Myrtle Bixby, whose residence is on the corner of West Broadway Avenue and Third Street Northwest across from Interstate Lumber Company, found that her building dates back to 1856. The two-story building featured handmade square iron peg nails and wavy glass windows are on the second floor.
Through the years, the building kept its original use as a store. The first owner was Mr. Vieth. His supplies of buggy whips, harnesses, staple groceries and early farm machinery were necessary items to the new townspeople and farmers.
Vieth Family Memories
The Frederick Vieth family came to Forest Lake in 1854.
He owned the mercantile store, later known as Bixby’s store, on the corner of West Broadway Avenue and Northeast Third Street. The following letter is from his great-granddaughter, Mrs. Pearl Wicklander, of Minneapolis:
“As a child of the 1910-20 era, a trip from Harris to visit the William Vieth home in Forest Lake was a fascination for us. The Vieths had a store on the first floor and a home on the second.
“The Frederick Vieth family (my great-grandfather) came to Forest Lake about 1854. Frederick Vieth died July 31, 1867. It was said he was the first person buried in the little Sunnyside cemetery. My grandfather, Franklin, spent his early years in Forest Lake before moving to Harris.”
In early 1931, Emery Johnson, an electrician by trade, bought the store. He named the store the United Grocery.
This was the time of charge accounts, and Emery found the men working on the WPA (Works Projects Administration) paid their accounts faithfully with money earned on these projects.
In 1936, Roy and Myrtle Bixby bought the store and promptly named it the Jack Sprat Store. Wink Moen, one of the employees, highlights his numerous jobs during the day when buying eggs, chickens and cream. It was a hot job, during the summer, to fire the oiler to 125 degrees for sterilizing the cream cans.
Bixby’s also had special customers come from the city to purchase chickens. A rabbi, with some members from the synagogue, performed his duties so they could have kosher chickens.
“Going to the store” in the early days was almost a daily affair for every family. Many times mothers would send the children with a note listing the items needed, and they usually had instructions to “charge it ‘til next time.” In many instances, the customers would have a charge book with their name on it. Payments were usually arranged in advance.
The war years changed many things, including moving to other parts of the country to work for the war effort. In 1943, Bixby’s closed, and Roy became fire chief at Shipyard No. 3 in Richmond, California.
West Side Grocery
Bixby returned after the war, remodeled the store and renamed it the West Side Grocery.
Wages for clerks were from $15 to $18 a week. These wages supported married couples. Bixby’s was like a social center on Sunday mornings, with people stopping in after church to pick up a few things. There were no strangers in this friendly atmosphere. Groceries were delivered around town and around the lake. Harold Moen was one of the employees during this period.
Roy Bixby Recognition
Bixby was fire chief for many years, supervised the new sewage plant and promoted the beach at Memorial Park. He was the village clerk for many years.
Bixby Park west of town near the freeway, was named for Roy. He received this recognition from Mayor Jim Gessell.
All Elsie Vogel material is excerpted from her book, “Reflections of Forest Lake.” Vogel was a former columnist at The Forest Lake Times.