Bloom High School Then and Now

It is such a trip to walk through a completely obliterated building and see floor tiles still affixed to the concrete. Most people in Ford County, Kansas are well aware that the entrance to the Bloom High School is all that is left standing. I remember when it was taken down but I never really knew much about the town…other than it hadn’t been incorporated in ages.

Photographer Unknown

Bloom was established in 1887. It was never going to be a thriving metropolis but its position on the Rock Island Line ensured at least some commercial activity, including a weekly newspaper.

The Weekly Telegram, July 25, 1889

In April of 1889, the Bloom School had about 20 pupils attending class. In 1915, the two-room schoolhouse held 39 students. They weren’t breaking any records. By comparison, the fancy new school in Ford had 128 students at this time. There was a severe drought that just about wiped Bloom off the map. The newspaper died. The post office closed in 1891 and it was actually hauled away in 1894. I’m not sure when the City of Bloom became an unincorporated place but I imagine it was about that time.

Bloom experienced a renaissance in the early aughts, however, and a new post office opened in 1908. Soon, residents were getting their news from a different source.

The Bloom Booster, September 28, 1916

Bloom finally got some attention and organized support for a new school in October of 1916. Initial estimates came in at around $9,000 but we know how that goes.

The Dodge City Globe October 19, 1916

Less than two months later, the cost had risen to $15,000 and voters approved the bond issue.

Dodge City Daily Journal, December 10, 1916

The Bloom Booster, February 15, 1917

Contracts were awarded to Peters & Cobb of Ford for the building and W. F. Polly of Hutchinson for plumbing and heating. The idea was for the new school to be ready for the 1917-18 school year but it never works out that way. Bloom ran into the same problems as other Ford County districts with construction materials being slow to deliver. In July of 1917, the district thought the building might be ready about two weeks into the school year. Seven months later, with an epic typo:

The Bloom Booster, February 14, 1918

The new school had six classrooms, an auditorium with seating for 250, and a gymnasium “large enough for basket ball.” With enrollment at about 30 students, Bloom had high hopes for the future. Unfortunately, the school wasn’t yet accredited because it only offered three years rather than the four required by the state. Parents were unsure whether sending their kids to Bloom would cause their work to go uncredited so the district was under extreme pressure to get that fourth year offered. Then they had an outbreak of influenza in December of 1918.

Bloom peaked in the early 1930s, as many Kansas communities did during the Dust Bowl.

The Spearville News, February 27, 1930

Bloom didn’t have a football team (at least in 1932) so their athletes focused on “base ball” and “basket ball.” The Ford basketball team was actually taking Bloom seriously, which is hilarious…except Bloom marched onto Ford’s home court and beat them 17-12.

The Ford Progress, January 6, 1933

I feel like “wholesale slaughter” might have been a touch hyperbolic but sports reporters are sports reporters.

The Ford Progress, January 13, 1933

Speaking of the Dust Bowl:

The Catholic Advance, September 18, 1937

If you ever want something to be outraged about, peruse employment ads prior to the Civil Rights Act. It’s an HR Manager’s worst nightmare. These ads are fine but holy crap the others are awful.

The Wichita Eagle, February 10, 1956
The Evening Eagle, September 10, 1956

Somewhere along the way, Bloom formed an eight-man football team. That may have been a mistake.

Garden City Telegram, September 16, 1960

The Bloom High School Class of ’64 consisted of eight graduates so I think it was clear the lights would soon be out forever.

The Hays Daily News, May 12, 1964

Bloom’s school district merged with Minneola in 1964 and that was the end of the Bloom Badgers.

Garden City Telegram, January 12, 1965

I really want to know more about these reunions. Are they still a thing? Where are they held? The Bloom Alumni Association was still active in 1996 but that was the last mention I was able to find.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, April 29, 1984
The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, October 21, 1984

The Bloom Post Office closed for the last time in March of 1992. I think the Co-op may be the only business left in the community, unless someone has a home-based business. The Rock Island depot is still standing and is a private residence. The Lighthouse Baptist Church still has a presence but I’m unsure if they’re still using the building they put up inside the footprint of the old gymnasium. Seriously. The 2020 Federal Census listed 110 people in all of Bloom Township.

I remember reading about the upcoming demolition of Bloom High School and thinking at the time I should go down there and take some photos. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Not only can I not remember when it happened, I can’t remember where I read it. Was it in the Globe? The Banner? Where was I sitting when I read it? No clue! All I know is the article mentioned a decision to leave the entry standing, which was 100% the right call. I really, really love that it’s still there.

The school was definitely demolished prior to June of 2008 because those are the earliest Google Street View images available online and it was already gone.

Searching Globe online archives is borderline impossible bit I did find this story about the gymnasium roof blowing off in November of 2006. Clicking on the story won’t get you anywhere but the photo clearly shows the school buildings were already down. Speaking of the gym, the Lighthouse Baptist Church tried their best to keep the structure intact. They replaced half the roof and most of the flooring back in 2002. It must have been a major gut punch to then have all that work destroyed within four years.

Here’s how the school looks now:

Did the record skip when you compared the old newspaper photo to those I just took? Yeah, same here. That’s definitely not the same entrance from 1918. Everything about it looks much more modern. So what the heck? Sam at the Kansas Heritage Center sent me this photo showing the gymnasium that was added on the north side of the school during the Great Depression. It’s clear that the original school building faced west and the entrance left standing that faces Highway 54 was from a later addition.

Photo courtesy of Kansas Heritage Center

This satellite view from Google Maps clearly shows the church that was constructed inside the old gymnasium. I’m amazed the county issued a building permit for this but I verified that they sure did.

I’m glad I grabbed a few pics of the gymnasium and the debris pile from the original school building. If I had known at the time what all I was looking at, I would have taken more. Because it’s all just piled there where it fell, it’s very difficult to see which areas are safe to step. There are a lot of weeds potentially covering holes and brittle flooring materials…not to mention snakes.

I’ve reached out to the Minneola Public Library and the Minneola High School Library to see if they have any interesting materials but haven’t had any luck. I’ll update this post if I receive any additional information.

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Chicago Child Sold to Highest Bidder?

I saw this story from 1922 while doom scrolling Twitter and thought I would try something different.

Some of you know that I’m obsessed with genealogy and have solved all sorts of family mysteries through my research. It’s not just for funzies either…if you would like me to help with your family tree, that is a service I provide for a reasonable price and I’ll include a bit of info at the bottom of this post. So I thought it would be interesting to see how things turned out for young Marie Baker.

While this story made national news, most outlets failed to publish the full story. I assume the truth of the matter sells fewer papers. Mrs. Kenney was the sister of Marie’s mother so the child was not sold. She was released to her aunt and uncle once her father’s negotiated debt was settled. This additional paragraph was found in under five minutes.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 28, 1922

The caption below this photograph is outrageously irresponsible, inaccurate, and culturally insensitive. Everyone responsible for it appearing in print deserved to be fired.

Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, NY), July 31, 1922

What do we know? Marie’s aunt married John Kenney from Rentville, Minnesota and Marie’s last name was Baker. Compared to some people I’ve researched, that’s a lot. I read all of the other newspaper reports on the story and found Marie’s father’s name was also John.

Unfortunately, there is no “Rentville” in Minnesota. The correct name is Renville. Here’s the aunt and uncle with their biological children on the 1920 Federal Census.

John T Kenney and Pearl (Duncan) Kenney moved around quite a bit but I was able to track them to Illinois and later to California. Pearl’s obituary said daughter Mrs. Mary Hood lived in Lake City, Arkansas.

The San Bernardino Daily Sun, December 24, 1963

The discrepancy between Mary and Marie is something I’ve seen many times and it’s maddening. To make sure I had the correct family, I looked into Pearl’s family. The 1900 Federal Census lists Pearl with her parents and siblings in Illinois.

Jeannie (Myrtle Jeannette) Duncan was Mary/Marie’s biological mother. I had a little trouble finding information about the father, who was listed in the newspaper as John Baker. His birth name was Tjarko Janssen Bakker and it was anglicized when he immigrated to the US. This was probably a good idea since he served in the German military prior to World War I. He worked as a waiter in a hotel restaurant when he arrived in the US.

St. Louis Star, July 14, 1913

Jeannie died of pneumonia in December of 1918. John Baker is listed as the husband and that matches the initial newspaper article.

This was obviously during the horrible flu epidemic and Mary/Marie’s older sister, Hilka, died just a few days before their mother.

Mary/Marie did not live with her father right after her sister and mother died. Instead, she stayed with her grandmother, Joanna Duncan at least until 1920. On the 1920 Federal Census, her name was listed as Mary Bakker. Her last name was changed to Kenney after being “sold” to her aunt and uncle. She later moved to Arkansas, where she married Ernest E Hood in 1947.

Their son, Ernest E Hood, Jr. was born in October of 1949. Ernest Jr. moved to Georgia and unfortunately, died very young at the age of 41.

The Atlanta Constitution, October 18, 1991

The eldest Ernest died in 1996 and Mary/Marie died in November of 2001. I didn’t bother digging deeper on John Baker. This is just what I was able to compile in an afternoon. The point of this exercise was to show that newspapers have been tricking readers with sensational headlines since the invention of the printing press. If a story provokes an intense emotional reaction, it’s probably misleading you.

Mary Bakker Kenney Hood had a complicated life with a great deal of tragedy but she had a very large family that appeared to love her very much. As always, there was more to the story of the girl who was “sold to the highest bidder.”

As mentioned above, I do genealogical and other research for hire so if you would like my help working on a project, please send me a message letting me know what you need. I can do an entire family tree or I can look for a specific document. Depending on the project, I will quote an hourly or per item/person rate.

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Rumor Check: Errol Flynn Drunk on City Hall Steps

A reader recently asked, “Is the story true: When Errol Flynn was making the movie, Dodge City, that he was found drunk on the steps of City Hall one morning next to local, Robert Lee Christopher?”

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy questions like this! Okay, so I think my reader meant while Flynn was in Dodge for the premiere of Dodge City since the movie wasn’t made here. And I have definitely heard rumors about Flynn’s behavior while he was in town but I started out with zero verifiable facts.

