We have altered the format and added additional stories to this section and will continue to add additional stories as they become available. If you have any Louisville stories you would like to share, send them to [email protected] via email or to Bill Tempelmeyer, 2406 Olive Branch Road, Marshalltown, Ia. 50158. All Louisville stories are welcome regardless of subject matter.
Anyone sending in a story will receive credit for its composition. All stories must be at least partially true, [10%] … however some 'truth modification' is permitted for enhancement.
About the Old Historian:
In 1927 my father moved his small family to Louisville, Nebraska, population 800, where he had acquired a position as Civil Engineer with the Ash Grove Cement Company. At that time the family consisted of my father (28), mother (27), sister Rose (8), brother Earl (7) and brother Don (2).
A little over five years later, In Jan 1933, my father, age 35, died leaving my mother a young widow during the Great Depression and all of her efforts went towards providing us four children with food, shelter, and clothing. She owned the, "Corner Grocery" store, located in the two 'corner buildings' in the 1912 photograph, shown at the beginning of this section of the web-site. It still appeared as shown in the photographs, dirt streets and all, until the streets were paved in about 1939.
Mother got out of the Grocery Store business and worked in the Post Office from 1943 until her retirement in 1970.
Any history of Louisville would not be complete if we did not mention some of the most outrageous characters that lived there when I was a young boy during the 1930s' and 1940s'.
I never knew any of these individuals by any name other than those presented here. They went by these names for as long as I can remember. Keep in mind that I remember them best through the eyes of a very young boy growing up on the dusty streets of Louisville during the Great Depression and World War II. The unique spelling of some of the names is intended to reflect how I recall there being articulated when I was ten years old, others have been altered in order to avoid their identification because they may have relatives still in the area.
Addition stories will be added from time to time.
Lets start with the first of three stories about Dynamite Pete
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DYNAMITE PETE (Photo courtesy Beth Welte, Louisville; William Engelkemier on Friday, August 18, 2006 wrote: "Dynamite Pete is sitting in front of Carl (Christianson's) Variety store. The reflection of the store our left is the Stander and Stander Hardware store. The reflection of the store on our right is the Louisville (Zastera's) Pharmacy.")
1938. Dynamite's real name was, Levi Everett, born 9 Dec 1862. He may have received his nick name in the 1880's when he worked as a power monkey for the quarries. Dynamite said that he was happier out in the woods, playing his Jacob Steiner violin, singing, feeding the birds and squirrels. He said he did not pay rent or pay taxes. He raised his own food even at one time raising and curing his own tobacco. He had pneumonia and was in an Omaha hospital before living at the Hill Crest Nursing Home in Plattsmouth where he died, at age 87, on 26 December 1949. Dynamite is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery near Plattsmouth.
Dynamite was a rather frail individual, about 70 years old. He had a full upper lip mustache and shoulder length hair that would have been gray had it ever been washed. However in their "natural state" both his mustache and his hair were an off-white color with a slight yellow tinge. His attire was always the same, no shoes, no hat, no shirt, only a pair of well-worn oversized bib-overalls.
Dynamite lived about six miles West of town in a cave near the Platte River. Every August he would wander into town during the annual 'Carnival Days,' which consisted of the usual bingo games, hot dog stands, ball throwing contest, and cheap rides. Of course none of these had any appeal to Dynamite. What attracted him was the Talent Scout Contest in which he always played, 'Turkey In The Straw' on his violin. I cannot remember if his playing was good or bad but I do remember the time there was a rather heated discussion about his appearance. Although Ol' Dynamite was willing to compromise and refrain from chewing tobacco and spitting during his performance the selection committee insisted that he put on a pair of shoes and a shirt. At this point he drew the line and said ... Hell No ... enough conformity was enough but that shoes and a shirt were going just to far and with that he walked off the stage and started playing his violin as he walked through the crowd on his way to the street corner. Everyone gathered around Dynamite, to watch and listen, while the next contestant stood on the stage alone and ignored.
Sometime around the summer of 1942 Dynamite and his girl friend meandered into town and announced their plans to get married. His bride, a Native American woman, was about the same caliber as Dynamite. Of course the local busy-bodies and the good town fathers, who knew what was best for everyone, told him that they would not permit them to get married because he did not have a "proper" house in which to live. For the next several months much was made of this issue and the story eventually appeared in the news papers and then heard over the radio.
