Saturday, December 12, 2015

Before the Archie Conn dynasty at Chadron Prep

The year was 1929.  We've read that Prep had no athletic teams in 1926, 1927, and 1928.  But in 1929 these fellows suited up to play basketball for Coach Leo Stangle.  While the faces aren't familiar, a few of the family names are.  Standing (l-to-r) are: John Coffee, Lester Lundy, Captain Joe Schwieger, Frank Wolf, and Lyle Collons.  Seated are:  Manager Art Stark, Harold Brecht, Russell Douglass, Orin Hunt, Garrett Hunter, and Coach Stangle.  We wonder if Art Stark was related to "Chuck" Stark, who worked for the Consumer's Public Power District in the 1950s?  Perhaps his father, uncle, or brother?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Front Row tells story of Rosa Morell and family

More than a few Dawes County residents will remember the Jose' Morrell family, who lived in Chadron during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Jose Morell
Jose' Morell Romero and his wife, Rosa (Rosy), were refugees who fled Cuba following the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959.

Morrell held undergraduate degrees from the University of Havana, where he later also received his doctorate in civil law. He was prominent in Cuban political and legal circles before the revolution, serving as Cuba's Secretary of Labor and as president of the Sugar Workers Retirement Fund.

In the 1950s, he was a justice on the Cuban Supreme Court.  He later held leadership roles among the anti-Castro population in the United States.

The Morell family arrived in Chadron in 1964, where Jose' would teach at Chadron State College for several years — and where their younger daughter, Silvia, would spend some formative years.  The Morells moved to Florida in the late 1970s.  Both Jose' and Rosy are now deceased.

Silvia (Morrell) Alderman has written a book that encompasses much of the family story, focusing upon her remarkable mother, "Rosy."  Silvia is a 1973 graduate of CSC and lives in Florida.  In 2007, she was recognized as a CSC Distinguished Alumna.  

We first learned about the book in a web posting on the CSC website.  Written by veteran newspaper writer/editor George Ledbetter, the posting shares more information about the Morrell family and Sylvia's book.  You'll find the online story at the following link:  The Front Row by Sylvia Morell Alderman.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

An early profile of cattleman and banker C.F. Coffee

Editor's Note:  For decades, the Coffee family owned some of the most beautiful homes in Chadron, located on the west side of 4th and Chadron Avenue — just west of the Dawes County courthouse.  C.F. Coffee died in 1935 at the age of 88.  The Coffee name remains prominent in western Nebraska.  The following article was written some 14 years before his death and was published in the 1921 edition of the History of Western Nebraska and Its People by Grant L. Shumway.)

Few men in Nebraska are better known in the cattle business than Charles F. Coffee, an honored resident of Chadron, and his interests in this line connect him with this great industry throughout the entire country. Mr. Coffee has been closely identified with the development of western Nebraska for many years and his spirit of public service, marked even in boyhood, and his gift of business organization, have been vitally helpful over a long extended period. He is an important factor in political life and a dominant one in the state in the financial field.
Charles F. Coffee was born March 22, 1847, at Greenfield, Dade county, Missouri, a son of John T. and Harriet L. (Ware) Coffee, the latter of whom died in 1863, in Dade county. Of the six children born to his parents, Charles F. is the only one living in Dawes county at the present time. One brother was accidentally killed in Wyoming, in 1879, and another, Samuel B. Coffee, died at Harrison, in Sioux county, after which his family moved to Chadron.

Charles F. Coffee
John T. Coffee, father of C. F. Coffee, was, born in Tennessee and educated for the law and in 1855, through the good offices of Honorable John S. Phelps of Missouri, was awarded a commission as captain in the regular army and in 1856 or 1857 was elected a member of the Missouri Legislature and chosen speaker of the house. In 1861, he raised a very efficient regiment of soldiers for the confederacy, serving under General Price and General Sheby of Missouri, and was, in all the battle of any note during the war. He distinguished himself on many occasions by unusual bravery and military tactics. On one occasion at the Battle of Lone Jack, capturing a body of Federal troops, almost unaided and was promoted to colonel. However, after the war between the states was over, being tired of military life he resumed the practice of law and drifted to Georgetown, Texas, and continued to follow this vocation till his death in 1893, at the age of seventy-five years.

During boyhood Charles F. Coffee had but indifferent educational opportunities in reference to school training, but the practical lessons he learned while earning his own living from the age of twelve years, were doubtless, of far more value to him in after days than any knowledge he could have absorbed from textbooks. When the Civil War came on he succeeded in being accepted as a soldier in the Confederate army although only thirteen years of age. He was mainly engaged in his father's regiment and after the war closed went to Texas and tried several lines of industry, with very indifferent results. He farmed some, clerked in a store awhile, then owned a store and went broke. 

Mr. Coffee tried raising cotton, but the prices went down and the young financier went with it, and in 1871, he hired as a "cowboy" to help drive a herd of about eighteen hundred head of longhorns from Texas to Cheyenne, Wyoming, for Snyder Brothers. Young Charles showed such ability for his work that in one month he was promoted to foreman and his pay advanced twenty dollars. He worked for this company two years trailing cattle from Texas to Wyoming and remembers a circumstance which happened on the first drive. The first white man they struck in Wyoming was the station agent at Pine Bluff. This was the entire population at that time, and the little box depot the only building. 

