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‘Little Oscar,’ the Wienermobile, made ‘60s stop at Jay-Dee Mkt.


Little Oscar (believed to be Meinhardt Raabe) poses with Jay Draudt, right, in 1963 or 1964. Little Oscar came to Hannibal with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. He left Jay’s parents, John F., and Della Draudt, operators of the JayDee Store, with a box full of weiner whistles to distribute to patrons who purchased Oscar Mayer products. Jay is holding a whistle. Photo contributed by Jay Draudt.


MARY LOU MONTGOMERY


Little Oscar (likely Meinhardt Raabe) and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile made a memorable visit to the Jay-Dee HyKlas store at 400 Mark Twain Avenue in 1963 or 64.


The store was the first grocery on U.S. 36 (Mark Twain Avenue), inside Hannibal’s limits from the east, and likely the Wienermobile’s first Hannibal stop of many on that notable day. John F. (Jay) Draudt III, the 10-or-11 year old son of John and Della Draudt, was a lucky lad indeed to be able to meet the famed “Little Oscar,” to have his photo taken with the marketing celebrity, and to be a recipient of a coveted wiener whistle.


Jay Draudt, awe-struck by his brush with celebrity as a child, is now in his late 60s. He keeps his treasured photo with Little Oscar in a safe.


Referring to the photo, he said, “There’s Little Oscar and me in the store for an Oscar Mayer promotion, and I'm holding a wiener whistle they gave away. 

(Unfortunately) I didn't get a ride in the Wienermobile, as they no doubt hit all the grocery stores in Hannibal,” that day.


Among Jay’s most vivid memories of that day is getting in trouble for blowing that “wiener whistle.” The whistle played the four notes of the company’s jingle, "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Weiner."




“Wiener whistles were a big deal,” Jay said. Little Oscar left a whole box of the whistles at the store, to be given out to people who purchased Oscar Mayer products. “All my buddies were there,” blowing those whistles. “My mother and father said ‘shut up.’ (My parents) got tired of hearing it.”


Wikipedia identifies Meinhardt Raabe as "Little Oscar.” This was an advertising character for the Oscar Mayer company. Raabe was the first person to portray the character for the meat company beginning in 1936. Raabe also was the Munchkin Coroner in “The Wizard of Oz.”


The Akron Beacon Journal, in a story about Rabe (pronounced Robby), for its Dec. 2, 2021 edition, said:


“As the coroner, Raabe donned a purple felt costume and a distinctive purple hat with curled edges. Made up to look like an old man, he wore an orange wig, beard and mustache, all fashioned from dyed yak hair.

“After Dorothy’s house falls from the sky and crushes the Wicked Witch of the East, it’s Raabe’s character, through a dubbed voice, who announces: 

“As a coroner, I must aver

“I thoroughly examined her.

“And she’s not only merely dead,

“She’s really, most sincerely dead!”


Jay Draudt: The characters

along Mark Twain Avenue


Jay Draudt grew up during the ‘mom and pop store’ era.


Now nearly 70, his boyhood was spent on Mark Twain Avenue, where his parents, John F. and Della Draudt, operated a HyKlas grocery store, generating enough income as to raise a family. “You can’t have a mom and pop store these days; Walmart took care of that years ago,” Jay said.


“We never starved; we always had good cuts of meat,” he said. 


The store, located on the northwest intersection of Mark Twain Avenue and Webb Street, was typical of the day. The retail store was on the first floor, and the family’s apartment was on the second.


“The apartment upstairs was pretty nice, but we had to be quiet during the day so customers wouldn’t hear us walking.”


At night, Jay would listen to the sounds of “big trucks flying off the bridge” into town on the highway in front of his home.


Pre-war years

In the mid 1940s, John Draudt worked for Anton Bottling Co., 117 Hill St., before serving four years with the Army Air Corps during World War II. Returning to Hannibal following the war, by 1950, he had opened a retail grocery store at 400 Mark Twain Ave.

