Grunendike delivery prank, 1936

The Booth-Grunendike home — converted to Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery — in 2023 (SCHS)

The deliveries began at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 1936.

One after another, merchants, tradesmen, delivery people and cab drivers, even a veterinarian,  knocked on the door of the Grunendike home at 500 S. Sixth St. They brought cakes, milk, ice, coal, flowers, beer and a brand-new Buick to the bewildered Grunendikes.

They, of course, hadn’t ordered any of the stuff.

The flow of unwanted goods and services lasted all afternoon.

At one time four men stood on the front porch (the Illinois State Journal reported) while six others waited in the rear. Mrs. (Rose May) Grunendike answered the back door while Mr. Grunendike’s mother met delivery men at the front.

When Mr. Grunendike returned from the country, where he had been inspecting one of his farms, he found Mrs. Grunendike and his mother “nearly exhausted” after informing the callers that the orders were all a mistake.

The prankster — the deliveries apparently were an elaborate practical joke — had phoned merchants all over Springfield, identifying himself as investor/financier E. Booth Grunendike. In several instances, the caller described the orders as emergencies.

Four truckloads of coal arrived almost simultaneously from four different distributors. (The Grunendikes didn’t heat their house with coal; they were on the city’s steam-heat system.)

G.H.  Hennessy, florist, was told to deliver a huge basket of long-stemmed roses and to “pay no attention to cost.” It was, explained the telephone artist, Mrs. Grunendike’s birthday. (It wasn’t.)

Maldaner’s restaurant sent out a birthday cake and fifteen gallons of ice cream for the same event. The Community Bakers tried to deliver a huge cake ornamented with flowers.

Veterinarian A.E. Dickerson was called to deal with a mad dog. Two wreckers turned up expecting to tow a car damaged in an auto accident. Four cab drivers knocked on the Grunendike door.

“A Buick salesman,” the Journal reported, “appeared with a car which, he said, Mr. Grunendike had ordered.”

A Sangamon Dairy worker brought 10 quarts of milk. Then Producers Dairy pulled up with 16 more. The milk presumably was to be chilled, along with the ice cream, by several hundred pounds of ice, which arrived from CIPS.

A messenger tried to deliver an order of whiskey. Three separate truckloads of bottled beer arrived later. A prospective tenant asked to look at the room the Grunendikes supposedly had for rent.

Vestiges of the joke carried over to the next day, even though by then the Journal had published a front-page story about the wave of deliveries: A Paris Cleaners route man called on the Grunendikes to pick up several suits for cleaning, and a jobseeker inquired about Booth Grunendike’s purported need for a janitor.

The prankster was never publicly identified.

“Last night,” the Journal said in its story, “Mr. Grunendike was at a loss to name the author of the scheme. He expressed the hope that merchants receiving unusual orders in the future would check on them before making delivery. He added that he would not, in any case, be responsible for payment of the goods and services.”

E. Booth Grunendike

E. Booth Grunendike, 1941 (Courtesy SJ-R)

Edward Booth Grunendike, who went by “E. Booth” (1890-1956), sold insurance and owned and managed a large farm on the site of today’s Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport. He also lent money for mortgages.

Grunendike’s mother was Mary Booth Grunendike (1865-1967), the daughter of Asa Booth (1835-1924), a prominent Springfield wagonmaker and financier.  Grunendike’s father, Edward Howell Grunendike (1856-1934), was a dispatcher for the Wabash Railroad.

The house at 500 S. Sixth St. (the southeast corner of Sixth and Jackson streets) where the deliveries were made is thought to have been built in the 1870s. Asa Booth bought it in 1881, and members of the Booth and Grunendike families lived in the home until 1976.

In 2023, the mansion was the site of Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society. Learn how to support the Society. 

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