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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Rainy day reading: Memories Of Sixty Years In Butler

ON THE SQUARE

Memories Of Sixty Years In Butler

by James Ring

 

29 July 2020

 

Businesses That Were

 

We’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go in Butler over the last six decades. Sometimes they disappear for lack of customers, sometimes there’s no longer a need for their services, and sometimes they’re just not able to compete with larger, flashier firms.

 

Remember the “returned baked goods” stores? Butternut Bread, on north Main street, and Wonder Bread, on the north end of the 71 Strip, combined their distribution warehouses with a small store in the front, where the bread and snacks picked up from retail stores with expired freshness dates could be bought at a steep discount. As the bread trucks eventually came from farther and farther away, these small warehouses were closed.

 

When I first came to town, there was an OK Rubber Welders tire shop out on the Strip. In those days, bias-ply tires might run 10,000 miles before the tread wore out. The tire carcass was still good, so recappers like OK could vulcanize fresh tread on it for half the price of a new tire. Radial-ply tires now go 50,000 miles, so recapping is no longer popular except for commercial users.

 

At one time, fresh milk was delivered door-to-door, from trucks loaded at Clifford Clark’s Highland dairy operation at 71 and H highways. As a boy, I used to see the milk trucks early in the mornings, plying their rounds. Now, we just hop in our car and drive down to the store to get milk, which comes from a far-distant point. Thoroughly preserved, it won’t spoil and clabber up when it gets old, but it sure can smell rotten.

 

And then there were specialty service shops, like the radiator repair shop that could fix your car’s leaky coolant tank, located on Havana south of the post office, or the music shop, where you could buy guitar strings, just off the southwest corner of the square on Delaware. If you had a car speedometer that was broken, you took it to Bill Hart’s tiny shop, under the east stairs of the Inn Hotel.

 

In the 60s, the Special Lens plant was in full operation at the north end of the 71 Strip, at Lee street. If your eye doctor fitted you with new glasses, the lenses were custom ground to order at Special Lens, right here in Butler. Today, the old building has been expanded into Midwest Lumber’s showroom.

 

Back before everyone had a freezer to store their supply of meat and winter’s vegetables, there were locker plants in every town, usually part of an ice plant where blocks of ice were manufactured and sold. Ingram’s Ice and Coal on Lyons Street at Chestnut dispensed ice on the east side of the building for a few coins, but if you wanted to get into your rented freezer drawer to take home some of your stored meat, you could pick up your key inside and go into the arctic confines of the locker room. Out on the 71 Strip, Maury and Gloria Williams operated the Butler Ice plant, formerly Buck Henson’s Ice and Produce, located where Car Quest auto parts now sits.

 

Time was, if you bought a floral arrangement its contents were probably grown on the premises, in a local greenhouse. Rex and Reva Miller had their greenhouse at east Nursery and Olive streets, filled with growing plants of every description, even in winter. Robert and Charlotte Miller continued its operation until flown-in foreign flowers took over the florist business.

 

We would be remiss, of course, to omit the Butler newspaper publishers from earlier days. The only paper when I arrived was the Bates County Democrat, printed in-house on the north side of the Square by Dick and Mary Ellis. On January 6, 1972, Chuck Thomure, publisher of the Bates County Shopper advertising paper, decided to initiate his own weekly newspaper by hiring away most of the Democrat’s staff, so the Bates County News Headliner was born. The Democrat was quickly sold to Jim and Wanda Brown, who put out the Cass County Democrat paper in Harrisonville, and by February 1, 1973 it ceased publication. Subsequently, Jim and Carol Peters decided to start up their own Xchanger advertiser; on October 5, 1984, its success spawned the Bates County News Xpress newspaper, leading to absorbing the Headliner on August 28, 1986. Sadly, publication of the Xpress ended at the end of July, 2020.