Schenck Foods Co. has been around for 90 years now, and Marshall DeHaven, 86, known to most simply as “Peachie,” is proud to say he was there for 55 of them.
“Peachie” went to work for the wholesale grocer on May 3, 1957, and retired — as vice president of the board and general manager — on the same day in 2012.
But how he got to be employed at Schenck’s is a story in itself, as it relates how business was done in a small city back in the day.
“Peachie” — a nickname derived from his habit of enjoying the shade of a particular peach tree near the family home — started work for another wholesale grocer, Valley Fruit & Candy, located at the corner of Cameron Street and Fairfax Lane. But, as he told me Monday at the firm’s 90th birthday celebration, Schenck’s was considered “the place” to work locally in that style of business. In fact, “Peachie” had a brother-in-law employed there and decided he would very much like to join him.
But there was a catch. The owners of the two grocery establishments — Clarence Schenck, better known as “Bob,” and Oscar Louderback — were in the Lions Club together. And, as Schenck would tell “Peachie” when he would drop by Valley Fruit & Candy to pick up some retail items for his customers, there was a gentleman’s agreement among Lions not to hire employees away from one another.
So “Peachie” worked at Valley Fruit & Candy from 1949 until he entered the service in 1952. When he came home two years later he returned to the employ of Louderback. And Bob Schenck gave him the same answer when he asked about employment: “I can’t hire you as long as you’re working for Oscar.” But the last time Schenck said that, he did add that he “had need for a good man.”
“Peachie” decided to take a gamble. He would give his notice to Valley Fruit & Candy and work for his brother at the family’s nursery, which to this day remains a going concern.
Upon “Peachie’s” departure, though, Louderback inquired, “Are you going to work for Bob?” “Peachie” replied he was not, that he was going to work for his brother.
But later he did check to see if there were any openings at Schenck’s — and when the inevitable question came, he could say he no longer “worked for Oscar.” And this time, Bob Schenck said, “I think I can find a job for you.”
Sometimes you just know, or can sense, where your future lies. It was that way for “Peachie” DeHaven, who says he was “not dishonest to anyone.” He simply wished to work at Schenck’s.
I received a call last week from Charles Zuckerman, our oldest living former mayor and a member of the Handley Class of 1942. Zuckerman is also a World War II veteran, and it was from this perspective that he gave me a ring.
He wished to remind me that of the 16.1 million Americans who served their country during World War II only about 500,000 still grace us with their presence. More specifically, he wondered how many of this dwindling few reside in the Northern Valley. A good question, for this reason: If any do live here and have yet to tell their story for posterity, Zuckerman would like to see these wartime experiences recorded before it’s too late.
I couldn’t agree more. Over the years, I have interviewed a goodly number of veterans, as did former Star colleague Chris Earley. And I know Handley Library also amassed war reminiscences of veterans willing to participate in such a worthy project.
Now, with time passing quickly, we pose this query: Have any veterans not told their story and, if so, would they like to do so? If so, please contact me at The Star either by phone at 540-667-3200 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.