Pleasantville and Colfax: The Fifties

The fifties saw the family move to Pleasantville, Monroe Co., Iowa, in December 1950 and then to Colfax, Jasper Co., Iowa, in May 1954. Both moves were prompted by Easter's management and seemed to mean advancement for Kenneth, though Marian felt like she was being unnecessarily uprooted each time.

As referenced in Wikipedia:

Pleasantville was surveyed and established as a town on August 1, 1849 on land then owned by William Wesley Jordan. Previous to the ownership of Mr. Jordan, the land comprising the original town plot of Pleasantville changed hands for one horse and $30. A petition for incorporation was filed in District Court on June 11, 1872 with an election subsequently held in which there were 46 votes in favor and 16 votes against. The completion of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Line through Pleasantville in 1879 caused an increase in development and Pleasantville became one of the active business centers in Marion County and the principal shipping point between Knoxville and Des Moines. The earliest population figures available begin in 1900 with 73 8 residents. (The population in 1950 was 893.) The first school was built in the fall of 184 7, and in 1868, the school district joined with the Masonic Lodge in building a three story brick building that remained a school facility until 1992. Today, the Pleasantville School district consists of three buildings, an elementary, a middle school, and a high school.

Kenneth could walk to work every day and was able to come home for lunch. As the store manager, he could do every job in the store as he would have to do when an employee went on vacation.

Site of Easter's Store, Pleasantville, Iowa Kenneth managed 1950-1954, Photo taken July 1989

Site of Easter's Store, Pleasantville, Iowa
Kenneth managed 1950-1954, Photo taken July 1989

As in Lorimor, eggs had to be candled and milk had to be analyzed for its contents. Eggs had to be candled because farmers could not verify the age of eggs as they often did not keep chickens fenced in and would bring in eggs found in various places in the yard. To limit the number of 'bad eggs' sold to the customers, each egg had to be candled. Usually, a person would take the eggs into a darkened room, pick up several eggs, and pass them in front of a light bulb to assess the eggs. The size of the air cell, the position of the yolk, possible developing embryo, and the overall condition of the eggshell were noted, and bad eggs were discarded.

Farmers would also bring in milk in large cans to the store to have it analyzed at a cream station in the back of the store. 'By adding chemicals to a sample of the cream and spinning it in a centrifuge, the cream station attendant could determine the butterfat content with calipers. The more butterfat, the more groceries the store owed the customers. Many never had to pay cash.' Taken from Footprints of the Founder: The Story of Easter Enterprises, p. 21, 1988. I would imagine that the store would serve as a collection place for local dairies rather than selling the raw milk directly to store 's customers.

Kenneth and Marian and the two boys first lived in a rental home before moving to two bedroom bungalow at 415 W. Monroe Street as shown below in a photo taken in 1989:


The kitchen was on the right upon entering the front door with an exit to the side door. The living room was on the left. There were two bedrooms at the rear on the main floor with a bathroom. Stairs led to an upstairs and to an unfinished basement. There was no garage. Not well seen is a hand water pump just to the right of the side door. The home was subsequently enlarged to a full two stories with an attached garage. The fire hydrant in the foreground remains in place.

During the summer months in Pleasantville, Marian and a neighbor, Ruth Gutnecht, would take the two boys to Lake Aquabi just south of Indianola, Iowa, for a day. Ruth must have driven as Marian did not have her drivers license yet. The Gutnecht's house was located across the property line in back our house at 415 W. Monroe Street. Ruth's husband "Slim" was a mechanic employed at the raceway in Knoxville, Marion Co., Iowa.

The family attended the Methodist Church located a few blocks east of downtown Pleasantville. The church burned down at some time in the early fifties, but was quickly rebuilt or restored.

Kenneth served on the local school board while living in Pleasantville.

