Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 12, 2003

Recalling the Scheer popcorn wagon

By Lynda Jensen

Buttered popcorn, flavored with 100 percent real butter, was the specialty of the Scheer popcorn wagon when it existed for 40 years in downtown Howard Lake, ending in 1991.

Many may remember the little red and white trailer parked at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Highway 12; seeing it at an Orphans game, or at the Wright County Fair, among other places.

The thrill of popcorn was something that appealed to children during a simpler time, when people used to enjoy the band playing at the band shell Wednesday evenings, or enjoy the crunchy treat on a Friday night in the downtown area.

The band shell existed where the city liquor store parking lot is today, recalled Mavis Scheer. She used to own the popcorn wagon with her husband, the late Gaylin Scheer.

She remembers children, standing chin high at the order window, asking for popcorn and counting out their money.

The Scheers didn't leave them disappointed if they were a bit short, she said.

Her favorite part of the wagon was meeting the people and serving the children, Scheer said.

They added snow cones to the menu in 1971, she said.

The Scheers traveled quite a bit with the popcorn wagon, never missing an Orphans game, she said.

The popcorn wagon could be seen regularly at Waverly Daze, Good Neighbor Days, Maple Lake celebrations, and the Hollywood Sports Complex events, the latter of which they did for six years, Scheer said.

At the fair, the Scheers would go through eight 50-pound bags of popcorn, she said.

"From April to October, it kept us hopping," Scheer said of the wagon.

The asking price started at 15 cents, Scheer said, then jumped by nickels until it reached 50 cents eventually, she said. Snow cones were always 50 cents, she said.

The real thing

Of course it didn't hurt that the butter used by the Scheers wasn't just any butter ­ it was butter made by a champion.

Grand champion, that is, since Gaylin Scheer earned the grand champion ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair in 1965 for his 100 percent butter. Scheer worked at the Howard Lake Creamery, which is where the butter came from used for the popcorn wagon.

They would use 64 pounds of block butter to melt on the popcorn for such events as the Wright County Fair, she said.

The long tradition of popcorn on the street

Although the Scheers served so many for so long, the tradition of popcorn on the street corner in the heart of Howard Lake actually spans 61 years, starting in 1930.

The business started out when Art Banke and Jim Pennick set up shop with the familiar wagon on the same corner, Eighth Avenue and Highway 12.

From 1932 to 1941, Ed Engel was a partner to Banke, according to the Howard Lake history book, "100 years of the Good Life."

"The operation was dormant for a few years while Art worked on the Alaskan Highway. Gaylin and Mavis Scheer went into partnership with Art in 1951, and since then have been at every Wright County Fair. The Scheers bought out Art in 1969," according to the history book.

The Scheer tradition ­ and street sold popcorn ­ ended in 1991, when Gaylin died.

If the wagon had been motorized, she would never have sold it, she said.

Even though friends offered to help her move the trailer about, she looked at it from a practical viewpoint and knew she wouldn't be able to keep going by herself, she said.

"I still have young people ask me when I'm going to start the popcorn wagon again," Scheer said. She is in her 70s now.

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