Thursday, December 22, 2011

A short but memorable history: Kline Campus Center

There've been numerous physical improvements at Chadron State College over the past year or so.

Among them was the remarkable remodeling of the oldest building on campus, the Administration Building – coupled with the expansion and remodeling of Sparks Hall, what we used to call the old Faculty Dorm.   Particularly impressive has been the work at Sparks, which now houses the office of President Janie Park as well as the CSC Foundation.  The contractors did a fantastic job modeling the addition after the architecture of the original structure. 

And while not everyone seems enamored with it, I really like the new entrance to the campus at 10th and Main Street.

But this piece is about something else.  It’s a belated acknowledgement of the old Kline Campus Center, which was demolished last May.  I say “acknowledgement,” since ‘tribute’ would be a bit too much for a building that has had structural problems almost from its beginning.   

I spent considerable time in the Kline Center, first as a student after it was built in 1961 – and later during a short stint on the staff at CSC.  So I have some happy memories of the facility; but in the final analysis, the structure was something of a disappointment.

I’ve certainly not dissected all the reasons for the structural failure of the building.  In fact, I’ve simply chalked it up as illustrative of much shoddy construction work done in the mid and late 1900’s across the country.  At CSC, it was not just Kline – but probably Brooks Hall, too.  Of course, structural rehabilitation and other repairs could help salvage some buildings not quite up to standards, but – in the end – the Kline Campus Center was just too far gone.

Kline Campus Center - circa 1984
The quality of workmanship of those and many other structures of that era pales when compared to the durable and stately construction of such buildings as the Administration Building, Crites Hall, and Edna Work Hall.  All of those rock solid structures, built early in the 20th century, remain functioning and vital buildings on the CSC campus as we begin 2012.
Nonetheless, Kline Campus Center was a new and shining star when it came on the scene.  Its sleek modern design seemed consistent with America’s entry into the space age.  Astronauts had flown in space, and – within the next decade or so  – man would walk on the moon.

As a native Chadron student still living at home, I missed much of the social life in which dorm residents engaged.  That included meals, Cokes, bowling, and related socializing at the Kline Center.

Returning from the Navy and attending Chadron State as a married student, my time at Kline was even less.

It wasn’t until 1976, when I joined the CSC staff as Director of Information that I became more intimately involved with activities at the Kline Center.  While our information office was in the Administration Building, the photographic darkroom was on the upper level on the south side of the Campus Center.  I spent many hours there spooling film into 35mm canisters and printing pictures.   It was long before digital photography and personal computers, so developing film was fraught with lots of challenges. That included figuring out how to remove the smell of photographic chemicals from my hands and learning to co-exist with discolored fingernails -- turned yellow by exposure to photo fixer.  

April 2011 - The Kline Campus Center is no more.
Perhaps the most pleasant memories of Kline Campus Center involved gatherings with other staff and faculty for coffee in something of a faculty lounge on the second floor.  It was there I became better acquainted with the likes of Don Deselms, LaVern Fitzgibbon, Ross Armstrong, Harry Holmberg, Reta King, Tom Detwiler, Gerald Christofferson, Tom Bartels, and many others.  And President Ed Nelson would also frequently join the gathering.  It was a welcome respite in the work day, and it served to help foster a bond amongst the group – something that seems increasingly difficult for college and university folks these days.

For most people, memories of Kline Campus Center are entwined with their student years.   When the building was leveled last April, Cathy Donohue wrote a nice feature story capturing a bit of the nostalgia that still rings true for many alums of CSC.  She called it Remembering Kline.  The photos used here are courtesy of CSC.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A father's fight

One of the best stories we've heard this holiday season is one broadcast by Des Moines television station WHO-TV. It was told by Erin Kiernan, evening news anchor at the NBC affiliate, and it was a very personal story. It shared the trials and tribulations of Erin's dad, a native and long-time resident of Chadron, Larry Moody.

 About a year ago, Larry's family was told to prepare for his death. He had suffered a ruptured brain aneurism, and the prognosis was not good. But family, friends, and much faith brought Larry back from the brink of death. It was not an easy journey, but Larry and his wife Cheryl (Haskell) persevered. Larry's multi-month bout with his debilitating condition came just a few years after he had retired from Nebraska Public Power and the Army National Guard in Chadron. He and Cheryl moved to Chandler, Arizona in 2007. He had given up smoking and when his Class of 1960 gathered for a reunion last year, he included "walking, cardio and weight training" among his interests and hobbies. 

