Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book
Stories of Early Nichols
Nichols Boasts ‘New’ and ‘Old’ Institutions
Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 147
By Dave Rasdal, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Monday, 20 June 1983
Nichols – A new town hall and an old town clerk.
Here you could easily call them two for (a) Nichols. Both are institutions and a bargain at the price.
The only real difference is that the town hall isn’t done yet and the town clerk is, if people would only let him hang up his pencil.
Nichols is like any other small Iowa community on a hot summer day – it looks empty. But the 375 residents are there and they can be seen strolling around town when the temperature drops.
Whitey Hillyer, 73, however, braved a recent 90-degree day and sauntered down the street to where I stood in front of the present town hall. A yellow baseball-style cap was pulled down over his face, dark tinted shades tucked inside his glasses covered his eyes and he didn’t seem to be in a hurry. Neither was I. The humidity was enough to slow down a turtle.
Whitey offered to show me the new town hall. We walked at a pace that allows you to catch your breath. Refreshing.
“We had to do one or the other – put up a new building for the ambulance or put up a new town hall,” Whitey said. “We decided we needed a new town hall.”
The white building behind us, with a recently installed garage door, is now the home of the First Responders, a 14-member volunteer organization that uses a rescue-type van for emergency situations. Since the fire department is in the same building, this arrangement is logical.
The brown building in front of us is the new town hall. The pre-fabricated 24-by-48 foot shell was set up in a couple of days. Electricians and plumbers are putting in their finishing touches and a 4-inch concrete floor soon will be poured. The finished building will be used for community activities as well as council meetings on the first Wednesday of every month.
The building is being financed through $25,000 in general obligation bonds, purchased by the local bank, the Farmers and Merchants Savings Bank. The finish work will be completed with volunteer labor to keep the price down.
“There used to be a hotel here, but the bank tore it down,” Whitey said. “That was about three years ago. It had been used for a parking lot by the bank. They’re the ones that purchased the bonds, too, so it really is a town project.”
This will be the third town hall Nichols has had in the past 50 years – the third town hall during Whitey’s nearly 45 years as town clerk.
In 1934, the town hall with jail was built across the street from the new town hall. The town offices were moved to an addition to the fire station in 1968. The next move should take place at the end of this summer.
Whitey has been through them all, living in Nichols for the past 67 years. He was born north of town, spent a year in South Dakota, moved back to Nichols, spent a couple of years in Minnesota and moved back to Nichols. He’s been here since 1918.
Whitey worked at Kent Feeds for 31 years and was a security guard at Louis Rich Co. in West Liberty from 1972 to retirement in 1982. Now, he’s spending time remodeling his house and stopping here and there in town to see friends.
Whitey is looking forward to the fun and games of Nichols Day on June 25. Next year Nichols will celebrate its 150th birthday, but Whitey feels he’d like to retire from his $50 per month job as town clerk by then. He’s been in it so long he can remember when he got less than $50 per year.
“I’d like to get out of being town clerk, but people around here don’t want me to quit,” Whitey said, as we stood in the shade of Victor Mills’ service station and garage.
“They don’t know if they could find somebody else. But I’m 73 years old. And there might be some time on a Wednesday night, one first Wednesday night, I want to go some place.
“But it’s a good town, a really good town,” he said, removing the dark tinted shades from inside his glasses. “It’s been good to me,” he added, a twinkle in his eye.
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