Friday, January 17, 2014

Blizzards & Sam Greene's memories

The sun was shining --- with a low bank of gray clouds in the west --- during the drive down to Hy-Vee about 3:30 yesterday. After a half hour inside, the grey horizon had turned into a black wall with smoke-like rolls of clouds leading the advance overhead. Snow began upon exiting the parking lot and it was a whiteout by the time I'd climbed the hill and pulled into the garage a few blocks later.

Shortly thereafter, the National Weather Service issued a surprise blizzard warning --- and that's the way it went into the evening. A mean night, especially so for those on the roads.

So I warmed my hands over a hot PC after the powers that be wisely cancelled a meeting and began research for a couple of projects --- then was diverted by this article from The Herald-Patriot of Oct. 31, 1957.

The author was Samuel M. Greene, up in years and living in Englewood, California. But the memories, spurred by reading a centennial edition of the Herald-Patriot (The Patriot was established in 1857), dated back to 1900-1912, his years as owner, editor and publisher of The Chariton Herald, then co-owner of the merged Herald-Patriot.

We learn, among other things, that it was Greene --- then a trustee of First Methodist Episcopal Church --- who facilitated the $1,500 gift from Andrew Carnegie that paid half the cost of the pipe organ still in use (although reworked several times) at First United Methodist Church.

Because the public libraries that Carnegie helped to build --- including Chariton's --- were considerably larger, it's been kind of forgotten that he also helped to purchase about 8,000 pipe organs for congregations and other institutions across America.

Here's the article (with a few added notes):


ENGLEWOOD, Calif. --- Since reading the Herald-Patriot centennial edition several times, as it was so interesting, I thought a few more anecdotes of early Chariton, during the years we lived there, from 1900 to 1912, might be interesting.

The mention of the Beardsley Mortuary recalled to me that Sam Beardsley, who started the Mortuary, learned the undertaking business under Nick Melville. Nick was also head mogul of the K.P. Lodge, and presided at my  initiation into the Lodge when we lived there. Mrs. Beardsley is now operating the mortuary since Sam died, in the big house south of the southeast corner of the square that was Frank Crocker's home when we lived there.

Frank was a big shot in Chariton, socially as well as financially. He was president (actually only head cashier and manager) of the First National Bank, at the northwest corner of the square, and was also national treasurer of the Modern Woodmen of America, and kept their treasury funds in his bank. There was about a million dollars (actually about $300,000) in the M.W.A. treasury and Frank very foolishly began using the fund to speculate on the Chicago Board of Trade. In a market slump he lost almost the entire million (sic), and rather than face his disgrace, he committed suicide at his home one night, by taking poison.

His tragic death was a tremendous shock to Chariton, and when the Government closed his bank, because of the big loss, the depositors finally got only about thirty percent of their deposts. I was probably the only depositor who didn't lose any money, as I happened to be overdrawn by about $17 on the day the bank was closed.

We lived in a house we had bought a block north of "Buzz" Larimer's corner on East Auburn, in northeast Chariton (the current home of Kay Brown and Rex Johnson). Our oldest son Paul was born when we lived in Clarinda, before I bought the Herald in Chariton in 1900, but our next two children, Loren and Doris, were born in that house in northeast Chariton. There was no hospital in Chariton then, so babies had to be born at home. Dr. Theodore Stanton, who lived near Buzz Larimer on East Auburn, was our family doctor.

I don't know just when the Albert Yocom hospital across the street from the Herald-Patriot's present office, was started, but I do remember that Albert worked for me as a reporter for a while when I had the Herald, on North Main Street. His father, who was a doctor, wanted Albert to be a newspaper man, but Albert didn't fancy the work, so decided to study medicine instead. He and his wife, one of the Curtis daughters, started the hospital, and have made a big success of it. When we lived there I thought she was the prettiest girl in Chariton. I never told my wife so, however.

Speaking of East Auburn Ave., W.G. Brown, who was one of the trustees with me in the Methodist church, built the big mansion that later became the home of Harry Stewart and his family. (This is the big house now in a sad state of disrepair at the intersection of Auburn Avenue and North Eighth Street.)

Mr. Brown was wealthy and public spirited, and when I induced the Carnegie Foundation to donate $1,500 toward purchasing a pipe organ for our church, on condition that we raise $1,500 more to buy the organ, Mr. Brown immediately donated $500 toward the fund.