For the many childhood friends who grew up with Larry Moody and knew his parents -- Kenny and Wanda Moody -- and sisters Nancy and Rebecca and brother Lynn, it was no surprise that they all grew up with a great sense of humor. But it was Larry who inherited that robust and infectious laugh from his dad. How wonderful that his family will enjoy it again this holiday season and, hopefully, many more!  What a heartwarming story this is, for Larry and his family -- and for all of us.

Thanks to Larry and Cheryl's talented daughter,  Erin Kiernan, for compiling a remarkable story, which was broadcast on WHO-TV and was entitled "A Father's Fight."  Unfortunately, as of today (7/3/12) the video link to that story is no longer available.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

‘MRS. NEWSY’ remembered by many in Chadron
Chadron’s Golden Age Courier-Vol. 25; Issue 11  
November 2011-Dawes County, Nebraska
(From Chadron Record 3/19/91 - By Goldie Dawkins, Record Reporter)
In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, every kid in town knew her as Mrs. Newsy, and she knew each and everyone of them by their first names.  Most of the young people came to the Newsy Nook to buy candy, gum, popcorn, pop, ice cream, novelties, and the very popular comic books.  In the almost twenty-five years she worked there she saw children grow up and go to college and even marry and become parents, and bring their children in to see her.
The children were a very big part of the business of the little store that was located north of the Post Office, and a couple doors south of the theater but she also knew many of their parents and grandparents who came to buy magazines and cigarettes, tobacco and newspapers.
She was a tiny dark haired woman born Dorothy Maude Jackman in Southampton, England.  She was so very tiny when she was born that the family called her Dolly.  As she grew to a teenager, her friends called her Phyllis for some reason that she never could explain.  In 1918, she met and married Roy H. Wagner, a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy who was from the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
Phyllis Wagner 
She liked to tell about their wedding; about the black horses that pulled the coach they rode in and the white ribbons decorating the horses.  The small amount of sugar Roy was able to get from the Navy just for their wedding reception was a highlight at a time when sugar was very scarce.
Following World War I, Roy had to return to the United States on his ship but she followed on the next one and he met her in New York.  They had the long train trip from New York to Comstock, Nebraska where his parents lived on a farm.  Phyllis was shocked at the distance they had to travel because in England it didn’t take more than a day to go any place in the country.
Living in a three room farm home with his parents for a short while was a new experience for her.  She had lived in a large home in England where almost everything had been done for her.  They soon moved to Chadron and Roy returned to work on the railroad where he had been before the interruption by the War.   They rented a light-house-keeping room above the variety store owned by Mrs. Cockrel, where MarBow Archery and Music store is now, and that is where their daughter, Goldie was born.
When Goldie was five weeks old they had to move to Hot Springs, SD, where Roy was sent by the C & NW Railroad.  They lived there two years and liked it very much.  They had two bad experiences while they were there.  One night there was a terrible lightning and thunder storm.  Phyllis was very frightened and sat in their apartment over a drug store holding Goldie all night because Roy was out of town.  She said, “The lightning was non-stop.  It lighted up the room bright enough to read a newspaper.”  The rain came down like the bottom had dropped out of everything.  The next day they learned that the railroad track had been washed out and the big wall along River Street had been washed out.  If you look over the side of the present wall you can still see part of that wall lying along the bank.  
The other bad experience came because there was an epidemic of Scarlet Fever and they attended a funeral of a friend who died.  Shortly after that, Phyllis became very seriously ill with the disease and she, Roy and Goldie were quarantined in their apartment.  A neighbor brought food to the door for them.  After that crisis they returned to Chadron and lived in an apartment above the Hoke Grocery store for a while.
Roy bought a small home in the one hundred block of Morehead that had been the town’s original jail.  He fixed it up and they were very comfortable there.  They then bought a home at 520 Shelton Street which he painted and fixed up.  They moved there and rented the small house to some other people.  The Depression came along and Roy was laid off of his job.  He took several different jobs and Phyllis went to work for the Blaine Hotel as a chambermaid in an effort to make ends meet in those hard times.  The Donahues owned the hotel and Al and Ward Dandridge, better known as Ganz, worked for them.
Phyllis discovered she could make beautiful light angel food cakes. She entered one in the Dawes County Fair and won first prize and when the word was out that she made such lovely cakes there became a big demand for them so she made and sold them for one dollar.  She bought a cake decorating set with all the proper nozzles to make flowers and this made her business even better.  She won first prize at the fair for her cake decorating so many times, that other women complained they could not compete with her and she stopped entering them.   Now it can be told that Roy often did the decorating.  He enjoyed it and was good at it.
Roy leased the Standard Oil Station on the corner of First and Main Streets, across the street from Barney Lecher’s station.  He also drove the tank wagon to call on farmers to sell fuel to them.  Roy was getting a little more work and of course Phyllis was staying home.  Goldie was in school at the Prep and all was going better.
The veterans of World War I were trying to get a bonus that had been promised to them by the government and with the Depression times they could all use it.  They lost their home on Shelton Street and also the little one on Morehead.  Many people were in the same boat.  They then rented a home at 437 Chapin Street and later bought it.
Goldie eventually graduated from the Prep and married Leo Dawkins that same summer.  That was the year the bonus was paid to the veterans.  Roy and Phyllis bought a new Willy automobile.  They were selling for something like $500.
They had gotten through the Depression without the help of the bonus and they were needing a different car so why not buy a new one?  Goldie’s husband went to work for the Federal Government as an electronic technician, later being drafted into the army in World War II, doing the same work.  They did a lot of traveling, eventually living in San Francisco, CA.
Mean time, back in Chadron, Jack was going to school at the Prep, Roy was getting steady work on the C & NW Railroad and Phyllis was working for Mrs. Finney at the Newsy Nook.  When Mrs. Finney retired, Phyllis stayed on to manage the shop which was sold to new owners.
The Newsy Nook had the World-Herald Agency and there were a lot of carriers who delivered it to the homes of Chadron.  Phyllis had to meet the train every morning to pick up the papers that came in from Omaha.  The carriers came to the station platform to pick theirs up.  She counted out each route.
She enjoyed her work at the Newsy Nook.  She loved the children, large and small that came in there -- even the ones that gave her a hard time.  She very patiently waited on the kids that took a long time deciding how to spend their few pennies.  If some of the big boys picked on the smaller children or any of the children started pushing and cutting up in the shop, this tiny little woman picked up a broom and chased them out.  He brown eyes snapped and she wore a big smile while she was doing this, but the boys respected her authority and those same boys might be bringing her a small gift or compliment the next day.  The kids all called her Mrs. Newsy.  She watched the magazines that came in to be sure there was never any put on the rack that would be unsuitable for children to read.
After Roy died in 1958, her time spent in the Newsy Nook became even more important to her.  Her son, Jack, married  Dorothy Petersen from Hay Springs and they have her three grandsons:  Mike, Ron, and Dave Wagner.  It was one of the saddest days of her life when she had to retire from her work at the Newsy Nook.
Phyllis “Mrs. Newsy” Wagner died at the age of eighty, the day after Thanksgiving in 1974.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Remembering Mason McNutt