Mr. Coffee entered the door and the agent was facing the other way and did not deign to look around. In the ticket window facing the cow puncher was a human skull and neatly printed on the forehead were these words, This man was talked to death by immigrants. Mr. Coffee after surveying this gruesome object for a short time mustered up courage to say, "Mister, I may he committing a rash act by disturbing you sir, but I am strictly in it. I am driving a large bunch of cattle to Cheyenne. I understand from here on water is scarce, can you tell me where the next watering place is located?"

The agent proved to be a very pleasant man after all, but knew nothing about watering places, all he knew was to board the train and go through to water. The herd was driven all that day and a dry camp made, with no water for the cattle; they drove the next day till about one o'clock and the cattle were beginning to get pretty well fagged, when they fortunately struck a creek with a sandy bottom but no water, but found a place that still showed dampness. Mr. Coffee held his herd on this wet sand and milled the cattle around, and packed the sand until the water raised sufficiently to water them. 

The next day they came out in sight of a beautiful lake of water and could see Cheyenne in the distance--the sight was a glorious one and the cowboys shouted with delight and the cattle scenting the water were bellowing as they made a wild stampede for the water, and were soon up to their sides enjoying the first good drink they had had since leaving Pine Bluffs. Looking down towards the town they saw a cloud of dust rapidly nearing them and discovered it was caused by a horseman coming toward them. They did not have long to wait to find what the trouble was, as a very red faced and angry man reined up in front of them and shouted, "Get your cattle out of here, I am the mayor of Cheyenne." One of the boys said, "The H--- you are, we thought you was the butcher and wanted to buy some beef." 

This enraged the mayor to such an extent that he was in danger of having apoplexy. "Don't you know," he shouted, "this is the reservoir from which Cheyenne draws her drinking water?" Mr. Coffee tried to reason and conciliate him for nearly twenty-five minutes; he getting madder every minute, but by this time the cattle had satisfied their thirst and did not object to be again on the move to Cheyenne. Mr. Snyder met them; he had sold the cattleto a rancher by the name of J. H. Durban and Mr. Coffee drove the herd to Pole Creek about thirteen miles away where the nearest grass and water could be found, and tallied the cattle out. He was then ordered to deliver the cattle to Mr. Durban's ranch about twenty miles distance and all his instructions consisted of was to follow a line of small cedar trees which Mr. Durban had cut and set in a line to mark the way to his ranch. He was told to line his cattle out single file and beat a road to the ranch which he did and that same cattle trail is the present road which Mr. Coffee started with his cattle nearly fifty years ago.

In 1879 Mr. Coffee homesteaded and preempted land in Sioux county, Nebraska, this land never since having gone out of his possession, its location being in Hat Creek Basin. In 1873, when he established his first ranch, in Goshen Hole, Wyoming, sixty-five miles north of Cheyenne, his nearest neighbor in one direction was eighteen miles distant and twenty-seven in the other. At that time the Platte river was the dividing line between the white settlers and the Indians, but the latter notably evaded every law, making the carrying and often the use of a gun an actual necessity and Mr. Coffee for six years never went to the spring for water without carrying his trusty rifle. 

With other settlers Mr. Coffee lost heavily in stock at times, and once, in 1877, while he was away on a trip to the nearest town, Indians stole every horse on the, ranch, all he had left being the four animals he had been driving. In an interesting way he tells how the horses were taught to recognize danger when they heard shooting, and seemingly with almost human intelligence, would gallop to the corral for safety, led by a favorite horse which the Indians killed to demoralize the herd so they could drive them away, but the plan was not a success, as the horses scattered and he rounded them up the next day.

Those early ranch days were hard on both man and beast and Mr. Coffee relates that often he would be out searching for his horses, and cattle for three weeks without removing his clothing. Mr. Coffee ran cattle for about thirty years before quitting the range.

In partnership with his eldest son, John T. Coffee, Mr. Coffee owns twenty-one thousand acres of land, all being operated, the son being foreman. It is known as the Square 3-Bar ranch, brand Z, and there about six hundred calves are branded yearly. Mr. Coffee owns also a ranch of about fifteen thousand acres, near Lusk, Wyoming, in partnership with a Mr. Tinnan, where they brand fifteen hundred calves annually, the brand being the 0-10, this ranch being known as the 0-10 Bar. A part of this land is irrigated. Mr. Coffee in the beginning stock his ranches with registered cattle, and has kept his line of White Face cattle thoroughbred but has not continued registration. He probably owns ten thousand head of White Face cattle.

In April, 1879, Mr. Coffee was married at Camden, Arkansas, to Miss Jennie A. Toney, who died in November, 1906. Her parents were James R. and Jane (McClain) Toney, her father being a merchant and a former slaveholder. Mr. and Mrs. Coffee had four children, the three survivors being as follows: John T., who is associated with his father as above mentioned; Blanche M., who resides with her father at Chadron; and Charles F., who is vice-president of the First National Bank of Chadron.

