Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Chadron Prep: Athletic Powerhouse of Yesteryear!

By Con Marshall

Chadron Prep played a big role in Chadron’s athletic history, particularly in the late 1940s and 1950s under the guidance of Archie Conn, who for many years was recognized as one of the outstanding high school basketball coaches in the country and also had lots of success as a football and track coach.

Prep was the high school level of the Campus Laboratory School that was affiliated with Chadron State College so its education majors would have students to work with during the final phases of their teacher training.

Prep closed 59 years ago, in 1961, but still has many proud alumni living in Chadron as well as other places. In 1960, it was announced that the state was planning to build a new high school at the college. But before long, it was decided to use the funding it would have taken to construct the school to strengthen college programs instead and place the college’s student teachers in existing schools in the region.

The Junior Eagles, as the Prep athletic teams were known, also had their moments of glory in the mid-1930s, under Ross Armstrong, who was connected with Chadron State College for over 50 years and probably had the name most recognizable of anyone ever associated with Chadron athletics.

Armstrong arrived in Chadron in 1933 to start a Physical Education Department at the college and to serve as the college’s assistant coach for both football and basketball. Before long he also was asked to be the prep school’s head basketball coach.

It seems the Prep team was being coached by a math professor who knew very little about basketball. One of the team’s standouts, Sherman Crites, was the nephew of Judge Edwin Crites of Chadron, a member the college’s governing board for 22 years all told. At Sherman’s urging, the judge persuaded the college’s president, Robert Elliott, to make Armstrong the Prep basketball coach. Ross had the post three years with outstanding results, although his luck wasn’t the best.

Armstrong’s three-year record was 60-6. Both the 1935 and 36 teams qualified for the state tournament. The first time, the Junior Eagles lost to Holmesville 23-21 in double overtime in the opening round after two of the top players, Joe O’Rourke and Jack Geckler, missed the contest because of illness. The next year, Prep went to the state tourney undefeated, but lost to Blue Hill 20-18 in a single overtime period in the opening round. Jim Butler was another standout on both teams.

Old records show that Prep also went to state in 1926 in an era when any school that could afford to make the trip could enter the tourney.  The Chadron quintet beat Omaha North 17-6 in the first round and then lost to Plattsmouth 17-16.  Armstrong also coached basketball at Chadron Prep for two years during World War II, when athletics were suspended at the college after all the able-bodied men on campus had been drafted or joined the military effort. Once again, misfortune struck just as the basketball season was concluding.

After an outstanding regular season, the Junior Eagles were hit by mumps as they entered the district tournament. Nearly half the team was sidelined. Although Prep still reached the finals, it was defeated in the closing minutes by Cody to end the season. Jerry Hartman and Bud Heiser were the team’s top players.

After the war ended and college athletics resumed, Armstrong began coaching all three sports at CSC again. When the Prep football team lost all eight of its games in 1946, the decision was made to hire a capable coach for the Junior Eagles.  Archie Conn, a Bayard native who had been an excellent athlete at Chadron State in the late 1920s and early ’30s, was the choice.

During an interview years later, Conn recalled, in his humble way, that he scored a touchdown off the first pass thrown to him in college and then made the first three shots he took while playing basketball for the Eagles.

Conn’s first three football teams at Prep compiled a 21-1-1 record and during his first 12 years as the basketball coach he had a phenomenal 247-31 win-loss mark. At one stage of his career at Prep, Conn’s teams had won 184 of 199 games. They won three Class C state championships, 11 district crowns and nine conference titles.

The state championships came in 1949-50, 1951-52 and 1954-55. All three teams were undefeated.

Archie Conn, highly successful Chadron Prep coach and also director of the Campus Laboratory School that included Prep, received the Chadron State College Distinguished Service Award in 1976 from Dr. Edwin C. Nelson, the CSC president.
The 1950 champions were led by Bob Armstrong, Charlie Muma and Danny Kuska, who scored 33 points in Prep’s 47-37 win over Waverly in the championship game. Kuska finished as the state tournament’s leading scorer with 62 points and was an easy all-state choice that year, when he averaged 18 points a game.

Armstrong, son of Ross Armstrong, made all-state the following year.

In 52, the Junior Eagles squeezed past West Point 45-43 in the semifinals before toppling Gibbon 35-24 in the championship game. At 26-0, they were the only unbeaten team in Nebraska at the end of the season. Muma and Larry Lytle, who was later a basketball star at Chadron State, received all-state honors.

The Prepsters had their 42-game winning streak snapped on Friday, Feb. 13, 1953 at Hay Springs, where Verne Lewellen, later the Chadron High coach, was tutoring the Hawks.  Hay Springs kept the Junior Eagles from scoring in the third period. Prep’s only other loss during the 20-2 season was dealt by Lyman 47-43 in the finals of the District Tournament in Hay Springs.