You’re probably already aware that the movie premiere didn’t just fall into our laps. This was a really big ask and really, a genius move. The Kansas contingent reportedly went to Hollywood with a scroll signed by 10,000 Dodge City residents, which honestly seems impossible, but who am I to say.

The Wichita Eagle, February 15, 1939

No, wait…FIFTEEN thousand signatures! This is a tall tale, if I’ve ever seen one. But it worked!

The Wichita Eagle, February 21, 1939

Errol Flynn’s drinking habits were very well-known and it would have been super awkward if Warner Brothers couldn’t locate him for the big show.

The Wichita Eagle (Evening), March 10, 1939

What in the world? “She won him in a raffle.” Can you even imagine?

The Hutchinson News, March 23, 1939

Luckily for Miss Butterfield, Warner Brothers had a plan to ensure Flynn didn’t break their date.

San Francisco Examiner, March 23, 1939

After an unsuccessful search for a yearbook photo, I found this shot of the lucky winner.

Daily News, (Los Angeles) March 30, 1939

With a $2 million budget, this film was kind of a big deal, though I’ve seen estimates anywhere from $1 to $2 million and all points in between.

Hollywood Citizen-News, March 31, 1939
Hollywood Citizen-News, March 31, 1939

And then the worst happened. Miss Butterfield’s date was ruined by her stupid brother and his stupid measles.

The Fresno Bee, April 1, 1939
Los Angeles Times, April 1, 1939

The premiere was shown simultaneously at the Dodge, Crown, and Cozy theaters and even then, there was no way for everyone to get a seat. The movie was shown on repeat all through the night.

Dodge Theatre, Photographer Unknown
The Wichita Sunday Eagle, April 2, 1939
The Wichita Sunday Eagle, April 2, 1939

The turnout was absolutely massive. Crowd estimates ranged from 20,000 to 100,000 and I really don’t think anyone had a good grasp of just how many people flooded the streets. The Santa Fe Railroad set up a kind of pop-up city at the railyard for the cast, crew, and reporters to stay. But we know Errol Flynn stayed at the Lora-Locke Hotel so these accommodations didn’t appear to be for the headliners.

Photo by Frank Locke

There was a police force (probably Santa Fe Railroad Police) assigned to the railyard keep out the riff-raff. In addition to area police and sheriff departments helping out around town, Dodge even had National Guard assistance for crowd control.

The Wichita Eagle, April 3, 1939
The Wichita Eagle, April 3, 1939
Wilmington Press, (Wilmington, Calif.) April 15, 1939

Walter Winchell reported that the journalists who went on the junket consumed 114 cases of Scotch so the rumor about Flynn seemed totally plausible. I asked around and there are people in Dodge who have heard the story many times but it’s become sort of an urban legend. No one knows where the story originated. I haven’t read one article or gossip column that even hinted at Flynn partying outside of the Lora-Locke. One newspaper estimated 78 sets of press credentials were issued so I would think *someone* would have taken notice of Flynn’s whereabouts. All of the papers I’ve located reported most of the stars turned in around midnight because their train was leaving early the following morning. Now Dodge City definitely didn’t do that! The town didn’t sleep at all that night. Most everyone partied until dawn and then saw the special train off at the depot!

Having struck out thus far, I decided to search from another angle. Who was Robert Lee Christopher? The 1930 Federal Census had a Robert L Christopher at 805 Avenue H in Dodge City.

Initially, I had no idea if this was the same person but this is the only newspaper item I’ve been able to find. The age of this child doesn’t jive with the census record above so I had my doubts about whether they later lived in Haskell County.

The Hutchinson News, February 27, 1940

But then I found this 1940 Federal Census with Arlie and children in Satanta (also located in Haskell County) so it is the same family. Census takers made mistakes all the time with names, ages, places of birth, etc. Also, people lie.

I contacted the Dodge City Police Department and was told they do have records for Robert Lee Christopher but nothing during the time of the premiere. They also don’t have any records related to Errol Flynn and yes, that was the name his parents gave him at birth. The Ford County Sheriff Department didn’t have any records. Based on what I’ve learned so far, I’m calling this one busted. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, definitely let me know!

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Beeson Station? Never Heard of It!

Do you ever wonder about those obscure dots on the maps that meteorologists point toward during their forecasts? You know, the dots on roads you’ve been using your entire life and you are absolutely certain that there is no “there” there? For Kansas people, Sears and Buttermilk are good examples. I really thought Merril Teller was crazy.

Ever since I received a 1936 world atlas as a gift, I’ve meant to look up the dot on the Kansas map that says, “Beeson.” Like you, I’d never heard of it. I would definitely remember if my grandmother had mentioned a train station named after the family!

The Popular Atlas of the World, 1936

It seemed like AT&SF archives would be a good place to start but that isn’t as easy as it sounds. I found a time table from 1873 that was for employee use only and there was nothing listed between Spearville and Dodge City at that time. This 1883 Santa Fe map is insanely cool but only lists Dodge, Wright, and Spearville. But here it is on this 1920 Kansas railroad map.

The announcement of its closing was the first mention I was able to find in the local newspapers.

The Globe-Republican, April 22, 1909

I had only a vague idea of where it was located and since the town boundaries have stretched dramatically over the years, learning it was six miles east of Dodge didn’t help much. Isn’t Wright considered six miles east of Dodge now? But it was still used as a landmark and I was able to use the legal description from this adjacent lot to narrow it down somewhat.

The Stafford County Republican, March 24, 1910

Terrific…let’s check out the maps.

Standard Atlas of Ford County Kansas, 1905-6

I zoomed in on those 11.36 acres, which helped, but still left five possibilities. But Lot 17 doesn’t make any sense on the old plat maps or the current parcel map.

So I looked at a later map that included irrigation ditches. It makes sense to have this near a jerkwater station but did it actually go under the tracks? I have no idea what the well situation was like out there.

Atlas and Plat Book of Ford County Kansas, 1916

This really doesn’t help. I went though the big book at the Ford County Register of Deeds office and found T. F. Garner had Lots 1 & 2 in Section 22. So the ad in the paper showing Lot 17 could have been the product of sloppy handwriting or lack of proofreading. In the current context, it wouldn’t make sense for Lots 1 & 2 to be near the middle of the section but if you scroll back up to the 1905 map, you’ll see the bottom row of lots was still part of the Fort Dodge Military Reservation.

But this article does help…maybe. Most winter storms come with a north wind and if the blocks ended up on the tracks, then I guess it had to be a parcel on the north side of the tracks.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, January 6, 1911

So this article about a derailment at Beeson mentions a (water?) tower still in existence in 1911.

The Dodge City Globe, February 23, 1911

Here we have mention of a side track going north from Beeson up to the new ballast field.

Evening Kansan-Republican (Newton, Kansas), November 1, 1913

The current GIS survey map shows a side track going north to the Koch plant.

And the road referenced below is 116 Road.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, February 24, 1915

This article is confusing. Not because my idea of a drunken orgy is somewhat different from Mr. Mercado’s but because it seems like the station was again in use.

The Dodge City Journal, January 5, 1922

And that’s it…the last mention of the Beeson station. Having nothing else to go on, it was time to take a walk down the rails. So just understand, I like riding on trains but I know nothing about them. I used to ship plywood to Mexico, you guys. That’s the extent of my knowledge. But I’m pretty sure the rail bed has moved a bit over the past 100 years. So I just started walking and taking photos on both sides of the existing tracks to see if there were any markers or debris that looked interesting.

There were a couple spots directly behind the Koch plant that looked promising. Lots of broken up concrete, some blocks, a well, and wide spots along the rail siding that goes to Hi Plains Feed. One of my questions is whether the old AT&SF line was converted to private sidings once the old tracks were replaced. Anyone?

There has been so much construction in this area that I just don’t know what is old and what isn’t. But I did find this cool lock. And yes, I put it back exactly where I found it.

I was able to confirm the information I had found with the Kansas Heritage Center in Dodge. The Register of Deeds office was extremely helpful in my search. After looking through the giant book listing property transfers in Section 22, I was taken downstairs to the GIS/Survey Department. Ben and Jessica enjoy solving mysteries and Jessica found a railroad map from 1985 that still had Beeson listed between mile markers 347 and 348.

This map seems to confirm that T. F. Garner used the word “adjacent” a bit loosely in his 1910 auction advertisement. Ben took another look at the GIS map and pointed out these little notches along the tracks.

He said those notches had to come from work done by a woman named Theresa, who worked at the Ford County Appraiser’s Office for a million years. She made ridiculously detailed notes, especially whenever something interesting crossed her desk. Those notes often found themselves attached to files in the records closet. He suggested I go to the Appraiser’s Office and beg for access to those files. HA!

So I made my second hike of the day up the Lora-Locke stairs and am pretty sure those ladies thought I came from Mars. I left my contact information and do not expect to hear from them…like…ever. Not that I can blame them. But honestly, I would be happy to sit in the file room and look for myself. It’s not like this is top secret information.

Anyway, Ben also gave me contact information for a Survey Coordinator with the State of Kansas, who probably also decided I’m insane when my email landed in his inbox. I also emailed the Kansas Historical Society to see what they have in their collection that isn’t available online. They have so many AT&SF records but they aren’t necessarily named so that you have a good idea of their relevance. Finding aid? Pish posh!

Barring any additional evidence to the contrary, here’s where I think the Beeson station was located. We know the station was just west of mile marker 347.

If you compare the 1985 railroad map to the current GIS map, it appears to basically straddle the southwest and southeast quarters of Section 22…right near the switch for the Koch rail siding that goes to the north. And the 1913 article mentioned a line being installed that led to the ballast field 4 miles north of Beeson.

So there you have it. I’ll post updates if I receive any additional information but as of right now, I’m calling this mystery solved.

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Dodge City Grocers 1960s and Now

A while back, I researched bakeries and grocery stores from 1920 in Dodge City to see whatever happened to the businesses and the buildings. Now I’m going to spend some time on stores many of you will remember. In 1962, there were listings for two bakeries and 20 (twenty!!!!) grocery stores. I can’t cover them all but they’re listed below for your reference:

Polk’s Dodge City (Ford County, Kansas) Directory 1962
Polk’s Dodge City (Ford County, Kansas) Directory 1962

Central Grocery & Market – 108 E Oak Street – It’s still there! The location is directly north of the Central School playground.

