I scanned a couple of photographs yesterday from the historical society's Johanna Holmberg collection primarily because of the buildings that show up in the background, then decided this morning to tell a little more of the stories behind them. You can right click on these photos and open them in new windows for a larger view.
Both were taken on the south side of the Chariton square on the rainy late afternoon of April 13, 1955. The event was a parade in vintage vehicles of Chariton Rotarians as they made their way around the square before driving out to the northwest corner of town for the last grand party before its demolition at the Mallory mansion, Ilion. A public open house at the Ilion would be held on April 17 and then the old house was taken down. Dwight L. Oliver was the photographer.
Gov. Leo A. Hoegh is driving the buggy here with Frank Davis seated next to him. Mr. and Mrs. Les Chambers are in the back seat.
First of all, look at the street --- it's still brick (now buried under asphalt). The old Roush Drug Store is in the background, located where Cornerstone Christian Book Store is now, in a 1930 building built by Harry Cramer after the great southside fire of February in that year. To its right is the White Swan Cafe, a small but streamlined and entirely up-todate diner that opened under Roy Morgan's managership in 1940 --- after the lot where Hammer Medical Supply now stands had stood vacant for 10 years following the 1930 fire. The White Swan would be moved away and the Hammer building, constructed by Woolworth & Co. as a five-and-dime, was put into place during 1957.
The occupants of the vehicle in the second photograph, also taken by Oliver, are not identified --- but look at the Ritz still in full flower with Virginia Mayo and Paul Newman in "The Silver Chalice" (in color) playing and a bank night prize of $410 on Friday and Saturday.
The building still looks much the same, although the marquee has lost its "Ritz" and other decorative flourishes and the William L. Perkins trademark windows that front the apartment above have been replaced. It now houses the Connecticut Yankee Pedaller bicycle shop and the movies have moved to a new building off the northwest corner of the square. The theater itself was built in 1927, then reconstructed behind its surviving facade after the 1930 fire.
Note, too, that a Hy-Vee grocery store (there were two of these on the square at the time) occupied the building east of the theater, since obscured by a blue "slipcover" front and now occupied by Chariton Floral.
The remarkable Johanna, a substantial person who looked as friendly as she was, was Chariton's official welcome wagon hostess in 1955. There are several photographs in the collection of her on the job, including one with the automobile provided by a local dealership that she traveled around town in to greet newcomers with baskets of gifts. Chariton really tried to welcome new residents back then.
She also worked as a stringer, or local correspondent, for The Ottumwa Courier, occasionally The Des Moines Register --- turning in stories about and photographs of what was going on in Chariton. After her stories had been published, she reclaimed the photographs --- and perhaps 30-40 of them form the Johanna Holmberg collection, given to the historical society after her 1986 death. We'll be glad to show them to you next time you stop at the museum.