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Apr 20

Spitler Grocery Huckster Truck, Willshire, Ohio

Today, a photo of a huckster truck [1] from Spitler Grocery in Willshire, Ohio.

Spitler Grocery, Willshire, Ohio, Huckster Truck

I do not know when the photo was taken nor who was driving the truck. The driver may have been a Spitler or he may have worked for the Spitlers. Does he look familiar to anyone?

Driver of Spitler Grocery huckster truck, Willshire, Ohio

Our best guess on the age of the truck is that it dates from the late-1920s through mid-1930s. The truck may not have been new when they used it. Back then they made things last and used things for quite some time.

Spitler Grocery huckster truck, Willshire, Ohio

The truck had obviously stopped at someone’s home and it looks like the lady of the house is browsing and shopping in the back of the huckster truck. She is wearing a skirt and black lace-up shoes but her face is hidden.

When I enlarged the photo I noticed a mailbox on the far left. It looks like H Hoblet, R 1, Box 35. William H. Hoblet? He lived south of Willshire, in Blackcreek Township, Mercer County.

Mailbox, where Spitler truck has stopped

I remember my mother talking about Spitler’s Grocery and I figured her older sister, my aunt Amy, would remember their grocery, too. So I called Amy to see what she remembered about the store. Amy has a good memory and she does remember Spitler’s Grocery and recalls that it was located where Willshire Home Furnishings is today.

Amy said that Spitler’s did have a huckster truck and it would stop by their house east of Willshire when she was a child. She believes that her mother, my grandma Hilda Schumm, sold or traded eggs to them.

I did a little searching myself and from Glenn I. Spitler’s 1973 obituary I learned a little about the grocery and their family:

Brothers Glenn and Jessie Spitler owned and operated the Spitler Grocery Store in Willshire. They had purchased the store from their father in 1938 and Glenn retired from the grocery business in 1967.

Glenn was a lifelong resident of Willshire, born in Willshire on 13 October 1898, the son of William and Elsie (Byers) Spitler. Glenn married Rose Belle Brannon [sic] [should be Brandon] on 31 March 1923. Glenn died 9 April 1973 and is buried in the Willshire Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, his brother Jessie, and two sisters, Mrs. Miles Ross, Willshire, and Mrs. Mary Taylor, Columbus. [2]

So, the man in the photo, driving the truck, could be William Spitler, Glenn Spitler, Jessie Spitler, or someone else.

My aunt Amy also told me that her mother Hilda had a cream separator and that she sold her cream to none other than Mary Stetler! This would probably have been around 1940, give or take a couple years. Amy said that Mary would drive out to their farm and pick up grandma Hilda’s cream. Mary’s store at that time was where Doc Osborn’s office was years later. I believe that would be west of where the old hotel stood.

How interesting that we were just talking about Mary’s good ice cream this past week and that I also have a connection to it, way back when. I would love to have some of her rich ice cream right now!

 

[1] A huckster truck carried food and a wide variety of small articles for sale door-to-door on a regular basis, usually every week or two. From the 19-teens through the Great Depression hucksters traveled door-to-door in horse-drawn wagons and later in motorized trucks.

Huckster trucks carried food, small household items, yard goods, and sewing notions. They had staples such as coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, and spices. Since most of the family’s food came from the farm or was made at home, items like store bought cookies and bread were a luxury and a treat.

The farmer could also trade items with the huckster. The huckster would take the farmer’s homegrown items such as eggs, cheese, and even live chickens in trade. Hucksters carried empty crates and containers to hold and transport the farmer’s trade items.

[2] Van Wert Times Bulletin, 9 April 1973, p.2, Glenn I. Spitler obituary; Newspapers.com, accessed 19 Apr 2018.

16 comments

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  1. Tom Reichard

    Tom Reichard’s grandfather, Carl Weinman drove a huckster wagon but we think the one he drove was out of Schumm. He and Ester resided in Schumm all their lives. Carl had many different jobs in Schumm. I don’t think I can attach a picture here but I will send one to you via email. Tom looked at the picture but doesn’t think it is his Grandpa. He doesn’t think it is Jess or Glen Spitler.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Deb Reichard

    1. Karen

      Thanks for that information. Amy didn’t remember Carl Weinman stopping by their farm but it seems there were quite a few huckster trucks around then.

  2. Kenny

    We had Spitler stop at our farm also. I think Heffner from Chat also had a wagon. Mom used to trade eggs for baking essentials. We always hoped she had enough eggs to buy a few pieces of candy.

    1. Karen

      I did not realize Spitler’s stopped at the Miller farm. I thought the hucksters from Chatt (Merkle, Heffner, Egger) probably stopped there. Interesting. I am sure the kids always looked forward to having a candy treat.

  3. Dawn Strickler

    I have the basket my dad had on his bike from when he delivered groceries for Spitlers! Love this article, thanks Karen. My maternal grandfather was William Keneth Hoblet.

    1. Karen

      That basket would be very special! Of course I love those types of family heirlooms! Thanks for writing.

