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

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