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Stratford centennial
(1891-1991)

Businesses of yesterday,   pp. 185-218


Page 193

Becher's
Ice Cream Parlor
Edward Becher came to the Stratford area from Green-
ville, Wisconsin when he purchased a Watkins dealer route in
this area. He met and married Bertha Harter of Stratford.
Bertha was an excellent cook, and had expressed her interest
in opening an ice cream parlor using her homemade ice cream
recipe.
They started by purchasing Dr. Wahl's residence at the
comer of Elm and Second Avenue. The property included two
lots surrounded by an iron fence and two rows of trees with a
carriage barn on the opposite comer, next to the alley. They
opened a wall within the house for a "parlor" with tables and
chairs so people could come in and enjoy a dish of her home-
made ice cream. Anna Harter Doll (now 95 years old and
living in Marshfield) was Bertha Becher's sister. She helped
Bertha with preparing and serving the ice cream, a "special
treat" as people did not have refrigeration in their homes at
that time to make and keep ice cream. She commented. "Ed
(Becher) would chop up a large block of ice before he went on
his Watkins route, and then Bertha and I would chop it into
smaller chunks to use in the ice cream maker. We would make
two gallons of ice cream at a time, taking turns doing the hand
cranking. We then set the ice cream in buckets of ice to keep
it cold. We served the ice cream plain, or had chocolate and
other toppings if they preferred. Soon the Bechers saw a need
for more room to expand their small enterprise so in April of
1917 plans were made to build a 22'x34' one story building
with full basement on the comer of their property next to the
alley. They called it "Becher's Ice Cream Parlor."
Magdalen Becher Bowen, oldest of the Becher children
related, "In the kitchen was a four burner gasoline stove. Joe
Brei, the village fire marshal, took special interest in seeing
that we had a fire extinguisher and kept it updated. However,
I don't remember it being used in the kitchen, but it was used
toputout awater heater fire in Rifleman's basement nextdoor
to us. In 1930 Dad purchased a bottled gas stove and Ritgers
Funeral Home serviced it with Skelgas.
Four tables with four chairs each provided the serving ar-
rangement. Food for plate dinners and pies were prepared in
the Becher home kitchen and carried over to the Ice Cream
Parlor for noon serving. Ice cream was now served in their
new establishment. A soda fountain was also installed and
added more tasty treats for serving. It was a busy time at noon
and also after the performances at the Opera Theater, and after
the high school ball games.
Watkins products, as well as other items such as candy,
cameras, film, tobacco, pipes, cigars, fresh fruit, dairy prod-
ucts, newspapers, and magazines were added for the retail
trade . "Anything to help make an extra nickel," said Anna.
"Times were hard and money was not plentiful like it is
nowadays." Gas pumps were also added in front of the store.
The Becher children, as well as hired help, all had their jobs.
Magdalen related that she remembers her dad showing her
how to make change at a very young age. She was instructed
to "wait on" the young children who came in with their
pennies to buy candy. The business was open seven days a
week, providing the people with a variety of items and a social
place to gather. Twice Ed was robbed, once at gun point.
A wing was added to the west side of the building for
booths and many other changes took place through the years.
In May, 1949 the business was sold to Roy Pucker of
Marshfield. Glenn Hughes of Marshfield purchased it next in
April, 1950; then Ray and Hallie Gross October, 1953;


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