Mr. Coffee first became interested in banking in 1888, when he became president of the Commercial Bank of Harrison, Nebraska, which he converted into a National bank and afterward sold his interest. In 1900, he became connected as vice-president, with the First National Bank of Chadron, of which he subsequently became president. In 1900, he bought the bank at Gordon, Nebraska, serving first as its president and still is a director. 

In 1912, he still further added to his financial interest by the purchase of the First National Bank of Hay Springs, in Sheridan county, becoming its president, and at the same time bought stock in the Stockyards National Bank of South Omaha, of which institution he continues to be a director. In 1911, Mr. Coffee and F. W. Clark bought the Nebraska National of Omaha, of which he is vice-president, and in 1915, Mr. Coffee bought the First National Bank, of Douglas, Wyoming, of which he is president. He owns considerable valuable real estate at Chadron, both residential and business, and erected the Coffee-Pitman building, a modern garage and other structures.
In political life Mr. Coffee has always been a Democrat. In 1900, he was the fusion candidate for state representative from the 53d District, was nominated on the Democratic ticket and endorsed by the Populists and served in 1901, so acceptably that he received the party vote for United States senator, but declined to accept. Personally he is esteemed and in all business relations bears an unimpeachable character.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ward baseball honorees from 60 years ago

This mid-1950s photo of "Joe Webster Memorial Award" recipients was sent to us by Bob Russell of Sun City West, Arizona. Many thanks, Bob!   

The award was named for long-time Chadron resident and staunch supporter of the Ward Baseball program Joe Webster, who was in a leadership position at the First National Bank for many years.  He also was coach of the Ward 4 team. 

All but one of the boys in this photograph have been identified.  Perhaps you'll recognize him — he's the third boy from the left in back.  Let us know if you can identify him, have corrections, or can shed light upon the "J.V. Memorial Award."  Just drop us an e-Mail.  Thanks! 

Kneeling (left-to-right): Ben Steele, Bob Russell, Raymond Cottier, George Bamsey, Larry Matthesen, Jim Yutesler, Ralph Byerly, and Gary Yutesler.  Standing:  Cash DeFlon, Ron Moody, Unidentified (Help!), Maynard or Fred King, George Blundell, Ed Reinking, Dick Muma, Larry Moody, and Danny Davis.

To get a closer look at these youngsters — and see the award letter sent to Bob Russell by Arnie Engel of the First National Bank — take a peek at our Dawes County Journal Baseball Photo Gallery.  And thanks to Jim Sandstrom of Mountain View, California, for helping us nail down further information about the Joe Webster Memorial Award.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Chadron lad became a Beverly Hills Cop

(Editor’s Note:  A northwest Nebraska native who spent much of his career in Beverly Hills returned to Chadron in July for his Chadron High School class reunion during Fur Trade Days.  In preparing for the reunion, Ted Turechek shared some of his life story with classmate Mike Smith and fellow CHS graduate Con Marshall.  They edited the story for publication in the Chadron Record.  Ted, Mike and Con were kind enough to also share it with Dawes County Journal.  We’ve included a few additional photos.)

He never got in the movies, but both he and his wife rubbed shoulders with some elite movie and television stars while he was serving as a Beverly Hills policeman.  He also had other interesting experiences during his 20-plus years on the beat.

For instance, while trying to catch a bad guy in the attic of a hotel, he once burst through the ceiling of a hotel employee’s office.  He also was forced to arrest a robot for panhandling because that’s against the law in plush Beverly Hills.

Ted Turechek as a Freshman at
Chadron High School in 1950.
He’s Ted Turechek, said to be just as quiet and unassuming as he was 62 years ago when he graduated with the Class of 1953.  He’s now retired and comfy in his Simi Valley home.  He had never attended his class reunion until he showed up at his 60th two years ago.  This year, he and his wife Dee Dee, who looks like a movie star in the photos with this story, decided to return.

There were lots of Turecheks attending the Chadron schools beginning in the 1920s and spanning the next 35 years until all of them had graduated from the high school.  William and Mary Turechek had 10 children during a 20-year stretch, and they all graduated from CHS.  There also were three Turechek cousins in the Chadron schools during that era.

The oldest of William and Mary’s brood was Bill, who graduated in 1934.  He lived at Gordon most of his life and won at least a half dozen Nebraska horseshoe pitching championships.

The other family members and their graduation dates are Phebe, 1936; John, 1939; Marie, 1941; Margie, 1944; Lou, 1947; Lucille, 1948; Jim, 1950; Ted, 1953; and Dennis, 1955, a small, but pesky basketball player for the Cardinals.

Several of them also attended what was then known as Nebraska State Teachers College at Chadron.
The family vacated Chadron each summer.  That’s because the Turecheks owned a 2,400-acre ranch 20 miles south of Rushville.  The ranch had been homesteaded by Mary’s parents, John W. and Phebe Mann.

As soon as school was out, the clan went there and put up hay, then returned to Chadron and lived in a large home at Fourth and Morehead Streets when classes resumed.

Ted didn’t go to college after graduating from CHS, but he spent two years in the military, had various jobs in the Black Hills and Denver before moving to the Los Angeles area.  He initially worked as a life insurance investigator, but a friend suggested that he check into a career in law enforcement.