(Editor's Note:   On November 19, 2011, Con Marshall wrote a story about  life-long Chadron resident Mason McNutt.  Mason passed away on Sunday, January 24, 2016.  Below is his obituary as it appeared on the Chamberlain Chapel website, followed by Con's 2011 story about Mason. We appreciate Con Marshall allowing us to reprint his story on Dawes County Journal  ~~Larry Miller)

Mason McNutt (1925 - 2016)

Mason McNutt, 90, of Chadron, Nebraska died Sunday, January 24, 2016, at Pioneer Manor in Gillette, Wyoming surrounded by family. Mason was born on July 14, 1925 in Chadron to Alexander and Josephine Blotney McNutt. 

He graduated from Chadron High School in 1943 and at the age of 17 enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, beginning basic training in San Diego, California. After basic training, he was sent to Hawaii and trained as a machine gunner. From Hawaii he sailed to the Marshall Islands and on to Guadalcanal to join the 6th Marine Division. In 1945 he sailed from Guadalcanal to Okinawa and was involved in the assault on Okinawa. After living on Okinawa for three months, he was sent to Guam to train for the invasion of Japan Once Japan had surrendered, he was sent to Tsingtao, China with the 2nd Marine Battalion to accept the surrender of Japanese forces in China. He returned to the U.S. on January 29, 1946 and was discharged, a few days later returning to Chadron, Nebraska. 

On August 3, 1946 he married his high school sweetheart Pauline Pascoe. They have lived their entire lives in Chadron. Mason went from being a mechanic at Prey Chevrolet in 1946 to Shop Foreman and Parts Manager in 1953. In October of 1953 he went to work for Metal Products, Co. and purchased the business in 1961. He and Pauline ran the business until 1985 when he retired. He was a charter member of the Chadron Lions Club in 1950 and served on the Chadron Planning Committee, Chadron Housing Authority, and the board of Chadron Community Hospital. He and Pauline were also members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, where he had also served on the church council. Mason enjoyed camping, gardening, and tinkering in his shop. He spent many hours on his small parcel of land near Chadron State Park. 

