Faces of Milan



Mike Hawarny started his soda shop in Milan with hand-made confections
By Martha Churchill

Mike Hawarny had experience with candy. His brother-in-law, George Bassett, set up a fruit and candy store at 108 E. Main to give Hawarny a place to sell his sweets.

By 1925, Hawarny was advertising his candy shop in the Milan High School yearbook, giving his address at 16 E. Main.

Readers may remember 16 E. Main as the place where Phillips Jewelry used to have a gift shop.

People living and shopping in Milan in the mid-1920s had an insatiable appetite for soda fountain drinks, candy, and ice cream. Many drug stores and grocery stores sold these items.

Some people living in town may have hooked up to electricity by then, switching to electric refrigerators instead of ice boxes. Those living on farms were still using candles and gas lamps.

Electricity was important for ice cream. It was difficult to have ice cream at home. Going into Milan and having your choice of soda fountains and ice cream places at the various drug stores and candy shops, was a big deal.

Hawarny was ambitious. Not only was he selling soda drinks and candy, he had name-brand ice cream. This was well worth the effort, putting a sign out front, “We serve Connor’s Ice Cream.”

Hawarny always wore a shirt and tie to work, as seen in this photo. He is also wearing a long apron. He was making his own hot fudge sauce, so the apron was a smart idea.

Hawarny was born in Lebanon, and met his wife, Amelia, in the US. She was also a native of Lebanon.

When Hawarny first arrived in Milan, he stayed with his sister, Waselia Bassett. Of course, she was a native of Lebanon.

Waselia was married into the Bassett family. Therefore she was related to Eli Bassitt, who owned a department store at Furman and East Main St. Eli Bassitt served as mayor of Milan in 1978 and 79.

Eli Bassitt wasn’t born in Lebanon, but both his parents were.

Hawarny had three children, Robert, Phillip, and JoAnn. JoAnn told me she loved going to her father’s soda shop, because it smelled like heaven. She said her father made many of the candies by hand, and roasted the peanuts for the hot fudge sundaes.

According to JoAnn, her father let her enjoy whatever candies she wished. She said she remembers this very vividly.

According to Gary and Gloria Shaw, of Back Street CruiZers, the auto in today’s photo looks like a 1924 or 25 Chevrolet. That puts the photo at about 1926 or 27, assuming most people don’t drive brand new cars every year.

Two of Hawarny’s relatives from the Bassett family had stores in downtown Milan at around the same time, one with a candy store at 108 E. Main, and one with a variety store and a big candy counter at 49 E. Main. It was a sweet deal.

Hawarny lived until 1959, when he was 62.

Come visit us soon!