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


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


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


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



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


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: 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