The Junior Eagles went 24-2 the following year. Behind 24 points by Marv Tackett, Crawford won 55-51 about mid-season in the Chadron Community Building. Syracuse got 20 points from all-star Lyle Nannan and defeated Prep 42-37 in the state tourney semifinals before knocking off Franklin 47-28 in the championship game. 

Those score comparisons prompted Omaha World-Herald sportswriter Gregg McBride to rank Prep No. 2 in his final Class C rankings. He also placed Jim Hampton, a 5-5 sophomore starter on the 1952 state championship team but a 6-foot senior in 1953-54, on the Class C all-state team. Prep had a 70-4 record during his three years as a starter. 

Hampton went on to be a three-year starter at Chadron State and led the Eagles in scoring with 14.8- and 16.3-point averages his final two seasons.  He concluded his college career with 1,043 points.
Before the 1954-55 season began, Conn said that team could be his best and it went on to post a 24-0 record. It featured Ed Kuska, Danny’s brother, Jay Muma, Charlie’s brother, 6-foot-6 Jim Link, and brothers Tom and Dick Mingus.

Prep beat Trenton 60-28 in the regional playoffs and then topped Beaver Crossing 54-40 behind Link’s 28 points and Clarkson 54-50 in Lincoln.  

The championship game was a donnybrook. The score was tied eight times and the lead changed hands seven times before Prep won.  Kuska was an all-state selection and Conn was named Nebraska’s High School Basketball Coach of the Year.
Fifty-one years later, Conn was inducted posthumously into the Nebraska State High School Athletic Hall of Fame and his three state championship teams from the ’50s were recognized as the Golden Anniversary Teams.

Archie Conn, the head coach when Chadron Prep won Class C state tournament basketball championships in 1950, 1952 and 1955, was inducted into the Nebraska State High School Athletic Hall of Fame posthumously in 2001. During the ceremonies the three championship teams were designated Golden Anniversary Teams by the Hall of Fame. These Prep athletes and those who had been Prep students were in attendance. In front, from left, are Tom Mingus, Doug Wilson, Cal Clark, Glen Wyatt, Bob Armstrong, Franklin Clark, Charlie Snook and Barb Snook. In the back are Kenny Churchill, Hope Hampton Weaver, Jay Muma, Marion Shellhorn, Bob Buchanan, Jim Hampton, Jim Link, Danny Kuska, Dick Mingus, Bob Egly, Phil Williams, Gary Clements, Dave Roberts and Janet Redfern Adams.

(EDITOR'S NOTE:  Higher resolution images of the above photo – and others – may be viewed in our Dawes County Journal Schools Gallery.)

Even though, Jay Muma and Dick Mingus were the only returning starters on the 1955-56 team, the Junior Eagles finished 21-2. Torrington snapped Prep’s 37-game winning skein 62-55 in early February behind 23 points by Ron Theiman and Spencer won 59-54 in the regional playoffs in O’Neill to end the season.  Prep led 36-27 the final game at halftime, but had 13 fouls called against it in the third quarter and both Muma and Mingus fouled out. 

McBride put the Prepsters third in his Class C rankings and tabbed Muma as an all-stater.

A third Muma, Dick, was another excellent basketball player for the Junior Eagles. He started as a freshman on the 1955-56 team and joined with Dick Rickenbach to lead the 1957-58 quintet to a 19-3 record during an era when just four teams went to state in each class.  Both Prep teams won the district championship but lost out in regional play.

The same thing happened in 1958-59, Dick’s senior season. The Junior Eagles finished with an 18-5 record, but lost to Lodgepole 55-50 in the regional championship game. Prep had to play the regional tourney without Harlan Hakanson, its second best player, because he had the flu and Muma collected four fouls in the first half and drew his fifth halfway through the fourth quarter of the title game.   

During the District Tournament, Dick poured in 42 points against Lyman to break Danny Kuska’s single-game school scoring record of 38 set in 1949.  The next night he was 16-18 from the free throw line while tallying 28 points against Hay Springs in the district semifinals.  Prep barely squeezed past Minatare 36-35 in the district championship game and edged Loup City 45-42 in the first round of the Regional showdown before Lodgepole won the title tilt.

Dick, who averaged 22 points his senior year, was Prep’s only two-time all-state player and was listed as the Class C Player of the Year by Nebraska High School Sports published in 1980.  

All three of the Muma brothers topped the 1,000-point mark during their careers. Charlie tallied 1,090, Jay 1,198 and Dick 1,545. No one else apparently ever reached four figures for the Junior Eagles. Dick also averaged 20.8 points as a senior at Chadron State in 1963-64, the only full season he played at CSC after attempting to break into the University of Nebraska lineup earlier. 