The latest available in-color Sanborn Fire Insurance Map is from 1926 and it shows an empty lot. There is a 1932 Sanborn Map posted on the City of Dodge City’s website but it’s a black and white PDF. It also shows an empty lot. This building was referenced in my last post about Brundage and Brundage, which moved to 108 E Oak Street by 1942. By 1947, it was called Peterson’s Cash Market.

The county website says this structure was built in 1950. I guess it’s possible but it looks a tiny bit older. Just a smidge, though. In 1949, the store was Elliott Grocery & Market and they were hiring for a butcher but the store was available for lease to a “proven man.” In one of the ads, they actually said they preferred a man 50 to 60 years old. For whatever reason, those ads ran for a FULL YEAR.

The Advance Register, September 7, 1951

J. E. Collier operated Collier’s Grocery Mart in that spot from at least 1953 to 1957 and the address was listed as 106-108 E Oak. By 1959, it was called Central Grocery & Market.

The Advance Register, April 1, 1960

I’m not sure when our friend, Roland (Rollie) L May from the 1000 Sixth Avenue store bought the store but he owned it in 1967. For as long as I can remember, it’s been apartments and I’ve always been a fan of the curved wall.

I snapped a couple quick pics the other day:

J. S. Dillon & Sons – 313 S Second Avenue – Also still there! and 312 W Spruce Street – Demolished – Location is now the parking lot between Birds of a Feather Quilt Shop (old Centel building) and Carnegie Center for the Arts.

J. S. Dillon & Sons first came to Dodge in November of 1926 when they purchased the (Roy) Burnett Grocery at 206 Walnut Street, which was right next door to the Crown Theatre. If you look at the 1926 Sanborn Map, you’ll see the store was located basically smack dab in the middle of where the AT&T building is now on the Gunsmoke side.

The Southwest News, November 11, 1926

In May of 1928, there was a new store at 312 W Spruce Street. The Dodge City Journal moved to a new location at 314 W Spruce and the Dillon store was right next door in the same building. The 1926 Sanborn Map linked above also shows the corner of Third and Spruce, where there were previously only wood dwellings. Page 10 of the 1932 Sanborn Map shows the Spruce store but the image quality isn’t great.

The Dodge City Journal, February 13, 1930

The county website says the new store at 313 S Second Avenue was built in 1930 and that seems to be pretty close. They had definitely moved in and opened up sometime after February of 1931.

The Montezuma Press, December 31, 1931

Page 16 of the 1932 Sanborn Map shows there was a tile planing mill attached to the south end of the South Dillons. Crazy! But I guess that explains why there was originally an entrance on the north end of the building.

Tasker’s Book & Stationery Shop later moved into the old Dillons at 206 Walnut.

This is such a garbage photo but it appears to be South Dillons.

The Hutchinson News-Herald, March 31, 1949

Dillons remained at 312 W Spruce Street until at least 1962. Here’s what that spot looks like now:

By 1967, the north store had relocated to 2205 Central Avenue. I barely remember this store but it *seemed* huge compared to South Dillons.

Photo by Troy Robinson
Photo by Troy Robinson

I believe the new (current) North Dillons at 1700 N 14th Avenue was built in 1982. The old spot on Central was occupied by The Prescription Center for a long time but Anytime Fitness has now been in that location so long it’s hard to remember anything else being there.

I believe the South Dillons was closed by June of 2002 but really can’t remember exactly because I refused to believe it when I heard. I remember hearing over the years all the crap that’s been going on there and it’s…whatever.

This is how it looks now:

If you find that as depressing as I do, here’s a happy photo of the still-operational Dillons on Main Street in Great Bend. It’s almost exactly the same. It even smells the same! The only thing it’s really missing is that weird higher elevation in the rear bakery section. Otherwise, the layout is exactly as I remember it. In addition to the slightly different metal façade, the brick, tile, and stone patterns are also slightly varied. The stacked rock on the northeast end of the Dodge store was not original. There was previously another entrance there, along with a children’s entertainment area…according to my mom. I don’t remember that so it must have been remodeled before my time. The selection at the Main Street store is obviously limited by the available space but the produce selection was pretty damned good when I was there and the ice cream was fully stocked. 10/10 highly recommend!

Moving right along…

Oak Street Grocery – 205 W Oak Street – It’s still there! The location is on the south side of Oak Street between First and Second Avenues.

The 1924 county directory has the Oak Street Grocery (J. H. Clark, proprietor) listed at 206 W Oak Street but it appears that was a typo. The county website indicates the structure was built in 1910 but, as we have seen repeatedly, that is at least a decade early. The 1918 Sanborn Map has empty lots on both sides of the street and the 1926 Sanborn shows a small wood frame store with an address of 203 W Oak Street. That’s obviously the place since it’s tucked right against the alley and we have seen in previous posts how common it was for blocks to be renumbered over time.

The Dodger, December 7, 1926

Page 14 of the 1932 Sanborn Map shows what looks like the same structure with the 203 W Oak Street address.

I really haven’t found much on this store but Albert Vogel owned it from at least 1951 through 1967.

The Advance Register, September 7, 1951

It isn’t completely clear when the store closed and was converted to apartments but there was a building permit issued for a concrete porch in 1978.

Here’s how it looks now:

 

Pay Day Market – 201 S Second Avenue – The “new” building is still there. Location is currently Mi Rumba.

The first map to show a commercial building on this corner (that I’ve found) is the 1932 Sanborn Map. You will notice Willow Street was then called Maze Avenue. The street numbers in this area were a dumpster fire for decades and I’m not sure exactly when they were standardized. That building at Bridge and Maze was not on the 1926 map and since this is only B&W, I can’t tell if it was constructed from brick or wood. So I’m not sure if this is the same structure where Pay Day Market was initially located.

I don’t have the exact date when Pay Day Market opened but I know it was at 201 S Second Avenue in 1942. It seems weird to put in a grocery just a couple doors down from Sid’s Market (see Stotler’s below) that had been there for so many years. And then Dillons was just a couple doors down from that. By 1943, the address was shown as 203 S. Second. I’m amazed that Dodge had a 24-hour store in the 1940s.

The Advance Register, December 17, 1943

Anyway, the county website says the current structure was built in 1950 and that’s as good a guess as any. I think it’s interesting that their hours were actually cut back in the 1950s…but they were still open pretty late.

The Advance Register, December 25, 1953

Polk’s Dodge City (Ford County, Kansas) Directory 1960

Clyde Alvin Smith owned it at one time but I’m not exactly sure when that was. At some point, the store became Pay Day IGA and then by 1976 it was called Bob’s Pay Day IGA (Bob Pfannenstiel was the owner.) By 1977, Russ Clowdis was a co-owner of the store. Somewhere along the way, it became “Payday.”

Dodge City Daily Globe 13th Special Travelers Edition, Date Unknown

There was a second Dodge location at Comanche Plaza (Payday Plaza IGA) and Bob also owned the Payday IGA in Great Bend.

Great Bend Tribune, December 27, 1976

Remember what I said before about this store being too close to Dillons???? So it wasn’t just the south store…the north store was right across the street from the North Dillons! Was he *trying* to fail?

The Wichita Eagle, September 30, 1992
The Wichita Eagle, October 3, 1992
The Wichita Eagle, October 4, 1992

Personally, I blame those weird fold-down carts. Here’s how the store looks now:

Stotlers IGA Foodliner – 213 South Second Avenue – Demolished – Location is a couple doors south of Mi Rumba.

Page 16 of the 1932 Sanborn Map shows a dwelling at this address.

Like a lot of the buildings in that area, it appeared to have been built in the mid-1930s. I don’t know when it became a grocery store but in 1942, it was Sid’s Stop & Shop Market. By 1947, it was just Sid’s Market.

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1947, Published by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce

Sid’s also had a Cafe but I believe both closed around 1954.

Stotler’s Grocery, Inc. was formed in April of 1955 and set up shop in the former Sid’s Market. As I mentioned above, this was a very busy area for grocery stores with Pay Day Market just a couple doors to the north, South Dillons a block south, and the old Moseley’s basically across the street where the liquor store is now. Stotler’s also had a location for a while at 1011 W Chestnut Street, which was the old West Side Market.

This is the old Sid’s/Stotler’s spot:

If you look at the Google Maps Street View, you can use the glitches to see the old building. This is one of my favorite things about Google. Here’s the Street View from 2007:

The later Stotler’s building was located at 905 S Second Avenue and the county shows it was constructed in 1965. One of my uncles worked in the meat department when he was in high school. There were a couple gas pumps out front and a liquor store at the south end of the building. It seems like the whole store was carpeted (red and black?) and I think it only had two checkout lanes. But I can’t recall a time when they were both open. I remember how it smelled but there’s no way I can describe it other than to say it was different from Dillons…but not in a bad way. Just different.

There was another Stotler’s store in Lewis but other than a robbery in the 1970s, I don’t know anything about it. It seems like the Dodge store also closed in the early 1990s but I really can’t remember for sure.

Here’s how the final Stotler’s location looks now:

If you look at the Street View, you can still see where the pumps were out in front.

Stramel Grocery – 610 Sunnyside Avenue – It’s still there! Location is on the east side of the street just south of the curve between Market Street and Beeson Road.

The only reason I know about this one is because my grandmother told me when I was very young that it had once been a grocery store. I just couldn’t imagine it. But this was circa 1980 and it was bright white with that railing that seemed very fancy at the time. I mean, I was five!

The county website shows the structure was built in 1955 but I’m calling that myth busted. That may have been when the garage in back was built! In addition to the store, Andrew Stramel also had a trailer court at that address. That may have come later, though…I’m just not sure. It was at the east end of the long driveway, if I am remembering the story correctly.

The Advance Register September 7, 1951

I don’t know when they closed but my mom doesn’t remember the home ever being a grocery so it must have been shortly after 1962. It looks like Andrew Stramel transferred his membership from the Dodge City Council (possibly to Wright) in 1963 so that fits. There was no listing for Stramel Grocery in 1967.

By 1968, Mrs. H. Moore lived there. The county doesn’t list dates on building permits that would say when it was rearranged into a duplex.

Here’s how it looks now:

The railing that I thought was so neat has been all but dismantled. It actually went up on the roof like a real balcony back in the day.

