Memorial service set for woman who cleaned up ‘Filth-n-Wine’

‘Her childhood was difficult and she just decided she needed to be in charge of herself.  She left the family center and launched out,’ a friend said.

*** UPDATED (Feb. 11, 2019): 

The life and legacy of an Oregon District pioneer will be celebrated during a special event this spring.

Terry Thielen said a memorial service honoring her mom Elizabeth Jo Thielen will be held 3 p.m. Sunday, May 19 on the patio of the Trolley Stop, 530 E. 5th St., Dayton.

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Jo Thielen purchased what is now the Trolley Stop when its location at Fifth Street and Wayne Avenue was known as “Filth-n-Wine.”

She is credited with help transforming it into an establishment that attracts a cross section of Dayton.

***ORIGINAL REPORT (Dec. 20, 2018): Trolley Stop founder dies: When coal miner’s daughter bought bar, she chased off 7 winos ‘sleeping upstairs’

In the mid-'70s, when her mom bought the business that would transform into the Trolley Stop, Terry Thielen said the dive was a favorite haunt of a "wino" known as Crazy Ray and Jukebox Betty, a hooker who used the bar's bathroom as a changing room.

>> Great photos of Trolley Stop founder Elizabeth Jo Thielen through the years 

“It is at Fifth and Wayne, but they used to call it ‘Filth-n-Wine,’” Thielen said of the Oregon District space that dates back to 1839 as a saloon.

It was the Pickle Barrel when Elizabeth Jo Thielen, Terry's mom,  bought it. Before that, what is thought to be the site of Montgomery County's oldest continually operating bar, was known as  Old Tavern, The Liquor Room and The Ace Restaurant.

Jo Thielen, who transformed the bar into the Trolley Stop, died Monday, Dec. 17, at Hospice of Dayton, her daughter said.

Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

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Born Betty Jo Nichols  Aug. 26, 1930 to  Lucille Rutledge and coal miner Nick Nichols, Thielen died at age 88.

Know as Jo to most, she was given the name Elizabeth after converting to Catholicism.

Terry Thielen said her mother’s remains will be cremated and a celebration of her life will be held in the spring at the Trolley Stop.

“When flowers are blooming and it is a time of renewal, we will come together and celebrate,” Terry said.


For a 1979 profile, Jo told Dayton Daily News writer Jim Nichols — a fixture at the Trolley Stop — that she decided to buy the bar after a few tears in the kitchen of her home

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Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

“I was in a mood,” the then-49-year-old recalled. “Sitting there thinking, ‘Is this all there is?’”

Then a homemaker and mother, Thielen and her husband, Don, decided to buy what she called “the slum building with a beer garden.”

"I had to chase out seven winos who were sleeping upstairs," she told Nichols. "This was really a rough place ... The contractor fixed all the bullet holes in the wall before I could stop him."
 Terry  said her mother always planned to  transform the business, but a shooting in the bar shortly after she purchased it pushed her to take action quickly.

Jo closed the place for a time and relaunched it as the Trolley Stop.

Terry  said her mother purchased what was to become the Trolley Stop’s party house from noted artist Busser Howell, now a New York resident.

The longtime resident of the Dayton Towers apartment building created what is now the pub's much-raved-about courtyard patio with her son, Michael Ganey. 

The patio helped the business increase its revenue.

Jo sold the business to current owners and former customers Robin and Chris Sassenberg about 20 years ago.

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The game room and the  raised trolley-like seating area with benches from the Maria Joseph convent are long gone,  but Terry, a Washington, D.C., resident, said her mother’s legacy still remains at Trolley Stop.

Trolley Stop founder Elizabeth “Jo” Thielen through the years :  

“They really kept the essence of what my mom created, a place where everyone was welcome. Everyone had a place at the table,” Terry said. “I think it was the original Cheers. We had weddings. We had funerals.”

She continued, “Everyone came there, lawyers, judges, DP&L workers. She even let some of the old winos hang out who had supported her.”