Survivors include: his wife Pauline of Chadron; two sons: Bill (Dianne) of Bassett, Nebraska, and Mike (Barbara) of Gillette, Wyoming; eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. Services will be held on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 10:30 AM at Chamberlain Chapel in Chadron, Nebraska with Reverend Bruce Baum officiating. Burial will be at Greenwood Cemetery. 

The family suggests memorials to the Nebraska Lions Foundation or Immanuel Lutheran Church. Donations may be sent to Chamberlain Chapel, PO Box 970, Chadron, Nebraska 69337. He leaves loving memories to be cherished by his family. 


Things happened fast for 1943 Chadron High graduate

High school was a fun time for Mason McNutt. He was the right end on the Chadron Cardinals football team. While he scored just one touchdown in his career—on a pass from quarterback Bill Bell in a game his junior year against Sheridan, Wyo.,—he drop kicked the extra points.  He also was on the basketball team with lifelong friends such as Dave Anthony, Bevin Bump, Kenny Cavendar, Bob Folsom, Gilbert Hill and Arden Stec.

Mason McNutt, USMC - February 1946
In addition, he ran the mile for the track team, played the bass horn in the band and dated one of the prettiest girls in his class, Pauline Pascoe—his wife for the past 65 years.

There was no question what Mason was going to do when he graduated in May 1943. He joined the Marines.

A few days after commencement, he rode the train to Fort Crook (now Offutt Air Force Base) near Omaha to take his physical. Because he was just 17 years old, he took along a letter from his mother authorizing him to enlist.

“My brother Jack, who was two years older, had enlisted the Marines in the fall of 1942 at the Alliance Air Base. I had to follow him,” Mason recalls nearly 70 years later. “By the end of August the same year that I had graduated, I was off to San Diego for boot camp. In less than a year after we had discussed the battle for Guadalcanal in Miss Reno’s history class, I was there. Things happened pretty fast.”

That included the haircuts. He recalls with a grin that 63 members of the 661st platoon had their hair buzzed off by six barbers in six minutes his first day at boot camp.

When boot camp ended, he signed up to become a truck driver, but was sent to Camp Elliott north of San Diego to learn how to fire .30 caliber water-cooled machine guns.  By Dec. 23, Mason, his buddies and plenty of machine guns were aboard an aircraft carrier bound for Pearl Harbor, where two years earlier hell had broken loose when the Japanese bombed the Naval shipyards there.

But, as fate would have it, McNutt fired a machine gun only a few times early in his two years of active duty. While bobbing on ships in the Pacific and being a part of the American forces that pushed the Japanese off the islands and then secured them one-by-one, it was learned that the young Nebraskan was an excellent typist and he was transformed into a records-keeper.

“I had taken typing as a sophomore in high school and it paid off,” McNutt relates. “When I was in the Pacific I took a test and typed 70 words a minute. The classification specialist said that was 30 words a minute more than anyone else he had tested (could type). I never touched a machine gun after 1944."

“I had a L.C. Smith Secretariat model typewriter with a 14-inch carriage. Every morning I had to prepare a mistake-free report called a ‘muster roll’ after getting reports from three or sometimes four companies. It also was my job to keep records on those who were missing in action or killed. I became a clerk-typist, or as some called it, an office clown.”

Call it what you may, but by the end of the war, McNutt was an acting sergeant major, the top-ranked enlisted man in his battalion. That meant at age 20 he was giving orders to graying men who had been attached to the Marine Corps for 20 to 25 years.

“Some of them didn’t like it, but I guess we got along all right,” the long-time Chadron businessman and civic leader remembers. “By then we knew we were about to head home and there was no use starting another war.”

The Marines in McNutt’s regiment had been through plenty by the end of the war, including what has been called the bloodiest battle of them all. That was the battle for Okinawa, a long, narrow strip of land about 350 miles south of the Japanese mainland.

U.S. forces wanted it because of its proximity to Japan.  Bombers could easily make the round trip to drop their payloads on Japanese targets from there and it would serve as the base for the land invasion of Japan that was being planned.  

The problem was, more than 100,000 Japanese troops were extremely well entrenched on Okinawa.

The move toward Okinawa began in early 1945 when the 2nd Marine Battalion, 22nd Regiment, 6th Division formed and trained on Guadalcanal, which had been captured during heavy fighting in late 1942 and early 1943.

“We were training on Guadalcanal the same time other forces were invading Iwo Jima and the famous picture of the troops raising the flag was taken,” McNutt relates.  “We landed at the north end of Okinawa on April 1, which was both April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday. What kind of a coincidence was that? Our battalion didn’t meet any resistance initially because the Japanese thought we were going to land on the other side of the island.

"During the next 28 days, the Marines made their way to the south end of the island, which is about 65 miles long, to relieve Army troops near Sugar Loaf Hill.