That’s it! That’s the story. It’s kind of amazing that Dodge once had a Piggly Wiggly, Jack and Jill, and Safeway. I once spent some time learning about small-town grocers and franchise issues…hoo boy. It’s a protectionist racket! Maybe another day…

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Chalk Beeson Theater Then and Now

This is another building that makes me queasy to even consider. But I will tell you that every time someone wins hundreds of millions of dollars playing the lottery, like nearly everyone else, I think about what I would do if I were in their shoes. Some people waste it all on hookers and blow. I, on the other hand, would spend every last penny turning the Chalk Beeson Theater back into a theater. So basically, I would light all of the dollars on fire and have my heart ripped from my chest with a dull, rusty chisel. Same, same.

Photographer Unknown

First of all, it was “Theater,” not “Theatre.” Zoom in on the sign above. Check out the letterhead below. Merritt wasn’t known for being fancy. And it didn’t take long for the “The” to be eliminated.

“Ida was very worried about [Ote’s] lifestyle [as a professional musician] and convinced Merritt to help him settle down by building a theater and putting Ote in as manager.

Irene Beeson

The newspapers of the day gushed about the brothers’ desire to honor their legendary father but really, it was about trying to keep Uncle Ote in Dodge. I assume this story was Ida’s doing and can only imagine Ote’s face when he saw what they had planned for him.

I laugh every time I see this. Like, you think the Paige is a big deal? Wait til that brand-new Stutz Bulldog Special arrives on the rail in September!

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, February 25, 1915

I’m unsure if it was an assumption on the part of the reporter or a promise made to Merritt and Ida but there was no way Ote was staying in Dodge during construction! He was hired as manager of Thurlow Lieurance’s orchestra, which was engaged in a Santa Fe tour all the way to California in April of 1915 and he was gone for nearly a month. There was a motorcycle promotion tour in June, a trip to Denver, and several orchestra engagements in Kansas City, including an 11-day contract at Electric Park. In mid-October, he was joyriding around Kansas City in his new Stutz with Al Jolson.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, October 23, 1915

Managing the theater construction was all on Merritt. You may remember that Merritt had a sand pit and he made his own concrete blocks to build his house south of town. By April of 1915, 3,000 of the 17,000 blocks needed to construct the theater had been made. The building permit was issued in May and the wood frame structure (built by Henry Sturm) that had been on the site for about 30 years was torn down on May 28. The 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows how the site looked prior to demolition.

Excavation began immediately. By July, the walls were going up and a gasoline engine was attached to a mechanism used to haul the concrete blocks up to the masons.

The concrete balcony was poured in August. I have no idea what happened to them but I remember looking at portrait-size photos of the balcony while it was under construction and it was incredible. The steel-reinforced beams were absolutely massive. Merritt built things to last. He and Ote (haha) hoped to have the theater opened by October and employed two shifts of workers but it was just too much work in such a tight timeframe. The concrete roof was completed on September 9, 1915. Work began on interior finishes in October. Sidewalks were poured by mid-November. Here’s how the building appeared on the 1918 Sanborn Map.

According to the newspapers, C. E. Smith was hired to be the first manager since Ote obviously wasn’t going to do it. This could be the same C. E. Smith who managed The Dodge City Abstract Co. and he pulled double duty for a while. But I was looking at box office receipts and I swear they say “E. E. Smith” so I’m not sure. “The Only Girl” was chosen for the theater’s opening and it was headlined by Dodge City’s own Elsie Baird. Elsie credited much of her success to encouragement she received from Chalk as a youngster.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, November 23, 1915

Ote was remarkably skilled at rounding up outstanding musicians to play at events and in military bands. He played with Arthur Pryor’s Band and was able to persuade another Pryor veteran, clarinetist Fred Joste (last name is misspelled in the article below) to play at the opening along with his friends from the Shubert Theater and Colorado Midland Band.

The turnout was excellent despite the crappy weather.

Dodge City Daily Globe, December 17, 1915

My family seriously scrapbooked everything.

Here’s an undated shot of the stage and I can only hope this was for a special production.

Photographer Unknown

In addition to traditional performances, the theater was used for parties, graduation ceremonies, and large meetings. Irene’s older sister, Betty, had her ninth birthday party there in May of 1916.

It’s my understanding that the Chalk Beeson Theater was the first in Kansas to have Pantages Vaudeville.

Dodge City Daily Globe, October 17, 1916

“The first thing I can remember was sitting on the marble ticket slab where Mama [Beth Beeson] sold tickets.”

Irene Beeson
Ida Beeson holding granddaughter Irene Beeson outside the theater in 1923

“That left Merritt with the theater to manage. He [Ote] never took an interest except to play in the orchestra pit now and then. Merritt came out a big loser. So much for trying to help others.”

Irene Beeson

I doubt the arrangement with C. E. (or E. E.) Smith to manage the theater was ever meant to be long-term so Merritt managed it until his retirement in 1923. Wolf Goldstein leased the theater and was one of my grandmother’s favorite people. I’m sure that was completely unrelated to him supplying her with Hershey’s Kisses.

The Dodge City Journal, August 30, 1923

You’ll note there is no mention of Uncle Ote! He transferred his musicians union membership to Los Angeles for more than six months and Ida accompanied him for the winter.

The Dodge City Journal, September 13, 1923

Thanksgiving 1923 (L-R) Knight Hallock, Irene Beeson, Wolf Goldstein, Merritt Beeson, Frank Locke

“Daddy had brought out a Jew from Kansas City to help manage the theater. His name was Wolf Goldstein. The citizens ran him out of town for being a Jew. He bought me my first candy. It was a sack of Hershey’s Kisses from a confectionery across the street from the theater.”

Irene Beeson

By “citizens,” my grandmother meant The Klan.

The Dodge City Journal, April 3, 1924

You think? The shit that was going on in and around Dodge at that time? He was smart not to tell “anyone” but I’m certain Frank and Merritt knew. And what exactly is this next headline referencing with “Among Missing?” Who else disappeared?

The Southwest News, April 4, 1924

What do I mean when I blame The Klan? This…is what I mean. How the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks did a real-live newspaper accept money for and print this threatening garbage? If you pay attention to the tone of their reporting, it appears they were sympathetic at a minimum.

The Southwest News, June 5, 1924 – emphasis mine

A search through the archives of The Ford Progress also turned up numerous examples of favorable Klan coverage.

Anyway, Frank Locke managed the theater until it was leased to W. H. Harpole in August of 1924. I would say Locke’s management style was legit.

The Southwest News, June 5, 1924

At that point, the Crown, Cozy, and Beeson were all managed by Harpole. It was to be a long-term lease from August of 1924 until November of 1933.

“When I was about three years old, a road show came to town and during one of the performances I was in the back row with my mother listening to the orchestra. As they started to play a very catchy tune, I climbed down and danced down the aisle to the orchestra pit and back. I could not resist. I could hear the people snicker (at least the ones who could see my small body.) This was during intermission of the performance.”

Irene Beeson

Australian May Robson appeared at the Beeson a few times before she hit it big as a movie actress. I remember seeing an autographed photo she had given to Irene.

I believe it was Harpole who booked the 1923 Broadway play “White Cargo” in January of 1926 and it was apparently “not exactly suited to tastes.” That’s because this was one of the first (if not the first) Broadway plays to portray a white man married to a black woman. *Such scandal* The play was based on Ida Vera Simonton’s book, “Hell’s Playground” about an African rubber plantation.

The Southwest News, January 7, 1926

The Southwest News, January 14, 1926

Since Merritt wasn’t managing the theater at this time, I don’t have the box office receipts to see how it did but I found this next piece wildly amusing. Like, burlesque is TOTALLY FINE but an interracial relationship is DISGUSTING? Calm your tits, Ethel. You too, Leroy.

The Southwest News, January 21, 1926

So that’s that.

The theater hosted a ton of boxing matches from about 1924 into the early 1930s. A boxer actually hit his head on the ring construction and tragically died a few days after a match there in 1928.

The Wichita Eagle and The Wichita Beacon Sunday Magazine, April 23, 1967

I’ve mentioned before that E. M. (Ole) Olson was a close friend of Ote’s. In July of 1930, Ole led a concert at the Beeson Theater that was broadcast on the brand-spanking-new KGNO.

The Wichita Evening Eagle, July 1, 1930

But by this time, the building was showing its age. It had only been 15 years but movie technology had advanced rapidly and sound systems were expensive to install…especially after the market crashed in 1929. The Beeson had competition from the new Dodge Theater in the Million Dollar Block just across the street. The Dust Bowl also began in 1930 so things were on a downhill slide.

Since talkies were impossible to show at the Beeson, only live events were held for the next few years. The Little Theater Players of Dodge City presented the play, “Sick Abed” at the Beeson Theater on January 31, 1933 and I think it closed after that show. I believe it reopened under the management of George T. Goodwin in March of 1933 but I’ve seen conflicting dates.

An RCA sound system was installed and the theater reopened in February of 1934 with Goodwin still in as manager. Finally, the Beeson began showing first-run talking pictures. That arrangement was short-lived, though. I’m still unclear about exactly how events transpired but the theater closed again in April of 1934 and foreclosure proceedings were pending. I think Fox Theatres in Kansas City was involved with the lease and there was talk that they were responsible for things going sideways. Either way, Merritt sold the theater in February 1935 and Elmer C Rhoden of Fox Theatres began making plans to remodel the building for storefronts on the main floor with a ballroom on the balcony level.

The Ritz Ballroom opened in December of 1935. I have in my notes the first band was “The Oregonians” and 150 couples attended. The Ritz was also used for sound recording and radio broadcasting.

The Wichita Eagle (Evening), May 17, 1941

During WWII, the Ritz Ballroom was the Dodge City USO Club. Here are some undated photos taken by our friend, Frank Locke:

May Drug Company, Inc. was formed May 1, 1944. Clever! The drug store, which had a very unfortunate phone number, was in the corner spot on the main floor and the sporting goods store was right next door to the east.

Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1947, published by the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce

In 1953, May Drug Co. and May Sporting Goods Co. were the only businesses listed at the old theater.

By 1960, the sporting goods store was vacant. That spot was later filled by Kansas Abstract & Investment Co along with Myers Agency (insurance and real estate) and then Harms Music Co. (owned by Lily E Harms) in 1967. In 1967, the ballroom was mainly used for recordings, and occasionally for local dramatics and musical offerings.

