Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Monday, June 01, 1953
Section 7

The Mason City Story

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Some of the language contained in these news articles are not considered to be politically correct by today's standards. They have, however, been transcribed as they appeared in 1953.

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[Section 7, Page 31] In the final months of 1920 the price of corn skidded from $1.70 to 50 cents a bushel and hogs from $15 to $7 a hundred.

Few then visualized the travail this foreshadowed. The drop in prices brought an end to a frenzied speculation on farm land and an inflation spiral that followed World war I. It sounded the end of an era.

At the time these prices collapsed Mason City had five banks. Five years later it had only one. Other bankruptcies came in the wake of deflation and bank failures.

Directly affected was the farmer, who a decade later was to see corn go down to 6 cents a bushel and hogs at $3 a hundred.

As the prices started downward a land buying craze was at its height. The idea gained prevalence that there wasn't enough of this rich Iowa soil and that some day it would be priceless.

Couldn't Last

More sober minds knew the boom couldn't last and by mid-August a change was signaled. Banks started calling paper and on Aug. 13, 1920, the bottom fell out of grain prices.

Farmers were forced to meet large debts with everything they had to sell at depressed prices. It wasn't long before the effects of this situation hit the city dweller. The Mason City Chamber of Commerce set up a revolving fund for the purchase of food to aid the needy. Corn was purchased and ground into meal and made available with potatoes and milk to families in need.

Among those who watched the tragic drama unfold was Allan F. Beck who, since he came to Mason City from Fort Dodge in 1909, had developed a large real estate business with his brother, J. W. Beck.

Learned Farm Problem

Beck had learned something about the agrarian problem in his handling of farms and from close association with E. G. Dunn, whose campaign for governor he managed in 1912.

Dunn's native gift of oratory had made him a spokesman for the farmers when they organized the farmers elevators in the early years of the century, a part of the might struggle that had gone on for decades to give the farmer equitable prices for his products.

Beck reached the conclusion there was need for government action. As early as 1921 he worked out a program. His plan was to have elevator managers provide warehouse receipts on which the government could loan direct to the farmer from 30 to 40 cents a bushel on corn.

Depressing Prices

"I feel from my experience dealing with the farmers for the past 11 years that the moment the government got into the situation very little of this corn and grain would ever go into storage because confidence would be restored," he wrote Glenn Haynes, auditor of the state and former Mason City resident, in the fall of 1921.

The matter came to the attention of Gov. N. E. Kendall, who wrote Beck he would take the matter up at the meeting of governors in Indianapolis Dec. 21, 1921.

Deflation Continued

Nothing developed at the Indianapolis meeting. Farm prices stabilized for a time, but deflation continued its inexorable course and soon Beck was handling a number of receiverships. The full force of the deflation didn't strike at once. Business went on much as usual.

But financial institutions knew the storm wasn't over. In order to strengthen the banking situation, the City National Bank in 1922 was merged with the Commercial Savings to form the City Commercial Bank.

But the inevitable could not be stopped. On the morning of March 29, 1924, the Central Trust Company, another bank, closed its doors. Within the next two years two other banks failed, the City Commercial on May 11, 1925, and the Security National Bank on Dec. 19, 1925.

Ample Cash Provided

The waning faith of the people in financial institutions then turned on the one remaining bank, the First National. Depositors by the hundreds demanded their money. Ample cash was provided. As visible evidence of this an armored car loaded with currency came from Minneapolis and was unloaded at the front door of the bank. The run came to a halt and redepositing of funds took place.

Three bank receiverships now became part of the business life of the city. Dividends were paid by the receiverships in proportion to deposit as assets were liquidated.

Dividends to depositors in the Central Trust were swelled by an insurance payment on the five story bank building destroyed by fire in the early morning of Jan. 18, 1927, one of the worst fires in the city's history. The receivership was awarded $146,000 in losses.

Changes Made

Further changes in the banking structure of the community were in the offing. With the sudden death of C. H. McNider in 1928, his son, Hanford MacNider, came home from Washington, D. C. where he was serving as assistant secretary of war under Coolidge, to take over his father's affairs.

Willis G. C. Bagley was advanced to the presidency of the First National Bank, with MacNider becoming chairman of the board. The following January the First National became affiliated with a large bank holding company, the Northwest Bancorporation.

From 1925 until April 1, 1929, Mason City had only one bank. That day the Northwest Bancorporation. Twenty-five Mason City business and professional men were named on the board of directors.

New Bank Opens

In 1936, when the United Home Bank and Trust Company came into existence the Northwest Savings was consolidated with the First National. The United Home Bank started business Aug. 31, 1936, with E. W. Clark as chairman of the board and C. O. Wilkinson, president. In 1943 Wilkinson sold out his interest and later was succeeded by F. F. Potter as president.

Bagley retired as president of the First National Dec. 31, 1928, to begin serving as treasurer of the state. He was succeeded by F. C. Heneman, executive vice president.

Bagley served as treasurer of state until his death in October, 1943.

Bagley's career in his home town won him a place in "Who's Who in America," but the incident when John Dillinger shot at him and missed during the robbery of the First National Bank in 1934 brought him more publicity. He was on the board of education 22 years, serving as president 16 years. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce five years and held numerous other civic posts.

Vitality in Business

Despite receiverships and other difficulties the Mason City business district had vitality and buoyancy. The growing number of retail establishments, improving merchandising methods and better highways widened the trade territory.

An example of the type of courage evident among merchants was the fact that at a time when the economic graphs were falling in 1920 D. K. Lundberg arrived from Minneapolis and opened a ready-to-wear store that since has continued to expand.

Even more significant was the fact that in August, 1921, a contract was let for the construction of the Hotel Hanford at a cost of $672,500. Approximately $300,000 in stock had been sold in the company, which was headed by C. H. McNider.

Change Took Place

But a change was taking place in retail merchandising. Nation-wide retail organizations wanted outlets in Mason City. In 1922 Beck effected the sale by C. H. McNider to S. S. Kresge the double front occupied by the Killmer drug store and the Stott meat market for $110,000.

The transaction Beck formed a friendship with Ed Plunkett and George Schilling of the Kresge real estate department that was to prove invaluable later.

In 1924 Beck sold Woolworth on the idea of having a store along side of Kresge with the result that the corner Parker opera house building was acquired by the dime store company for $150,000.

East Side of Federal Avenue & Woolworth's Store, ca. 1950

Sold Swift Plant
In 1925 Beck sold the E. B. Higley Company produce plant at 820 Delaware S. E. to Swift and Company. The same year Crane and Company bought a lot at 8th and Delaware S. E. and erected a building, now [1953] operated by the Kurtz Company. In 1927, McNider, Beck and Bagley purchased the Central Trust site and erected the present [1953] Penney Company building and the year following the Kresge dollar store was established.

East Side of Federal Avenue & Kresge's Store, ca. 1950
Note Beck Realty to far right, next door to Kresge's

In 1920 the Damon store was sold by C. W. Damon to Ely & Walker of St. Louis. In 1941, following the death of Mr. Damon, the company purchased the building.

The stock market crash in 1919 with the subsequent further deflation and the bank holiday of March, 1933, the nadir of the Great Depression, did not affect Mason City as seriously as it might. A large part of the losses of deflation had already been taken. With 6 cent corn and $3 hogs, however, the farmers' purchasing power was nearing the vanishing point.

Money Scare

Prices were down and money was scarce. In the midst of the economic stalemate, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored a plan that put $10,000 of scrip money into circulation. With suppliers and workmen agreeing to accept the scrip as payment, a highway - appropriately named the scrip road - was built along the east side of the Winnebago river east of the city.

When corn loans were made available and other assistance given agriculture in 1933, the climb back up got under way. The upward movement was slow at first and for several years commercial building or remodeling stood at low ebb.

Signaled Turn

A signal for the turn came in 1935-36, when there was erected the present [1953] Montgomery Ward and Company building. Allan Beck, in whose own experience was dramatized the community's distress during the depression years, was likewise to symbolize the bold, undaunted effort of business men to triumph over their difficulties.

The erection of the Montgomery Ward building stands as one of the sagas in the drama of recovery. In 1935 Beck and Willis Bagley owned the site of the building, then occupied by old structures that brought little rent. The buildings were mortgaged for $60,000 and $8,000 in back taxes were due.

With this situation and without available cash of his own, Beck succeeded by a bit of financial magic in building the Ward structure. This is how it was done:

Beck, with the idea of the building in mind, went to Chicago to see his old friend from the Kresge building days, who was now head of the realty department of Montgomery Ward. Schilling told him they were "not building in these times." But he did come to Mason City and approved the site.

Granted Loan

Beck then persuaded Neil Bosworth of Elgin, Ill., to cancel the mortgage and deed the property to Beck and share the ownership of the proposed building, money for which Beck hoped to borrow. He then bearded the officials of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company at Milwaukee and was granted a loan for construction.

The building was completed [at 102-4-6 South Federal Avenue] and Montgomery Ward took possession in 1936. In 1940 the building was sold to Herbert Bell of Chicago. Bosworth and Bagley were paid and Beck regained his financial standing.

The Iowa Hardware Mutual Insurance Company, reached its 50th birthday this year [1953] after a phenomenal 20 year expansion program. It now does business in 23 states. At the close of 1952 the company had total assets and surplus of $3,336,891.

Stores Improved

In 1944 the corner across the street from Wards was leased to the Younker Company. The next year Aldens purchased the Merkel department store. As large state and nationally known retail outlets were added Mason City made a wider appeal to customers 100 miles away. The 1950 census showed Mason City 12th in population (27,980) but 7th in retail trade among the cities of Iowa.

Continued improvement of stores and store fronts in the business area took place. Curries hardware, after its store on the present [1953] site of Eaton's was destroyed by fire Nov. 21, 1937, established its business at the present East State site.

Indicative of the change in times is the fact that Dec. 31, 1952, bank assets in Mason City total $36,344,426.42 compared with $7,528,368.89 Dec. 31, 1932. Another inflation had taken hold.

NOTE: Jay W. Beck was born in 1875, served as regimental adjutant in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, and died in 1939. His wife, Katinka H. Beck, was born in 1882, and died i 1952. Allan E. Beck was born in 1886, was president of Beck Brothers real estate firm, served on the Iowa Real Estate Commission, was Mason City Independent School District treasurer for 29 year, and died in 1954. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Willis G. C. Bagley was born October 29, 1873, and died October 20, 1943. Winifred (Bogardus) Bagley, his wife, was born August 31, 1874, and died May 11, 1967. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Edward W. Clark was born June 12, 1876, and died November 1, 1964, interment was made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

David K. Lundberg was born in 1885, and died in 1941. Anne F. Lundberg, his wife, was born in 1888, and died in 1969. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

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[Section 7, Page 32] On the morning of Oct. 19, 1935, a group of executives of Armour and Company, headed by President R. H. Cabell, arrived in Mason City from Chicago.

That day the largest transaction in the history of North Iowa was completed, the purchase of the plant and seven branches of Jacob E. Decker and Sons for $4,972,000.

The purchase was made from Adolf Gobel, Inc., which had acquired the property from the Decker family and other stockholders six years before. It made the Mason City plant part of the empire of one of the largest meat packers.

This was one of the major changes that came to Mason City's industrial life the past three decades. These years brought new industries, growth, development and improvements to plants already here.

Natural Gas Came

Some remarkable developments took place. Natural gas was piped 1,000 miles from Texas. Among the new industries was radio, with television probably soon to follow.

Armour ownership of Decker's brought little change in the personnel. E. E. Evans of Armour's organization was the initial general manager, but was soon succeeded by Fred Duffield, who had been a vice president of the Decker corporation and long time employe (sic)

Upon Duffield's death, Prebe Thogerson, another veteran at Decker's became general manager.

Install New Equipment

Under Armour management the plant continued to expand capacity and add manufacturing equipment.

In 1928 the canning room was added and developed into a department that now [1953] employes (sic) several hundred persons. A beef killing unit was opened in August, 1933. A new hog cooler and curing building was completed in 1938. Other improvements have come since, including a large office addition. The meager beginnings of the Decker family now reached the capacity of a million hogs and 50,000 cattle annually, with 1,600 employes (sic).

NOTE: On February 14, 1975, Armour officials announced that their Mason City plant would close in the summer. 265 of its 1,300 employees were immediately laid off after the announcement. The company payroll in 1975 was $19 million. The new plant, scheduled to open in 1977, would employ an estimated 400, leaving approximately 900 people out of work. In August of 1975, the Globe-Gazette published the following eulogy: "Funeral arrangements are pending for the Mason City Armour & Co., meat packing plant, which died Friday at age 76 following a lengthy illness. Given 6 months to live in February, the plant died quietly Friday, despite community efforts to revive it. Born under the name Jacob E. Decker on July 4, 1899, the plant married into the Armour family in 1935. Survivors include about 1,300 employees." SOURCE: Nicklay, Deb. The Globe-Gazette. March 29, 2011.

Son of Ludwig G. and Anna M. (Boecking) Decker, Jacob E. Decker was born in German on April 1, 1849, and died in Mason City in August of 1921, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Frederick Gerald "Fred" Duffield was born May 28, 1883, and died at the age of 60 years following a heart attack on August 16, 1943, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Sale of the Decker plant was only one of a number of giant transactions that altered the industrial facade of the community. The Mason City Brick and Tile Company, dominated for two generations by the Denison-Keeler families, passed into the hands of two successive owners.

Keelers Sell Industry

Management of the brick and tile properties had previously passed successively from one Keeler brother to the other. When Fred Keeler transferred his chief theater of operations from Mason City to Los Angeles, his brother B. C. Keeler took over the management and on the death of B. C. Keeler, Harry B. Keeler became manager.

In 1930 the Keelers sold out to a group of stockholders associated with the United Light and Power system, of which the Peoples' Gas and Electric was then a subsidiary.

In 1943 the company was purchased by W. J. Goodwin and Sons of Des Moines, together with M. D. Judd of Mason City, with Goodwin succeeding Charles E. Strickland, president.

NOTE: Burr C. Keeler was born in 1873, and died in 1926, interment made a Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Maurice D. Judd died on August 17, 1956, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Purchase Railroad

A holding company act brought about separation of the Kansas City Power and Light Company, of which the Peoples' Gas and Electric is a unit, from the United Light and Power system. In December, 1950, the Mason City and Clear Lake Railroad, part of the romance of industrial development in Mason City, was purchased from the United Light and Railways Company by an Iowa corporation, of which Charles E. Strickland is president; Earl Smith, vice president; and C. F. Beck, secretary-treasurer.

The Mason City and Clear Lake Railroad had the distinction of being the only railroad operating into Mason City that did not go into receivership.

