Leota Bebee

Written By: nppladmin - Aug• 27•21
Originally published to facebook.com/NorthPlattePL on July 23, 2021.

Today’s Friday history salutes a patriotic American woman, who made North Platte her home. A street in North Platte even bears her name! Read on to learn about his incredible woman.

Leota Hannibal was born on September 17, 1915 to Sankey and Clara Hannibal in McGrew, Nebraska. As a young child, she moved with her family to Dannebrog, Nebraska where she graduated from high school in 1934. Sometime after graduation, Leota moved to North Platte, Nebraska and worked as a Northwestern Bell Telephone operator.

Everett Lester Bebee was born on January 10, 1903 in Ord Nebraska. He moved to North Platte in 1936 and worked for the Texaco Oil Company as a bulk plant operator.

Leota married Everett on September 10, 1943 at Grand Island, Nebraska. Both were dedicated to helping the war effort during WWII; so she served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps at Fort Banks, Massachusetts in the Motor Corps. Everett was a private in the US Army.

The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was the women’s branch of the US Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on May 15, 1942, then converted to full status as the WAC in 1943. The WAAC was modeled after comparable British units, especially the Auxiliary Territorial Service or ATS. In 1942, the first WAC contingent of 800 members began basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. The women were fitted for uniforms, interviewed, assigned to companies and barracks and inoculated against disease during the first day.

Approximately 150,000 American women served in the WAAC and WAC during WWII. They were the first women other than nurses to serve with the Army. In the early days, the conservative opinion in the leadership of the Army and public opinion was initially opposed to women serving in uniform; the shortage of men necessitated a new policy. While most women served stateside, some went to various places around the World, including Europe, North Africa and New Guinea. Leota was one of those women.

Throughout their marriage, Leota and Everett never had any children. From 1944 to 1960 they owned and operated the McCabe Hotel in North Platte. Leota volunteered tirelessly for the many organizations she belonged. She was a member of the First Christian Church; served at the North Platte Canteen; Fraternal Order of Eagles Auxiliary 2839; P.R. Halligan Post 163 American Legion; Lincoln County Historical Society; Lincoln County Republican Women; and past president 1990-1994 and charter member of the B.P.O. Does Drove 107. She was even a founding member on the Board of Directors for the 20th Century Veterans’ Memorial located in Iron Horse Park.

Leota Street was named after her in 1949, when she and Everett purchased 13 acres there and put the street through.

Leota died on July 25, 2008 in North Platte. Sadly, she did not live long enough to see the statue of Rae Wilson added to the 20th Century Veterans’ Memorial. The Everett and Leota Bebee Fund at the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation donated the money for this bronze statue, called The Canteen Lady. Of course Rae Wilson-Sleight was the inspiration for this statue.

We salute this inspirational woman. Thank you for reading her story!

Keith Theatre / Keith Opera House

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 16•21
Originally published to facebook.com/NorthPlattePL on July 16, 2021

Today’s history salutes another beautiful downtown building, the Keith Theatre or Keith Opera House, located at 412-414 North Dewey Street. Today’s article primarily comes from the book, “City Bones: Landmarks of North Platte, Nebraska” by Kaycee Anderson and Steve Olson.

The Keith Theatre, also called the Keith Opera House, opened on September 23, 1908. It was built by Keith Neville (1884-1959) as a wedding present for his future bride, Mary Virginia Neill, and named after his grandfather, Morrell Case Keith.

Keith Neville was born February 25, 1884 in North Platte. He received exceptional educational advantages and graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland in 1904. Upon Keith’s return to North Platte, he managed his grandfather’s valuable estate. On October 21, 1908, Keith married Mary Virginia Neill, daughter of Dr. William Neill, a prominent physician and surgeon from West Virginia. Both Mary and Keith were active members of the Episcopal Church. They had four daughters:

  1. Mary Nelson (married to Frederick William Sieman);
  2. Frances Elizabeth (married Willard Daniel Newberry);
  3. Virginia Neill (married Donald Frederick Robertson); and
  4. Irene Morell (married to Roy Victor Emanuel Bystrom).

Keith Neville was twenty-four years old when he had the theatre built for his new bride. The Keith Theatre sported an asbestos curtain, full equipment drops, and scenery. The furniture was considered “tasty, artistic, and serviceable.” It opened with 650 seats, a fire escape, and numerous exits; and it was considered completely fireproof.

The grand opening live performance for the theatre “The Burgo-Master,” a comic opera described in the Daily Telegraph as, “a decided success from every standpoint.” Between the first and second acts, a speaker thanked Neville for making the theatre possible, and “three cheers were given for the Keith Opera House, of which North Platte is justly proud.

