Augusta, Kansas (Part 8 of 12): State Street, 400 Block, West Side

Crossing 5th Avenue and heading south on the west side of State Street, we come to the C.R. Calvert Company, a department store. The store was managed by O.R. Fowler and his wife. They were always professionally dressed and groomed, smiling, and welcoming to everyone who entered the store. One of the sales people was Kathryn Moser, wife of Ralph Moser, and mother of Vern Moser, who was 2 years older than I. Mom always looked for Kathryn when we went to Calvert’s because she was so good at fitting both boys and girls. The Elks Lodge moved from the Penley Building to the space above Calvert’s.

I believe that next was Jack’s Place, a beer joint owned by Jack Thompson. Jack’s Place had a bar, a pool table, and some domino tables. If I remember correctly, Jack’s daughter, Margaret, married Coach John Hutter.

Next was Bartholomew Furniture. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t acquainted with the family. They were Jack Parker’s grandparents, and were well know and well-liked around town. I remember hearing the name in the conversations of my folks and aunt and uncle. (Jack Parker is still an active octogenarian.) After the Bartholomew’s quit the business, that location was occupied by another furniture company whose name escapes me. One of the sales people there was Jane (Guest) Fennell, who was a niece of my great-aunt, Rachel (Wright) Peebler. Jane was always one of my favorites. For a time, the Guest family lived 2 doors south of us on Cliff Drive. During World War II, Jane was going with or engaged to Charlie Fennell. Charlie was away from home in the Air Force. I can remember playing out in the front yard with my sister and seeing Jane standing on her front porch, waiting for the mailman. Often, she lucked out and would call to us saying, “I got a letter from Charlie!” We would then go sit on the front porch with her as she read the letter to us. Jane and Charlie had a daughter, Dana (Fennell) Perez that I knew as a toddler, but haven’t had the pleasure since she’s grown up.

Next, would be Scholfield Hatchery. Gene Scholfield, my friend Keith’s dad, operated this business for several years. I don’t remember who managed it after Gene and Jap Hurst opened Scholfield Hurst Motor Company. One of the main things I remember is seeing the colorful baby chicks at Easter time.

Next, was the Augusta Daily Gazette. It was a 4-way partnership. Elsie Harrison ran the office, Mike Cyphers was the make-up and press man, Paul Cyphers was the linotype operator, and Bertha “Bert” Shore was a writer, reporter, and columnist. My Mom worked in the office for several years. They also hired Bill Schul as a reporter and H.G. “Hutch” Hutcheson as Managing Editor. I applied for work as a paper boy a month before my 12th birthday on August 27th. Elsie told me that when I turned 12, I should go in and get a Social Security Card and then come and see her the day school started. She said that one of her carriers was quitting so he could play freshman football. It all worked out, and I carried the paper for a year. There were a half dozen paper boys, but the only 2 I remember are Acey Bill Cody and his younger brother, Irwin Cody. Irwin is still around and he probably remembers better than I.

Next was a beauty salon owned by Frances Polk. Mrs. Polk was the mother of Virgil Polk who was 2 years older than I; he married my classmate, Bobadell Hill. I think Virgil’s dad drove a farm gas truck, delivering petroleum products to farmers.

Next is the State Street Lounge, owned by a man named Leo. I can’t recall the last name. Maybe Kiser?

Last on the block was the Pontiac/GMC dealership. Charlie Rawlings left his filling station at 6th and State and took over this business. Then, in 1956, he sold it to Don Cunningham. I worked for Don Cunningham’s Pontiac for a few months before joining the Navy.

Dave Thomas


Augusta, Kansas: Part 7- 5th Avenue

Augusta, Kansas: Part 7-5th Avenue

We’ve just come south along the east side of the 500 block of State Street. That last building on the northeast corner of State and 5th presents it’s west elevation to State Street, but there is no entrance there. If you go around the corner, to the left, you will find the door there on 5th Avenue. That door opens onto a waiting room shared by Harry Lutz, M.D., on the west and James Alley, D.D.S., on the east side. Nettie Hamlett was the nurse for Dr. Lutz. Nan Alley ran the dental office for her husband, Jim. The Alleys had a couple of sons living in Wichita. Kirstie Alley, the actress of Cheers was supposed to be a relative, and I was told in later years, her brother managed a lumber yard in Augusta.