All five steam railroads, after varying periods in receivership, emerged from that status in the 1940-50 decade. First of the roads to be back on its feet was the Great Western, which was out of the receiver's hands Feb. 19, 1941.

Most Colorful

The most colorful revamping program was that of President Lucian Sprague, Minneapolis, who took the M. and St. L. at the time it was about to be dismembered and built it into a highly successful property. Sprague's line was in receivership more than 20 years and emerged from that status Dec. 1, 1943.

The North Western, which Mason City's W. E. Brice had a part in building, was in receivership from June 28, 1935, to June 1, 1945. The Milwaukee emerged from receivership Dec. 1, 1945, and, finally, in January, 1948, the Rock Island announced that it started the year out of the receiver's hands.

Thus Mason City was an intimate part of the vast overhauling of the financial structures of the steam road that took place over the nation.

Since 1935 when he came to Mason City to assume the management of the utility properties, succeeding the late F. J. Hanlon, Strickland had a leading role in the industrial life of Mason City, heading and serving on the boards of industries and financial institutions.

Boosts Power

Under Strickland's management continued expansion of the facilities of the Peoples' Gas and Electric took place, culminating in a $2,200,000 improvements program completed in 1950, boosting power generating capacity 32 per cent.

NOTE: Charles Edwin Strickland, born in 1892, served during World War I. Upon being mustered out of service, he returned to his home in Colby, Kansas to accept a position as vice president of the Farmers and Merchants State Bank where he had been employed before the war. He entered the utilities field as vice president of the United Light and Power Company of Chicago in 1930. Strickland moved to Mason City in 1936. He died in 1973.

The 1,000 mile long pipeline built by Northern Natural Gas proved a boon to industries, as well as to commercial enterprises and householders from the day in 1931 when the flow of the new fuel was connected with the city's gas system.

After the depths of the depression passed both the Northwestern States Portland Cement Company and the Lehigh Portland Cement Company made extensive improvements, modernizing operations for the huge flow of cement to Iowa and surrounding states.

Northwestern States, the management of which passed to Hanford MacNider a year after the death of his father in 1928, made a distinguished record with full operation throughout the depression.

NOTE: Northwestern States Portland Cement Company, established in 1908, was sold to Holnam, a Swiss company, in 1990 and operated as Holcim Cement Company from 2001 to 2009. It was closed in August of 2009 due to economical hard times. The Lehigh Portland Cement Company, founded in 1910, operates to the present [2014] day. It celebrated its 100th year in production September 8, 2010. SOURCE: Buehner, Kristin. Globe-Gazette. July 22, 2014.

Produces Sugar

The American Crystal Sugar Company continued to turn out 50 million pounds of sugar each year from approximately 15,000 acres of sugar beets under the management of E. R. Moore and since 1940 of A. G. Quamme.

A number of new improvements have been added to the plant, the outstanding one being the installation of the new silver diffuser to replace the cell battery at a cost of $300,000 in 1947. Prior to that the warehouse was enlarged to provide inside storage for 25 million pounds. In 1952 a new 2,500 kilowatt steam turbine was installed.

The Ideal Sand and Gravel Company provided millions of tons of materials for paving and other construction project in North Iowa. Since the war the operations have changed to increased use of crushed rock and also the distribution of huge quantities of agricultural lime.

Part of Transition

In the industrial transition of this period the Mason City Globe-Gazette had a part. On April 1, 1925, the Globe-Gazette became a member of the Lee Group of newspapers. The purchase was made from W. F. Muse, who since the death of his associate, Dave Conroy, business manager, in 1923, had been left with the sole management of the paper.

With change of ownership there began a new era for the newspaper under the guidance of Lee P. Loomis, first as business manager and later, after Muse's death, as publisher.

The changes included better mechanical equipment, enlarged personnel, increased wire service, expanded feature and pictorial service, modernized and expanded quarters.

Within five years the Globe-Gazette had a circulation unduplicated by any city of Mason City's size. Under Managing Editor W. Earl Hall, who came with the newspaper in 1920, the news and editorial departments were enlarged to provide readers an improved product that later included wire photo and an engraving plant.

NOTE: William Foster Muse was born July 14, 1860, and died May 10, 1931. Lillian (Duncan) Muse, his wife, was born December 26, 1865, and died February 21, 1921. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

David M. Conroy was born January 1, 1873, and died December 19, 1923, interment made at Oakland Cemetery, Keokuk, Iowa.

Lee Pierson Loomis was born in 1884 and died February 10, 1964. Margaret (Hakes) Loomis, his wife, was born in 1888, and died December 20, 1975. They were interred at Greenwood Cemetery, Muscatine, Iowa.

Starts Radio Station

The transition of the times brought another development. On Jan. 17, 1937, Radio Station KGLO, Globe-Gazette affiliate, went on the air under the management of F. C. Eighmey as a 100 watt station and the following June it became an affiliate of CBS.

On Aug. 11, 1938, the daytime power was increased to 250 watts and on Sept. 28, 1939, the station was authorized to increase its power to 250 watts at night as well. Effective March 1, 1941, the station was granted 1,000 watts power day and night.

On Saturday, March 28, 1941, KGLO began operating as a regional station, having effected an exchange of wave lengths with Decorah to obtain the outlet. The following December the station was notified it had been granted 5,000 watt power.

Separate Corporations

In 1943 the Globe-Gazette and KGLO became separate corporations, KGLO taking the name of Lee Radio, Inc. Since the death of Eighmey in 1947, the operation of KGLO has been under the direction of Herbert Ohrt.

On March 1, 1948, KSMN went on the air as a 1,000 watt daylight time radio station, headed by Robert M. Carson president and general manager.

Two weeks later KICM, a 250 watt full-time radio station, opened, becoming at once an affiliate of the Mutual network. KICM later changed to KRIB, is now operated by the Mason City Broadcasting Company and was organized by Louis, Abbott, William and George Wolf.

As Mason City's first 100 years come to a close, KGLO and KSMN were awaiting the time for hearing on their applications for a permit to operate a television station here.

NOTE: Francis C. Eighmey was born in 1903, and died in 1947, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Robert M. Carson was born in Des Moines, served in the U.S. Army during World War II, was owner and manager of KSMN Radio Station from 1947 to 1956, moved in 1957 to Winter Park, Florida were he operated a company that produced business, industrial and governmental documentary films. In 1991 he moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where he died June 28, 1998 at the age of 80 years. Sylvia (Cohen) Carson, graduate of Mason City High School and his wife, died in 1982.

Louis Wolf was born in 1900, and died in 1978. Bernice S. Wolf, his wife, was born in 1905, and died in 2002. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Abbott E. Wolf was born September 2, 1901, and died February 19, 1979. His wife, Marie G. Wolf, was born May 14, 1902, and died April 21, 1977. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Big Dairy Industry

One of the big industrial developments in the past 25 years has been the growth of State Brand Creameries. Organized in 1927 as Iowa's first butter marketing organization by eight creamerymen, State Brands has grown into a giant, which last year [1952] did a business of almost $26 million, handling the production of 128 member creameries and also manufacturing large quantities of dry milk.

Other industries flourished handling dairy products, poultry, butter, eggs, cheese and milk. The carbonated beverage industry became large operations as did bakeries, foundries, hatcheries, printing establishment, tent and awning and other manufacturing concerns.

New Industries Added

In 1946 International Minerals and Chemical Corporation started manufacturing fertilizer in a new industrial development area in the northwest part of the city. In 1951 the company completed a sulphuric (sic) acid unit, making the total investment in Mason City a million dollars.

In 1947, the Mode-O-Day factory opened at 840 12th N. W., employing women for the manufacture of ladies lingerie.

The last two decades saw the Kayenay Engraving Company expand into a large plant and associated company, Metalcraft, Inc., came into being.

Mason City observes its centennial with three important new additions to its industrial skyline.

New Plants Built

The North Iowa Co-Operative Processing Association has erected a $1,500,000 solvent type soybean plant on Highway 106, assuring the farm population of North Iowa and Southern Minnesota of the best possible outlet for soybeans and a means of soybean meal supply.

The $2,000,000 plant of Allied Mills, Inc., west of Mason City, was built to manufacture farm feeds and such provides a new outlet and market for grains produced in this section.

South of Mason City is the new Swift and Company artificial fertilizer factory, built to manufacture agricultural plant foods to be distributed in Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas.

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[Section 7, Page 33] Iowa's deep rich soil produced fine crops, but made bad roads.

That's what the engineers found out when they undertook the gigantic job of lifting the highways out of the mud.

As gasoline powered vehicles replaced the horse, it became evident a revolution was on the way in travel and transportation. In this revolution Mason City came to play a strategic role.

Just as their forefathers battled to bring railroads, Mason Cityans now sought to make their city the hub of a highway system. They foresaw the time when marked all weather roads would stretch across the nation. They became pioneers in developing an east and west highway, stretching across the state and identified as the North Iowa Pike. They took part in marking of a route from Canada to the Gulf called the Jefferson Highway.

Highways Converged Here

Mason City was a natural converging point for highways, as it was for railroads. The North Iowa Pike, which, in general followed the course of the present highway 18, was along an old Indian trail that goes back hundreds of years.

An ancient map that dates back to 1680, five years after Father Marquette sailed down the Wisconsin River into the Mississippi, shows a double line drawn from the mouth of the Wisconsin at Prairie du Chien directly west to the Mississippi River. The trail was marked Chemin des Voyageurs (a road of travelers). It was used by the Sauk Indians in their travel between the Mississippi and Missouri and in time became a route by which furs were brought to river trading posts.

Some of the early settlers followed this road across North Iowa. This very trail from Clear lake eastward was established as state road No. 1 in November, 1855, by the legislature. It went through Mason City, Rock Grove (Nora Springs), St. Charles (Charles City) and connected with the old military road from Fort Atkinson to McGregor.

Roads Established

Other roads were established in the county the next year by order of the county judge. One of these went from Mason City to Owens Grove and then to Rockford. There it connected with a road that went to Cedar Falls, where the settlers got their mail in early days.

Another road followed the banks of the Winnebago River toward Forest City and a third forded the river north of Mason City and wound its way to Rock Falls.

Abandonment of these original wagon trails has not only deprived travelers of short, direct routes but the following of section lines has cost the taxpayers vast sums of money, according to County Engineer R. E. Robertson, who is responsible for Cerro Gordo County's excellent farm to market roads. Most of the thousand miles of county roads are graveled to the extent that every farmer in the county has a surfaced road in front of his farm.

Turned Over to County
On July 1, 1913, the county trunk road system which up to that time had been in the hands of township trustees, was turned over to the county, with the county engineer in charge.

Cerro Gordo's first engineer was Ben Lampert, who served until Feb. 1, 1914, then Robertson took over the program. Grading of the 116 mile trunk system was started in 1915. Graveling got under way in 1921 and was completed by the time the state secondary road law was passed in 1930, placing 900 additional miles of farm roads in the hands of the county engineer.

Robertson built the county system to the point where it was the envy of the other 98 counties in the state, winning the plaudits, not only of those who benefit from it in all types of weather, but of highway engineers.

One Mile of Paving

When Robertson started his work Cerro Gordo County had only one mile of surfaced road. This was the first mile of rural paving laid in Iowa, built as an experiment, starting a mile west of the city limits and extending westward over low ground on highway 18. It was resurfaced in 1934. In 1915 the mile connecting this with Mason City limits was laid.

These first two miles of rural paving in the county were paid for with county funds derived from the motor licenses fees and by subscription.

When in 1916 Congress passed the Federal Aid Highway Act, Cerro Gordo County took immediate action and the first Federal Aid Project in Iowa was a stretch connecting the "first mile" with Clear Lake, which was completed in 1917.

In the summer of 1919 the county, with the help of private donations and federal aid, paved the Plymouth road from the city limits to the Ideal Sand and Gravel Company and also the highway going north as far as the American Crystal Sugar Company plant.

Passes Primary Laws

In 191 the Iowa legislature established the state primary law road system providing for the financing of road building. Under this system counties voted bond issues backed by the county but retired by funds from the primary road funds derived from gasoline taxes, auto licenses and federal aid.

At first 25 per cent of the cost of rural pavements was levied against adjoining property owners, but these were later reimbursed.

Cerro Gordo County was one of the first to make use of the law, along with other North Iowa counties interested in promoting the North Iowa Pike. Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Hancock, Kossuth, Palo Alto and Clay Counties in 1919 voted east and west pavements.

Meanwhile there arrived in Mason City a man destined to have a leading part in this giant road building program. This was Raymond Zack who first came to Cerro Gordo County as chief on preliminary surveys in 1919. On Sept. 1, 1919, he was named engineer for the highway district, with Mason City as his headquarters.

Rush Paving Program

It wasn't long after Zack's arrival that North Iowans enjoyed a continuous pavement from Charles City to Algona.

In 1920 and 1921 the county extended its pavement on highway 18 to the east and west lines, and southward to the Franklin County line and a few years later the paving was pushed northward.

Meanwhile developments had turned the attention of highway enthusiasts to a north and south route of national dimensions through Mason City. The opening scene of this drama was on a chilly Jan. 5, 1915, when close to 100 men gathered at the Cerro Gordo County courthouse.

On Highway Project

Hugh H. Shepard, lawyer and abstractor, lifelong resident of Mason City, called the meeting to order and explained that the Interstate Trail Association had been organized to mark a highway from Des Moines to Kansas City. Action was taken to join in the project.

Later the Interstate Trail became a part of a much greater project, the Jefferson Highway, with markers extending from New Orleans to Winnipeg, Canada.

Five of the early organizers of the Interstate Trail, including Hugh Shepard, later became international presidents of the Jefferson Highway. Motorcade tours of the highway became popular. When he was president of the Association in 1925, Shepard was presented keys to the city in impressive ceremonies at Winnipeg.

It was a proud day for the Jefferson Highway and other road pioneers in Mason City and North Iowa when on Oct. 11, 1930, they watched the last mix of concrete poured on the Iowa side of the state line north of Northwood, the final step in making 600 miles of unbroken pavement from the southern border of Iowa to northern Minnesota.

A few days later when the highway was opened for traffic a ribbon cutting ceremony was held. A concrete monolith on the east side of the highway was erected in memory of the occasion.

Mason City joined with other communities in 1924 to support the Atlantic, Yellowstone Pacific (AYP) as one of the great east-west marked thoroughfares.

Both the AYP and the Jefferson Highways ceased operations when the federal highway numbering program was adopted.

Built Truck Business

Just as the early network of railroads set the stage for building Mason City into a large distributing point, highways and motor transport came now as an added service.

