Wednesday, November 8, 2023

150 Years Is A Long Time

For about two years I've been very excited about something.  This past June was the culmination of my excitement.  Since then I have been wanting to make a post or two (or as I found out, three posts) about this event that caused the excitement.  As many of you may know from reading my blog, I'm not the keenest person when it comes to history.  I can mostly get the Cliff's Notes (is that still a thing) version and if I have a bit of interest I'll read more about it.  The computer age has helped me learn more events in history then anything in school ever did (but I'm glad that we are taught history, I just wish they would expand on it).  World History doesn't interest me too much when the majority of the talk is about World Wars or War in general.  Its not that I don't care, but I don't like reading about sad stuff.  The deepest I go into history in terms of sad events is probably 9/11 and mainly because it was an event I was alive for and even two decades later new information or stories are released.  However, I respect those that like deep diving into history.  American history is somewhat the same, I have less interest on the Civil War and former Presidents but I do enjoy more local history.  I like learning about middle of nowhere towns, events that are never discussed in history class, even if they happen in places I've never been.  Missouri history will always interest me for at least a few moments, but even other locales around the United States make me want to know about them.  One of my favorite things to do on Youtube is find livecams of towns around the World, but specifically the U.S. and just watch the buildings, the traffic, and the people.  As I watch the cams more often, I want to learn more about the place.  Currently I plan sometime soon to explore some places in Michigan just from seeing them on Youtube.  Another Youtube favorite is doing walking and driving tours of cities.  These are usually larger places, but ones I've mostly never been to (though I do like seeing places I have been and see what has changed).

All of this leads up to a local event I've been interested in for over two years.  In June, my small town of Pilot Grove, Missouri (population around 750) celebrated its 150th Anniversary.  What I should do on these three posts is tell you about the history of my town, one I've called home most of my life (outside of 2-3 years living with my sister in a neighboring city which I still came back "home" weekly if not daily).  However during this weekend event, I went overboard and took a ton of pictures.  Well, not literally a ton, but if each photo I took weighed 1 pound each, it would be over half a ton.  I took over 1000 pictures and while I can't show them all here, I have over a hundred to show.  When I thought about this post, I had a plan.  It was to post almost all the photos on my Facebook page, but save some bonus photos just for the blog.  I looked recently at those bonus photos, and they really aren't that great, so instead over the next three posts, I'll post some bonus ones as well as some I posted on Facebook.  At the end of the third post, or maybe after each post, I'll link my Facebook photo page so you can see all the photos. There are a lot just because I was excited for the events and also because I wanted to test the limits of my phone to not only see how many photos I could get, but how long the battery would last and the quality of the photos.  I've had the phone over a year (almost 2 now) and I've used it mainly to take photos, but never for an event such as this.  Needless to say, I had plenty of space for the photos, and the battery never hit less then 60%.  The phone is basically my camera that has the ability to make calls.  Due to it being a Tracfone, I don't use it for internet at least if I can help it.

Anyways, since this will be picture heavy, lets start looking at photos.  We'll start with the flyer for the event.

On the surface planning it for 4 days seemed very daring.  3 days, sure, but 4 seemed like a bit of wishful thinking.  In the months leading up to the event, the committee was very tight lipped on the details, which worried me, and there wasn't much advertising, until the last month or two.  If I was on the committee I would have tried to give a bit of details just to get people interested, and try to promote it as much as I could.  I could have still promoted it, but without details it was hard to convince others why they should come.  The main goal for a few months seemed to be attaining sponsors, which also worried me, and it also didn't seem like they wanted to reach out for sponsorships, instead hoping sponsors would message them (I can't confirm this, but that's how the Facebook page presented it).  When it was finally time for announcements though, I noted they acquired a lot of sponsorships and raised quite a bit of money.  This was vital because outside of the food vendors, all the events were free.  Only those wishing to have a booth for food or the craft show had to pay anything. I think that made it as successful as it was.  When I saw this brochure, I quickly planned my events I wanted to attend and most didn't overlap.  I even had plans to attend a few events multiple times. As it turned out, I didn't attend some of the events I had hoped and that was on me.  I missed the entire first night because I couldn't get motivated.  Sure I was excited, but my body just didn't want to get up.  I wasn't too mad about that.  Saturday night I also missed out because I was pretty tired from the whole weekend at that point, and rain started to come in.  Then Sunday's events were mostly rained out, however, one event was still held, and it might have been for the best.  The museum remained open on the Sunday as everything else was postponed until a later date.  My mom didn't care to attend most of the events, but that Sunday I talked her into going to the museum.  As a result she had fun, and nobody was there most of the time we was viewing, so it allowed me to get pictures of almost EVERY item that was on display.