As a result of all the publicity Dynamite received a train ride to New York City where he performed on a national talent scout radio show called "We The People." After which he was given an air plane ride over New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
This made a local hero out of Ol' Dynamite and thereafter he finagled many a free beer, as he made his appointed rounds of the taverns back in Louisville, telling the locals of his trip to New York City. Thus he was the first to buck the stiff collared, red-neck village bigots and win.
Another Dynamite story
by Larry Johnson:
It would seem that Pete had a way with kids and would always have time to sit and talk to the ones that weren't afraid of him. Cecil Fosberg was one of those kids, and would often visit him while out exploring the woods, daring other kids to come with him. Cecil told me Pete's "cave" was no more than a hollow blown into the side of a ledge with the front half built like a shack made of wood and having a door. Inside was a ledge, which he used as a shelf. There was a spring that ran into a basin on this ledge and drained to the outside through a channel cut into the rock. Cecil recalled the time he and some friends were exploring and got thirsty. Cecil told them, if they weren't afraid he could get them some water. They went into Pete's. He was cooking something on an open fire in an old tin can. Pete ended up giving all of them a drink of water and telling them that it was the best damn water in the county.
It seems as if Pete was making chili and after the kids watched what was going into it, they lost their appetite. Cecil, being the leader, couldn't say no and tried a bite. After making a funny face over the taste, which Pete noticed, Pete said no wonder it taste funny, I forgot the secret ingredient, and reached into his mouth and took out his chewing tobacco and stirred it into the can of chili. Cecil promptly made the excuse that he had to take a leak and went out side and threw up behind a tree. When he got home his mother couldn't figure out why he wouldn't eat his supper, ….. home made chili.
How Dynamite Got His Nickname
By Larry Johnson
Here is a little story on how Pete got his nickname. As far as I know it is true, having heard it from three different people.
During my college days I had to write numerous stories. Some of the characters that I used were told to me by Cecil Fosberg, who used to live across from the South Bend Bar, and Pup, a 90 year old gandy dancer from the Rock Island Railroad, who used to live near the tracks. Indian Charlie was another one to tell stories but you could not tell if they were true.
I was told that Dynamite Pete got his name by working as a blaster for the quarries around the area, as no sane person wanted to haul a wagon load of nitro around on a daily basis.
The story goes that at one time South Bend had a boarding house for the railroad workers and cowboys, having the only bridge across the Platte River and the Louisville bridge wasn't built yet. Downstairs of the boarding house was a bar. It was one of Pete's favorite haunts. He was known to get drunk enough he could hardly walk, but had a talent for walking on his hands and many bar bets were won for free drinks by doing so. One such bet was won by walking out of town, approx. three blocks on his hands carrying a quart of whiskey in his mouth. He made it and won the quart. His nickname came when he arrived one evening for a drink and began his usual trick of hand walking, there being a new crew of railroad workers that didn't know of his hidden talent. He won a few drinks and the railroad workers were getting bored. They decided to take his bibs off and parade him around town. The story goes, Pete took out a stick of dynamite from his coveralls and lit it. Setting it on the table, he said, "which of you kids are man enough to stay and have a drink with me?" There were people diving through windows and doors to get out of there. As the room cleared, Pete reached over, spit on his fingers and squeezed out the fuse, then proceeded to go around the bar finishing all the drinks then picked the dynamite and a bottle of whiskey off the table and left with no one bothering him.
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By Bill Tempelmeyer
OLD BOAT JOHN ..... I remember very little about Old Boat John. However I do recall that on my way to school, when I was in the first grade, (1937) I often saw him outside of his little shack, that was wedged in between Mill Creek and the railroad track. As I recall he was always building small flat bottom fishing boats. He never spoke to any of us kids and we were to scared to go anywhere near him or his shack.
Old Boat John from time to time would get into one of his boats and float down Mill Creek about a mile to the Platte River. Once he reached the river he floated and paddled down stream about another half mile until he came to, Joe's Island. We often heard stories about a large log cabin that he was building out there. Of course, being so young, we had no way to get out to the island to see for our selves.
Then one day in about 1940 he ask someone for a ride to Plattsmouth. Once there he walked down to the sheriff's office and turned himself in stating that he was wanted for murder. They locked him up and we never saw or heard of him again.
Many years later, when I was in about the 8th grade, a couple of us decided to swim out to the island and see what we could find. Sure enough, deep in the tall timber, on this large island was a very spacious two story log cabin.