The first efforts toward the building of truck transportation took place 35 years ago when draymen in surrounding towns brought produce to Mason City and started picking up return loads in the form of merchandise.

By 1923 these operations reached proportions where regulation by the state was deemed necessary. A law was passed requiring trucks be granted public convenience and necessity permits by the railroad commission.

Mason City Saw Struggle

The encroachment of motor transportation into the field held so long by railroads was not without a struggle. One of the dramatic scenes of that battle took place in Mason City.

In 1922 there arrived in Mason City a 23 year old farm girl, who had operated a bus between Cedar Falls and Waterloo. Noting that Mason City was in the center of the largest stretch of paving in Iowa she transferred her operations here and borrowed money from her father at Nashua to enlarge operations.

As business increased she purchased more buses and was soon operating a fleet of 15 of them from Minneapolis to Des Moines on a north and south route and east and west from Charles City to Algona. Helen Schultz became widely known as the Iowa bus queen.

Law Is Passed

This was the situation when on July 1, 1923, the law went into effect requiring her to have a permit, from the railroad commission. The law provided for a tax of one-eighth of a cent per ton [?] mile for motor carriers, which meant $200 a month on the Schulz bus fleet [The Red Ball Bus Line].

At the hearing before the commission five railroads appeared opposing the granting of the permit, the Mason City and Clear Lake, Chicago and Great Western, Chicago and Northwestern, M. and St. l. and the Fort Dodge, Des Moines and Southern Railroads.

Each railroad presented testimony and arguments that there was no need for the bus fleet. Against this powerful array of corporate legal talent, Miss Schulz used an armful of affidavits signed by hundreds of men, women and children who used her buses.

Had Convincing Evidence

Children stated they would not be able to get to school without her buses. A large number said they would not be able to make weekend visits and still others that they could not get to the city, do their shopping and get back the same day without the bus service. Her evidence was convincing and the commission granted the permit.

The bus queen, who soon after the hearing became Mrs. Don Brewer, had early competition with a bus operator in Minneapolis, whose Jefferson Transportation Company line extended into Iowa. They compromised by having their buses connect at Albert Lea. In 1930 Mrs. Brewer sold out to the Jefferson Company.

NOTE: Raymond R. Zack was born in 1886, and died in 1964. Charlotte H. Zack, his wife, was born in 1885, and died in 1973. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Hugh Shepard was born in 1876, and died in 1970, interment was made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Helen (Schulz) Brewer's maiden name has also been spelled "Schultz."

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[Section 7, Page 34]

When jobbers and wholesalers sought to expand the Mason City trade territory in the years following World War I, they found a serious handicap. In the matter of freight rated Mason City was perched on a high plateau above competing cities. The story of how this was remedied is one of the dramatic episodes of the city's commercial development.

The procuring of lower freight rates came to be one of the major tasks of the Chamber of Commerce, which, with increasing competition between cities for new industries and trade territory, had a continously expanding role in the community. Heading the Chamber of Commerce operations during these critical years was Secretary Lester Milligan.

To meet the rate situation the Chamber's traffic department in 1923 under the leadership of Fred Eslick procured the services of B. J. Drummond as traffic commissioner. By appearances before the Interstate Commerce Commission and by negotiation with the carriers, Drummond succeeded over a period of years in bringing Mason City into equality with other cities.

Mason City Isolated

Drummond found some strange rate situations that served to isolate Mason City. First class rates to Mason City from New York were 26 cents a hundred pounds higher than to Minneapolis. The rates to Minneapolis were $1.95 compared with $2.21 for Mason City. In the fifth class carload rate from New York was 87 cents for Mason City and 78 cents for Minneapolis.

Drummond made a showing that Mason City was an intermediate point between New York and Minneapolis and that much of the freight to the Twin Cities moved through Mason City. In April, 1926, the commission ruled that the Minneapolis rates were to be the maximum for Mason City, which meant a savings of about $100,000 a year on freight to Mason City.

Final decision on this so-called Fourth Section case came in December, 1928, allowing Mason City a 15 per cent reduction from the original rates, resulting in a saving of an estimated $200,000 a year. This was a signal victory for five years of effort.

In Big Coal Case

Meanwhile Drummond carried his fight for equitable rates to other fronts, never seeking rate adjustments other than such as would give Mason City equality with competing cities. One of the important cases involved rates on coal from Southern Illinois.

The Mason Cityan was also before the commission at St. Louis to procure lower rates on oil. His efforts involved rates n building materials, steel, fruit and vegetables and many other commodities.

An example of how this service contributed to the community is the State Brand Creameries, which for a time was considering moving to a Mississippi River city to procure equitable rates to the east to compete with other large dairies. Drummond procured a rate adjustment, making it possible for the plant to remain here.

Summary Presented

A summary of a decade of work was presented in 1934, showing an annual savings of $300,000 a year in freight rates. This included less than carload lots, $148,393; miscellaneous carloads, $64,933; general carloads (distributors), $51,330; general carloads (producers), $34,855; and freight overcharges recovered, $1,235.

The big tasks in equalizing freight rates had by that time been accomplished, but the traffic department was kept busy attending other hearings, presenting new cases, auditing bills and giving advice on shipping.

Through the years there has been built up in this department the largest tariff file in the city, which is constantly being consulted by shippers.

Upon the retirement of B. J. Drummond, Kon Hagen headed the traffic department for a number of years and at present [1953] Ralph Shelton is in charge of the office.

The traffic department, which originally financed itself, was later made part of the Chamber budget.

NOTE: Lester H. Milligan was born March 12, 1893, and died July 12, 1977, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Frederick Charles Eslick was born in Lehigh, Iowa, on May 10, 1882, and died September 10, 1947, Mason City, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

B. J. Drummond died on October 28, 1957 with interment made a Memorial Park Cemetery.

Konrad N. Hagen died on February 19, 1958, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

To Other Fields

Meanwhile, under the leadership of Secretary Milligan, the Chamber of Commerce directed its effort to other fields, including that of interesting new industries and jobbers in coming to Mason City.

With the new impetus provided by equitable rates, rapid growth took place in wholesale business. The 55 distributing houses here have an annual volume of $46 million and employ almost 1,000 men and women.

Beginning with the erection of the International Harvester Company Building by a a group of Mason Cityans, there has taken place a big expansion in the distribution of farm implements, with John Deere, Allis Chalmers, Case and others doing business here. This is a natural field for Mason City, surrounded as it is with rich agricultural lands.

Petroleum Projects

The petroleum productions distribution has increased manifold. The Standard Oil Company operates a division officer here for 42 Iowa counties. The office was first opened Jan. 1, 1924, in the upper floors of the present [1953] Piggly Wiggly store building, employing 25 persons and now has 155 employes (sic).

In 1926 the office was moved to the second and third floors of the Woolworth building and in 1937 the present [1953] office building at 3rd and Washington N. W., was erected.

Most of the other major oil companies distribute their products in Mason City and to the surrounding area.

NOTE: The Standard Oil office building, built in 1936/37, was remodeled in 1959 and became the third courthouse for Cerro Gordo County in Mason City.

Distribute Feeds

An excellent example of Mason City's growth as a distributing point is the story of the Northwestern Distributing Company, Inc., started by R. B. Girton in 1919 and joined a decade later by his sons, Harlan and Russell Girton. The third generation in the family, Bruce Girton, recently became active in the business.

Northwestern Distributing Company started as a brokerage business in a rented building on S. Federal and in 1921 established operations in a wooden building on the present [1953] site of the company plant at 436 2nd N. E. When this building was destroyed by fire in 1934, the present [1953] modern brick structure was erected.

In 1947 and 1948 the plant was remodeled and enlarged and equipped with the most modern machinery, as well as a 10,000 bushel elevator. The plant has a capacity of 150 tons a day of manufactured feeds. It operates five of its own trucks, besides contract haulers to distribute its products to 400 dealers over a radius of 125 miles of Mason City. Many of the dealers do their own hauling.

NOTE: Robert B. Girton was born in 1875, and died in 1961. Jennie K. (Matthews) Girton, his wife, was born in 1876, and died in 1956.

Harlan Wilson Girton was born in West Bend, Iowa, August 5, 1905, served as president of Northwestern Distributing Company for 39 years, retiring in 1966, and died at the age of 94 years on March 28, 2000, Mason City. His first wife, Frances "Gretchen" (Carlson) Girton, was born in Thornton on November 16, 1909, and died October 29, 1935, Mason City. Katherine S. (Sheffler) Girton, his second wife, was born in 1912, died January 25, 1998.

Russell B. Girton was born in 1903, and died in 1969. His wife, Margaret V. Girton, was born in 1907, and died in 1994.

Bruce B. Girton was born in 1929, and died in 2007.

The Girton family came to Mason City in 1919. All interments were made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Story Repeated

This is a story that has repeated itself in other ventures as small concerns have grown to be large companies. Principal lines of distribution include automotive products, bakery products, beverages, farm goods, feeds and seeds, groceries, machinery, tobacco and builders supplies.

Nationally known firms operating from Mason City include Kurtz Company (Crane), Crescent Electrical Supply Company (General Electric), National Biscuit Company, Hutchinson Ice Cream Company (Borden's), National Cash Register, Standard Brands, Swift and Company and Western Grocer. Nichols Wire and Aluminum, Plumb Supply and Capital Tobacco have established distributing points here.

Sponsors Chest

Meanwhile the city was turning its attention to other fields, particularly efforts for building the human values of the community. It was this growing sentiment that led the Chamber of Commerce to sponsor the Community Chest and to organize the Social Welfare League, which later was named Family Service.

On Aug. 9, 1923, the ways and means committee of the Chamber recommended that a Community Chest bureau be established. That fall the first joint fund raising campaign was conducted in behalf of the Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, YMCA and YWCA.

The idea of making one appeal once a year for the support of worthy agencies was new, but this means of eliminating duplications of effort had its appeal and $40,189.81 was raised to meet at goal of $40,000.

In the following year Family Service, then known as the Social Welfare League, became a member of the Chest. The league was organized after Chamber of Commerce studies showed the need for a full-time worker in the field of family rehabilitation. Previously this type of work had been carried on by the Cerro Gordo Service League, financed by voluntary contributions.

Part of Chest

The Public Health Nursing Association became a part of the Chest almost from the start, having previously been a project of the welfare committee of the Women's Club.

The agencies of the Chest and other public groups then joined in organizing the Mason City Council of Social Agencies as a meeting ground for all workers in the welfare field.

The Chamber of Commerce operated the Community Chest as a subdivision until 1938 when chest was incorporated as a separate entity. The Chamber of Commerce continued to carry on its annual campaign and had general supervision over the organization until 1946 when Mary Stebbins, as secretary-treasurer, took over the office.

Raised $1,800,000

In the 30 years of its operation the Community Chest has raised more than $1,800,000 in funds for welfare and character building agencies.

In the last three decades there has come a new force in the community in the activities of service clubs, which are a means of group expression for business men in a host of activities, particularly in projects to help boys and girls.

The Rotary Club was organized in 1916 and the Lions and Kiwanis Clubs came into existence in 1920. Later the Exchange Club was organized as a fourth service men's club and the Business and Professional Women's Clb and the Wa-Tan-Ye as similar organizations for women.

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[Section 7, Page 35] On Feb. 21, 1927, Mason City voted to adopt the city manager form of government and herewith began a new era in the municipal affairs of the community.

By a vote of 1,922 to 1,413, the city decided to embark on a plan of municipal rule that was first tried at Stouton, Va., in 1908, won wide attention when it was adopted by Dayton, Ohio, in 1914 and was being considered more and more by citizens interested in sound government.

The vote was evidence the pendulum had swung back. Under this plan the city council passed the ordinances, leaving the administration to the city manger, a person who had made a profession of administering municipal affairs.

Had Many Problems

On April 1, 1927, there gathered around the council table on the second floor of the present [1953] highway commission building on 2nd N. E., a group of councilmen, newly elected under the manager plan, with problems dropped into their laps that had accumulated over the years.

The city's debt stood at $1,191,000, an all time high. It had increased $425,000 in the preceding seven years.

The commission form of government, voted in with much enthusiasm the decade before, had not lived up to its promise. And ever since the Potter powerhouse regime the city had shied away from public officials too eager for municipal improvements.

Debt Mounted

City officials through the early twenties had been able to keep the tax levy from going up from the fairly constant 66 mill levy, but they were unable to keep the city's debt from mounting.

Voters at municipal elections were swept by sudden emotional changes. In 1921 H. D. Reynolds, prominent business man, was the only nominee to file for mayor and his name was the only one on the ballot for that office.

A newspaper story predicting his election set off a write-in or "sticker" campaign for A. H. Beecher, who was elected to the office by a vote of 2,715 to 2,544. Serving with Beecher as commissioners were J. D. Barlow and Walter Veech. Under Barlow's direction investigators were brought in to expose what the mayor believed was an underworld of law violators in the city.

In the 1923 election J. H. McGhee became mayor with Harry W. Hayes and E. J. Patton as commissioners. McGhee died in office and Atty. Lowell L. Forbes was appointed in his place Jan. 7, 1925, to serve until April 1, when the new administration took over.

NOTE: Howard D. Reynolds was born in 1868, and died in 1941. Annie I. Reynolds, his wife, was born in 1868, and died in 1928. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Adolphus Henry Beecher was born in 1855, and died in 1938. Laure C. Beecher, his wife, was born in 1853, and died in 1942. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

James D. Barlow was born in 1859, and died in 1950. Hattie M. Barlow, his wife, was born in 1862, and died in 1951. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Erwin J. Patton was born in 1881, and died in 1967.

Lowell L. Forbes was born January 17, 1894, Greene County, Iowa, and served as a sergeant with Company D of the 350th Infantry during World War I.

Potter Mayor Again

T. A. Potter, who worked the magic of municipal improvements a decade earlier, was named mayor in a hotly contested election in 1925, winning over J. T. Laird by 3,354 to 3,114. Patton was re-elected and Art Harris elected the third commissioner.

It was during this Potter administration that the campaign for the city manager government got under way with the leadership of the late R. L. Jackson.

With adoption of the city manager form a number of business men became candidates for the council. Elected were E. S. Selby, treasurer of Jacob E. Decker and Sons, who was named mayor, and L. P. Courshon, Fred Eslick, George Barrett and Herman M. Knudson.

The new council has not been in office two weeks when it engaged P. F. Hopkins of Ames as city manager to start work June 1. Hopkins and the council immediately introduced a program of economy and efficiency. maintaining the city tax levy at the level it had been, they concentrated on reduction of the city's debt and the heavy interest charges. Every available dollar was put to work purchasing bonds before maturity.