A couple weeks later, a makeup date was announced for the Sunday events.

By the time July 9th rolled around, I really wasn't too interested in the events anymore.  The Time Capsule would have been fun, and I've wanted to see the Firehouse Tour, but the other stuff I could do without.  I think I ended up sleeping in on that day.  Overall though I think the event was a resounding success and while it was to honor the 150th anniversary, I hoped it would lead to talk of making it an annual event, even truncated.  No talk has been mentioned, but a one day festival would be nice.  I think it would bring in a crowd to the town and create excitement.

So you can see what the events are, but what did I actually attend?  Well, leading up to the events and after I mapped out what I wanted to do, and thankfully I've been messing around with Excel so I made something.

All the events listed were what I wanted to see, and the events in yellow is what I actually attended.  I wish I got to see more of the music, but I'm not too upset.  The main attractions to me was the museum, and the tours.  I didn't take pictures of the Jail tour, at least if I did it wasn't worth showing. The Orphan Train re-enactment might have been exciting.  The history of our town is that we are a former rail town and I can't remember the time, but Pilot Grove made the newspapers for an orphan train that had children up for adoption brought in I think from New York, and many of the children would get off the train for families waiting to adopt them.  At the museum location (which was inside the funeral home, we are a small town with not a lot of options, lol), they also had a video playing on a loop talking about the orphan train and possibly other local events.  I didn't watch much of it, but wish someone posted it online.  Professor Farquar and Polecat Annie are an attraction that always appears at the Missouri State Fair, but I somehow missed them.  Oh well. The Cemetery Tour sounded different.  It wasn't of the city cemetery like I thought, but one outside of town that had many of the founders of the town buried.  At the cemetery they had people dressed up as the founders giving a tour.  I didn't attend, that seemed a bit much for me, but I would at some point like to visit some of the local cemetery's to see where some of the founders and other historical people of the town are buried.  While I was looking at the events I started searching the Find A Grave site, which I never really do, but was actually enthralled by it.

A day or two before the event the town doctor called us.  We consider her a family friend, and she asked if we could help with something.  They had printed up a replica newspaper and needed them to be rolled.  As a former paper boy, that was in my wheelhouse, and it didn't take long.  I also got a glimpse of something before the event, so bonus.

This was very informative even though I didn't have a lot of interest in some of the events on the back side.  Having said that, I did watch some of the events for a brief moment or two.  I thought the newspapers would be a bit more than a sheet, but still glad they made an effort.  

Here is some of my involvement in the weekends events.  They were placed at the museum, and I believe a couple kids might have even handed some out on the streets for a bit.

So now its time for the photo dump to begin.  We'll begin with just some photos around town.

Top photo is our town post office.  It's not very big, but at least we still have one.  The second photo was taken for a relative who once lived here but moved away.  The building is a newly built apartment complex, but was once a house that my grandma on my mom's side lived.  My relative hasn't visited in quite a while, so I wanted to take a pic to show her.  In the background is our water tower, which I think is very unique.  It is also the only one we have.  Some places have upwards of 5-6 and are much bigger, but ours seems small but does the trick.  I hope it never needs to be replaced because I'll miss it. I believe the flag was added for the event.

The bottom photo is of one of our two banks, this one was built in the late 90's/early 2000's but the bank itself has been roughly in that location for over 100 years albeit with a couple different names.  The location of the bank now is where my grandpa on my mom's side once had a filling station.  My grandpa and grandma on my mom's side passed away when I was around 6 so I don't have a lot of memories of them, but I do remember my grandma's house and how most of it was designed.  When I looked at the museum (pics on post 2 or 3) someone had an ashtray of my grandpa's filling station (my mom has the exact same one, but it was cool to see someone else had one too).

These are what I told a friend was "iconic cars of Pilot Grove".  During the 80's and 90's seeing these weren't out of the ordinary, especially the flatbed truck.  The flatbed is from Krumm's lumberyard and hardware store.  In the recent post about finding the KFC bag, it was at that store.  This picture is in front of that building.  The wrecker wasn't as out and about, but still was spotted from time to time.  I don't have many memories of Wessing's Garage, but the building was located without much room to park so the truck when not inside the building would be sitting across the road in a parking area, which is where it was once again spotted, not far from the flatbed.  While the trucks probably reminded the older citizens, of when the vehicles were new, it made me think of the late 80s/early 90s. 