Folks who knew the Muma family have often wondered how many points Mary Ann, the youngest member of the family and a six-footer who was frequently seen shooting baskets with Dick in their yard, might have rung up if she would have had the opportunity to play the game.  A story in the Chadron Record about Dick becoming a two-time all-stater noted that Mary Ann may have been a better shooter than any of her brothers.  

While Conn is often remembered as an outstanding basketball coach, he also had lots of success as a football mentor at Prep.

Conn’s first football team at Prep in 1947 went 7-1, losing only to Rushville 19-14.

In 1948, the Junior Eagles, stocked with 13 seniors, finished 8-0 while outscoring their foes 205-27. The next year, despite the fact that half of the 30-man squad were freshmen, the team went 7-0-1 with a 0-0 tie with Rushville the only blemish.

Danny Kuska, who played end on offense and “all over on defense,” according to his coach, was the standout of the 49 team. He caught eight touchdown passes, returned three interceptions for touchdowns and kicked 15 extra points while earning all-state honors. One of his interceptions came with 10 seconds left and gave the Junior Eagles a 27-20 win over the Provo Rattlers after he also kicked the PAT.

Kuska was the only high school athlete in Chadron to earn all-state honors in both football and basketball and also place at the state track meet until Michael Wahlstrom accomplished that feat at Chadron High 50 years later. 

Prep had a couple more excellent football teams in 1957 and ’58 when Rudy Pinsky, a Chadron State history professor, coached the Junior Eagles. Their only loss the first year was to Edgemont, but they beat Rushville 26-13 for the first time in 10 years to tie Gordon for the Northwest Nebraska Conference championship.

Pinsky said the backfield, comprised of Dick Muma at quarterback and Bob Broberg, Jim Heidebrecht and Dick Rickenbach, had great balance and credited Glen Gray, Keith Benthack and Ken Cullers with excellent line play in 1957.  The ’58 team finished with a 5-2 record and edged Chadron High 20-12 in the only football game between the Junior Eagles and Cardinals that anyone seemed to remember.

With just two seniors on the roster, the Cardinals had sophomores playing most of the skill positions in 1958, but went 7-1 the next year and were a juggernaut two years later when they finished 8-0 and outscored their foes by an average of 34 to 9 points. The 1960 Cards were one of the three undefeated football teams Gordon “Fuzz” Watts had during his spectacular coaching tenure at Chadron High.   

Prep Coach Archie Conn
Conn also coached the Junior Eagles to a couple of Northwest Nebraska Conference track and field championships early in his tenure at Prep. Led by sprinters Rob Garfoot and Glen Wyatt, Prep overwhelmed the opposition in 1949 with 41 7/10 points while runner-up Hay Springs had 24.

In 1950, Prep scored exactly the same number of points while Hay Springs was again second with 23 ½. Wyatt set conference records of 22.7 in the 220 and 51.4 in the 440 that spring. Kuska won the broad jump and was second in both hurdle races and the pole vault in 1950.

Prep had three state champions at state track and field meets in the 1950s.

Wyatt won the Class C 440 in 51.9 seconds in 1950 after placing second the year before in 51.5 seconds. His times were second in the all-class medal standings in the race both years.

Wyatt also was third in the 220 in 1949. Danny Kuska was third in the long jump in ‘49 and placed second in the low hurdles and fourth in the highs at the state meet in 1950.

Pole vaulter Tom Williams cleared 11-3 to tie for first in Class C in 1955. He improved to 11-9 the next year, but had to settle for second.

Prep’s final state champion was Emmett American Horse, who transferred from Gordon for his senior year in 1958 and won the Class C 880.  He also had been the Class B state champion in the half mile at Gordon the previous year.

Emmett’s older brother, famed distance runner Joe American Horse, won the Class B mile run three times and was the all-class mile champion twice for the Gordon Broncs in the mid-1950s.

Besides being strong in athletics, Prep had an outstanding academic reputation. Many of its instructors also were Chadron State College professors, and numerous Prep graduates went on to earn advanced college degrees and became successful professionals.  

Prep students went out on a high note in 1961.  Just a few weeks before the high school was shut down, Prep won top honors at the Chadron State Scholastic Contest.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Those "Alluring Orbs" over western Nebraska...

by Larry Miller

Many of us who live outside western Nebraska are frequently afflicted by pangs of envy....wishing we were closer to our roots and able to enjoy the beauty and history of the place.  Especially Fort Robinson State Park and Chadron State Park.

I do just fine until another issue of Nebraskaland magazine shows up in the mailbox.  Then those pangs start all over again.

Stunning view near Fort Robinson, an image that spurs desire among emigrants to return to the region – if only for a short visit!

