Land of Enchantment

We lived in Augusta, Butler County, Kansas. During World War II, Mom and Dad worked at the White Eagle (later, Mobil) Refinery. Mom was hired in 1942. She was hired as a replacement for one of the men who had been drafted. She was placed in the chemical lab, a job previously held only by men. Dad had started at the refinery prior to the beginning of the war. Jobs at the refinery were considered to be vital to the war effort so that and the fact that he was married and had two kids caused him to be deferred from the draft. He tried to enlist, but for the reasons given and the fact that he had rheumatic fever as a youth, he wasn’t allowed.

When our folks left for work in the morning, my sister, Sylvia, and I had to leave, too. We walked the block to the high school and then crossed the school grounds to State Street where we waited under the one street lamp to be picked up.  Those winter mornings were pitch black and sometimes there was a heavy fog that made it seem even more frightening. I was only six, and Sylvia was five, so we were easily spooked.

We would stand under the street lamp and wait. Cars would be coming down State Street on the way to the refinery. Sometimes a car would stop, and we would be offered a ride. I would say “thank you” and explain that Uncle Dave and Aunt Rachel would be picking us up in a few minutes. Pretty soon, that big green Packard with Uncle Dave driving would stop for us. Then, Uncle Dave would drive to the refinery where he would stop and get out. Aunt Rachel would slide across to the driver’s seat, and take us to her home.

Their home was at 124 High Street, and they had it build in 1923. It was across from Garfield Elementary and Intermediate School which made it perfect for Aunt Rachel to babysit us before and after school.

You may be wondering why they didn’t pick us up at home. I’m wondering the same thing. It may have been that Cliff Drive was a narrow street ending in a cul-de-sac that was hard to turn around in. Or, it may have been that our folks wanted us to meet them in an easy pick-up spot and save them some effort. Aunt Rachel was probably baby-sitting for free anyhow.

Rachel Ana Wright married my great uncle, David S. Peebler, and they have been our closest relatives both by relationship and geographical proximity.

Aunt Rachel loved the Southwest, particularly New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment,” and she and her good friend, Eunice Cooper, took a number of trips to that area from the 1930’s to the start of WWII. They visited the pueblos in the south, Taos, Santa Fe, and everything clear up to Gallup.

Eunice was married to John Cooper, owner of Cooper Drugs. For the life of  me, I couldn’t remember where the Coopers lived as I prepared to write this story. I could see that 2-story purple brick house in my mind’s eye, but didn’t know where it was. I finally asked Keith Scholfield, and he reminded me that they lived on Santa Fe Street, next to the old hospital. Santa Fe Street! What could be more fitting?

Aunt Rachel and Eunice Cooper were forward-thinking ladies and ahead of their time. At a time when you didn’t see that many women driving or gallivanting around the country, they were doing a serious job of exploring the southwest. 

Eunice was a serious collector. She displayed her beautiful collection of Native American art in an alcove, located off the living room of her home on Santa Fe Street. The space looked like the area of a trading post used for the display of “old pawn.” There were squash blossom necklaces, concho belts, silver bracelets, Navajo rugs, pottery, and probably a lot of things I have forgotten. I was completely awe-struck when viewing all of it.

Aunt Rachel was a lot more conservative. She had some Navajo rugs, a Navajo saddle blanket, some baskets, and some pottery. Her favorite possessions, though, were the beautiful black pieces of pottery made by Maria Martinez. In the early 1900’s, Maria had figured out how her ancestors had made the black pottery and had perfected the technique.

When Aunt Rachel was baby-sitting us, she made sure we were entertained. We played Chinese checkers, Old Maid, and other games. The best times, though, were when she told about her travels. She would unfold the Navajo rugs and tell us where she got them and how they were made. She had a small tom-tom made from a hallowed out cottonwood branch with a skin stretched over it that she would demonstrate and then hand over to one of us. She told about the pueblos and how the people lived.

The best part was when she told about Maria and the making of the black pottery. She would pick up one of the bowls and as he told us how it was made, she would be rubbing her hands over that slick glaze almost as if she were caressing it. Then, she would hand it to one of us to enjoy while she picked up another. I think I learned to love and appreciate that black pottery as much as she did.