In 1920, the building was painted and partially remodeled. North Platte’s first all-talking movie was shown on December 26, 1928. Then, in 1929, Keith Neville opened the Fox Theatre and that meant a very different future for the original Keith Theatre. It (Keith Theatre) disappeared from theatre listings in the city directory in 1932. And by 1930/31, the Keith Theatre as a “theater or stage venue” was gone and the building separated into 3 store-fronts for businesses.

Elaborate stained glass skylights from the Keith Theatre glory days currently decorate the front of Sandhills State Bank, located at 200 East B Street. <see photographs>

Brown Harano Studio, originally the Brown Studio, has occupied part of the ground floor from 1929 to approximately 2018/2019. Brown operated the studio until 1945 when he sold it to Earl Harano, who continued to use Brown’s name for the business along with his own. It was later owned by Roy Harano and Don Milroy, and eventually, Milroy alone. The photography business is no longer located there.

Ray Young opened their hardware and sporting goods store in one of the store-front sites (formerly the “Keith Theatre”) in 1963, after moving from 101 East 5th Street. In 1978, Dennis Young, Garey Yocum, and Dave Bargell bought the business. The group conducted a major remodeling project in 1979. Ultimately, they closed their doors in March of 2003, after 57 years in business as Young’s Sporting Goods. Hogans Sporting Goods was there for a few years and is now gone.

Today, the building is still home to two Businesses: Pro-Printing and Graphics (412 N Dewey St), and Excel Screen Print (414 N Dewey St). Over the years, the building has housed many businesses, including: the U.S. Post Office, a radio station, Austin Jewelry store, Walker Music Company, and a doctor’s office.

We hope you enjoyed today’s look at North Platte History!

John “Jack” Sullivan

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 15•21
Originally published to facebook.com/NorthPlattePL on July 9, 2021

Today’s North Platte History salutes our early railroading days, as many of our early pioneers worked for the railroad. As well as an interesting tale of a man who fought for BOTH sides of the Civil War.

John “Jack” Sullivan was born on a farm in Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1840. A lover of baseball, John spent much of his youth on the baseball diamond, and went as far as semi-pro. He was also fascinated with train locomotives and the railroad industry.

When John was 12 years old, he was set to live with his sister in Virginia. By the time he was 19, he enlisted in the Confederate Army, 1st Virginia Cavalry.

According to an interview with Sullivan, by the Omaha Bee newspaper on January 12, 1908: “He was assigned to duty at the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry. He was on duty there at the time it was stormed by the famous “Osawatomie” John Brown; and later he was at the last scene of the tragic career of that enthusiastic pioneer abolitionist. “It was in December, 1859,” he says, “John Brown had been tried for the crime of treason and had been convicted and sentenced to death for attacking the arsenal. I was assigned to guard duty at the gallows the day of his execution. I shall never forget the look on his face as he walked up the scaffold steps. He did not seem in the least afraid though he was weak with long confinement in the close air of the prison. I was very patriotic, but I could not help feeling that there was a man being hanged for a crime which while technically treason, was not really that. Within a year, the great civil war had begun to settle the very question which John Brown had tried to settle by taking weapons forcibly from the government arsenal.”

When the war began, Sullivan found himself almost before he knew it, a member of the rebel army. He had lived with his Aunt in Virginia for seven years, and ended up fighting under the stars and bars of the confederacy. His record in the confederacy was creditable and honorable.

But, his northern sympathies with his family in Massachusetts brought about an inner conscience and he ended up revolting against the cause he originally fought for. Once his decision to desert was made, he undertook the dangerous trek of deserting and running the blockades. He left his Confederate camp one night and made his way through forests, across rivers, plains, and mountains; swimming, rafting, rowing, undergoing great hardships and risking his life at every step. But he finally got within the Union Lines. John J. Sullivan enlisted again, but this time, for the Union Army and served from February 1-July 11, 1865 in the 17th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment through the remainder of the war.

During the 1860’s (between serving as a soldier), John began working with the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad as a wiper in the roundhouse. After two months, where he was quickly promoted to fireman.

