News: Neillsville -
Prock Park Dedication (2 Sept. 2021)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Petkovsek, O’Brien, Murphy, Diedrich, Quicker, Martin, Harr, Keller
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 9/08/2021
Neillsville Marks Historic Moment with Prock Park Dedication (2 Sept. 2021)
Prock Park Dedication
Caroline O’Brien, daughter of Prock’s Northside Store owners Harold and Pearl Prock, gives remarks at the dedication of Prock Park in Neillsville, The park is where the store and family home used to stand.
By Ryan Spoehr
People from three states, including people who live in Clark County, attended the dedication ceremony of Prock Park, Neillsville’s newest city park wedged between Hewett Street and Black River Road on Highway 73.
The Sept. 2 dedication had people attend from Neillsville and Clark County, but also from Minnesota and as far away as Kentucky. The event featured Barb Petkovsek of the city’s beautification committee as the master of the ceremony, as well as guest family member Caroline O’Brien and Neillsville Mayor Diane Murphy.
O’Brien, one of Harold and Pearl Prock’s five children, expressed appreciation over the park and the community response to the project, referring to it as “overwhelming.”
“Lord bless this community for all the opportunities it provided our family. This community is a perfect example of ‘Love thy neighbor as yourself.’” O’Brien said.
O’Brien attended several meeting focused on the development of the park. She also donated money toward the project.
Mary Diedrich, the Procks’ other daughter, was also in attendance but did not speak.
“We wanted to do the dedication to ensure both Caroline and Mary could be with us. We just simply wanted them to be back on their home territory today to know that we cared about them and the community,” said Petkovsek.
Murphy gave a proclamation as a part of the ceremony.
“Harold and Pearl Prock were proud owners of Prock’s Northside Store from 1950-1973, and Harold and Pearl nurtured five children,” Murphy said.
The other children were Maynard, Mike and Mi8lton Prock.
“Harold and Pearl instilled faith, a strong work ethic, dedication and family pride to ensure the preservation of the Prock Northside Store for 23 years in the city of Neillsville, making many contributions to the community,” Murphy proclaimed.
She also proclaimed the day “Harold and Pearl Prock Park Family Day” in honor of Harold and Pearl, their five children, the store and its legacy.
Murphy also remarked on her family’ history at the store. “When my children were small, wee lived up north of here a ways and we did shop at the Prock store,” Murphy said.
Petkovsek, in her remarks, spoke about the store’s history in the community.
“The Prock store stood on this corner selling meat, groceries and most of all, Dolly Madison ice cream and dairy products,” Petkovsek said. “I think there’s not a one of us haven’t come to the Prock store when it was here and felt very welcome.”
Petkovsek said the Neillsville community and the Prock family worked very well together.
“Some of them worked at Nelson Industries. Some of them worked at Memorial Clinic Hospital. So, they melded right into the community and were an instrumental part of making our community successful,” Petkovsek said.
Local resident and former employee of Prock’s Northside Store Don Quicker also lived within a short walking distance of the store. Quicker started working at the store at 16 years old. He said he was the second stock boy that Harold Prock hired.
“I was quite interesting because I learned that coffee cost 49 cents a pound, same as hamburger.” Quicker said. “When I started, the basement - there wasn’t much arrangement for excess groceries. They were all scattered around the floor, and Harold ended up building shelves for the business. That’s about 12 years after they started the store. I ended up helping set up the system there.”
Quicker said one of the most beneficial parts of the job for him was delivering groceries to people on Saturdays. He reminisced about delivering groceries to one specific person, an elderly woman he referred to as “Mrs. Martin.”
“She was totally 100-percent blind. She wouldn’t be able to live by herself nowadays because of social services, but I would deliver groceries to her every Saturday. I would go in the kitchen, and I would put the tomato soup in a certain spot, so she knew where it was. The chicken noodle soup was right above it,” Quicker said.
Quicker also remembered being thrown into situations by happenstance, that forced him to learn.
”One of the interesting things while I worked there, Harold became very ill for several weeks and was in the hospital. I was 16 or 17 years old and there were three ladies who came in and worked at the store and Pearl did the bookwork and things like that. I ended up having to order all the groceries – everything except for the milk products, the meat and the produce. The rest of the stuff I learned how to do, and you had to learn how to deal with the suppliers.”
He had another personal tie to the store.
“In 1950 my dad started the Neillsville Dairy, and we manufactured ice cream and dairy products. Probably for the first six or seven years, Prock’s grocery store didn’t sell Dolly Madison products. They sold Neillsville Dairy Products that were manufactured in Neillsville,” Quicker said. “If you talk to a lot of people who passed through Neillsville, they’d always have to stop and get ice cream cones because we’d put so much butter fat in there. Still every once in a while, when I tell people I’m from Neillsville, they would say, ‘Oh, do you know where the dairy bar was? Any time we would pass through on Highway 10, we would have to stop to get an ice cream cone because it was better than anything else you could buy.’
“But I have fond memories.”
The site of the park also had the home of the Procks during their tenure of owning the store.
It wasn’t just that, though. It turned out to be a hangout spot for the local youth during the period, as said by ceremony attendees who lived in the area during the time the store was around.
Also in attendance at the ceremony were members of the Harr family who moved to Neillsville just down the street from the old store. Bill Harr traveled to the ceremony with his wife Georgeann, from Red Wing, MN. Tom Harr traveled to the ceremony from Carrollton, KY. Doug Harr, who is from Three Lakes, was also in attendance. The Harr family moved to Neillsville right before Bill Harr entered eighth grade in 1960. They had lived in Marshfield before that, and Bill said that he still considers Neillsville and Marshfield his two hometowns. They lived in the brick house that is directly across the street to the east from what is now the park. Their dad also built a house on 18th Street to the west, which is still there. Their dad owned a plumbing and heating company in Neillsville. After Bill and Georgeann graduated from Neillsville High School, the family relocated to Kentucky, the original home of the dad of Bill, Tom and Doug Harr.
Bill Harr didn’t hang out at the store as much as his siblings and other contemporaries, but it was still a frequented spot.
“They probably had six or seven close friends who hung out inside and outside the store just about every night. They’d come over every day after school and during the nice weather, they’d hang out in the parking lot out here with the Procks,” Bill Harr said. “Everyone was very close, and obviously people were so close being on the front end and back end.”
Bill and Georgeann Harr drive to Neillsville about two-to-three times per year to visit the gravesite of Georgeann’s parents, so they still have some active connection. They were looking forward to the ceremony.
“I personally hope they keep building [the park] up with things, which is sounds like they plan on,” Bill Harr said.
The property in which the park sits was bought by the city in 2018. The beautification committee soon developed ideas for the welcome sign that is at the park, which was eventually designed by local artist Chris Keller. There are also two plaques on either side of a large rock at the park.
Barb Petkovsek, the master of ceremony dedication at Neillsville’s new Prock Park, talks about plaques on a large rock at the park that explain the history of Prock’s Northside Store and its legacy in the community. Looking on are Neillsville Mayor Diane Murphy and Caroline O’Brien, daughter of Harold and Pearl Prock, who owned the store when it e4xisted from 1950 to 1973. Ryan Spoehr/Clark County photos.
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