EXCERPTS TAKEN FROM “THE MARMION CENTURY”, LONG BEACH PRESS-TELEGRAM, AUGUST 9, 2007
On Fridays in the mid-1980s, we used to take our paycheck, which was virtually peanuts, and haul it down Pine Avenue to Farmers & Merchants Bank and convert it to cash, then we’d cross Third Street to Marmion Co. and convert it back to peanuts. Fresh-roasted, extra-large, fancy Virginia peanuts that made all others taste like little pellets of compressed hay.
The venerable bank, still fat and opulent from all the money we’ve dumped into it, has been celebrating its 100th anniversary all year. On Tuesday, Marmion celebrates the 100th anniversary of the business started by William Henry Marmion in a shop on Fourth Street and Pine Avenue in 1907.
“He started selling spices and tea,” says Don Marmion, 65, one of the founder’s great-grandsons. “Then tea went out and he started selling coffee, then coffee became too expensive so he began using the coffee-bean roaster for roasting peanuts.”
He also tossed chocolate into his inventory, which led to four or five generations of Marmions roaming the family store waiting for a fresh roast to come out of the machine. “We’d grab the hot peanuts and slice off some slivers from a big block of chocolate and make our own peanut clusters,” recalls Don.
“They were good,” he says. “They really were.”
A short history of Marmions: William ran the store from 1907 until the ’30s, when Don’s dad George took over the biz, which by then was already a favorite with local shopkeepers, cops, city hall folk, bankers and the citizenry in general.
George had the place for more than half a century, right up until his death in 1987, when his wife Ruth took over the shop, which was still fairly popular, despite downtown’s decline, which was bottoming out about that time.
Here’s how far the location had fallen by then: In ’89, a vandal (or hoodlum, depending on who’s describing the ne’er-do-well) broke into the store at night to swipe a few bags of gumballs from Marmion’s. While he was at it, he set the place on fire.
The police caught the guy a couple of days later – “he still had the gumballs that we described to the police,” says Don – but that didn’t make Ruth any rosier about the prospects of the business.
She decided to call it quits and the shop never reopened.
But the Marmion name rose from the ashes like an overused simile, thanks to Ken Buck, owner of Joe Jost’s, whose Pabst on tap, pickled eggs and sausage sandwiches are every bit the equal in terms of popularity, of Marmion’s peanuts.
Buck bought the machine and, with the blessings of the Marmion family, installed it in his tavern/restaurant – initially at the now-defunct Pine Avenue Joe Jost’s, before moving it to the original, 83-year-old location at 2803 E. Anaheim.
Joe Jost’s donated all of the peanut sales from the 100 year anniversary of Marmion’s peanuts celebration to a favorite charity of the Marmions, the Long Beach City College Athletics Association. If you’ve never had Marmion’s peanuts stop by Joe Jost’s and pick up a bag or two for yourself. History never tasted so good.