Augusta, Kansas Part 3: State Street 600 Block East Side

We’ve walked down the west side of the 600 block, and I have nearly strained my brain. I’m looking back 70 or 75 years, and some things are getting a little fuzzy. I remember faces pretty well, but not first names. I may be missing some of the stores, too.

Let’s cross the street, go back to the stoplight at 7th Street, and proceed south again.

On the southeast corner of 7th and State is McDuffee’s Service Station. They had gas pumps, a couple of boys for car repair, and served as the bus station. The main bus line was Continental Trailways. The place was always busy with Mr. McDuffee always doing something, and Mrs. McDuffee running the desk inside. They always had a couple of employees, too. In the back of the building, there was an overhead garage door which, when opened, revealed a steep ramp down to a paved basement. If my pals and I happened to come by when the door was open, we would ride our bikes down the ramp. I’m telling you that was a real thrill because that ramp was steep. I only used the place as a bus depot once. In March of 1957, I enlisted in the Navy and went to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, outside of Chicago, for boot camp. After completing boot camp in June, I came home for a 30 day leave. I took a train from Chicago to Wichita. There weren’t any timely connections to Augusta, so I grabbed my sea bag and hiked a block to the bus despot and caught a bus for Augusta. When we arrived home, McDuffee’s was a sight for sore eyes.

Heading south, my memory is a little fuzzy about the next building. I seem to recollect that when the Scholfield-Hurst Motor Company first opened up, they used this building until their new facility at 6th and Walnut was ready. Later, Bud Miller and his son, Franklin, moved Miller Auto Parts from east 7th to here.

Next, we see the Frisco railroad tracks again. Then, the Frisco Depot. Then, again, we see the siding tracks.

Next is the outdoor portion of a lumber yard, and then the store-front part of the lumbar yard.

Next comes Augusta Hardware, owned by R.A. Blowey and another man whose name I can’t remember. Blowey had two sons. Harold was a year younger than me, and Richard was two years older than me. Richard went to the University of Kansas on a football scholarship and did alright for himself.

Next was Charlie Rawlings’ filling station. I believe he had a Mobil franchise. Charlie had a son, Stanley, who was 2 or 3 years older than me. Charlie stayed in this location for several years until he acquired the Pontiac dealership at 4th and State.

Dave Thomas

12/28/2

Augusta, Kansas, Part 2: State Street, 600 Block West Side

I always enjoyed going to town. There was always neat stuff to see in the stores, most of which I could only dream about because our family didn’t have any money. I liked and enjoyed the people, too. I knew most of them, either through my folks or my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Dave.

I thought I would walk down the street and tell you about the stores and the people in them as I went. It’s been 64 years since I left Augusta and came to California, so I’ve forgotten some of the names and the exact store locations.

State Street is the main drag, and it’s probably a mile long and about ¾ of it is paved with brick. The main cross street is 7th Street, running from east to west. It’s also U.S. Highway 54. The intersection of State and 7th was, for many years, the location of the town’s only stop light.

We’ll start at the stop light and walk south on the west side of the street. On the corner is a Standard Oil gas station. I forget who I first knew to be in there. The name might have been “Ruggles.” It was later taken over by the Shryock family. The one I knew best was Bob. He was always friendly when I wanted to air up my bike tires. Next came the Green Spot Café. It was owned by a man whose last name was Londeen. He was a good friend of my parents. They may have gone to school together. The café was a tiny place with just a few stools and a couple of small tables. The specialty of the house was veal cutlets, so that’s what we always had. The next business down was a gas station. I think the building was yellow. The Portico cast a nice shadow and cooled the concrete driveway which was welcome if you were barefoot on a hot summer day. The next business was Martin Brothers Motor Company, a Dodge/Plymouth dealership. The brothers were quite often standing in front of the store and hoping to make the next sale. Next was the railroad tracks, running across State Street from east to west. This was the mainline track of the Frisco Railroad. I remember that before we were old enough to drive, Jack Watson and I sometimes took the train to Wichita. It must not have cost much. Next to the tracks was a giant water tank on stilts that was used to fill the old steam engines. On the other side of the water tank was a siding track that serviced Schneider Brothers Grainery and Safford Lumber Yard, across the street. Schneider Brothers Grainery was next to the siding. I forget the first names of the brothers. One was slim and the other was stocky. This was a good place to get a handful of wheat to chew on. The next business was Parks Motors. It was run by Dan Parks and his wife, Fanny. The head sales guy was Jake Cauthron. I think he was Dan’s brother-in-law. This was a Chrysler dealership. Next was the Renfrow Hotel. I think this was mostly a residential hotel. I believe that Bertha “Bert” Shore, columnist and co-owner of the Augusta Daily Gazette, lived here. Next was a store I was never in. I think it was inhabited by the electric company. The next building, the last one on the block, was the Moyle Building. It was originally a three story building, but a tornado (1930?) took the top off of it. Now, the second story is apartments, and the ground floor is occupied by Burgess Grocery. Ralph Burgess was a fair-sized man. What hair he had was red. His wife, who worked part-time at the store was a red head also. Their daughter, who was 4 or 5 years older than me, had the reddest hair I’ve ever seen. Ralph was really good with kids and well-liked. I remember standing in line in his store during World War II. The first time, my mom had sent me to the store because there was to be bread available that day. I was thrilled to be trusted to stand in line with the grown-ups and wait for the delivery of the rationed bread. The second time I stood in line was for Double Bubble Bubble Gum. It was a rare treat during the war. Each kid was allowed one piece.

