beachfront of 1,000 feet, a 1,500-foot pier, and a 30-foot-wide boardwalk, as well as a system of over 10,000 lights. The park’s rides included a circle swing, a magnetic house, a foolish house (fun house), a L.A. Thompson miniature railroad, an airship ride, a carousel, and a Shoot the Chute – a revolving 190-foot-tall tower. One source adds that “fortune tellers, card printers, and photography studios” began to open very close to the park, and by mid-1907, the park was seeing 20,000 patrons each summer weekend!
The Roller Boller Coaster Company was incorporated in 1906, and by the following year – 1907 – the all-wooden coaster was operating at Happyland. Based on the success of penny postcards featuring the new attraction, this Boller entertainment ride was quite popular.
(P-0372) The company quickly expanded in 1907 into Connecticut as well, building a Roller Boller Coaster at Savin Rock Park – which was known as Connecticut’s Coney Island in West Haven (see map above). Established in the 1870’s, and renamed The White City in the 1890’s, Savin Park included a number of roller coasters, other rides and numerous funhouses. By 1919, the park – now called Savin Rock Amusement Park – was attracting 1.2 million visitors each year!
Back in New Jersey, 1919 was a difficult year for Happyland – when a devastating fire swept through park, killing one woman, destroying 40 buildings, including the Roller Boller Coaster, and causing up to $200,000 in damage. Sadly, we don’t know the names of the Bollers who operated the Roller Boller Coaster Company, nor do we know when the coaster in Connecticut closed, but based on the color postcard below – it must have remained operating at Savin Rock well into the early 1960’s.
Bottom line – while we don’t know which Bollers started Roller Boller Coaster in 1906, it’s obvious that they took our ’rounded hill’ concept to a whole new dimension!
(BH-145) We don’t know much about the back story on this colorful little book from the turn-of-the-century – but J. Boller on 24 Ann Street in New York City published Boller’s Pantomine Book – using a printer in Germany to produce this unique classic. The inside pages are all cut in such a way that you can pick the way you want each character to dress up. A fun little kids’ adventure with some pretty spooky looking faces! Have fun!
Boller Beverages was located at 441 E. Jersey Street (pic below) in Elizabeth, New Jersey and was established in 1886 by German immigrants – Frank X. Boller and his wife, Ottilie Grimm. Starting out with both a saloon and a bottled mineral water business, the Bollers eventually moved to producing carbonated beverages in a variety of flavors.
Frank X. Boller was born on June 3, 1857 in Baden, Landkreis Verden, Lower Saxony, in northern Germany (see map below) near Bremen. Our Boller Family came from the area around Mainz – located in today’s southwestern Germany, so chances are, we are not close relatives, but yes, we are both from the ancient states of Germany.
In 1886, the same year that Frank opened his tavern in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Boller married Otillie Grimm – born on December 15, 1858 – and we are assuming that the marriage occurred in America, since we know – from the 1910 census below – that Frank came to America in 1884.
Frank & Ottilie had three children – Frank H. (1887-1969), Edward O. (1892-1954) and Martha B. (1899-1995). Frank, Jr., the oldest son, graduated from Rutgers College in 1908 with a degree in organic chemistry, and became president of Boller Beverages when his father died in 1911. Edward went on to serve as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War I, while Martha (below)- who also went by the name Bertha – went to on marry a very successful physician and surgeon – Dr. George Knauer (below).
Over the years, Boller Beverages had two different addresses on E. Jersey Street in Elizabeth. The 435 E. Jersey Street address (see pic below) is now a large empty lot. Our guess is that this is where the manufacturing plant was located, while the 441 E. Jersey Street address was the storefront for the Boller Tavern opened in 1886. Both addresses are used throughout the years on a variety of items.
Frank X. Boller died on June 14, 1911, at age 54, and his wife, Ottilie Boller, died on August 29, 1928, at age 69, and both are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, New Jersey.
(M-0048) (M-0047) Frank H. Boller took over the reins of Boller Beverages – keeping it successfully going until his death in 1969.
Some of the more fondly-recalled Boller flavors included creme soda, birch beer, and black cherry. Numerous fans over the years would comment on how Boller Ginger Ale was a staple in most homes – used as both a beverage for children – and for mixing in drinks.