Of course, the beautiful vases and bowls that are now considered as Native American art were originally produced as common kitchenware utility items. Though Aunt Rachel love the black pottery, she felt that the items should be seen, used, and enjoyed around the house. She had a beautiful black wedding vase, unsigned, but purported to have been made by Maria, that she used as a door stop. Some bowls were used to store paper clips or candy or whatever else needed to be contained. Chips and scratches appeared on some items, but that was okay because they were doing a job while providing beauty and interest to the household.

My time in the Navy was mostly spent in San Diego, but Pat and the kids and I made regular trips back to Augusta to visit relatives and friends.  When visiting Aunt Rachel, we always talked about her New Mexico trips and the treasures she brought home.

Aunt Rachel passed away in the late 1980’s, but left a lot of vivid memories. A few months after her passing, her daughter, Maxine (Peebler) Fisher, and her husband, Woody, came to California from their home in Denver. It turned out that their motive was more than just a vacation. Maxine surprised me with a box containing all of that beautiful black pottery.

Dave Thomas

6/17/2021

Tuning In

Back in 1946 or 1947, there were not TV’s and certainly, no transistor radios you could buy for $9.99. That stuff was still 10 or 15 years or more in the future. Most homes had a radio, but it was generally a big, honking console. The radio provided the evening’s entertainment for a family. My friend and neighbor, Gary Casner, and I wanted radios that we could mess with ourselves without having to listen to the programs the family was interested in. Some good luck came our way in the form of a neighbor who was an engineer who worked for Western Electric in Wichita. Gary and I lived on Cliff Drive, and our neighbors, Romane and Ruth Zlomke, lived on 7th Street in the duplex that is half a block west of State Street, on the north side.

Romane was always working on his car or some other project, and one day when Gary and I came by, he said he would help us build a crystal set. We got all excited about that, and we were soon in the radio business.  Romane came up with most of the parts though I think Gary and I had to buy the crystals. I think Romane got the ear phones at an Army surplus store. The tuning coils we made ourselves, winding them on toilet paper rolls.

Building the crystal sets and then getting them to operate was a good project for us. Keeping the wire touching the right spot on the crystal was a delicate proposition, and keeping a little metal bead touching the tuning coil at just the right spot wasn’t easy either. We picked up a few stations we found, but one of them was probably that wild station out of Del Rio, Texas, that overpowered everything. It was a fun project and lasted as long as our attention spans at the time.

Dave Thomas

06/03/2021

Augusta, Kansas: Part 12 of 12- Give It a Try

This has been an interesting project and a lot of fun for me. I had been thinking about my home town and some of the people in it, and began to wonder just how much I could remember of my younger days. In an effort to quantify the project or put some kind of bounds on it, I decided to consider the business district and the years 1945, when I was 9, through 1957, when I was 20. I’m sure that I mixed up the locations of some stores and misspelled some names. What surprises me, is that after 70 or 75 years, how much I remembered about the shopkeepers, their spouses, their families, where they lived, what kinds of cars they drove, and a lot of other little things. I knew the people that ran almost every store in town, and they knew me. It always a pleasure to go downtown, and the people I saw were pretty decent folks.

There were a lot more people to know in our small town. The largest employer in town was the Mobil Refinery. I’ll bet that by the time I was 12, I could stand by the gate at quitting time and identify more than half the men as they came out.

Augusta served as a bedroom community for the aviation industry of Wichita. Some of our townspeople worked at Beech, Boeing, and Cessna. All of this helped add to our circle of acquaintances.

Our town was also surrounded by family farms, and I was privileged to know a lot of those families as well. For instance, Glen Chalmers went to a country school in his early years, but I looked forward to seeing him and his parents and sister at Sunday School and church every week.

Flexing your memory and cleaning out the rust can be a fun thing to do.

Dave Thomas

3/3/2021

Augusta, Kansas: Part 11 of 12, State Street, 300 Block

Crossing 3rd Avenue and heading south on the west side, you find Mr. Jackson’s lot. He was a mechanic that seemed to limit his clientele. There never seemed to be more than one car at his place at a time. He and his wife were both pleasant people.