I don’t remember what was in the next space there on 5th. Maybe a dry cleaner or a barber shop.

The next significant building, on the corner, was the 5th Avenue Hotel. The design of the building didn’t conform to the “look” of the rest of the area. The hotel looked more like a lodge you would find up in the mountains. The hotel had a lunch room known as the 5th Avenue Tea Room. After graduating from high school, during the depression, my Mom worked at the Tea Room as a waitress and hostess.

Continue east, across School Street, and you will find the town’s first super market. Safeway came to town when I was probably 9 or 10. The store was managed by Roy Smith, a very busy man. He made time for a smile and a greeting for everyone coming into the store. Mr. and Mrs. Smith had a daughter, Sue, who was a friend and classmate of mine. Sue married another classmate, Steve Allison.

Across the street, on the SE corner of 5th and School Street, was Dunsford Funeral Home. Joe Dunsford and his wife were well known and well-liked in town. Their son, Dick, and his wife, Barbara, were well thought of also.

On the SW corner of 5th and School Street was the Post Office.

Going west from the Post Office, and across the alley, was the Peckham Insurance Agency.

Going West from State Street on 5th, go a block and a half and between Walnut Street and Oak Street was the Locker Plant, owned by Bob Fisher. Bob and his wife, Ruby, had a son, Woody, who married my cousin, Maxine Peebler, daughter of Dave and Rachel Peebler. To me, the best thing about the locker plant was the ground sausage that Bob made and sold.

Dave Thomas


Augusta, Kansas: Part 6-500 Block, State Street, East Side

This has turned out to be an interesting exercise for me. I wanted to go through town and describe the businesses and their locations, but the important part was to be the people we met and remembered along the way. I’m looking at about a 15 year span of time, and I can’t always recall who was in what location first. It doesn’t really make any difference. The people themselves are the story. As a kid, I wandered in and out of every store in town and was never growled at and wasn’t refused access to any establishment.

Let’s get back on State Street and on the east side we will cross 6th and continue south.

The first building is the Penley Building, occupied by Penley Hardware. I first met Ernie Penley when I was pretty small. My Great-Uncle, Dave Peebler, was going to run some errands and invited me to tag along. He and Mr. Penley were good friends, and after buying what he needed, they visited while I looked around the store. Mr. Penley was deaf and used an ear trumpet to aid his hearing. I also met Mrs. Penley while visiting with my Aunt Rachel at the Penley home on Clark Street. For several years, local Elks Lodge 1462 met on the second floor, above Penley Hardware.

The next place was the P & G Bakery, operated by Harry Patterson and Bernie Govenius. The spelling may be wrong. It was pronounced “Go-vee-nus.” Besides selling baked goods, they had a soda fountain, booths, a peanut warming machine and display cases for pipe tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. I used to check the alley behind the bakery in hopes of finding discarded cigar boxes. One that I found, a Mississippi Crooks box, I sold on e-bay to a collector just 15 years ago. The big draw at the bakery was what they called a “malt.” It was a soft ice cream dispensed from a machine into a cone. My favorites at the bakery counter were Long Toms (maple bars), apple fritters, and those delicious cream puffs. Several of the men’s relatives worked in the bakery. He didn’t work at the bakery, but I believe that Chuck Patterson, a cool guy who was 4 or 5 years older than me, was Harry’s nephew.

Next door was O’Brien’s Furniture. I never had a reason to go in there, but I recognized the O’Brien’s when I saw them. They had a son, Mike, who was several years older than me.

Between the Bakery and O’Brien’s there was a stairway that led up to some meeting rooms. I think Uncle Dave went up there for Odd Fellows, and Aunt Rachel went for Eastern Star and Soroptomist. I think they both ended up as 50 year members of their clubs.

Also upstairs was the dental office of Ralph Brandt, D.D.S. His wife, Helena, managed the office. Doc and Helena had two boys. Dolan was 4 years older than I was, and Kermit was 2 or 3 years younger. Dolan married my cousin, Joyce Wilson.