John wanted to move west; and in the spring of 1871, he moved to Kansas City, eventually joining the Kansas City baseball team. Unfortunately, his baseball career only lasted one season, but while in Missouri, John married Catherine B. Bowler on June 17, 1873. After their marriage, they moved to Omaha, and then further west, “down the line” to North Platte, where he was hired on as an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad. John and Catherine made their home on the corner of Fifth and Pine, where the Fox Theater stands today. They had seven children, however only four survived past age 22:

  • 1. Francis Joseph (1874-1941) “Frank”. Became the chief clerk of the Heintze copper mining plant at Bingham, Utah.;
  • 2. John William (1875-1952) “Willie”. He was a machinist in Salt Lake City. ;
  • 3. Mary J (August 3, 1877 – August 9, 1877);
  • 4. Daniel Leo (1878-1942) “Mickey”. He also became an engineer with the Union Pacific and ran a line from Omaha to Grand Island. ;
  • 5/6. Twin Girls— Mary Bebeanna, also spelled Bibiana in some research) (1881-1965) and Theresa (1881-1881). Researchers are pretty sure that Mary B. and Theresa were twins, but cannot conclusively prove this, even after reviewing census records, Newspapers.com, https://northplatte.advantage-preservation.com/, Family Search databases or Ancestry.com. Both females are buried in the family plot, with the same birth month and year. Theresa died in infancy and Mary B went on to live until age 83: Mary B. Sullivan was a very well read, educated, and quite literary. She wrote a number of articles for newspapers, including a poem dedicated to her brother entitled “Mickey the Engineer”;
  • 7. James S. (1885-1906). James drowned in an accident at Schimmer’s Lake, along the Wood River, near Grand Island. He was 21 years old and worked at the Union Pacific Machine Shops.

John kept advancing his career with the Union Pacific, and became a fireman, eventually working his way up to passenger service. In 1888, Jack pulled the Golden Gate Special which was billed as “The Finest Train in the World!” It consisted of five vestibule Pullman cars. Passengers could go to a library, a barber, enjoy a luxurious bath, eat a five-course meal, smoke and converse, or sleep. All cars had electric lights and a steam heating system!

On December 5, 1888, the Southern Pacific Railroad joined with the Union Pacific Railroad to introduce its first deluxe transcontinental service, the weekly Golden Gate Special, between San Francisco/Oakland via Ogden to Council Bluffs where passengers connected with the C&NW’s (Chicago & Northwestern Railways) trains to and from Chicago. The cost for travel between San Francisco and Council Bluffs on this train was $60 for the First Class passage and $40 in extra fare for sleeping accommodations and meals in the dining car.

John J. Sullivan retired after 35 years of service and moved to Kearney. He was a member of the Division 88 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. After the death of his son, James, he moved to Omaha, Nebraska in 1908. He died June 1, 1913 at the age of 72. John and most of his family are buried in the North Platte Cemetery.

Thank you for reading and learning our North Platte History! I hope you join us next week!

Johnny’s Café

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 15•21
Originally published to facebook.com/NorthPlattePL on July 2, 2021

Welcome History Fans! Today’s Facebook Friday History features a look at Johnny’s Café.

Now, I love a good cafe/diner. The food is usually comfort food with delicious milkshakes and homemade pie. While perhaps not the healthiest of meal options, the food is definitely nostalgic and brings back good memories. I LOVE the first photograph showing Johnny’s Café (which is actually a postcard!). I can just imagine people getting on or off the passenger trains, going through the North Platte train depot (which you can see at the end of the street in the postcard), and coming out the other side, to find a place to get something to eat. This postcard is actually from the SECOND Johnny’s Café. Read on for the whole story!

Johnnie’s Café opened June 5, 1945. The hours of the café were 7:30AM-2PM and 8PM to 2PM. The advertisement states that Johnnie’s Café would feature noon day business men’s lunch, sandwiches, pies, and cold drinks. “Our aim will be to please you, with good food and service in a nice clean café with modern fixtures. –Lloyd B. Johnson, Owner”. We see the name on the advertising quickly change to Johnny’s Café (Johnnie/Johnny-different spellings) and stays that way through the rest of the story.

In 1945, newspaper articles and advertisements state the location of Johnny’s Café as 516-518 N Jeffers. However, most of our readers probably remember Johnny’s Café located on 6th and Pine Streets (now Bailey), behind the Pawnee hotel/in the Continental Trailways Bus depot. So we encountered a little “history mystery”!

In trying to figure out what happened between 1945 and 1970, I combed through the North Platte City Directories to find the answer. And sadly, the city directories are spotty through the war years and the Library only has 1942 and 1947 and 1950. This researcher is guessing that Johnny’s was opened in 1945-1946 at the 518 N Jeffers location and CLOSED because the owner, Lloyd B Johnson left to serve his country during wartime. Therefore, the business closed at the 518 N Jeffers address.

