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Fred H. Keller | Retrospect

Anthony 'Bubbles' Schumann: store owner

Anthony “Bubbles” Schumann was a Sussex store owner from 1941 to 1985.

Anthony “Bubbles” Schumann was a Sussex store owner from 1941 to 1985.

Jan. 7, 2014

The downtown Sussex Piggly Wiggly has a history of 115 years, from the first store on the site, to the present one. The longest proprietor was the late Anthony Schumann, from 1941 to his retirement 44 years later, in 1985.

Antony acquired the usual "Tony" nickname, but as a youngster in the Burlington-Waterford area, he acquired another nickname, "Bubbles." As he told it during Christmastime in 1988, "While I was teething, bubbles formed around my mouth. A neighbor girl laughingly called me "Bubbles," and it stuck.

In later life, people just assumed that the reason he was called "Bubbles" was that he was such a bubbly character.

He was born Oct. 17, 1920, roughly two years after World War I. As a youth, he attended schools in Burlington and graduated from St. Mary's High School.

His father, a grocery store man, owned several different stores in Western Racine County, most notably the former Halbach General Store in Waterford.

Young Anthony was brought up tending store for his father, and age 19 was striking out on his own. Just past his 21st birthday on Nov. 11, 1941, he arrived in Sussex, taking over a mini store in the downtown Woodchick building.

One side of this Main Street building was the Woodchick's Candy Store (also known as The Sweet Shoppe). Tony had the financing from his father — $4,000 to get started, and with his direction and know-how to run it. It was only 20-by-30 feet in size, and only two people worked there. It had a lot of competition, as almost adjacent to it on Sussex Main Street was another major store building, the George W. Lees General Store.

The Lees General Store was "the store" in Sussex and Lisbon. It took over the huge Joseph Marsden Building first floor and part of the basement. Prior names for this store were Buck and Gauthier and Gauthier & Freyer.

Joe Marsden had built the wooden monstrosity in 1898, having acquired the land from blacksmith, postmaster and land speculator. It was immediately across Sussex Main Street from the Sussex Main Street School. This school was originally built on the southeast corner of Maple and Main in 1849 and abandoned in 1867 when a two-room cream brick school was built at the far eastern end of Sussex (you might realize that Sussex was originally centered on Maple and Main.)

Now that the school was on the east end of the Village, other homes and businesses were built, and soon this area was the center of Sussex, as it is still today.

This second school cost (land and construction) $1,683.41. It would last until 1914, when a new red brick two-story building with a basement was completed. Unfortunately, the school would burn to the ground on Jan. 30, 1922, and immediately a new school was built, again with red brick, at an approximate cost of $26,000.

Today, this former grade school and from 1920 to 1947 the two-year Sussex High School, is the Sussex Village Hall. The remodeling was completed in 1990.

Meanwhile, Tony met a teaching student at the University of Iowa, Beth Hassman. She became a teacher at the Sussex Main Street High School and they were married in 1944.

Then World War II caught up with Tony in 1944, and he was inducted into the U.S. Army Signal Corp. He learned to be a slow speed Morse Code radio operator, and very successfully mastered 25 to 30 words per minute. He was then shifted around, at one time teaching Morse Code reading, but also other assignments. As the war ended, he was never shipped out.

"Every time I got ready to ship overseas with my outfit, they pulled me out for some more schooling," he said.

As an instructor, he earned a stateside corporal rank.

He got out of the service in 1947, and the basic reason why he remained so long was that he did not have enough "points" to get out early because of no combat.

At age 26-plus, he again when back to his former little Sussex IGA, which his father had kept going during the 38 months he was in service.

His service earned him a place on the Sussex World War II memorial monument — fourth row on the top.

The Sussex IGA was now part of a complex that stretched from the corner of Main and Silver Spring Drive to the west. IT started with the the Brook Hotel, followed west by the Hardiman Oil Co., the Sussex Creek, the Grenwis-Walter Rosier home, future Sussex Post Office, the Marsden Building, the Malsch-Woodchikc building, the Podolske Hardware, the little Elmer Bowes-Tedd Lees home and the mansion, Wintermuth-Edwards-Eggerer home. Today, all are gone, with only one reconstructed Piggly Wiggly replacing the Marsden building.

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