20th Century Local Milestones

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published on Facebook December 31, 2021.

As 2021 comes to a close, I wanted to share some 20th Century Milestones for North Platte and Lincoln County History. Simply put, “Our town is Amazing!” Read on, and then go through all the photographs attached to this post. A huge THANK you to the North Platte Telegraph and other historic newspapers that covered these major new events and community/county milestones. Without heir tireless coverage, these pictures, stories and history would not exist. Enjoy!

1901 Mar 4: Col. William F. Cody selected to lead the parade in Washington D.C. for the inauguration of President McKinley.

1904 Mar 4: University of Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Substation begins operation at North Platte on land purchased for $15,000, of which, approximately half was donated by North Platte and area citizens. It is now the UNL West Central Research and Extension Center.

1905 May: President Theodore Roosevelt’s railcar stops in North Platte and he delivers “a splendid speech.”

1908 May: Federal building funds of $110,000 “engineered through Congress” by Congressman Moses P. Kinkaid. The construction of the first post office and federal building was completed in 1913 at Fifth and Jeffers Streets. (Now the Prairie Arts Center)

1908 Sept 23: The Keith Theater opens. The first all-talking movie was shown on Dec 26, 1928.

1911-1912: Opening and dedication of a new Carnegie Public Library. The building is now the home of the North Platte Area Children’s Museum. And the North Platte Public Library celebrated 100 years of service to the North Platte and Lincoln County communities in 2012; and we are still going strong!

1913 Nov 3: New UP Roundhouse occupied.

1916 Jun 16: North Platte Country Club formed.

1916: Keith Neville of North Platte was elected governor of Nebraska. The 32-year-old Democrat was called “the boy governor.” He served a two year term, 1917-1919.

1916: McDaid Catholic School was completed.

1917: “A Massive brick building, two stories in height” was erected on Front and Vine Streets for a fire station and city offices at a cost of $12,000. Privately renovated, it is now a private residence and Steele Antique Depot.

1921: North Platte Chamber of Commerce organizes private funding to buy land and build an airport.

1921 Feb 21: Jack Knight flies the North Platte to Omaha leg of the first night air mail flight, then from Omaha to Iowa City, and on to Chicago, helping establish a new transcontinental record and building support for an air mail service.

1922 Nov 24: The Fox Theater opens, hailed in a Nov 22, 1922 Evening Telegraph headline as “Wonder House Best in the West”.

1923 Apr 3: Lincoln County courthouse destroyed by fire. Later found to have been set by County Treasurer Samuel Souder in an effort to conceal embezzlement of county funds. Souder was convicted of arson on Dec 23, 1923.

1929: Jeffers Pavilion is built by Union Pacific Athletic Club as an open-air dance pavilion, later enlarged and enclosed. Pavilion was the site of appearance by great names in the Big Band era.

1930 Jul 5: North Platte’s first radio station goes on the air as KGNF, later changed to KODY.

1930 Dec: Classes move into the new North Platte High School, replacing the high school built in 1899. This facility was torn down in 2003 to make way for a new facility on the same site as the 1930’s building.

1934: Robert LeRoy Cochran, who graduated from Brady High School and had been Lincoln County Surveyor and later State Highway Engineer is elected governor. He served for three terms.

1935 Nov 6: A dinner at the Pawnee Hotel celebrated completion of the last link to be paved in the Lincoln Highway (2.5 mile segment west of North Platte) giving the nation its first hard surfaced transcontinental highway.

1937 Aug 19: Jeffers viaduct opens at a cost of $156,866.00.

1941 Dec 25: North Platte World War II Canteen opens at the Union Pacific Depot.

1946 Apr 1: North Platte Canteen closes.

1948: Union Pacific builds first retarder or “hump yard” at North Platte. Cost $3.5 million.

1951 Apr: Kirk Mendenhall is elected Mayor of North Platte. His campaign promise was to eliminate prostitution and gambling that had given the city a reputation as “Little Chicago.” He appointed a new police chief, Charles Dick and the “rooming houses” were closed.

