Monroe Cleaners, Marion, Illinois

Charles Raymond Monroe was born February 16, 1889. Otley A. Monroe was born November 1, 1890 to William S. and Rachel Monroe.

In 1908 Charles Monroe founded the West Side Tailor Shop at 107 W. Main Street and was joined by Otley Monroe in 1912. Together they had their own line of “Made to Measure” clothes which consisted of men’s suits, overcoats and other men’s wear.

At the advent of World War I in 1914, Charles R. Monroe sold the West Side Tailor Shop to Otley who became General Manage on June 2, 1916.

When World War I was officially declared on April 16, 1917 Charles enrolled in the Army and on June 26, 1917 he landed in France attached to the 102nd Infantry Company L.   After the war, in 1919, Charles married Ethel LaRue Wood on June 17th and in August of 1921 resumed the position of manager in charge of the West Side Tailor Shop. Specialties included men’s furnishings, all kinds of tailoring, alterations, cleaning and pressing. Charles had gained considerable experience during his earlier employment at A.H. Joseph Clothing Store at 1200 Public Square earlier in his life.

Charles and Ethel Monroe gave birth to their son Charles Wood Monroe on November 5, 1922.

On January 16, 1923, Roy Eldridge and Fred Gulley purchased the Monroe and Company stock and equipment at 112 N. Market Street from Charles. Mrs. Ethel L. Monroe was a sales clerk at Susman’s Exlusive Ready-to-Wear, located 207 N. Market St.

In 1923, Otley sought nomination for Mayor after one term as City Commissioner. Otley sold the West Side Tailor Shop to Henderson and Hughes of Herrin in May 1923. In 1924, Charles Monroe bought the West Side Tailor shop at 107 W. Main Street and the 35 year old Monroe again did cleaning and pressing, made to order suits and had a shoe shining parlor. In 1925, he was named District Manager for the Real Silk Hosiery Co. In 1927, William J. Monroe was born.

Between 1924 and 1950,  Monroe’s Fine Cleaners located at 107 W. Main, later included 109 W. Main Street as well. Two of the tailors during those years included Fred Hauer and Jack Krammer. The actual dry cleaning was done in a garage on Hill Street and transported to and from the 107-109 location. A second location was added for the cleaners in the 400 block of North Market Street.

The tailor business was threatened by nearby fires once in December 1935 and again in June 1938 but neither caused damage to the business.

After Pearl Harbor and the U.S. was drawn into World War II, Charles W. Monroe enlisted in the Navy and served as an ensign flying, air/sea rescue in Saipan and the Pacific Theater during the war.

In 1945, Charles Fred Monroe was born to Charles Wood and Jacqueline B. Monroe on February 20th. In 1946, Charles W. entered into the family business with his father Charles R. Monroe and Brother Bill Monroe. On November 25th, Charles R. Monroe passed away. The passing of Charles R. Monroe was followed by Otley A. Monroe’s death in 1950.

In 1950, Monroe Cleaners moved to a new location at 405 W. Main Street. The fine brick building was the Travelstead Bus Garage that housed the Marion City Bus line. With some modifications, this building became a modern dry cleaning plant with all operations under one roof with Charles W. and William J. Monroe as partners.

In 1964, William J. Monroe sold his share in the business to Charles W. and his wife Jacqueline Monroe.

In 1976, Charles Fred Monroe returned to Marion from Peoria as a landscape architect with the Peoria Park District.   Charles W. and Charles F. Monroe formed a partnership in Monroe Cleaners.

In December 1985, Charles F. Monroe bought the business from Charles W. and Jacqueline Monroe. In May 1994, he installed new state of the art dry cleaning equipment which was only the seventh installation of its type in the nation.

In 1995, Charles W. and Jacqueline Monroe, though no longer partners in the business were still working part time and approaching their 50th year in the dry cleaning business.

As of March 2013, Monroe Cleaners is still an actively listed and functioning Marion business at 405 W. Main Street and operated by Fred Monroe.

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(Data extracted from 1995 Marion History Edition of the Marion Daily Republican, supplemented by Sam Lattuca on 03/11/2013)

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