Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wistful Wednesday: The Old Ponsford Store

Back in April I wrote about the old Ponsford Store burning down one evening. You can read about it here, just in-case you missed it. It has been an unfolding story.

First I heard from the present owner, she was searching for a news story on this fire and found my blog..imagine that.

Hi, I found your blog when I did a search for the Ponsford fire. It was so nice to read about your memories of the store and the photos of the fire are really amazing.

My parents (Dale & Linda Anderson) bought the store from Cullens and ran a grain cleaning business out of it. That's why they called it the feed store in the fire call. When I was little, that is what I remember; climbing on top of piles of brown sacks of wheat seed ready for sale and the sound of the cleaner. The store has sat empty since the early 80s and the last time anyone used it was for the Ponsford Centennial in 1990. Since then, I'm sad to say my brother and I let it fall into ruin, because we didn't know what to do with it. It was too old and in bad shape to fix it, and the reality was that it wasn't going to support a business. Ironically, after all these years of watching it fall, I was making arrangements to have it torn down this week. Then I got a phone call saying it had gone up in flames. I'm driving out tomorrow to see what is left.

You know, the only thing I really regret is not removing the old signs that were on the abandoned building for years and years. Eventually they were stolen. There was the large metal side that hung on the east side advertising Bubble Up pop and a small metal sign that hung on the west side that said "Ponsford Grocery."
Anyway, it was time for it to go, but it is still sad to see Ponsford fade away.
Thanks again for your memories and photos.

But wait.. the story continued yesterday when I heard from Chuck Masog whose parents owned it back in "my" day. I thoroughly enjoyed what he wrote.

I can add some history about the Red Owl store in Ponsford. My name is Chuck Masog. My folks were Bev and Ray Masog and the four of us including my brother John lived behind the store. They purchased it the winter of 1947-48 from Mr Colgrove and ran it until we moved to Frazee in the summer of 1958. John and I went to school at Linnell grade school 3 miles east on MN Highway 225 and Park Rapids High School. 

It was primarily a grocery store but we also sold feed, tires, firewood, drugs, Lee jeans, and oil and gas. We sold and delivered bulk gas and fuel oil to farmers, resorts and households. Dad had a 400 gallon tank and pump specifically made to fit our 1952 Ford F3 pickup by Marvin Longfors who owned the garage. We bought and candled eggs from the farmers and sold them to Pederson-Biddick in Wadena

There were five grocery carts and one checkout counter which gives you some idea of the size of the store. The clientele were predominately Indians and farmers but with a nice influx of tourists in the summer from Iowa and Illinois. We also supplied the scout camp on Many Point Lake and I recall making 800 minute steaks which was part of their weekly order and was an all day job for our small meat equipment. Some of the unique items we sold in the store were bulk lutefisk and herring which came in wooden 25 pound pails, and bulk vinegar which came in 50 gallon wood barrels. Popular items in the meat counter were bacon squares (smoked pig jowl) which sat on top of the meat counter unrefrigerated and sold for 19 cents/pound, and pork neck bones. Our entire frozen food section was one open topped freezer that was about 3x4 ft and stocked predominately with frozen juice and meat pies. We also sold a lot of Mennen skin bracer as that was the drink of choice after the 5 beer joints were closed about 1954 because of a shooting that resulted in death. 

My folks were good hearted and one could pay cash or charge it. This is not a business model I would recommend to anyone as not everyone paid up.

Dad remodeled the front of the store in the mid-50s and used vertical redwood siding. I saw the store in 2005 and was impressed with how well the redwood stood up over the years. I was also impressed with the how modern the front of the building and signage were, even to this date. 

My dad also bought furs and wild rice. Ricing season, which started in last August, was the busiest and most exciting time of the year, with long hours. In the early years, the rice was sold to a processor in Aitkin, MN and in later years my Dad processed the majority of the rice himself on a 40 acre farm about a mile west of town.

Here are the photos that were so kindly included in an email later in the day. Ray in the Red Owl hat was the owner. Hazel was a local gal who I knew for years..she died just a few years ago. I am not familiar with Joan, but if Bev and Ray thought she was a great clerk I am sure she was!
This been an interesting experience for me. I shared something and two people have shared back to make the story of this little grocery store more complete. Thank you to Holly and to Chuck for sharing their memories of the old Ponsford Store:)


  1. What a fascinating look into a slice of history that is very very recent. Such a shame that these kinds of stores have been replaced by large impersonal malls, don't you think?

  2. What a bonus! Little did you know how far your words would reach.

  3. That is so cool! I love folk history like this. So much more interesting than what we learned in school.

  4. Isn't the internet amazing? I was just wondering if there was anything in my own past that is similar, but sadly, no. I moved around too much as a kid.

  5. Those photos are amazing, thank you for sharing this vintage moment with us, that was my time too back then, hugs my friend

  6. Sometimes the power of the internet blows me away. What an interesting history although I am always sorry to see an old building go.

  7. This is great ,you are a good blogger journalist.

  8. I loved this post! I have very clear, fond memories of the old store by my Grandparents summer cabin. It was owned by a man and his wife and their house was next door. They watched all of us grandkids grow up and always treated us like family. Great memories. Now I must do some research of my own to see if the old building is still there!

  9. This is one of the aspects of the internet that really appeals to me, sharing information and having people share back. It's wonderful :-)

  10. Wonderful story..... Nice to hear from Holly - Holly is younger than myself (she has a great memory since she must have been very small) - I was in the 4-H club that Holly and her brother were in (their Mom, Linda, was the leader) -- brings back many memories.... I also know John from the Masog family --- cool story!

  11. Great post Connie. Where is Holly now?, did she say? Have wondered where she and Eric are and how they have been doing.

  12. West Side, She didn't say where she lives now..but within driving it must be within the state:)

  13. seems you're getting some notoriety -- that and your old photos. All very interesting!

  14. This was a great read. I have seen those buildings throughout Minnesota with a history. Your's is such a rich deep history of the Minnesota past. I will go back and read it all again. Thanks for sharing.

  15. BEVERLY Rae Plaisted CobbJuly 3, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    I am a neice of Bev & Ray Masog - my name is Beverly Rae - I am currently traveling in Colorado and got to read this. I got to spend the summer of 1957 in Ponsford and delivered groceries to indian families and resorts - what a fun time working in the store with one check out and a very large cash register with rows of buttons - so different - BEV & RAY were the MOST awesome people - Uncle Ray used to bail the indians out of jail, bring them home - get them new jeans, etc. oh so many stories.

  16. Hi Bev, Sounds like you have some good memories too! Thanks for leaving a comment:)

  17. Hey, Lutefisk! Imagine that. This was a fun read, thanks for sharing it.


Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments! If you have a question I will try to answer it here. Connie