Next, was Howard Motors, a Chevrolet and Buick dealership. The company was owned by Ray Howard. Jack Parker reminded me that I forgot to mention that Howard Motors started out in the 600 block of State Street at the location next occupied by Mr. Blowey and his Augusta Hardware. I think Howard Motors moved into the new location in 1950 or 1951. I began working for them at the new location in the summer of 1952. I got to know the Howard’s pretty well. Ray sang with my Dad in the Augusta Elks Barbershop Quartet. Ray and Veda had 3 kids, Connie, Jackie, and Bill. Bill (William Ray Howard, Jr.) was a friend and classmate. Kenneth Markley was Service Manager and drove the wrecker. Kenny Dickinsen was Shop Foreman and Head Mechanic. Frank Prosser was a mechanic. Hank Funkey was also a mechanic. Phil Harding (brother of Cliff Harding at Scholfield-Hurst Motors) was Parts Manager. Betty Harrison worked in the office. Merle Canfield and Budd Nutter were salesmen. In late 1954 or early 1955, Ray Howard sold to George L. Findley, and it became the George L. Findley Chevrolet Company. George and his wife had come from Wichita. They had a daughter. They bought the David Allison house on Washington Lane. George hired Max Blackwelder, a CPA, to handle the financing and insurance components of the business. I think that during this period, Doug Sawtelle was in charge of the body shop for a time.

Next is the log cabin, the Augusta Historical Society Museum. I’ve already talked about this. I’m glad it’s still there and that it is being well cared for by the Director and the Board.

Next, go across the street to the east side. The only business over there was Crooks Cleaners, a dry cleaning shop owned by Jim Crooks. He was a very nice guy, and he had a son, also named Jim.

Dave Thomas

1/11/2021

Augusta, Kansas: Part 10 of 12, 3rd Avenue

Going east from State Street on 3rd, the only business I can remember is Manka’s. I can’t think of the correct name. It may have been Manka Feed or Manka Produce. Mr. and Mrs. Manka bought eggs from the local farmers and re-sold them. I think they also sold chicken feed and other products for farmers. The Manka’s had a daughter, Shirley, who was a friend and classmate. I was talking with my cousin, Jack Wilson, a few years ago, and he recalled that when he was old enough to get his driver’s license, it became his job to drive the eggs to Manka’s. In an exchange of emails a few years ago, Shirley told me she still had the device that she and her folks had used to candle the eggs. Shirley is still with us, and I believe is still living in Texas.

Dave Thomas

02/09/2021

 

Augusta, Kansas: Part 9 of 12, State Street, 400 Block, East Side

Crossing 5th Avenue and heading south on the east side of State Street, we first encounter a 2-story, white stucco building on that southeast corner of State and 5th. My first remembrance is that this was Hudson’s Department Store, operated by a lady named Florence Hudson. I remember my Mom taking me in there one time to buy a pair of bib overalls. This was real grownup attire for a grade school kid. For a few years, Mamie Hall had her book store at this location before moving up to the next block. Now, we come to the important stuff about this location. I believe that the address here is 432 State. My Mom told me that I was born in an upstairs apartment, but never told me the address or what store it was above. I was at least 60 years old before looking at my birth certificate and having it register that my birth address was 432 ½ State Street. I’ve had some thoughts of petitioning the Chamber of Commerce to install a bronze plaque on the wall of the building saying, “Dave Thomas was born here.” However, I’m realistic enough to know that the plaque would probably say, “Dave Thomas was born here. So, what?”

Next, we have Chisman Shoe Repair, owned by Jesse Chisman. Jessie’s wife was in the store on most days, taking care of the customers. I don’t remember seeing Jesse without a smile on his face. The Chisman’s had a daughter who was a couple of years older than me. I think her name was Shirley. Jesse was a brother to Jim Chisman, a mechanic, who I think worked for Martin Brothers Motors. Jim and Anna Chisman had a son, Robert, who was a couple of years older and married my classmate, Mary Burch.

Next were the offices of a young CPA named Dick Maddox. He and his wife were nice, friendly people.

Next was Lovellettes Furniture. I remember that my Mom liked this couple.

Next was Southwest Bell, the telephone Company. This was where the operators worked, back when we had operators.

I think next was the old theater. It had been closed for years. I think Mrs. Bisagno played piano for the silent movies here.

Next, I think, was Elerick’s Cleaners. Frank Elerick had died, but I got to know his widow, Pearl, as she was a good friend of my Aunt Rachel. Pearl lived a block over on School Street across from the old Coca Cola building.

The bowling alley was along here, somewhere. I tried bowling a few times and enjoyed it, but never got hooked on it.

I can’t remember what the last businesses were. Guess my brain is giving out.

Dave Thomas

2/3/2021

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

1/8/2021

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

01/17/2021

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

1/13/2021

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

1/12/2021