He soon saw an advertisement for police officers in Beverly Hills.  He applied, was hired, went through the training process and spent 24 years with the department before retiring in 1986.
In 1973, ten years after joining the force, he married Dee Dee, who was from Swift Current, Newfoundland.

The Turechek Family

Ted notes that his parents were capable people.  Besides giving birth to and raising 10 children, his mother took classes at the college and earned her teaching credentials.  She also was a pianist, and his dad played first violin in the college’s symphony orchestra well into his 80s.  Both also played for dances at the Odd Fellows Hall, he recalls.

Ted is proud of his family’s heritage, but relates that not everything went well for his great-grandparents and his grandfather, Wesley J. Turechek, who was five at the time, when they came to America from Czechoslovakia in 1864.

It took the ship 73 days to cross the Atlantic.  The ship was blown so far off course that it encountered icebergs (even though it was summer), and food and water were in such short supply that the passengers were allowed only half portions during the last phase of the voyage.

After landing in New York City, the Turecheks headed for Cleveland by train.  A river was out of its banks and while crossing a bridge, the baggage car broke through and all the clothing and bedding were lost.  That left the family with only the clothes they were wearing.

Great-grandpa Turechek worked in a foundry in Cleveland, then moved to Covington, Kentucky, where he was a tree grafter for a nursery.  The family, which included seven children, eventually moved to Iowa City.  Wesley was married in 1881 and moved with his family to Knox County, Nebraska, in 1885 and finally settled in Bloomfield, Nebraska, where he lived to be 92.

Attic Antics

Beverly Hills cop Ted Turechek
and partner pose with "hot" furs.
Although Ted undoubtedly had more hazardous duties, he prefers to tell about two humorous incidents that occurred during his 24 years as a Beverly Hills cop.  He’ll also discuss his relationship with the stars.

He recalls that he and fellow officer Bob O’Connor received a radio call one evening to respond to Trader Vic’s Restaurant, an upscale business located adjacent to the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  A customer had consumed a large meal and a couple bottles of expensive wine, then tried to pay for it with a stolen credit card.

When the waiter confronted the customer about the status of the card, the man attempted to flee.  However, the waiter and the maitre d’ were able to restrain him.  While being held pending the arrival of police, the suspect asked to use the bathroom.

“That’s where he is now, officer,” Ted was informed when he arrived at the restaurant.’”  I told the waiter to stand outside the door to ensure that the suspect didn’t get away,” Ted remembers.  “I swung the door open and stepped inside.”

Officer Turchek began the search, but to no avail.  But he noticed a hatch in the ceiling above one of the commodes.  The suspect must have somehow hoisted himself up through the hatch, replaced the cover and escaped into the attic.

Ted jumped on the commode, tried to push open the hatch, but it wouldn’t budge.  He thought the bad guy must be standing on it.

Ted hurried back to the maitre d’, asked about another route to the attic, and was shown a narrow stairway.  He was in hot pursuit.

The attic was very large and there were no lights in it.  Ted’s flashlight was his only source of illumination.  He shined it through the darkness, but to no avail.  He realized he must step on the joists as he made his way into the darkness in search of the guy who was playing hide-and-seek.
Ted tells the rest of the story:

Curt and Betty Thompson (at left-both now deceased)
visited the Turecheks in the 1990s.  Curt Thompson had
coached Turechek in Junior High sports in the 1940s
“Things were going fine until I thought I sensed movement and swung around to see what it was.  That’s when my left foot slipped off a joist and landed on the plasterboard, which failed to support my weight.

“As my foot came crashing down through the ceiling into the office below, I heard a woman scream.  I broke my descent by grasping an adjacent joist and hooking my right leg over another.  But by this time my leg was fully inside the office, dangling from the ceiling like some grotesque chandelier.

“After some effort, I managed to extract my leg out of a now-gaping hole and stuck my head through the hole to assess the situation.  A middle-aged woman in a business suit stood staring at me with a look of terror on her face.  She demanded to know who I was, what was happening, and what I was doing up there.

“Those were good questions!  I tried to assure her that I was a police officer and everything was under control.  She didn’t seem convinced, and I still had a suspect to find, so I resumed the search.  As I cautiously crawled along another joist, I suddenly realized my flashlight was missing.  It had gone sailing across the attic when I took my spill.  Now the only source of light was that coming from the hole I had just exited.  Then I heard the maitre d’ calling from the stairway.

“We got him, officer.  We got him.  You can come down now.’’  Apparently the commotion had scared him back down through the hatch into the waiting arms of Officer O’Connor.  His stint at playing hide-and-seek was over.

“If someone comes across a 3-cell aluminum flashlight in the attic of Trader Vic’s Restaurant, and they read this, they’ll know how it got there.”

Ted has another unusual story to tell:  The Robot:

One afternoon while patrolling the Beverly Hills business district, he received a dispatcher call that citizens were complaining about a “robot” soliciting in the 400 block of Beverly Drive.

“I wasn’t sure I had heard right,” Ted says. “This is Car 7, did you say ‘robot?”

“Affirmative, Car 7, a robot.”

Again, Officer Turechek tells the story:

“In Beverly Hills, soliciting passersby is strictly against the law, be you a ‘robot’ or a life form.  So I hurried my patrol car up Beverly.  As I approached the 400 block, I noted a number of pedestrians gathering around something or other on the sidewalk.

