One week from today, on Feb. 14, Francy Scudder will turn 75.
It’s worth remembering that for a number of years, this three-quarter-of-a-century beauty was sharing her bigger than life personality, full of sometimes brutal honesty, unending energy and an infectious laugh, in the town of Nevada.
Some might say that since she closed up the business — Scudder’s Department Store, which she purchased from her daddy in 1985 and ran until 1995 — Nevada’s downtown has been missing a little something. That something is Francy, who as a total package is beyond any description that mere words can define.
Francy Scudder is, and definitely was while in Nevada, her own person, uniquely blessed with strong Christian charm and a bit of flamboyancy that have always set her apart from the rest of the pack.
Now living in Windsor, Colo., with her husband, also a native Nevadan, Paul Henderson (they married in 1999), the two have been enjoying life to the fullest.
“We carried my hot tub from Nevada to Windsor on Paul’s truck,” she said. “And we added a pool. (It’s) like a vacation every day!”
As one can imagine, Francy may be retired, but “being fully retired is a misnomer,” she said. She subbed (yes, late in life she went back to college and majored in special needs) at a nearby high school in a program that served 18 to 21-year-olds with special needs. She did that up until last year.
“So this is my second year being fully retired.” But that doesn’t mean she’s not busy. Her energy has to go somewhere. She attends book club meetings, serves on area boards, calls bingo on Monday nights at a nursing home, takes part in Questers, visits shut-ins and cooks meals for a community center, among other activities.
From the beginning
Francy started her life at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, where she was born as a twin. Her parents, Henry “Hank” and Elizabeth “Pat,” never said which twin was born first. “I always thought I was the surprise twin (born second),” she tells. But when her twin sister, Darcy, received her first passport, they discovered that Francy was born first. And with their third sister, Betsy, being only 11 months younger, Francy said she always felt like the “middle child” growing up. “My excuse for my unusual life for many years,” she said.
Hank Scudder had served in World War II. The family lived with Pat’s parents during that time. They then moved to Camden, N.J., her father working a job at a J.C. Penney’s store, before moving to Nevada, Iowa, where he purchased Sinclair’s Department Store on the main street, which then became Scudder’s Department Store.
Francy remembers that exciting time and her first day of kindergarten in Nevada. “We twin girls arrived in the most ‘beautiful’ outfits, we believed,” she said. “Mom had allowed us to wear all the old scarves and necklaces we found at the new store. Ruth Countryman told me this story. They decided we had a pretty neat mother, even if (we) looked awful!”
Ruth, a longtime resident of Nevada, also, as time passed, shared with Francy another memory about her mother Pat. “She (Ruth) had come into Scudder’s and there was this glamorous dark-haired beauty in a white silk blouse with long flowing sleeves and, of all things, TROUSERS.” Even though the trousers weren’t Ruth’s style, Pat was. The two became best of friends, as did Francy and Ruth’s daughter, Joan.
As business people and residents, Francy’s parents became very involved in the Nevada community. Hank was in Lions, Rotary, several men’s bridge clubs, the Century Club, Toastmaster’s and he served on the City Council. Pat was in many bridge clubs, on the library board, was president of the Republican State Workshop and served with other groups and church groups. In the 1960s, she even received the Nevada Optimists’ Woman of the Year award.
And life was good for the girls, who were often treated as triplets, Francy said. “Usually we all had the same clothes.” The girls enjoyed having slumber parties with friends. Francy’s memories also include her parents’ Christmas open houses, for which her mom baked and froze treats for months before, and outings with Bimbo, their dog, who often tagged along with her and her sisters in town.
“We lived one block from the school and she (Bimbo) would often turn up at school assembly meetings (the doors were open because there were no air conditioners in that day). Then the announcement would come out: “’Would one of the Scudder girls come take your dog home?’ Years later, we found out she (Bimbo) also knew the butchers at Hunt’s/Carsrud’s and Fareway, too.”
Nevada afforded kids freedom and safety, Francy said. “Although we did not realize that at the time. We played outside all the time but knew about when to come home for meals. My mom would ring a bell when it was time for dinner. We had a two-block radius then, so we could hear the bell.”
As she got a little older, “(in the summer) I would ride my bike to Joanie’s just about every day to play canasta with 10 decks, and it was maybe eight to 10 blocks away.” She didn’t realize at the time, of course, but in her bike ride to Joanie’s she was passing the house of a future husband, Paul, who was five years younger than her.
Her memories also include ice skating on Wilson’s Pond in the winter.