NOTE: Joseph T. Laird was born in January of 1873, and died in 1947, Mason City, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Robert Lyon Jackson was born in 1872 and died in 1932, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Arthur Harris died April 14, 1961, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

George C. Barrett was born in 1892, and died in 1978, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Reduce Fire Losses

The modernization program for city departments included the hiring of an experienced fire chief, Dan Shire, under whose direction fire losses in the city were reduced to a small figure. Police were provided with more modern equipment.

NOTE: Daniel H. Shire, Jr. was born February 21, 1916, and died July 27, 2002, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Through efforts of the city and the Chamber of Commerce a new postoffice became a reality in 1931. The building cost $343,400.42.

In Office Six Years

Hopkin's tenure of office as city manager lasted six years, during which period he had a council that gave him complete co-operation. During this period the city manager reduced the city's debt by $55,000 and added a number of improvements.

A turn of tide came in a memorable election on March 27, 1933. J. T. Laird and David Olson were elected to the council in a huge landslide of votes. With J. J. Burns, who was elected a year earlier, these anti-manager councilmen were now in control of city affairs. The day after the election Hopkins resigned.

A "New Deal" for City

Electing Laird mayor, this group, which termed itself a "new deal" for Mason City, announced it would operate a government with a "dummy mayor over whose dead body" the council would manage all details of city government. The council named E. H. Crofoot, water superintendent, as the "city manager."

The "new deal" coalition, however, did not hold together long. At a memorable council session on the following Aug. 14, it broke. Burns joined Knudson and Pagenhart in accepting a proposed reduction in electric rates. Up to this time the proposal had been blocked ostensibly because the majority on the council favored a municipal light plant.

At this meeting Mayor Laird stated this clamor for a municipal plant was staged to get bargaining power for still lower electric rates.

With this switch in the balance any further "new deal" measures were doomed, but restoration of the full city manager for did not come until two years later.

By the next election on March 25, 1935, it was evident the city had had enough of the pseudo-manager setup. Five supporters of the manager government were elected. W. S. Wilcox and Leo Davey replaced Burns and Stubbs (successor to Knudson who resigned). Harry C. Brown, Arleigh Marshall and Ray Pauley were elected to take office the following April.

These councilmen restored the manager form in fact as well as name and on Aug. 5, 1935, engaged the services of Herbert T. Barclay of Kansas City as city manager.

NOTE: David Olson was born August 29, 1870, organized and managed for 30 years Mason City's co-operative lumber yard, and died September 13, 1957. His first wife, Ina J. Olson, was born May 1, 1876, and died July 2, 1932. His second wife, Johanna Olson, was born May 22, 1882, and died August 9, 1954. Interments were made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

John H. Burns was born in 1855, and died in 1939, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Leo A. Davey was born in 1886, and died in 1946. His wife, Florence E. Davey, was born in 1888, and died in 1961. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Harry C. Brown was born in 1885, and died in 1951. Fern E. Brown, his wife, was born in 1891, and died in 1970. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Arleigh J. Marshall was born October 5, 1889, and died September 12, 1950, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Ray E. Pauley was born in 1884, and died in 1954. Pearle (Markham) Pauley, his wife, was born in 1881, and died in 1972. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Improvements Made

Under Barclay's supervision a number of significant improvements were added. The city voted to bond the municipality for $25,000 to purchase the old postoffice [pictured at left] for conversion to a city hall.

On Dec, 9, 1935, there appeared the last entry of J. H. McEwen, city clerk since 1902. On Feb. 3, 1916, following his death, a successor, Rena Mack, was named. She was succeeded by the present [1953] Pearl Kellogg. F. C. DeSart was named auditor.

Meanwhile remodeling of the old postoffice into a city hall proceeded and on Feb. 26, 1937, open house was held. In the spring of 1938, Carl Grupp replaced Wilcox on the council.

On June 6, 1938, the city voted renewal of the gas and electric franchises to the People's Gas and Electric and on the following June 18 John Gallagher was appointed on the council to replace Leo Davey, who resigned.

NOTE: John Howard McEwen was born in 1855, and died January 26, 1936, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Pearl Bell Kellogg was born December 24, 1889, Jackson County, Iowa, and died June 25, 1976, Mason City. Interment was made at Elmwood St. Joseph Cemetery.

Francis C. DeSart was born in 1903, and died in 1970, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Let Library Contracts

On June 24 of that year the city let contracts for the erection of the public library on a scenic seven acre site given by Mrs. C. H. McNider and Gen. Hanford MacNider. Part of the cost was provided by federal funds.

This was a period [of] tranquility in city affairs. At the March 27, 1939, election Brown, Marshall and Pauley were re-elected. Two years later the whole council - Brown, Grupp, Gallagher, Marshall and Pauley - was re-elected.

On March 29, 1943, Morgan J. McEnaney and Carl Holvik were elected for the term starting a year later, succeeding Grupp and Gallagher, who were not candidates for re-election. McEnaney was called into the armed services before his term could begin and Dr. Harold Jennings was named in his place.

NOTE: Morgan J. McEnaney was born in 1906, and died in 1964. Viola G. McEnaney, his wife, was born in 1902, and died in 1981. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Dr. Harold H. "Doc" Jennings was born July 2, 1906, and died April 24, 1993. His wife, Alva M. Jennings, was born in 1905, and died in 1997. Interment was made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

City Manager Voted Out

The apparent calm in city affairs was but a lull before other disturbances. On Jan. 21, 1944, by a comparatively light vote of 2,615 to 2,490, the city voted to abandon the city manager form of government.

As result of this election, the city on April 1, 1945, was back to the mayor and council form, which it abandoned in 1913. The manager form, under which the city was governed for 18 years, was at an end.

Mayor Ray E. Pauley of the retiring council, in a statement to the public, outlined the accomplishments in the nine years Barclay served as manager, during which were continued the general policies laid down by Hopkins in his previous six years as manager.

These included the acquiring of a city hall, the erection of a library, the building of a storm sewer and paving of the business district, a million dollar airport, a pumping station and fire sub-station in the south part of the city, the M. and St. L. underpass and the adoption of a comprehensive city plan.

The mayor and council for that went into effect April, 1, 1945, was headed by Mayor Howard E. Bruce, who a few weeks before had retired as manager of the Mason City division of the Standard Oil Company. He has continued in office since, being elected to his 4th term in 1951.

Elected with Bruce were S. W. Lock, Adrian Hart, Dr. Harold Jennings, Henry Rheingaus, Emit Koerber and Fred Steffen. Since then E. J. Kelly replaced Hart and Oscar Jewell, Lloyd McGee and C. E. Leffler replaced Koerber, Dr. Jennings and Steffen.

Among the accomplishments of the Bruce regime was the completion of four miles of street pavement in 1952, the largest paving project since Mayor Potter gave the city a face lifting 35 years before. Heading the 1952 project was City Engineer Cliff Hamblin.

NOTE: Howard E. Bruce was born in 1880, and died in 1978, interment was made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Safford Wepking Lock was born May 17, 1906, Mason City, was a photographer for The Globe-Gazette, served as chairman of the Water Works Commission, and died January 6, 1995 at the age of 88 years. Lena M. (Pals) Lock, his wife, was born February 4, 1908, Wright County, Iowa, and died January 24, 2005 at the age of 96 years, Mason City. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Fred G. Steffen was born February 11, 1885, and died May 1, 1972, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Edmond J. Kelly was born November 25, 1876, and died October 21, 1960. Kathryn A. Kelly, his wife, was born January 13, 1881, and died October 22, 1917. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Oscar L. Jewell was born October 26, 1899, and died November 13, 1977, interment was made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Lloyd Lee McGee was born in 1907, and died in 1981. Hazel J. McGee, his wife, was born in 1904, and died in 1991. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Clifford W. Hamblin resigned his positions with Mason City in August of 1957 to accept a position as St. Paul, Minnesota assistant water department manager. In the Globe-Gazette article dated August 15, 1957 (page 10) it was said, "The resignation was received with regret by the council and Mayor George F. Mendon, who commented that 'he's going to be very, very hard to replace. Hamblin has been a city employe (sic) since 1948 and has been adviser and planner with the council on most of the major city projects since World War II.' Hamblin said, 'I regret leaving Mason City very much as it is my home town and a wonderful place to live and work and have a family.' In his letter of resignation, he said, 'Mason City has been very kind to me' and cited the loyalty of those in the departments over which he had control. . . A Mason city High School and Junior College graduate, he received a degree in civil engineer from Iowa State College in 1934. . . He became city waterworks and garbage an disposal plant superintendent in March, 1947 and [in 1952] was appointed city engineer in addition to those jobs. . . Hamblin, who was employed on the 'Manhattan Project' by the Dupont company, received an award from Secretary of Defense Henry L. Stimson for his work 'essential to the production of the atomic bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of World War II.'"

Clifford W. Hamblin was born December 24, 1909, Mason City, and died July 23, 1984, St. Paul, Minnesota.

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[Section 7, Page 36] It was a busy scene in the lobby of the First National Bank at 2:40 p. m., March 13, 1934. As the closing hour neared Mason Cityans came and went with quickened step. The bank's president, Willis G. C. Bagley, was talking to a banking client at his desk behind the railing.

In one of the teller's cages Harry C. Fisher, assistant cashier, was busy with bank routine. Up in a tiny fortress over the bank president's office Guard Tom Walters was boredly surveying the scene below him.

Standing at the first customer's counter was F. A. Stephenson, filling out a check. Beginning on the signature, he had his initials written when he was suddenly interrupted by a yell resembling that of a Comanche Indian.

Was Top Drama

Two heavily armed men had entered the lobby. What transpired in the next 15 minutes was probably the top drama of the city's history. In that period seven bandits headed by the notorious John Dillinger held the city with all its enforcement facilities in their grip while they robbed the First National Bank of $52,000 in one of the most daring holdups of all time.

It was the first bank robbery in the city's history, although such crimes had taken place in the surrounding area almost from the time of the first settlers.

The first bank theft in this area was on May 5, 1866, when the National Bank of Osage was entered by burglars and robbed of $20,000.

First Burglary in 1871

The first known burglary committed in Mason City was on Aug. 21, 1871. While Agent Cavenaugh of the Central Railway of Iowa (M. and St. L.) was eating his noon lunch, someone entered the station and stole between $1,500 and $2,000 in cash by breaking open the money drawer. The guilty person was never found. But in all its history Mason City never had an experience resembling that of March 13, 1934.

Only two of the seven bandits entered the bank, while the other five watched outside. One of these two, John Hamilton, stuck a pistol in the bank president's face. Bagley jumped from his chair into his private office. Unable to push open the door, the bandit fired through the door panel, the bullet grazing Bagley's vest.

Meanwhile the guard in the bullet proof case fired a tear gas shell, which struck one of the bandits, Eugene Green. Green and Hamilton peppered the bulletproof glass of the cage with bullets. The guard was unable to return fire for fear of endangering others. On trying to fire another tear gas bomb his gun jammed.

Ordered to Lie Down

Hamilton and Green then ordered everyone to life on the floor. Green posted himself at the door, while Hamilton scooped up the money from the tellers' cages. He ordered Fisher into the vault.

Entering the vault with Hamilton, Fisher allowed the door to swing shut. The vault keeper then told Hamilton he had been locked in and began poking packages of $5 bills through the bars to the impatient Hamilton, who kept asking for larger denominations.

Meanwhile Green, the other mobster, was calling from the door, urging Hamilton to hurry. Finally Green told him the gang was leaving and the furious Hamilton left, leaving $200,000 still in the vault.

At the same time dramatic action as going on outside the bank. When the bandit car approached the bank for the holdup it came from the east along State, stopping in the middle of the street in front of the Prescription Shop at 9 East State.

Driving was Tommy Carroll, Hamilton, Green and John Dillinger, who had escaped from the Crown Point, Ind., jail only a fortnight before, moved to the front of the bank. Dillinger had a Thompson sub-machine gun and Hamilton had at least one pistol, which he dropped in a teller's cage while in the bank.

Covering State Street for the mobsters were Carroll, Homer Van Meter and Lester Gillis, better known as "Baby Face" Nelson. Of the entire mob, Nelson was the most dangerous, being nervous with itchy trigger fingers.

Served as Cover

As Dillinger took up his position in front of the building several employes (sic) and customers of the bank were quickly marched outside to serve as a protective cover.

The use of home towners as a protective wall made it impossible for law enforcement officers to act. Across the street behind the big rock in the park, Police Officer J. C. Buchanan was crouched with a shotgun, but the hostages made it impossible for him to shoot. Deputy Sheriff John Wallace arrived with a machine gun but likewise was unable to use it.

From his third floor office above the bank, Police Judge John C. Shipley fired an old Iver Johnson pistol, striking Dillinger in the left shoulder. Dillinger fired back, but Shipley was not hit.

On the State Street side Homer Van Meter stood in front of the Prescription Shop while Carroll guarded the car and "Baby Face" Nelson was covering the north side of the street from the alley to the bank corner.

R. L. James Shot

Just as these men had taken their stands, R. L. James, secretary of the school board, came along on his way to the bank. Just as he reached the corner he heard gunshots inside and glimpsed the scene in front of the bank.

The board secretary turned to retrace his step. He didn't hear Nelson's warning to stop and the next thing he knew "Baby Face" had knocked his legs out from under him with the Thompson gun. Two bullets struck him in the right leg.

Meanwhile all automobile traffic was stopped. Cars that came too close were blasted through the radiator and front.

With the cash scooped up in a large canvas bag, Hamilton and Green emerged from the bank with Dillinger surrounded themselves with hostages as they moved around the corner to the waiting car.

As the men came down State toward the car, Hamilton spied James lying on the sidewalk.

"I thought we weren't going to have any of this," he said.

"I thought he was a copper," answered Nelson.

The school secretary's injuries were not too serious in themselves, but he had lost much blood while lying unattended for 15 minutes. He was 13 weeks recovering to the extend he could walk with crutches.

Hostages Around Car

When the bandits reached the car, they placed an even dozen hostages on the running boards and rear bumper.

Officers rushing into the bank building tried to get into positions where they could fire at the bandits without injuring the hostages, but the mobsters had done their job too well.

With the car fully loaded, the bandits moved slowly forward, turning right on Federal, going north two blocks and then turning west. Moving west on No. 18 to a mile beyond the city limits, the gunmen turned south on the graveled road, crossing the south Clear Lake pavement. They scattered roofing nails on the road to impede any cars that might be following them.

Police Followed

Not far behind them, however, Chief of Police E. J. Patton, Detective Leo Risacher and Officer R. Oulman were following. Once the bandit car stopped and a gunman fired a high powered bullet into the police car.

