By Robert Lucke
by Robert Lucke
The Havre Daily News
Friday, May 7
In the back of Nalivkas Pizza Kitchen on First Street is quite an ordinary kitchen with a large window, cascading sunshine into the room, and giving a view of a back yard, apples blossoming, lilacs just starting to come out and a huge spruce tree. No wonder Vivian Nalivka enjoys cooking, being able to do it with a view like that.
But there is more to it than that. Consider this lady, who came to Havre with her parents when she was eight years old from a homestead north of Wolf Point, graduated from Northern Montana College, attended the University of Chicago, where she met her husband Paul, married and settled back in Havre after he got out of the service in 1945, and purchased a Ma-and-Pa grocery store in Havres east end. If that wasnt enough, they raised eight children and in 1957 introduced pizza to Havre. That would seem to be enough, but the story just begins there.
You know we came here when I was eight years old. My father was a special agent with the railroad and we grew up in the depression and learned a lot about the value of things, Nalivka said. I think of my mother. She was a loving, loving mother.
After attending Northern Montana College, Vivian went from 1940 to 1943 to the University of Chicago where she studied social studies with a major in recreation. There she married her husband, who was in the armed forces. For awhile she followed him from base to base in the United States until he shipped out to the European Theater. After that, she came back home to Havre to wait for him.
Nalivka wondered after World War II if her Chicago-born husband would ever get used to Havre and the west.
That first winter Paul was here, it was kind of rough because the weather was not like anything he had been used to, Nalivka said. But you know, the reason he liked Havre so much was that the people were so friendly and he was a people person. It was not at all like he was used to in the East.
The Nalivkas had nine children but lost one in 1951. There is still a wound to this day, but Nalivka thinks it made her and the family stronger.
You go through the hard experiences and you have so much empathy for others and their hard experiences, Nalivka said. You know, we never had just our own kids, that is one reason I got into Girl Scouting.
In 1955, the Nalivkas bought the Model Grocery and added a deli case to the store. They served chickens, potato salad and beans, mostly on weekends.
I remember one Sunday I fried 47 chickens, said Nalivka. And of course, our children grew up with food one way or another.
That food work must have paid off. To this day, seven of Nalivkas children are in food service or retired from it, even though those years at the Model Grocery were years of struggle.
Its been years of struggle for us, said Nalivka. But you know, hard times bind your family and my family is as supportive of each other as they have ever been.
Nalivka learned early that love was the foundation of their family. Along with that, she was learning that the men at the Air Force Base north of Havre were asking for a strange new food called pizza. That was in 1957. Nalivkas went to Grandma Granier and had her cook them a pizza, then took a trip to Chicago, came back with a pizza oven and recipes and the rest is Havre history.
The pizzas were not without problems, too.
Our store hours conflicted with the pizza hours, Nalivka said with a smile. We opened the store at 7 a.m. and finished the last pizza after 10 p.m. That was too long, so we moved to the Patera Tailor Shop on First Street and started making pizzas and subs and catering.
Pizza wasnt an instant success, Nalivka admitted.
We still sold plenty of baked beans and chicken, but the boys at the Air Base bought lots of pizza.
The Nalivka children and friends all worked in the business, which was an extension of their family.
And at the same time, for 35 years, Nalivka had time to be a mother, camp director, and cook for the Girl Scout camps in Beaver Creek Park.
And now, coming full circle, Nalivka is in the Patera tailor shop location, still putting out pizzas, cookies and submarines, all with a goodly portion of love attached.
Being a mother, all of your life you feel the sad things your children go through and the happy things, said Nalivka with a smile. That is what The Lord put us here for. And it doesnt end with your children or your grandchildren. You need to love others as well.
And thats what Vivian Nalivka does so well.
Nalivka and pizza and Havre and Girl Scout FYI:
Most popular Nalivka pizza in 1957 Combination
Most popular Nalivka pizza in 1999 Combination
Cookies Girl Scouts like best Peanut butter
Best Girl Scout camp meal barbecue outdoors
Most embarrassing moment in food service Asked to do a reunion at Kiwanis Camp for 125 people and more than 300 showed up. Bought out everything in the Kiwanis Store and couldnt get food out from Havre quick enough. It was awful! Most embarrassing.
Most fond memories of food service in Havre I remember the opening of Triangle Telephone. There was a huge reception for everyone and they ordered food for 2,500. We made baked beans in everyones electric roasters in town I think, Vivian Nalivka said. That was one of the most fun things we ever did.