By Beverly Clinkingbeard
A box of papers, dusty and aged, was found in clean-up of a home in Blanchard. In the interim years it had many changes of residency. The owner is deceased, so permission to snoop through the box of contents is not possible, but snoop we did, however, the owner of the box will remain anonymous. There are no juicy or gossipy letters, but receipts of business and life from 1937-1948. It records an era and economy of Blanchard as a small, but active town, at a time of national depression and WWII.
Communications for Blanchard were served by The Mutual Telephone Company for Blanchard, East Lincoln [Missouri Township that borders the Iowa town. The initial phone line ran from Blanchard to Hazel Grove/Chicken Bristle; 1-1/2 miles south, now the corner of 120th St. & Hwy. M; there was a cluster of homes – a small community that eventually disappeared once the railroad and Blanchard were established. The telephone was in the school.] and Elmo [They had their own telephone company, but with Blanchard only a mile from the Nodaway/Atchison County line on the east, farm folks had a Blanchard telephone and in some instances, Blanchard mail service.].
The telephone bill states it is owned by shareholders with an annual fee due by April 1. The annual fee assessment was $15.21. There is also a long distance charge of 32 cents, but does not record where the call was made to. The bill reminded, if not paid in a timely manner, 25 cents a quarter would be added and gave terms of the telephone company’s service. As well, it said, “Long distance calls are cash and must be paid by the first of each month.” Mrs. L.A. Crane, as secretary, signed the bill. Carl Ulmer served as lineman. Other remembered telephone operators, who answered incoming calls with “Central,” were Carrie Ulmer, Maude Grubb, and Blanche Crane’s daughters, Darlene and Bernice. The telephone office was located on the south side of Main Street and was also where Mrs. Crane lived. The switchboard was only a few feet from her bed as she was on duty for night emergency calls. Perhaps as a reminder to purchase, handwritten on the bill was “batteries,” an essential for the operation of a telephone prior to electrical service. Batteries were cyclinders about 8-10 inches in height and were rechargeable. The Atchison County Museum in Tarkio has a “battery charger” that was a service offered by Curfman Hardware.
The dusty box of papers held numerous statements from Nodaway Valley Bank, Maryville, MO. Cancellation of checks was made by a machine that perforated tiny holes. It appeared many transactions were made by mail. In April, 1937, it cost 3 cents to send a 1st class letter. On occasion the depositor rode the train to Maryville and did business personally. In that era the Wabash had many trains daily passing through Blanchard as the line ran from St. Louis, Missouri, to Omaha, Nebraska. Most were freight trains that pulled a passenger car to serve travelers, and at the direction of a depot agent, made unscheduled stops. At night a passenger waved a flashlight to the oncoming train to effect a stop.
Many older ladies of the era did not drive an auto, or if they did, it was generally for local destinations only. Elva Bean, who served the town in a myriad of ways, also served as town taxi. There were cancelled checks on her behalf too.
Other local vendors were, Ridgeway & Thurman Lumber Company in Blanchard who handled all building materials, paint, miscellaneous items and coal for heating. J.J. Bean & Co. (general store); Blanchard Oil Co (service station); J.B. Dunham (general store); Crain Hardware (Mrs. L.A. Crane, proprietor) and the hardware handled every hardware item imaginable, comic books, furniture and gift items; Morley Service Station, in 1946, fuel oil was 15 cents a gallon. The Town of Blanchard billed $6.06 for water and fire protection. It didn’t indicate if that was a monthly or quarterly charge. Dr. Reutter (pronounced ‘writer’) was the local physician. There was a dentist and a chiropractor also in town.
In 1940, a stay at “The Henry and Catherine L. Hand Hospital” of Shenandoah, IA, was $2.50 or $3.00 (depending on the services rendered?). The receipt showed for a four day stay with medicine and laboratory included, the charge was $17.80.
As this is longer than originally planned…to be continued, with a look at prices during the WWII years.