Friday, March 12, 2010

Becker's Department Store

   When my great-grandfather, Lou Becker, bought M. Linn Clothing in 1922, he changed the name to Becker's Department Store.   The store was located on Main Street and sold men and women's clothing.

   During Louis's life, he lived with his family on Second Street in the house next door to what had been the millinery shop.  Each morning, before walking the short distance to the store, Lou would check his appearance in the mirror.  He was a conscientious dresser and wanted to be sure that his clothing looked good and that his hat was straight.  He managed Becker's Department Store until his death in 1943.

                                        Lou Becker

   Upon Lou's death, his son-in-law, my grandfather, George H. Haitz, became the owner of the store.  During summer breaks from school, my mother and her sister worked there to earn spending money.

   During my summer visits to Ripley, my grandmother, my mother, and I would sometimes stop in the store on our walks to town.   We would walk down the Fourth Street hill, turn right onto Main, and walk on the sidewalk until we reached the steps of the store.  Once in the building, the wooden floors would creak as I looked for my grandfather among the clothes and shoes.  To the right was the women's section, the men's to the left.

   The glass-fronted cases held articles of clothing which would have to be taken out for a customer to examine.  Women's hosiery were in thin boxes for purchasing.  In the back of the store, a dressing room was handy to try on skirts, pants, or whatever the customer was in the market for that day.

             My grandfather dressed for work in the store.

   My grandfather did not work alone in the store.  The ladies he hired would make over me, exclaiming how much I had grown and, of course, as any child would, I loved it!   One of the ladies was my most favorite great-aunt, Elizabeth Haitz Steele.  She was my grandfather's sister and everyone called her Lib.     Another of the ladies was Rose Frebis.  As far as I know, she was of no relation to my family, but I loved seeing her on my visits to the store.   Many years later, right before I married, my grandfather took me to see Rose.  She was 83 years old and she still made over how much I had grown!  I guess some things never change!

   In 1969, my father received orders for Vietnam.  It was his second tour and my mother decided we would spend that year in Ripley close to family.  By then, Becker's Department Store had a new name, Lela's.  My grandfather had sold the store to a lady some years earlier.  With Becker's gone, my family's connection to the clothing industry, in this country anyway, came to a close, but for a little over one hundred years, the making and selling of men and women's apparel had put food on the tables and money in the pockets of those who counted on it for a living.  

These advertisements were in a February 1943 issue of The Ripley Bee.  They were some of the last ones that Louis would choose.  He died later that same year in May.

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