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GRANDPA BEN ..1938. This character was another of Louisville's classic individuals. Like Old Boat John he lived in a small wood shack along the bank of Mill Creek. He was a frail individual always in need of a good meal, a bath, and a clean set of cloths. Times were hard and everyone did what they could to save money.
I vividly recall Grandpa Ben setting in the morning sun in front of Mother's grocery store, in 1938. In the summer he would sit on the West side of the street all day in order to be in the morning sun and afternoon shade. However in the Spring or Fall he would migrate to the East side of the street in the afternoon in order to stay in the sun.
His single most outstanding trademark was the small coffee can that he always carried with him. When the need arose he would get up from his street side bench and slowly wander up and down main street picking up wads of spent chewing tobacco. The dry wads he put in the can and he put the soggy ones on the store front window ledges so they could dry out over night. This way he could bring his can to town with him each morning, fill it with the freshly dried wads from the windows, and again have a full day's supply of chewing tobacco.
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GRAMA MEYERS ..1938 This fine lady was nothing like the other characters. She was a very nice person and appears to have lived well into her nineties when I was just a young boy in 1938. She lived just a couple of houses down the street from my place in a spotlessly clean large white house. I never saw anyone come or go and seldom saw her out in the yard. Once in a great while when I walked past her place on my way up town, she would come out of her front door, creep down the front steps and shuffle along the sidewalk out to her front gate. As I approached her she would partially extend her right arm with a nickel pinched tightly between her thumb and forefinger and say, Villy, Villy ... kommon mer, Villy. Any way that is what it sounded like to me. She would give me a scrap of paper and say, "Villy, sie gaben ... Herr Reinhart." there would always be a slight pause then she would say, "Sie bringen bitte." After this she would show me the nickel and put it in her apron pocket, and as I would turn and start to continue my trip to town she would pat me on the head and say, "Villy, Villy, Zer ist ine zer gute boop, Villy." Then I would be on my way to Fritz Reihart's butcher shop with the scrap of paper clutched in my hand and a dream of that nickel stuck in my head. After Fritz's gave me the package of meat I was off on a dead run back to Grama Meyer's house. As I neared her house she would again open the front door, creep down the front steps, and shuffle out to her front gate. I would give her the package and she would give me the nickel, and as I turned to run back up town she would again pat me on the head and say, "Villy, zer ist Ine zer gute boop," or something like that.
With the nickel held firmly in my clenched fist I headed straight for Joe Zastera's drug store where I would climbed up on one of those huge soda fountain stools and order a glass of chocolate milk, with ice. Thus ended, to the mutual satisfaction of everyone, another business transaction.
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AUNT FLORENCE ..1940 Truly my favorite eccentric. Her name itself should have served as an ominous omen of my fate. Poor old Aunt Florence, not really a relative, was just a kooky old maid neighbor. When I was a boy of ten she must have been about forty years old. She lived right next door with a nice lady I knew only as Elma. We always refereed to them as, 'the old maids,' although Elma had been married. Elma was near normal and she never said anything or did anything to call attention to herself. Aunt Florence on the other hand was a delight to pester.
These two little old ladies had a double taste of bad luck. They not only had the grave misfortune to live right next to my Mom's house but they also had an iron picket fence. I can still vividly recall roller skating past their place as fast as I could with a sawed off broom stick held out at arms length. This always prompted poor old Aunt Florence to come out her front door on a dead run yelling at me to get off of her sidewalk. After I had disappeared on down the street she would go back inside her little house and peek out between the curtains, waiting for me to come back. This was the signal for my brother and his friends to make a lot of noise out in back and pretend to be doing something with her back fence. After a while Aunt Florence would leave her lookout by the front window and step out onto her back porch to see what was going on near the back gate. This was the cue for me to race back across her front sidewalk with the broom handle again clattering away along the iron picket fence.
There are still hundreds more of Aunt Florence stories to tell but space and time are limited. Maybe some time I'll write an essay called, "Aunt Florence and the neighbor kids." In it I will tell you about her cats and the problems they had with my B B gun.
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Here was a man that had lived in Louisville far longer than his natural talents would allow. For he had turned to liquor as a means of tolerating the local environment. Here are two short stories about Johnny and his new fangled gas machine and it's damn stick shift.
