Posts Tagged ‘Fred Wardecker’

A Sad Day in Carlisle

October 5, 2020

Friday was  sad day in Carlisle. Wardecker’s Men’s Wear closed for good. While recent fashion trends have hurt clothing sales, it was the Wuhan virus that did Wardecker’s in. Government reactions to the plague might be more accurate. In spite of diminishing demand for dress clothing, Freddie Wardecker had been able to keep the doors open by selling uniforms to health care workers, people involved in food preparation, police and others as well as by renting tuxedos. The state government’s shutdown decimated the need for new uniforms and eliminated proms. Brides-to-be reacted by scaling down or postponing their weddings. Without uniform sales and tuxedo rentals for proms and wedding, the store had little revenue with which to pay its bills, forcing it to close.

Wardecker’s was not an ordinary men’s store. It was a place with a lengthy history, beginning with Mose Blumenthal, proprietor of The Capital, a haberdashery on North Hanover Street. Along with operating the menswear store, Mose Blumenthal had a tailoring contract at Carlisle Indian School. This relationship proved useful to the Athletic Department in multiple ways. Well known is how Pop Warner had Mose sew an extra hem in the bottom of Charles Dillon’s jersey. However, one of Blumenthal’s employees probably did the work because Mose couldn’t operate a sewing machine.

Carlisle students generally had little money. A way of rewarding athletes for performing well was for the athletic director of school superintendent send chits worth $25 or $50 to Blumenthal, which players could use to buy suits and other clothing. Each player, including the famous ones, had a page or pages in Blumenthal’s log book to keep track of their chits and purchases.

Clothiers, like magic dragons, don’t live forever, so Mose sold his business to long-time employee James “Muck” Wardecker. Hence the name on the door: Wardecker’s Men’s Wear, formerly Blumenthal’s. Jim’s son, Freddie, was helping his dad back in 1967 when Bob Wheeler was interviewing people who knew Jim Thorpe. Wheeler’s work was made easier, after hitchhiking to Carlisle, when Muck tossed Freddie his car keys and told him to drive Bob to all the people he needed to visit. Wheeler’s definitive biography of Thorpe further cemented the ties between the Indian School and Wardecker’s.

Since then, Wardecker’s, with all its memorabilia, has been an important stop for every author or filmmaker wanting to write a book or make a movie about Jim Thorpe or the Indian School. Now, that is finished, but Wardecker’s had a great run and will remain strong in people’s memories.

Carlisle’s Attempt to Land Jim Thorpe’s Remains

August 2, 2010

John Luciew (pronounced Lucy), a reporter for Harrisburg’s Patriot-News, contacted me last week about the court case in which Jack Thorpe is trying to have his father’s remains brought to Oklahoma in perpetuity. Luciew was most interested in what I knew about Carlisle’s attempts, if any, to have Thorpe’s remains placed here back in 1953. I hadn’t looked into that before, so I had to do a little research. Freddy Wardecker, proprietor of Wardecker’s Menswear (formerly Blumenthal’s), gave me some information to go on and I was off to the races.

Jim Thorpe renewed acquaintances in 1951 when he was in Carlisle for the premier of his biopic, Jim Thorpe– All American. When he died just two years later, Carlislians wanted to honor him by locating his memorial here. A committee was formed, headed by attorney John B. Fowler (now deceased). The committee negotiated a location for the grave and monument near Indian Field at Carlisle Barracks where the young athlete made a name for himself when that facility was Carlisle Indian School. When Mauch Chunk entered the picture, Carlisle demurred, not wanting to get in a bidding war. In 1982, Sports Illustrated quoted Fowler as saying, “Pat wanted too much money. We felt like we were getting in a bidding war. We tried even after he died, but her price was too high.” Whether the Mauch Chunk group outbid others isn’t clear. What is clear is that they were actually able to raise the money and built the monument that stands there today.

Carlisle eventually placed a historic marker on the square next to the old courthouse. Some people think he is buried there but his remains are in the borough currently known as Jim Thorpe. Here is a link to the article Luciew wrote:

Photo by William Fischer, Jr.

A Fire at Wardecker’s

February 1, 2010

On Friday at noon, I checked the Carlisle Sentinel on-line to see what, if anything, was in the news. An article saying that North Hanover Street, one of the two main drags through town, was closed. On reading the article, which was time-stamped 11:30 a.m., I learned that a fire in the building that houses Wardecker’s Mens Wear, was the cause of the street closing. I wasn’t too worried about my friend Freddy Wardecker, the proprietor of the business because he would surely have been able to get out of the building quickly. However, I was worried that his collection of Carlisle artifacts might have burned.

Wardecker’s Mens Wear, formerly Blumenthals, was in operation when the Indian School was located nearby at Carlisle Barracks. Mose Blumenthal worked as a tailor at the school and operated his store downtown. As a result of his close association with the staff and students, he established a business relationship with the school’s athletic department. Pop Warner or the Superintendent would send chits to Blumenthals that authorized the boys listed on the chits to be given clothing in the amount stated on the chit. The boys would come in to the store, select the clothing items they wanted, and socialize. Blumenthal had a page or pages in a ledger for each of the boys on which he would record the clothing they had received and the amounts he received in payment. If the clothing cost more than the amount on the chit, the boy had to come up with the difference.

In later years when these men returned to Carlisle, these men dropped in at Wardecker’s to visit and sometimes signed their photographs. The store has Carlisle Indian School memorabilia as well as irreplaceable original documents. It would have been a catastrophe had these items burned. Fortunately, they didn’t.

A visit to Wardecker’s is necessary for anyone interested in Carlisle Indian School and especially so for researchers. It’s good that it is still possible.