Next up was Western Auto & Supply. For me, this was like going to the candy store. Western Auto had bicycles, bicycle parts, tools, rods and reels, fishing lures, guns, and all the other stuff that boys get excited about. When I was 10, I was having trouble with the nuts on the front axle of my bike coming loose. My Dad didn’t have any tools except a pair of pliers, so with them, I deformed and chewed up those nuts pretty bad. I saved my money and went to Western Auto and bought a pair of Vise Grips that I still own to this day.

Next, I’m seeing Skaer Drugs. I don’t know anything about it, so I guess I was never there.

Next, I see Bowman’s Market, owned and run by Charles and Marguerite Bowman. They were super nice old people, and I’m sure that their grocery store was the busiest in town at that time.

Next is Fowler’s News Stand, run by John and Lucille Fowler. I was a regular customer, buying comics in the early years. As I grew older, I enjoyed Western Horseman, Popular Mechanics, Mechanics Illustrated, Popular Science, Hot Rod, and Motor Trend. I never felt like I had the money to buy more than two magazines a month, but I could usually find the others at the city library or at school. After we got into high school, a friend and classmate, Gena Hulvey, worked after school and evenings at the news stand. You weren’t supposed to just stand there and read the magazines, and good manners dictated that you just lightly peruse the magazine in order to make a decision about buying. If there were no other customers, Gena would let me read a little. One day at school, I saw her in the hall. She came over to me and said, “Stop by the store when you get a chance. We’ve got a new magazine that you will enjoy seeing.” I stopped by the news stand that evening. There were a couple people looking at magazines. When they left, Gena beckoned me to where she was standing beside a door. She opened the door to the utility closet, reached in and got a magazine which she handed to me. “Check this out,” she said, and I looked at what was a copy of the first issue of Playboy Magazine. As I thumbed through the pages, completely surprised, I said, “Are you actually going to sell this in the store?” She said, “Yes, but for now, we have to keep it in the closet.” Times change and evolution is the name of the game.

The next place was a photographic studio. The only name I can think of is “Breck’s.”

Next, we have the Cash Insurance Agency, operated by Clovis Cash. I knew Mr. and Mrs. Cash because their daughter, Carolyn, was a good friend of my sister.

Next is the Prairie State Bank. At one time it was managed by Mr. Haines and later by Noah Morris. Mr. Morris had a son, Maynard, who was a year younger than me. Another employee of the bank was Dixie Wismer. She and her husband, Ivan, lived across the street from me. They had a young daughter whose name I can’t remember.

Next was Stephenson’s Men’s Clothing. Paul Stephenson and his wife ran the place. When I got old enough to earn my own money, I bought a suit from Paul, and Mrs. Stephenson explained the magic of lay-away. They had a son named Dick who was a classmate of mine. In one of my seaplane stories, I told about bumping into Dick on the island of Guam, 7,000 miles from home.

Next was Hall’s Book Store, operated by Mamie Hall. That’s where we ordered our school books every year. Mamie also sold wallpaper and was the franchise for Pittsburgh Glass and Paint. My Mom worked for Mamie for a few years. She enjoyed the books, as she was an avid reader, and she also enjoyed framing pictures. She loved mechanical gadgets, too, so the paint shaker was right down her alley.

Next was the office of Lionel West. I don’t know what he did, Guess he was an investor. He always brought his St. Bernard, Major, to work with him. He never minded if you stopped in just to pet the dog. I think that later on, he and Mamie, next door, got married.

Next up was Allison’s Barber Shop. That’s where I got my haircuts until I was 20 years old and joined the Navy. Burl Allison, Sr. was joined by Burl, Jr., and they always had a busy shop. They were both talkers, and quite often men stopped in just to chew over the news of the day. Prior to joining his Dad in the Barber Shop, Burl Jr. was a letter carrier/mailman for the Post Office. More often than not, he could be seen standing and talking to a resident rather than moving down the street. That was Burl. I don’t intend this in a mean way. Burl loved to talk, and people enjoyed talking to him. He listened, asked questions, and really engaged in conversation. After retiring, Burl Jr. wrote a terrific book chronicling the history of Augusta. Each page is crammed with facts about the people and the businesses of the town. Burl Jr. and his wife, Lois, had a son, Stephen, who was a good friend and a classmate of mine. Steve married Sue Smith, another friend and classmate. Steve also had a younger brother, Mike, and a younger sister whose name I can’t remember.

