Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sharing stories about the old C&NW "Cowboy Line"

Retired railroader Lynn Bilyeu
There's something about railroading that captures the imagination.  And we were pleasantly surprised to see a Scottsbluff Star-Herald story about the Chicago & Northwestern Railway line that served western Nebraska and the surrounding region for many decades.

The story was told by a railroader whom we've had the pleasure of knowing for many years – Lynn Bilyeu of Chadron – pictured here from a photo taken a few years ago.  A long-time telegrapher and dispatcher with the C&NW, Lynn is also a veteran amateur radio operator (KØODF) and is one of the few who continues to operate "CW" using Morse Code.  But that's another story!

Here's a link to Steve Frederick's story in the Star-Herald:

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Chadron native authors book on running

by Con Marshall

A Chadron native, who recalls he “hated running” when he was in high school in the mid-1970s, has written a book some 40 years later telling how much he loves it, or at least how it has become his passion and made him much healthier.

The runner-turned-author is Bill Watts, who lives in Littleton, Colo.  His book is titled “Running for the Average Joe.”  It is being recognized as ranking among the most comprehensive books ever written about running, covering what one noted runner says is “everything from A to Z” about what has become one of America’s more popular and healthier activities.

Watts, 59, said he got what amounted to a “wakeup call” on January 1, 2002 when he learned that his blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate “were all through the roof” and he tipped the scales at 199.5 pounds, a lot more than he should have weighed.

He knew it was time to change his lifestyle or he was in trouble.  Although he refuses to call it a New Year’s resolution, his new resolve has remained with him.

While he said initially he couldn’t jog more than halfway around a 400-meter track without thinking he would pass out, five months later on Memorial Day he was in the throng that ran the Bolder Boulder.

Since then he’s run hundreds of 5-K and 10-K races and completed 88 marathons, which are 26 miles, 385 yards, in 31 states and also has run numerous longer races, often to benefit causes he supports.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

In the shadow of Sheridan Gates

This undated photograph shows the ranch of Rex Earl.  Located in the Beaver Valley community just to the east of Chadron, you can see the "Sheridan Gates" in the background.  This is the region through which many settlers and and U.S. Army troops passed in the waning years of the 1800's.   Photo is courtesy of the Dawes County Historical Society Museum.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crawford grads were honored on cusp of "Crash"

by Larry Miller

In the spring of 1929 – a few months before "Black Tuesday" (October 29) and the onslaught of the massive stock market crash that ushered the Great Depression – it was happy times for the graduates of Crawford High School. Their achievements were recognized and celebrated.  The Crawford Tribune ran this huge display ad from local businesses, congratulating the new graduates.  It listed a few business and family names that linger today – and many more that are unknown to newer generations.

Bruer & Son was started in 1915 by John Bruer, born seven miles west of Crawford in 1891 and whose family moved to town in 1910.  As a teenager, he and friend Walter Forbes reportedly traveled the world in 1910-1911 before returning to Dawes County to work on various ranches.  In 1915, he started Bruer & Son, the John Deere implement dealership in Crawford.  The following year in Omaha, he married Pearl Dolen.  They would raise two sons and a daughter.  John Bruer was president of the old Tri-State Fair Board for many years and helped organize the Crawford Rodeo.  He was a fireman, served on the city council and school board, was a Rotarian, and pursued other civic interests.  While he died in 1959, Bruer & Son implement continued to operate for many years and was among the oldest continuous businesses in Crawford well into the latter half of the 20th century.

Dr. B. F. Richards practiced medicine in Crawford for 46 years.  Born in Ohio in 1874, he went to medical school in Kansas City before moving to Crawford in 1903.  He and his wife, Emma, were active in civic affairs.  Not only did he serve as mayor of Crawford for many years, he was president of the Chamber of Commerce and served on both the city council and the school board.  He retired in 1949, the same year that his wife died.  Dr. Richards moved to Arizona to be near his daughter, Wanda, and her family.    He died in the 1950's and was buried beside his wife in Milford, Ohio.