The bandit car proceeded south and crossed highway 65 four miles south of Mason City. At a point near Hanford the hostages were released and more tacks were scattered.

Although the gangsters made a successful haul here and escaped, it was not long before the vengeance of the law caught up with all of them.

Green was the first to go, being killed in April a few days after he and Dillinger shot their way out of a federal trap in the Twin Cities. Green was shot and fatally wounded by federal agents. It was from the dying lips of Eugene Green that information about the robbery was verified.

The other six soon followed Green. Hamilton was shot through the back in a running gun battle with Minnesota deputies near St. Paul and his body was later recovered from a shallow grave in central Illinois.

Accosted by Police

Carroll was accosted by two Waterloo policemen who wanted to know why he had different sets of license plates in his car. He attempted to draw a gun, but was slugged in the jaw by one of the detectives. Then, starting to run, he turned into a blind alley and was shot and killed by the pursuing officers.

Van Meter died before the blazing guns of federal officers. Dillinger was betrayed by "the woman in the red dress" and was killed by pursuing officers.

"Baby Face" Nelson, the worst of the lot, was killed by two federal agents, who were themselves slain in the gun battle. Nelson escaped, but the 19 wounds he received in the fight proved fatal and his body was discovered on a highway near Chicago the following day.

All of the seven men were dead before Thanksgiving Day following the Mason City March 13 robbery. So ended the career of the notorious Dillinger gang that gave Mason City its worst tangle with crime.

NOTE: Willis G. C. Bagley was born October 29, 1873, Wisconsin, served as state treasurer for the State of Iowa, and died October 20, 1943, Des Moines, Iowa. His wife, Winifred (Bogardus) Bagley, was born August 31, 1874, and died May 11, 1967. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Harry C. Fisher was born August 18, 1874, and died July 15, 1972, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Thomas B. Walters was born May 5, 1903, and died June 14, 1974. His wife, Hazel M. Walters, was born March 23, 1904, and died January 6, 1997. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Furman A. Stephenson was born February 25, 1857, New Jersey, and died January 17, 1941. Sarah Ann "Sadie" (Harned) Stephenson, his wife, was born August 9, 1865, Fulton, Illinois, and died July 22, 1958, Mason City. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

James C. Buchanan was born in 1872, and died in 1958, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

John C. Shipley was born in 1885, and died in 1946, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Erwin J. Patton was born in 1881, and died in 1967, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Leo R. Risacher was born in 1898, and died in 1971. Gertrude M. Risacher, his wife, was born in 1906, and died in 1971. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Raymond Richard Oulman was born in Bristol, Iowa, November 24, 1880, and died November 23, 1963, Parkersburg, Iowa. He served on the Mason City Police Department from June 15, 1919, in 1927 he established the Bureau of Identification and served as its superintendent for the police department until his retirement in 1944. Nellie Oline (Troe) Oulman, his wife, was born October 24, 1880, Silver Lake, Iowa, and died June 5, 1953, McIntire, Iowa. They were interred at Liberty Cemetery, Little Cedar, Iowa. SOURCE: Globe-Gazette Oulman obituaries of June 5, 1953 and November 29, 1963

Crowd outside bank after robbery

~ ~ ~ ~

John "Red" Hamilton was born in Canada in 1899, was mortally wounded during a shootout in Hastings, Minnesota, and died three days later on April 26, 1934, Aurora, Illinois. Dillinger and gang member Volney Davis buried Hamilton near Oswego, Illinois. His body was discovered on August 28, 1935, and identified from prison dental records.
SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hamilton

Eugene "Eddie" Green was born November 2, 1898, Pueblo, Colorado. Green was wounded by FBI agents outside of his 'safe house' in St. Paul, Minnesota, and consequently died at a local hospital there seven days later on April 10, 1934.
SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Green

Lester Joseph Gillis, a.k.a. George "Baby Face" Nelson, was born in Chicago, Illinois, December 6, 1908, and was shot and killed during a shootout November 27, 1934, outside of Chicago at the town of Barrington, Illinois.
SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_Face_Nelson

Homer Van Meter was born December 3, 1905 or 1906, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was killed on August 23, 1934, when he refused to obey their command to halt after confronting four police officers in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Tommy Carroll was born in 1901, Montana, and was mortally wounded on June 7, 1934, Waterloo, Iowa, when he attempted to flee from police and was shot in the process. He died at St. Francis Hospital. Most accounts state that Carroll was the driver during the Mason City robbery. SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Carroll

John Herbert Dillinger was born June 22, 1903, Indianapolis, Indiana, and was shot down and killed in the alley by the Biograph Theater, Chicago, Illinois, on July 22, 1934. SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dillinger

The seventh man who was with the Dillinger gang during the First National Bank robbery was probably either Joseph "Joe" Burns (captured in Chicago on December 17, 1934) or Ed "Red" Forsyth or John Paul Chase (born December 26, 1901, arrested in California December 27, 1934, sent directly to Alcatraz with a life sentence, paroled in 1966 over J. Edgar Hoover's protests, and died of cancer October 5, 1973 Palo Alto, California). SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Paul_Chase

Other Encounters

But enforcement officers had other encounters with law violations. One of the most sensational of a number of murder trials was that which followed the slaying of Morris Van Note on the night of another March 13 - exactly eight years before the bank robbery - at Lime Creek school No. 4, three and a half miles northwest of Mason City.

Van Note, a member of the school board, had gone to the school on this Saturday night in 1926 to protect its contents from the ravages of thieves who on three previous occasions had broken into the building.

When he failed to return, members of the family went in search for him. They found him lying face down on the frozen ground with a shotgun charge in his chest. Beside the body was an oil stove which had been taken out of the building and, most important of all, an old fashioned shotgun dropped by the thieves.

While this was not the gun that killed the Lime Creek farmer, as the discharged shells on the ground indicated, it proved to be the link on which the murder theory was built by Sheriff G. E. Cress and his investigating staff.

Gun Is Traced

The gun was traced through several ownerships until it rested in the possession of Everett Burzette, a Clear Lake ice cutter. When officers found the shack occupied by Everett Burzette and his cousin, Melvin Burzette, at the lake deserted, they immediately broadcasted circulars to police and sheriffs throughout the Middlewest.

The wide distribution of these circulars with pictures an descriptions of the men finally led to their arrest by police at Tulsa, Okla., April 26. While still in Tulsa, Melvin Burzette, the younger cousin, told County Attorney W. P. Butler (now district judge) that Everette Burzette fired the shot that killed Van Note.

At the trial, which opened Sept 20 before Judge C. H. Kelly of Charles City, Melvin Burzette was the key witness against his cousin. Everett denied that he was at the scene of the murder and established sufficient alibi to confuse the jurors who failed to agree after 72 hours of deliberation.

Hold Second Trial

In the second trial before Judge M. H. Kepler the jury found Burzette guilty of murder in the first degree and he was sentenced to life imprisonment at the state penitentiary at Fort Madison.

Melvin Burzette, the man "who slept in the arms of the state," pleaded guilty to second degree murder, as an accomplice of his older cousin, and was sentenced to 12 years at the penitentiary, being later paroled.

NOTE: Morris Cook Van Note was born on October 17, 1870, and was murdered on March 13, 1926. Interment was made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

William P. Butler was born in 1889, and died in 1984, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Because of the unsafe condition of the courtroom and hallway at the Cerro Gordo courthouse, judges had to limit the crowds at trials. For a 25 year period the unsafe conditions of the courthouse and the need for fireproof vaults has been emphasized by grand juries, judges and the bar.

Records in Jeopardy

On Nov. 23, 1929, the former judges of the district, M. H. Kepler, C. H. Kelley, M. F. Edwards and J. J. Clark, joined in a lengthy report stating the records in the courthouse were in jeopardy, that vaults in the building are neither fireproof nor smokeproof and that the building is structurally unsafe.

In 1937 the condition of courthouse again came up for consideration. The rear portion of the courtroom had sunk. A. H. Kimball, head of the architectural engineering department of Iowa State College, Ames, stated the courthouse "was not structurally safe" and should be replaced by a new building.

Vote Was Short

With government funds made available for public buildings, a proposition was submitted at a special election Sept. 6, 1938, to bond the county for $262,000 to be used with $213,750 provided by the government for the erection of a new courthouse.

The vote was 3,923 yes and 3,053 no, short of the necessary 60 per cent. The ghosts of an election held 80 years before rose to haunt the county. Another attempt was made at the November election in 1938. This time it carried 9,759 to 4,110. But then it was too late. The federal funds had been withdrawn.

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[Section 7, Page 37] "We pledge our faith and best efforts to do our part in the education of your children," said Supt. Lawrence H. Shepoiser in a statement prepared on the morning of Nov. 5,1952, after Mason City by a vote of 8,153 to 2,890 approved a $1,200,000 bond issue for the construction of two additional schools.

The superintendent was happy. Since coming to Mason City in 1947, he had worked to round out the physical needs and to improve the teaching standards of the schools. He had met some disappointments. This was proof once more that the people wanted good schools.

The passing of the bond issue, making possible the new Washington and Roosevelt grade schools, was the finishing touch of a school improvement program that stretched across two decades. In fact, the records don't show any period in the city's history when the community wasn't striving to improve its schools.

Changes Were Made

The last decades of the city's first 100 years witnessed fundamental changes in the school set up. The Junior High School came into being and the Junior College found a new, huge field of service that made it a Community College.

The community was still reeling from the blow of farm price deflation when it voted on Oct. 15, 1923, to bond the district for $90,000 for the erection of the Harding School.

At the same time another parochial school was added, with the construction of the Holy Family Catholic School, started under the supervision of the Rev. R. P. Murphy in 1924 and completed Dec. 15, 1926, at a cost of $150,000. The school chapel was used for a year and a half as temporary church for the parish.

Holy Family Catholic School was demolished in January and February of 2007.
The decorative block bearing the school's name and the cornerstone,
among a few other things, were salvaged and saved.

On Dec. 4, 1926, the old Central School, with all its historic memories, was destroyed by fire. The old cornerstone laid with such pomp and ceremony 54 years before was found, but the papers it contained had crumbled. To preserve something of the memories of the old building, the board built a two-story administration plant on the same site at a cost of $48,000.

Succeeded Vasey

In the fall of 1930 R. B. Irons succeeded F. T. Vasey, who as superintendent has modernized the schools. Irons came as the depression was plunging to its nadir and with it came opportunities for grands to build schools. Mason City made use of these. In 1934 the school board mapped out a program of school improvement that included the replacement of Garfield and repairs and additions to the other schools.

A bond issue of $27,500 for Mason City's share of Garfield was voted Oct. 28, 1935. This with the $22,500 federal grant provided the $50,000 for the rebuilding of the school.

The school system missed out on a government allotment for the new Grant School, for which a $120,000 bond issue was voted Dec. 13, 1937.

The following year - July 5, 1938 - the school directors passed a resolution accepting the offer of the United States government of a grant for the construction of two junior high schools.

To provide the physical plants for the two schools, the board enlarged Monroe, adding a half block of grounds to the east. A new Roosevelt junior high was erected on the spacious grounds that once formed the campus of Memorial University.

Bond Issues Voted

Two bond issues were voted, one for $261,250 on Aug. 15, 1938, and the other for $80,000 on May 22, 1939. These with $147,870 federal grant provided the funds for this grant building program.

It was hoped to have the junior highs ready for the beginning of the 1939-40 term, but the actual start of the new systems came on Jan. 8, 1940.

The advantages of the program became apparent immediately with special facilities in both buildings, including a domestic science laboratory for girls, woodworking, metal and electrical shop for boys. Each school was provided a swimming pool. Removal of the seventh and eighth graders from the grade schools and the 9th from the high school opened up additional room.

Heading the high school for 26 years from 1917 until his death in 1944 was James Rae, who was prominent in state and regional educational posts. He was succeeded by Harold Snyder and at present [1953] P. O. Brunsvold is principal.

NOTE: James Rae was born 1878, and died in 1944. His wife, Helen M. Rae, was born in 1880, and died in 1936. They were interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

In Inflation Whirl

By the time the next additions were made to the school system, the whirl of inflation had caught the nation.

By that time the Mason City Schools had a new superintendent in Lawrence H. Shepoiser, who came from Independence in the summer of 1947 to succeed Irons, who had resigned after 17 years as head of the school system.

Under Shepoiser's leadership there began another forward movement for acquiring more school rooms and setting higher teaching standards.

The first school construction of this period was the $400,000 addition to Harding, voted Nov. 2, 1948, by the huge majority of 5,312 to 1,850. Costs had gone up, but Mason City citizens wanted schools.

At the same election a proposition to spend $13,500 for lighting Roosevelt Field was also carried. An additional expenditure of $10,815,80 was provided by the American Legion.

For Harding Addition

While giving a large majority for the Harding addition, voters proved unwilling two years later to go along with a $2,300,000 bond issue for a general school building program.

This large program grew out of a study by a central survey committee authorized by the board Jan. 20, 1950. Out of the recommendations of this committee and architect's estimates the board proposed a vote on the bond issue Dec. 11, 1950. Funds from the bonds were to have been used for a new Washington school on a new site, Madison addition. Wilson addition and a new Roosevelt school. The proposition lost by 1,954 to 2,241.

A proposition to spend $200,000 for improving existing buildings carried.

To meet requirements for more grade school rooms the board then proposed the Herbert Hoover school at 8th N. W. and Fillmore, and on Nov. 27, 1951, a $595,000 bond issue for this project was approved by a vote of 2,653 to 1,123.

To round out the school system for present needs, voters decided in the last general election to bond the district for two new buildings.

Expand Junior College

Just as changes came in other educational fields so has the Mason City Junior College, organized in 1918, changed with the passing years to provide greater service to students and the community. From the beginning its purpose was to serve youth denied an equality of opportunity because they could not afford a college education away from home. Then it became apparent the Junior College could serve a broader field, that of providing a comprehensive educational program for persons of all ages, many of whom could not attend classes full time.

The Junior College, the first of its kind in Iowa, was a success from the first. It was immediately accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

Enrollment was small to start with, 25 the first year, and 51 the next, but it continued to gain, approaching the 300 mark in the postwar years and then dropping slightly.

J. B. MacGregor, present [1953] dean of the Omaha University, was the first dean of the Junior College, serving except for one year, from 1925 to 1929, when he was succeeded by S. L. Rugland. When Rugland entered the Red Cross service in 1943, Luelda F. Carlton was acting dean until his return for the year, 1946-47. Clifford H[ardin]. Beem became dean in 1947.