What I was surprised to see was a couple of steam engines.  Pilot Grove once had the MKT railroad run through the town, in fact a few feet behind these steam engines.  In the mid-80s the line shut down (I don't know when the last train came trough town, I really don't remember seeing one), since then the Katy Trail now is in its place, the longest (at least at one time) rails to trails conversion in the United States.  It runs almost across the entire state, from outside St. Charles (outside of St. Louis) to Windsor which is somewhat close to Sedalia/Warrensburg and near Kansas City.  Another converted rail line called Rock Island is in the process of being completed which intersects with the Katy and will connect Kansas City or at least near to it.  At one time there were hopeful plans to connect other trails connecting Kansas City to Omaha, Nebraska then connecting Omaha through Des Moines into Chicago.  Then connecting Chicago to St. Louis/St. Charles, making a 4 state trail (maybe 5 if it crosses into Kansas). I haven't heard any new details on that in many years though and the Rock Island is being slowed partially by politics.  Hopefully it is finished in the next few years.

Anyways, these steam engines were a nice surprise.  One year I should go to the local steam engine show and take pictures, but I've never been too interested.

So I'm not posting these all in order because with all the pictures I have more of some events than others.  So next we'll look at the Quilt Show.  I took a lot of photos because I wanted to show my mom.  I also needed a break from the car show and tractor show which was at the same location- the school.  Once I took pictures I found a lot were made by someone I've known for 20 plus years and actually saw her for the first time in a few years after finishing up.  It was nice to see her again.  She was a teacher at another local school, but has strong ties to Pilot Grove.  Her daughter went to the same school she taught and in a roundabout way were friends and rivals.  We were both in FHA/HERO (now called FCCLA) and one time we ran for the Districts Presidential nominee.  She won out but I wasn't too mad.  I miss those days.  Anyways, let's see some quilts (something I've never thought I'd say).

I think they said in total over 125 quilts were submitted.  On my Facebook post, I posted more photos, but I'll be a bit more brief on here.  I figure I'm not pulling in the quilt demographic.  I liked the one of the various t-shirts, some of which I've never seen.  I've thought of making similar ones but I don't have enough Pilot Grove ones. The festive ones above it are just about right for the season.

My favorite was one that told a history of a family.  As it turned out it was also the teacher I mentioned who had other quilts. I liked the variety and the range of ages of not only the quilts but the ones who made them.  I was happy I took the pictures, but do wish I would have took pictures of more of the quilts. On my Facebook, I have 36 pictures in the quilt album.  I will like my album pages, I think most of the events are public, if not leave a comment and I will make them public. Looks like I can't link that page, but here is the album for the quilts- Quilt Album

I will post links to all the albums at the end of this post.

A couple pictures from the school.  I will show the car show later, but I thought I'd throw these bonus pictures in.  The top is a rock area which I don't know how long has been there but I never took a picture of it.  The bottom picture is inside the school, we are the Tigers.  I don't know when this was repainted, but I'm pretty sure this was on the wall when I attended. One day I need to revisit the school to do a tour to see how different it is from when I went.  You will see later in the museum that the school went a major change and that was before I attended.

Next we'll see inside a building that I've never got to see before.  We have had a couple festivals in the last 20 plus years and one building allowed tours, however this one never did.  So next we get to explore above a funeral home (which again housed the museum for the event).

Next is Conway Hall.  The first picture tells a bit about it.  In my 40 years, I've never seen this open to the public, and this was my #1 thing I wanted to see.  I knew there wouldn't be much, but just to see it was good enough for me.  The second photo is looking out the back window at the top to the staircase seen in photo 3.  The steps were steep, but it was a fun workout.  The second photo shows a bit of the town, we have a Casey's which was built in the mid-late 80s and on the right is a doctor's office and a cafe.  Before that it was an empty field called the American Legion lot, which I once had the honor of mowing.  In the middle was a giant flag pole with a big American flag.  I was quite sad when they started building stuff on the land.

So what was upstairs?

I gotta be honest, Blogger changing the pictures again, so some of these might be messed up.  At any rate, I was quite surprised at the shape of the building especially with its sparse use the past decades.  My friend and I was giving somewhat of a historical tour of the building which was nice.  The "pretty wall" as I call in in picture 3 was added much later, but still had to be the 60s or 70s I'd think.  behind the wall is a stage, which I couldn't get on, but got a couple pictures of here in a moment.  I don't know what this could be used for today, but its in decent enough shape to be used in some capacity.  The drawback again is that its above a funeral home.  At least it does have a separate entrance. There was actually another couple rooms with more to show.  As the guide told us, in the later years it was used as storage for the funeral home.

