4/03/2012 updated 4/17/2012
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CIMARRON, THEN AND NOW
In 1960, Cimarron was a much different town than you will find today. Now, it is 2012, and to be honest, although Cimarron is different, it really hasnít changed that much. The reason I use such a contrary opening is that the more Cimarron seems to change, the more the people and the way we live remains very much the same. This is a short comparison of the then and now of our townís journey.
Cimarron received its 15 minutes of fame after the ďSmall Town USAĒ documentary that was made in the early sixties. That documentary featured three small towns, one of which was Cimarron. My plan with this writing is to show a then, 1960 and now 2012, while throwing in a bit of history as we travel down the streets of Cimarron.
In 1954 I had an Uncle, my dadís brother JR., that was terminally ill. Because of that, dad purchased a super 8 camera to film JR. and his family as well as the whole Thomas Clan and friends. It was a very extravagant purchase for those days, but dad felt it was justified. The movies have many memories of my relatives; many are now gone, and some for over half a century.
In the summer of 1960, before the "Small Town" documentary, my family picked up our lives and moved to California. Dad had bought his second bar in CA and had no one that he felt he could trust to run it properly. So he sold the salvage yard he owned and we moved so dad could run that bar. We returned to Cimarron a year and a half later and purchased the John Deere dealership. As a result of having that camera, on the day we started our move to CA, dad took the camera and took a home movie of Cimarron, including ours and friendís homes as well as nearly all of the local businesses at the time.
Several years ago my sonís, my son-in-law and me, copied the home movies, and my son-in-law transferred them to DVDís. I recently made copies of those DVDís for some friends. While watching the DVDís, I was amazed by the changes in our community. But the closer I looked, I found many similarities.
When starting this muse, I had planned on giving a mental tour from that home movie of Cimarron. As I got into writing about our town, it suddenly started to turn from a short article into a huge project. Although my memory is still pretty good, at times I know that I do remember things differently than others. As such, I have decided to do this project in chapters, and doing much more research than I originally had planned. I also have borrowed the Jacksonian newspaperís 1960 annual to help get things as close to right as I can. In the short time I have had the annual, there have been some big eye openers.
I am also asking for help from those with knowledge about Cimarron in 1960 as well as the following years, at least with near forgotten names and any memories lurking in the back of their minds. Hopefully that will help make this project as accurate as possible. I do not intend to make this a complete history of Cimarron so I am going to try my best to keep the information in a range from 1960 to the present, and primarily 1960 and now. The first installment will be about the restaurants that we were blessed with in 1960 and to compare the restaurants we have today with perhaps a bit of history in between. Please feel free to send me any information you feel will make "Restaurants" more complete.
Restaurants: In 1960 Cimarron had three restaurants. As I recall, those three restaurants strived to provide home cooked meals for their patrons. On main street, about 1/2 block south of the stop light and on the east side was Russell's cafe that was run by Lee and Edna Russell. Pepper Sears, a nephew of Lee and Edna's recalls a covered wagon that was painted on the window by his cousin Crawford Russell, an accomplished artist in later years. Pepper's mom, Lillian cooked at this and other restaurants in town. Lee Russell was sort of a jack of all trades about town and sold insurance door to door in Cimarron and other area towns. Lee later worked for my family at the John Deere dealership driving our delivery truck, and off and on cooked at most of the restaurants that came and went while he was still cooking.
During the year of 1960, Russell's cafe was purchased from Lee Russell by George and Cleo Phillips, and was re-named the Cimarron Cafe. Marge Sauer, who later purchased it and changed the name to Marge's cafe, cooked at the Cimarron cafe as well as most of the cafes in Cimarron during that time.