NOTE: The Beem Center at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) was dedicated in 1972 in honor of Clifford H. Beem, who served as dean of the Mason City Junior College from 1947 to 1966. He was the director of Arts and Science at NIACC from 1966 to 1970. He retired in 1970 after a career that spanned 46 years in eduction. Dean Beem died in December of 1983, Mason City, at the age of 81 years.

Extends Field

In the fall of 1938 the Junior College took an important step in extending its field of service, the training of teachers for positions in rural schools. Upon completion of two years' training, students were eligible to receive the first grade uniform county certificate based on training.

The success in the teacher training program suggested a vast new field of adult education that has transferred the institution into a Community College, with evening classes of all types for adults.

Drake College Helped

The next step came in the 1948-49 school year when Drake University instructors came to teach an evening course, giving credit for such at the university.

Meanwhile a broader development was taking place. In the fall of 1948 Alvie M. Sarchett became director of adult education and most of that year was spent in surveying community needs. An adult education council was organized.

In the spring of 1949 the first general education adult night class was started, a course in New Testament literature, taught by Dr. William Morse of Drake University, with 126 enrolled. The following year the adult education system blossomed out with courses for a great variety of vocational, intellectual and recreational pursuits.

The excellency of Mason City's school system extended into the field of athletics. For years the High School has been recognized for producing top-flight teams. The Mohawks have earned several mythical state championships in football and in basketball, baseball and wrestling tournament competition have won Iowa crowns. Basketball titles were won by the 1935, 1940 and 1943 teams; baseball championships by the 1935-37-38-46 clubs; and wrestling crowns by the 1948 and 1949 teams.

NOTE: Alvie M. Sarchett was born April 8, 1910, and died at the age of 89 years on September 3, 1999, Ames, Iowa.

Had Great Teams

The greatest basketball teams produced by the Mohawks were probably the 1940 or 1943 clubs, both coached by Judge Grimsley. The 1940 team won 32 games and lost none in winning the high school title while the 1943 club also was undefeated in taking 30 straight contests.

Paralleling the achievements in athletics was the development of instrumental music to the extent that the Mason City high school band got nationwide recognition at contests. Starting in 1929 under Gerald S. Prescott and continuing under Carleton L. Stewart, both band and orchestra attended national meets, the outcome of which were awaited with suspense by home folks.

These nationally known bands were a product of a music program that stated with children learning to play instruments while in the grades. Vocal music has also been emphasized. In 1934 the Music Hall was built, one of the first in the county of its kind.

It was the emphasis on band music in the Mason City schools that led indirectly to the giant North Iowa Band Festivals held every June.

NOTE: Gerald S. Prescott, dubbed "the High School's original Music Man," was the Mason City High School band and orchestra director from 1927 to 1931. When he arrived in Mason City the only band was an extra-curricular boys group, known as the Mohawk Band, from which he developed a band from 39 members to 120. He started the instrumental music program at Mason City High School and expanded the band library. Under his direction, high school band members traveled to national contests where they played in mass bands led by John Philip Sousa and Karl King. The band placed second at the Iowa State Band Contest in 1928, first place in 1929, 1930 and 1931. In national contests, the band placed 6th out of 16 in 1930, and 3rd out of 23 in 1931. Prescott left Mason City in 1931 to pursue graduate work at the University of Minnesota where he served as director of bands until 1957; from 1957 to 1967, when he retired, he taught music education courses. He wrote a series of nine training manuels, "The Prescott Technique System" (1931) and a college textbook "Getting Results with School Bands" (1938). Prescott was inducted into the American Bandmasters Association in 1936, was grand marshal and guest conductor at the 1952 North Iowa Band Festival. Prescott was born July 19, 1902, Plymouth, graduated from Upper Iowa University in 1920 with the goal of becoming an engineer but also received a band director's certificate, and earned his master's degree in education at the University of Iowa. He was an honored guest in 1992 at the Mason City High Schools'65th Anniversary Concert. Prescott died at the age of 103 years on November 22, 2005, Tampa, Florida. SOURCE: Gerald S. Prescott obituary, The Globe-Gazette, Nov. 30, 2005.

From the June 27, 1931 issue of the Globe-Gazette, page 3, "I have noted a general approval of the selection of Carleton Stewart to replace Gerald Prescott as director of the high school band. Stewart has endeared himself to the community and proved himself a fine musician [cornet] with the municipal band. Stewart and his buddy, Clarence Andrews, have given generously of their talent here in Mason City and the popularity which they have won attests to the practical benefits of such a course. Both were in the minds of the high school authorities when they set out to find a band director. Stewart's background of public school teaching experience [at Elizabeth, New Jersey] was adequate, too. He will be in a "tough spot" in following one so capable as Gerald Prescott. But I am sure Stewart can do it with credit to all concerned." (Mr. and Mrs. Carleton Stewart moved into the residence formerly occupied by the Prescotts at 213 Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. in August of 1931.
~ Globe-Gazette, August 31, 1931)

Carleton L. Stewart, born June 3, 1907, Clarion, Iowa, head of the Mason City High School Instrumental Music department from 1931 to 1950, was the co-founder of the North Iowa Band Festival (1938). He was named to the Distinguished Conductors Hall of Fame of the National Band Association in 1936 and was elected the organization's president in 1960. Stewart was born June 3, 1907, owned and operated Carleton Stewart Music Company, and died in 1985, Mason City.

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[Section 7, Page 38] On a September Sunday in 1942, a new minister stood in the pulpit of the small Trinity Lutheran Church on Pennsylvania S. E. The pastor, the Rev. Alvin N. Rogness, had accepted the call to Mason City from a large congregation at Ames. The church in which he faced his new listeners had served the congregation for exactly 50 years. Walls and pews showed the marks of wear.

The following Sunday chairs had to be brought in to supplement the pews. In a few weeks the church became wholly inadequate for the crowds and services were transferred to the Palace Theater with the permission of Tom Arthur, then manager of the Blank Theater group.

A building campaign got under way and gained momentum as it proceeded. On May 24, 1948, ground was broken for a $360,000 Norman Gothic church of Lannon stone. Two years later it was dedicated by Dr. J. A. Aasgaard, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Significant Milestone

The church with a seating capacity of 1,100, was a significant milestone. It marked the fulfillment of a dream of Trinity members who had worshiped in the same little church they built in 1892 for $2,484. It meant also the transfer of the district headquarters of 182 churches to Mason city, with the office of the district president, the Rev. V. T. Jordahl, in the new church.

The building of Trinity had another significance. It marked the beginning of the largest church building program in Mason City's history with the result that in the last five years more had been spent on church construction here than in all the previous 95 years of Mason City's history. In these five years a total of $3 million was spent on new churches.

These new structures expressed in stone, brick and mortar man's highest concepts of a temple to glorify the Creator. Fine as they were, these churches were not the only heritage from decades of dynamic spiritual life in the community. Out of the teachings of the church came the work of other organizations and institutions, ministering to the needs of the people.

NOTE: The Rogness House, named after Rev. Dr. Alvin Nathaniel Rogness, was utilized as the parsonage for Trinity Lutheran Church and later as the youth center. It was demolished in September of 2011 to make room for the church's parking lot.

Rev. Rogness was born in 1906, and died July 12, 1992, interment made at Bethel Cemetery, Astoria, South Dakota. He was the president of the Luther Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, from 1954 to 1974 and authored several religious books.

Built Holy Family

One of the largest church building projects got underway almost immediately after His Excellency Archbishop Henry P. Rohlman appointed the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Arthur J. Breen pastor of the Holy Family parish in Mason City on May 24, 1949.

Formal installation of the monsignor took place June 12 and the following July 17 ground for a new church was blessed and the first spadeful of earth turned by the archbishop.

Thus did events move rapidly toward the building of the beautiful Holy Family church and rectory, part of the ground work for which had been laid by the monsignor's predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Msgr. R. P. Murphy, now of Corwith.

Dedication of the church and rectory, which cost $700,000, took place in June, 1951, with Solemn Pontifical Mass by His Excellency the Most Rev. Leo Binz, D.D., coadjustor archbishop of Dubuque.

Of semi-traditional Tudor Gothic architecture, the church seats 800 persons. Various types of beautiful Italian marble were used in the treatment of the altar and other parts of the church, adding to the beauty of the interior.

NOTE: Rt. Rev. Msgr. Arthur J. Breen died on December 11, 1973.

Lutheran Churches Erected

While the city's church building program touched a number of denominations, it was particularly to the Lutherans that the construction boom applied. All but one of the six Lutheran churches in the city engaged in building programs, either constructing new buildings or completing existing structures.

In the summer of 1949 Central Lutheran church took bids for the completion of its edifice. This building program, which cost about $75,000, was completed by the following February, making Central Lutheran the first to be finished in the new building program.

Central congregation was organized in 1927 as a member of the United Lutheran Church in America. The Rev. Martin Lee was pastor at the time the new building program was carried out.

NOTE: On June 3, 1962, the congregations of Central Lutheran Church and Immanuel Lutheran Church merged to form Saint Paul Lutheran Church. The contents from Immanuel Lutheran were transferred to the Central Lutheran building, located at 329 East State Street, including the Wicks Memorial Pipe Organ which continues to serve the congregation.

Provided Leadership

Another congregation which began holding services in the basement succeeded in completing its church structure in 1950. This was Our Savior's Lutheran in the south part of the city. Leadership in this $35,000 project was provided by the Rev. Joel Dobbe.

The Bethlehem Lutheran congregation, member of the Wisconsin snyod, erected at $250,000 Gothic style church at the corner of Fifth and Delaware N. E., under the leadership of its pastor, the Rev. C[arl]. A. Hinz, who had built up the congregation from a small mission.

Ground breaking ceremonies were held Nov. 12, 1950. The cornerstone was laid the following April and on June 22, 1951, the structure was dedicated.

NOTE: Rev. Joel M. Dobbe was born September 17, 1922, and died February 7, 1966, interment made at Palestine Cemetery, Huxley, Iowa.

Our Saviours Lutheran Church

St. James Builds

St. James Lutheran congregation was planning a new church on the site of its old church structure on 6th S. E., when the Rev. E[ric]. A. Biedermann was installed as pastor in September, 1948.

At the suggestion of the new pastor, the congregation procurred a more spacious plot for the church at Maple Drive and 4th S. E., where a new brick church was erected at a cost of $275,000.

The church is a modern treatment of early American designed by Hansen and Waggoner. The completed plans call for four units plus a parsonage. Three of these units, the church proper, the administraiton unit and the fellowship unit have been completed.

NOTE: Upon retirement in 1965, Rev. Beidermann and his wife, Mary (Herren), retired to Fort Collins, Colorado. Rev. Biedermann died in April of 1966. Mary died at the age of 102 years on February 24, 2002, Fort Collins, Colorado.
SOURCE: Mary (Herren) Biedermann obituary

St. James Lutheran Church

Is Largest Project


 Largest church construction project in the city's history is the combined church and education unit of the First Methodist congregation on Georgia between 1st and 2nd S.E. This beautiful brick colonial structure was built at a cost of $850,000.

Ground breaking ceremonies for the new church were held May 13, 1951, and the following Oct. the cornerstone was laid. Following the plans drawn by Hansen and Waggoner, Contractors Davey and Moen proceeded with the construction, completing for this congregation, which succeeded the Olivet in the south part of the city and the Zion on East State. The congregation this year [1953] added another unit to the church at 1405 Pennsylvania S. E.

Hellenic Church Built

A new church of modern colonial design is that of the Hellenic Orthodox congregation at Pierce and 2nd S. E., built at a cost of $150,000. The church is of brick and stone construction with an impressive front portico of simplified classical pattern. Recreational facilities are provided in the basement.

The cornerstone laying ceremony was held in June, 1952, with Bishop Gerasimos of Chicago in charge, with dedication in the spring of 1953.

The surge of church building included a new citadel for the Salvation Army, which had carried on its program in Mason City for more than a half century without a building of its own. The citadel, built for $60,000, was dedicated Feb. 10, 1952, a tribute to Maj. and Mrs. Edgar Tieman and his advisory board headed by Mayor Howard Bruce.

Built During Deflation

While most church building was concentrated in these last years to finish off the century, beautiful places of worship were also erected in the midst of the deflation period.

Most notable of these was the St. John's Episcopal Church, erected in 1930 at a cost of $75,000 along with the Charles H. McNider Memorial Guild Hall, the gift of the McNider family. The burning of the mortgage on the church took place Nov. 16, 1943. Especially honored on this occasion were Mr. and Mrs. B. C. Way, who presented the canceled mortgage to the church.

Unique in church building campaigns was that of the $50,000 Wesley Methodist Church in 1940. Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Protestant and Jewish Church members participated in an all-community effort to raise the funds for this congregation, which succeeded the Olivet in the south part of the city and the Zion on East State. The congregation this year added another unit to the church at 1405 Pennsylvania S. E.

Of Moorish Architecture

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, started its church at Washington and 3rd N. W., in the spring of 1927, laying the cornerstone Oct. 7 of that year and dedicating the structure free of debt Sept. 30, 1928. Mrs. J. E. E. Markley gave the dedicatory address.

An important remodeling program recently [1953] completed was that of the First Christian Church.

The Adas Israel congregation erected a new synagogue at 7th and Adams N. W., which was dedicated in May, 1942. The structure is of brick with tile roof and has a seating capacity of 300 and is provided with ample grounds, beautifully landscaped.

Other Churches Built

With the growth of population other religious denominations added their contributions to the spiritual life of the community. The Alliance Gospel Tabernacle was organized in 1923 by Rev. Herbert Sprole following tent meetings. In 1925 the present church at 616 Delaware N. E. was built.

The Church of the Nazarene was organized in 1929, with the first services held in the Raizes Department Store basement. Three years later the church was built and the congregation incorporated.

The St. John's Baptist congregation, formed in 1919, built a church at a cost of $5,000 with members doing much of the work. Dedication took place in August, 1940.

Among the new denominations in the city is Covenant Church, which purchased the former East Side Presbyterian Church, in which it carries on its program.

The Assembly of God took over the chapel at 1615 Delaware N. E. Other religious bodies holding services are the Latter Day Saints, the Church of God in Christ, the Pentecostal Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

NOTE: The First Covenant Church, located at 411 South Ohio Avenue, was founded as an Evangelical Covenant Church in 1947. The first worship service was held on Sunday afternoon of March 16, 1947. Norris M. Peterson, an intern pastor, was called to Mason City and the church was dedicated the following fall. The first full-time pastor was Roy E. Olson (1948 - 1950), who was succeeded by Theodore Clemens (1951-53), Wallace Carlson (1954-61), Robert Christiansen (1961-63), David Carlson, (1963-67, E. Neil Peterson (1968-74), Alfred Ulner (1974-83), Frank Ashley (1984-88), Dan Pietrzyk (1989-95), and Rich Murray 191995-2003). SOURCE: firstcovenantchurch.com/ourhistory.php

Built Radio Chapel

One of the more dramatic church activities of this period was the construction of Radio Chapel by Burroughs A. Waltrip in 1937 and 1938, connecting services in the building with a daily KGLO broadcast.