The ballroom was vacant off and on for several years. For a while, it housed the Demon’s Den. It was later turned into a nightclub and I assure you it takes more than a bit of arson to bring down a Merritt Beeson building. Although tampering with the hydrants was a nice touch.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, May 6, 1983

I’m not sure when the main floor was reconfigured to house three businesses but I do remember The Trophy Shop, George Voss, and Studio De Lari being there for a long time. As far as I know, no one tried to deal with the balcony after the arson fiasco.

The last time I was in the building was probably 20 years ago and I was so excited to arrange a tour with the former owner. But man, when I walked inside it was so insanely depressing that I couldn’t wait to leave. Shit brown carpeting and shit brown paneling and shit brown stucco. It was too much. Like, it was bad when I had my senior photos taken at Studio De Lari back in the…never mind when. But the building was neglected and then neglected some more. I didn’t even ask about the balcony area or the basement. I would have liked to see if it was obvious how the floor was installed to be a level surface. I’m not sure if the basement dressing rooms were removed. I assume so.

The good news is the building has a new owner who had it reroofed back in 2020 and it has also gotten a fresh coat of paint. Somewhere along the way, that rickety old fire escape was removed. You know the one that looked like it could fall and kill someone at any moment? Right. Anyway, here’s how it looks now:

If you haven’t already noticed, Google Maps often has glitches in the Street View which allow you to see before and after shots. Click here to see images from 2007 to 2012 mixed in with more recent shots. On the desktop version, you can actually click on the little slider to choose your view. And if you follow the Street View over to the First Avenue side, you can see the fire escape of death and remnants of the Ritz sign as well as the old lighted awning over the door next to the Osage Building.

That was a lot. I may put together a post containing advertisements, contracts, and other promotional items from the theater but there’s just so much! I also have some questions from readers that I need to research. Thanks again to everyone who has donated. I hope you find all of this as interesting as I do!

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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Who Killed Walter Locke?

The quick answer is, “No one. He died of a stroke.” But there’s just so much more to the story and if you could go back in time to 1922, I bet anyone you asked would tell you Ivan Stultz killed Walter.

I promised a more detailed post on the Bargain Store/Eckles Department Store and this one was definitely worth the work. It’s no secret that people with an entrepreneurial spirit tend to experience highs and lows, some of which can be quite dramatic. Walter N Locke was no exception and he saw more than his fair share of boom and bust cycles.

He came to Dodge City from Pennsylvania by way of St. Joseph, Missouri around 1884 and found himself Deputy Sheriff under Pat Sughrue by 1885. Walter and O. A. Bond were granted “franchise and exclusive right to maintain, operate, and carry on the telephone business for and within the limits of Dodge City, Kansas…” in October of 1886. He was also one of the proprietors of the St. James Hotel. Walter married Josephine Tilghman on November 17, 1886 and you’ll remember that their daughter, Hattie, married Otto Theis and was half of the inspiration for naming the Lora-Locke Hotel.

Walter was involved in everything. Fraternal organizations, business organizations, real estate, insurance, groceries, you name it. He reopened the Cox livery stables in September of 1891 but these were some rough years. There were failures and foreclosures. He became an auctioneer.

Walter was a junior partner in Fitzgerald & Locke and in the spring of 1894, he was traveling all over the eastern US ordering stock for the new store.

The Dodge City Democrat, July 14, 1894

Walter really understood marketing and throughout the lifespan of the store he would rely heavily on half to full-page ads…sometimes on the front page, above the fold. I wanted to include them all but he advertised ALL THE TIME. It appears to have worked because the store was expanded in April of 1895.

Somewhere along the way, the Bargain Store acquired a co-manager.

The Ford County Leader, July 12, 1895

The store moved to the R. M. Wright building in early 1898. I’m not sure when it opened but at some point, Fitzgerald & Locke had a store in Lakin. I believe that branch was sold in December of 1908.

Western Kansas Live Stock Journal, February 15, 1900

Walter’s son, Frank, was 16 years old in 1903 and I found a brief mention that he was “holding down the clothing department” at the store. I imagine he first began helping out there at a much younger age.

We know from my previous post that Walter wanted to build the new Bargain Store at Second and Walnut long before he was able to make it happen. Construction would require an enormous amount of capital so Fitzgerald & Locke, the Stubbs & Barkley grocery, and A. D. Smith & Son store were combined to create the Dodge City Mercantile Company.

Things were shaping up by the summer of 1908.

The Journal-Democrat, June 12, 1908

The Dodge City Mercantile Company was officially created on February 20, 1909. By March, the building had been accepted from the contractor and the fixtures were being installed. The store opened on April 19, 1909. This piece gives a ton of information about the layout of the building as well as the people working there.

The new store was completely wrecked by a massive fire on November 1, 1909. You may not be able to read the tiny type but I wanted to show what an enormous blow this was to Dodge City and everyone involved.

The Globe-Republican, November 4, 1909

The loss was calculated at $180,000 with only $76,000 in insurance. In addition to the working members of the Dodge City Mercantile Company, there were 45 employees who were jobless until operations could be resumed. Incredibly, there were no serious injuries.

After the fire, the town rallied to keep the Bargain Store in business.

Operations were spread out all over with space leased in three separate buildings.

The Globe-Republican, March 10, 1910

The new building was occupied by late September of 1910 and operations gradually ramped up throughout October. Walter formed the Locke Mercantile Company on October 3, 1910. I see that the Dodge City Mercantile Company was dissolved but the Secretary of State website doesn’t list a date.

Even though the Bargain Store was his baby, Walter still had all sorts of other business arrangements. In addition to apparently managing Gwinner’s new shoe store on Second Avenue, he was still involved in real estate.

The Dodge City Globe, August 22, 1912

The Dodge City Globe, November 7, 1912

Here’s a fun photo with a bunch of old-timers! Frank Locke and my great-grandfather, Merritt Beeson, were good friends. Frank did Merritt a huge solid by taking over management of the Chalk Beeson Theater after Wolf Goldstein was run out of town for being Jewish. More about that outrage later.

The Dodge City Globe, July 23, 1914

There’s no easy way to share this next one because of how the text was broken up but I think you get the idea…the place was both massive and magnificent.

The Dodge City Journal, October 9, 1914

Dodge City Daily Globe, January 1, 1917

So do you remember me telling you about how excited I was to ride the elevator at Eckles? The first modern elevator was installed at the Bargain Store in 1917.

Dodge City Daily Journal, March 1, 1917

Walter had a reputation for being a generous employer and often held Christmas dinners for his staff at the O’Neal House Hotel in addition to handing out monetary gifts.

Dodge City Daily Journal, December 26, 1917

So the Bargain Store made it through all kinds of turmoil including the shortages caused by WWI but the betrayal of Walter’s trust by Secretary and Treasurer, Ivan E Stultz proved to be too much.

The Dodge City Journal, December 8, 1921

Because it was an officer of the corporation who was accused of embezzlement, the creditors immediately took over operations of the store so everything could be analyzed.

The Hutchinson News, December 15, 1921

Stultz pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement totaling $1,100 but the company initially suspected he was responsible for more like $17,000. Regardless, each count carried a penalty of one to three years. The auditors kept digging and found irregularities plus his personal account at the store totaling more than $27,000 and then everyone started calling in their notes because it was obvious Stultz was going to prison.

The Dodge City Journal, February 9, 1922

Walter suffered a paralytic stroke at the store on April 22, 1922. By the 27th, he seemed to be showing some improvement but that was really just wishful thinking.

After Ivan was sentenced to prison, his wife filed for divorce.

The Dodge City Journal, May 18, 1922

And then Ivan died in jail only days later. With that issue resolved, the committee of creditors could move forward with normalizing operations.

The Dodge City Journal, June 15, 1922

The Dodge City Journal, June 22, 1922

In early July, Stultz’s widow signed over to Walter the deeds to three lots (one with their former residence and two vacant lots) in the Fairview Addition. Walter, in turn, signed them over to Prudential Trust Company. Meanwhile, Olavus A Donhowe of Clarinda, Iowa was hired to manage the Bargain Store the first week of July.

Walter unfortunately died on July 17, 1922 and it was noted at the time that people close to him believed it was the Stultz affair which caused his demise.

The Hutchinson News, July 18, 1922

As previously mentioned, the Bargain Store continued on for a time but it just wasn’t the same.

The Southwest News, May 9, 1924

The building was sold to the Eckles brothers, who opened the Eckles Brothers Department Store in May of 1926.

I haven’t forgotten about the follow-up grocery post! Archival materials were promised by a certain someone and I will get that wrapped up just as quickly as I can. In the meantime, that book isn’t going to research itself.

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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The Dramatic Life of Walter Abernathy

Before I start spilling tea, I should make it clear that I can source everything I’m about to tell you. I cannot attest to the reliability of these sources since much of the action took place more than 100 years ago. Last August, I told you this story about a famous florist and her scandalous relatives. I’ve reached out to so many historians and librarians for documentation that I have a spreadsheet with eight tabs to keep it all straight. This particular rabbit hole involves an Abernathy Furniture Company heir so I hope you Kansas City people are paying attention!

The Kansas City Star, July 31, 1932

The Kansas Historical Society has a brief summary of the company’s history that you can read here. You can see a relatively recent photo of the building in Kansas City here (scroll down to #4.) Although it hasn’t been updated for quite a while, an Abernathy descendant has a Facebook page with furniture photos and bits of information.

The Kansas City Star, September 7, 1912

Walter Logan Abernathy was a son of James Logan Abernathy and Elizabeth (Martin) Abernathy. From what I can tell, he was basically a spoiled brat his *entire* life. Walter married Carrie Singer in October of 1883 and they initially made their home in Leavenworth.

In June of 1892, a Walter Abernathy was placed under a $500 bond for assault with intent to kill a certain C. M. Estenson (sp?) and although I couldn’t find any additional information about this incident, it seemed to be part of a larger pattern.

In November of 1898, Walter crashed his bicycle and a comment from the Clay Center Times read, “Which reminds old settlers of this burg that something was always happening to Walter and worrying his little wife nearly to death.” I feel like the people at this particular newspaper had a deep understanding of Walter and his issues.

