The IGA Years: A Personal Ghost

January 10, 2019

I don’t mention the IGA as often as I once did, or its proprietors Lola and Bernie Schumacher, my aunt and uncle. When I do I tend not to explain who they were or where the IGA was for that matter. I reckon that people remember, but in all fairness, I will admit that this probably is no longer so.

Health issues forced Bernie and Lola to sell the grocery business they worked hard, for more than 25 years to build.  By 1969 the business, Bernie’s IGA Foodliner was gone from Main Street and from our family. This was a hard adjustment for them and

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

for us as well. The store was gone and we really didn’t know just how to act. The store itself, our old friend and home away from home, didn’t seem to care at all. It went on, changing its name to Merrifield’s Market and affiliating with Spartan Stores.

My association with “the store” is a complicated one. One of the apartments above the grocery was my first home and the store became what I apparently thought to be a dandy playground. My learning at a young age to open the door, descend the long stairs and head for my beloved Uncle Bernie in the meat market, precipitated our move to Blevins Street.

I’m sure that there was rarely a day when I did not visit the Store growing up. Like Jack, I learned early to keep the paper bags filled, face shelves and sweep; all things I loved to do. And of course I learned very early how to bag groceries, all the while wishing to be older so that I could have more important duties and eventually be a cashier.

From the time it was half the size of Bernie’s and known as the Marion Food Market, the Schumacher’s employed high school kids and young adults. More Marion kids and folks than even I know had jobs at the grocery. “Kids” like Peter Stine, Tom Wilson, Jim Kelley, John Damoth Sr. and Joyce Hubbard (Kelley) from the 1950’s and early ‘60’s. And kids from my era, like the late Keith Patterson and Jon Luse; Tom Miller, Ted Parkhurst, Larry Chappell, Larry Colberg, Gary Miller and many others. Jack’s wife, Barbara Colberg and Joyce Hubbard Kelley were long time cashiers.

It was at the Store where I was introduced to the people who helped to make the Marion, Michigan of that time. As a little girl and into grade and high school I was at the Store, after school and often in the summer. I spent hours standing next to my aunt, doing whatever needed to be done. I also met a lot of folks, Marion folks. Many of them knew who I was before I knew them. My aunt was a Marion native who had worked in retail grocery her whole working life, beginning in the 1930’s when she was a teen and employed by Lee Duddles at the Clover Farm Store, just up the street. She knew everyone.

I credit my aunt and my grandmother, Fern, for acquainting me with the folks I was lucky to meet. When introducing me they would always explain who the person was, and often their accomplishment, or family relationship.

I well remember a few of these meetings. When I was perhaps 12, Don Sischo, Betty Dunn’s dad and an early 1900’s Michigan photographer from the glass plate days, moved to Winterfield to be near his daughter and to get to know her large family.
Sischo was what was called a character then and would be called such now. When my aunt introduced us, he was wearing a hat, whose style I don’t know, a lightweight nylon shirt, neutral colored work pants, wire rimmed glasses and perhaps a hearing aid was clipped to his pocket. He was in his 70’s and walked right along but with a bit of a stoop and when seen afield he carried a walking stick.

Mr. Sischo had missed a lot of time with his daughter and did not know all of his grandchildren. He was happy enough to be in Marion but really liked to talk of his travels elsewhere through the years.

I pass the tumbling carcass of his little house nearly each day. Unwittingly, D.C. Sischo still lives in my memory. Apparently that meeting in the IGA, next to the ‘Out’ door, made quite an impression on me. I still haven’t figured out why. Maybe his is one of those stories which want to be told.

D.C. Sischo photo of the Marion Elevator, ca 1910’s. Fifty years later when Sischo returned to Marion the elevator had not changed much. Photo included in the photo book, Marion, Michigan:A Photographic History 1890-1950. 

D.C. Sischo photo of the Marion Elevator, ca 1910’s. Fifty years later when Sischo returned to Marion the elevator had not changed much. Photo included in the photo book, Marion, Michigan:A Photographic History 1890-1950.

Look out. I reckon that this talk of the IGA days is not done. To me it is recent history, even though it is not. This might be a kettle of fish and it may be a lot of good stuff. Time will tell.

And PLEASE, if you are a former IGA employee, or your relative was, kindly drop me a line or give me a call. In this connected world I know you can find me.  We may already be Facebook friends!



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