It was during the time in Pleasantville that the family had its only dog, though that was a short-lived experience. The dog was small and short-haired mongrel and given the name of Tippy. The dog was kept in the basement at least for some of the time with a small kennel and surrounding fence that the dog had little trouble getting out of. The dog was a yapper, and I think having a dog at all went against Marian's pet strategy for the family. The dog did not remain an active family member for long except as a memory in the minds of the young boys.

Ken wrote:

Tippy came into our life in Pleasantville. I must have been in third grade A mutt whose owner lived near downtown had a litter of pups. They asked me if I wanted one for free and I said yes. I picked out Tippy and took her home and asked Mom, "Can I keep her." I don't think Mom had a choice and said yes. I remember Tippy howled the first several nights and kept everyone up. I don't remember the process of naming her except the tip of her tail was black and the rest of her was brown-thus tippy.
She was spayed and when Dad brought her home from the Vet, she had a gauze bandage wrapped around her stomach. She look like she was in pain and we laid her by a warm air register. I was afraid she wouldn't make it. But she did.
She was hard to keep staying around the house. We didn't have a fence. One time Dad phoned from the store and Tippy went to see him on her own. I'm sure he wasn't happy to see her. I had to go get her. I played with her a lot.
As Tippy got a little bit older she got sick and I believe was foaming at the mouth. Dad called Granddad and he came out from Des Moines. I remember being in bed and listening to a group of men that sounded like they were laughing and teasing her. Mom and Dad wouldn't let me go outside to see her. I blame Tippy's terrible treatment that night on
Granddad. Tippy was barking like she was sick was going to attack. I believe I cried a lot that night. The next day she was gone. Mom and Dad said they had taken her to a kennel that a vet owned.
I asked how Tippy was doing over the next few days. They said not so well and said that when they went to see her, they said she didn't know them. I stopped asking because I didn't want to hear the answer. Tippy was never brought up again as far as I remember.
I still do believe Tippy's alive.

Friends remembered in Pleasantville:

  • Slim and Ruth Gutnecht
  • Woodrow (1912-2003) and Martha Shivvers

After less than four years in Pleasantville, the family moved to Colfax, Jasper Co., Iowa. Easters had purchased the store in Colfax in 1945, Lowell Easter, son of store founder A. E. Easter, managed it initially.

As referenced in Wikipedia:

Colfax was laid out in 1866. It is named for Schuyler Colfax. In its heyday, the city of Colfax had two main industries that drew thousands to the area: the mining of coal, and the use of the mineral springs discovered near the city. The first large scale coal mine in Jasper County was the Watson No. 1 Mine, 5 miles southeast of town, connected to the Rock Island by a long railroad spur. From 1881 to 1900, the Jasper County Coal and Railway Company operated a number of mines north of Colfax. The Colfax Consolidated Coal Company formed in 1902, bringing the mines of Colfax under a common operator. They opened mine No. 8 in 1905; this was one of the best-equipped mines in the state. The coal camp of Severs was run by this company. United Mine Workers local 56 was organized in Colfax in 1899; by 1907, it had 352 members. Mine wages varied from $2.36 to $2.56 per day. In 1912, the UMW union had two locals based in Colfax, Local 56, with 350 members, and Local 671, with 230 members. In the process of drilling. for coal in 1875, a well containing high mineral content was discovered near Colfax. The city flourished with this new discovery, and over the next four decades, thousands of people visited the town to partake in the healing powers of the fourteen mineral springs there. Nine hotels offering mineral baths and spa treatments opened to houseguests, and four bottling companies opened to produce bottled mineral water for the masses. In 1912-1913, the city received funding to build a Carnegie library. The library is still in use today. The booming business of the city's mineral springs industry declined and died out as the Great Depression swept the country.

The grocery store in Colfax was extensively remodeled in the mid- l 950s and was air-conditioned for the first time. Large, modem shopping carts replaced wheeled carriers with removable wire baskets with handles. Two of three checkout counters had belts to move merchandise towards the checkout clerk who utilized a foot pedal to activate the belt's motion. A large self-serve meat counter was added to the traditional meat case.

