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Colfax Memories – By A Former Resident


Posted By: JCGS Volunteer
Date: 9/27/2022 at 13:15:36

Memories – By Former Resident, F. M. “Buck” Logsdon
As I moved to Colfax in 1907, I have many memories of Colfax in the early 1900’s that may be interesting to present inhabitants.
As Dad was a barber and I sold papers and shined shoes, I was on the streets much of the time and came in contact with many of the early resident s of that time.
“Ham” Robinson had what I believe was the first movie in town. It was located just south of the present fire station. We kids could see the “Flickers” for a nickel.
Later Mr. Jacobson had a theatre situated about where the Pratt clothing store is now and he had a phonograph playing loudly announcing the show was about to start. Morris Penquite played the piano changing tempo according to the moods of the picture.
The Centropolis Hotel had a thriving business in the building later purchased by Dr. R. G. Anspach. The Centropolis, Mason House, Mills House and the Grand Hotel were the principal places the people stayed when taking mineral water baths. Mrs. Ayres gave baths to women on the location later operated by Ed Chapman. She had an educated parrot with quite a vocabulary. Some of the boys in the neighborhood taught the bird some words that were not considered too polite. Of course, I wasn’t one of the boys that would do such a thing.
When the Rock Island and Interurban trolley came to the depots to unload passenger “callers” representing the bath parlors would meet the trains and try to persuade the people to come to their bath parlors. It was not unusual to see Ed Chapman in his T shirt, direct from his hot bath parlor, calling trains in the cold weather.
Billy Kinsel, a cripple, had a one horse hack to carry passengers to various destinations.
When Hotel Colfax was built it was one of the most popular resorts in the state and people came from great distances for mineral water baths. I would play hokey from school to watch the grading for the trolley running from town to the hotel. The grading was done with horses and mules and the dirt was moved with “slips.”
When the hotel was sold to the Government to be used as a government hospital, it was the beginning of the end for Colfax’s popularity as a mineral water resort.
I used to wash bottles at the Colfax Bottling Works for all the pop I could drink. Soda pop and mineral water was shipped out by the car loads.
Between the old Interurban depot and the Rock Island depot was a swamp which harbored many snakes. Once when barefoot, I walked part way through the swamp and found myself midst may snakes. I carefully backed out and I was greatly relieved when I was on dry ground without being bitten.
The Colfax Northern railway carried passengers to Valeria and miners to and from the mines. The miners would walk from the train carrying their lunch buckets and carbide lamps. “Dad” Liddell, the engineer, always carried his shillelagh, a crooked walking cane. “Shackey” Miller was a mule driver in the mines and he carried his long braided whip curled around his shoulder. He could nip a leaf off a tree with a flip of his whip.
I drove a team on a windglass when Ralph Hopkins sank a shaft for his coal mine next to the old ice pond just South of the cemetery. I also helped cut ice on the pond which was stored in a big building. The ice was packed in sawdust in 200 pound cakes.
Chuck Schlosser, now living in Des Moines, sang songs in German on the streets for pennies.
Dr. F. E. Boyd made house calls with a horse and buggy.
Maynard Penquite was mayor and the first brick paving was laid.
Barney Shames, who lived just South of us, had a big black horse named “Doc” which he used to pull a wagon to pick up bottles, bones and rags. He paid me twenty five cents a day to run along the road and pick up junk. We would go to Seevers and adjacent mining camps to buy or beg junk. I was seven years old at the time.
Many families kept cows and my brother Vic, who now lives in Newton, and I would gather the cows from their respective barn lots and drive them to the river bottoms for pasture. The Mills House had seven, several had one or two and the last bunch delivered at night went to Anderson’s dairy across from the stand pipe. The cows knew where they were to stop and the herd got smaller as we got to the end of the route. I wonder if any one remembers us two little kids driving those cows up the main streets. We got seventy five cents a month for each cow.
I would gather bottles from the alleys and sell them to drug stores. I got a penny for unwashed ones or two cents for them if they were clean. I washed them in the back of the barber shop. “Doc” Weirick, J. W. Slocum and W. S. Bear were owners of drug stores in the early days of the 1900’s. I didn’t sell bottles to “Doc” Weirick as apparently he didn’t sell the kind of “medicine” the bottles were used for.
Henry Harrington had a brick yard on Crawford’s Hill. General James B. Weaver, who once ran for President, lived on a hill near the cemetery. When I carried papers to him he would talk about the Civil War.
When I got older I drove an old horse named “Sox” for Blyde Hillis delivering groceries. The horse was rented from Charles Plummer’s livery. Later I graduated to a model T Ford and at one time there probably wasn’t a house in town I hadn’t been in.
As we never knocked when we delivered the groceries, I can relate some interesting experiences.
Gypsies would come to town in two or three big cars and if we saw them in time, we would lock the doors of the store. If they got in, they would try to read your palm or tell your fortune while others would stuff anything they could in their loose garments. They were quite colorful in their flowing clothes and interesting to watch.
Chautauquas were held in the old League Grounds and the Chase and Lister tent shows would come to town every year.
There was a mineral spring on Montgomery street between Spring and Broadway where I would water old Sox when in the west end of town.
I remember the night many of us met the train when James Norman Hall returned from France. He had his uniform showing the holes and blood on display in one of the stores.
Pat Willis and Casey Jones returned from the war and started an airplane factory on Front St. They were later killed in a plane accident.
I was on the street when Will Kelly was loading provisions from Ed Hollhofer’s store when his foot caught in a hole in the bottom of the wagon and his mules ran away dragging him behind. I remember seeing him try to hold his head up while being dragged on the railroad tracks. He later died in Doctor Turner’s Rest Home across from the Grand Hotel. I took him the Sunday paper while he was convalescing until he took a turn for the worse.
Paul Jones worked for grocery stores when he was quite young. My Dad named him “Cracker, I wonder if Paul remembers that far back.
The coal miners were paid in gold and I have seen many hundreds of dollars on upturned tubs on the Skunk River bottoms where they would go to play poker.
I have many fine memories of Colfax as a town and also of the people among whom I had many friends. Many have passed on or moved away, some still live there, but they will remain in my memory forever.
During the flu epidemic of 1918 while delivering groceries, many of the folks were quite sick. I would carry in coal and kindling for their stoves. We were supposed to wear masks to prevent the spread of germs. Some of them got so filthy no decent germ would live in them. We were not allowed to have more than eight people in the store at one time.
One winter I picked corn for Nate Kartchner north of town. Nate had two old sows but he had to sell one of them as I could not pick enough corn to keep them both alive.
Mr. Johnson, who had a jewelry store, drove a big chain drive car with the crank on the side. I could run along with it as fast as it would run.
Buck Logsdon; 7114 Colby Ave.; Des Moines, Ia 50311
Source: The Colfax (IA) Tribune; Thursday, April 25, 1974, page 1


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