Chesterton Tribune

Hokanson history is Porter story

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P. Hokanson & Son the sign read on the store at 200 Franklin Street in Porter. P. was Peter Hokanson who came from Sweden in 1893 and Son was Victor Hokanson who followed soon after. The store, which was in two other locations in Porter before moving to the brick building on Franklin St., was opened in 1901 as a meat market.

Nancy Hokanson, great-granddaughter of Peter, shared stories of the Hokanson store and told of other local groceries and meat markets at the Duneland Historical Society meeting September 15 at the Library Service Center.

Early advertisements said the market offered fresh, salt and smoked meat and oysters and game in season. Deliveries were made by horse and buggy and later by truck. By 1924 a full line of groceries was available.

The store operated in a space which was 24 ft. by 44 ft. Many items such as rice, beans and cookies were sold in bulk and had to be weighed and packaged. Clerks moved around the store finding items as requested by customers either in person or as ordered by phone for delivery. From 1904 until 1924 there were two phone companies in the area so the store had two phones and two phone numbers.

Even in that small space, the store became the first local self-service market by 1943. Contributing to this change was World War II and the fact that the delivery boy was drafted. Six “strollers” with removable baskets were put into use in the crowded store and customers selected their own groceries to be checked out by the clerk. The store layout plan shows a very tiny frozen food section. The meat department was not self-service.

Victor and his wife had eight children. Most of them worked in the store at one time or another. Virgil filled in as butcher as needed. Victor’s sons Alvin and Arthur became the owners. Eventually the store moved to the much larger building at Broadway and Eighth Street in Chesterton in 1954. It operated there until 1958 when it was purchased by the Tonner Brothers who named the store Big T.

Other Hokanson family members contributed their memories of working in the store. Clarence Hokanson and Virginia Green (children of Victor), Bill and Dick Hokanson, (sons of Alvin), Anne and Rick Hokanson, (wife and son of Virgil) remembered family nights on Friday when everyone pitched in to stock the store for the busy Saturdays. Entry level jobs were sorting potatoes and cleaning chickens and turkeys.

Store employees were trained to pack groceries in paper bags or boxes. Art Hokanson raised vegetables for the store and planted an orchard where the Orchard Apartments are now located. Dick Hokanson showed the record pads which were used for customers who charged their groceries.

Bread was delivered daily by Wonder Bread and others including Young’s Bakery in Chesterton. Children came to the store on their lunch hour from the Porter Grade School. The phone for the Porter Fire Department was located in the store because Arthur Hokanson, Nancy’s father, was the fire chief.

Using old advertisements and phone books, Nancy listed other grocery and meat markets in Porter and Chesterton. In the mid forties she found at least twenty stores including Smedman’s at 206 S. Calumet, Pratt’s at 707 Broadway, H. F. Carlson at 203 Broadway, A & P on Broadway and Pillman’s in Porter.

Al Hokanson became active at the state and national level for grocery stores and was president of the National Grocers Association.

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The next meeting of the Duneland Historical Society will be October 20 when Hugh Hopkins and Joan Costello will present the program “Chicago to New York Electric Airline Railroad, 1908-1938” at 7:30 p.m.

Members have received information about the Fall Dinner which will precede the program at 6:30.

 

Posted 9/21/2005