The frozen food section was greatly enlarged. Later, the store began to sell beer, a happening that lost the store some customers. The store was open Monday through Saturday from 7 am to 6 pm, though it remained open until 9 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Colfax store had competition from two other grocery stores in the downtown area, United Food Markets and Snowden's. There were also smaller family-run grocery outlets on the east and west ends of town.

First rental home, 226 S. Iowa, Colfax, Iowa

First rental home, 226 S. Iowa, Colfax, Iowa

Second rental home, 322 S. Lincoln, Colfax, Iowa Craig standing in the foreground.

Second rental home, 322 S. Lincoln, Colfax, Iowa
Craig standing in the foreground.

This house stood next to old Highway 6 and was on a hilltop at the east end of town. It was heated by a coal furnace and was not air-conditioned. On the first floor, there was a living room, bedroom for the parents, dining room and kitchen. The enclosed back porch was where the washing was done with clothes hung outside to dry. The unheated upstairs had three bedrooms and a large bathroom that apparently had been converted from a bedroom at the time when usage of an outhouse ceased. The boys' bedroom was above the kitchen because heat could come up through an open grate in the floor. There was a canning cellar in back of the house and a single car garage further back next to the alley. A large garden was sometimes planted in the spacious back yard.

When the family moved from the rental house on South Lincoln Street in the east end of town to the purchased house on Locust A venue near downtown, Kenneth could again walk to work and also come home for lunch. As in Pleasantville, he could and often did perform every task in the store. He opened and closed the store every day, even on Fridays and Saturdays when the store stayed open late. Although he was to have Thursday afternoons off, he seldom took his assigned time off.

Family home, 219 S. Locust, Colfax, Iowa

Family home, 219 S. Locust, Colfax, Iowa

The house was a mirror image of the house built just to the left in the picture. There were only two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the main floor. The basement was unfinished, but served as a family room, work bench area, washing area, an area for a bed. There was a very small back yard with a detached garage. The house had several firsts for the family, including a fireplace, a room air-conditioner, and ultimately a clothes dryer.

Nearly every Sunday or holiday, Kenneth would go to the store to make sure the refrigeration had not failed to operate properly. I still occasionally make that same excuse when I leave the house. Many Sundays he would take the store order for groceries and drive it to the main supply facility in Des Moines to insure timely delivery of the next grocery shipment on Tuesday afternoons.

Easter's Super Valu, comer of Walnut and Front Streets Colfax, Iowa, photo dated 1966 Destroyed by fire caused by lightning on Wednesday, May 13, 1970*.

Easter's Super Valu, comer of Walnut and Front Streets
Colfax, Iowa, photo dated 1966
Destroyed by fire caused by lightning on Wednesday, May 13, 1970*.

The front of the store had large plate glass windows on which were posted the specials of the week. These were usually hand-lettered by Kenneth each week using bright-colored paints, rather than hanging manufactured signs. It must have been much cheaper to have the signs made locally. Kenneth did not show any other artistic abilities, but it must have taken some skill to draw those large signs free-handed.

The following list of persons who worked at the Easter's store in Colfax is incomplete at best. In addition to those full-time workers whose names have not been remembered are the many part-time workers, especially high school students, who worked Friday nights and Saturdays:

  • Meat Department: Ronald "Zeke" Henderson; Ernie Mercer; John Pratt; Ruth Vanderpool
  • Produce Department: Earl Durocher
  • Check-out clerks: Mary Woods (later Hunter); Mable Kaldenberg; Mildred Ward; Selena Burt; Clark or "Clarkie"
  • Grocery Department: Richard Conwell

There is no record or recollection that Marian worked outside the home when she lived in Colfax, though it may be that she provided some nursing help to selected persons over the years.