Of course, the blame must be placed appropriately at the feet of talented people like Justin Haag, who has the enviable task of traveling western Nebraska, taking pictures, editing stories, and – I believe – living his dream job!  Long-time emigrants like yours truly endure the bittersweet experience of enjoying these glimpses of our old "home region," while pining to return for a visit.  

It was some dozen years ago or so that I first became acquainted with Justin Haag, who was then working at Chadron State College.  He left in 2013 to go to work for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission  I suspect he's never looked back, although he and his wife, Cricket, and their two children still live in Chadron.  A Regional Editor for Nebraskaland magazine, his handiwork as an accomplished photographer becomes more evident all the time.

In fact, the photo shown above is one of several mostly west Nebraska images included as part of an online Nebraskaland feature by Justin.  It offers tips and examples for would-be outdoor photographers. Here is a link to that feature, which focuses (pardon the pun) on the value of including "Those Alluring Orbs" – the sun and moon – into your photographs.  Justin's images will pop your lens cap off!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Old Chadron building spurs memories/curiosity...

by Larry Miller

Seeing old hometown photographs can stir up lots of memories.  Contemporary photos of old buildings still standing do the same thing.  So when I saw a photo of the old building at 201 West 2nd Street in Chadron the other day, I thought, "Oh, yes, I remember that old building, so what?"

The "what" for me was trying to remember what businesses operated out of that old building over the years.  Saunder's Furniture comes to mind from the late '40s into the '50s.  Then there were the Gilmore's, Ken and Marge, who lived in an upstairs apartment in the 1950s.  We're sure there were many other businesses and families associated with the building over the past century or so.  

But what really got me hooked on the building was the short story that accompanied the photo. 

It recounted a few achievements of one Mary Smith-Hayward.

Who was she?

Born in Pennsylvania, she came to Nebraska when she was in her 40s and gained prominence as a suffragette, successful businesswoman, and animal rights activist.  Who, among those of us raised in Chadron during the mid-20th century knew anything about this Mary Smith-Hayward?  Not many, I suspect.

We had heard of Fannie O'Linn, of course.  Fannie was probably the best-known woman in Chadron's early history.  After all, she was the first woman attorney in Nebraska.  She was also postmistress for the community of "O'Linn," which was near Dakota Junction, west of Chadron. There was no Chadron in those days.  In 1885, when the FE&MV Railroad came to Dawes County just a couple of miles east of O'Linn, a new town sprouted up.  Fannie  lost her battle to name the new community O'Linn.  It became "Chadron,"  Fannie and other O'Linn residents soon picked up and moved to the new town.

Mary Smith-Hayward was a contemporary of Fannie O'Linn's.  They were both around town while James Dahlman was county sheriff and mayor of Chadron.  And they were both activists.

Mary was certainly known locally – but her activities (notoriety?)  made her more visible across the state.  Her husband was a rancher, but Mary was not your typical ranch wife.  According to the Centennial History of Chadron published in 1985, Mary Smith Hayward's animal rights advocacy led her to oppose the famous "Chadron to Chicago" horse race in 1893. 

While revisiting Patricia Pinney's compilation of Dawes County–The First 100 Years, we happened across what appears to be a very old photograph of a fountain captioned "Fountain in Honor of Mrs. Mary E. Smith-Hayward in Court House Park, Chadron, Neb."  

Learn a bit more about Mary Smith-Hayward in this Nebraska History piece authored by Ryan Reed:  History at the Corner of Chadron Avenue and West 2nd Street.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Colacinos and the Apas – The Rest of the Story!

by Anthony Apa

On April 6th 1909 13-year-old Antonio Colacino and his father, Dominico, boarded S.S. Moltke in Naples, Italy and sailed for a new life in America.  Their journey across the Atlantic lasted 13 days ultimately arriving at Ellis Island in New York on April 18th.  I can only imagine the rush of feelings (fear, hope, joy, wonderment) they had on this sunny mild 70-degree spring day.  As with millions of immigrants, they weaved through the Ellis Island immigration process and then journeyed halfway across the U.S. settling in Chadron, Nebraska.
Antonio was born in Cortale, Italy on August 21, 1898 to Dominico and Mary Colacino.  The village of Cortale is in the Province of Catanzaro, Region of Calabria of southern Italy.  It is not unlike many ancient hill towns (comune) in southern Italy inhabited with about 2,000 residents.  Cortale is perched on a hilltop to defend itself from invaders and protected from harm by its patron Saint, San Giovanni Battista.   Cortale is situated in the middle of the “toe” of Italy about 10 miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west and Ionian Sea on the east.  It basks in the Mediterranean sun and climate. The hillsides are dotted with olive trees and village roads are narrow and steep.  As you weave through the village you will find the occasional piazza (city square) where vendors sell vegetables, cured meats, cheeses, and flowers.  The residents sit on benches and play cards and discuss politics.
Seven years after the birth of Antonio, his future bride, Costanza Ape (pronounced Ahh’ peh’), was born on November 3rd, 1905.  She was born in a similar small Italian mountain village two hours to the east.  Crosia is perched above the Ionian Sea coast in Province of Cosenza, Region of Calabria.  