The F&J cafe or Frank and Judy's cafe, was in a small building just west of present day Ritchie's cafe. This was a small cafe where there was a counter with stools, and 4 or 5 booths on the opposite west wall. When seated at the stools you faced the grill and could watch the cook up close. Part of the cafe, but separate, was a small motel that sat behind it. It was used in later years as apartments and later for storage. Lillian Sears cooked in, and ran this cafe, and in later years Harvey (Skid) Skidmore owned and managed it. The meals at the F&J and later the Skid Inn, were famous for being home cooked. Skid would always know his customer and your plate would have the amount of food he knew you would eat. Of course, mine was always overflowing and even dripping on the floor as the waitress brought it to my table. Man, did Skid have some great Sirloin Tips and outstanding chicken and noodles served on top of mashed potatoes. Of course his signature meal was Chicken Fried Steak. The steak would cover the whole plate and was like all of his food, home made. I remember many nights helping the Sears and the Skidmore's clean up at the end of the day. The sooner the place was cleaned, the sooner we could get out and raise a little Cain.
The Western cafe in 1960 was located in the present day Red's bar and grill. The western cafe had been in several locations up to that time. There is some thought that Schoen's ran it in the old IGA, which was in the south half of what is now Clarks Pharmacy. I recall it being located just south of the Jacksonian on the east side of north main, just north of the original Standard station, which is a vacant lot today. When Lee Russell sold the Russell cafe to the Phillips, he purchased the Western cafe from George Akin; again this was in 1960.
As I have mentioned, I do not want to make a complete history of Cimarron from 1960 to now, but I do want to make a comparison. Today, we have more eateries as well as a larger variety of choices in cuisine. The "Cancun" restaurant, located 4 blocks west of main on the highway, has great Mexican food. I mentioned "Ritchie's" earlier and it occupies the IGA which started construction in 1960 and is one block east of the stop lights, just south across the highway from the old Mobil Station and serves a large variety of food. Red's Bar and Grill occupies the old Western Cafe location 1/2 block east of the stop lights. Red's serves a large variety of food as well.
The bowling alley started construction in 1962 but did not serve meals as such. Today, the Renick family owns and operates the bowling alley and serves pizza and sandwiches. Papa D's is located in the old Cimarron Recreation building and serves pizza and sandwiches as well. Also, in the early 60's there was a popular drive-in restaurant called the 50 drive-in owned and operated by Rex and Carol Bradley. Carol was an Israel from Dodge City and is Judy Hilker's sister. It wasn't there in 1960 as near as I can find out, but it was close so I am giving it a mention.
Since I originally published this, it is believed there was a drive-in on the south side of E. main street, just at the city limits sign. It was at the Paul Eichmann motel/trailer park that later was a cheese store. Several remember eating there but I do not recall it at all except perhaps it being a convenience type store. It could be that it was after we left for CA. Joan Rankin was said to be a waitress there and they served corn dogs. It probably had a grill for other things as well as there are some that recall eating burgers there.
Service stations were abundant in 1960 and Cimarron was no exception, however I will cover those at a later date. Over the years, those service stations were replaced by convenience stores that sold grocery goods as well as gas. As years went on, these convenience stores started providing meals. They range from breakfast sandwiches to Pizza, and other fast food type meals.
The local grocery store today is a multi-functional business, which once again I will talk about later in this article but does have a place in present places to eat. Whites Food liner is located on the east end of town on the south side of high way 50. Whites Food Liner, among other things, offers two eateries. At lunch time, they serve a large variety of meals, and serve into the early evening. Also inside Whites is our local Subway. As you can see, we have come quite a ways in our restaurant offerings, but it Is awfully hard to get better food than we had access to in 1960.
Grocery stores in Cimarron have come a long way since we had Fisher's IGA sitting in their 1960 location on main street. They occupied the south half of what is now Clarks Pharmacy. I remember going there as a kid and thinking it was a huge store. Clarks south half is a nice size, but it is pretty small for what we expect out of a Grocery store today. During the year of 1960, Fisher's IGA announced they were going to construct a new store and would move into it the same year. The new store would be located 1 block east of the stop light and is now Ritchie's cafe. Compared to what we had been used to, it was huge. If memory serves me correctly, Jack Newsome was either a partner with Howard Fisher or became his partner when the new store was built.
In my research, I found out about another grocery store in Cimarron. It was the D&I Grocery and owned by Alfred Downtain. They had been in business for 13 years, and in 1960 announced that they were closing the store. I have not been able to find out the location as of this writing. (I have been informed that the D&I was located just south of the Dime Store. The building is now the present day City Hall.