Then Will Eikenberry, who owned a big lumber yard north of the church, giave another $500 and raising the other $500 was easy. That's how the church got the first pipe organ in Chariton. I've wondered whether they still have the same organ. (Editor's note --- It is. Though it has been rebuilt on several occasions).

Harry Stewart and his wife were also close friends of mine. His wife, who was Mona Clayton of Indianola before she was married, was a student at Simpson College when I went to school there for a year. She lived in the big house on East Auburn till she died a few years ago, just before I visited Chariton on a trip. I was sorry indeed to miss seeing her. I have been told that the big house is now a rest home.

Harry and I had two of the first autos in Chariton, both two cylinder Buicks, and both pretty punk, if you ask me. Auto makers had not quite developed good autos at that time. Harry's car and mine had the engine under the front seat, with the engine crank on the right side. The gas tank was under the hood. A chain drive from the engine to the rear axle was always breaking when I was on a drive, and I would have to hire a team of horses to haul my car home. If we drove out into the country we nearly always scared a farmer's team of horses, as they had never seen an auto before, and they would break the wagon tongue or try to run away. The farmers would then come in and stop their subscriptions to the Herald.

There was one earlier auto in Chariton, bought by Harry Penick in 1903 or 1904, I believe. Harry Stewart and I bought ours in 1905 or 1906. Harry Penick's car was always getting out of fix, too, when he went out on a trip. Harry Penick had a brother named James Penick, who was a lawyer, and he had a son named Raymond, who used to play tennis with me, as that was my favorite game. I even had a dirt court in the back yard of our home in northeast Chariton. Raymond and I won the Southern Iowa doubles championshps one year, in a big tournament, and I still have the old-style racket that I won as the prize. I always loved the game of tennis, and kept it up till only a few years ago. I also taught all three of our children to play, and they all became fine players.

I see in the special edition sent me that you still use the same title type that I selected for the Herald when I bought it in 1900, and also used for the Herald-Patriot when Paul and Chas. Junkin and I combined the two papers in 1909. My family and I had made a couple of tirps to California years before, and the California fever finally got the best of us in 1912 and I sold my share of the paper to Will Junkin and we came to California to stay.

When I first bought the Herald it was in a one-story building alongside the alley a half block north of the First National Bank. I published it there till we combined it with the Patriot, when we moved to the rear building of Hollinger & Larimer's across the street from the Bates Hotel. Will Junkin later built the building where you folks still publish the paper.

I noticed an interesting thing when I was in Chariton the last time, four or five years ago. On the north wall of my old Herald building, on North Main street, I could still see part of the world "Herald," painted in big type near the top of the wall. A restaurant building alongside the old quarters hid most of the name. That sign was painted there soon after 1900, so it must have been good paint.

My closest friend among the business men was John Darrah, owner of the Fair Store on the north side of the square (later the location of Spurgeon's, now Lindy's Closet). He was a very successful business man, and I foolishly induced him to run for the State Legislature, and he got so interested in politics that he neglected his business and finally had to discontinue his store. He is now living in retirement in Kansas City, quite lame from a paralytic stroke, I understand.

Southern Iowa counties in my early years in Chariton were decidedly stand-pat in politics, due largely to the powerful influence of the C.B. & Q. political bosses. John Darrah and I led a rebellion from that railroad dictation, and helped to elect Albert B. Cummins as governor, and to defeat Wm. P. Hepburn, our standpat congressman. From then on Iowa rapidly became a Progressive state.

Your Centennial edition mentioned many early citizens whom I have happy memories about, but I can't mention them all. I will however mention W.B. Dutcher and wife, who come to Inglewood occasionally to visit their daughter, Helen Major, and son who lives near here. Helen and I get together occasionally to talk about old times and old friends in Chariton.

I'll close by mentioning an amusing little incident about Jim Penick, attorney friend of mine, whom I have mentioned above.

Jim had a keen sense of humor, and one evening when he was coming home from Indianola on the pokey little train that made the trip daily, the train made such slow time that Jim finally said to the conductor, who was an old-time friend of his: "Is this all the faster your train can run? I could have walked home faster than this."

"Why don't you get out and walk, then?" asked the conductor.

"I would," replied Jim, "only my folks won't be at the depot to meet me till time for the train to get in."

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