The evangelist was beset with financial difficulties and on May 16, 1939, filed a petition for receivership. The following December the court approved the purchase of the chapel by the Rev. Carl J. Sentman, who since has expanded the program and sponsored missionaries in foreign fields.

Something of the temper of the times was shown by the fact that in the midst of the deflation period, a campaign got under way to build a $300,000 YMCA. The move started not long after the arrival on June 1, 1921, of C. E. Gilman as general secretary.

In June, 1924, a committee composed of Chairman C. H. McNider, B. C. Keeler, W. L. Patton, Frank J. Hanlon, W. F. Muse, W. E. Brice and Jay Decker, started a campaign for $300,000. By the following September the goal was reached with 3,400 persons signing pledges. The building was dedicated free of debt Dec. 11, 1927.

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[Section 7, Page 39] When 100 Jap planes and a swarm of midget submarines attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, severely crippling American naval power, Mason City, with the rest of the nation knew that a long, tragic, tearful struggle lay ahead.

Mason City felt the sting of the war from the beginning. Among the 2,117 Navy officer and men killed that morning were two Mason Cityans, Guy Wayne Carroll, quartermaster second class, who was aboard the ill-fated USS Shaw, and Erwin Leroy Searle, gunner's mate third class on the USS California.

From that hour the casualty list mounted as the fury of the war spread over the Pacific and later across Africa and Europe until the deaths from the war totaled 191 for Cerro Gordo County. Of these 150 were killed in action, 17 were killed in accidents, 4 died as prisoners of war, 7 died in camp and 13 were missing in action.

There were other Mason Cityans at Pearl Harbor. Among them was Stepfan J. Kercheff, seaman second class on the USS Enterprise, who was killed in action before another year, and Raymond Earl Scholl, aviation metalsmith, who was killed in a flight made Jan. 30, 1942.

NOTE: QM 2/C Guy Wayne Carroll, born in 1918 the son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter G. Carroll, had been in the U.S. Navy six years prior to his death. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. On December 7, 1941, the USS Shaw (DD-373) was in dry dock when she was hit almost simultaneously by three bombs during the second strike attack.

GM 3/C Erwin Leroy Searle, born November 7, 1918, the son of Ira James and Agnes Charlotte (Olson) Searle and husband of Helen (Hill) Searle, had served four years in the Navy and then re-enlisted February 9, 1941 at his former rank. His brother Harlan James Searle was also serving aboard the USS California and survived the attack. The USS California [BB-44] sustained two torpedoes during the initial attack, and was bombed once again. A mass of burning oil sweeping through Battleship Row caused her remaining crew to abandon ship. She was raised in March of 1942, repaired, modernized and returned to the U.S. Pacific fleet.

SM 2/C Stephan J. Kercheff, born in 1922 the son of Steve S. and Dora (Redington) Kercheff, was killed in action during the Battle of Santa Cruz, October 26, 1942. During the Battle of Santa Cruz, the USS Enterprise (CV-6) was struck twice by bombs but continued in action despite sustaining serious damage.

AV MM 1/C Raymond Earl Scholl, born on a farm near Sheffield March 28, 1913, the son of Mrs. Mary Scholl and Lee Scholl, enlisted in the U.S. Navy in the fall of 1930. Stationed at Pearl Harbor, AV MM Scholl was aboard an extended flight from the base on January 30, 1942 that failed to return.

Saw Job Ahead

When the news of the Jap attack broke that fateful Sunday, Mason city went into immediate preparation for what it knew was the job ahead.

The following morning recruiting offices were jammed with applicants from all North Iowa. Sailors and west coast soldiers home on leave left immediately for their battle stations. Airplanes at the city's new airport were grounded and pilot licenses revoked until proof of citizenship and loyalty were established.

Hanford MacNider, formerly assistant secretary of war, who held a commission as colonel in the reserve, immediately wired President Roosevelt offering his services. Not long afterwards MacNider was on his way to the Pacific front to join Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Bid Tearful Farewells

Parents and wives bid tearful farewells to their sons and husbands as they left. Some 700 Cerro Gordo County boys were already in the service when the Jap attack brought about immediate declaration of war on Dec. 8.

The threatening clouds had been gathering for months. Throughout 1940 - or from the time Hitler invaded Poland in September, 1939, Mason City and vicinity heard the echoes of Europe's war drums.

More than 200 men from Cerro Gordo and neighboring counties joined the National Guard units in Mason City during 1940 and spent three weeks on war maneuvers in Minnesota.

Inducted Into Service

In February, 1941, the three National Guard companies stationed here - Headquarters, F and H, a total of 260 men (140 from Cerro Gordo County) - were inducted into the service and sent to Camp Clairborne, La. and the following summer took part in mass Army maneuvers as training for combat. A year later they went to Ireland for training with the remainder of the 34th Division.

Preparations were also taking place on the home front. A United Service Organization campaign was held, the first of several to follow. Red Cross volunteers began making surgical dressings. Iowa's first Red Cross mobile first aid unit was organized here.

Draft boards went to work, with quotas small for enlistees were flocking to the naval training station at Great Lakes, Ill., or joining Army detachments in the infantry, artillery, air corps and other branches. A total of 5,175 registered in the county under the selective service act. A civilian Defense Council was organized. War Chest campaigns were held. The sale of defense bonds got under way.

A Home Guard was organized to take the place of the National Guard on the home front. A Civilian Airport Patrol was set up.

When Japs Struck

This was the situation when the Japs struck. Immediately all projects connected with the war became all-out efforts.

In the first six months of World War II more than 1,000 Cerro Gordo County boys were in the service. By the end of the war a total of2,421 Mason Cityans had been in the service, according to Friends of Library records. The county total was nearly 4,000.

At least three Mason Cityans were fighting the battle of the Philippines when Corregidor capitulated and other encounters with the enemy came reports of outstanding bravery under fire.

Capt. Lawrence Meade of Mason City, fighting on Bataan, was sent to a field hospital with a tropical fever early in 1942. He returned to the front only to be seriously wounded Feb. 26 [1942]. Again he recovered and returned to action. He was among Americans taken prisoner and in time his family was informed he was dead.

NOTE: Capt. Lawrence Kent Meade I, son of Dr. and Mrs. C. L. Meade and husband of Betsy Isabel (Burgess) Meade, served with the 313 Philippine Scout Artillery. He was an anti-aircraft instructor, arriving in the Philippines November 1, 1941. His family later received word that he had died in a Japanese prison Camp in the Philippines on June 16, 1943.

Then there was Marine Private John Cannella, who was in Shanghai when the war started. With other Marines he went to Bataan and joined in the fighting. He was taken prisoner and after the war released. On returning home he re-enlisted.

NOTE: Pvt. John Cannella, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Cannella, was taken prisoner during the fall of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, and liberated in October of 1945.

Another Mason City fighter on Bataan, Thomas Boyle, aviation mechanic, also survived imprisonment by the Japs and was returned home by plane.

NOTE: Pvt. Thomas Boyle, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Bolye, served with the U.S. Army Air Corps, was captured during the fall of Corregidor on May 6, 1942, and was liberated September 17, 1945. He re-enlisted in the Army in 1946.

Yanks Hit Back

As the year went on there was growing evidence the Yanks were hitting back. A boy from Plymouth, Leland Faktor, was in the daring Doolittle-led U.S. Air Force bombing of Japan on April 8, 1942. Later [that night] he was killed in action (sic, he died shortly after the raid while bailing out of his plane over China).

News of casualties and citations for bravery flowed in. On Nov. 20, 1942, came word that Bob Cavanaugh, who had joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, was killed in action. Three days later Brig. Gen. Hanford MacNider was wounded in New Guinea.

NOTE: Sgt. Robert J. "Bob" Cavanaugh, son of Mrs. Catherine Cavanaugh, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on September 29, 1941 at Montreal. He was killed in action November 17, 1942.

Got Navy Cross

Lt. Paul Knapp, naval pilot, received the Navy Cross from Admiral R. S. Holmes of the Pacific fleet for heroic and distinguished service in fighting the Japs when he pressed home an attack on the aircraft carrier, USS Lexington (CV-2), in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire.

NOTE: Paul Joseph Knapp graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis with the Class of 1942. His Navy Cross Medal was for "extraordinary heroism in operations against the enemy while serving as a pilot of a carrier-based Navy Dive Bomber in Bombing Squadron two (VB-2), attached to the USS Lexington (CV-2) . . . during the Air Battle of the Coral Sea on May 7, 1942. In the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire and fierce fighter opposition, Lt. Knapp dived his plane at an enemy Japanese aircraft carrier and released his bomb with calm accuracy. . . " Later Knapp, serving as a Captain during the Vietnam War, was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal for "exceptionally meritorious conduct" for action dated from October 9, 1964 to May 21, 1965. Capt. Knapp died on July 25, 1975.

Edward J. Hand, boatswain's mate 1st class, and John Jacobs, aviation machinist's mate 3rd class, were members of the crew of the ill-fated Astoria, which was sunk Aug. 9, 1942, in the Solomons while supporting marine landings there. Both survived to take part in additional engagements. Jacobs took part in the invasion of Sicily and was aboard the USS Savannah when it was bombed.

NOTE: During the Battle of Savo Island, USS Astoria (CA-34) came under fire and was hit at least 65 times from seven Japanese cruisers and one destroyer. Her men were rescued by USS Buchanan (DD-484). Edward J. Hand died on August 7, 1992 and was interred at Memorial Park Cemetery, Mason City. Promoted to the rank of Machinist's Mate 2/C John Jacobs survived the Salerno heavy bombing of the USS Savannah (CL-42) September 3, 1943.

On Sinking Ship

Two other Mason Cityans, Duaine (sic, should be Dwaine) McDougle and Marvin Schroeder, were on the USS Helena, when it was sunk in the Pacific. Both were rescued.

Draftees were by this time leaving at regular intervals. On May 23, 1942, the largest contingent of the war went to Des Moines.

NOTE: Dwaine O. McDougle died on January 27, 1993, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

At home an air raid warden system was set up under J. F. Wagoner. Rationing of sugar, gasoline, and coffee became effective. Salvage drives for scrap iron, rubber, paper, rags, grease and tin cans were under way. Red Cross activities expanded. The south fire station was closed for lack of man power. A canteen was maintained for service men. Service men passing through were given coffee and doughnuts at the Milwaukee [rail] station.

The Mason City Tent and Awning Company got contracts for army tents that went all over the world. Home town boys often slept in them. They also had occasion to eat Decker products in far-off places [c-rations].

Bombed Germany

A number of Mason Cityans who took part in the bombing of Germany went down with their planes to become prisoner and released with the end of the war. Among these were Lt. Ray Clough, present [1953] city solicitor, who piloted one of the 50 Flying Fortesses lost in the Schweinfurt ballbearing plant raid Oct. 14, 1943; Pilot Lee Usher of the RCAF, whose plane went down in flames in France; Lt. James Brown, shot down over Holland; Lt. Don Harrer, reported missing in action in an air raid over Germany Feb. 11, 1944.

An air medal and Oak Leaf cluster was received by S/Sgt. Phil Ong, who took part in the Bastille bombing June 14, 1943, and soon afterwards taken prisoner.

First Sgt. Paul B. Brown, medico paratrooper, was cited for gallantry in action July 11, 1943, in Sicily.

Got Air Medal

In the Pacific, Capt. Donno C. Bellows received an air medal and Oak Leaf cluster for downing two Zereos. Bellows in one flight was shot down in flames but escaped and returned to his base.

NOTE: Lt. Ray Ellison Clough, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ray F. Clough, was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps, Des Moines, on January 24, 1942. He served, along with five other Iowans, with the 8th Bomber Command of the U. S. Army Air Forces in England where he was awarded his first Air Medal prior to being taken as a German prisoner of war. Lt. Clough Lt. James Brown and Lt. Don Harrer were liberated in May of 1945. Lt. Clough, born April 22, 1921, Mason City, became an attorney in Mason City and was a District Court judge. He died on January 2, 1984, Mason City and was interred at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Pilot Lee Usher, who enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in August of 1941, and his crew of five went missing after a bombing raid over Stuttgart, Germany on April 15, 1943. The plane went down in flames but Lt. Usher was able to evade capture for a month until he was ultimately held as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft 3, Germany, and was released in either June or July of 1945. 1st Sgt. Paul B. Brown was born July 23, 1906, and died December 19, 1994, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery. During his service with the U.S. Army during World War II, Sgt. Brown was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

Lt. James R. "Jim" Brown, the son of Mrs. Lola M. Brown and husband of Helen S. Brown, enlisted in the Army Air Corps, flying for the Eighth Air Force. He went missing over Holland on June 6, 1944, hid for a month with the Dutch underground until he was captured in Belgium and held as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft 3. Lt. Brown returned to Mason City and became an attorney of law and served as Cerro Gordo county attorney. He died at the age of 91 years July 6, 2011.

Lt. Donald Grady "Don" Harrer, serving as an Army Air Corps pilot, was shot down over France during a return from a bombing mission over Frankfurt in 1943. He was held as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Germany, for 15 months before his release. Lt. Harrer was one of the "Flying Harrers" which included his brothers Jerry and Bob, and two brothers-in-law, Jack Wallace and Hank Kislia, all whom survived the war and returned to live long lives. Don, who was a sports announcer for KGLO radio and later manager of KIMT-TV until his retirement in 1981, died on November 19, 2013, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Staff Sgt. Phil W. Ong was born April 23, 1913, and died September 25, 1969, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Capt. Donno Claire Bellows, son of Donley Carroll and Besse Anna (Phelps) Bellows, was born in South Dakota on September 4, 1916. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Fort Des Moines on December 12, 1941. Capt. Bellows died at Fresno, California, on September 1, 1998.

Maj. Ralph Wandrey got an air medal for "meritorious achievement while participating in 25 operation flight missions in the southwest Pacific area during which hostile contact was probable and expected." In January, 1944, he received the distinguished Flying Cross for participating in 50 missions.

Gen. MacNider in September, 1942, was given command of the 128h Task Force in the first airborne troop movement across the New Guinea mountains.

