A nostalgic tour of
downtown Dodge City, Kansas
By Judge Gene B. Penland
On a crisp evening in 1984, my wife Joyce and I
were visiting my mother, Mrs. Agnes Penland Callahan. Having grown up in
Dodge City, I always enjoy "touring the town" with Mother [Mrs. Callahan
died in 1997].
Since my graduation from Dodge City Sr.
High School in 1952, the changes in my hometown are too numerous to
mention. On this occasion, the three of us decided to walk south on the
west side of Second Ave. from the 800 block to what used to be the
intersection of Second and Chestnut and then back north on the east side
of Second to Mother's house in the 900 block of First Ave.
Proceeding across Vine St. south from
Anderson's Cleaners, I noticed the many changes on the west side of Second
Ave. First, there was the missing Christian Church. And only one block to
the east, the Methodist Church had also disappeared, although portions of
the building were saved for municipal purposes.
Just south of where the Christian Church
used to be is the former site of a large white stucco apartment building.
I remember Angus Snyder sitting on the porch of that old building where he
lived for so many years. Angus fought the great Jack Dempsey in an
exhibition fight in Wichita in the 1930s.
For a time in this same vicinity, Johnny
Malo operated a small café where I often stopped for one of his large
delicious hamburgers and a bottle of pop. Johnny, who was a good friend of
my dad, became accustomed to my visits and my usual order. I often ate
lunch there while delivering ice cream for Myers' Ice Cream Co. of south
Next we passed the Dodge City Daily
Globe building. We were reminded of the days when KGNO Radio was
located on the second floor of that building. Before television, the
station would conduct quiz show and other public participation programs on
Saturday afternoons. And Herschell Holland would sing, "I Know There Is
Somebody Waiting in the House at the End of the Lane" for his radio
audience. It was a very busy, exciting time and place.
It was here that my own 'radio career'
began and ended. Some may remember a string band of about 1940 vintage
called the "Tune Wranglers." The group consisted of Cal Buckner, Mr. &
Mrs. Bill Kimes, Wayne Hileman, Don Nungester, R.C. Hill, Johnnie Lubbers
and my dad, Bill Penland, who played the banjo. My dad had my sister
Janiece and me sing on KGNO a few times during "Tune Wrangler" programs.
We were nine and six years old. Our main songs were "You Are My Sunshine"
and "Moonlight Bay," both favorites of my dad.
Upstairs at this location, the Saturday
night Moose dances were joyous occasions. Ora Evans and my dad often
played the violin (or fiddle, as Ora would call it) and banjo at those
dances. As a child, I had to attend with my folks and Janiece, as parents
took their children with them in those wholesome years when families did
things together. I didn't appreciate going then, but now I wish those
exciting nights and dances could be relived.
Many of you will remember another unique
place of business between the Daily Globe building and the Carnegie
Library--Pop Jenks' popcorn and candy stand. It was scarcely larger than a
telephone booth. I'm not sure whether Pop's name was actually "Jenks" or
possibly "Jenkins," but we all called him "Pop Jenks." He drove a
four-door gray-blue Willys, a late 1930s model, when that type was rare.
It was always parked in front of his stand near an old stone drinking
fountain at that corner. Pop sometimes became impatient with the many
mischievous kids who frequented the busy area, but he tolerated them and
sold many sacks of popcorn, peanuts and candy bars to them. I remember him
as a cherubic, impish old gentleman, always dressed in white. He reminded
me of a plump retired sailor. Appropriately attired, he would have made an
excellent Santa Claus.
After passing the ornate Carnegie
building, where Lois Flanagan served so ably, and the First National Bank
(now, Bank of America), we remembered the old location of the bus depot
and the White Buffalo Cafe, run by Mr. And Mrs. Irven Shuman. On the north
wall behind the counter, a large white buffalo head was mounted. It was
said to have been an albino shot on the plains by "Prairie Dog" Dave
Across the alley to the south we passed
the former site of the Pollock & Beck Shoe Co. and next door to that was
where Hoffman Jewelry Co. was located. My dad worked as a watchmaker and
jeweler for William Hoffman in the late 1930s.
We proceeded on into the next block past
Eckles Department Store (now Eckles Main Street Center) to what used to be
the busiest intersection in the Southwest--Second Ave. and Chestnut (Wyatt
Earp Blvd.) Kuhn Drug Store was at the northwest corner of that
intersection. I remember going into Kuhn's at age fourteen in 1948, and
paying $1.00 for my first driver's license. No examination was required in
those simpler times.
We then crossed Second to the east and
recalled Mosher & Cochran Drug Co. (now Trails West), where Doctors Klein,
Melencamp, Alderson and others had their offices upstairs before moving to
the Southwest Medical Clinic (now Dodge City's City Hall). Kuhn, and
Mosher & Cochran reminded us of the demise of many other drug stores--A&A,
Campbell, May, Keller, and Jones in south Dodge.
Dodge City also had many jewelry stores
downtown during this period, including Hoffman, Lubbers, Reynolds,
Morgan-Penland, Arvin Heichen, Bangs, Walkers and Clark's. There was also
a jewelry store in Campbell Pharmacy, run by Charlie Caldwell, and my dad
had a jewelry store in Tasker Book & Stationary Shop for a time.
As we turned north on Second Ave., we
remembered the classic old M.M. Gwinner's Palace of Sweets with its
delightful food and homemade candies. At times, when the cafe was there,
the aroma from those delicious candies would permeate the entire block.
Gwinner's was the victim of a downtown fire, which occurred about the
summer of 1950. We passed the Fidelity State Bank building, another
landmark, and walked across Gunsmoke, which used to be Walnut, past the
beautiful Warshaw building and the former Palace Drug Store.
The east side of the 600 block of Second
was perhaps the busiest section in town in the 1940s and 1950s. It bustled
with a variety of business activity. Duckwall's, Woolworth, Virtue and JC
Penney were all in that block. Business reached a crescendo on Saturday
and continued unabated until 9:00 p.m. when the stores closed and the
weary employees and customers trudged home.
We continued north and crossed Spruce St.
where we recalled McLellan's, which had a wide array of merchandise. Onto
the north and across the alley, we came to the former site of Keller Drug
Store which, in the 1940s, was at the north edge of the downtown business
district. I hope this brief tour will serve as a pleasant reminder of the
good old days.
(© 2002, Ford County Historical Society Inc. Judge
Gene B. Penland, author.)