Decatur County, Iowa
PEOPLE WHO WERE LEON PEOPLE
These are folds from Leon, Iowa who were personally known to me - some quite closely. They all impressed me with their lives and attitudes...Jack.
Milburn Archibald who married the lovely Virginia Penniwell. They became know as the inseparable “Arch-and-Virginia” and ran a restaurant located about where the city hall of Leon is now. It was also the bus stop. Great hamburgers for after ball games but the pork tenderloin sandwiches were to die for. They moved to Florida where Arch died – then Virginia came back to Leon and lived in an apartment until she, too, died.
Monroe Carter – he was the Principal of the school and also my scoutmaster. I always wondered if he had been forced into the scouts as a condition of school employment. No matter, he was a great, great scout-master and knew hundreds of good songs. He married one of the Beaver girls from Leon. A nice guy. His younger brother was Stephen Carter, our only congressman.
Amos Chambers was a neighbor of ours in the late thirties. He was quite old and he might have had a stroke because his speech was slurred, hard to understand and sounded like growling. He chewed tobacco and it ran down his chin. He had a cane and brandished at me from time to time. In retrospect, I think he was trying to communicate with me but I was afraid of him. He lived a lonely life with his daughter Edith. We never made up.
Clint Davis was a pioneer in the construction of gas stations, or – as they were known then – filling stations. His sons, Junior and Walter (?) didn’t stay in Leon for long. Clint and my granddad, Fred Welling partnered to build a station on the southwest corner of Rte 2 and Main St. I can just barely remember it because it was torn down quite early when granddad moved back to Maryville, MO and operated a station there. At one point granddad built a station in Maryville shaped like a big pump and it was called, oddly enough, the Big Pump. I have a picture of him at its opening. Clint went on to build a Diamond DX station on the northeast corner of Rte 2 and Church St.
The beautiful Eckardt girls consisted of Florence (who was my dad’s dental assistant until she married my Uncle Francis,) Lois who married Bob Waters and moved to Colorado and Dottie who won the Shirley Temple lookalike contest. Dottie married Joe Allen the son of Ray Allen who was one of the ISU managers. … and they were all beautiful.
Maude and Orel Estes were well-known folks in town. They ran the Ford Sales and Garage business for a long, long time. Maude won a couple of awards based upon her sales record – not unheard of for ladies but not that common, either. They built their last house just adjacent to our house – in fact dad sold them the lot. Wonderful neighbors. They had a daughter who became Fern Gaunt and moved to Hinsdale, IL. When my wife and I moved to Naperville, IL we visited with Fern quite a bit. Maude gave me a little brown jug music box that plays – oddly enough – “How Dry I Am” when you lift it.
Burbank Halstead was the Decatur County Auditor for many years. I include him for a couple of reasons. First reason, he was voted out of office when one of my best friends came out of the army after WW2 and ran against him. I understand the sympathy given my friend – returning from the service and all – but Burbank had served well for a lot of years. Second reason, his son, Whitney was in my class. He was the class valedictorian, he wrote our sports fight song and he was an extremely talented artist. He had more talent than any ten of the rest of us. Unfortunately, he was small and frail – and probably was bullied. He died young at the Chicago Art Institute…I think of cancer. I’m sorry I missed a chance to be his close friend.
And certainly not least was my wonderful Aunt – Eileen Scott Wood Hamlin. She moved back to Leon after a divorce and commanded a job as the OPA administrator for the county – in charge of rationing during WW2 if you’re too young to remember. She could have made a fortune peddling “C” books for gasoline as well as meat stamps but she didn’t. She did take me in when I went back to Leon for my senior high school year. She heated that big house with a kerosene Perfection heater – and lots of blankets. After the war she remarried to Fred Hamlin – an old sweetheart and they are now buried in the Leon cemetery. Here’s to Eileen!
Edgar Hansell, car dealer and master trader who married Delphine (Skinner) Hansell who was a primary teacher and the nicest human being I’ve met.
Max Hyatt’s Dad, an albino ice delivery man with pink eyes and - a favorite of the kids ‘cause he gave us slivers of ice on hot days.
John Lundquist came to Leon and managed the Iowa Southern Utilities (now part of Alliant Energy.) He was a great woodsman and he taught me to cook my breakfast in the woods with only a coffee can of wood. His policy was to build a small fire and sit close instead of building a large fire and backing away. Damfit didn’t work.
CL (Corwin Lee) Maxwell, generally know as Mac, was manager of a very well run Penney’s store – he was a bachelor and loved to read – and cook – he used the Leon Carnegie Library a lot and, I think, left them a sizable donation in his will. He and my dad feuded for 2 or 3 years. Ugly! I couldn’t get either of them to tell me why but they made up and became best friends again. He left the town a better place than he found it and the town should miss him.
Ernie Michael – ran the Strand Theater in Leon. His son, Junior was in my age group and played drums for the band – very well. He also married Patty Iltis. What I remember is that they bought the first automatic transmission car in Leon – a Hydramatic Oldsmobile. Solid!
Leo Mundy, (spelling?) Twyla Hardin and the best pineapple rolls in the world – what a trio! Leo bought the bakery on Main St from Guy Stark and ran it in excellent fashion. Whenever I could get a nickel together I headed for it and Twyla would pick out the best pineapple roll for me. Yum!
Doc “Packy” McFarland, whose hobby was high level math, designed the swimming pool -which lasted longer than any pool should. He moved to Ames and worked with his brothers (fellow doctors) in establishing the McFarland clinic
Ralph McGinnis lived across Church St from us in what turned later into the Methodist Parsonage. He was the son of a highly respected lawyer, V R McGinnis, and he was also a football hero at Iowa University. His children included a boy my age who was named for his grandfather, V R McGinnis, and the two of us played together a lot. I have a picture of him on his front steps. My dad was an Iowa U graduate also and he and Ralph attended many of the important games in Iowa City – fifty yard line seats because of Ralph’s football career.