This concludes the west side of the 600 block of State Street.

(Thanks to Jack Parker for the picture!)

Dave Thomas

12/21/2020

Just Wondering

If a person openly ridicules the wearing of a face mask, scoffs at social distancing, and insists on attending a political rally or a bar or party and becomes infected with the Covid19 virus, and said person passes the virus on to parents, siblings, grandparents, or friends and one of them dies, should said person be tried for first degree murder, or do we have to settle for second degree murder?

Dave Thomas

12/12/2020

What?

What is all of this “white bean” stuff? I’ve eaten beans periodically all my life. Though they were white in color, they were “NAVY BEANS.” I don’t know what the facts are, but, as a kid,I was told that they were called “navy beans” because that’s what the Navy regularly fed the sailors. Who had the audacity to change the name from “navy beans” to “white beans?” And, what’s happening with pinto beans? Are they now being called “brown beans?”

 

Dave Thomas

12/11/2020

Augusta, Kansas-Part One: The Town

Approaching our town on US Highway 54, it was easy to spot the sign. Big block letters announced “AUGUSTA” and the next line said “City of 5,000 Friends.” Even as grade school kids, we thought the Chamber of Commerce had lost their marbles on that one. There is no doubt, though, that it was a great place to grow up after World War II and into the 1950’s. It was pretty much a Leave It to Beaver existence. I know that a lot of people write about the place they grew up in and the stories are sometimes sweet enough to give you diabetes. It’s true, though, that a lot of the stories tell of times that were so much different from today that they should be passed on.

The sign I mentioned earlier was probably fabricated and painted by Johnny Bourget. He was our local sign painter. A very creative and talented man, he could create a sign for anything. John was also kept busy by the shopkeepers, painting shop windows with sale prices and holiday decorations. That window stuff was all painted backwards and done with amazing skill. And he was never too busy to give a kid a smile and an explanation of what he was doing.

The most important thing about a town, of course, is its people. I’ve written about some of them. I started writing short little stories a few years ago in hopes of entertaining my kids and grandkids. There are about 200 stories now that I have posted on my blog: crittersandcats.com. After you get on my website, scroll down a little, and you will find categories. They are: Birds, Cats, Horses, Kids, Life, Small Town, etc. Small Town is the category that contains most of the stories that take place in Augusta, though there are a few stories under other headings that would apply.

The town is located in south central Kansas, about 45 miles from the Oklahoma state line to the south. The town is 15 miles east of Wichita where the land is pretty flat. You have to go another 20 or 30 miles east of Augusta before you get to the beginnings of the Flint Hills.

 

The town is also located between two rivers, the Whitewater on the west, and the Walnut on the east. There was said to be an Indian encampment or village on the banks of the Walnut, just a few hundred yards from where the south end of State Street is located now. I don’t know how many hours Jack Watson and I spent looking for arrowheads and artifacts there. The Lietzkes owned the first property south of the old steel bridge and Ross Lietzke told me that he had found arrowheads after plowing.

 

The first home in town, a log cabin, was erected in 1868 by C.N. James. He and his wife, Augusta, also operated a general store and post office on the premises. You may have noticed that James named the town after his wife.

The log cabin is still standing in the 300 block of State Street. The house now serves as Augusta’s Historical Museum. I first visited the museum when I was of grade school age. My great uncle, Dave Peebler, took me there. Uncle Dave had donated some items to the museum and wanted me to see them and the other exhibits. In recent years, the ladies who serve as directors and the Museum Board have kept the place fresh and relevant.

It gives me pleasure to think that some of my family members may have been among the earliest visitors to Augusta and the C.N. James General Store/Post Office. My Great Great Grandparents had been farming near Junction City, Kansas, but decided it was time for a change. They loaded all their belongings into a wagon, gathered up their sons, hitched up the team, and headed south. Their journey ended in Butler County where they homesteaded in Little Walnut Township, just southeast of Augusta. On February 16th, 1871, David and Susan’s daughter was born there in Little Walnut Township. They named her Minnie Belle, and she became my great-grandmother, Minnie Belle (Church) Peebler.

Going downtown was always fun. Besides all the neat stuff to look at, I knew the people in almost every store, and they knew me. I like to keep these stories short, so I’m going to end this one for now, but in future parts, I will take a mental walk down State Street and will describe the people and stories I visit on the way.

Dave Thomas

12/7/2020