Before Allison’s Barber Shop, I think I should have listed Oklahoma Tire & Supply Company. It was managed by John C. Calhoun. I knew the Calhoun’s because their daughter had married Jack Guest, a nephew of my great aunt, Rachel Peebler.

Next is Leben’s Jewelry. It was owned and operated by Ted and Archie Leben who I think originally came from El Dorado. I got acquainted with them because they would let me stand and watch as they worked on items at their work bench.

There is only one more building on the block, but the entrance for it is around the corner on 5th Avenue, so I’ll save it for the next story.

Dave Thomas


Augusta, Kansas: Part 5-State Street, 500 Block West Side

Going south from 6th, the west side of State, we come to a small store front on the corner. It is occupied by a Mr. Cady and his weekly newspaper. I forget the name of the paper, but it is sometimes interesting to read. There are small news items and gossip and opinions. Mr. Cady has a full beard and is kind of a Santa Claus-looking guy. He sits up close to his front window and sets type by hand. He’s a nice old guy, and I generally stop by and say hello when going past.

The next space was open for years, because of a fire, I think.

Next, we have Weinshelbaum’s Appliances. Sorry about the spelling. Bob was a GE dealer and carried an assortment of household goods. His wife was in the shop most every day, and his two kids were there frequently also.

Next comes the Augusta Theater, a beautiful, well-kept place with murals on the walls. Next door to the south was the ISIS Theater which had a western motif. It showed westerns on Friday and Saturday nights. For a couple of years, I was the projectionist at the Augusta Theater and the Augusta Drive-In Theater. I enjoyed working for the Bisagno family. There were owners, Dave and Aline Bisagno and their son, Bob, and his wife, Norma. I covered the theaters in their own story, “Augusta Theaters.”

I’m a little hazy about the next space. About the time we entered high school, it became Graves Drugs, complete with soda fountain, booths, pharmacy, and the whole shebang. Prior to that, I think the space was occupied by Heckerman Variety Store. Heckermans was basically a dime store. They sold all kinds of toys and interesting stuff. Mr. Heckerman, I think his name was Leon, was always pleasant and didn’t mind having kids look around. I believe Mrs. Herckerman was in the store on most days, and they had a couple of kids who were there often when they weren’t in school.

Next, there might have been a dress shop. It wasn’t on my itinerary, so I don’t remember.

Probably next was Larsen’s Shoe Store, owned and operated by Russ and Sarah Larsen. I knew Russ pretty well. Our family had been living in the basement apartment of my great uncle and aunt, Dave and Rachel Peebler. We moved out just before my 5th birthday in August of 1941. The next tenants in the basement were the brothers, Russ and Ray Larsen. I got to know them before the war started, and, after they were drafted, they maintained the apartment, so I got to see them when they came home on furlough. In the shoe store, Russ had one of those x-ray machines that you stick your foot in and can see your shoe and the bones of your toes in order to check the fit. I guess they had that machine until the world decided that radiation wasn’t good for you.

Next, we have the pool hall, owned by Marvin Laubhan. In the front, on the left side was a bar, and on the right side were several domino tables. Then, there were about 4 snooker tables and an 8-ball table. Marvin tended the bar and kept everything in order. Draft beer was 10 cents a glass. One hot summer evening, John Luding and I had ridden the Skaer’s horses into town. There was an open parking space in front of the pool hall, so we rode into it and stopped at the curb. It was so hot that Marvin and some of his patrons were standing out in front of the pool hall in hope of catching an evening breeze. The pool hall had no air conditioning. Marvin, the owner/bartender was standing out front with the other guys. He took great pleasure in hassling people and trading zingers. As we came to a stop at the curb, Marvin says, ‘Real cowboys would be wearing 10-gallon hats.” I came right back with “a real pool hall would have an air conditioner.” That’s all it took to get the fun started. We were all throwing insults as fast as we could think of them. Finally, I said, “Marvin, John and I are going to ride on into your place, so you can draw us a glass of beer.” I urged my horse up onto the sidewalk and kept going until his head was in the door of the pool hall, and John was right behind me. Marvin yells, “Wait a minute!” Well, I had no intention of riding into the pool hall, but Marvin didn’t know it. If that horse had got spooked and went nuts, I’d still be paying for the damages. I let Marvin talk me out of riding inside, and we got things calmed down. It ended up that Johnny and I took turns holding the horses while the other guy went inside and had a beer.

