Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Iowaville: Hamburg Locker

At the official start of Main Street in Iowaville, which really doesn't start until you have reached the top of the hill and the buildings once upon a time lined both sides of the street for it's two block long length, sits Hamburg Locker. Although it has always been a butcher shop in my lifetime, the building where it sits probably used to be an auto body repair shop or perhaps a fire station judging by the large overhead doors facing Main Street. I would also assume that since it is built from cinder blocks that in a previous life there had been a two story brick building or two that filled the spot just like on both sides of the two blocks of Main Street, at least before they began to collapse one by one into piles of rubble.

Back in my youth when Iowaville though dying, was still alive and had vigor, the street in front of Hamburg Locker used to be the staging site for Friday night ice cream socials. For a token price to cover costs, homemade soft-serve ice cream would be served up along with a variety of topping and popcorn for those without a sweet tooth. Everyone showed up early with their lawn chairs which we arranged in the street in clusters so we could socialize as we ate our ice cream. The reason for showing up early and the reason that the street in front of Hamburg Locker was the chosen location was because those big white overhead doors were perfect for projecting a movie onto. It was Iowaville's answer to the disappearing drive-in movie screens minus the huge screen and the cars. But in a reoccurring theme, the depopulation caused by the farm crisis also took care of the movie nights.

Wayne Hamburg, the owner of the locker, would eventually become the driver of the bus that would pick me up and take me to school. He was of solid German heritage which meant he was slow to anger but when he did, look out! I spent more than a couple weeks in exile up in the front seat of the bus away from my comrades for some stupid stunt or the other. His son who was many years younger than I was used to ride the bus and because my brother, the son of a neighbor and I needed a forth in our card game we played in back on the way to school, we taught him how to play cards. I never thought about him after I graduated school but became reacquainted with him a couple years ago when he transferred from second shift to first shift at the company where I work. In another twist of fate, Wayne Hamburg's son is now the owner of the property where the school used to be located before it was closed (also do to depopulation thanks to the farm crisis) and where his father used to drive us on the big yellow bus.

When my parents got into raising hogs later in my youth, I would frequent Hamburg locker more often either bringing in a crippled hog that needed to be slaughtered or picking up some of the meat to take back to the farm for consumption. It was always a treat to enter the huge walk in freezers on a hot summer day and thoroughly cool yourself off as you slowly filled up the cardboard boxes with bacon, sausage, chops, ribs, loins, etc. Hamburg locker was still in business a year and a half ago when I had a deer that someone shot for me processed there. I use the loins in stir-fry and the sausage on pizza but my favorite is the deer jerky which I include at times in my lunch bucket. Though Hamburg's Locker is still in business on Main Street of Iowaville the last time I drove through town, it appeared to be the only functioning business. Yet another reminder of the farm crisis.


R. Sherman said...

We had a similar shop: saw dust on the floors; pickles in a barrel and the smell of smoked sausage every where. Alas, people wound up preferring the convenience of the supermarket to the ambiance, and such places now cater only to the super rich.


sage said...

Nice memories, but sad... I like small towns

Murf said...

Big A has fond memories of the beverage coolers from his youth spent working in his dad's party stores. He loved going back in there and sleeping. I doubt that happened on the days his dad was there.

Ron said...

It's pretty hard to beat venison jerky. :)

There are small family-owned stores here that I would gladly see die. Many, though, have vastly superior customer service and experience to the big-box walk-a-thon experience, so I pay a premium to give them my business when I can justify it. It's hard to see a business with a lot of character and an owner with a lot of experience close up shop, leaving a trip to the big city the only real option.


Ed said...

R. Sherman - In this case, I suspect Hamburg gave up selling meats and cheeses and just concentrates on processing wild game and livestock.

Sage - I love the small towns which is why I have so many good memories of my time in them.

Murf - Wouldn't that get kind of chilly?

Ron - I have few small stores that I frequent because there just aren't any selling what I want or they just plain don't even have the basics. But the few that I do frequent, I am very loyal too even if it costs me a couple dollars extra. I justify it by telling myself that just driving the 45 minutes one way to the local box store and back and dealing with the agravation of salespeople who don't know the product they are selling is well worth the extra.

Beau said...

Sounds like a neat place (and I thought you were reviewing another restaurant!). Would love to be able to shop there and fill up a couple of coolers with a great selection of their meats.

Murf said...

For normal, WASPs like you and I, yes. I guess if you have some Chaldean in you, you love the chilliness.