“I parked and moved quickly through the crowd.  There stood an object that surely answered the description of a ‘robot.’  It was a round-shaped object approximately four feet tall with a glass globe on top that contained electrical equipment.  In a side tray I could see numerous business cards that the ‘robot’ was inviting people to help themselves to by using a high pitched, metallic-sounding voice.

“I turned my attention to the folks and asked, ‘Who does this thing belong to, do any of you know?’  Several shook their heads ‘no.’  One older man said, ‘There wasn’t anyone around.  The thing was just standing out here all by itself.’

“I really felt silly, but I did what I had to do.  I turned back to the thing and said, ‘Robot, it’s against the law to solicit anything here on the street.  Did you know that?’  With what appeared to be a camera inside its globed-head pointing at me, it said, ‘I’m not doing anything wrong, officer.  I believe this is a free country, and I’m entitled to free speech.’

“I noticed then that the folks around us were grinning.  One said, ‘Did you give him his rights?’  Another chimed in, ‘Why don’t you handcuff him?’

“It looked as if the robot might gain the upper hand and win the crowd over, so I decided it was time to silence him by pulling his plug.

“As I tried to find something on the thing to hold on to, it yelled, ‘Police brutality!,’ and tried to run away.  I struggled to hold on and finally put a choke-hold around his glass-globe head.  I was able to turn him, and I located some power wires on his back.  I yanked the wires, it became immobile and no longer argumentative.”

Ted says his first thought was to put the robot in the back seat of the police car, just like he would a human he had arrested.  However, it was too big.  So he summoned a flatbed tow truck that hauled it to the police station.  Several hours later, a man arrived to claim ownership.  He explained that his 17-year-old son had pulled the caper, unbeknownst to him, and it was ‘just a joke.”

“Oh, yes, I did advise him of his rights.  Probably not many policemen have arrested a robot during their careers.”

The stars were shining

Over the years, Ted says it was a fairly common occurrence to come in contact with Beverly Hills celebrities.

One “uncommon” occurrence was a celebrity basketball game that was put on every year between the “Hollywood Stars” team and the Beverly Hills Police Department.  The game was a charity fund raiser and played at the Beverly Hills High School gym.  It always drew a packed house.

Ted says Hollywood’s roster included Pat Boone, Glen Campbell, Buddy Hackett, Marty Allen, Max Baer (Jethro of Beverly Hillbillies fame), James Caan and Don Rickles, just to name a few.

The game was played for fun, almost no fouls were called, even though violations ran rampant at times, Ted remembers. 

“The games had comical moments and it was obvious whose side the fans were on.  In the end, we always made sure the ‘Stars’ won.  It was a definite crowd pleaser.”

After each game, Ted says, Hackett threw a party at his house for the players and their guests.  Female stars he and Dee Dee enjoyed meeting included Doris Day, Liza Minnelli and Charo.

“Charo can be seen giving me a hug in one of the photographs I sent,” Ted says.  “And I remember that Buddy Hackett, Max Baer and Marty Allen, among others, always made sure they got to squeeze my Dee Dee.“It was a great event.  The participants, their guests and the spectators had a great evening, and we raised quite a bit of money for a charitable cause,” the Chadron High grad says.

“It was a good time and place to be a policeman.”

Chadron native Ted Turechek retired as a police officer in Beverly
Hills.  He and his wife Dee Dee live in Simi Valley, California

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Keims' marriage still thriving after 75 years