A picture of Sugar Loaf Hill that McNutt possesses shows a rather nondescript hill. Some 2,000 Japanese  had dug caves deep into it, were equipped with machine guns, mortars, grenades and satchel charges, and were not about to leave their fortress without taking a heavy toll on American forces.

“We attacked Sugar Loaf on May 8 and that’s when things turned nasty,” McNutt notes. “Our battalion, made up of 980 men, experienced 120 percent casualties. That’s because many of the replacements also were either wounded or killed. It was horrible. It all happened in just four or five days before all the Japanese were either killed or captured.”
The replacements were definitely rushed into battle. McNutt relates that most of them were given a haircut and taught how to march, but bypassed the real rigors of boot camp before they boarded a ship and crossed the Pacific. They learned how to fire a gun during the voyage and once they reached Okinawa platoon sergeants “trained them on the run, showing them how to dig fox holes and things like that,” McNutt says.
While the battle for Sugar Loaf Hill was one of the worst on Okinawa, there were many others during the 100 days before the Japanese were defeated.

According to an article in the September-October 2010 issue of “The History Channel Magazine,” more people were killed in the Battle of Okinawa than died in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 12,000 Americans were killed or missing. At least 107,000 Japanese soldiers were killed and it’s estimated that more than 100,000 Okinawan citizens also died.  The latter count included many children who were thrown over rocky cliffs by their mothers. The women, who had been told horror stories by the Japanese about how they would be treated by the Americans, then plunged to their own deaths

The article also states that more than 26,000 U.S. troops were eventually removed from the battlefield because of combat stress.

McNutt recalls that while was he trying to keep track of the American casualties, one of the names he recorded in May was that of Mickey Mittan, a Chadron High classmate. Mittan had left school in January 1943 to join the Navy and was a corpsman on Okinawa when he was killed.

After the fighting ended in June of 1945, the 6th Marine Division remained on Okinawa another month for garrison duty and then moved to Guam.  They were regrouping for the long-awaited invasion of Japan when President Truman ordered the atomic bombs dropped in early August.

“I’m sure Harry’s decision saved a lot of our lives,” McNutt says. “I saw the invasion plan. Three divisions were going to go on one side of Tokyo Bay and three more on the other side. The Japanese would have been waiting. They had civilians and even the kids trained to throw grenades.”

By mid-summer 1945, McNutt had enough points to be discharged, but no replacements were available and he had to stay put. In October, after the fighting had stopped, he was part of a detachment that went from Guam to Tsingtao, China, a huge port city located across Tokyo Bay from Japan. Now known as Qingdao, it became the headquarters for the Navy’s Western fleet and was where the Japanese surrender was accepted.

“We had a parade there every Saturday morning,” McNutt says.  “The city had been under Japanese rule since 1938 and the people were happy to be Chinese again.”

Finally, on Jan. 10, 1946, McNutt and the others in his battalion set sail aboard the USS Bolivar for San Diego. They arrived on Jan. 29, he was discharged a few days later and returned to Chadron.

Soon after arriving home, McNutt went to work for Sam Prey at the Chevrolet garage where he had worked during the summers when he was in high school. He and Pauline were married in August.

At Prey Chevrolet, McNutt went from being a mechanic, to being the shop foreman and then the parts manager.  He was there until October 1953, when he went to work for Harold Clark at Metal Products.

Metal Products was originally known as Pascoe Tinning and Heating, and was founded by Pauline’s father, Willis Pascoe, in 1920. Clark purchased it in 1945 and the McNutts bought it from Clark in 1961. They ran it until 1985, when they sold it to their long-time employee, Wayne Lembke. 

In 2005, Lembke sold Metal Products to Scott Diehl, who built a new shop and showroom on the west side of town in 2007. McNutt notes that the firm has been selling Lennox Furnaces for 81 years.

Mason and Pauline McNutt were sweethearts in
the Class of 1943 at Chadron High School and
have been married now for more than 65 years.
McNutt was one of the 30 charter members of the Lions Club in Chadron in 1950. He served as the district secretary in 1971-72 and is the club’s only surviving charter member. He also has been a member of the Chadron Planning Committee and the Chadron Housing Authority and was treasurer of the Chadron Community Hospital board several years.

He and Pauline have been members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church for more than 46 years.  They have two sons. Mike is the superintendent of the Campbell County Parks and Recreation in Gillette.  Bill lives in Bassett,  drives a semi tractor-trailer for Panhandle Co-op in Ainsworth and occasionally delivers feed to ranchers in northwest Nebraska.

Mason’s younger brother, Jim, also joined the corps shortly after graduating from Chadron High in 1945.

