Longtime employee Schlafley retires from elevator

After nearly 55 years, Patsy Schlafley is retiring from Johnston’s Elevator.

We are really going to miss her, said General Manager Scott Simpkins. She know all of our history, it just won’t seem the same around here with her gone.”

Employees tend to stay at Johnston’s for a long time, Patsy said. She started as a part-time bookkeeper there in 1957 and worked with her mother-in-law Eva Schlafley, who had been with the company for 29 years. “When she retired in 1958, I went to work full time and Eva watched my youngsters.

Patsy graduated from Clare High School in 1946 and has been working in Clare ever since. She started with the Michigan Bell Phone Company and also started doing books for the Clare Hardware and Furniture Company between 1947 and 1949. She also did bookwork for Marbles Auto Collision for many years and did books for a Chicken Farm that was located right in town, she said.

Patsy said she remembers women sorting beans at the Elevator. “That used to be one of our main crops,” she said. “The trucks would like up to bring in their harvest of corn and wheat  and we would ship it out of town by the railroad car.”

“When I started at the Elevator, it was Joe [Johnston], his mother and me in the office and Elmer Gingery, Bud Dunkle and Terry Eberhart outside. “Later Mort Eberhart  came and was a truck driver. We were busy! We did it all, now there are 20 employees at the business.”

Terry Eberhart is one of the oldest employees there now,” she said. “There’s also Harold (Butch) Murphy – he’s a gem. A lot of people have been there a long, long time.” She said the mill next to the office is still the oldest working business in town.

She said she has seen a lot of changes in her time at the business. “I loved working with Joe Johnston,” she said. “He was a great manager too and good to everyone.” She added “Then Joel came along and he was a fantastic manager too. He did a good job.”

She said Ed Johnston’s in-laws began the business in 1890 as Chatterton and Sons. Ed bought them out in 1926 and when he retired, Joe, who was the manager, took over as the owner.

He bought the Fullerton Company and expanded, Patsy said. “Before that he had bought  the elevator across the road. “And, before that the trains would bring in coal and we sold it. The Johnstons had a coal yard.”

Joe sold the Elevator to Cutler Dickerson Company of Adrian in 1986 and he retired from the business in 1989 when Joel Johnston took over.  After Joel was elected to the Michigan House, he resigned and was replaced by present manager Scott Simkins.

Patsy said she will keep busy. She has always been involved in the community and is still involved with the Rebecca’s Lodge. She was the State Assembly President in 1968 and is still very active.

She and husband Bill, who worked at Holly Carburetor until they closed, then went back to school and became a master plumber until he retired, will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary in June. They have lived at Stephenson Lake for the past 20 years. Before that the family lived on the family farm on Vandecar Road for 40 years.

They are fortunate to have their children all living nearby. Daughter Cheryl Marshall lives next door . In fact daughter Vicky Sue Louch and son James William also live at the lake.

“We were lucky,” said daughter Cheryl. “Our mother and father gave us good work ethics. They taught us well.”

“I don’t know about that,” Patsy said with a grin, “I was always pushing the clock, always late for work…but then  I never got a lunch hour and I never got out on time.” Patsy cut her hours back to part-time around 2002, but continued to work two days a week until the end of 2011

There will be an Open House to celebrate Patsy’s retirement, on May 18 at Johnston’s beginning at 1 p.m.