I thought I took better pictures, I guess I should have brought a selfie stick.  Again, I was surprised at how good the condition was.  At worst I figured the roof or ceiling would be falling in a spot.  I think this would look real nice, and honestly if the town ever decided to make a full fledged museum, this would be a decent spot for it.  The Cooper County Historical Society is just a few feet down the road, but they don't have a lot of space.  I wouldn't suggest them use it for that, but a museum only open or weekends or once a month would be finding some use for it.  Then again I'm not sure how often people would visit it.

The space was just beautiful.  The most surprising thing to me was that it once had an elevator.  Again this is a building I've never got to explore and I don't think I've ever heard stories about it, so it was so cool to learn about.  I think if renovated, the elevator could be retrofitted and made for use again.  If so, maybe this would be a good space for the historical society.  Much more room, and a beautiful setting.

This post is taking longer than I was hoping, so I might start rushing soon.

This part was a bit creepy so excuse the bad photos.  This was once the embalming room.  There was still bottles on shelves there and not only did that creep me out, but I didn't trust the floor in that room for some reason.  It was still nice to see, but not a room I stayed in long.  That wrapped up my most wanted to see event.

Next is another building that has been closed for quite a long time, but one I got to see in 2005.  It was called the Gem Theater.

This was located above the former grocery store, and many people had access to throughout the years.  It doesn't look too visible but on the last two photos people throughout the years wrote their names on the wall above the steps near the ticket taker booth.  This building has fallen into disrepair, and currently the building is for sale.  I hope it can be bought and fixed up.  I didn't get many pictures since I've seen it before.

I'm not fixing the top picture, these are from a couple of the windows.  The sideways one again shows the bank, and some of where the events took place.  The bottom one shows the town car wash and the major road running through town.  Near the far right is where a house once stood that I lived in.

So the downstairs portion was once a grocery store.  Actually this section was once a deli, and other stuff previously.  Its been over a decade since I've been in here, so it was a radical change seeing so much work done to it. Having said that, I don't remember being in the deli part too many times.

The second photo is one I remember.  During the grocery store years, this was a doorway to a stock room.  I never worked there, but knew many people who did and I lived across the street from there for a while, so sometimes I would hang out there.  Throughout the years many of the workers would write their name on this doorway.  My friend worked there and was trying to find his name or at least others who we remembered.  It was blurry because technically this wasn't part of the tour but we straggled around a bit.  I'm glad we did actually.

Who gets excited seeing a door?  I mean I do.  When we were exiting, we had to walk through the former store.  A few years ago the place was pretty much gutted and it looked nothing like the glory days.  However, my friend and I were excited to see this door.  It was the door to the freezer in the meat department, which again while I never worked there actually went in a couple times.  While looking worse for wear, I don't think it looked a lot different than the last time I saw it.  The Lunch Box was the corner deli, which I don't think lasted long, and I never actually went in there.  It was that deli I mentioned previously.  I think with a new owner it could actually do well despite having a Casey's convenience store, a cafe, and a bar which many like the food all within a block.  This spot is directly across from the Katy Trail and would be a great spot for bikers of the trail to stop for a break.

The store portion was stripped of all its past glory.  No red and white checkerboard floors, now much lower ceilings, now meat department, office space in the front (I think they took it out). I guess they ripped it all out for a new buyer to imagine how they want to use the building. The bottom photo shows a portioned of section.  That was used as a beer garden VIP section, which I don't really get since all the music and stuff was outside.  While I enjoyed many aspects of the event overall, I would have made a couple changes.

In the top photo there is a sign with Main Street Grocery.  That was the last iteration of the grocery store, but it wasn't the same as the long previous owner- Elwood Gerke.  At that time it was named Gerke's Grocery, and it was the best small town grocery store you could imagine.  It had two checkout lanes, one of which my relative manned (or womanned in her case) for many years.  It had I think 6 aisles, then a movie section with a couple more aisles usually with things like motor oil and such for sale.  The prices were low enough to get what you need so you didn't have to drive the 15 miles to the next closest grocery store.  It was associated with Affiliated Foods, and after Mr. Gerke (as many of us called him, we respected the elders calling them Mr. and Mrs.) passed I actually bought one of his price books from the store.  I think it was from the 60s.  I need to dig it out and post it one day. I am telling you all of this because it will segue into the next two posts, but Mr. Gerke's grandson was my classmate and I ran into him during the car show, he handed me a postcard which brought back many memories.  He also left a few items to give out at the museum which I will show now.