Mason knows he’s been fortunate, both during the war and since. He’s proud that he was a Marine and notes that he was a part of a courageous outfit.  Maj. Henry Courtney received the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading an assault on Sugar Loaf and McNutt’s battalion received a Presidential Unit Citation twice and a Navy Unit Commendation.

“I always tell people that we were in the top 20 percent of the Navy, and I’m sure that’s true.”

NOTE:  Many thanks to good friend Con Marshall for providing this story and photographs about the McNutts.  Con has been kind enough to share other stories that we've posted in the past.  Hopefully, we'll be able to add more in the future.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The most dapper man on Main Street...

The old adage says a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, it's not likely to take a thousand words to convey this message, but even that number would pale in the presence of a nice crisp photograph of the late Greydon Nichols -- long-time Chadron attorney.

As we rummaged through a collection of old photographs in the Chadron State College archives, we came across this photo of young Nichols.  

And while he's appropriately attired in the photograph -- likely taken around 1913 or 1914 -- it doesn't begin to convey the elegance of his superb sartorial  persona in the 1940's and '50s.  He was perhaps the most dapper man in town.

First, a disclaimer.  we really knew nothing then about Greydon Nichols, except that he was an attorney -- and that he was a very fashionable fellow.  He was our own Adolph Monjou.  Briskly charging down the sidewalk on his way to an upstairs office on the west side of second and Main.  Always bedecked with a hat and wearing a finely pressed suit adorned with a handkerchief in the pocket, we seem recall that he often carried a cane, sort of like a Gene Kelley prop in a Hollywood musical.

Only now, more than a half century later, have we learned a bit more about this fellow.

This is an orchestra comprised largely of students from the
Campus Laboratory School at the Chadron Normal, ca 1913.
Normal music instructor Roy Peterson is in front at left; 
young musician Greydon Nichols is seated behind him.  
(Photo courtesy of CSC)
First, and this was a surprise for us, he was a local boy (but he seemed!).  Born in Chadron in June of 1898, the son of Morgan and Nellie Nichols, the family lived in "Highland" precinct and later in Ward One.  His great grandfather apparently was a prominent attorney in New York City.  His grandfather came to Nebraska and homesteaded near Albion in Boone County,  and later in Dawes County.  How it was that Greydon's father was born in Wisconsin we don't know, but he found his way to Chadron in the late 1800's and became a prominent grocer and served on the city council.  He also joined the Elks Club.

Young Greydon graduated from high school in Chadron and then attended two years at the Nebraska State Normal School on the south edge of Chadron.  He took a teaching job for one year before heading west to California, where he studied literature and law at Stanford.  Returning to Nebraska, he married Adele Lefebere in Omaha in 1922, and then went to Lincoln and pursued a Bachelor of Laws degree, which he was awarded in 1924.  Then it was back to Chadron to practice law.  He was appointed United States referee in bankruptcy and would also serve as city attorney in 1925.

Nichols was also active in business and social circles, and by 1932-33, he was state president of the junior chambers of commerce.

Family?  Military service?  We don't know about any of that, but we're curious and will pursue that information.  At first glance, we found nothing about Mr. Nichols in our history reference books for Dawes County and Chadron.  Perhaps his obituary in the Chadron Journal will help us learn more about this interesting fellow.

Greydon Nichols died in Chadron 40 years ago -- on August 15, 1971.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

CHS Class of 1961 gathers for 50th....again!

During the summer of 2010, the Chadron High School Class of 1960 held a reunion celebrating 50 years since they graduated, and the Class of 1961 -- which seems to have had a jaded history in trying to celebrate reunions at traditional times -- decided to join with the "older" bunch. 

So, technically, it had been 49 years since they departed high school.  Their first reunion gathering was 11 years after graduation.  Seems like most classes enjoy the comfort of 10th, 25th, and 50th years -- with occasional variations.

But the Cardinals of 1961 have always marched to a different drummer it seems.

With recent "Fur Trade Days" celebration in Chadron -- accompanied by an abundance of school reunions involving Chadron Assumption, Chadron Prep, and Chadron High -- it seemed like a good idea for the Class of '61 to get back on track with a "true" 50th anniversary reunion.

So '61  classmates John Urwin, John Schleicher, and a handful of others, sent out word via e-mail that any and all classmates who wanted to try it again should try to gather for a reunion.  And so they did.....many bringing along their spouses to join the fun.