The IGA store we had for years has become White's Food Liner and is located on the east side of town, just across the highway from the old 50 Drive in. As I said earlier, our local gas stations turned into convenience stores that are in essence small grocery stores. A smaller variety of goods with a higher price for the most part, but just as the name states, more convenient then going to the grocery store.
I walked down main street the other day trying to put things in in place in my mind of what stores are here now and comparing them with my memory of 1960. I stopped in at Ridenhour's law office and looked at a picture taken from in front of their building looking south. I was surprised to see a Citizens State Bank. As I recall, in 1960 we only had the First National Bank, located on south main on the west side which is now part of City Hall. The Cimarron Credit Union was also on main street, but on the opposite side and north of the highway, and probably in the same building used today by Dodge City Credit Union. The first national bank moved north several years ago into a new, state of the art bank, on the vacant lot that was used as a machinery lot by Walker sales, the local M&M dealer in 1960.
In the last few years we have added Cimarron State Bank. I mentioned earlier that White's Food Liner was a multi-functional business, and the Cimarron State Bank is located there. It has an ATM, a drive up window and is a very fine, full service bank.
For most of us closer to my age and "town kids" in 1960, the big item in our daily lives was the local drug stores. Actually for many, it still is today. What is now the north 1/2 of Clarks Drug store was Tuggle's Drug. I spent many hours in Tuggle's reading comic books and partaking as much as I could afford at the soda fountain. Clarks was about a half block south in what was later the City Library. Clarks was pretty much the same store as Tuggle's with one exception. After reading comic books for way too long, Lloyd Tuggle would run me out. Ralph and Malee Clark would run me out too, but Malee was much nicer to me. I have found memories of all of these folks, they were a great asset to our community. Today, Clarks is owned and managed by Jim and Sandi Coast with other family members helping as well.
I always seem to have a personal story to tell, and this is one that does have a moral tied to it. In Tuggle's, near the back door by the high way, there was always a tall stand with magic tricks and other knick-knacks on it. I would stand there for hours at times and just turn it and turn it. I would look at everything on the rack. Everything sold for a dollar so I knew I would never own any of it, but it sure did have a lot of items that I wanted.
One day, woe and behold, there it was. My way to own anything I wanted from that rack. It was a magic trick that would actually pay for itself. It was a double roller, money making machine. All you had to do was roll a blank piece of paper the size of a dollar bill into it, and as if by magic, a dollar bill would come out the other side as the blank went in. It even showed it happening on the package. This was my big chance. It was also the first and last time I ever stole anything. I have never been known as a very smart person, but I knew that if I "borrowed" the magic roller, I could pay for it with the first dollar I made and from then on it was all profit.
When I got home with the dollar maker, I couldn't get it unwrapped fast enough. I put the blank paper in and started turning. It went in alright, but nothing came out the other side. So, like the man I some day would become, I read the instructions. Guess what? You had to put a dollar in one side and roll it into the rollers. Then you had to put the blank in the other side, and when the blank was rolled in, the real dollar one had put in would come out, as if by magic. But like I said, I didn't have a dollar in the first place. I hid the dollar maker in my dresser and pretty well forgot about it, but of course my mom found it. When confronted by mom, I explained to her what my plan had been but that the toy had tricked me. It was only four blocks back to Tuggle's, but it was a pretty fast trip, as mom had me by the ear and we weren't wasting any time.
Mom made me tell Lloyd what I had done; I was ready to go to jail. My dad was Sheriff then, so it was not going to be a pretty sight. Lloyd fooled me. He thanked me for telling him what I had done and started my first charge account. I had no credit but I did have an account. I put every penny into that account I could until I had the magic trick paid for. I took that magic trick and threw it in the trash. I have never stolen anything since.
SERVICE STATIONS; Service stations in Cimarron is a subject which I felt I was an expert. What I have found out is that there is once again, much that I do not know. Please help me with this subject if you have memories from 1960.
I do know that my family ran and owned the salvage yard on the west side of town starting in the 40's, but with five boys, there had to be other business' that they could pursue. My dad Charlie had owned the Standard station which was located on the NE corner of main and Highway 50 in the mid 50's. Today, there is a vacant lot used for parking, mostly for funerals at the funeral home occupying the building next to the lot. I thought my dad had sold the Standard station to my Uncle, Bob Culver, and then purchased the Mobil Oil station just 1/2 block East. Frankie said that Bob had just worked for Dad.