1952 Nov: Robert B. Crosby of North Platte is elected Governor of Nebraska. He would serve one term, then be defeated in a face for the U.S. Senate by Congressman Carl T. Curtis, of Minden.

1956: Jeffers Pavilion, where many had danced to bands from the Big Band era is destroyed by fire.

1959 Sept 23: Celebration at Thedford, Nebraska marks completion of paving on the last segment of US Highway 83 (11 mile segment north of Stapleton) making Highway 83 a hard-surface road from Canada to Mexico.

1960 Jul 28: Chamber of Commerce and Historical Society leaders open drive to raise $37,500 for one-half the purchase price of a part of historic Scout’s Rest Ranch. State Game, Forestation and Parks Commission will match that amount and make Cody home, a state historical park.

1965 Jun 24: Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park is dedicated.

1965 Aug 29: Open house marks start of the North Platte Junior College in former Post Office building at Fifth and Jeffers.

1966 Sept 22: Interstate 80 opens to North Platte.

1966 Nov: North Platte selected as permanent home for statewide NEBRASKALand Days celebration by a 4-3 vote of the Game Commission. First year in North Platte to be 1968.

1968: Eastbound hump, the new Bailey Yard completed, named for UP President Ed Bailey, who called North Platte home. Cost: 12.5 million.

1968 Jun 17-23: Nebraskaland Days started in Lincoln in 1965, is celebrated for the first time in North Platte, its new permanent location.

1971 Apr 22: Formal opening of the new Union Pacific Diesel Repair Shop at North Platte. Cost: more than $10 million.

1971 May 1: Passenger train service to North Platte ends with a mock Wild West train robbery on the last passenger train.

1971 Jun 23: Construction begins on $4 million Mall Shopping Center.

1972 May 4: North Platte gets $692,262 federal grant to begin downtown urban renewal program.

1972 Jun: NebraskaLand Days Wild West Arena is completed for the 1972 Buffalo Bill Rodeo, which had been held at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds.

1973 Nov 1: Union Pacific begins demolition of its Depot, ending community efforts to save the building the housed the famous World War II Canteen.

1975 Aug 9: New Great Plains Medical Center building dedicated, climaxing an effort that had begun in 1969. The name would later be changed to Great Plains Regional Medical Center and now GPH: Great Plains Health.

1975 Oct 21: Voters approve a $10 million bond issue to build a new junior high school, one new elementary school and new buildings or additions at several elementary schools.

1976 Jul 4: Dedication ceremonies held for the new Lincoln County Historical Society Museum on North Buffalo Bill Avenue.

1980 Jul 20: Dedication of new westbound hump yard at North Platte. Cost: $40.1 million.

1980 Sept 18: Ceremonies mark completion of the new 8,000 square foot jet runway at North Platte Lee Bird Field. Frontier Airlines jet service starts Oct 1, 1980.

1981 Jul 27: Willow Street Viaduct construction begins. Dedicated in Nov 1982. Cost: just over $2 million.

1982 Jun 25: Dedication of Gerald Gentleman Power Station near Sutherland. Cost of Unit No. 1: $335 million; Unit No. 2: $287 million.

1983 Dec 9: Grand opening of the Neville Center for the Performing Arts in the old Fox Theater building that was donated to the Community Playhouse by the Neville sisters and renovated after a fund campaign that raised more than $265,000.

1987 Aug 13: President Ronald Reagan visits North Platte for a barbecue at the Ted Long ranch and a speech at the Nebraskaland Days Wild West Arena before a crowd estimated at 15,000 people.

1989 Nov 1: Buffalo Bill viaduct opens. Cost: $3.8 million.

1997 Nov 11: Flying J Travel Plaza opens south of North Platte east access off Interstate 80.

1997: Life-size statue of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody comes from England to Cody Park.

1998: Plans are announced for the building of a 20th Century Veterans Memorial near North Platte I-80 Interchange.

1999 Jan 14: Plans are announced for 150-foot Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center at Union Pacific Bailey Yard and a fund campaign is launched to finance the project.