Next was Cooper Drugs, a Rexall affiliate, owned and operated by John Cooper. Mr. Cooper’s wife, Eunice, was a good friend of my great-aunt, Rachel Peebler, and they had made a number of trips to New Mexico together. Mrs. Cooper had a fine collection of turquoise and silver jewelry, Navajo blankets, and pottery. Aunt Rachel was crazy about the black pottery of Maria Martinez. Cooper Drugs had a pharmacy, soda fountain, and booths.

Next, I believe I remember a small grocery store that was operated by an elderly couple named Round. Round’s Grocery.

Then, there was another dime store, McClellan’s Variety Store. It was a little more formal than Heckerman’s, but also had a lot of neat stuff for a kid to drool over stuff.

Next we have another drug store. Drain’s Drug’s. It was owned and operated by Jack Drain, a really nice guy. I remember that when I was a grade school kid, all the best looking high school girls hung out at Drain’s after school. I thought it to be a really nice place.

The last building on the west side of the street was the Brown Building. In earlier times it had housed Mr. Brown’s bank on the ground floor. When I became old enough to know what was happening, I think it was occupied by Lehr’s Restaurant, owned by Charles and Thelma Lehr. The Lehr’s had a son named Jerry who was several years older than I was. After the Lehrs moved their restaurant to the new building on West 7th Street, Art Ballinger and his wife, Mildred, started another restaurant at the corner location. I believe they operated a buffet-style place.

That’s it for the west side of the 500 block of State Street. This was the busiest part of town.

Dave Thomas


Augusta, Kansas: Part 4- 6th Avenue

We’ve arrived at 6th Avenue, and we’ll go west from State Street. Go a block to the northeast corner of 6th and Walnut, and you’ll find the dealership for International trucks and farm tractors. I don’t remember the name of the dealership.

Go across the street to the southeast corner of 6th and Walnut, and you will find the Scholfield Hurst Motor Company. It is a Ford dealership owned by Gene Scholfield and Jap Hurst. Gene and Erlene Scholfield had a son, Keith, who was a classmate of mine. Keith and I have been friends since we were four years old. Keith is still active in the local real estate market. Jap and Geneva Hurst had a son, Alan. Cliff Harding was the Service Manager at Scholfield-Hurst, and he also drove the company wrecker. Cliff had a son, Chuck, who was a year younger than Keith and I, and a daughter, Cherry, who was 3 or 4 years older. Ed Mehl worked in the body shop until he and Doug Sawtelle joined up and opened their own body shop.

Going east from State Street on 6th, on the north side of the street, we find Safford Lumber Yard. I didn’t have any need to visit them.

Across the street, on the south side, was the City Building. It contains city offices, the library, city clerk, Public Works, the police station, and the fire house. The police and fire stations were on the west end of the building, starting with a big garage to house the fire engine and a brush rig. Next to the overhead garage door was a regular entrance door. Just inside the door was a brass pole for the firemen to slide down when they were being called out. My friends and I would stop in once in a while to slide down the pole. No one ever seemed to mind. The only fire chief I remember was Bud Presnell. He had several kids, but the only one I remember is Claude. The only two police chiefs I recall are George Lietzke and Frank Bennington. Both of them would always wave and talk to a kid.

I remember two guys as Justice of the Peace. The first was Johnny Mercer, and the second was Tom Irwin. I only had to do business with Judge Tom Irwin once. That was after the cops picked us up for swimming in the city lake. Judge Irwin let us cool our heels in jail for an hour before giving us a stern lecture about swimming in the city’s water supply, and said there would be grave consequences if it happened again.

Dave Thomas