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Saturday, April 10, 2021

60 Years of Memories: Roads once traveled


60 Years Of Memories Of Butler

by James Ring


In some fashion, the older names for our local streets and roads never quit being used. They hang on as colloquialisms despite all attempts to gentrify them. Orange street is still the Old 71 Strip, to those of us who cruised its environs on busy Saturday nights. And Mill street remains H Highway, the eastbound gravel state-maintained roadway to which it was connected in the early 1950s. 


Elks Drive was the Pine Tree road in the pre-Elks Lodge days, so named for the County Home for the indigent that had been turned into Pine Tree Rest Home, now the Bates County Museum of Pioneer History. On the other side of town, Rice Road (named for councilman Melvin Rice) was simply the Sawmill Road, its long-standing primary feature.


North Main street turned into North Main Road as it continued north to connect to the Passaic Road (D highway), part of a national cross-country trail leading from Louisana to Minnesota in the 1920s called the “Jefferson Highway.” On its other extremity, South Main street/road used to have a jog in it at Nursery street, lining up as an extension of Lyons street before continuing south. The current traffic-smoothing sway came about after the Lynch property was developed by Paul Buerge.


The difficulty getting to the Bates County fairgrounds from H highway was resolved by aligning it with Austin Avenue, which saved building a bridge. Before that, traffic had to jog up or down Pine street to Main or Henry streets to get to the state highway. Pine street used to be the main thoroughfare leading to Oak Hill Cemetery, complete with a sidewalk on its south side paid for by the Ladies Clubs, remnants of which still exist.


When I came to town, West street was just that—the west edge of town. Sunset View Drive didn’t exist, nor did the four-lane highway that now bypasses the heart of Butler. One came into Butler from the north on U.S. 71 via Passaic (yes, the speed limit was 70 mph), hitting the city limits about where Midwest Lumber sits, formerly the Special Lens Plant. At the county’s only stoplight, you could turn west onto Highway 52 or continue south out of town past the sale barn at Nursery street corner. Lola Case’s steakhouse sat in the hollow outside town and a “filling station” was on the corner of 71 and eastbound 52. What it’s worth, that route is now shown as NE County Road 63.


Fran Avenue, more commonly known now as the WalMart road, was named for Fran Hall, wife of Butler’s energetic industrial development director, Robert Hall, retired J. C. Penney store manager. Its Day’s Inn motel isn’t Butler’s first high-rise rooming house; that would be the three-story Inn Hotel on the Square. And the next time you go by the Casey’s convenience store on Fort Scott street, note the white two-story house behind it, on Flo street. That was Butler first hospital; our friend Louise Fisher will tell you she had her appendix removed in the building, requiring a two-week stay.


We travel roads and streets with much history beneath them.