High school pastimes included cars and “draggin’ main.” Kids went from Lincolnway to First Street, then to the football field (which is across from where Gates Hall is now) and back to Lincolnway. Those cruising around times were also highlighted by stops at Starbuck’s, Posegate’s or Dairy Queen.
“When we were in junior high and high school, my parents rented the Farm Bureau (building) and had dances. Daddy would lead some dances. We did that for about three years, and one time with the McLains and McHoses, since Fred, Diane, Darcy and I all had February birthdays. We would all “dress up” for those, she recalled.
She also remembers sitting on the cement retaining wall at Eighth Street and J Avenue with friends, Claudia and Donna, and her sister Darcy. “Sometimes (friends) Lynne and Mary joined us. I remember not wanting to go home until someone told us that was where all the old maids in town used to sit!”
Francy and both of her sisters were cheerleaders. Francy was also president of the pep club and loved making popcorn with Penny West. “Of course, the class of 1962 was the best. We always had the best float, because of Richard Vincent and all the guys. Also, we had the best prom, a Grecian theme with organdy and dry ice in urns. And we had great sports teams — we won many great titles.”
The Scudder girls were members of the Girl Scouts and their church youth fellowship group. “Church was an important part of our lives; the adults were our role models and the youth were our friends,” she said.
Growing up in Nevada was a wonderful thing.
Buying the store from her dad
Francy’s father had purchased his Nevada store in 1949 or 1950, she said, and owned it until he sold it to her in 1985. She was divorced and had children and had been working for her dad at that time. When her dad decided he wanted to retire, it made sense for Francy to take over.
Her dad had always called Scudder’s a “junior department store.” Francy explained that description: “Younkers would have 20 choices of black pants to choose from; Scudder’s had five choices.”
But when it came to variety, Scudder’s Department Store wasn’t short on that.
Among their merchandise, Francy said, as she mixes items and brands, were, men’s things first, “boots, waders, Big Smith, Lee, Levi’s, OshKosh, bib overalls, jeans, five brands of men’s underwear, T-shirts, socks, tennis shoes, long underwear, sweatshirts from children sizes to 5X tall.” In women’s, she said, the store had “Bobbie Brooks, Ship’n Shore blouses, Levi suits, jeans, house dresses, mid-priced suits and outfits for work and dress, casual clothes, undies, socks, Lorraine gowns, jewelry.” In all sizes, there were “coats, jackets, snow boots, snow pants.” In household items, “we had towels, sheets, material, curtains.” And the store also carried children’s gifts and apparel, wedding gift lines and Christmas gifts lines.
Francy loved it all. The merchandise, and more importantly, the people.
“Most (customers) were from Story County towns — the smaller communities. My customers were the heart of our country — honest, caring, giving, helping, concerned, loving, Godly persons. And I loved all the relationships you developed. I was so happy when my trusted customers would come in.”
So happy to see them, in fact, that she would rush down from the office loft at the back of the store — a loft that overlooked the entire sales floor — and greet them.
“They would share their lives and I believe they were comforted and looked forward to being in Scudder’s,” which also, she recalled, served many a customer a cup of coffee while they were stopping in.
“Because of the size of Nevada, you could almost know everyone, and you felt like a real part of the town. You were definitely safe,” she said.
Francy recalls that in addition to her great customers, she was also joined in the downtown district by other great business people, and many businesses, like her own, were run by or employed women at the top, she noted. “There was Annette Forbes at the Nevada Journal, Cheryl Ahlquist Mordini at Alquist Insurance, Linda McHose at Story County Hospital, Claudia Dixon at Flowers by Claudia, Jean Gildersleeve at the Chamber, Wilma Posegate at the Broaster and flower shop, and Wilma was also president of the Chamber board.” Francy said there were probably others, but these are some that came to mind at this time.
And along with all the fabulous business women, there were some pretty great business guys, like Fred Samuelson at Ben Franklin, Gary Clem at ALMACO, Al Smith at Al’s Shoes, Glover Ambrose at his stores, Craig Miller with his flower shop, Tom Wissler at Wissler Insurance, Don McHose at the bank and others.
All these business people joined together to work with the Chamber, Francy recalled, to make fun things happen for the business district. “The Nevada Chamber of Commerce had a duck race and that was really, really fun, and wet. I think I wore bib overalls into the Indian Creek (for that),” she said.
Francy’s memories are so fun to share that we will complete her Remember When story in next week’s issue on her 75th birthday. Please pick up a copy of the Nevada Journal next week to read more about this great lady from Nevada’s past.