Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: A chip off the old Block

Bob Peters Bernie and Julie Sept 25 1950

It’s no secret that I am fond of old things and have, through the years, gathered a rather unusual collection of bits and pieces of Marion memorabilia. For example, I have a galvanized piece from a windmill ‘tail’ with Morton’s Hdw. Co. painted on it. The Marion, Mich. portion was cut away and nailed to a barn in the 1950’s. Morton’s Hardware Co. was an early institution on Main Street for more than half of the last century. At one time they were the distributors of this windmill.
A larger treasure, and one I value highly, is a cupboard that was part of the fixtures at the Sinclair station during my dad’s proprietorship (1950-1964). It is made from pine and once had glass doors. It still bears its old Sinclair dark green paint, which is in great shape thanks to my mom. Rather than cans of motor oil and gas treatment, it now holds books and the like in my office. The only oil can it knows today is a Sinclair green one from the 1930’s, and it’s full of advertising pens, among them one from Berry’s Service.
Some of my favorite things are survivors from Berry’s Service and Bernie’s IGA; dad’s business and the grocery across Main from the gas station. Bernie’s was owned by my aunt and uncle, Lola and Bernie Schumacher, for twenty-five years, 1943-1968. The ‘store’ was the former Piper and Lowry building, built in 1905. The Lowry side of the building had always been a grocery store. The Piper side sold dry goods. They became one business floor in 1956, and Marion’s version of the modern supermarket was born, complete with the first automatic door in town.
The store was like home to me, and in fact, one of two apartments above the grocery side of the building, was my parents Marion home when I was born. We moved to Blevins Street after I learned to walk and would escape, and descend the long staircase to the grocery below. I knew cookies and bologna awaited me along with my much loved aunt and uncle. We may have eventually moved from town, but I never really left the store until I went away to school. Many of my growing up memories involves the IGA. But that’s a different story…
When Bernie and Lola sold the store it was time to clear away years of the grocery business and our family claimed bits and pieces. Perhaps one of the oddest things I claimed was the maple wrapping shelf from one end of the service meat cooler. It was seldom used and was removed. I have carted it around, as an indestructible cutting board/hot dish rest, and above all, memory holder, for lo these 50 plus years. I will explain. When Uncle Bernie reached into the said cooler to retrieve a Farmer Peet hotdog for me (and many other kids through the years), he laid it on a sheet of waxed paper on that shelf and cut it into several pieces. It was easily reached by short kids.
When I acquired a taste for Michigan Brand cottage cheese, sold in bulk from the same case, he served it up in a small paper meat tray and a plastic Dairy Queen spoon. This treat meant that I got to sit on the butcher block, at grown-up level, to eat it.
When I was older and worked with my uncle in the meat market, he liked to tell folks of how I danced on the block when I was very little, and followed him through MacKersie Brothers big coolers full of beef sides, slapping each one as he did. Then he’d laugh his hearty laugh and shake his head. I always say I feel as though I absorbed the meat market stuff rather than it being learned. Either way, it is a skill which has served me well and continues to do so. I still use his pickled bologna and sausage recipes.
The Schumacher’s sold to the Jim Merrifield’s, who left IGA for the Spartan brand. They in turn sold to Bruce and June Kime just a few years later. Kime’s operated the grocery for more than 10 years until they sold to the ill-fated Bennett’s, who tied the business and building up in their bankruptcy. By the time Kime’s regained the building, it was never to be a grocery store again. The Kime’s, after several rental businesses, sold the building to Artesian Medical Center more than 10 years ago.
Somewhere along the way, Bruce and June, whose turn it was to clean out more years of the old grocery, opted to leave the massive Piper and Lowry safe as all before them, but took the old butcher block home.
As Bruce told me, “The Ashby boys were working for me then. Each one of them just grabbed a corner and carried it out!” They installed it in their walk-out basement family room. June had it sanded along the way and they enjoyed the unique island for years.
Fast-forward to somewhere in the 1990’s. After we moved home, I reminisced with June Kime about the store and some of the fixtures, in particular the butcher block. She told me it was well loved and assured me that if they were ever going to sell it, she would call. Six weeks ago my phone rang. It was June calling to say that Uncle Bernie’s block needed to come home if I still wanted it.
My resounding “Yes!” proved to be the easiest part of moving the 80 year old, 400 lb, solid-maple block from Kime’s walk-out to ours. I will make a long story short and offer up a most hardy and emphatic thank you!! to Trent Mitchell and Dave Swiler, who so graciously said yes to June Kime when she asked for a hand moving something. They helped the Gardener put that “something” in our trailer, and they did it like professionals! We happily hauled it home to our garage.
Two weeks later and we send another big thank you!! goes out to our neighbors, Tim and Julie Jenkins and his expertise in unloading our maple beast. Tim is a professional in this department. So, with great help from our friends, Uncle Bernie’s butcher block is installed in its new home with its old family. I’ll let you know if and when I decide to dance on it.

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