These 1961 graduates of Chadron High School gathered for an informal
"50th Reunion" on July 9, 2011, at John and Mary Ann Schleicher's home
on Goffena Road west of Chadron.  Left-to-right are:  John Urwin, Tom Sims,
Larry Matthesen, Sheryl Jones Bruns, Larry Miller, Mel Reeves, John Schleicher, Ron Stever, and Jerry Mathis.  Many thanks to John and
Mary Ann Schleicher for their warm hospitality.  Some classmates think
the class should schedule a similar gathering for 2016!
John and Mary Ann Schleicher kindly offered up their home as a venue for the event, and it turned out to be a delightful affair.

True, there weren't nearly as many folks as congregated last year, but that allowed attendees  to engage in deeper conversations without having to run hither and thither for a variety of events that are traditionally scheduled for reunions.  An while most of those who showed up for the event live within a short distance of Chadron, Ron Stever came from Wichita, and Jerry Mathis came from Indiana. Tom Sims, Larry Miller, and Larry Matthesen all drove in from the Black Hills area.  The rest of the group live in the immediate Chadron vicinity.

Participants all chipped in to buy food and drink, and Mary Ann Schleicher did a superb job of preparing the ribs and hamburgers -- along with a variety of additional dishes.  Mary Lou Urwin had a hand in the kitchen, too, and it everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.  Our sincere thanks to the Schleichers, Urwins, and others who had a hand in putting this event together.

A few folks climbed aboard Urwin 4-wheelers to explore the surrounding territory, but virtually everyone enjoyed  good fellowship and share more than a few memories from their days at Chadron High.  Did we mention that  several cameras were busy during this get-together?  You'll find some photographs in our Class of '61 Reunion gallery.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Remembering 125 years of school in Whitney

When the doors to the Whitney School close later this month, it’ll mark the first time that the Dawes County community has had no school in some 125 years!

Earlier this spring, the Chadron School Board announced its decision to close all rural schools in the county, including Whitney, which held its first classes in 1886 on the ground floor of the Woods Hotel at the northeast corner of Missouri and Division streets.  Many people will remember the filling station that was located there in more recent years.  Within a few months of that early school opening, classes were moved to the newly-built Methodist Church.  

There've been school kids getting educated in Whitney for a long time.  So the “Alumni Open House” set for 2:00-6:00 p.m. on Sunday, My 29th, 2011, at the “new” school in Whitney will be a bittersweet experience -- sort of a last hurrah!  It’ll be delightful to see students, faculty, and friends from yesteryear – as well as those from this final year, but it’ll be sad to see the end of a proud era.

While the existing school seems relatively new to most of us, it sits nearly in the shadow of a two-and-one-half story stucco building that was “school” in Whitney for longer than any other structure.  But there was an earlier one!

This is believed to be the first Whitney school building
 ca. 1887.  Photo courtesy of Sam Couch
According to Mabel Kendrick’s wonderful book “Still Alive and Well - Whitney, Nebraska,” the very first school building was a one-room structure.  It was built on the same parcel of land where both the existing Whitney School and its predecessor stand.  It would have been just west of the sidewalk that led up to the front of the larger, abandoned school building.  The wooden school (shown here at right) served the community for more than 35 years.

The first teacher in the school was Miss Eleanor Burkitt (later Mrs. W.S. Gillam of Chadron).

“A term in those days,” wrote Mabel Kendrick, “was three months, and a teacher was hired for one term at a time.  Each year had a spring and a fall term with vacation between to allow for farm work and very cold weather.  Other early teachers included A.G. Shears, Stella Weed, Stella Cline, and Charlie Stewart.”

“Recess time was spent in free play out of doors most of the time.  Baseball was a favorite pastime.”

“The time from around 1910 to 1922 could be considered a transition period.  The old ways were gradually being changed.  The school term had already been extended to nine months.  A teacher was required to pass a ‘teachers examination’ for which she received a certificate.  Later the teacher had to have a high school education before she could take the test.  A second grade certificate was issued.  A knowledge of geometry, algebra and music was required to qualify for a first grade certificate.  The school day began with ‘opening exercises,’ starting with the flag salute.  The rest varied with the teacher.”

By 1919, the community had grown enough that the school was expanded to two rooms, and by 1921 there were enough students in Whitney school to justify creating high school grades, “so one was begun in the Methodist Church.”

This multi-level school was built in 1922.
It remains standing today.
The early 1920’s were a time of great optimism.  World War I had ended and Whitney had survived the great flu epidemic of 1918 better than most communities.  In the fall of 1922, construction was completed on a new two-and-one-half story school building that would accommodate all grades.

The curriculum expanded, too, including foreign languages.  At different times, Latin, French and German were taught.  There were accommodations for class plays – and even indoor sporting events.  Although its open area basement  was a bit confining, both boys and girls basketball was offered in 1923.  Alas, girls basketball was discontinued in the spring of 1927 because of “the state ban.” 

