I came across a Reinbeck telephone directory dated June 1955. I'm happy that my parents didn't throw away this gem of Reinbeck history. Reading it was a rare experience in Reinbeck nostalgia. (I think that the 1955 directory was the last printed by the Courier shop with Frank Fackel at the clanking linotype machine. It bears all the marks of a Courier production.)
E.K. Greene's short history of Reinbeck indicated that phone lines were strung in 1877-soon after the town was platted. In 1955, dial phones were about to end the expanded version of Greene's technology. With dial phones, Reinbeck's phone operators in the bunker on Broad Street were also on their way out. Besides, the much-loved party line was also on the chopping block. Many were already bemoaning its demise as a major source of local entertainment. Change was afoot.
Speaking of the phone building: The Reinbeck phone building was a stout structure. As such it sprouted legends. Talk on Main Street had long reached consensus that only it and tougher-than-nails town dump custodian Tobe Falwey would survive a direct nuclear hit on the Town-That-Does-Good-Things-Better. In the Cold War era, that knowledge gave us kids hope that a part of Reinbeck would survive the end of life as we knew it. Still, for us kids the thought of civilization beginning anew with Tobe Falwey was scary in and of itself.
The 1955 directory came without house numbers and before door-to-door mail delivery. Street signs and house numbers soon popped up in the burg-on-the-Blackhawk. I was not even aware that my family lived on Center Street until the street sign appeared. Streets began to separate us. Center Streeters started to look down on the riffraff on Pine Street and longed secretly for the status of a Blackhawk Street address.
Before that, where you lived in Reinbeck either was a matter of who lived there before you or was a matter of prepositions and directions-behind, beside, next to, near, up from, over aways, down from, a ways away, around, adjacent, across from; north, south, east or west. People who used right and left were deemed untrustworthy outsiders trying to make trouble and were quickly ostracized. Everyone simply knew that my family lived across from Hans Ehlers. The famous painter Delmar Ritchey resided over across from and down from the library park. Old Banker Bicket dwelt east of the big DauSchmidt place. Librarian Frances Grimm was sandwiched twixt the funeral parlor and the Congregational parsonage. The sun rose first on the big VanWyk house before casting golden rays on the sprawling Heithoff estate nearby.
Another example: The Burgoon House near the school kept its name long after Burgoons died,* no matter who moved in or out of it over the years. I once heard from the Ehlers sisters that the Archie Smutters family moved into the house in the late 1940's and changed its name to Burgoon, just so people could find them. The Smutters were serious about it. They picked the late Fedelia Burgoon's white peonies from the south side of the house and wept as they strewed them on the Burgoon grave each Memorial Day. Finally exposed as imposters, the Smutters lot was banished to Zaneta (or was it Hicks?) where they lived out their remaining years under another alias.
Anyway, dial phones and street signs eventually changed the way we remembered ancestors and felt connected in neighborhoods. All eras end somehow--and, in this case, probably not for the better.
Still, just for memory's sake, test your community wits with this multiple choice test on 1955 directory data:
1. _____ Reinbeck's most-purchased furniture was a) Italian; b) German; c) French; or d) Early American.
2. _____ Otto Knaack lived a) down from the Sieh house; b) behind the Presbyterian church; c) across from the Linder sisters and Doc Mosey; d) on the same block as Doc Henderson; e) none of a-d); or f) all of a-d.
3. ____ Which 1955 appliance dealer's first name rhymed with "diesel?" Phone numbers are listed to assist: a) Robinson, 70; b) Wheeler, 58; c) Mitchell, 391; d) Dudolski, 216; e) Schneider or Larsen, 287; or f) P. Robinson, 60.
4. ____ Which family did not live on the same block? a) Schwarting; b) Nissen; c)Anderson; d) Rosenberger; e) Mason; or f) E. Rickert.
5. ____ If town cop Stanley Cameron's home phone was off the hook, which neighbor would the operator to call to rouse him (give the two best answers): a) Bert Bern, 353-black; b) Amanda or Hookie Tank, 136-black; c) Ona Hoeg, 121-F9; d) Jack Fiet, 51-Black; e) Mayor R.C. Shoup, 320; or f) Victor Claussen, 162-Black.
True and False
___ A term for a local clergy person was "Pandaddy."
___ Smitty's Dairy delivered both fresh milk and the Des Moines Register daily to homes.
___ You could call the Dinsdale School from Reinbeck and not incur long distance charges.
___ You could connect with Bill Ballard at home, but the number at his tavern was not listed.
___ These Main Street stores faced north in 1955: Lonergans, Lyle Robinson's, Green's Grocery, and Pitey and Bub's Apothecary.
___ These Main Street stores faced north in 1955: Alexander's Shoes, Mulders Shave and a
Haircut, Schneider and Larsen, and the Post Office.
___ Jim and Blanche O'Brien's Dairy Bar was open all day Sundays and evenings, with grease
changed every two weeks, if needed.
____You could call either the Morrison School or Morrison's CRI&P depot from Reinbeck and
incur long distance charges.
*Charles Burgoon, d. 1927; Fedelia Burgoon, d.1939.