History of The Andersons chronicled on PBS' ‘Toledo Stories'


Editor's note: This version corrects that Mr. Anderson spent 13 months in and out of a psychiatric hospital battling depression.

Margaret and Harold Anderson are seen in this 1955 Blade file photo.
Margaret and Harold Anderson are seen in this 1955 Blade file photo.

Northwest Ohio residents are familiar with The Andersons and the company's sprawling general stores where consumers can purchase anything from food, wine, and imported beers to hardware, appliances, home decor, and furniture.

But The Andersons is more than a retail and agri-business. It is involved in rail car leasing, turf products, and ethanol concerns too, and the family's story is told in a three-part documentary in the WGTE-TV's Toledo Stories.

The series, entitled Grain: The Harold Anderson Story, is available from the BuckeyeCablesystem's video-on-demand and each 30-minute documentary will air again consecutively on Dec. 27 on Public Broadcasting System's Channel 9.

"One comment is that so many people think Andersons is just a store. All they know is the retail part of it. But that's just a very small part of the big picture. People just don't realize that the company began in the grain industry and branched out from there," said Kay Anderson, a daughter of the late John and Mary Kay Anderson.

The documentaries were her idea, and she worked on the project for about a year.

"I always thought it was a story that should be told. Many people on the outside encouraged me to do it, especially when Toledo Stories started, people commented that they would like to see a story about the history of the Andersons," said Ms. Anderson, a freelance video producer whose company is KMA Productions of Maumee.

The narrator and granddaughter of Harold Anderson, Ms. Anderson said she has collected material on the family's history for years. In the documentary are interviews of family members, including uncles Tom and Dick Anderson, and images of the family farm on South Holland-Sylvania Road in different seasons.

"There's no getting around the fact that the second generation is thinning out," she said. "Tom is now dead, and when we got the go-ahead to do the show, I did more current interviews with Dick and Carol. I used some footage I had done with Tom, plus what others had shot. And as luck would have it, Channel 30 did footage on Margaret, my grandmother, and we found some really wonderful quotes from grandma that we were able to put in the show."

Ms. Anderson also focuses on "the big pour," which describes the pouring of concrete for the company's silos.

"It was an exciting period in the company's history," Ms. Anderson said. "The more I researched I found that there were a lot of stories, enough to make a program like this."

A June, 1953 Sunday Blade Page One story said it was the "‘biggest monolithic concrete pour' in Ohio history."

The Blade reporter wrote: "The spectacular job, to be continued day and night over an 11-day period, will raise 20 new connected silos 168 feet high, at the Andersons Truck Terminal on Illinois St. in Maumee. When completed for use next October, the towering structure will quadruple the grain-storing capacity of the elevator, bringing it to 4,000,000 bushels."

Thomas Anderson stated then, " ‘The silos will go up steadily at the rate of about 15 feet a day. We'll pour 40 cubic yards, or about 80 tons of concrete an hour, and in all it will take about 22,000 tons.' "

And also in the documentary, viewers will hear Margaret Anderson's voice, while Bill Anderson provides the voice for Harold Anderson, who started the family fortune.

"I tried to use as many family members as I could," said Ms. Anderson.

Sometimes families shield their challenges from public view. Not in this case.

"I thought it was important to tell grandpa's failures and his struggles before his success," Ms. Anderson said about Harold. "That's a rich part of the history. He spent about 13 months in and out of a psychiatric hospital, suffering from depression. I didn't want to hide that. My family didn't want to hide that. They were always up front about that, about his struggles with depressions and how he forged through all that."

The documentary has pleasant feel and is set to soothing music. When you settle down to watch, make sure there are no interruptions, and be sure to have a nice hot cup hot chocolate. It's just that kind of program, full of rich history about a family that has invested so much in the Toledo area.

Contact Rose Russell at: rrussell@theblade.com or 41724-6178.