The bread-slicing machine on display in Chillicothe is more than a slice of American history. For Patricia Marble, of Minneapolis, Minn., it is piece of her own history.
The bread-slicing machine on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has been an attraction at Grand River Historical Society Museum in Chillicothe since its arrival in 2013. The machine is more than a slice of American history for Patricia Marble, of Minneapolis, Minn. It’s a piece of her own history. At 105 years of age, Patricia recalls witnessing the demonstration of one of the first bread-slicing machines ever put into use. When she learned that an original bread slicer was on display in Chillicothe, Mo., she made plans with her daughter, Peg Wiklund, to view it in person. Patricia learned about the slicer on display after reading an article in the March 25 Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper with the headline “Greatest town since sliced bread.” The focus of the article, which first appeared in the Washington Post, was Chillicothe having been the first place in the world to sell commercially-sliced bread. That event took place in 1928. “When I read the article, I said, ‘Oh, I’d like to go and see that,’” Patricia told the Constitution-Tribune during her visit. “My whole family said it was time we got out and went someplace. So, we are going.” Patricia got her first glimpse of a bread-slicing machine as a teen-ager in South Bend, Ind., when she and her mother and sister witnessed a special demonstration in 1928. Immediately following its introduction in Chillicothe, bakeries near and far clamored to get their own slicers. “I was about 15 years old when I saw it,” Patricia recalled. “It was in front of the store... either Kroger or A&P... I don’t remember which one. It was right in front of the store and people were gathering all around.” The slicer belonged to nearby bakery and was brought to the grocery store for public viewing. The town’s morning and evening newspapers had advertised the demonstration as an event for all to see. “Momma said, “Look, we have to go get groceries. Let’s go and look at the bread machine,” Patricia said. “My sister and I walked around it with our mouths open,” she recalled. “There was a man standing right next to it, talking about it. He told all of these housewives how safe it was to have bread sliced that way and how convenient it would be.” After being sliced, the loaves of bread would go down into the waxed paper bag, she recalled. “This was a big invention for industry... like cars,” she added, noting that automobiles hadn’t been on the market for very long when sliced bread was introduced. The demonstration, she added, “was as nice as going to the circus.” Patricia recalled the bread-slicing machine she saw being shinier than the one on display in the museum, perhaps with more aluminum exposed. The one on display in Chillicothe is the second bread-slicing machine ever installed in a bakery. It is believed that the original bread slicing machine which was put to use at Chillicothe Baking Company was used until it fell apart. Patricia’s mother was not unlike most mothers and housewives at that time in history. She baked all the bread her family consumed. “We lived in town but very few housewives ever bought bread at the store,” Patricia stated. “That wasn’t nice. You weren’t a good housewife if you bought bread.” But, once sliced bread was introduced, her mother gave it a try. Although her mother thought it was “heavenly” to purchase bread already sliced, her father was less impressed. “The first time she brought some home to my father (he always came home at lunch), he looked at it, he put it in his hand and he went like this,” Patricia said, as she squeezed her hand tightly. “He opened his hand and said ‘what on earth is this?” In his had was a compressed ball of bread. Homemade bread has a different consistency and reacts differently when squeezed. She said that her father never did learn to like store-bought bread. While making this trip to north Missouri, Patricia decided to visit Hamilton, the birthplace of James Cash Penney, businessman and entrepreneur who founded the J.C. Penney stores in 1902. Patricia worked for J.C. Penney’s at the country’s first indoor mall near Minneapolis for 27 years until company policy forced her to retire at age 65, some 40 years ago. Although she wanted to continue working and was even angry that she was forced to retire, she enjoyed her time with the department store and recalled meeting the founder. “I’m a very big fan of J.C. Penney,” she said. “I sat at the breakfast table with him and shook his hand.” After traveling to Hamilton, Patricia planned to take the back roads to Tampa, Fla., and visit the cemetery where her parents are buried. Having had milk delivered by a horse-drawn wagon, helping her mom scrub laundry on washboards and run clothes through a wringer, Patricia reflects on her past. “Now, that I am getting older, my children and grandchildren, great-grandchildren are bringing it all back to me,” she said. “When I think all of what I experienced in my 100 years, I wonder how things will be in a 100 years from now.” At 105 years age, Patricia stays active by volunteering in her community, regularly baking bread and pies, and also crafting stained glass lamps. She credits her longevity to having a big family background of strong people, including strong-minded, strong-willed and strong women. Her advice: “Smile everyday. If someone smiles at you, what do you do? The next person you see, you smile at them.” Patricia was born August 27, 1912.