Ed Schoch, 1919-2005
Remembered as war hero and co-owner of unusual Old Town hardware store
Edward W. Schoch, a World War II Silver Star recipient and a pillar of Old Colorado City for over half a century, died Aug.
31 after suffering a heart attack at his home on Uintah Street. He was 86.
From 1950 to 1996, he and his wife, Edna, ran Schoch's Hardware, which was famous for its seemingly chaotic display system and the ability of either of them to pick through the piles to find whatever a customer needed.
There were no funeral services. According to a newspaper announcement, “To advance medical science, Ed gifted himself to the University of Colorado Medical Center in Denver.”
In addition to Edna, he is survived by three daughters: Kathy, of Boulder; Elaine, of Aurora; and Marianne, of Cody, Wyo.; and five grandchildren.
Dave Hughes, who spearheaded the Westside redevelopment effort in the late 1970s, recalled Ed Schoch as a “stalwart” in the business community who served on the board of directors of the Westside Commercial Club. “His background was invaluable to me,” Hughes said. “I would go to him to get his opinions on things.”
“He was a legend on the Westside,” said Bill Grimes, a former business owner and long-time member of the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District advisory committee. “He took pride in having anything you needed.”
The Schochs had been married 58 years. Edna recalled meeting her future husband when they were just toddlers, living on neighboring farms in Illinois. Although his family moved West when they were about 4 years old, Ed's father “still had family back there,” so over the years they would see each other now and then. They were already close during World War II, when Ed was sending his paychecks home, helping establish the nest egg that the couple would eventually use to start their hardware store.
Surviving World War II was no small matter. Edna recalled that in June 1941 her future husband graduated from the University of Arizona - a second lieutenant through ROTC - and received his “call from Uncle Sam” the same day. A member of the Army First Cavalry, he was a trained horse soldier, but once he was stationed in the Pacific Theater, he served in an infantry capacity until the war ended in 1945.
He fought in numerous battles, earning two Bronze Stars and the Silver Star - one of the Army's highest awards for bravery - and rising in rank to major. Although he managed never to get wounded, he suffered from numerous jungle diseases, which dropped his weight from 175 to 125 pounds, according to Edna. Nevertheless, “he never turned in a sick day,” she said.
Don Bates, who has run his Old Colorado City insurance office since 1959, said he was “particulary impressed” with Schoch's military record. “Very few guys made it who served their entire time in the Pacific, without relief, battle after battle, as junior officers,” he said. “And then he came back to live among us without asking for recognition.”
He may have been too quiet about his accomplishments. The Army forgot to bestow his Silver Star until last December.
After their marriage in 1947, the Schochs lived in the Chicago area, with Ed working in wholesale hardware. In 1949, the couple decided to move West.
“We put all our personal things in a car and went to find our destination,” Edna remembered.
They didn't have an exact place in mind. They checked out towns on the way, finally settling on Colorado Springs because of its reputation as a town for the healthy, Edna explained.
She also revealed the Schoch financial secret - one that is not likely to be followed by many people in modern times: The couple never went into debt. “We paid cash for our house in 1949,” she said (they never moved), and did the same in getting their store started in 1950. Even when, in later years, credit cards came into vogue, the Schochs never used them.
To save money at the outset, Ed himself renovated the space for a hardware store, with his father helping out in the early years. He and Edna handled the lion's share of the store hours, with Ed opening the business at 7 (after coming in at 4 a.m. to get caught up on work), then closing the store later after Edna worked through the afternoons.
In a videotaped talk that the Schochs gave at the Old Colorado City History Center in 1998, Ed described a different sort of Old Town when the store began. At the time, he said, businesses there included five gas stations, four groceries, two drug stores and two furniture stores. He and Edna decided on their store's location, in the north side of the 2500 block (where Soapbox & More is now) because the post office was just a few doors down (it stayed there until the '60s). “A hardware store needs foot traffic,” he told the listeners.
Old Colorado City also was rowdier then, with several bars. In Ed's talk, he recalled a night when there were four fights on the avenue. A fellow businessman stuck his head out at one point and asked Ed, “What round is it?”
By the 1970s, empty storefronts were becoming all too common. Hughes and others began taking steps toward reviving Old Colorado City through historical renovation. Although Ed never redid his hardware store's non-historic facade, “he saw the merit of what we were trying to do,” Hughes said, noting that Ed served on the board of the Westside Commercial Club, which helped coordinate the redevelopment effort. “He really contributed to the business community during those first years of deciding what to do and how to do it.”
Grimes said the resulting business upturn actually hurt Schoch's business. “As Old Colorado City prospered, it was harder for customers to get to him because there were fewer parking places out front,” he pointed out.
Schoch also contributed to the community through his membership on the Garden of the Gods Rotary Club. According to Bates, his volunteer efforts with the Rotary during 40-some years of nearly perfect attendance included planting some of the first trees on the former Scar on the Mountain as well as the trees that still stand along Colorado Avenue between 24th and 26th streets.
“He and Edna were model citizens,” Bates said.
Ed's health began to fail in the late 1980s, when he had major heart bypass surgery. Despite that, despite refusing to computerize and despite increasing competition from “big boxes” in the years that followed, Schoch's still found a business niche. According to Hughes, Ed “told me he chose to stock the things the big hardware stores didn't, stuff no one else could get.”
Judy Kasten, chair of the Maintenance District Committee, said that when she had company, she would take them to Schoch's. “I'd tell them, 'This you've got to see,' their ability to find anything in that store.”
In the 1998 videotape, Ed brightly explained how the store's “system” evolved. After a while, he said the store ran out of space to put everything. “So we stacked it up.”
Edna was not a big fan of modern “bubble-wrap” packaging, noting that in the old days, 12 screwdrivers could fit in a single bin. But now that single, bubble-wrapped screwdriver takes up more space than 12 without packaging, she noted.
She said in the videotape that during the store's saga, “We didn't have computers, CDs or cell phones. But we did have commitment, confidence and contentment.”
“They were perfect representatives of the Westside,” Kasten said in recalling the store. “They were down-to-earth, nice people, not trying to impress anybody. But they impressed me.”
In the interview, eight days after her husband passed on, Edna remained composed until the very end. She spoke objectively of Ed as being a “wonderful man,” but at last she couldn't hold in her grief at the memories. “It hurts so much,” she said.
Westside Pioneer article