He was first married to Ruth Lois Wilkins, who worked as a cashier at his store. She died in May 1952.

In August 1953, he was married to Della Renner McMillen, who was then working as his cashier.

She brought two children into the marriage, Ronnie and Harlene McMillen.

In 1954, the Draudts welcomed son Jay into their blended family.


Neighborhood

Next door, to the west, of his parents’ store was the Moon Wink cafe.  “It had that old cafe greasy spoon smell and had a counter, no tables.”

The store sold football cards. “I started collecting them, and bought quite a few. I kept some of them; sold some of them. I still have quite a collection.”


Directly to the east of the Draudt grocery was the two-story home of Mrs. Helen C. Sultzman, address 334 Mark Twain Ave.


George Lolkes ran the nearby tire and bait shop. “After a rain he would walk up and down Mark Twain Avenue looking for worms to sell,” Jay said.


There was a man who worked at the tire store called Pee Wee. “He would be there on Sunday, fixing flat tires for $5. He whistled all day long.”


The bait shop also had a big minnow tank. “When you were my age, you’re fascinated by all these damn minnows swimming around.” The shop also had a soda machine, “where you’d pull the bottle out. I’d sit around and wait for someone to turn over the bottle,” so he could collect the deposit.


Jay still remembers the day two women robbed his parents’ grocery store. “The get-away car was parked up Mark Twain Avenue. Mom ran after them. They had the car windows down, and Mom grabbed ahold of them. They finally got loose from her. Police caught them in New London. Mom was only 5-1, and she was wrestling these gals for the money bag.”


During the summer, “I could walk down and play church league softball at Clemens Field; I didn’t have to worry about someone kidnapping me, in those days,” he said.


Directly behind his father’s store was the Webb Street neighborhood.


“I remember Webb street, it was a dead end. Dad’s store was on the corner.” Behind the store lived Harold Sultzman (710 Webb). “You’d go up to the end of the street. Art Bross (910 R Street) owned the house by the lot where we played baseball. We played on those hills all day long. Bross had a barn, and a horse that bit me.”


There was an old stone house, used as rental property when Jay was a boy, located on the right before the steep part of Webb Street.


At the end of the street lived (Melvin C.) Spencer, (822 Webb.) He had a big garden. If the kids’ ball would go into that garden, “we had to sneak in there to get it,” Jay said.


He remembers the basement of the building that his dad owned. “The basement was kind of spooky, at least when you were 10 or 12 years old. Cobwebs. It wasn’t used for anything; it was a concrete foundation with an old sump pump in the corner. It was like you’d see in original Frankenstein, filmed in 1931, that’s exactly what those steps looked like in that building.”


Meat market

John Draudt bought beef sides and butchered them himself. He was a one-man operation, Jay said.


“The old meat truck would roll in, big sides of meat. Dad had a meat locker, he did all the butchering, and never cut his finger off. I can still see him on the band saw, cutting up a side of beef, and behind the meat counter, wiping his hands on his apron; putting meat on the scale and wrapping it in paper.


“I remember he had a good customer named Gerald Stone who was always in a good mood.  He would shop with his wife every Friday night  and always accuse the old man of putting his thumb on the scale when weighing up meat,” Jay said. “Still get a laugh out of that one. My father was a fair man while in business and he extended people credit on groceries with the ‘pay when you can’ attitude, and most did. They wouldn't do that at Walmart that's for sure.


“My dad was a bit of a skin flint but he was a hard worker right up till around age 89, when one too many falls off the ladder finally slowed him down.”


Jay still has the meat block from the store, and a table his father would cut meat on. The meat block still has stickers from the company that manufactured it, and the receipt is stapled underneath. “My wife oils it up two or three times a year. You don’t want it to dry out.” It is put together with joints, rather than nails or screws. “So it contracts and expands.


“I remember we would collect soda bottles, take them into my dad’s store and cash them in; I went to Walkups and spent it all on baseball cards.”


Jay’s mom told him that his father designed the advertising for the Hannibal Hy-Klas stores.