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Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

Terry, who worked for a time at the business, said her mother loved her staff, mostly women, and encouraged them to fulfill their dreams.

She offered health care before it was in vogue, and Terry recalled how a cart was turned into a bassinet that held a cook’s baby while she worked.

"She was really proud of the women who worked there and they were a real family for a while," Terry said. "She really loved them and she knew they were strong and very capable."

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Molly Kyne said she started working for Jo Thielen when she was 19 and eventually became the Trolley Stop's day manager.

Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

Credit: Dayton Daily News archive at Wright State University

She said Jo loved her unconditionally and gave her the personal attention she never received as one of 11 children in her own family.

Kyne said Thielen even helped her buy her first home when she was just 23.

“If you did something she didn’t approve of, she let you know. Once she sent me a bouquet of flowers with a card stating, ‘get your (act) together.’ To this day, I don’t know why, but when she asked me how I was doing recently, I told her I needed another bouquet of flowers with the same sentiment. She had a great sense of humor and we laughed often,” Kyne said.

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Kyne said Jo had good leadership skills and let her employees know they were needed.

“She helped me gain some confidence that I did not have,” Kyne said. “She was a serious businesswoman. She wanted  things to be done well. She had an eye for the  restaurant and  bar business and she really appreciated her employees.”

Kyne said Jo encouraged her workers to be the best they could be be.

Kyne was studying at Sinclair Community College while working at the Trolley Stop. She went on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at Wright State University.

She worked for AOL in the Washington, D.C., area for 15 years before returning to the Miami Valley.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The Spring Valley resident works in operations for an interior design firm.

Kyne said Jo  was supportive.

When they last spoke three or so weeks ago, Kyne said Jo reminded her that Kyne was the one to lead the charge to have draft beer dispensaries added to the Trolley Stop.

“She gave me that leeway,” Kyne said.


Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

After she left the Trolley, Terry said her mother went on a quest to improve herself and better understand her family.

She studied the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and traveled the world, falling in love with India.

“She was embarrassed of the fact that she didn’t have much education,” Terry, a Transition Advisor for the United States Agency for International Development, said of her mom. “She didn’t have much schooling, but she was the wisest person I knew.”

Terry said her mother was born in Carbon Hill, Ala., and raised mostly in the Crummies Creek coal camp near Harlan County, Ky.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

She was married for the first time at 16, had her son at 17, and divorced by 22, Terry said.

Jo moved here after being told there was work in Dayton. She worked for a time as a hairdresser at the Metropolitan in the Town and Country shopping center and eventually remarried.

“She had a pretty interesting journey from where she started to where she ended,” Terry said.


Sue McSherry met Jo Thielen at an Al-Anon meeting in the 1980s. The support group is for the families and friends of alcoholics.

In Thielen, McSherry said she found a kindred spirit.

“She was one of the most courageous women I knew,” McSherry said of her friend.

“Her childhood was difficult and she just decided she needed to be in charge of herself. She left the family center and launched out.”

McSherry said Jo was a very lovely and very kind person who was up for an adventure.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

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McSherry recalled their trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, and how her friend was generous enough to lend her the money for the trip.

At first, both had raging headaches due to the altitude, but they ended up having a “fabulous” time.

“She was easy to be with,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

McSherry said Thielen was not religious, but had faith in the universe and her place in it.

“The universe supports us. I can lean on that support and I can make it, too,” McSherry said of her friend’s philosophy. “She just was a woman that was convinced that she was capable and her capabilities were going to be enough to take care of her. She didn’t look down. She didn’t look up and she didn’t look back any more than she had to. She just moved forward.”

McSherry said Jo was wise to the world because she needed to be for herself and for her family.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“I just don’t know many women who would could pick themselves up by the boot straps as quickly and often as Jo did,” McSherry said.

Jo Thielen's survivors include her daughters, Terry and Tama Thielen; her son, Michael Ganey; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, Terry Thielen said the family would like donations in her mother's name made to Hospice of Dayton, the Southern Poverty Law Center or the ACLU. 

Tobias Funeral Home is handing funeral arrangements.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

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