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 Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, March 03, 2016, Page 9

By Mike Avitt

We're having a quiz this week. I took this photo the year this sign was dismantled. What year was it? The answer will be given at the end of the article.

I got a few responses to my Q Club article and I learned that Bob Ricker, Jr. painted the word "Snooker" on the front glass of the pool hall. Bob also had an unusual suggestion for an article. He suggested I write an article about Mount Ayr enterprises that were located below street level. There were many so let's look in the basement.

The earliest business I know below street level was the barber shop of L. B. Imus and R. S. Woodmansee in the basement of the new Mount Ayr Bank building located where the Mount Ayr Public Library is today. That was in 1891. O. A. Ingram opened a poultry and produce house in the same basement soon after that. R. R. Morford had the basement barber shop in November 1900 when the building was lost in a fire. L. B. Imus was Mount Ayr's oldest barber having opened his first shop in 1871.

Another famous basement for barber shops was that of H. H. Wilson's building at 112 W Madison. In 1896, R. F. Morford's partner, F. O. Bray, sold his interest in the firm to Frank Richardson. By 1899, L. B. Imus and George Hayes had their barber shop here. They were followed by Floyd Tallman in 1913. The well-known barber brothers, Victor, Percy and Jess Skinner, located to this basement in 1933. The last business I know of at this location was Sandy Stogdill's beauty shop from 1969 to 1971.

Another lesser-known barber shop basement was at 105 E. Madison, two doors west of Lefty's Club Tavern. Merrill's (Mrs. M. H. Merrill) Millinery was located on the ground level when William Wood rented the basement for a barber shop in 1903. In 1905 Cortus Wood was located here and by 1914 C. E. Stedman had a barber shop here. He was followed by J. D. Hatch in 1915.

Prentis Hatchery was started in this same basement in January 1924. The last business I know of here was the furniture and sewing machine repair shop of Willis and Irene Hood in 1946. I assume there was a cellar door in the rear that accommodated furniture.

Finally, there was the barber shop under Iowa State Bank at 100 S. Taylor, the current location of the William H. French Agency. The outdoor entrance to the basement wasn't constructed until February and March 1915, twenty-three years after the bank was built. Hayes & Straight were the first barbers in this basement and John Hall was here in 1935. He was followed by Jess Skinner (1948) and W. E. Wheeler (1960).

Leland Dalbey opened an office here in 1964 to settle accounts after Dalbey Lumber Co. sold out to Country Boys. In the early 1970s this basement was a card room.

The Mount Ayr Post Office basement used to be home to the Iowa State University Extension Office. Milt Henderson was the director and he was followed by Neil Chicken. The office moved to its current location about 1970.

There was a teen center in the basement of the United Presbyterian Church.It was called "The Cellar," and had its grand opening July 24, 1970. Bob played in the band The Era of Good Feeling, which often played this venue. Lesa Perry painted the sign at the entrance. The dances held here were the first I had ever attended. I don't know how many years this lasted.

Okay, now for the answer to our quiz. The answer is 2012. Since it was only four years ago, I'm sure everyone got the answer right. Right?

Mount Ayr Sign photograph courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News
Era of Good Feeling photograph courtesy of Steve Duros
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2016

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