By Con Marshall
It all started with a slow dance at the old Pace Theatre, the large concrete block building in the 100 block of Main Street in Chadron.                 
Hardly anyone still alive remembers it as much more than a storage facility, but it opened in 1916 as a movie theatre and then it is said to have had a wonderful dance floor and was used for that after the movies moved to the present location of the Eagle Theater in 1924.                
It had a great floor and was a great place to dance until they started letting people roller skate there,” says the former Carol Stallings. “I was sitting with some friends when this tall, good-looking guy came and asked me to dance.  That’s the way things worked in those days. If he decided he liked you, he asked you to dance again and after a few dances you might be going together.”                
The suitor was Erwin Keim.  He must have liked Carol, all right.  He recalls that he had recently broken up with another girl friend whose name he has long forgotten and was “kind of looking around.”  He spotted Carol sitting with a few other young ladies.
Carol and Erwin Keim
Before too long, they were getting married.  He was 20, she was 18. Their wedding date was April 27, 1940—75 years ago this spring. Both of their fathers, Frank Keim and Manley Stallings, accompanied them to the Sheridan County Court House in Rushville, where they tied the knot.                  
They’re still married, happily living at 605 Maple Street in the home they purchased in 1955—60 years ago for $2.500.                  
Has any Chadron couple ever been married for a longer time period? (Perry and Alberta Moody had been married 73 years when he died in 1973.)  They don’t know, but if they haven’t already broken the record, Erwin says they will.                 
We plan to stick around for quite a few more years,” he said emphatically several times during the interview in their home.                
Well, it depends on what the good Lord has in store for us,” Carol notes.  “But you can say we’ve had a happy marriage. Otherwise we wouldn’t still be here.”                  
One thing that makes them happy is that they’re still able to live in their home and take care of their basic needs without much help.  This spring, a daughter made arrangements for Joe Rischling to do more of the mowing, but they’re not sure that’s necessary.                  
We could have kept doing it,” says Carol, who operated the mower most of the time. “But since Joe was already doing some of it (areas they own outside their yard), it’s OK.”                
The Keims have been workers.  He notes that he had numerous jobs before going into the trucking business. She was involved in various Chadron restaurants for something like 40 years, maybe more.             
Soon after they were married, the couple lived in northern Idaho, where he worked on the railroad and then on a military base, before they returned to western Nebraska after a couple of years.                
We then mostly worked for farmers and ranchers for about 10 years,” Erwin says. Some of their employers included Major Hale and John Augustine, both east of Chadron, the Koester Brothers, who raised potatoes in the Alliance area, and March’s dairy near Hot Springs.                
Erwin also was a ditch rider for the Bureau of Reclamation on the Mirage Flats south of Hay Springs for six years before they settled in Chadron.                
Over the years, he was employed at a Standard Station, the Chadron Milling Co. and the Chadron Tire Shop when it was located at 162 Chadron Ave., and then bought a truck.                 
Erwin spent approximately a decade during the 1950s and ‘60s at Chadron Tire when it was owned by Orrin “Pappy” Rish and his son, Dwain. It was a busy place, recapping tires besides selling new ones, doing front end alignments and repairing lots of flats.
Erwin says he got off to kind of a rocky start with his employers at the tire shop.
One of them would tell me one thing and the other would tell me something else,” he recalls.  “Finally, one day, I told them I couldn’t take orders from both of them and asked them “Who’s my boss?               
They went in the office for a while and came back and told me I was the boss in the back shop.  I could run it the way I wanted to.  From then on we got along well."
Erwin notes that Terry Cunningham, who died this past January at age 85, was one of his primary helpers at the tire shop.                
The trucking included picking up cream cans at every village and town along Highway 20 east of Chadron and taking them to Valentine after the Chicago and North Western Railroad ceased doing that.  This was in the days when most farmers and ranchers milked at least a few cows, separated the cream and sold it.  The proceeds were often used as “grocery money.”                
The Keims’ second son, Jim, who lives in Norfolk, helped collect and haul the cream cans.                
We made the trip three times a week in the winters and five times a week in the summers,” Jim remembers. “It was a 12-hour round trip.               
After their four kids were in school, Carol joined the work force.  She says her first job was helping Juanita McKnight at what she calls “the Refinery Lunch,” also called Sioux Skillet and located on West Highway 20.                 That launched a long career in the food service business.  
She also “ran the soda fountain” at Saults Drug, later Myers Drug, for a while, and worked for George Grosh at the Chuck Wagon Restaurant for a time before managing Helen’s Café on West Highway 20 for 11 years after Grosh purchased it in 1972.     She eventually purchased the café previously owned by Jack Elwood on West Second Street where Marie’s is now located and renamed it Carol’s Kitchen. She ran the café for about two and a half years before selling it in 1985 after receiving an offer she couldn’t refuse.                 
If you’re going to be in the restaurant business you better be prepared to work a lot of hours,” Carol notes.   
Jo Kominek, who had been married to the Keims’ oldest son, LeRoy, worked with Carol at Helen’s and Carol’s Kitchen for more than a decade.  She says Carol was an excellent cook and manager and was good to her employees.  Jo, who has been married to Jim Kominek since 1988 and is the office manager for their Circle J Glass business, checks on the Keims at their home on a daily basis.                   
Besides work, the Keims have had other interests.  Erwin claims he can name six different locations where he bowled in Chadron over the years.                 
At one time I bowled three or four times a week,” he states.  When asked if he was a good bowler, he says, “pretty fair,”                 
Carol has been in charge of “the fine needle booth” at the Dawes County Fair for years,” a friend notes.  She still helps with the Food Basket distributions on Tuesdays. 
Erwin was born Sept. 21, 1919 at Franklin, Neb., and Carol was born Dec. 29, 1921 at Wray, Colo.           
The Stallings family moved to Chadron in 1929 so her father could sell Delco light plants to farmers and ranchers. The Keims came about a decade later.                
While Erwin’s oldest brother, Alvin, another longtime Chadron resident, and his youngest sister, Kathryn, have passed away, his brothers Frankie of Chadron and David of Bridgeport and sister Anna Lee, who lives in Florida, are still doing well.                 
Carol is the youngest of four in her family and the only one still living.                
The couple’s children are LeRoy, who worked at the power plant near Glenrock, Wyo., before retiring; Jim, who lives in Norfolk after a long career in the dairy products industry; Phyllis Mosely, who lives in Lakewood, Colo.; and Karen Rich of Spearfish.
It makes you feel kind of old when your youngest child is nearly 70,” Erwin notes.
They have 10 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great grands.
Carol says it seems as if the years have “flown by,” but adds they’ve enjoyed life “most of the time.”                
Erwin says, “We’ve never had time to argue about anything.  We never had a fight in our life. We were too busy for that.” 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Early Crawford students may have "packed iron"

According to the Souvenir Book published back in 1961 when Crawford was celebrating its 75th anniversary, the first known school building in the community was a frame structure "somewhere between the L.B. Murphy Store and the City Hall" in the downtown area.  Then, in about 1890, some five years after Crawford was formed, work was begun on the brick building shown above.  
As sometimes happened in the late 19th century, there was something of an "Indian scare" on Christmas Eve of that year, and citizens from Crawford and the surrounding area took refuge in the unfinished building. Windows were boarded up as they "waited for the attack that never materialized."  Local lore has it that some of the students resorted to wearing loaded guns to classes — at least until the principal put an end to the practice.

