Ghosts of Main Street: Big Daddy’s Ghost

April 13, 2018

By Julie Traynor
Correspondent

April and her temper tantrum of snow throwing has us all wishing for better weather and all the good times associated with summer. Some have just returned from spring break in warmer climes and for those folks this must seem especially cruel. In another time even the strongest of us, who had no recourse but to tough the meanness of winter out, could snap; become thoroughly fed up with Mom Nature’s behavior, throw their arms up in despair and strike out through the snow for one of Marion’s watering holes.

The iconic and ever popular Big Daddy’s Ideal Bar was a port of call in many a foul weather storm. Everyone had friends at Big Daddy’s. Many would like to believe that this was the original place where ‘everyone knew your name’. Longtime owners, Jerry “Big Daddy” and Mae Benham were your genial hosts for many years. Choice.

Taken inside the Ideal Tavern - Lunches and Beer - about 1940. Left to right, seated Howard “Fuzzy” Willis, Mrs. Veeder, Bill Corner, and Ray Corner. 

Taken inside the Ideal Tavern – Lunches and Beer – about 1940. Left to right, seated Howard “Fuzzy” Willis, Mrs. Veeder, Bill Corner, and Ray Corner. 

What many Marionites always thought of as ‘the Ideal’ bar, has not always been so. In fact, fire has changed the look of businesses on this corner more than once in our history. The double front, three-story Hanover Opera House building stood on this corner   when the Great Fire of 1904 began. Needless to say, it did not survive. The rebuild here was a scaled down two story, two business building, hardware on one side, George Gray’s furniture and Undertaking on the other; the spot the Ideal would occupy. Fire also claimed this building. By the 1920’s a Peerless gas station occupied the corner and Ed Friend’s Store was next door. Friend sold a variety of goods; seed to dry goods.

Contrary to what we may have said before, this is a photo Big Daddy’s Ideal Tavern. This is one Main Street ghost whose legend will live on.

Contrary to what we may have said before, this is a photo Big Daddy’s Ideal Tavern. This is one Main Street ghost whose legend will live on.

In 1938 Veeder’s Ideal Café opened in Friend’s building. Their advertising stated ‘lunches and beer’ served. The next year it was sold to Ray Corner who owned the business for seven years. He sold to a Mr. Toomey, who sold to Harry Branch. The Benham’s became owners in the early 1960’s and operated Big Daddy’s Ideal for 35 years.

The stick built Friend building burned in 1952 and was replaced by the block structure fondly remembered by so many. After a successful run by Darrell Kelley, who purchased the business and building from Mae Benham in the late 1990’s, what was then known officially as Kel’s Main Street Eatery was demolished in November 2012 to make way for the new and larger Marion Shell.




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