1999 Jul: Construction begins on new McDaid Elementary at E and Tabor adjacent to St. Patrick Junior-Senior High. New Catholic elementary building will replace the one at Fourth and Chestnut, which construction completed in 1916.

May the next century be filled with many more milestones for our community and county! See you next week for another North Platte History Post! Happy New Year!

Knotty Pine Cafe

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published on Facebook December 24, 2021.

This week’s Facebook Friday history remembers a café on the Lincoln Highway called the Knotty Pine Café!

In 1948 Claude Lentfoehr and his wife Esther came to North Platte from Wisconsin and built a new restaurant. The new dinette they built was located at 1200 Rodeo Road which was right on the Lincoln Highway.

On December 15, 1948, they advertised in the North Platte Daily Telegraph that they wanted the public to name their new “dinette”. The winner who came up with the best name for their café would win $15.00 in cash. The advertisement stated that the new café would feature home cooked short orders, sandwiches and chili. On December 29th the paper announced that Mrs. C. D. Kaufman was the winner of the contest with the name of, “Knotty Pine Café”.

On April 1, 1949, the newspaper announced the grand opening of the café would be held on April 3rd and they would be serving free ice cream, cigars and balloons. The new café was to be opened 24 hours a day-7 days a week. They offered McCanns homemade ice cream. The menu featured chili, fried chicken, steaks, a wide variety of sandwiches and homemade pie. And, curb service was also available during certain times.

Shortly after opening the Lentfoehr’s sold the business to Lester and Helene Gunderson. Mr. Lentfoehr moved to Colorado and Mrs. Lentfoehr went to work at the Telegraph-Bulletin office. The Lentfoehr’s divorced in 1951.

The Gunderson’s ran the café at the Knotty Pine until 1963 when it was renamed Gundy’s Café. In 1964, the North Platte City Directory was calling the café “Gundy’s Pancake Kitchen Restaurant”. They were in business for a short time and in 1965 the building was sold to Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut stayed in the building until 1971 when they built their new building on South Jeffers and moved.

In 1972 the City Directory showed the building as “Little Tony’s Italian Food and Pizza”. The next two years the directories showed the building as vacant.

In 1975 the building had Tagge Family Restaurant in it. In 1976 the building was vacant again.

Then in 1977 the building got a new business calling it home. The Kirby Company moved in and stayed the longest. They sold vacuums there until 2009.

It is not known what the building is being used for now, but researchers suspect it is a private residence or unoccupied. But many local citizens still remember the “Knotty Pine Cafe”.

See you here next week for more North Platte History!

William S. Dolson

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22

Originally published to Facebook on December 17, 2021.

Today’s Facebook Friday North Platte History looks at a railroad pioneer: William S Dolson.

William S. Dolson was born in Lansing, Iowa in 1857 to John A and Lucretia (Taylor) Dolson. At age 16, Dolson started his railroad career as a machinist’s helper in Sidney, Nebraska. By 1874 he was promoted to fireman and in 1886 promoted to a locomotive engineer. Dolson came to North Platte shortly after being promoted to engineer, age 29.

On April 10, 1878, William S. Dolson married Miss Margaret E. Platt (1857-1914) and they had five children together:

  1. Ralph Leo (1881-1903) was born at Sidney, Nebraska and graduated from North Platte High School. He became a railway fireman and died tragically in a railroad accident at age 22.
  2. Frances E. (1883-1934), married J.D. Wolbach, an engineer for the Union Pacific in North Platte.
  3. William A. (1885-1943) grew up in North Platte and worked for the Grain Exchange in Omaha, Nebraska.
  4. Frederick C. (1888-1930) grew up to work in the machine and welding business in Oakland California.
  5. Howard F. (1891-1918) died of influenza in Grand Junction Colorado in 1918. He was 27 years old.

