Here we will be posting articles and photos that originally
appeared in the 'History Corner' section of The Plainview News.
1. Plainview's 'Traffic Light'
The photo we have isn't the best quality, but it's the only one found of the Interstate Power crew stopping traffic to put up the light. This photo, taken on an early Monday morning of April 1953 shows Marvin Richardson atop the ladder making final adjustments to the light while the village marshal, Leon Ellringer, who is barely distinguishable in the lower right corner of the picture, stand at the bottom of the ladder. Richardson was assisted by his crewmen Earl Jacobs, Ted Paukert, and Duane Flourey of Dover.
The light purchased by Plainview and was suspended better than 20 feet over the intersection on a cable. Poles were placed at diagonal corners of the intersection and the cable stretched 110 feet across the intersection.
Clarence Cook and Kit Thomas, workmen from Plainview Hardware, connected the signal to the village circuits later that week and was running 24 hours a day.
A yellow caution light flashed to the Highway 42 traffic to slow drivers down and a flashing red signal was seen by the traffic on Highway 247 and County Road 8.
We've also included a photo of the signal as it currently stands today.
2. Plainview's 16 ton Howitzer
It made its debut in Plainview on Thursday, August 28, 1975 after a long journey from the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The novel idea for the project began with John Boehlke, member of Plainview’s William Allen Post No. 169 when Boehlke found out the local organization could get the WWII howitzer (originally costing the US Government $65,784) for free! All the Legion needed to do was transport the enormous 15 ton implement from Pennsylvania to Plainview. In stepped Zabel Grain Service.
Ed Larson and Jerry Klavetter made the 1,200 mile journey at eighty cents a mile for Zabel, picking up the cannon on Monday August 25th after the army unit had welded the breech block shut for an additional $250 making the gun permanently inoperative.
Soon Larson and Klavetter were turning heads with their unusual cargo tied down to Zabel’s flatbed trailer, hauling the eye catching artillery cross country to its new home.
The World War II 155 Howitzer could fire, at a range of 17 miles, a shell about six inches by three feet as fast as the men could shove in the ammunition and close the door.
Placed in front of the Legion building the thirty-two thousand pound monster has been continually guarding the city for over twenty five years, except for one brief trip to LaCrescent to be in a parade. The return trip almost turned out to be disastrous, but driver and howitzer made it safely home where it has remained as a permanent fixture of the community.
A special thanks to Franklin Durgan and the Zabel family for their help in gathering the information for this article.
3. When the World's Tallest Man Visited Plainview
More than a thousand people greeted Robert Wadlow, the world’s largest and tallest man, when he came to Plainview, the morning on Wednesday, July 26, 1939 between 10 and 11. About 400 cars brought the crowd who came to see the man who was part of a tour sponsored by the International Shoe Company, the company that made Wadlow’s Special size 37 shoes.
The crowd congregated in front of Ernie Goetz’s shoe store (now Erin’s Touch of Style) where Postmaster C.C. Gallager presented a special delivery postcard, its size proportionate to the recipient. The card carried a message of welcome and good wished to Mr. Wadlow.
21 year old Wadlow, standing eight feet nine inches tall, spoke to the crowd through a loud speaker. His father, and ordinary sized man, answered most of the questions asked by the crowd along with statics such as waist line (48 inches), neck measurement (19 inches) size 8 7/8 inch hat, and the outside seam line measurement of his pants (69 inches). The only thing Robert Wadlow could but in a store as a handkerchief his father said.
As part of the program, Wadlow put a dollar on his head and challenged anyone to take it off. John Puetz, six foot three, Milton Lenz of Bremen, six foot four, and Leroy Haimes, nearly six foot seven, all failed in their attempt. When Big Boy Leroy stepped up to the giant, Wadlow said, “Hi Shorty!” Leroy’s fingertips reached to the upper part of Wadlow’s forehead, but no further.
The only mishap during Wadlow’s visit was when a table upon which Robert was seated broke, but Robert, undaunted and laughing, addressed his audience in a kneeling position before he arose.
Wadlow was transported in his seven passenger car to Plainview and in the two years he traveled for the show company, he and his father visited over 800 towns in 41 states, traveling over 300,000 miles.
Robert Wadlow would die in 1940 from a fatal infection from a blister overtaking him while he was on the road. At the time of his death he was 8 feet 11.1 inches, the tallest person in history.
The photo is a souvenier autographed photo of Robert and his father given out in Plaivniew during his visit. Special thanks to third grader Donovon Mancilman for sharing this photo.
On our 'Videos' page we have video of Robert while he was in Plainview, including the contest to get the dollor off his head. Click here to view the video. For more information Robert, click here to view his Wikipedia page.
4. The Last Miss Plainview
It was organized and run by the Plainview Jaycees and Mrs. Jaycees from 1966 to 1972 in conjunction with the state Miss Minnesota Pageant and nationwide Miss America Pageant. Contestants participated in weekly ‘Pepsi Parties’ several weeks prior to the event. These parties acquainted the young ladies with tips on poise and makeup as well as an opportunity to rehearse their talents.
The 1972 event featured seven hopefuls including Rebekah West, Patricia Walch, Leita Kreidermacher, Donna Ball, Constance Dittrich, Lynne Erickson, and Aleta Graner, all seniors at Plainview High School.
Held Sunday evening, May 6th, with presale tickets at $1.75 and $2.00 at the door, the Miss Plainview Pageant proved a crowd pleasing event. The judges for the evening were Roger O’Day of KROC TV, Mrs. Robert Fennseth from Austin, Bud Pilacynski from Inver Grove Heights, Mrs. Robert Herdigan from Bloomington and Gary Wagemen from Austin. Also in the audience were 10 reigning “Misses” from the cities of LaCrescent, Rochester, Elgin, Redwing, Albert Lea, St. Paul, Winona, Austin, Kenyon, and Maplewood.