One fine fall day while squirrel hunting just out side of Town I sat on a tree stump and looked down the hill at the dirt road that wandered through Johnny's pasture in the valley below. After a while I could hear the purr of Johnny's old Ford Truck way off in the distance. After a while as the noise grew louder the tattered old formerly blue truck came into view. As it approached the old wooden gate leading into the farm lane I could hear the grinding of gears as he attempted to down shift from third gear to second. At long last he brought the truck to a full stop only a few feet from the gate.
Slowly he emerged from the cab of the old Ford and stumbled up to the gate, unlatched it and with one mighty heave, pushed it open far enough to drive through while only scraping one side along the fence post. After the truck was completely inside the gate Johnny again exited the cab of the old blue ford and closed the wooden gate. After a prolonged period of time Johnny staggered back to the truck, climbed inside, raced the engine three times ... threw the truck into gear and with a loud roar ... backed straight through the gate sending a shower of wood splinters in all directions..
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Johnny and his gas machine roared into town one hot August afternoon and came to a sudden stop in front of Roy Addyman's Cafe. Johnny climbed out of his small but badly dented black Ford truck and sauntered into Addyman's Cafe for lunch and a cold beer.
Upon finishing lunch Johnny climbed back into his truck and fired-up the noisy but powerless engine. After letting it idle for two to three seconds Johnny revered up the engine to near full speed several times while trying to shift into reverse. Each attempt was accompanied by the sound of gears grinding and a series of descriptive adjectives from Johnny. After several attempt at finding the correct gear Johnny was satisfied he had found reverse, raced the engine a few more times, looked straight ahead, and with a single motion let out the clutch.
As the truck lurched forward up onto the side walk everyone, including Johnny, realized that he had not found reverse but was instead in second gear. By this time a small crowd had gathered to watch what had become Louisville's daily afternoon entertainment. This also brought Roy out the front door of his restaurant in an attempt to persuade Johnny to let him back the truck off the side walk and into the street. As one would imagine Johnny immediately became very up-set at the idea of anyone questioning his driving skills.
As Roy and everyone else steeped back Johnny repeated the ritual of racing the engine, grinding the gears, looking straight ahead and in a single motion letting out the clutch. Again the truck lurched forward, this time coming to rest against the front of Roy's cafe.
Again Roy offered to help, only to be rebuffed again by Johnny. With this Roy went into his cafe and returned with a hammer, threatening Johnny if he didn't get out of the truck. Naturally Johnny ignored Roy and repeated his earlier ritual of racing the engine, grinding the gears, looking straight ahead and in a single motion letting out the clutch.
This time the truck lurched forward again right through the front window and into Roy's cafe. Needless to say Roy removed Johnny from the truck thereby ending a pleasant summer afternoon's excitement.
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Honky ...1947 the name itself has a ring to it that instills vivid images of life on the streets of my hometown when I was a young boy. Honk was one of a kind, he was, as I recall, an old man by the time I reached the mature age of thirteen. He must have been, at that time, in his early to mid thirties. He always had a disheveled appearance about him including a second day beard. Us boys would find old Honk uptown and start him on a conversation about his favorite subjects. Which included his work, his love life, and the County Sheriff whom he referred to as "Black Tom." Honk would cross his fingers, always with great trouble and the use of his other hand, and say, "Tom and I are just like that ..." and thrust his crossed fingers out in front of him for everyone to see. Then he would point to the top finger and say this one is Black Tom in his office. Then he would point to the finger underneath and say, "and there is me, down stairs locked up in the county jail."
Honk would always start out telling the same old joke about the lady taxi driver and the tool kit, every time the same joke and every time we laugh out loud at the time worn punch line. This was always followed by a few of his latest encounters with "Black Tom", a name he had given the local sheriff, then someone would say," lets go over to the town park and have a drink." Those among you that have never savored the distinctive perception of Virginia Dare Wine, can have no appreciation of the pleasure derived from gulping down a gallon of this vintage beverage in The Louisville City Park while keeping a fine eye out for the local police.
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Wilber the Town cop, 1947 (fire works story)
Back in the late forty's us High School kids didn't have much for entertainment. No TV, limited transportation, very few High School and illegal drinking by adolescence had not started yet. The consumption of beer by individuals under twenty-one did get started in Nebraska until the late sixty's when our generation's children were in High School.
This made it necessary for most of us to create some recreational diversions to pass away out time between Church services on Sunday and the Band Mother's Dance the following Saturday night. Although we did not have a recreational center, video games, or a regular teen age hang out for entertainment we were fortunate that the town fathers did have the foresight and wisdom to provide us with one form of recreation in the form of "The Town Cop."