On January 24, 1903, Ralph F. Dolson and William S. Dolson were involved in a serious train wreck in the Gothenburg train yards. William Dolson was the engineer for a passenger train heading west and the train was moving quickly to make up time, as they were behind schedule. An ice train was waiting to go on their way. On the train was an engineer and Ralph Dolson, William’s son and a UP fireman. The ice train knew the passenger train would be arriving, but didn’t believe it would arrive for at least an hour, so they went ahead and started the track switching process for the ice train.

When William saw the ice train engine on the same train tracks as his engine, he was running at 50 miles per hour and knew it was too late to stop. When the engines collided in the switch yards, William was thrown out of the cab and the engine rolled over him. William survived with minimal cuts and bruises. After the crash, William began looking for survivors, as he knew his son was on the other engine. He found the engineer of the ice train who had several injuries. And then he found Ralph in the mangled train engine. According to newspaper accounts, Ralph’s right leg had been torn away at the hip and his left leg was cut off below the knee. William pulled him from the wreckage and carried him into the Gothenburg Depot, where he passed away from his injuries.

Throughout William S. Dolson’s life, he exercised good business judgement and acquired a large amount of property. He platted and sold a twenty acre addition to North Platte called The Dolson Addition. The Dolson Addition was located on the North side of the tracks just north of the new roundhouse. Lots were being advertised in 1913 that were for sale. The lots were being promoted as being perfect for those railroaders working in the new roundhouse. <See advertisement>

Dolson also owned twenty-six hundred acres of land in Texas! This land was perfect for his favorite thing to do when not on a locomotive—hunting. Dolson was an expert marksman and entered shooting Tournaments, many of which, he won. He was the manager of the local Gun Club for many years in North Platte. William was most proud of the medals he was given by the Buffalo Bill Gun Club in both 1903 and 1904, and also, a vase awarded by the Hunter Arms Company at the Omaha contest in 1903.

William Dolson also built three houses in North Platte. Two of them he sold right after they were finished. The third one was his pride and joy.

On July 28, 1911, the North Platte Semi-Weekly Tribune announced that work had started on Dolson’s two-story residence. On January 18th, 1912 the newspaper published a much longer article, again on the front page, titled “Beautiful Home Now Complete.” That article talked once again about the many features of the grand home and it focused on one room in the house which Dolson was most proud of—the den. The den which was a little room at the front of the house on the second floor and William called it “the handsomest room of the house”. It was decorated with his many pictures, trophy’s, and medals that he had won in all his marksman matches. Some of the elaborate features of this home were:
• a furnace complete with an automatic clock arrangement for the regulation of heat;
• a complete laundry department in the basement-including an electric ironer and washer (washing machine);
• two dumbwaiters (one from the basement to the attic and the other rom the cellar to the pantry);
• speaking tubes (designed to help people communicate across floors;
• first floor finished in oak trim;
• dining room with built-in china cabinet that covered the entire wall;
• the second floor boasted four large bedrooms, all finished in mission wood;
• the third floor was a store room (storage)—but the 3rd floor also had a shower/bath installed as well;
• steam radiators;
• vacuum attachments on every floor; and
• Telephone wiring was installed throughout the house

On May 30, 1913, Mrs. Dolson died unexpectedly. She had been to the North Platte Cemetery to decorate graves and returned home, where she had a stroke and passed away.

In 1915, William S. Dolson married again, this time to a Mrs. Anna T. Guendell, a widow, of Grand Island Nebraska. They divorced in 1920.

William S. Dolson retired from the railroad in 1922, with 45 years of service to the Union Pacific. William passed away in 1928, at home, in his beloved den.

Please join us again next Friday-for more North Platte History!

Dale Dryden – Dryden Pharmacy

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published on Facebook December 10, 2021.

The North Platte Facebook Friday History continues our look at the past. This week we look at a pharmacy: Dryden Pharmacy, owned and operated by Dale Dryden.

James Dale Dryden was born in 1907 in Goodland, Kansas. While a college student at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, he married Evelyn Frohm in August of 1930. They were both 23 years old. Dryden was studying to become a pharmacist; and Evelyn was studying English and math. After marriage they stayed in Lincoln to finish college. After graduating college the young couple came to North Platte to partner up with Harlan Gorder to open up the Gorder-Dryden Pharmacy at 506 North Dewey. The partners bought out the stock of Frater Drug Company and opened up their own pharmacy.