There were even school newspapers published in the early years, including “The Irrigator,”  which soon became known as “The Mustang,” in recognition of Hastings College, the alma mater of one of the teachers.  For a few years, the paper was actually printed on the presses of the Crawford Tribune.  By the Depression years, the paper became a mimeographed publication and was renamed “The Shunga,” relating to the Sioux word for mustang.

High school classes at Whitney ran from 1921 until 1943.  The last high school teacher was Mabel Kendrick.  We believe the existing Whitney School was built in about 1988 or 1989, but we need help nailing down that information.  Please let us hear from you, if you can offer details!  Many thanks.

3rd and 4th graders at Whitney School; 1948-49
Thanks to Ruth Ann Connell (teacher at left)
Over the years, we’ve collected a few school pictures from Whitney, and most of them have been displayed in our Whitney School Gallery.  We invite you to browse through them.  Even more importantly, we hope you might allow us to add any old Whitney School photos you might have – particularly group photos.  Just e-mail us. Of course, we give full credit to the good folks who offer such items.  You may also want to browse around our Whitney Reflections web site -- even though it is undergoing a bit of reconstruction at the moment.

Too, we hope that anyone with ANY ties to Whitney School over the years will make plans to attend the Open House on May 29.  People of every generation are encouraged to come and share memories.  They’re looking for photographs, written stories, documents, and any similar items.  Contact Michelle Haynes  at  It'll be a grand opportunity to help rekindle some of the memories from the past 125 years. 

We hope to see you there!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Warming up in Sun City!

Chadron area folks living in Arizona routinely gather every winter to socialize and share memories of years gone by.  And Chadron State College coordinates an alumni gathering at around the same time.

It's a great opportunity for "expatriates" to get together.

And even with the cooler weather that swept across the southwest this winter, it still beat the sub-zero temperatures back in Dawes County Nebraska!

Mike Smith has been attending these gigs for several years -- I think since he decided that the ice of Minnesota wasn't nearly as accommodating as the warmer climes of Arizona.  Thankfully, he's alway had a camera along for the event and has kindly shared a few snapshots from the latest gathering.

That was at the Sun City Country Club and Golf Course, the same locale as the 2010 gathering.

But we saw a few new faces this time.  Although I believe he's attended previous gatherings, we hadn't seen photographs of one-time Chadron Eagle editor and cheerleader Ted Turpin.  Even with the hat hiding his hair (we remember curly locks), we were pretty sure that was Turpin.

Although emigrating from Nebraska to the southwest several decades ago, Turpin continued his journalistic activities and was a newpaper publisher for many years in Arizona.  Of course, there were lots of other folks at the event, too, along with the familiar faces of Chadron State College folks, led by President Janie Park.  We saw pics of Connie Rasmussen, Karen Pope, and Brad Smith, too.

You might enjoy taking a tour of the photographs we've posted in our  "Arizona Gallery" from this and earlier Chadron meetings in Arizona.  And thanks again to Mike Smith for sharing! 

We always enjoy getting glimpses of these folks when they gather -- and share stories.  We had the good fortune to participate in the 2005 gatherings.  

After the icebox experience we've had this winter in South Dakota, we may be signing up to attend the CSC Arizona events in 2012! 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Con Marshall is "Chadron Citizen of the Year"

Lately, we've been proudly posting several articles penned by long-time good friend Con Marshall.  We can't begin to count the many blessings that Con has bestowed on us and so many other people in Chadron and across western Nebraska.  He and his wife, Peggy, are class acts.  So it came as no surprise when Con was selected as the 2010 Chadron Citizen of the Year.  CSC's Justin Haag wrote the following item that has been sent out to friends of Chadron State College.
Jan 5, 2011

Con Marshall, Chadron State College’s former director of information services and sports information, was named the Chadron’s 2010 Citizen of the Year by the Chadron Record newspaper this week. The announcement was made in Wednesday’s edition.

The article contained testimonials from many of Marshall’s friends and acquaintances, who pointed out the longtime journalist’s knowledge of northwest Nebraska history, commitment to quality reporting and loyalty to Chadron and its sports teams.

Chadron Record reporter Kerri Rempp, the article’s author, wrote that Marshall's name has become "practically synonymous" with Chadron.

“Marshall has worked tirelessly over the years promoting Chadron and Dawes County and the people who call the area home,” she wrote.

Marshall directed CSC’s information services efforts for 36 years ending in 2007. Since stepping down from that role, he has continued to work as an information officer at CSC, completing a number of special projects for the college. One of the projects is a history book about the institution’s first 100 years which will be published later this year.

—Justin Haag, CSC Information Services