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


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