Larry Brown has given me a heads up about the station that was south of the tracks located where the Toothacre Repair shop is now. I think in 1960 it was still a service station with the Sinclair brand. Si Davis had a repair shop in it and it was called Si's Place. In the 1960 Jacksonian it was still listed as Si's place but was owned and operated by Fred and Katherine Davis and family. Larry also mentioned that he felt there was a service station involved at the Drive-in on the south side of the highway on east 50, at the Eichman place.
I talked to my Uncle Frankie Thomas today 5/6/2012 and asked him as many questions as I could think of. Yes, Larry Brown, the Eichman station was where you say. Frankie felt sure in 1960 it was a Phillips 66. He recalled that Paul Eichman really liked my dad and would stop by almost every day at my dad's station with his Phillips 66 hat on, and visit with dad. Frankie also said it was a drive-in but he thought it was never the 50 drive-in and was never owned by the Bradley family. Just as we had said in the restaurant section, Bradley's built the 50 drive In and that was on the north side of 50, just a block or two further east. Harold Ott came to Cimarron in 1962 or 63 according to Frankie and built the Phillips 66 station on the west side of the stop lights, about 3 blocks, and on the south side.
My dad also owned the Mobil station during the Blizzard of 1957 and as dad was sheriff too, it was used as headquarters for the sheriff department during that blizzard. He sold the station to Russ Unruh who was the owner operator in 1960. Frankie and Earl Condor bought the Mobil in 61 from my Uncle Darrell who had bought it from Russ Unruh. When we moved back from CA in 1962, I worked for my Uncle Frankie and Earl Condor at the Mobil. During most, if not all of this time, the bulk dealer for Mobil was Gene Hilker Oil. Uncle Frankie mentioned that the only way for a service station to really make it was to own the bulk franchise. Frankie said that the bulk dealer received a 5 cent break on gas prices so they could make enough money to stay in business.
In 1960 the Standard Oil Station was Boyd Standard Service owned by Cloyd Boyd and Bob's Oil company was the bulk dealer. Later that year it was sold to Don Scott. Somewhere down the line, Lyle Davis purchased the Station and built a new service station next to the Western Cafe, now Reds bar and grill. The station building is still there and used for storage.
The Cimarron CO-OP service station is up for discussion on where it was in 1960. Pepper Sears feels it was on the west side of Cimarron and he recalls falling from it's roof. Uncle Frankie feels the station was always east across the street from the Cimarron Hotel and North across the street from the old Mix Shop/liquor store, which is now the location of our City Library. Frankie thinks the building that housed the CO-OP was new either in 1960 or 1961 and it was built on the same location as the old station. There was an old wood shed just to the east where they stored some of their bulk oil. Frankie also felt the City was trying to get all of the bulk dealers out of the city limits. That would explain the propane tanks on the west side, as they would have been just outside the city limits. I don't think they were there in 1960 however. That would also explain Pepper's memory of falling off the building if there was a CO-OP bulk plant there.
Wien's Champlain Oil Station is still standing two blocks east of main. Wien's also had a bulk business with it. That station later became a small vehicle repair shop.
So in 1960 we had the 1. Eichman Phillips 66, 2. Wien's Champlain Oil Station, 3. The Standard Station owned by Cloyd Boyd, 4. The Co-op station, 5. Mobil Oil Station, 6. Si's Place Sinclair Station.
Today, we have Hilker Oil at the old Phillips 66 station location on the west side with a secondary location 1/2 block west and 1/2 block south, and the Presto, Phillips 66, which is a stop to shop type of store. Today, there are no "Service" stations in Cimarron. For that matter, they are a thing of the past throughout most of the United States today.
Have information? Contact me at email@example.com.
I will try to map the following, 1960 and now.
NORTH MAIN, WEST SIDE
NORTH MAIN, EAST SIDE
SOUTH MAIN, WEST SIDE
SOUTH MAIN, EAST SIDE
If you cannot reach me with the above link email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with 1960 in the subject line.
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