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Katy's Grocery

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Katy Bodenbender of Moline must look back on her life as one battle after another against giants she could not defeat: Nazi Germany, the Great Depression, World War II, and then, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company.

Katy and her husband, Henry, were overwhelmed by Hitler's Third Reich in 1930 and fled to the United States. Right into the midst of another giant, the Depression. With few job prospects, and only an eight-grade education, Katy took a job as kitchen maid at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Deere Wiman. Her husband was hired by the Wimans as a butler's assistant.

Katy and Henry listened, and learned, and met the Depression head on. In 1933, the opened Katy's Neighborhood Grocery on 14th Avenue and 10th Street in Moline. They survived the Depression by working 24 hours a day, she during the day and he at night, and by 1938, they owned a fresh chicken business and a gas station in addition to the grocery.

Their customers became their friends and kept them insulated from anti-German sentiment during World War II. Katy's Grocery became known as a place where customers could buy on credit. Its immense penny candy counter attracted both children and parents.

In the late 1950s a new enemy appeared: the supermarket and the chain grocery stores. Little corner groceries capitulated one by one. By 1960, the Bodenbenders were surrounded by the enemy whose selection and lower prices made it hard for Katy to compete.

But don't toll the bell just yet. Katy and Henry's son, Art, took over the store, and changed it into a specialty store featuring imported German and European foods and candies. Want Swiss chocolate? Here it was. Polish ham and sausage? Here, too. Food from Latvia, Croatia, Poland, and Sweden, and, of course, Germany.

Katy's little striped red and white store out on 7th Street in Moline is alive and well, with a long list of loyal customers who could not possibly celebrate their ethnic Christmases and Easters without the Bodenbenders, and who come to drool over the candy that costs far more than a penny today.

"I didn't go to college, I listened to people," is how Katy explains how the Bodenbenders lost every battle, and still won the war.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.