The special attraction was Miss Minnesota, Sheila Jeanne Bernhagen, from Bloomington, who had placed in the top 10 of the Miss America pageant and performed her talent for the Plainview crowd, consisting of an acrobatic ballet.
With Joseph Mass as master of ceremonies, and production numbers sung by Janice Jurgenson, Milo Peterson, and Tom Hassig, the program featuring talent, swimsuit, and evening gown competition proved a very interesting one for everyone attending.
Reigning “Miss”, Cindy Klassen, who participated in 19 appearances during her tenure, crowned the new Miss Plainview, Constance Dittrich, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Dittrich. First runner-up was Donna Ball, and named Miss Congeniality was Lynne Erickson.
The winner received $125 cash, a $100 scholarship, a trophy, flowers, a Vivian Woodard beauty kit from the Jaycees, a necklace and earrings from Marcotte Jewelry, and modeling courses from Estelle Compton Modeling School.
It was the seventh and final Miss Plainview contest, but who knows, maybe someday the short lived tradition will be revived. In the meantime, enjoy the formal portrait of Miss Plainview 1972, Constance Dittrich, and remember the other winners listed below.
1966 – Lynn Robertson, 1967 – Jeanette Zabel, 1968 – Cheyrl Ferguson, 1969 – Elizabeth Boehlke,
1970 – Becky Markus, 1971 – Cindy Klassen, 1972 – Constance Dittrich
5. The Glidden Auto Tour - A Fascinating Event for Plainview
The year was 1909 and the growing village of Plaivniew was beginning to will up with autos! An amazing 20 motorized vehicles had already infiltrated the town and it was estimated that by fall there would be an astounding 30 autos within the city limits!
Ford Motor Company was cranking out 450 cars a week, a week and Plainview Ford Agents, James A. Carley & Dr. E.E. Smith were doing their best to populate the town with Fords. The modern "go-wagons", as some called them, made pedestrian attempts to cross the street a dodging feat at times as the newfangled cars zipped up and down the town's dusty streets.
The Glidden Automobile tour, included many of the newfangled autos featuring many different makes and modems, was scheduled to pass through St. Charles, Dover, Eyota, and Rochester the forenoon of July 16th 1909, and as a result of passing so close Plainview people couldn't resist the temptation to take part in catching a glimpse of the unusual event.
George Dickman, owner of Dickman's clothing in Plainview and recent purchaser of a modern Buick Auto, wrote the following in his diary.
"We took the auto and went to Rochester. We got over there before the train got to Rochester. We cam home at 9 o'clock. Byrl Slyvester went along with us. We went over to see the Glidden Auto Tour cars. All the autos in town went over."
It so inspired Plainview motorists that they wrote and invited the Minnesota State Automobile Association to include Plainview in their August Minnesota Little Glidden Tour, but nothing ever came from their enthusiastic request.
As the 1909 auto season drew to a close, Plainview autoists continued bumping over the bumps leading into the villiage on roads much in need of grading. But Plainview was not taking a back seat to any other Wabasha county city when it came to automobiles, and in a few short years, dozens and dozens of the shiny and noisy mechanical wonders would be racing through the streets of Plainview.
Enjoy a glimpse of the Glidden tour from this postal of 1909 as the tour zips through Zumbrota on that July 16th day. It was a day to inspire every eager autoist and a fascinating event for Plainview autoists.
6. A Corner of Broadway Over One Hundred Years Ago
The building held down one of Plainview’s busy corners on South Broadway where people walked and shopped almost every day of the year. Most prominent in the photo is Albert Erding’s Saloon positioned front and center.
It was one of the bigger saloons in town selling beer and liquor. A pool table provided recreation for the guests, and it was on the only five saloons existing in the city at the time each obtaining a license to operate such an establishment at a cost of $1,000 each year.
According to local folklore, this building was moved from the town of Greenville when that settlement disbanded in 1866. Located about two miles east of Plainview, it would have been quite a site seeing this building inch its way down the road to take its position on Broadway.
A unique feature visible in the front at the corner of the building is a watering trough for horses. Raised up on a stone, it was a substantial and necessary part of the city’s Broadway.
Next to the saloon was the City Barber Shop, operated by several different barbers of the years including Al Drysdale who advertised hot and cold water baths in addition to his cutting services. Usually three barbers were employed along with an apprentice and on Saturday night, to meet the large country crowds that flocked to the city, a young boy was hired to shine shoes.
Reifkogel Harness shop was next in line, operated by brothers William and Albert. Their services included repair work and greasing harnesses, making and hand sewing harnesses as well as selling saddles halters and other related items. A life sized wooden dapple gray horse dominated the front window to advertise their wares.
And lastly visible in the photo was Weikel Brothers Meat Market. Run by brothers Harry and Fred, the store’s weekly advertisement boasted of good wholesale meat, either fresh or salted. They kept a quarter of beef on the chopping block and customer told them how much they wanted and the brothers would eye it up and cut off a chunk and weight it. You paid for the chunk and usually they were pretty accurate cutters! The brothers also bought chickens, which they shipped out to Chicago.
By the time of this photo the romantic wooden sidewalks had been replaced with newfangled cement, and iron rail hitching posts stood uniformly along the roadway. The Plainview water tower can be seen looming up over the Erding Saloon (though due to the re-print quality of the photo it has been washed out and isn’t visible) and electric light poles show visitors that the modern convenience was available in the thriving town of Plainview.
Four buildings holding down the south side of Broadway. Two still remain. Reifkogel’s store was torn down in 1940 and Erding’s Saloon, which later became Timm’s Café burned in 1964.