LIMA — During the dog days of the summer of 1941, less than a year after the United States had instituted its first peacetime draft, The Lima News was thinking of the coming winter and all those new servicemen.
“None of us feels we can do too much for the young men who have surrendered their immediate future and temporarily dedicated their lives to the preservation of our great republic by joining its armed forces,” the News wrote on Aug. 2, 1941. “True enough, Uncle Sam feeds them well and provides them with adequate clothing. Yet adequate clothing does not include scarfs, sweaters, beanies, helmets, socks, gloves and ear muffs, which spell the difference between existence and comfort, on a cold day.”
Toward that end, the News recommended “every mother, sister and sweetheart of a serviceman” visit the Knobby Knit-It Shoppe, where a booklet could be bought “which carefully outlines knitting procedure and suitably illustrates it with pictures for producing sweaters, helmets, socks, beanies, gloves, mittens and a host of other items which conform with Army and Navy regulations.”
A little more than four months later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was plunged into World War II. By the end of the war in August 1945, the American military numbered more than 10 million. That’s a lot of socks and beanies.
That the News would mention the Knobby Knit-It Shoppe was not surprising. The shop, on the second floor of the Masonic Building at High and Elizabeth streets, was two blocks from the News building on East High Street. Under a variety of names and owners, it would remain on Elizabeth Street until the early 1970s, although exactly where on Elizabeth Street depended on the year.
The shop’s roots dated to 1917, but not as a knitting shop. In that year, Harriet Fockler, whose husband, Frank, was a barber, opened Harriet’s Beauty Shop. By 1922 the shop was located at 213 N. Elizabeth St., and employed a former D.W.G. cigar factory worker named Eva Stemen. In 1924, Fockler sold the beauty shop to Stemen while she opened yet another beauty shop, this one called Milady Beauty Shoppe, at No. 205 Masonic Building.
Stemen and her Harriet Beauty Shop, minus Harriet, moved to No. 207 Masonic Building in 1936. In the 1940 U.S. Census, Stemen is listed as proprietor of both the Harriet Beauty Shop and the Knobby Knit-It Shoppe, which, despite its name, was not located in Merry Olde England, but at merry olde No. 205 Masonic Building in the quarters formerly occupied by Fockler’s shop. Fockler had died in 1939.
That same year, Mary A. Young is listed as manager of Knobby Knit-It Shop as well as an instructor at the shop. Young, born in 1908 in Wichita, Kansas, had had a difficult life, mainly because she had married George Young in 1928.
On the Fourth of July in 1930, a year when celebrating was limited to lemonade and fireworks because of Prohibition, George Young was caught with a carload of whiskey in Lima’s Chipman Addition. He would be arrested several times over the next year for violating liquor laws. He also was implicated in several armed robberies.
In 1934, along with two other men, he hijacked a truckload of eggs valued at $600 in Hancock County. “The drivers were on the way to Cleveland when gunmen drove alongside and forced them from the machine,” the News reported on Feb. 1, 1934. “They were bound and placed beneath the rear deck of the raiders’ coupe. The captives were released four hours later, after the car had traveled many miles over gravel roads.” Egg crates and other egg-related items were found at the Young home. Mary Young was briefly held before being cleared while George Young was sent to prison for 10 to 25 years. She divorced him in 1940 on the grounds that “her husband is an inmate of the Ohio Penitentiary at Columbus.”
The knit shop, meanwhile, was well established by the outbreak of World War II. “Mrs. Eva Stemen, proprietor of Knobby Knit-It Shoppe and Harriet Beauty Shoppe, which are operated in adjoining rooms, already has a large stock of fall yarns and knitting supplies. She has crochet needles, patterns, edging and the other necessary items,” the News noted in the Aug. 2, 1941, article.
In an August 1943 ad in the News, the shop touted its line of Feltella hats for fall and urged customers to “start the sweater now! Christmas packages for boys overseas must be mailed by September 15,” while an ad on New Year’s Eve of the same year offered “Best Wishes for a Victorious 1944 and Happier New Years to come.”
After Stemen’s death in July 1953 the shop got a new owner, a new name and a new location. Helen Joan Amstutz, the daughter of Thomas R. Schoonover, a Lima financier, philanthropist and supplier of a park name, purchased the business late in 1953, renamed it the Needlecraft Shop and, in May 1954, moved from the Masonic Building to 112 N. Elizabeth St. A grand opening was held July 31, 1954.
Young stayed on as a clerk after Amstutz bought the shop and eventually purchased it herself. She moved it to 114 S. Elizabeth St. around 1958.
As the 1960s dawned, the Lima Citizen extolled the benefits of knitting. “There’s nothing more relaxing than knitting and the self-satisfaction of making a beautiful outfit in your spare time is certainly rewarding,” the newspaper wrote on May 15, 1962, adding, “Teens, Mary’s has packets of angora for your rings if you are going steady.”
Teenage romantics would have to pick up those packets of angora two doors north by the end of 1963. “Mary’s Knit Shop, established seven years ago by Mrs. Mary Young, is in new quarters at 110 S. Elizabeth St,” the News noted Oct. 6, 1963. “The new location is only two doors distant from the old headquarters, but it provides larger instruction and selling area and greater warehousing space.”
At the same time, Young took Margaret Eckford as a partner. “‘I did much soul searching before I decided to go into partnership. …,” Young told the News. “Margaret and I discussed the idea many times and finally we decided to give it a try.”
In 1966, the pair added a mini shop in the Leader Store at the Lima Mall, but that store had disappeared by 1968, as had the store’s namesake, Young, who retired. She died in August 1979.
Eckford moved the shop to 1555 Allentown Road in September 1972 and changed its name back the Needle Craft Shoppe. The shop closed in the late 1980s. Eckford died in July 2008.
Reach Greg Hoersten at TLNinfo@civitasmedia.com.