Crosia lies along the Ionian Sea in southern Italy
Costanza was born to Coluf Menotti Ape and Consiglia Curia. Before Consiglia’s birth, Coluf departed Naples on July 17th, 1905 and arrived in America on August 1st.  Coluf would establish himself working for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad for seven long years before he would send for his daughter, Costanza, and Consiglia. Costanza was seven years old and arrived with Consiglia at Ellis Island on the SS Berlin May 15th, 1912. Their passage was paid by Coluf and their destination was Rapid City, South Dakota.
The village of Crosia that Consiglia and Costanza left behind was across the valley 1.5 miles to the northwest from Calopezzati, Coluf’s natal village.  Both villages are like Cortale. They are small comune basking in the Mediterranean climate with palm trees and cactus along the roads and olive trees on the hillsides that have been harvested each October for centuries.    
These immigrant stories are not dissimilar to the stories of millions of Italian immigrants that came to America in search of a better life and escaping the poverty of southern Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  What makes this immigrant story unique to Chadron, is that these proud Italian immigrants decided to settle in northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, ultimately converging in Chadron, Nebraska.  These two families merged and yielded three restaurants and a well-known Dance Hall and Supper Club in Chadron.  These restaurants and Dance Hall are still discussed today, although the stories are becoming rare as time passes and memories fade.
These immigrants are more formally known as Dominico and Mary Colacino, the parents of Tony (Antonio) Colacino, and Nick (Coluf) and Angelina (Cosiglia) Apa (the “e” was replaced by an “a”), the parents of Nancy (Costanza) Colacino (Apa).  Tony and Nancy’s Supper Club was the subject of an earlier story in Chadron’s Golden Age Courier by Larry Miller in 2012.  The story was titled, “A blast from the past – COLACINO’S.” Now, as Paul Harvey, said, here is “the rest of the story.”
By January 1920, Tony Colacino was living with his parents, Dominic and Mary, as renters at 103 Maple Street not far from the railroad yard where Tony, at age 12, started his 47-year career working for Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.  Three months later (June), Tony would marry his wife of 38 years, Nancy Apa, in Rapid City, South Dakota.  Tony was 21 and Nancy was 15.  Family lore states that their marriage was pre-arranged by their parents, but it is unknown if their marriage arrangement was completed in Italy or the U.S.  A few years later, Tony and Nancy moved up the street to 115 Maple where they welcomed their first daughter, Mary Catherine Colacino in March of 1930.  In the early 1930’s, the Colacino’s tried their hand at the restaurant business, in the White Lunch, located on the west side of first and Main Street.  Tony and Nancy operated the White Lunch until the early-1950’s. One of their waitresses was a young Chadron High School student, Frances LaRue Overturf.  She worked for Tony and Nancy in the White Lunch in the late 1930’s before and after her graduation in 1937.
Tony and Nancy had groceries regularly delivered.  The person delivering groceries was Louie Apa, Nancy’s youngest brother.  This is when Fran met, Louie.  Louie and Fran Apa were married in 1938.  Then, as they say, life happened.  Louie was drafted into the Navy in 1943 and, as with most lives in the 1940’s, everything was unsettled before, during, and after WWII.  During this time, the Colacino’s continued operating the White Lunch. 
Louie Apa operated the popular Sun Confectionary

After WWII Louie and Fran Apa settled in Chadron and ran the Sun Confectionary located on the east side of Main Street, just north of the Post Office. The Sun Confectionary was home to many High School and Chadron State College students as a “hang-out” to get ice cream or a Coca Cola.  Louie and Fran transitioned into the restaurant business when Tony and Nancy Colacino sold them the White Lunch in the early 1950’s.  Tony and Nancy moved east of town to what became Colacino’s Supper Club and Dance Hall. This was the continuation of what became a four-decade run of restaurants operated by Apa’s and Colacino’s.
 King Louie's on West 2nd Street
Louie and Fran left the White Lunch and started King Louie’s café on north side of west second street in 1955.  At the same time, the Colacino’s were operating Colacino’s Supper Club east of Chadron.  Louie became known as “King Louie” and King Louie’s café was known for its Saturday lunch specials and chicken fried steaks.  The Colacino’s were famous for their spaghetti and meatballs and pastries. Louie and Fran expanded their operation to a second restaurant, the 24-hour restaurant known as King Louie’s Grill, on the west side of Chadron.  It was positioned east of the Truck Stop and its primary service was to feed weary truck drivers and the 2 a.m. bar crowd.  They left the restaurant business in the late 1970’s.  Nancy Colacino died in 1958, but the Supper Club continued until the early 1970’s.  Tony retired and later died in California in 1986. Frances Apa died in 1976 followed by Louie in 1994.