Walter’s father, James L Abernathy, died in December of 1902 and over the next six years, his heirs would spend a lot of money fighting over his estate. I mean, Daddy-o left about $1.5 million so it was definitely worth the trouble in 1902 dollars. One of the brothers was declared insane during the proceedings and then appeals were filed, et cetera and so on.

Photographer Unknown

In January of 1903, Walter attempted to board a Kansas City cable car while it was moving and was dragged 30 feet after his clothing caught on a fender. Walter went into shock after his right leg was cut so badly his tibia was exposed. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and his address was listed on Lydia Avenue so this was before he and Carrie moved to 63rd and Prospect. The wound later required a palm-sized skin graft and his wife donated the skin. He was hospitalized for several months after the accident. Mrs. Abernathy was described as a “small, nervous little woman.” A few days before the operation, a woman tried to sell her some skin but Mrs. Abernathy refused. She wanted to make sure the skin that was used was “free from any disease.” Knowing what I know, I don’t think Walter deserved her.

In April of 1912, Walter was arrested for a delinquent motor vehicle license. The due date was January 1 and about 40 people were arrested for what seems like such a trivial matter when you compare it to what happened next.

This next one is just so gross. Like Laura didn’t know her daughter was being visited by an old rich guy from the time she was TWELVE. Come on. This is the same Laura Hayes who had been charged with running a house of prostitution in Salina, Kansas just three years prior.

The Kansas City Times, September 2, 1916

14-year-old Marguerite Hayes and 27-year-old Edward L Kelley were married the very same day, September 2, 1916. Mom of the Year signed the marriage license since her daughter had not reached the age of consent. This marriage had the convenient side effect of the statutory charges against Messrs. Abernathy and Kelley being dismissed. I’m certain no money changed hands. That would be so unlike Laura.

The Kansas City Star, September 2, 1916

I found this almost a year ago and I’m still just so thoroughly disgusted by all of it.

Imagine being the humiliated society wife. Based on what we’ve been over so far, I don’t see her being the type to discuss over cocktails at bridge all the myriad ways she could make Walter’s death appear accidental.

In April of 1925, Walter and Carrie sold their home at 63rd and Prospect and purchased a $36,000 tract of land on which they planned to build a new home at 89th and Holmes.

In June of 1935, Walter shot a man at his home. Carrie was in the hospital and her husband was trying to get another man’s wife to strip for him. You’ll be shocked to learn that alcohol was involved.

The Sedalia Democrat, June 9, 1935

The Kansas City Star definitely won the award for most in-depth coverage of this story!

Walter paid his victim $8,000 in November of 1935 while criminal charges were still pending. Since Mr. Wilkinson’s body was perforated 14 times, his career as a tree trimmer was over. Interestingly, Walter himself had been in a St. Louis hospital from from September to early December of 1935 and for whatever reason then transferred to a Kansas City hospital on December 4, 1935.

The poor, suffering Carrie Singer Abernathy died of pneumonia on January 3, 1936 at the age of 73. She had been in the hospital (again) since December 24, 1935. Lots of “hospitalizations” in this family.

And then, just like magic, the criminal charges against Walter were dismissed when Mr. Wilkinson failed to appear in court. Imagine my shocked face.

The Kansas City Star, April 14, 1936

In March of 1938, 76-year-old Walter married a 20-year-old soda fountain waitress named Mary Helen Rosser in Yuma, Arizona. The new Mrs. Abernathy was granted a divorce in August of the same year after a Los Angeles judge agreed she shouldn’t have to suffer with an abusive jerk wad who drank all day and bragged about his numerous affairs. She was granted a lump sum settlement of $1,350. Walter’s friends back in Kansas City were very surprised about this new development, as they were unaware he had remarried.

It appears he had remarried again by December of 1938 but I just don’t have it in me to go there.

Walter finally died in Los Angeles on August 12, 1951 at the ripe old age of 89. He lived at an Elks Club and was known in the area for passing out $100 bills. To whom, Brother? To whom?

Walter and Carrier never had children together but God only knows what kind of poison that creep dropped in the greater Kansas City gene pool.

Anyway, if there are any Kansas City historians reading and you can tell me more about Laura, Irene, and Marguerite Hayes please reach out…I beg you!

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Dodge City Grocers 1920 and Now

The current economic situation made me think about former grocery stores in Dodge City. My mom and I were talking about dollar stores a while back and how there’s some equivalent of a Google alert that lets the chains know whenever a small town loses its last grocery store. Food deserts are a huge problem, even in a town like Dodge. Don’t believe me? Look at South Dodge and tell me what you see. If you need more than meat and tortillas, you’re spending a fortune at a convenience or specialty store, going to one of the dollar stores, or you’re crossing the river. I’ll probably never get over South Dillons closing. THAT WAS WHERE WE SHOPPED. Yes, Stotler’s was closer but it was more expensive and didn’t have near the selection. Stotler’s was where we walked or rode our bikes for a candy bar. Groceries came from South Dillons every week.

It wasn’t always this way. In 1920, Dodge City had two dedicated bakeries and 13 grocery stores, four of which had butchers. Most of the buildings are long gone but here’s what I know about them:

Home Bakery – 613 N Second Avenue – Demolished – Location was what is now the parking lot south of the First National Bank building.

There was a Home Bakery on Locust (Trail) Street back in 1886 but this wasn’t it.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, July 21, 1911

Key was still listed as the owner in September of 1911 but William Rabourn was proprietor of the bakery on April 4, 1912 and then J. H. Austin bought it before the month was over. By August of 1912, it was owned by Carl Sever. Good grief! He renamed it Sever’s Home Bakery and stayed put for a while. But then Sever retired in January of 1916 and sold the business to B. S. Von Schultz. Sever evidently didn’t enjoy retirement because he and Thomas Henry Traynor bought it back in July of 1916. Traynor had been a railroad conductor and then a part owner of City Furniture.

By April of 1918, it was just Traynor.

Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920

C. J. and John J Farley bought the bakery March 1, 1921. W. B. Cross bought the bakery in 1924 and the Farley brothers announced they were moving to California.

The Dodge City Journal, March 13, 1924

Apparently, C. J. Farley couldn’t stay away and he repurchased the store in 1926. In 1927, Bob Graham bought the bakery from C. J. Farley. Make up your minds, people. The newly named Graham’s Bakery couldn’t stay long because the building was demolished to make room for the new bank, which opened in 1930.

Sturgeon’s Bakery and Confectionery – 217 W Chestnut Street – Demolished – Location was a victim of the Front Street urban renewal.

E. C. Sturgeon purchased a confectionery and bakery from M. M. Gwinner at 217 Chestnut Street in November of 1906.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, September 27, 1912

In late 1920, the family decided to focus their efforts on a wholesale bakery at 906 Fourth Avenue and closed the confectionery on Chestnut.

The Dodge City Journal, December 2, 1920

Reynolds Jewelry was located at 217 W Chestnut Street in 1923 through at least 1931. By 1953, the spot was home to Arvin Heichen Jewlers and they remained until at least 1962.

F. G. Barkley – 509 First Avenue – Demolished – Click here to read my post about the Masonic Temple.

Frank G Barkley arrived from Topeka with his new bride in June of 1903. He was a traveling salesman for the Parke-Davis Grocery Company. He bought an interest in the Sam Stubbs Grocery Store (more about him later) in January of 1908. Barkley wanted to be home more and Stubbs wanted to be outside more. After their store was destroyed in the Bargain Store fire in 1909, Barkley bought the E. D. Rumsey Grocery store stock in the corner room of the new and beautiful Masonic Temple.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, September 12, 1913
Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920

The store advertised 18 years in the same location in 1926 but the math doesn’t quite work. Frank’s son, George, worked at the store until at least 1928.

Frank died in 1940 and by 1942, there was no grocery store listed in the Masonic Temple. The fate of Barkley’s is unclear. The fate of the building, however, is quite tragic.

Brundage and Brundage – 209 W Chestnut St – Demolished – Location was a victim of the Front Street urban renewal. This store had previously been called The Brundage-Hale Company and was located in the Masonic Temple. You’ll see the Hale name again below.

The store at 209 W Chestnut had been the site of Bingham Music Company and Palace Drug Store as well as Ayres & Liggett Grocery. By June of 1915, the grocery of Brundage & Prough was located at 209 W Chestnut. In 1917, it was known as Brundage & Brundage.

The Southwest News, April 11, 1924

They stayed in this spot until at least 1928. By 1942, Brundage Grocery was located at 108 E Oak Street but by 1947, the name of that store had been changed to Peterson’s Cash Market.

209 W Chestnut Street was home to Bob Johnson’s Kopper Korner (later Bob Johnson Plumbing Company) from at least 1947 to 1962.

Cash Grocery – 1000 Sixth Avenue – It’s still there! The 1920 directory listed the address as “cor 6th & Elm sts,” which is super specific. This one is fun, though. The first Sanborn Fire Insurance Map to show a structure at this location was published in 1918. It turns out the “Cash Grocery” was started by G. C. Hubbard in 1915.

Dodge City Daily Globe,  November 12, 1915

Hubbard sold the store in July of 1916 to J. M. Patterson, who was the former mayor of Stafford, Kansas. The Pattersons lived just a couple blocks up the road at 1201 Sixth Avenue. They still had the store in 1928.

The current structure was built in 1935 (according to the county assessor website) and it was a hotspot for Lincoln Elementary students seeking candy after school. In 1942, it was known as Harrison Food Market and in 1947 it was the Lightcap Food Market. In 1953, Roland L May had a grocery store at that location for a brief time and then it was renamed Hillcrest Grocery & Market. Then Walter Knapp and his wife bought the store around 1960 and called it Walt’s Hillcrest Grocery. The building has been a daycare and now a preschool for several years and it’s still as cute as can be. I love the little windows!

DeVoe Brothers – 412 Military Avenue – Demolished – Location is now a bare lot.

The Southwest News, March 14, 1924

This grocery store didn’t appear on any of the available Sanborn maps because it was too far east, even in 1926. It was still around in 1947 but the rest is a mystery. By 1953, Martin Vending Machines was listed at that address. From about 1955 to 1962, it was Unruh Electric Service. Now, the county doesn’t even show 412 Military Avenue as being a valid address.