Newspaper ads from the 1950’s featured a variety of Boller Beverage products, and the Boller Ginger Ale postcard promotion (below) from 1951 saved you 5-cents on a bottle!
Sadly, Boller Beverages went out of business sometime in the early 1990’s, and the factory was closed. Boller Beverages – gone, but not forgotten.
Carl H. Boller was born on October 31, 1868 in Cooper County, Missouri – just west of Columbia. 19 years later, on March 10, 1887, his younger brother – Robert O. Boller – was born in St. Joseph. Their parents – Charles W. and Pauline (Gritzmacher) Boller – raised nine children – 3 sons and 6 daughters – with both Carl and Robert finishing eighth grade at Ernst School in St. Joseph. Their eldest brother – William F. – was involved in vaudeville, and for a time, Carl joined Will’s troupe as a scenery artist.
Though neither Carl nor Robert received any formal training in the field, Carl began his work in architecture around 1902 in St. Joseph – doing layouts for vaudeville circuits – and by 1905, he owned his own architectural firm in Kansas City. At age 18, Robert joined his brother’s firm as an apprentice draftsman, and together they worked on a variety of projects, including nickelodeon theaters in Nevada during the 1907 Gold Rush.
During World War I, Robert served in the U. S. Corps of Engineers, and after the war, he returned to his brother’s firm, and around 1920, the name of the company became Boller Brothers. The movie boom of the 1920’s brought prosperity to the business, and in addition to their Kansas City office, Carl and Robert opened a second office in Oklahoma, and later, yet another one in Los Angeles! Both the Great Depression and World War II proved difficult for the Bollers, just as it did for other businesses, but the brothers continued together in their work – developing theater designs well into the mid-1940’s. After Carl’s death in Los Angeles in October of 1946, Robert kept the firm open until 1957, when he closed the office, moved to Dallas TX, where he passed in 1962.
Over their fifty-plus years in business, the Boller Brothers were responsible for, or consulted on, 46 different theaters – from Illinois to California – with facilities including the Midland Theatre (1927) and the Electric Theatre (1922), both in Kansas City, the Centre Theatre in Oklahoma City (1947), the Boulder Theatre in Boulder, Colorado (1906), the Kimo Theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico (1927), and the Missouri Theatre in the Boller’s hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri (1927). Thirteen buildings in total are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places – all of which are located in Kansas. Sadly, many of the other Boller Brother theatres have now been razed or modified, but you can find a complete list of Boller Brothers-designed theatres here.
In Goodview – a small Winona County community near Winona, Minnesota – just west of the mighty Mississippi River – you will find Bollers Lake.
How it got its name, and which Bollers it’s connected with – we don’t know. But apparently, Bollers Lake is a fairly good fishing spot, with the most popular species being caught – Large mouth bass, Northern pike, and Black bullhead. See ya’all at our lake! You bring the line, I’ll bring the pole!
So, there you have it. From a lake in Minnesota to a roller coaster company back East – from a popular soda pop distributor to a couple of well-known movie theater architects. One pretty entertaining group of Bollers!
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
Boller Name Meaning, Ancestry.com
Roller Boller Coaster Co., 15 Exchange Place, Jersey City, June 16, 1906, Corporations of New Jersey, p 607
Roller Boller Coaster – Eight forgotten roller coasters from all five boroughs!, The Bowery Boys
South Beach, Staten Island, wikiwand
Savin Rock Amusement Park, Wikipedia
Glimpse of History: A beverage most everyone remembers came from Elizabeth, Greg Hatala, September 2, 2013, NJ.com
Baden, Lower Saxony, Germany, Wikipedia
Baden, Achim, Landkreis Verden, Lower Saxony, Germany, Mindat.org
Frank Boller & Family, 433 E. Jersey St, 1910 United States Federal Census, Ancestry.com
Edward Oskar Boller, Martha Bertha Boller, U.S., Presbyterian Church Records, 1701-1970, Ancestry.com
Otillie Grimm Boller, Find-A-Grave
Carl and Robert Boller, Kansapedia, Kansas Historical Society
Movie Theaters Designed by Boller Brothers, Cinema Treasures
Robert Otto Boller, Find-A-Grave
Bollers Lake Topo Map in Winona County MN, Topozone.com
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