Inside "King Louie's" Cafe.  Recognize anyone?
(Okay, Louie – seated in the center – is the easy one to identify!)
The restaurant business was a “family affair” for the Colacino’s and Apa’s. When the United States calls itself a “Nation of Immigrants,” the story behind these two families epitomizes this slogan. They left small southern Italian mountain villages with only what they could carry.  They endured a two-week sea voyage, entered the United States, and became patriotic citizens of their new adopted country in search of the American dream. These immigrant ancestors created as series of Chadron restaurants that are the source of many stories from the 1930’s to the 1970’s.  If you personally don’t hold any of these memories, or were born after 1970, and want to learn more, take a walk down Main Street Chadron today.  Find a greying baby boomer and ask them if they have a story about eating or working at Colacino’s Supper Club, the Sun Confectionary, White Lunch, King Louie’s Cafe, or King Louie’s Grill.  If they were raised in Chadron or attended Chadron State College during those decades, I would prepare yourself to listen to a fond memory of simpler times that ends with a large smile.
Editor's Note: Many thanks to Tony Apa, the author of this story and the youngest son of Louie and Fran Apa – and the namesake of Tony Colacino.  This story was developed with the help of his sisters Bunny Nitsch (Apa) and Lucy Bartlett (Apa).  We have lots of memories from all of the Colacino-Apa locations mentioned in the story.  The White Lunch down by the old Safeway at 1st and Main, playing the pinball machines at the Sun, lunches at King Louie's, dances at Colacino's, and so much more.  (See additional photos in our Early Chadron Gallery) Thanks, Tony, for sharing a great story!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

2020 Summer Shows at Post Playhouse cancelled

Editor's Note:  Sad news arrived today that the Post Playhouse at Fort Robinson State Park has cancelled performances for the entire 2020 summer season.  Below is the message received today from the Producing Artistic Director at Post Playhouse, Tom Ossowski:

After deep consideration, the Board of Directors and I have decided to cancel the Post Playhouse’s 2020 Summer Season due to the Coronavirus Global Pandemic. Our primary concern is for the health and safety of our production team, our local audiences, and our visitors to the area. 

We plan to pick up next year with our 2021 season and be stronger than ever. Post Playhouse is not the only theatre cancelling performances through the summer of 2020. Sadly, nearly all professional theatres across the country have had to take similar measures. 

The government recommendations for cancellations of public events have very extreme consequences for theatres and theatre artists across the country. Just like with all industries nationwide, thousands of theatre professionals’ jobs are at stake not only this year, but for years to come as many theatres will close permanently. We are not planning on closing forever. We are taking every step possible to ensure that we deliver a vibrant and exciting 2021 season next year. Now more than ever, we need you, our faithful supporters, to help make sure that we can open our doors again next season. 

You can make an incredible impact by transferring your ticket purchases to next year’s season or donating your tickets back to the Post Playhouse. During this unprecedented time, these ticket transfers and donations can help ensure that we have funds to continue operating in the future. 

Without a summer season this year, we will not have as many production expenses, but we also will not be able to count on any further ticket revenue to cover our non-production related expenses (utilities, internet, box office, etc.) that we pay every month of the year, regardless of when shows are being produced. 

 For those who have already purchased tickets for our cancelled 2020 Summer Season, we are offering the following options: You may make a fully tax-deductible donation of the value of your ticket back to the Post Playhouse. The Post Playhouse is a 501 ©(3) nonprofit organization. Please consider this option if you can. You may transfer your ticket value to a gift certificate in your name. You will then be able to use this gift certificate on any new ticket purchases made for our 2021 Summer Season. This option will also help us keep the lights on in preparation for 2021. 2020 Season Subscriptions can also be transferred to our 2021 Season. If you prefer to receive a refund for your tickets for our 2020 Season, we will honor that request. 

Whichever choice you make regarding your 2020 ticket purchases, we thank you for being a supporter of the Post Playhouse. We will be personally reaching out to everyone who bought tickets for this season and discussing the options available. This will take time, so we thank you in advance for your graciousness. 

 We are also asking our annual donors, show sponsors, and program advertisers to allow us to transfer contributions to our 2021 Summer Season. We hope that you will consider helping us to keep our doors open so that we can continue to bring joy to our community members, visitors, and audiences through live theatrical experiences for years to come.

For further information visit the Post Playhouse website  at

Chadron State football standout from 1950s dies

Guido Santero - Circa 1990
An all-star football player at Chadron State College during the late 1950s, Guido Santero, died Sunday, March 22 at his home in Kansas City.  He was 84.

