A Bear to Remember

Roy H. Schmalz was born and reared in Patricksburg, Owen County.  When he was 12 years old he traded a pig for a gun.  His father instructed him in the use of the fire arm.  That was the beginning of Roy’s lifelong love of hunting.

After owning general stores in Patricksburg and New Market, Roy moved with his wife, Marie, and their three children to Bloomington.  On April 22, 1926, Roy opened Schmalz’s Department Store at 213 N. Walnut which was at the time a one-room furniture store.  Roy was one of the Midwest’s outstanding sportsmen, and he adorned the walls of his new store with many of his hunting and fishing trophies.

Although the original store consisted of a relatively small space, the business had expanded three times by 1948 on the occasion of its 22nd anniversary and was selling goods from five distinct departments:  men and boys’ wear; shoes; domestics; ready-to-wear and sporting goods.  It was the first store east of the Mississippi Rover to sell Levi jeans.

schmaltz
This picture, taken c. 1926, was sold by Coffey Realty and Auction, January 2007.

Two employees, Mrs. Ruby Welborn and Charles Neal had by that time been with the company since it opened.  Roy was still the manager and was aided by his two sons, Richard and James, and his son-in-law, J. Warren Fox.

Among the most memorable of Roy’s trophies was a 9’4” Kodiak bear from Alaska, the undisputed king of North American game.  After being mounted it was delivered to the Bloomington store where it was discovered that he was too large to go through the door.  Many hours later, thanks to the efforts of a carpenter, the bear finally reached a respected place of honor.

In 1988 when the store closed, the 1,200 pound bear was donated to the Monroe County History Center where it is on permanent display.  Seth Thomas did a short video clip of the bear and its history for the Bloomington Herald Times.  That video and several interesting photographs of the bear can be viewed online.

Roy died in Bloomington on April 9, 1968, at the age of 91, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Blog by Randi Richardson

Sources:

Bloomington (IN) World Telephone, April 22, 1948, p. 1.

Seth Thomas video clip. 2018.

Schmalz’s Department Store, http://www.bloomingpedia.org/wiki/Schmalz%27s_Department_Store.

“Hunting the World Over,” Indianapolis Star Magazine,  January 10, 1960, p. 38+.  Available online at https://www.newspapers.com/image/106033198/