June 30, 2022
Friday morning, as I sat on a street barricade and observed the preparations for the Project BOOM ribbon cutting, I tried to visualize what the street looked like a century ago.
As I looked west on Eighth Street and south on National Street, I thought of my family’s activities in the area.
Before 1930 my grandparents called four houses in that part of town “home.” Their first house in that section was near the intersection of Eighth and North Park. In more recent times it was removed to make way for the construction of the current bridge over Lost Creek.
In the 1920s, home was the Lincoln Park house that was located near where the current park maintenance building is located. It and a nearby barn were removed prior to the construction of the maintenance building.
While living in a Colorado Street home, Grandfather built a barn to house the family’s milk cow. It was my father’s morning job to ride the cow from the barn to a pasture near the Amrican Legion Hall. In the evening he got to ride the cow back to the barn located near the family home. I suspect he also got to milk the cow but the stories I remember involved riding the cow. He wanted me to follow in his footsteps when we kept a cow in a pasture west of the filling station. At his insistence I tried to ride the cow, but the cow was not cooperative.
The Colorado Street barn still stands but it has been converted into a garage. That’s good because current city rules would not allow the keeping of livestock in the barn. Likely the barn provided not only shelter for the family cow but probably shelter for the draft animals grandfather used to till the Legion farm.
In the 40s and 50s, my grandparents lived at Sixth and National. While calling that location home, Grandfather had his own Project BOOM plan for providing worker housing.
He had 5 small houses moved from the country into the quadrant bordered by Park, National, Eighth and Third Streets. In addition he had one built.
Two of those houses have since been removed and two have been enlarged with additions. The two larger houses look much like I remember them looking when they came in from the country. Grandfather wasn’t the only one who moved houses into the area. His houses represent only a fraction of the development the area has seen since the end of WWII.
Houses are now located on Eighth Street lots which were once were the location of a gasoline station and later a cement block factory.
My great-uncle, Andrew Andersen, was a promoter and real estate agent. In the 1920s he planned to subdivide the Legion farm for a housing development. Streets were laid out and gravelled and brick block markers constructed.
He was also involved in the development of lots along the north side of Eighth Street.
Though my father was in grade school, he had a job working for Andrew. He hauled fill dirt in from the sand pits west of town. The dirt was used to bring the lots along the north side of Eighth Street up to street level.
Dad and an adult man would shovel the overburden stripped from the sandpit onto a wagon pulled by a team and bring it back to town to fill the lots. Unlike today’s dump trucks which use hydraulics to dump the load, they had to do the work manually and consequently didn’t lift the wagon box.
The floor of the wagon was constructed with unfastened 2x4 boards. To dump the load, they started near the outside and proceeded inward flipping the boards over, dumping the dirt in the process.
Once they drove the wagon to close to the ravine and it overturned. I don’t think anything or anybody was hurt in the accident but it was a close call for my father. He lost his shoe in the overturned soil and had go digging for it but fortunately found it
It wasn’t his only lost shoe story. During the hard times of the 1930s, his family had scrimped and saved to get enough money to have his shoes half-soled. He was playing along the river and stepped into some mud. While trying to shake the mud from his shoe it flew off, plopped into the river and floated down stream. He chased the shoe but it sunk out of sight and was never to be found.
He was in big trouble when he returned home minus the newly repaired shoe.
His lost shoe stories remind me of the day Rita went with me to cover the Byron Mud Drags. In the course of the afternoon, a youngster, about the age my father would have been when he lost his shoe, lost a shoe while wading in the mud pit. The youngster sensed he couldn’t go home without a shoe and begged for the aid of others to feel around in the slop. He got his desired help and they recovered his shoe before the next mud drag heat.
While I enjoyed covering them, mud drags have fallen out of favor. I remember covering drags at Byron, Fairfield and Deweese and printing pictures taken of a similar event at Esbon.
I suspect mud dragging was a costly sport and may have died from a lack of participants. It is likely the cost of liability or event insurance also discouraged event organizers.
I also enjoyed watching the activity associated with the motocross race track that was formerly located on Blauvelt’s Hill. That track has been abandoned for decades.
When three-wheeled ATVs were first introduced, races were staged in Lincloln Park. I don’t remember anyone being seriously hurt but the races among the trees were certainly exciting, particularly when one of the riders collided with a tree.