June 1928: The shanty Irishman takes a bride

By JoAnn McMullen Lee

Marian Pearson was born in Saginaw, Michigan on October 26, 1905. She was the second child born to Martha Shultz Pearson and Leopold Leander Pearson. She grew up in Saginaw, attending school there except for one year at St. Joseph’s Academy in Adrian, Michigan. This may have been her junior year of high school. However, after one year, her older brother Jim was going to go to Notre Dame, and, so, for financial reasons, she returned to Saginaw, and graduated from St. Peter and Paul’s High school. For a while she worked as a secretary to the Saginaw County Treasurer. Through her brother Norbert, she met Marcel McMullen. Norb and "Mac" met while playing football in high school, and had become good friends.

Her father did not really approve of her friendship with Marcel, or their plans for marriage, and when they went ahead with these plans, he refused to attend the wedding. [Ed. note: according to Joyce McMullen Dark, Leopold referred to his future son-in-law as a "shanty Irishman".]  However, it wasn’t too long, before he began to change his mind, and became a regular visitor at the McMullen household. I think the main reason for the change of heart was that, during the Great Depression, Leopold had suffered some financial setbacks, and when he offered to sell the house Marian and Mac were renting from him (1215 South Fayette St., the house Marian had been raised in), Mac was able to pay him in cash -- a much needed commodity at the time.

Marian had five children. Twins, JoAnn and Joyce, were born in June 1929, James in December 1932, Thomas in June 1934 and John in October 1936.

mcmullen_marcel family
The McMullen kids: Tom, Jim, John, Joyce and JoAnn

Because of the Great Depression, she returned to work after the birth of the twins. Tanner Company, for whom Marcel worked, had gone into bankruptcy, and closed. For a while he worked on a WPA project, but with Marian’s encouragement, struck out on his own, and began selling carpeting out of the front room of their house. Marian never quite quit working, although, as time went by, she worked in the carpeting business she and Marcel were establishing. They were able to move out of the front room of their home, to a small rental store on South Michigan Ave. in Saginaw, and then to a larger store on Court Street. When the city of Saginaw decided to build a bridge in front of their rental store that would have completely blocked exposure to their business, they bought property elsewhere on South Michigan Avenue, and began construction of their own building. Their store opened in 1940.

She continued to work in the business, but always took the summers off, and we would go to the cottage at Killarney Beach on Saginaw Bay, which they bought around 1937. At the time of purchase, there was no indoor plumbing, but this changed in a matter of two or three years, and we were among the first at the beach to have an indoor toilet. The Bay was our bathtub!

Marian Pearson at Killarney Beach, Saginaw about 1939

Marian Pearson in Florida in 1940, the year before her death.
From L to R: JoAnn, Tom, John, and Jim. Not pictured: Joyce

Marian was very well liked by friends and relatives, and they had a very active social life. She was attractive, dressed well, had an outgoing personality, and was very bright. A woman fifty years ahead of her time, who never gave up fighting the world dominated by males. She remained a staunch Democrat until her death.

She died in July of 1941, following a hysterectomy. Age, 35. She was followed in death five weeks later by her father, Leopold Pearson. Burial was from St. Peter and Paul’s Church, and internment in St. Andrew’s Cemetery, Saginaw.

 

 

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