Forest McKelvey worked for the Iowa Southern Utilities, also. I remember he tested lamp sockets by sticking his thumb in them. Ouch! He had been gassed during WW 1 and I’ll never forget when he caught us playing war games how he lectured us on the hell and viciousness that war is. He and his lovely wife, Lucille, had 3 children: Phyllis, Betty and Jack. We were all pretty close.
The Reverend Clarence Moore who, for a time, was the pastor of the Methodist Church. The reason I include him was that he was a killer at horseshoes! Somehow, I always felt it wasn’t quite a proper sport for a minister – especially when he was so darn good. My granddad, H G Scott, considered him the best we ever had at the Methodist Church.
Virginia Archibald was only one of the lovely Penniwell girls. There were also Maureen, who married Milt Frankel and moved to Des Moines and Gwen Penniwell – I can’t remember who Gwen married but I believe she moved to Colorado.
GB and Blondina Price – they were a colorful addition to the town while he ran a mens’ clothing store. It wouldn’t be too far off base to say that Blondina was not a technical wizard. In fact, every time her cigarette lighter ran out of fluid she took it up to Van Worden’s Drug Store to get it re-filled. They sold their men’s clothing business to … Shorty Cesler
Millard Prose, the 6’ 5” giant who came to town to run the CCC camp and his small wife, Cecile. He went directly into the army as did many of the CCC folks.
Gus Pryor, who walked up to ten miles a day until he was in his 90’s (When I ran into him with a bicycle and broke several of his 90 year old bones it stopped his walking for the most part.) My folks insisted I visit him in the hospital after I hit him. It was the hardest thing I ever did but we became fast, fast friends. His sister was Jessie Pryor, who was Postmaster (Mistress?) for a while.
Charlie Pyfer and his wife Veynice – at one time he worked for Iowa Pack when my Uncle Francis did. Then he founded a grocery store. I worked for Charlie in his meat department once and he was a slave driver – but he ran a good store and I would never hesitate to buy from him. I sold hamburger for a nickel a pound on sale and good round steak for thirty cents on a regular basis.
Grace Rowell was the wife and widow of the dentist Dr James Rowell who mentored my dad, Doc Scott. She had artistic talent to burn. She gave us (Brownie my wife - and me) gorgeous water colors she painted for our wedding presents – they were on acid paper and I recently had to have them restored at an art house – they offered me $600 apiece for them which I turned down, of course. She was a grand lady in every sense of the word.
Harold Rush, who ran the Pontiac garage for a while. He was interested in Decatur County development and he and my Dad were the prime movers for getting “Nine Eagles Park” underway. His birthday was on Xmas and he invited the public to meet his cousins “Tom and Jerry” at the garage on that day. (note: Tom and Jerry is a well known cold weather drink.)
Doc Scholty was also a neighbor of ours. He was a veterinarian of some local renown and has been featured in some of the news articles in our genealogical site. He was friendly to a “T” and invited me over to see him operate in his garage – pigs, dogs, sheep, etc. However, his wife was fairly cross and probably considered me a demon. They had two lovely daughters and one of them, Jean, married and wound up in Atlanta where we visited with her quite a bit. Her husband died and she move to Athens, GA to be near her daughter – haven’t heard much from her since. How could that cross Mrs Scholty have such lovely daughters?
Of course, Frank Stewart, funeral director and furniture sales, who always looked so dignified and formal (even the one time I saw him with his fly open.) And his son, Jack, the orneriest kid ever - but turned into a nice human being – maybe because he married Gene, the county nurse and she tamed him. Jack and Gene had a wonderful bunch of kids and Gene continues to bless Leon with her presence. She has been good to the town.
Sadie Stout who ran the Carnegie Library forever and let me get books out of the adult section because I could understand them. She also got me hooked on James Oliver Curwood and Jack London. Nice lady.
Lula Swisher, a tough principal
Elmer Teeter who started trash pickup in an old school bus and was laughed at but still improved the community - more power to him. It was the first trash service we had. Before that, we took our trash out west of town and threw it in a pre-arranged ditch – or sometimes missed the ditch.
Monk Tullis, who could touch his nose with his chin and got his picture in the Des Moines Tribune as a result.
Bob Waters, our local musical talent – he joined Freddie Fisher’s Schnicklefritzers and went to New York for a while. Then he came back and ran a dental lab. Then he went to Greeley, Colorado and taught at the college – he also married Lois Eckardt, the sister of my aunt. His dad, Everett Waters probably didn’t approve of Bob’s varied career (?)
Various other doctors: Brown, Eicher, Bowman and, later, Doss.
Numerous barbers – Bill Sanger, Peyty Hull, Harl Pitman
Numerous dentists – Dad, Doc Rowell, Doc Hines, Doc Moore
Memorable teachers – Ella Grogan, Frances McKinley, Lenore LaFollette, Merle Stevens, Lee Fender, “Doc” Edwards, the beautiful Miss Lubbock, … Dale Aherne who is dear to the genealogists because he wrote “Down One Hundred Years” and was one of my English teachers. He was aided by Clair Watson - he was the school’s art instructor and drew the illustrations for the book … there were too many excellent teachers to mention but they were all important to Leon and probably starved during the depression.
The law – Ole Man Charlie Brooks and Lefty Vanderpool – also, at one time my cousin, Roscoe Sinco was the sheriff.
Bill Zunkel should be included because whenever you said “Bill Zunkel” you were always asked, “Bill who’s uncle?” He worked for the bank in Leon and later moved on to Esterville, Iowa. His wife also had an interesting name – Victoria Adenia Sapheia Zunkel. Impressive!