The building was completed in 1891 at a cost of $25,000.  The school remained in service until 1928, when a new building was constructed.  At that time, this fine old structure began service as an elementary building.  Some three decades later, "the need for more room for the grade pupils became apparent and the old 1891 brick building with all its inadequacies…was torn down."  A new elementary school would take its place.

Students and faculty assembled for the above early photo of the old high school, probably taken in the 1890s.  
  (Photo courtesy of the Crawford Historical Society & Museum and the Nebraska State Historical Society).

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Late Chadron man's novels get "thumbs up"

by Con Marshall

Like many other current and past Chadron residents, Ron Grover of Wichita, Kan., did not know that Chadron native Bill Hallsted wrote Western novels until he read the information in Hallsted’s obituary following his death on May 11.

After discovering Hallsted’s “other life,” Grover began reading the novels, which are published using the pen name of Billy Hall. So far, Grover has read seven of the 39 novels and gives them a “thumbs up.”
“Author Billy Hall reminds me of the books by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour,” Grover related in a message to a friend in Chadron last week.  “I guess without a trained mind for identifying authors, if I was to start reading a book without knowing who the author was, I might not be able to tell someone which of these three authors had written the book.”
Hallsted and Grover became acquainted in the late 1950s after the Grover family moved to Chadron.  Grover’s father, Oscar Grover, was the pastor of the Chadron Church of Christ which the Hallsted family attended.  Hallsted graduated from Chadron High in 1957 and Grover in 1959.
Both men became Church of Christ ministers and served in those capacities until they retired. Hallsted and his wife Arlene had lived in Hot Springs five years before he died of cancer.   
Among the novels Grover has read are “Bull’s Eye Stage Coach,” Soft Soap for a Hard Case,”  “Kaycee Killer,” “Easy Target,”  “The Ten Sleep Murders,”  “The Lodge Pole Lynchings” and  “Montana Rescue.”
“There are passages in Billy Hall’s writings that describe the landscape in colorful words that ring true to a reader that has seen such a scene in our Western states,” Grover said.  He offered this example from “Soft Soap for a Hard Case.” 
“Towering thunder-heads lifted above the distant mountains.  Stark white at the tops, they grew increasingly dark as they neared the ground, forming a solid black wall that blocked out everything behind it.”
Grover noted that like many westerns novels, Hall’s books seem to include a good guy, one or more bad guys, a pretty lady and some gun play.
“If the hero is the same guy from book to book, as is Levi Hill in many of Billy Hall’s books, the character has to be true from book to book,” Grover stated  “I didn’t find any flaws in this matter; Levi Hill was true to his background and character from book to book. 
“I have really enjoyed reading these books and would recommend them to anybody who likes a good, clean western,” Grover concluded.           
Hallsted, who was the pastor at 11 churches in five states during his more than 40 years in the ministry, wrote much more than western novels.  His byline appeared on more than 200 articles in that were published in 77 Christian and secular magazines, he had three Christian novels published and also wrote a book about the joys and trials of raising a son with disabilities.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Braddock family has deep roots in Dawes County

(Editor's Note:  This article is from the 1921 publication, "History of Western Nebraska and Its People" by Grant L. Shumway.) 

William Braddock, deceased, pioneer and one of the most prominent figures in the development and settlement of Dawes county, was for years one of the best known ranchmen and cattle breeders in western Nebraska, where he gained a high reputation for his introduction of thoroughbred cattle, being one of the first men in this section to realize that well bred stock paid the best. He won marked success with the able assistance of his wife who for years was the one whom he consulted in business matters.
Mr. Braddock was born December 26, 1858, near Marshalltown, Iowa, the son of Martin and Deliah (Lepley) Braddock both natives of Knox county, Ohio, the father being of English and the mother of Pennsylvania Dutch descent. William was the fifth child in a family of eleven children, consisting of six boys and five girls. His father moved to Marshalltown, Iowa, in 1850, and homesteaded the farm where he lived the rest of his life. 

William was reared in the country, and worked on the farm in his younger days so that his school privileges were limited, but he came of stock that was thrifty and industrious and laid the foundation in his youth for the great accomplishments of after years. The school that taught him most was that of experience and he learned well. He first earned money as a young boy and early learned its value. 

William Braddock
Mr. Braddock remained at home most of the time until the. fall of 1884. He had already heard of the great opportunities open for a young man with grit and energy in the western part of Nebraska and came that year by rail to Valentine, the end of the road at the time, then joined a company of freighters to go the rest of the way. They reached Beaver valley on Thanksgiving day and Mr. Braddock often spoke of that memorable day and the beautiful appearance of the valley. He took a pre-emption at once which is still the property of his widow and heirs. 