That double sided postcard was really cool.  The decal is also really nice, I need to find a place to put it, I still haven't yet.  I have a few so sticking it somewhere will be cool.  When I post some of the museum items you will see an item or two from the store, and even a summer league uniform.  While writing this it brought back many memories of not only the store, but the town.

I have a couple more photos from the festival, then a couple teasers for the next two posts before I wrap things up.

Can't have a midwestern festival without a beer garden.  Since I didn't go into the area I won't complain much, but feel it might have been better in a different sport or at least made to look a bit nicer.  The only real complaint was finding a way to get into the Gem Theater which we found out you had a couple options, but walking through the beer garden was the best option.  

So I mentioned seeing my classmate at the car show, the grandson of the former store owner.  We haven't talked in many years, but during our high school years we were pretty close.  It was nice catching up with him again and it was nice to see he had a truck on display during the car show.  He owns an auto tint business, and has always messed around with vehicles and even competed in garden tractor and antique tractor pulls as well as truck pulls.  So in a teaser of whats to come, here is one of the car show entrants.

I have a better photo in when I post the car show, but again, just a teaser.  In another teaser, here is the ashtray from my grandpa's filling station I mentioned earlier.

This is a pretty pristine ashtray, much like ours is.  I love the old phone numbers.  SEVEN!  That's it.  He ran a Cities Service station, which is now known as CITGO.  I'm hoping one day to find a map that the stations use to have from that time frame which would be of each state and where each of the stations were.  It would be a nice addition.

As you can see the advertising portion of the museum really excited me, plus all the photos others loaned.  I wish I could have took may scanner up there and scanned all the photos.

So after this long post I think I'll wrap it up.  I don't think I had too many bonus photos, but if you don't want to read my ramblings and just want to see pictures, I will link all my albums I posted on Facebook.  However I still have two more posts to show more stuff.  I think I also did write ups on a lot of the photos on Facebook, so you can also get more details there.  

Gem Theater

Conway Hall (Above the Funeral Home)

Around Town

Quilt Show


Car & Tractor Show


Again, I won't post all the photos here, but the car show, parade, and museum will still be in posts 2 and 3 as well as a couple more around town.  If you are signed in on Facebook feel free to leave a comment, if you aren't that's okay too.  If the pages don't load, leave a comment here and I'll see what I can do.

I see Blogger is changing their picture posting stuff again, so I have to learn that.  In addition, I'm thinking despite not posting as much in the new year I might redesign my blog.  I haven't thought about it much yet, but I don't like seeing the background, so its time to change.  Having said all that thank you so much for reading, this took a while to write so I expect many mistakes on here, and I also don't know when posts 2 and 3 will be posted.  In a perfect world, the next one will be sometime this weekend and the last sometime next week.  I hope everyone has a great week.


  1. So many cool things in those photos. Awesome to have a relic of your grandfather's filling station.

    1. Thank you. Technically its my mom's still, but its still nice to have. I wish I could find pictures from that time from the town with the station, but nothing I've found yet.

  2. I too am usually more interested in learning about small towns than the bigger cities. Even more so now that I'm finding out that most of my family history occurred in smaller places. And I can totally relate to looking forward to something for a long time, then being not nearly as interested by the time whatever it is arrives.

    I just read about the 'orphan train' for the first time a few months ago, so it was interesting to see that brought up here.

    The steam engines are really great. I'd love to see those still being used. And I was thinking too, "Where's the quilts?", as every event like this has to have quilts; and sure enough, there were quilts! :)

    Normally the old funeral home would probably be the most interesting place for me, but your Gem Theatre ended up being considerably cooler. I know why we can't have nice things like that anymore, but it still makes me long for the days when folks did. It's probably a good thing that your town is as small as it is, otherwise most of these empty spaces would be getting converted to ugly living spaces by wealthy out-of-staters.

    Fun post!

    1. If I wrote this closer to the event, I probably could have remembered much more, but it was all very fun. The Gem Theatre despite seeing it before, did have a guide which talked about a few things I never knew. I knew it hosted graduations but the last one was in 1939. They had a secluded section due to segregation, which I didn't know.

      I really wish I spent more time and pictures on the quilts, which was a lot more fun than I anticipated. As for the orphan train, I don't know much on it, but what little I do know sounds interesting. When I get more access to I will explore more about it and the town.

      I hope to have parts 2 and 3 of the post up soon, maybe this week.