Dodson & Morrow – 314 W Chestnut Street – This one isn’t exactly straightforward. The Bella Italia building was constructed in 1918 and the current address is 312 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard. Right next door is Nuevo Look Hair Salon (constructed in 1908) and the door says 316 but this whole block has been renumbered.

The 1926 Sanborn Map shows the building on the corner of Third Avenue and Chestnut Street being numbered 316 and 318 but the Pizza Hut currently occupying that corner is at 320 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard. So I think Dodson & Morrow was located at the store to the left of Nuevo Look. Either way, the county no longer has 314 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard as a separate address.

I haven’t found any advertisements for Dodson & Morrow in the local papers but I did find ads for a store alternatively referred to as Sweet Mercantile or Ward & Sweet starting in 1914.

Dodge City Daily Journal, March 16, 1918

Etrick Printers was located at 314 W Chestnut Street for many years. Sometime between 1930 and 1953, the block was renumbered and 314 W Chestnut Street stopped being a thing. Looks like something called the Mickey Mouse Bar found a home there in the 1950s until the space became vacant around 1959. After sitting empty for a few years, its first beauty shop occupied the space around 1962. That appears to be a good fit. Here’s a slightly better image of the building:

Drake Grocery Co – 602 N Second Avenue – This is another weird one with a renumbered block. The 1911 Sanborn map shows old and new street numbers and 602 was basically the north half of Salon Exotica. Each business was pretty narrow. By 1918, that had changed and 602 had disappeared from the map. The county website indicates the 600-602 building was constructed in 1920 but there doesn’t seem to be any change in footprint from the 1918 reconstruction. The 1926 map shows the addition of wood awnings but it all looks the same.

Drake Grocery Company was established by F. E. Drake and his four sons in 1911 at 117 West Chestnut Street. They bought out W. A. Imel’s inventory in 1918 and converted to a cash and carry model in the old Imel store.

The Dodge City Journal, June 26, 1919

In 1924, Drake Grocery was listed at 604 Second Avenue but I don’t think they moved. It was probably just a door that moved. So this general building in its various configurations housed Palace Drug Store, Warshaw’s Men’s Clothing, et cetera and so on. The building looks great, yada, yada…

John McCristy – 306 Front Street – Demolished – Location was a victim of the Front Street urban renewal. F. A. Ayers moved his meat market from 606 Second Avenue to 306 Front Street in March of 1912. It was later owned by J. L. Meairs, who sold it to John McChristy in 1917. McCristy had previously moved from Lewis to Ensign in 1915 to manage the Farmers Union store.

Dodge City Globe, March 29, 1917

The 1920 directory still listed the store under McChristy’s name but it was being run by Noll and Sever by July of 1920. In 1924, it was known as Wilson Grocery (owned by O. R. Wilson) but then the store was moved to 403 Second Avenue sometime around 1926. Ultimately, Front Street slid into decline and was slowly erased from existence. By the early 1950s, most of the driveways on Front Street were loading entrances for the businesses located on the south side of Chestnut Street.

Liggett Brothers – 305 W Chestnut Street – Demolished – Location was a victim of the Front Street urban renewal. Brothers Leo and Wilbur Liggett bought a grocery store from Ralph Burnett at 304 Chestnut Street in December of 1916. Leo had previously been a partner in Ayers & Liggett, which was sold to Brundage & Prough in 1915.

Dodge City Daily Journal, December 30, 1916

Popular Cafe was located at 305 Chestnut Street through the end of 1917 and then Liggett’s Grocery moved across the street in early 1918. Leo bought out his brother’s share in 1923 and then sold the store to O. A. Keller of Cullison in 1925.

The Dodger, October 6, 1925

The building was set up so there were entrances on both Chestnut and Front Streets. Assuming the block was not renumbered after 1926, it was later home to Nevins Hardware Company in the 1950s and ’60s. Then the dreaded urban renewal came to town.

H. C. & C. E. Moseley – South of Bridge, at Fork in Road – Still standing? – Location is a bit confusing. The 1920 directory simply states the location as “South Dodge.” H. C. Moseley opened this new store with his son in 1914 and called it Riverside Cash Grocery for a time but everyone knew it as Moseley’s.

The Dodge City Globe, May 20, 1915

I thought I knew exactly where this was but then I remembered how common it was for street addresses to change over time and I wasn’t far off…but I was off. Since the store existed in 1914, I took another look at the 1918 Sanborn map and it stopped before the fork. Bridge Avenue became Second Avenue and 1st Street became Beech Street. The only store shown down there was at 113 Bridge Avenue and it was labeled “Meat.” I suppose that could have been it but I don’t think so. I think it was further south, beyond the boundary of the 1918 map. If you look at the 1926 Sanborn map, there is a wood structure just south of the fork that is labeled 307 Bridge Avenue. I think that could be the one because I happen to know the Moseley family lived at what was then 213 Sunnyside and that’s super close to the store. Unfortunately, the county assessor website indicates the structure currently at 307 S Second Avenue (Black Jack’s Liquor) was built in 1920 but it has been proven wrong before. It’s possible this is the place and the liquor store does look like it could have been a former grocery. In the interest of time, let’s just go with it.

H. C. Moseley died in October of 1916. Then C. E. Moseley (the son) died in October of 1918 from Spanish Flu. In September of 1919, a daughter, Ambia, married bandleader E. M. (Ole) Olson, who was a close friend of my great-granduncle, Otero Beeson. Ambia ran the store for a few years after her brother died while Ole served as Undersheriff of Ford County and did all of the local municipal band things. Ambia’s mother sold the store to Curtis and William Ott in October of 1922. S. N. Perkins from Wellington then bought the store in June of 1925. The 1926 directory still just showed the location as “South Dodge.” By 1942, S. N. Perkins Grocery was located at 207 W Mulberry Street.

Assuming I identified the correct building on South Second, it was home to Myers Ice Cream in the early 1950s and ’60s. In 1967, Nelson Retail Liquor Store was located at 307 S Second Avenue. As far as I know, it’s been a liquor store ever since.

New Era Grocery – 319 W Chestnut Street – Demolished – Location was a victim of the Front Street urban renewal. D. H. Jones and (H. M.?) Hale were the proprietors.

Dodge City Daily Journal, April 16, 1918

The store moved into the Garner Building at Third and Chestnut in November of 1918. By August of 1919, Jones had bought out Hale’s share. In February of 1922, F. W. Davis opened a meat market at the store. Henry C. Wright and Charles M. Martin purchased the store in the spring of 1922 and called it the Wright & Martin Cash Grocery. This building also had frontage on Front Street and there was a cream station at that end. By 1926, the store was known as M & V Cash Grocery under the management of S. F. Martin and J. J. Vaughn.

The Southwest News, November 11, 1926

In 1947, the store at Third and Chestnut was called Ideal Food Store. In 1967, Carlson Paint & Wallpaper was listed at 319 W Wyatt Earp Boulevard but I’m not sure if the block was ever renumbered. By now, you’re well aware of what happened to the odd-numbered addresses on Chestnut/Wyatt Earp.

Sam Stubbs – 505 2nd Avenue – Location was in Locke’s Bargain Store building (later Eckles Department Store.) The building has been through a lot but it’s still there.

There was a Stubbs in the Dodge City grocery business at least as far back as 1887. Sam Stubbs and F. G. Barkley (remember him?!) made plans to occupy a space in the Bargain Store building before construction began in 1908. Stubbs & Barkley merged with Dodge City Mercantile Company, as did the Bargain Store. It was all wiped out in a fire the following year. Sam Stubbs had as many as five stores by 1918. The one in the rebuilt Bargain Store building was known as the “big store.”

Dodge City Daily Globe, February 18, 1916
Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920

By March of 1922, Stubbs only had one remaining store and he moved it to 211 West Chestnut Street by 1924. I believe the ad below should read “Retailer” rather than whatever the heck that says. I bet someone got out their red pen.

The Southwest News, March 14, 1924

Lee Vollmer began managing the store around 1924 and eventually, the store was called Stubbs-Vollmer Grocery. Fun fact: Lee Vollmer married the Stubbs daughter, Minerva. Not-so-fun fact: Lee Volmer died in 1940 at the young age of 52. The 1947 directory lists Western Auto Associate Store at 211 West Chestnut Street. I didn’t find any listing at 211 West Wyatt Earp Boulevard in 1967.

As for the Bargain Store, Walter N Locke had a building constructed at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Walnut Street in 1908 but it was destroyed by a fire the following year. It has been incorrectly written that Frank Locke was the driving force behind the Bargain Store but while he did work there, it was his father’s business. The county assessor website incorrectly shows the current building was constructed in 1912 but the 1911 Sanborn map shows the building was already there…because it was constructed and reopened in 1910. Walter Locke died in 1922 and I’ll write more about that whole crazy situation soon.

Anyway, Eckles Brothers Department Store opened at the old Bargain Store location in May of 1926.

The Southwest News, April 29, 1926
Dodge City’s Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, Published by Dodge City Chamber of Commerce, 1947

Again, I’ll go into more detail about this glorious building in a later post but Eckles Department Store closed in late 1984 or early 1985. I loved going there with my grandmother and riding the elevator. Like, I barely remember anything about the store other than it was a nice place. But the elevator…what a thrill! The building reopened as a shopping mall called Eckles Main Street Centre in August of 1985.

The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, March 31, 1986

There have been a fragillion businesses in what is now called Eryn’s Downtown Center, many of them restaurants. Thank goodness the awful modern metal contraption was removed from the exterior but it was extremely damaging. The building just doesn’t look all that great currently.

But at least it’s still standing and in use!

South Side Grocery – 309 Santa Fe Trail -Demolished – Location is an empty lot directly east of the old Scheufler’s building.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, May 8, 1914

South Side Grocery was located in the Sitler-Bell Building, which was constructed in 1886. If you look at the 1889 Sanborn Map, you will notice there are clearly four entrances at the front. This is important…I promise.

Ford County Republican, January 18, 1888

Anyway by 1915, the grocery was one of the Sam Stubbs stores. The 1918 Sanborn map shows the grocery store (309) and adjoining rooming house (311) and still four entrances in front. The map also shows that the structure to the west (in yellow) is still made of wood so the county assessor website showing the Scheufler’s building next door was built in 1900 is very obviously incorrect. I mean, you can tell that just by looking at it but whatever. The Sitler-Bell Building and store were owned by Sam Stubbs until March of 1922 when both were sold to Otto Souder, who changed the name to the Otto Souder Grocery.