In 1961, Hy Klas stores included:

Adams Supermarket, 2923 St. Mary’s Ave.;

Jay-Dee Market, 400 Mark Twain Ave.;

McGee’s Market, 1735 Market;

Russ Monroe’s Hy-Klas Food Store, 3446 Market; and

South Side Market, 625 Union.


There was a space between the Moon Wink cafe and the Draudt store, and that’s where the grocery supplies were unloaded from delivery trucks.


Jay was about 14 when his parents closed the store. “I never worked in it; my half brother, Ronnie, worked there for awhile, carrying groceries.


“Dad had a full time checker, Bonnie Couch. She was a very nice lady, there every day. She was good to the customers, and good to me.”


He remembers Bonnie fondly, “She had the body of Olive Oyle, the looks of Margaret Hamilton (Wizard of Oz) and the hair style of Eunice, a Carol Burnett character.”

 

Dad’s characteristics


“My Dad was a skin flint,” Jay said, who called people who sold advertising, “Tin Cuppers.”


Then John Draudt took a job selling advertising for the Hannibal Courier-Post, where his son-in-law, Danny Chapman also worked.


Thus his father became a “Tin Cupper,” Jay said.


The Draudt family remained at 400 Mark Twain Avenue for a time, after the store closed, then John Draudt built a house for his family on Stuart Street and sold the store building. The new house was on a lot he purchased from neighbor George Hicks.


“When I turned 16, I wanted a car. My dad told me to get a  job. First year in high school I was on JV basketball team, but I quit after that year, deciding that making money was more important than riding the bench.  I went to work for my uncle Hurley Adams’ market, from 1970-73, and I did get a car.”


Hurley Adams (1910-2002) was married to Marie L. Draudt, sister of Jay’s father, John Draudt.


“Hurley was a character,” Jay said. He and Marie Draudt Adams were Jay’s Godparents.


“I had a lot of respect for him. He was a self-made man. He started out as a meat salesman. (Eventually) he owned most of the houses behind Adams Market on St. Mary’s avenue, he built all of those. He was an early real estate mogul.”


End of an era


John Draudt died on Pearl Harbor Day, 2004 at the age of 92. After his death, Jay said, his mother asked if his family would move in and help care for her. They agreed.


Jay’s wife, Janet Draudt, quit her job and cared for her mother-in-law. Still at home was their daughter, Casandra, who got to spend precious time with her grandmother.


After Jay’s mother died in 2006 at the age of 85, he asked his wife if she would rather move, or remain in the Draudt family home.


She said, “What the heck.” They decided to stay, and today remain in that house that his father built on Stuart Street hill. Their daughter is now a graduate student at NYU.


Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.editor@yahoo.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com






Jay Draudt’s bedroom was to the left, where as boy he heard semi’s all night long that came flying off the Mark Twain Bridge. He said he wishes he had the Pepsi clock. Otis Howell photo, Steve Chou collection.



Jay Draudt identifies former employees of the Jay-Dee Grocery Store, from left, Bonnie Couch, Herb Reed, (possibly) Bob Bowen, and at right, John F. Draudt. Photo contributed by Jay Draudt.




James Draudt ultimately sold the store building at 400 Mark Twain Avenue to Dick Wishern. There was a fire in the building circa 1995, and it was torn down. A chiropractor’s office now occupies this location. Photo contributed by Jay Draudt.




Jay Draudt and his mother, Della, stand in the doorway of the HyKlas Store at 400 Mark Twain Avenue in October 1957. A construction project was under way at the time this photo was taken. Photo contributed by Jay Draudt.




The Jay-Dee Grocery Store was located on the northwest corner of Webb Street and Mark Twain Avenue. Photo by Becker Spaun.




Phone log from the basement darkroom of the Hannibal Courier-Post, circa early 1970s. Note that John Draudt, and his step-son in law, Dan Chapman, were both newspaper employees.


Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.editor@yahoo.com Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com

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