A native of Lewellen, Santero was the leading rusher on the Eagles’ undefeated team coached by Bill Baker in 1958. As the tailback on the single wing formation, he usually took a direct snap from center. He carried the ball 117 times for 807 yards, an average of 6.9 yards, and scored 13 touchdowns in eight games.

It was 1980 before another Chadron State player scored that many touchdowns and 1990 before a CSC back scored 14. His rushing average also was unmatched until 1989.   

At the end of the 1958 season, Santero was named to the Nebraska College Conference first-team as well as to the all-state college teams selected by both the Lincoln Journal and the Omaha World-Herald.

Chadron State had another excellent team in 1959, going 6-2. Santero was again the team’s leading rusher with 485 yards and also completed 20 of 40 passes for 360 yards and seven touchdowns.  He was a co-captain of that team and lettered in basketball in 1958-59He also was a Student Senate officer, a member of Blue Key National Honorary Fraternity, was selected to Who’s Who Among American College and University Students and graduated with honors in 1961.  

He was inducted into the Chadron State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984.

After teaching and coaching for a year at Sioux County High School, Santero became a successful insurance agent and financial planner, ultimately in the Kansas City area. His health reportedly had been failing after he had a stroke about two years ago.

The youngest of 12 children, he is survived by his wife Janice, two daughters, two sisters and numerous nephews and nieces. 


Editor's note:  Thanks to Con Marshall for sending us this photo and story. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Golden Age Courier Produced 'On the Farm"

(Editor's NoteWe only recently came across this story written last June by Cindy Peters for the Northwest Public Power District newsletter.  We've been reading the Dawes County Historical Society's "Golden Age Courier" for years and always look forward to receiving it.  Thanks to Cindy Peters for allowing us to reprint her story!) 

By Cindy Peters

It’s pretty common to find a copy of the Golden Age Courier lying around in waiting rooms, restaurants and at various businesses every month.  This popular free tabloid began nearly 33 years ago on Sept. 30, 1987.

Ginger Campbell of rural Chadron has returned
 to desktop publishing and laying out the
Golden Age Courier in the comfort of her home.
“The Courier is a product of the Dawes County Historical Society,” noted current editor Ginger Campbell.  Campbell, of rural Chadron, has compiled the Courier for nearly 15 years.

“I worked at The Chadron Record three different times for a total of 14 and a half years altogether and always did the Courier layout,” explained Campbell. “I first worked on the Courier with my aunt, Lucille Redfern, then Belle Lecher and then Ron Wineteer.  I retired from the Record in 2015.”

“My first job in printing was at B&B Printing working for Warren Brooks,” said Campbell.  The couple relocated to Colorado, where the Chadron native’s experience in newspaper production began in Brighton, where she typeset and worked on the legals.  Campbell returned back to the family farm, where she has lived her entire life, with the exception of a few years in Colorado, a year in Montana and a year in Washington.

“I graduated from Chadron High in 1968, then graduated from the National College of Business in Rapid City, which no longer exists. Then went to work at the CNW railroad as a clerk in the Supt's office until I got married,” she explained.  Late last Summer, she was approached by her cousin, Sharon Rickenbach, President of the Board for Dawes County Historical Society, asking her about taking over the Courier, when the late Ron Wineteer stepped down.

“My first issue was in September 2018. I started doing the layout myself at home in October,” said Campbell. This required her to get set up with a graphic design program, called QuarkExpress. It didn’t take her long to get it set up and since then she is happy to report the Courier’s first color issue was in April. “I was familiar with it so it was easy to take on. I sometimes had to find filler for Ron. I just wish I was a journalist so I could write stories, but I'm clueless when it comes to that,” said Campbell.

The Courier has several contributors. She receives articles from several people. “I'm always looking for ideas. Anyone can send me something they'd like to see in it. I don't want to put in too much silly stuff, but that's the most fun. If I see something I think is interesting, either in an email or on facebook or anywhere else, I put it in. I try to stay away from politics. I search through old issues and reprint some things from years ago,” explained Campbell. Campbell said she doesn’t keep track of the time she spends on it.

“It doesn't seem like very much, but it's probably more than I think. It's all volunteer so I guess I don't worry about keeping track,” she explained.  “Ron always had things lined up for three months in advance.  I end up getting it done at the last minute,” she chuckled. Once the pages are complete, she sends them to The Chadron Record and it is forwarded to the Rapid City Journal where it is printed. They have recently increased their circulation.  “We have gone up to 1200 copies and it is distributed around Chadron, Crawford and Hay Springs,” noted Campbell.