  4. Andy Gappa

    I do have a family photo of the William Edgar Spitler family as William’s wife was Elezan Byer and I’m a Byer genealogist. When I look at the photo and compare it to the driver of the truck, I think he has the hallmarks of Jesse Christopher Spitler. I’ll try to send you a copy of the Spitler family via e-mail and maybe you can post it. I also have William Kenneth Hoblet on my family tree but he’s a shirt-tail relative.

    1. Karen

      Thanks for all that family information and the photo. I will post the photo and share the information in a blog post. Thanks for writing!

  5. Linda Duff

    Oh my! I remember the Spitler Grocery fondly! My grandmother,
    Irene Bienz, née Spitler always shopped there as they were relatives. Grandma would walk
    Uptown & buy groceries which were later delivered in a box. I’m not sure who delivered them but
    I’m sure it was one of the Spitlers. John Spitler, owner of the hardware , was grandmas brother. I’ve always wondered where his twin girls ended up.

    I also remember great grandma Spitler, who lived just a street from grandma Bienz. I was very young, about three, but I do remember visiting.

    Hoblets were mentioned in your post. My husbands mother was a Hoblet. Her Aunt Gertrude lived in Chatt.

    1. Karen

      Great information and memories, Linda, and lots of family connections. I remember Gert Hoblet, who lived right by Zion Chatt. Thanks for writing!

  6. Kip

    I remember the Spitler Grocery and Glen and Rose, Jesse and Margret they were all great people. I must of been 10 or 11 and rode with Glen in a pickup to deliver groceries to homes. The wood floors and them wrapping the meat and tiring with string things you remember as a kid.

    1. Karen

      Those family grocery stores were special back then. Everyone knew each other and shopping was personable. I assume the grocery delivery service was different than the huckster truck. Thanks for the information and memories.

  7. Miriam Fetters

    We had a huckster truck stop by our house when we lived on Township Line road. I believe it was operated by John Shinn when they had the store at the corner of Durbin-Erastus and Oregon roads. Someone else operated a huckster truck before that but I don’t remember who it was.

    1. Karen

      I assume that is the building that is still on that corner. It looks like it once was a store. Seems there were quite a few little grocery stores all over and many of them must have had huckster wagons. Thanks for writing!

  8. Joe Byer

    Benny Gause delivered groceries for the Spitler Home Stores Grocery in the 50s, using a red Ford pickup.

    Spitler’s played a large part of my Willshire years in the 50s. Nearly all of our food was purchased there. My mother had to make a trip to town every day to buy something. She just didn’t want to be out of earshot of the town’s events and Spitler’s was a good place to catch up. (Along with Edna’s beauty parlor, but then you couldn’t get your hair done every day, could you?)

    I recall their phone number as mom called them every morning to place her order, asking ‘central’ to give her ‘52’, or sometimes, just asking for Spitler’s. Rose would gather the items and have them ready when she showed up later in the morning, little sales receipt handwritten in pencil, all added up.

    The candy counter itself, just inside the front door on the right, was a curved glass fronted display case with dividers to keep the treats separated. There were only a few offerings that I recall, the first choice – pink wintergreens, then the whites. I think the next bin was cinnamon balls, spicy, hard, deep red, dusted with sugar and delicious. I never ventured past those first few bins, but I think on down the line there were some tan colored, oval shaped butter cream pieces that could only have been enjoyed by old ladies wearing hats. If I had shown up at the river with my fishing buddies carrying a bag of those, they would have laughed me out of the tribe.

    My personal experiences with Spitler’s was in buying candy, which I did a lot of! There was an art to making your money go farther at Spits. If you walked in and Jesse was anywhere near the candy counter, it was trouble. Only a novice would buy from Jesse. His wife, Margaret, was hardly better, but would do in a real pinch. Jesse meticulously weighed out the candy. After the initial placing of a scoop of candy on the scale, he finished by dropping one piece at a time onto the tray. Piece by piece, dreadful accuracy and not one extra. Margaret was a bit more generous, often slipping an extra piece of two into the bag after the weighing process was done.

    An experienced candy buyer with only a spare nickel would turn around and leave if Jesse or Margaret were near the candy counter, returning when Rose was available, or at the best, Glenn. I knew just how full a nickel’s worth of pink wintergreens would make those little paper candy bags look. Glenn would get a generous scoop of candy on the tray, weigh out a nickel’s worth and dump the tray into the bag, then nearly double the amount with another scoop, unweighed, added to the bag, sometimes even topping it off with a few ‘whites’ just for a change of taste. He would wink and deliver the bag calling it a ‘big’ nickels worth. Sometimes in the past years I have bought wintergreens just for the memory. They don’t have the embossed Canada across the top like they used to, but the taste remains.

    I’m sure there are a few stores still around like Spitler’s. I visited one in Crown King, Arizona a few years back that had the look and feel of it, the prices were modern, however.

    1. Karen

      This is great! What detailed memories and so funny to hear about the candy purchases. You were one smart little guy. This also brought back memories about Edna Avery, who was also my mom’s beautician. Getting her hair “done” once a week was a must. Thank you so much for writing and sharing your memories!

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