While cleaning out my file cabinet searching for documents I need to finish my taxes I came across a letter my mother, Evelyn Grubbs Pratt Walker, wrote to my daughter, Polly, in 1990. The letter is mostly about Kingman during the 30's, 40's and 50's. She talks a lot about her parents and some of you may remember them...Walter "Butch"and Mildred McMasters Grubbs who owned the Kingman IGA. My mother passed away in December of 1991 and I am guessing this was her last visit to the Kingman area. It is a rather lengthy handwritten letter but I learned some new things and was reminded of many things I had forgotten. I hope you enjoy this letter as much as I did.
July 21, 1990
Dearest Polly, The last week in May I took one day and went to Rush Creek and Centenniel Cemetary. So many many familiar names-names of people who came to the store at least once a week for many years. In driving through Kingman today you could not possibly believe what it was like during the 30's and 40's. Since my mother and father were such an integreal part of it I want to put on paper some of the major points of interest.
In 1929, when the drepression started my folks lived in Toledo, Ohio. My Dad worked in the Chevrolet Plant. The plant closed and they came home to a farm near the Fountain-Parke County line. It was a three room house with a tin room. There was no electricity, no plumbing and no central heat. Air conditioning was unheard of at that time. Dad farmed for Frank Maris for $1 a day, six days a week.
In 1933 I was hospitalized for a year and a half. 1933 wasn't all bad. Frank Maris bought a meat and dairy products store in Kingman. My folks rented a house in Kingman and my Dad (the only employee) cut meat and ran the store. He received $10 for 6 1/2 days per week. My hospital bills were $10 per week. After being released from the hospital my Mother fed me through an opening in my stomach until the summer of 1937. Dr. Smith accidently broke away a small part of the scar tissue and I was once again able to eat in a normal fashion!
After about 10 years Dad had become a partner and owned 1/2 interest in four stores- Kingman, Cayuga, Cates and Veedersburg. He did about everything that could be done with meat and groceries at that time. There were 250 frozen food lockers (before home freezers) and a slaughter house. He cured and smoked the meat and sold to the majority of restaurants and schools in the area.
After WW2 my Dad and Ben Starnes had Lodi Park for 3 summers. There was a consession stand, swimming pool and skating rink. On Sundays there was a baseball game, musical entertainment and a drawing. They gave away glassware, cookware, linens and other useful things. Dick and Jerry VanDyke had just graduated from high school and performed there one summer. Their father Cookie VanDyke was a salesman for Nabisco. On July 4th they hired a professional people to do the fireworks and charged $.25 per person. Sometimes people were turned away because all the parking places were taken in the park and the road leading back to 234.
My Dad was a very capable man and my Mother could fill in anyplace and anytime she was needed. They were in business for about 40 years. With all the saws, knives and grinders there was only one tragic accident. Around 1940 Lillian Cox lost a finger in a hamburger mill.
At one time Kingman had 5 grocery stores, 2 doctors, a dentist, a watch & jewlery sales and repair shop, radio sales and repair and a combination hotel, restaurant and tavern. There was also a shoe repair shop, dairy, blacksmith shop, Chevrolet and Oliver agency, 2 feed stores, lumber yard, bank, bowling alley, opera house, 2 barbershops, 3 gas stations, 3 car repair shops, 3 restaurants, veterinary clinic, pharmacy, an OTC drug store, small loan company, ladies ready to wear store, 2 funeral homes, library and post office. Mrs. Puckett raised beautiful flowers. She arranged and sold them for Memorial Day and other special occasions during the summer. There were 2 beauty shops. Nellie Thompson sold Avon. She came to your house twice a year- once in the fall and once in the spring The line of goods changed twice a year. Edna Clingan sold ladies dresses (Fashion Frocks) door to door. Dee Thompson brought the Danville Commercial News in daily and Ralph Ransom and John Thompson Sowers delivered them door to door.
When I was in the 5th grade the lumber yard burned. School was dismissed and the students formed a bucket brigade. Of course we just as well spit on it for all the good it did
Well......that is almost 1/2 of a ten page letter and I hope I haven't bored you to pieces. If anyone is interested in hearing the rest I will gladly share but first I have to let the feeling return to my tired fingers!
Janice Pratt Connell
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