We're sure that there are interesting stories behind all of these businesses – and many others, too.    Perhaps we'll unearth more down the road.  Our thanks to the folks who put together the 1961 Crawford "Souvenir Book" for its 75-year celebration.  Most of this information came from that publication.  For a peek at a few other early day Crawford photos, visit our Early Crawford Area Gallery.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Chadron Hested Store – a part of yesteryear

by Larry Miller

As a kid growing up in Chadron in the years following World War II, we had some favorite places in downtown Chadron.

Now, we're talking about those years BEFORE adolescence dictated visits to the soda fountain at Saults Drug or Thompson Drug to hang out with other teens – all trying to impress members of the opposite sex while enjoying the latest flavored Coke or malt.  And certainly before later teen years at the Sun, trying to win at the pinball machine without a "Tilt."

Of course, if movies at the Pace Theatre were involved, that called for a stop up the street – movie ticket stub in hand – to the Newsy Nook for some candy.  From Licorice Snaps and Cinnamon Bears to Bit-O-Honeys and Big Hunks, it seemed that Mame Finney and Phyllis Wagner had just about anything we were looking for.  And even though it required some budgeting (after all, we couldn't afford everything!) we could still make do with 11 cents.

The quarter allowance on Saturdays would handle the 14 cents admission fee to the theatre, leaving all of those remaining 11 cents to pick-and-choose some treats from Newsy Nook.  And it seemed to be enough.

But perhaps as popular as any business in downtown Chadron in those years was the Hested Store.  It was a "five-and-dime," but we always called it Hested's, not to be confused with O'Banion's dime store just across the street on second and Main.  Hested's not only had a variety of candies – they had hot peanuts and an assortment of other nuts, too!  That provided a bit of nourishment while browsing through the toy section.

In 1946, the Hested Store in Chadron held a "Grand Opening" to celebrate a store expansion.

The Hested store was pretty good sized and offered everything from housewares and jewelry to greeting cards and clothing.  I recall they even had an assortment of bicycles – but perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me.

Illinois-born Edward James Hested was in his 30s and operating a general merchandise store in Lake City, Iowa, before opening his own variety store in Fairbury, Nebraska in 1909.  He sold a little bit of everything.   Two years later, he expanded into several other southeast Nebraska communities.  By 1940, there were about 40 Hested stores doing business in Iowa, Wyoming, and Nebraska – later expanding into Colorado.  Hested Stores were our heartland version of Woolworth and Kresge stores that populated much of the rest of the country. 

In 1960, according to the Nebraska State Historical Society, there were an estimated 100 Hested-affiliated stores in nine states.

Shown at right is an undated photo of the Hested Store in Laramie, Wyoming, with a store front very similar to the one in Chadron. Hested Stores merged with the J.J. Newberry Company of New York that year.  When the Newberry stores were bought by a Dallas corporation in 1972, the old Hested stores started shutting their doors.

We don't know for sure exactly what year the Hested Store opened and closed in Chadron.  But we do know it was a downtown mainstay for several decades, employing lots of people over the years, and offering small town folks lots of discounted merchandise – including those hot peanuts!  

Monday, May 29, 2017

70 Years Ago – Who won this sleek new Studebaker?

This item appeared in the Chadron Record in the summer of 1946.   Do you
know who won the car?  If so, drop us an e-Mail.  We would like to know.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Verne Lewellen (1924 - 2017)

Communities across the Nebraska panhandle have lost a good friend.

Verne Lewellen, a retired teacher, coach and school administrator, died last Friday (4/21/17) at his home in Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  He was 92 years old.

For many thousands of students who benefitted from his soft-spoken style and inspirational leadership, his passing brought back many memories – and the realization of just how lucky we were to have crossed paths with this gentle man.

A respected leader in the many panhandle communities where he and his wife, Erma, have lived, he was a Nebraska native and a life-long supporter of Chadron State College.

Many public tributes to "Coach Lewellen" have taken place in recent years, and deservedly so.  Each of us who knew him and respected him will likely carry warm memories of him for the rest of our lives – and try to emulate the many attributes of this special person.  

Rest in peace, Coach Lew.

To Erma, Curt, Tammi, and the rest of the Lewellen family, our thoughts and prayers are with you.