The Dodge City Journal, February 28, 1924

You’ll notice on the 1926 Sanborn Map there are now only three entrances in front. This is where things apparently started getting weird. Aside from the fact that the building to the west was *still* made out of wood, something happened between 1926 and approximately 1937 that erased half of the building. I’m not kidding. It disappeared.

Ford County Republican, January 18, 1888 – red marks mine

By 1942, the store was known as Souder Mercantile Company at 309 W Trail Street. In 1947, Lillich Printing Company was located at 309 W Trail Street and what was left of the rooming house was called Lillich Apartments at 309 1/2 W Trail Street. By 1959, Lillich Printing was still there but the rooming house was vacant. Edwin Lillich died in January of 1978 at the age of 76 and I’m pretty sure the store was still open at that time. His wife, Jean, died in October of 1982 at the age of 83. By the time I was old enough to notice such things, the building was a pile of crumbling brick and peeling paint.

Photo by Troy Robinson

I remember when those two buildings east of Scheufler’s started coming down. There was an old cabinet shop east of the Sitler-Bell Building that was also a hot mess. I was in the car with my parents at the stop light at Trail and Second facing west. There was wallpaper going diagonally up the wall where a staircase had been and I was absolutely mystified. Even though those places were thoroughly roached out, it bothered me to realize how fragile and temporary things were. Except the wallpaper. I swear to you it stayed on that exposed wall for years afterward. It was a trip.

The remaining half of the Sitler-Bell Building was demolished on July 16, 1989. There had been a super heavy rain the day before that had collapsed the roof and part of the actual structure. The City had been trying to tear it down for about a year but it had been registered as a historic landmark.

Here’s how it looks now:

Trail Street looking southeast toward Second Avenue

Wright and Ivens – 505 First Avenue -Demolished – *Another* grocery store in the old Masonic Temple, right next door to Barkley’s. Omer Wright was from Missouri and arrived in Ford County in 1905. His cash grocery opened in the Masonic Temple on August 29, 1914.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 28, 1914

Wright started out accepting cash only but slowly began extending credit to his customers. By September of 1915, he was back to cash only. It wasn’t long before he decided to sell.

The Dodge City Kansas Journal, May 11, 1916

Not so fast!

The Dodge City Daily Globe, August 1, 1918

This time, though, it wasn’t Omer Wright! The store was purchased by Mrs. Robert M Wright and her brother, R. A. Ivens, who had just moved to Dodge from Madisonville, Tennessee. The store was then sold to A. Polson and his son, A. N. Polson on July 31, 1920. They had been selling produce at 317 W Chestnut Street after moving to Dodge from Colorado a few weeks prior. Unfortunately, the deal fell through and by August 19, Wright and Ivens (mostly Ivens) were in charge again.

The Perfect Bakery, owned by R. E. Parsons, had occupied some space at Barkley’s Grocery and moved into Wright and Ivens in November of 1920. By January of 1921, the bakery had bought out all of the grocery stock and had ordered equipment to occupy the entire space as a bakery. Parsons had “disposed of” the bakery sometime in the summer of 1921 and B. D. Cawthon facilitated the sale to Mrs. Robert M Rath in September of 1921. By 1922, the bakery had moved to 506 Second Avenue.

Sometime in the early 1920s, Bob Graham (remember him???) bought the bakery from Mrs. Rath. Curtis Ott and Roy Miller bought the Perfect Bakery shortly after that. In May of 1926, Miller assumed full ownership. It was still Perfect in 1928 but I (being imperfect) ran out of steam.

Going back to the Masonic Temple, Grose’s Confectionery took over the spot at 505 First Avenue for a while but the building was ultimately doomed.

I feel like I need a flowchart for all of these revolving people and addresses. There was a ton of turnover and turmoil but people were really hustling out there. Next time, I’m going to focus on how the stores kind of evolved over the years and share photos of some other former grocery stores I have taken recently. It’s so weird…as much as I hate grocery shopping, I love those old stores!

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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Ford High School Then and Now

8th Street and Prairie Street, Ford, Kansas

The Pioneer 1971
January 2022

Astounding transformation, yes?!

Ford is now a shadow of what it once was. I lived there for about five years and was shocked to learn my street (Prairie Street, natch) had once been paved. Keeping up with maintenance became too costly as the population dwindled, so the City dumped dirt on top of the asphalt and just rolled with it. When the dirt gets worn and washed away, you can still see the asphalt below. Along with paved roads, Ford once had an elementary school and a high school, as well as passenger train service to Dodge City. By the time I bought a house there, even Ford’s liquor store had closed.

But in 1912 (two years after my former house was built), things were happening in Ford!

The Topeka Daily State Journal, May 4, 1912

Unlike their neighbors in Dodge, the people of Ford didn’t mess around with kids in overcrowded classrooms and they had the new building ready for occupancy the same year. The news snippet above referred to the new building as a high school but as you can see below, it was a school for all grades.

The Ford Promoter, November 14, 1912

The structure completed in 1912 (prior to the addition of the auditorium at the south end) wasn’t very big but there were only five students in the first graduating class of 1916.

The Ford Promoter, May 25, 1916

Ford took their sports ball contests quite seriously and enjoyed considerable success for such a small school.

Hutchinson Daily Gazette, October 29, 1916

But what the heck? They then beat Garden City the following month, after having eggs thrown at them while waiting for their train in Dodge. Such drama. They couldn’t have been playing Dodge and Garden varsity teams…right?!

By 1917, the lower grades were bursting at the seams with as many as three grades stuck in one classroom. A local home was rented for additional space and newspaper editorials called for a second school. This time, the residents weren’t so quick to jump on another bond issue. Instead, they built a detached Vocational Agriculture building at the north end of the school.

The Ford Progress, October 20, 1922
The old shop is now used by the City of Ford Maintenance Department.

Since one of the rooms was being used as an auditorium, it made sense to build a real gymnasium/auditorium and free up more classroom space.

The Hutchinson News, May 24, 1927
The Pioneer 1956

The Ford Progress, February 28, 1930

That was long but you need to understand that I didn’t even include all of it. You’re welcome.

The Ford Progress, August 15, 1930
The Ford Progress, October 23, 1931

They were trying to put Ford on the map!

The Ford Progress, August 26, 1932
The Hutchinson, Kansas, News-Herald, February 27, 1936
The Hutchinson, Kansas, News-Herald, November 11, 1944
The Pioneer 1956

I can’t remember when the elementary school was built but it screams 1950s to me. The 1956 yearbook includes some photos taken from the baseball diamond with the elementary school in the background. I mention this because high school events often took place in the grade school, presumably because it was newer and (I think) larger.

The Wichita Beacon, July 24, 1970
The Pioneer 1971
Garden City Telegram, April 28, 1971

The Class of 1972 was the last to graduate from Ford High School. It was all quite messy. For the Fall of 1971, the Ford High School football team was only able to schedule six games because of apparent interference from the Dodge City USD 443, which governed the Ford schools at that time. I’m guessing the interference was caused by the budget/tax revenue whoopsie. By early September, Ford’s fate had not yet been determined.

I’m not 100 percent clear about how the State handled the fallout but ultimately, Ford and Bucklin consolidated and they all became Red Aces. How weird would it be to suddenly walk the hallways of your competitors…after your town seceded from that district? Totes awk.

One of my neighbors said he and his friends still played basketball in the gym after work for many years after the school closed. The building was used for community events until it became a safety hazard.

A former Ford City Clerk told me the City Council had gotten bids to demo the building but it was ridiculously expensive, especially since there was asbestos that needed to be removed. Some locals thought they could pull the walls down with a tractor because there’s apparently nothing a John Deere can’t do. They were wrong. Pulling on the walls just caused the roof to cave in. So they made it worse and there it sat.

Some lady bought the property and refused to do anything with it. People would try to buy it from her and she would refuse. This went on for years until finally a guy thought he had it bought in about 2011. If I remember correctly, he intended to turn it into condos but there was a ton of cleanup to do. Most of the lot was completely overgrown, to the point where trees had to be removed in order to even get to the building and haul out debris. I remember seeing him behind the auditorium trying to clear a path. Honestly, even back then it was clear the building was too far gone. But then I think something happened to prevent the sale from going through. Probably a lot of things!

I went into the school in about 2007 and it wasn’t yet a total wreck. I remember walking in the main floor hallway, which was concrete and thinking it could be much worse. Then I nearly stepped off into the void. It hadn’t occurred to me that the classroom floors had been wood…at one point. They were GONE. I looked down all the way into the basement locker room and was glad I didn’t take that route to check it out.

The gym/auditorium was a shit show but it was intact enough that I could tell it was a really cool addition. The wood floor was a warped mess (due to the giant hole in the roof) but the bead board around the stage area was still there and I just thought it was a shame to see it ruined. The Google Street View images are from June of 2008 but they’re total garbage so you can’t see much. Please note that the addresses are all jacked on Prairie Street so you can’t even pay attention to them. The satellite image below is also out of date.

I’ve looked all over for the photos I took that day but they must have been stored on an old PC that died ages ago. It would have been really interesting to compare the photos from that day to these that I took in January of this year. The goats seemed to be enjoying themselves!

Note: I did not trespass to get these pics. All were taken from outside the fenced area.

Here’s a bonus gallery of the old grade school, which now houses the City of Ford offices, City Council meetings, etc. The City’s Facebook Page has a few interior photos as well. Residents were also able to reserve the cafeteria and gymnasium/auditorium for family reunions and other events but I’m not sure if that is still the case. When I lived there, the City Library was still open but it closed at least four years ago.

I’m not sure what it is about the Ford school buildings that I find so compelling. The grade school interior isn’t even attractive! But I don’t want either building to be destroyed. They represent a time when the community still looked forward to growth and prosperity. When I look at what we have in front of us now as a country…and western civilization in general, all I see is doom and decay. On that happy note, the digital nomad life continues!

If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe (way at the bottom of the post on mobile devices) to receive an email each time a new post is published and share on social media. You can also buy me a cup of coffee using the donation form. Thanks for reading!

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