56-year employee retires from downtown store|[05/30/08]

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2008

The year was 1952. Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president of the United States, and in Vicksburg, Frances Antoine started work at Marcus Furniture.

Thursday marked the last day of her 56-year-long career at the downtown furniture store.

“I do anything that needs to be done,” said Antoine, 83, by way of explaining the job that has seen her work in the office and on the sales floor.

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The Utica-born and -raised Antoine has seen the business change through generations, from her original bosses, Isadore and Herman Marcus, to Herman’s grandsons, Steven and Miles Marcus.

“They weren’t even thought of when I started working here,” Antoine said of the current Marcus brothers.

Marcus Furniture, founded in downtown Vicksburg in 1899 by Samuel Marcus, moved to its current location at 1210 Washington St. in 1922.

Continuing to work in one place for 56 years was not difficult.

“I’m not one to change,” she said.

When she began in 1952, things were quite different than they are now, both in the store and out.

“We had the National cash register like they used in hotels, and accounts were in duplicate on cards. The accounts paid 50 cents or a dollar a week – back in 1952, things weren’t as high (in price). We’ve seen lots of different businesses on this block, a bakery across the street and an ice cream parlor next door.”

“She’s a treasure to work with,” said co-worker Jackie Fields. “She’s like walking history – she’s told me stuff I never knew about Vicksburg and I’ve lived here all my life.”

As the generations passed, Antoine found herself in a different environment.

“When I first came here, they were strict,” she said. “I was scared to death of the older ones. You had to be here on time, you did your work and you didn’t dare read the newspaper (at your desk). I’m the only one left of the original bunch when I came here. You progress with time, just like everything else.”

After 56 years, Antoine reluctantly hung up her hat.

“Well, you know, I’ll be sad; they’re like my children. I hate to leave them, but there does come a time when you want to sit in your rocking chair and rock.”

The feeling of family is mutual.

“Not only has she raised Steven and me, she’s taken care of us,” said Miles Marcus. “There are about 165 things around here that she knows that nobody else knows.”

Antoine’s first activity after retiring will be knee surgery. Next will come traveling.

“I’m going to go visit my sister in Alabama, and we may go to St. Thomas after that,” she said.

The mother of three, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of 11 will kick off her retirement by celebrating her own retirement and that of her son, Charles, this weekend with her family. Her daughter, Barbara Antoine, will replace her at Marcus Furniture.

“I’m leaving one of my most prized possessions behind me, my daughter,” Mrs. Antoine said as she laughed.

“We’re keeping the tradition going,” Miles Marcus said.