Dryden and Gorder remained in business until 1939 when the Lincoln County Tribune announced that the partnership broke up. Dryden bought out Gorder, and Gorder moved to Alliance, Nebraska, where he opened up a pharmacy there.

On Wednesday, May 1st, 1940 the North Platte Telegraph announced that Dryden had installed a new large soda fountain in his drug store. The new soda fountain was larger and began serving lunch (soups, salads, sandwiches and fountain drinks, of course!). The article also stated that Dryden had added a photographic department and remodeled his serum & vaccine department.

Sadly, tragedy struck on January 26, 1946 — the store suffered a large fire. The fire was reported at 4:45 am by Mac Smock, who lived in an apartment above Mac’s Hardware. The hardware store was on the right side of Dryden’s. Smock originally thought all the smoke was caused by a burning trash pile at the rear of the drug store. When firefighters arrived, the fire had been burning a long time. Firefighters were hampered by the darkness and heat of the fire. Gas masks were used as there were many explosions due to all the chemicals exploding in the back of the store. Dryden commented that he had some fire insurance but doubted it would be enough to cover the loss. The store was considered a total loss.

The stores next to Dryden’s, J. C. Penney’s to the south and Mac’s Hardware to the north both sustained a large amounts of smoke damage, but thankfully, no fire and water damage. The apartments above Dryden’s Pharmacy sustained significant damage, as the fire broke through the floor to the apartments above.

The final cost of damage done by the fire to the store was estimated to be over $100,000. J. C. Penney’s and Mac’s Hardware sustained over $75,000 worth of smoke damage between the two of them. No one said (they) knew what caused the fire. Some speculated that the fire was started by the gas furnace, others believed it started in the prescription room at the rear of the building.

Starting in early February Dryden started having “Fire Sale’s” to get rid of salvageable merchandise. By March, James Dryden was working on rebuilding the pharmacy. By August 22, 1946, just seven months later, Dryden opened his newly rebuilt pharmacy. Dryden stated in the North Platte Telegraph that “We spared no expense endeavoring to bring to North Platte what we believe is one of the finest drug stores in Nebraska.”

Just two years later, tragedy struck again for the Dryden’s. On November 6, 1948, Dryden and his step-father Thad Mendenhall both drowned at Lake McConaughy, when their boat capsized. The two men had been out hunting ducks. They were on their way back to a lodge when choppy waves caused the boat to overturn. Witnesses say they clung to the side of the boat for only a short time before losing grip due to heavy wet hunting clothes. Their bodies were recovered several hours later. Dale Dryden was 41 years old.

Evelyn Dryden took over the pharmacy and carried on her husband’s legacy. She stayed in the same location until 1963 when the city began plans for Urban Renewal. The building where the pharmacy was located was sold. Along with the J. C. Penney’s and Mac’s Hardware buildings. All were slated for demolition.

Dryden moved the pharmacy over to Westfield Shopping Center where it became Dryden’s Westfield Pharmacy. Evelyn married Russell W. Derryberry in 1970 and retired from the pharmacy business in 1975. She passed away on May 29, 1982.

Please join us next week for more North Platte History!

Local Media Coverage of Pearl Harbor

Written By: nppladmin - Jan• 13•22
Originally published on Facebook December 3, 2021.

Today’s Facebook Friday North Platte History event looks at how our local newspaper covered the tragic events that happened on December 7, 1941, the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor Hawaii.

Next Tuesday, December 7, 2021, will mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many readers remember this historic event from grandparents and great grandparents. But sadly, only a few of our residents with firsthand accounts of World War II are still with us.

Please look through the post photographs of the newspaper headlines and remember how our North Platte Community responded to this shocking news, as our country entered World War II. And remember, in 1941, newspaper and radio were the ONLY way to find about news.

We will see you next week for another Facebook Friday North Platte history.