Our's was named Wilber and we did spend many an otherwise dull evening passing the time with Wilber. I can recall one hot summer evening near the first part of July in 1948 when a bunch of Weeping Water boys came to town to impress the Louisville girls. Of course us guys were not pleased with that and devised a plan to usher them out of town.
The first phase of our plan was to acquire several pieces of fire works, including three multi shot sky bombs. These, with much trouble, were placed on top of the grocery store. Attached to each fuse was a cigarette. After lighting the cigarette we scrambled down the back of the store, ran down the alley and joined a few of our friends that were talking to Wilber as he sat in his "Squad Car".
We told him that we had just been talking to a bunch of kids from Weeping Water and they had said that they were going to set off a bunch of fire works right here in down town Louisville. We even told him their names and gave him a description of their car. And sure enough with in a minute or two sky bombs started exploding right over our heads. With that we pointed down the street and said, "There they go now Wilb." And with that he took off in hot pursuit and later found them driving around town acting as if they didn't know anything about the fire works. Wilber would have nothing to do with their insistence of innocence and told them all to get out of town and go home.
Followup by Don Tempelmeyer: " Enjoyed the story about Wilber the cop. I remember him in my day, we would follow him around at night as he had a lady friend he wanted to pick up. He got tired of us following him and asked us to help him locate a car that had been stolen. He said he had to go home and do his ironing and would appreciate it if we would keep an eye out for it. We told him to go on home and we would keep an eye on things. We snuck around to the lady friend house and watched him pick her up and take her to his place. Soon after all the lights in his house went out we rushed up and ran the door bell and informed we had spotted the car. A course to save face he had to get in his car and go take a look. the nest time he tried to give us trouble for our wrong doings we always asked him how he ironed clothes in the dark. Needless to say he didn't bother us much after that."
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"BOOP" REIHART AT THE MINSTREL SHOW, 19--
It was in late Fall of 1947 when a couple of High School boys were in "Boop'" Reihart's Barber Shop begrudgingly getting a badly needed hair cuts. When, as usual, Boop started reminiscing about his adolescent years in Louisville. This story takes us back to the days even before the movies.
According to Boop back in his day the local merchants sponsored a Minstrel Show that came to town about one Saturday night each month. The purpose of the show of course was to entice people to come into town and buy their wares.
Each show had a grand finally in which "Miss Louisville" of the month was crowned and she would win a set of dishes. Each merchant in town gave coupons worth one point for each five cents spent in their store. You would then write the name of the girl you favored on the back of the ticket and you would drop your coupon into a large box as you entered the Opera House.
Then during the performance the votes would be tallied and at the end of the evening the Master of Ceremonies would walk center stage and in a loud clear voice call out the girl's name.
It seems as if the local adolescence had decided to rig the next month election. They all agreed to pool all their coupons and write the same name on each one. The name they selected was Lucy Bowels.
Sure enough the next month the Minstrel Show arrived as scheduled, collected all the coupons, tallied the names. As the show ended the Master of Ceremonies stepped center stage and announced in a loud clear voice, "Tonight's winner is …..LOUSY BOWELS !!! There was silence in the hall as everyone looked around for the winner to come forward. Again the M.C said, MISS LUCY BOWELS !!! again a pause ….MISS LUCY BOWELS. Another pause, IS LUCY BOWELS IN THE AUDIENCE?
Then on key one of the local boys, sitting high in the balcony at the rear of the room stood up and in a booming clear voice said, "I THINK SHE HAS MOVED." All the boys roared in laughter and the older folks sat in dismay.
So thus ended another evening of home spun entertainment by the local boys as they endured life before television.
There were other characters including "Ace" who purchased a car for $50.00 and then took out a fifty dollar deductible Auto Insurance policy that cost him $50.00. Which meant that if he totaled his car he would get absolutely nothing from the Insurance company.
Those are a some of my Louisville stories now send in a few of yours.
Do any of you old timers out there remember "Black Jim" ? he stayed in the Hotel. If you recall anything about him please let me know.
Editors note: If anyone else has any stories of Louisville to share please send them to [email protected] via email or to Bill Tempelmeyer, 2406 Olive Branch Road, Marshalltown, Ia 50158
Anyone sending in a story will receive credit for its composition. All stories must be at least partially true, [10%] … however some 'truth modification' is permitted for enhancement.