Sue Morrow: ‘If You Knew Sally’ is a nourishing read
For the Nevada Appeal
I just finished reading the most delightful book about one of the most delightful women I have ever known.
Aptly titled “If You Knew Sally,” the book is about Sally Heiss, who, with her husband, Hank, owed and operated the immensely popular Heiss’ Hof Brau, later renamed Heiss’ Steakhouse for nearly three decades starting in 1969. It was located on East Telegraph Street across from what is now the Paul Laxalt Building.
My knowledge of Sally was limited to my patronage at the restaurant, which was widely known for its friendliness, lively bar, scrumptious food and
entertainment, including a piano bar where Sallly belted out her signature bawdy songs and other favorites.
I never knew any details of her early life but learned via the book that she had been born to an unwed mother who had been raped by a family friend and given up for adoption immediately after birth and had suffered from polio. The disease left her wearing braces on her legs and using crutches until her indomitable spirit and determination spurred her to discard the offending braces and walk on her own.
The book, written by Sally’s son-in-law, Rex Sicka, gives a fascinating portrayal of a woman who never gave up and has always lived life to the fullest
and on her own terms, never surrendering to adversity.
As a child, she was told by her polio physician that her life would be limited and that she could never bear children. She later had five children. When she developed polyps in her throat, a specialist told her she would never sing again, something that meant the world to the immensely talented singer.
But she he successively pursued her singing career. At 82, she continues to sing, although it is now limited to karaoke nights instead of the big stages on which she used to appear.
The book is partially fiction, intertwining the story line with a tale of a couple who seek to learn about her. But the part about Sally and Hank and
their children is strictly a true account of their lives. Hank died of cancer in Washington state about 10 years ago. Sally three years ago married a
man named Arvon Edward “Ed” Pfeifle. They live in Boise, Idaho.
“If You Knew Sally” is a wonderful account of her fascinating and eventful life. She met Hank, a handsome, intelligent man, when he returned from Germany after World War II. It was love at first sight for the 17-year-old Sally and 21-year-old Hank, and they soon married. Hank was to attend a
watchmaking school, and he later obtained good jobs plying his craft at upscale jewelry businesses.
Sally had an unmistakable passion for music and sang with big bands and piano bars throughout the Seattle region, including the Seattle Philharmonic and performances at the University of Washington’s series of Broadway shows.
One of her biggest disappointments was in 1962, when the World’s Fair was to begin in Seattle. Sallly was scheduled to perform in the restaurant-showroom of a restored paddleboat, a surefire way to expose her to her rousing energy and entertainment style. She was fitted for six evening gowns to showcase her and the paddleboat.
One week before the grand opening of the paddle boat, it sunk in Lake Union, “taking Sally’s shot on the big stage with it,” wrote author Sicka.
Hank, usually out of the limelight, made national headlines when, during a particularly heavy snowstorm, he was forced to park his car in front of a parking meter at the restaurant. His coins wouldn’t go in because the meter was frozen. He got no reprieve for the ticket he received, so he took his $1 fine – a silver dollar encased in a block of ice – to the courthouse.
Sallly, Hank and Heiss’ Steakhouse will be missed forever.
• Sue Morrow is a longtime journalist and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. She may be reached at soozymorrow at Yahoo.com.