Then in 1957, John Garrick begins working as an agent for the Continental Trailways Bus Lines, located at 220 East 6th Street. Lloyd Johnson (former 1945-46 Café owner) is back living in North Platte and working as a recruiter for the United States Air Force. The bus depot has Anderson’s Terminal Coffee Shop in it at the East 6th location. The bus station sits on the corner of 220 East 6th and 522 N Pine Streets. So, although confusing, this is actually the same building, but because the building has separate entrances on both streets, the Bus Terminal starts out with the 220 East Sixth Street in the late 1950’s and by 1960, the main entrance has been “relocated” to the Pine Street side of the building.

By 1960, Anderson’s Terminal Coffee Shop is now called Johnny’s Café! Eureka!—I think I figured it out, I think? John Garrick is listed as the owner/proprietor of both. And he stays the proprietor of both until 1968. This IS the Johnny’s Café that most of our older readers will remember.

In 1968, Donald and Charlotte Meyer become the bus agents for the Continental Trailways bus depot and Johnny’s Cafe is still listed on site. John Garrick now lists working at the “Central Bar” as his place of employment. In 1969, the Continental Trailways Bus Depot is showing Regina M. Bollwitt as the operator/agent for the bus and Johnny’s Café is gone.

It is of note that the information printed in a City Directory was gathered the prior year, so it is likely that Johnny’s Café closed for good in 1968.

The photographs, pictures of matches, and postcards are all from the Johnny’ Café that was in North Platte at the 522 N Pine Street. The newspaper advertisements and articles are from both Johnny’s café locations, so be sure to look at the newspaper dates for identification.

And in case you are wondering, the Continental Trailways Bus Depot, along with Johnny’s Café were all torn down during the urban renewal about 1970, to make way for the business area where Alco (used to be), Brothers, Tempura, and Ace Hardware currently are currently located.

Readers, please view the attached pictures and advertisements—there is a fascinating article from 08/08/1945 that lists people and businesses that contributed $983.00 for the North Platte Canteen!

Thank you for sticking with me through the history journey. So many times, history is lost and when you dig in and look, you frequently uncover things you never knew! AND… If you remember Johnny’s Café or any of the people mentioned here, please add a comment with your memories. Thank you folks! See you back here next week for more North Platte History!


Postcards from North Platte

Written By: nppladmin - Jul• 15•21
Originally published to facebook.com/NorthPlattePL on 6/25/2021

Happy Friday! It’s time for a little North Platte History.

Well, sort of. I guess it is time for a little honesty between readers, history buffs, and this library director. This week has been seriously super crazy; the Summer Reading Program is in full-swing, we spent time working on the Cemetery Tour research (which will be held Sept 16-17, 2021), NebraskaLand Days is going on, and it is budget time. Well, before I knew it, the week just flew by and Friday is HERE!

I had every intention of ending this week with a fascinating historic look at how NebraskaLand Days got moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to North Platte; and even started going through the existing research. In fact, the research we have is detailed, but incomplete. And, unfortunately, it is going to take weeks, perhaps months of research, to put together that history article. In fact, I think I need to write a book on NebraskaLand Days, or put together a presentation at the very least. Perhaps I can do that after I retire next year. Anyway…

Rather than skipping this week, I am taking a history shortcut and decided to share some fun postcards from North Platte, Nebraska from the 1930’s. Undoubtedly, many of you will have seen these, but I hope that you enjoy looking at them anyway!

For those of you who are a smidge younger than me, don’t embrace the art of writing and the mailing of letters and postcards; a postcard is a card for sending a message by mail without an envelope, typically having a photograph or other illustration on one side. People always looked forward to getting a postcard from friends and family who were vacationing in far-away places. I think everybody loves mail, especially when it is a letter or card (and not a bill!)!

A little postcard history:

On February 27, 1861, the US Congress passed an act that allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or under, to be sent in the mail. That same year John P. Charlton copyrighted the first postcard in America. In 1870, Hymen L. Lipman began reissuing Charlton’s postcard under a new name: Lipman’s Postal Cards. Congress passed legislation on June 8, 1872, that approved government production of postal cards. The first government-produced postcard was issued on May 1, 1873.1 One side of the postcard was for a message and the other side was for the recipient’s address. By law, the government postcards were the only postcards allowed to bear the term “Postal Card.” Private publishers were still allowed to print postcards, but they were more expensive to mail than the government-produced cards (2¢ instead of 1¢).

Happy Friday! Please tune in next week for another bite of North Platte History. I promise–we will have a great piece of North Platte history to share with you! Thank you and have a great weekend!