Commanded Bushmasters

In August, 1944, he took command of the famous 158th Regimental Combat Team known as the Bushmasters, in Dutch New Guinea. On the morning of Jan. 11, 1945, this outfit stormed ashore on western Luzon. At the Luzaon campaign this group faced the toughest, bitterest fighting of all units committed to the far flung battle line. Gen. MacNider came out of the war with a number of additional medals and citations to those he won in World War I.

Sgt. William C. Cross of the marines was in charge of the unit that cleaned up the last Jap survivor on Tarawa in March, 1944. The following June he was killed in action on Saipan.

NOTE: Platoon Sergeant William Charles Cross, son of Mr. and Mrs. William T. Cross, enlisted in the Marines in 1940 and was initially sent to Iceland in the summer of 1941 and ultimately promoted to the rank of Corporal, then Platoon Sergeant. He was killed in action at Saipan on June 15, 1944.

With 1944 came the invasion of the Normandy Beach in France. Mason Cityans took part in the great push of men, landing craft, tanks and guns, protected by an overwhelming umbrella of aerial support. They were with Gen. MacArthur in the fulfillment of his classic prediction: "I shall return" to the Philippines. They took part in the bombing of Tokyo and other large Japanese cities.

Downed Many Planes

Then there was the dramatic career of Lt. Stephen Smith. When the Japs struck at Pearl Harbor, the aircraft carrier Enterprise with Lt. Smith aboard was one day at sea from the port.

Lt. Smith received four distinguished flying crosses and three air medals. The air group with which he flew is credited with 35 enemy ships, damaged or probably sunk and 163 planes destroyed. Smith alone was credited with four torpedo hits on Jap ships, one a large cruiser.

NOTE: During the Battle for Midway Island, Ens. Stephen Smith's torpedo plane was riddled by 68 Japanese bullets. ~ Globe-Gazette, Friday, October 30, 1942. p. 28.

In 1944, amidst the sensational events of the Normandy landing, came the news that the 34th Division, with the three Mason City guard companies of the 2nd Battalion of the 133rd Infantry was staging a heroic fight with the 5th Army in Italy.

In the spring of 1944 the division, which had landed in Italy the fall before, was joined by the 2nd Battalion, which previously had served as "palace guards" for Gen. Eisenhower's headquarters.

Led Fighting Army

As assault followed assault northward the 2nd Battalion most of the time was at the head of the regiment and often of the division and even the 5th Army.

By July 22 the division reached the Arno River and then continued northward through torturous mountain terrain to take the Gothic line. On Sept. 22 the battalion captured 80 prisoners and Maj. Magnani, [the] only Mason City officer left in the battalion, wrote "it looks like the Germans are cracking up on our front."

But the crackup didn't come until the following May 2 and on the main front May 7. The Japs surrendered Aug. 14, 1945.

NOTE: Maj. Jacob R. Magnani was born in 1912, and died in 1981, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

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[Section 7, Page 40] "Mason City will become an overnight trip from anywhere in the United States."

William P. McCracken, assistant secretary of commerce in charge of aviation, spoke these words as he stood before 200 Mason City Chamber of Commerce members at the Hotel Hanford Nov. 22, 1926.

These were startling words for that day. But the speaker, himself, seemed a symbol of his own prophecy. He had swooped down from snow-filled clouds, making the trip from Omaha to Mason City in two hours.

Started Community Interest

This meeting marked the beginning of Mason City's interest in aviation as a community - an interest that rose and fell with the times until it finally culminated in the acquiring of the present [1953] million dollar 517 acre municipal airport seven miles west of the city, built under CAA supervision as part of the army aviation expansion program.

The aviation committee of the Chamber of Commerce, which promoted this meeting, consisted of W. Earl Hall, chairman, Lowell L. Forbes, H. J. Steinberg, George Barrett, Archie Peterson and G. M. Woodruff.

Two of the committee members, Barrett and Peterson, with Stanley H. MacPeak, he been active in flying for several years. They joined in organizing Pioneer Flyers, Inc., to provide flying service in the twenties.

But the history of flying in this community goes back even beyond the Pioneer Flyers. Before World War I, there were Ken Jay, later president of the Northrop Aircraft Corporation; Floyd E. Barlow, Clear Lake, known principally for his development of new types of bombs in both World Ward, and Charles E. Hathorn, chief patent engineer for Curtiss-Wright Aircraft.

Built Planes

Hathorn and Jay each built planes of their own here before the first World War and flew them, Hathorn succeeding in getting his off the ground in 1911 without ever having seen an airplane before. He built them from drawings of Curtiss biplanes.

Barlow flew a plane from Clear Lake to Mason City in 1913.

After War I Barrett and MacPeak were active flyers and were later joined by Peterson, whom Barret taught to fly in a Canadian JN-4 or "Canuck" which was Mason City's first passenger plane, owned by Josh Melson.

But until McCracken's visit the wide horizons opened up by air services to Mason City hadn't been realized. A new generation of public spirited citizens went to work. They used the same resourceful enterprise to bring air service as their grandfathers had to get railroads and their fathers to make Mason City the crossing point of paved highways.

NOTE: W. Earl Hall was born in 1897, and died in 1959, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Henry J. Steinberg was born February 2, 1878, and died July 29, 1974, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

George C. Barrett was born in 1892, and died in 1978, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

George Myron Woodruff died June 24, 1946, interment made at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Floyd Edward Barlow, born at Monticello, Wisconsin, February 13, 1889, was one of the "Early Birds" in aviation. He was a flight instructor and an automobile dealer. During World War II, he trained British and American pilots. Barlow's last flight was made in 1961. He died at the age of 87 years in 1977.

Charles Edward Hathorn was born December 6, 1879, Clear Lake. He started with the Curtiss Company as a janitor, worked his way up the position of project engineer and later promoted to patent engineer. Charles died May 21, 1955, interment made at Clear Lake Cemetery.

Was Crude Beginning

Only two months after McCracken's visit, Clausen-Worden post of the American Legion leased an 80 acre pasture on the south side of No. 18 west of Mason City and joined with the Chamber in its operation as an airfield.

If the field was small and insignificant such could not be said about the dedication held for it on a sunshiny Sunday, Aug. 29, 1927. Col. Charles Lindbergh was there, fresh from his sensational solo flight to France. So was a big army blimp and a group of army flyers from Selfridge Field near Detroit, whose most sensational act was flying heads down over the field. It was all testimony to the help of Gen. Hanford MacNider, then assistant secretary of war.

In 1933 the airport was relocated on the north side of highway 18. This field was operated by Sylvan Hugelen, into whose hands airport activities went with the abandonment of the Legion-Chamber of Commerce partnership June 23, 1936.

NOTE: Sylvan Hugelen was born near Thompson, Iowa, on June 19, 1905. At the age of 21 he designed and built his first airplane, received his pilot's license the following year, and began carrying passengers and teaching others how to fly. During the early 1930's, Hugelen traveled with the Hell Divers Air Show. Under his guidance Mason City's airport had one of the first federally approved repair station as well as a flying school. He also helped start the Forest City airport in the 1950's. Sylvan's wife, Freda Bernice "Bernie" (Scribner) Hugelen, born March 8, 1913, Ceylan, Minnesota, received her commercial pilot's license and ground school instructor's certificate in the 1930's. During the war she taught ground school to military cadets. She was the secretary of Air Activities, Inc. at the Mason City Airport. Sylvan died August 14, 1986. "Bernie" died November 30, 2008, Alonga, Iowa, at the age of 95 years. They were interred at Memorial Park Cemetery. The Sylvan O. Hugelen Flight Center Exhibit is housed at the Mansion Museum in Forest City.

Invested $3,000

The Chamber of Commerce had invested $3,000 in a hangar and Chamber and the Legion each contributed from $300 to $800 annually for upkeep of the field.

Resumption of activity for a municipal field came in 1938 when the Chamber of Commerce prepared petitions asking the city council to call an election on an airport bond issue. The petition was held up because the city was already involved in plans for a library and two new schools.

By this time pressure was being exerted by airlines for an airport in Mason City. In December, 1938, the Northwest Airways announced plans for a north and south airway with a stop in Mason City. In 1939 Mid-Continent Airlines, Inc., filed a petition with the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) for a north and south route, with Mason City as a stopping point.

Petition Presented

On July 3, 1939, petitions bearing 3,900 signatures were presented to the city council, asking the city to call an election to vote on a $50,000 bond issue for developing an airport. The calling of an election was again delayed.

On March 19, 1940, the examiner for the CAA recommended the granting of a certificate to the Mid-Continent Airlines for a Minneapolis-St. Louis run with a stop in Mason City. The following July 19 the Globe-Gazette carried a big banner line announcing that the certificate had been granted by the CAA.

Meanwhile war clouds were gathering. The Nazis had invaded the Lowland and France and America was starting to prepare. The council on Aug. 5, 1940, voted to request the designation of the proposed Mason City airport as a national defense project at an estimated cost of $441,325. Of this amount $36,000 was allocated for the purchase of 240 acres for the port.

A CAA engineer upped the estimates to $588,000, with the city's share as $96,220. The following months were devoted to the study for airport sites. Meanwhile the hum of Mid-Continent planes overhead, starting Oct. 12, 1940, provided the needed incentive for public support of an airport. At an election Nov. 5 of that year the vote was 9,395 to 2,039 to authorize the city council to issue $100,000 in bonds for the purchase of an airport site and other expenses.

Selection of the present site from among seven considered was made by the CAA with the recommendation of the Army for reasons of drainage, radio interference, highlines and other matters involving airport operation.

Authorized by Council

On April 22 1941, the council authorized City Manager Herbert T. Barclay to proceed with the purchase of 311 1/2 acres of land on which options had been obtained. Business men of Clear Lake contributed $4,725 to the $38,939.20 allocated for the purchase.

The stage was set for development when on Dec. 7, 1941, the news flashed that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. It was now definite that any allocation of airports would be on the basis of national security and plans for waging war.

The first reports were that no money was available for midwest airports. Several trips were made to Washington and B. A. Webster spent three months there working on the project. E. G. Dunn, prominent Democrat and for a number of years United States district attorney, made three trips to Washington on the airport project.

Allocated $650,000

On Sept. 17, 1942, the big news broke and a front page banner line stated the war department had allocated $650,000 for the Mason City airport.

By Sept. 29 CAA engineers completed a survey to enlarge the port by purchase of 320 additional acres in order to provide 5,600 foot runways. This made necessary another bond issue of $50,000 which carried by 5,548 to 1,467.

Then on Dec. 7, 1942, came the news that the government participation in the Mason City airport and other similar projects had been deferred. Mason City was disappointed by hopeful.

Good News Again

On May 13, 1943, good news again came over the wires - that the $650,000 allocation to the Mason City airport had been restored.

On July 23, 1943, plans and specifications for the airport arrived with the announcement that more than 50 contractors were to bid on the project at the CAA offices at Kansas city July 28.

The contract involved two strips of paving 5,600 by 150 feet, as well as 50 foot wide taxiways and extensive grading and grubbing. The contract was awarded to McCree and Company of Minneapolis and A. T. Nolan of St. Paul, using asphalt paving. The joint bid totaled $502,424.50.

Weather Causes Delay

Weather delayed operations. It was not until Nov. 13, 1944, that the contract was completed. Weather made it necessary to postpone completion of the contract for lighting the field until the spring of 1945.

The giant project involved the moving of more than a million yards of earth and the laying of 250,000 yards of paving. In the stabilized base under the asphalt 114,000 tons of material were used. The contract took 665,000 gallons of asphalt.

Additional federal funds were allocated to the extent that with the completion of the port $150,000 was spent by the city of Mason City and $822,263.95 by the federal government. Sylan O. Hugelen, owner of Air Activities, Inc., was named base operator and J. R. Wagner on June, 1945, was named the first airport manager.

Airplanes Started Landing


 Mason City became a part of the nation's network when Mid-Continent airplanes started daily landings on March 18, 1946, providing service from here to Minneapolis, St. Louis and Kansas city and intervening points. On Nov. 1, 1948, two additional north-south airline flights were put into operation.

Dedication of the airport, which had been scheduled for March, was delayed by bad weather and was held June 22, 1946, when Mrs. Kenneth Long, daughter of Mayor H. E. Bruce, broke a bottle of champagne at the christening of a Mid-Continental Airlines plane as "City of Mason City."

On the following Nov. 24 the airport was placed in charge of a five member airport commission, appointed by the mayor. Appointed were T. J. Kiesselbach, H. R. Ohrt, Carl Holvik, Emil Koerber and Dr. H. H. Jennings.

Sought More Service

Meanwhile the efforts of the community were directed toward getting east-west service to Chicago. As early as 1947 H. C. Timberlake, Minneapolis economist, was engaged by the council to mobilize the community's efforts toward that end.

Such an excellent showing was made that Mason City, on Dec. 1, 1950, was given east and west service between Sioux City and Chicago under a temporary order that was made permanent under a CAA certificate granted Jan. 7, 1952.

Airlines Merged

On Aug. 16, 1952, the air horizons widened further for Mason City as the Mid-Continent Airlines and the Braniff International Airways were merged under the Braniff name. The combined routes gave Mason City direct lines to other points in the United States, Central and South American points.

A number of other airlines sought certificates to operate through Mason City both as main lines and feeders.

The Mid-West Airlines on Oct. 20, 1949, began a north-south feeder line service between the twin cities and Omaha with stops in Mason City. On April 11, 1952, Mid-West was ordered to cease operations by the CAB.

New improvements included a $40,000 directional range, taxiway extension and dining room. Investment in the Airport at the close of 1952 stood at $1,113,243.65, of which the city paid $229,289.72. In June, 1949, Dick Mettler was named manager and Marcus Lundberg placed on the commission to fill the post held by Kiesselbach and later by Hans V. Tofte.

NOTE: James R. "Dick" Mettler was born in 1924, Mason City, the son of Ray and Maye Mettler. He was a World War II veteran serving from 1943 to 1945 as a B-17 pilot for the U.S. Air Force and was based in Italy. Dick's entire career was as an airport manager and consultant with airports in Mason City, El Paso and Dallas, Texas, Los Angeles and San Jose, California, and in Saudi Arabia. He died at the age of 86 years, on April 5, 2011, Davenport, Iowa, interment was made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

Marcus Lundberg was born in 1911, and died in 1966, interment made at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Unless otherwise noted, photographs courtesy of The Globe-Gazette.
Some of the photographs did not scan well. In such a case the photograph
has been substituted with a clearer copy if available.

Transcriptions and Notes by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2014
Information obtained in notes from cemetery transcriptions, obituaries,
biographies & other Globe-Gazette articles



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