Marian's father, William Charles Kreie, died March 27th, 1955, in Manitowoc, Manitowoc Co., Wisconsin, and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Antigo, Wisconsin. This period was also memorable because Marian had just learned to drive. She was taking the two boys to see her father when the car, a 1953 four-door Chevrolet sedan, slipped off an icy road just east of Cascade, Iowa, slid down the embankment, and landed on its top. Amazingly, in the days before seat belts, there were no injuries. The three went back to Colfax via bus, and Kenneth later drove the car back to be repaired, caved in top and all.

(Marian's driving teacher was not her husband, however, but a woman who worked at Easter's named Mary Butler Woods (later Hunter). The dynamics here are not recalled, and there may well have been an interesting story behind that.)

Kenneth and Marian initially attended the Episcopal Church in Newton, Iowa, but switched to the Methodist Church in Colfax since Craig had decided to attend that church instead.

Kenneth's father, Harley Umberfield Garrett, died on April 2nd, 1957, in Des Moines, Iowa, and was buried at Moon Cemetery, Macksburg, Madison County, Iowa, not far from the plot of his father and mother. At the time of Harley's death, he was the State Veterinarian, a political post, and he had an office in the capital building in Des Moines. Harley was largely credited with bringing swine brucellosis under control in the state of Iowa. The funeral seemed quite large and elaborate.

1958 was an eventful year. Kenneth purchased a 1958 Desoto Firesweep sedan, and the family moved from 322 South Lincoln rental to a home purchased at 219 South Locust. The house was located in what was called the West End of Colfax, and some citizens in Colfax would have thought that those of a lower economic social class lived there. In truth, the wealthier families of Colfax did seem to live on the hill or ridge in the eastern part of town.

1958 was the year that Marian was also hospitalized at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines for problems that led to a hysterectomy and removal of ovaries. Exactly what the problem was is not recalled, but probably not due to cancer. Her life was in some danger that caused Kenneth to spend some time with her in the hospital. She likely had a pulmonary embolism. I never saw my mother during her hospitalization, and I do not think my brother did either. Marian was only 40 or 41 at the time, and the loss of estrogen led to severe osteoporosis involving her back that bothered her for many years later in life.

At the time the family moved to its new home at 219 South Locust, telephone service was still as it had been for thirty years or more. Whenever one moved to a new place, a technician from the phone company would be needed to come to the house to install a new telephone. Telephones were the property of the phone company.

At that time, operator assistance was required for even local calls. One would pick up the receiver from its cradle and would ask for a certain number when the operator would come on the line. The telephone number for the house was 259 while the store number was 51. These were not 'party' lines and cost more to have. Having party lines meant that several homes were connected by the same number modified by a letter, but it was the number of rings identified which home was receiving the call. To the dismay of many, one could listen in on calls directed to others. It was not possible to know who might be listening in on the conversation.

It was not to long after the move that the dial system was implemented, eliminating the need for an operator to assist in making local and eventually long distance calls. For a while, though, one would be required to dial ' 0' for the operator to make a long distance call. As well, long distance calls were expensive so that most long distance calls were made after 5 pm weekdays or anytime on weekends to obtain the lower rates available at those times. The distance between the telephone locations also helped to determine the cost in addition to the length of the call.

With the coming of the rotary phone, a second telephone was installed in the basement in addition to the one located in the living room. There were no phones in the bedrooms or the kitchen. The only privacy one had when talking on the telephone was when there was no one else in the house.

The favorite television programs are not recalled, though Marian was partial to Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers and Kenneth seemed fond of 'Sing Along with Mitch' and the 'Huckleberry Hound Show' with Yogi Bear. The first television may have been a 'hand-me-down' from Harley and Floye, though Kenneth and Marion had two other black and white televisions during their years in Colfax. Color television would wait until later until the boys left home.

Kenneth L. Garrett, about 1958

Kenneth L. Garrett, about 1958

*The main competitor to Easter's Super Yalu store, Hiatt's Meat & Grocery, was also destroyed by fire about 7 years earlier. That store was located 1/2 block south of Easter's on the same side of Walnut Street.