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/

 

Elks Lodge Celebrates 150th Anniversary

According to an article submitted to the Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times and published on February 13, 2018, on the occasion of the lodge’s 150th anniversary, there are more than 1,900 Elks lodges across the country with a total membership of nearly 800,000.  Of that number, 235 members belong to the Bloomington lodge.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) Lodge No. 446 in Bloomington, Monroe County, was instituted on June 16, 1898.  Two years later the organization purchased the “commodious, brick residence of Aaron Rose on South Walnut Street” for the lodge’s new home.  A two-story extension for “amusement rooms” was added in 1905.

As the population of Monroe County grew, so did the Elks membership.  By 1921, they had nearly outgrown their existing home.  With an eye to the future, they purchased the property of Dr. P. C. Holland at Walnut and Seventh Street as a site for a new home.  Unfortunately, it was some years later before they had the money to construct a building.

A committee of the Bloomington Elks members was established in 1928 to put together a prospectus for the proposed new home.  They intended to have a meeting of all Monroe County Elks to decide on just what they wanted in the way of a new club house.  It was expected that $50,000 would be raised at the meeting.  A dozen men had already promised to give from $500 to $1,000.

In the midst of the fundraising, our country fell under a Great Depression from which it took several years to recover.  Meantime, in 1932, a decision was made to remodel their existing home with new paint, new draperies and some new furniture including a new pool table.

It wasn’t until 1938 that the Elks completed the existing building that they yet call home.  Through the years, however, it seemed to have outlived its usefulness and was in need of many expensive updates to make it modern.  For a while there was even talk of razing the building and constructing a new one.  But in 2009 the City Council took the necessary steps to protect the building by having it designated as a historic structure.  Today it is a visible reminder of Bloomington’s heritage.

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Sources:

Bloomington (IN) Courier, March 13, 1900, p. 1.
Bloomington (IN) Telephone, April 14, 1905, p. 1.
Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone, May 19, 1921, reprinted in Sands of Time, Bloomington Herald Telephone, May 19, 1971.  (See Reel 12, Local History Microfilm     Collection, Monroe County Public Library)
Bloomington (IN) Telephone, March 28, 1928, p. 1.
Bloomington (IN) Telephone, March 2, 1932, p. 1.
Bloomington o(IN) Herald Telephone, February 24, 1951, p. 11.
Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times, April 20, 2009, pp. A1+.
“Demolition Delay” City of Bloomington Common Council, Legislative Packet, Regular Session, October 21, 2009.
Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times, February 13, 2008, p. B7