As soon as possible Mr. Braddock built a dugout on his claim and prepared to pass the winter of 1884-95. In the spring he went over onto Bordeaux creek to get lumber for some building as there was a small saw mill then owned by G. W. Messenger. The distance was only about twelve miles but on the trip a hard snow storm came up and covered all the landmarks so that Mr. Braddock became lost and wandered in the white waste for two days before finding his dugout. That was a hard winter as the snow was the deepest ever known in this section and it laid three feet on a level from December to spring. 

One of the amusing experiences told by Mr. Braddock was of his winter in the dugout. He was lonely as neighbors were far apart and few and he did not trust the few prowling Indians as he believed they resented the settlers coming in and taking their hunting grounds, though they lived on a reservation. He spent many wakeful nights and heard many queer noises and after weeks of anxiety found that some sand mice had been carrying corn from his supplies up to a human skull that he had found on the prairie and kept on a shelf. After that he slept better.

With the spring, Mr. Braddock broke some of his land and farmed a little, took up a homestead and later a tree claim.  The tree claim was some distance from his other land and he found it impractical (sic) to handle and finally sold it.  That being the only piece of land of which he disposed in his many years of ranch life.  As soon as he made a little money Mr. Braddock would buy some cattle, brand them and turn them out on the range.  In the fall he would join in the round up with the large cattle owners and bring his cattle back to the home range.  He kept doing this year after year until he had a large herd.

Julia Braddock
On March 28, 1899, Mr. Braddock married Miss Julia Anna Jacobson, who was born near Nevada, Iowa, the daughter of John H. and Dora (Tow) Jacobson, both of Scandinavian descent.  In the spring of 1885, the Jacobson family came to Sheridan County, Nebraska, and took a pre-emption northwest of Rushville seven miles, where they lived twenty years then moved near Mullen, Hooker county and continued in the ranch business.

Mrs. Braddock went through the common schools and was teaching at the age of sixteen. Later she attended the Rushville high school. She received only twenty-five dollars a month but invested what money she could in calves each year and when she was married added twenty head of fine cows to her husband's large herd. Of this accomplishment she was justly proud. After her marriage they worked harder than ever as both she and her husband toiled early and late. They attained a remarkable success however, and she feels that they were well repaid, as at one time they had twenty-five hundred head of cattle before the free range was done away with. After that the owners sold many cattle and kept smaller herds. 

Mr. Braddock was one of the first men to see far ahead and realize that irrigation was to be the great thing in western Nebraska and built nine miles of ditches on his ranch, as he had the priority water rights from Beaver creek along which his land streched (sic) for fourteen miles. His entire ranch is fenced with four wires and cross fenced with posts every rod so that that (sic) his improvements were some of the best in the west. 

The Braddock ranch has five hundred acres of alfalfa which is usually cut three times a season, two hundred acres are native wheat grass meadow which usually cuts three hundred tons of hay per year, and the ranch is one of the best located and most beautiful in the state, lying in the beautiful Beaver and White river valleys. It stands as an enduring monument to the man and woman who spent so many years of their life here, reclaiming the virgin prairie to productive farm purposes. 

In 1908, Mr. Braddock bought his first registered Herefords, gradually worked out of grades and into pure bred cattle. At the heighth (sic) of his career he died, January 7, 1917, a great loss to his community and mourned by all who knew him. 

After her husband's death, Mrs. Branddock (sic) with undaunted courage assumed the full control of her husband's business and has made an enviable record as a business woman in the northwestern country where she is widely and well known. Her large herd of Anexiety 4th cattle, some seven hundred in number, are said to be the finest in the country by experienced cattle men who are breeders themselves. Mrs. Braddock had the honor of having the first show herd of this kind of cattle exhibited at a National Stock Show, from Dawes county and the county boasts that it has more pure bred white faces than in any territory of its size in the United States. 

Mrs. Braddock exhibited at the Denver Cattle Show of January, 1921, where she won a premium on every animal exhibited. This in competition with veteran breeders who have been showing cattle for many years, a rather unusual honor for a woman. When asked by a friend, "Mrs. Braddock, were you not surprised?" She replied, "No, this was not thought out or accomplished in a day. Many months of careful watching of the development of different individuals are necessary in the selection of a show animal, and I have made an intensive study of the various types of beef cattle for several years. Right now I am planning and preparing for the 1922 shows."

Mrs. Braddock is a woman of high culture and refinement as she has studied these many years in spite of the trials and hardships she endured on the ranch in the early days. She has two cultured daughters, Gladys Enid, who after graduating from the Chadron State Normal School, in Chadron attended the Nebraska State University, at Lincoln and is now attending the University of Chicago, and Wilma Doris, who is in the ninth grade of the normal school at Chadron. 

Mrs. Braddock has a beautiful home in Chadron and now lives surrounded by all the luxuries and comforts that wealth and culture can afford but she says that wealth is not all in life to live for and is desirous of assisting in the farther development and improvement of Dawes county where she has played an important part in stock raising and agriculture. She stands high in the community respected by her business associates and loved by the many old friends. Few women have been able to take up such a large business enterprise and make the success that she has.