The first edition of the Golden Age Courier - September 1987
“There are a few subscribers that I send it out to.  People who have moved away and still want to see it. It is a free publication thanks to the advertisers.  Subscribers pay for the postage to send it,” said Campbell. The original editorial board included Don Huls, retired publisher of The Chadron Record, Lucille Redfern, Ed Davenport, Woody and Audrey Woodward, Mary Kuhnel, Alice Faulk, Jo Fox, and Herb Place. “In looking through old issues I see that Goldie Dawkins and Lloy Chamberlain were editors for a while,” said Campbell.

Pam Littrel currently sells the advertising. Campbell gets some of them sent to her and she sets up part of them. Campbell’s favorite part of her volunteer project is finding fun things to put in it. Although she does most of it herself, her daughter, Jenifer Tidman, and husband Stan helps her with it when he is not working.

“He is a veteran and enjoys talking to veterans for those articles and he helps me distribute it, but Pam does most of the delivery. My grandkids help when they can,” said Campbell.”

She enjoys the fact she can work on it when she gets the chance while staying in her home. She and Stan have been married 46 years. He works at Bomgaars part-time and is in the process of trying to retire. They no longer raise crops or livestock, they rent out their pasture. The couple have two children, and 10 grandchildren, ranging in age from 3 to 20.

“Our daughter, Jenifer and her husband Tim Tidyman moved here four years ago from Hayes Center. They have five children, two in college and three in Chadron Public Schools. Our son, Russ and his wife Gina and their 5 children live in Scottsbluff.” In Campbell’s spare time she enjoys a lot of sewing and crafts. The Campbells live east of Chadron on Redfern Road.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Sandoz Society museum exhibit to feature WWII

(Editor's Note:  Thanks to NBC affiliate KNEP for sharing this video report!)

Monday, February 10, 2020

Another Dawes County Pioneer: William McGannon

(Editor's Note:  The following story is among the many chronicled in "A Compendium of History, Reminiscence & Biography of Western Nebraska," an illustrated book published in 1909 by the Alden Publishing Company of Chicago.

William McGannon, who has made an enviable record as a farmer and stock raiser, the result of his own toil and economy, and a man who enjoys the respect and confidence of a host of warm friends in the community in which his useful life is passing, was born in the city of Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1858. His father, David McGannon, was a butcher. Both of his parents were natives of Ireland. When our subject was but a boy the family came to Minnesota, settling in Olmstead county, near Winona. His father opened the first butcher shop in Rochester, Minnesota, and also conducted a dray line. Here our subject spent his boyhood days on the frontier.

When Mr. McGannon was seventeen years of age he left his home in Minnesota, and returning to West Virginia, attending school at St. Vincent's College. Some time later he conducted a butcher shop at Lanesborough, and after a time opened a shop of his own at Fountain, Minnesota, where he bought and shipped stock. He also conducted a butcher shop at Canton, Minnesota, for about seven years.

In 1891 Mr. McGannon came to Dawes county, Nebraska, took a homestead and bought some land, and engaged in the raising of cattle and sheep. In 1898 he came to his present ranch in the Pine Ridge, where he has erected a substantial and comfortable house in section 19, township 31, range 49. He secured adjoining land, and now has six thousand five hundred acres of deeded land, all of which is fenced and cross fenced. He has six miles along the Trunk Butte creek and two miles on the Indian creek. There is a small stream three quarters of a mile in length which rises on his ranch. Mr. McGannon has one thousand acres of land under cultivation, and has five hundred acres of the finest timber to be found in Dawes county. He has erected substantial and commodious buildings, and engages extensively in the raising of horses and hogs. Since acquiring this land, he has greatly improved it, and has purchased modern agricultural implements to assist him in making his place one of the most modern and productive in western Nebraska. He has a gasoline engine on his farm and also a steam engine and plow.

Mr. McGannon and Miss Jane Davis were married at Fountain, Minnesota, January 19, 1880. She is a daughter of Patrick and Bridget Davis, native of Ireland. Two children came to bless this union, George Arthur and David Edward.

In politics Mr. McGannon is a Democrat. A more enthusiastic or public spirited citizen of Dawes county could not be found, for from his start in this locality Mr. McGannon has taken an active part in all matters of local interest, and is a firm believer in the future of Dawes county. His efforts to get a railroad to the table-land of the county have been untiring. From the crops raised on his cultivated land he has demonstrated that there are places in Dawes county where the land is as fertile and valuable, and can be made to produce as much as irrigated land.

As an entertainer and enthusiastic storyteller, Mr. McGannon has few equals. Upright and honorable in all his dealings, he has manifested on all occasions a high integrity and a strict adherence to principle. Mr. McGannon has recently become proprietor of the Pleasant View Sanitarium, an important hot springs health resort, at Thermopolis, Wyoming, whence he has removed, leaving his sons to operate his ranching interests in Dawes county, Nebraska.