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Lowenberg Bakery History 1875~~1984


Posted By: Mary (email)
Date: 7/17/2007 at 11:29:48

Ottumwa Courier
Lowenberg workers reminisce

OTTUMWA — Remember the days when the aroma of freshly baked bread filled downtown Ottumwa?

Many Ottumwans still do. Lowenberg Bakery created the memories, starting in 1875 when the Lowenberg family opened the bakery just 32 years after the first settlers arrived in the Ottumwa area.

The bakery closed Aug. 17, 1984. Since then, former Lowenberg workers have gathered twice a year for a potluck luncheon.

About 15 people — former employees, family and friends — attended Sunday’s “picnic party” at the UAW Union Hall, 205 N. James St., to enjoy the camaraderie and to share food.

Hazel Lewis of Ottumwa worked at Lowenberg’s for 34 years. “My kids thought I was going to die there,” she said and chuckled.

Lewis started work there May 7, 1948, because she wanted to supplement the wages her husband, Elmer, brought home from John Morrell & Co. Her starting pay was 80 cents an hour.

Working on Mother’s Day cakes was one the jobs Lewis recalled. Some cakes required jelly beans for decorations, but she was told not to use the black ones.

“So we ate them!” she said.

Lewis also said she worked all shifts during the course of her 34 years. In addition to cakes, she also learned several other products — rolls, cookies, doughnuts and buns.

“I handled buns for the last several years before I retired in 1982,” she said. “Sometimes I still dream about those buns that went around and around on the conveyor belts.”

Shirley Little walked by Lewis’ table and heard Lewis’ comment. “That’s not a dream, Hazel, that’s a nightmare!” she said.

Luella Stater worked for Lowenberg Bakery 1971-84. She did “a little bit of everything, but mostly sanitation.”

Why did she apply there?

“It was a place to work and I knew quite a few of the people,” she said. “It was a good place to work.”

Her husband, Elwood, worked for Morrell’s until the plant closed in 1973, then worked for Everco Industries for a while.

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