Saturday, October 24, 2015

Early businesses in Junction City

Early businesses in Junction City

By Gaylynn Childs

Newcomers to this area often find it hard to believe that Junction City was – for over a century – the main center for trade and commerce in this region of the state.  However, a look through Editor Charles Manley’s comprehensive publication should convince even the most skeptical of the truth of this statement.  In this edition, consisting of 12 newspaper-sized pages divided into two sections, Manley expounds that fine agricultural qualities of the area along with detailing the history of the various settlements in Geary County beginning with the first military expedition to Camp Center in 1852.  He then enumerates the many retail and industrial operations which were located here at that time and brags on the cultural and social offerings of the community as well.
            Under bold headlines which proclaim: “GEARY COUNTY TODAY AND TOMORROW,” the editor explains, “In preparation of this Industrial Edition of the REPUBLIC it has been our aim to adhere strictly to facts.  Reckless statements concerning any locality always react and do more injury than good…”  Then he states that not a penny had been paid to advertise in this issue and that expenses were to be covered by the sale of extra copies. 
            It was interesting to note how this enthusiastic promoter could turn even the most negative aspects of our state into something to brag about.  Take note. 
            “Caesar preferred to be the first man in a village to the second in Rome.  He ‘made good’ in Rome and took his pay in daggers.  It costs to lead but it is the best way to advertise.  Kansas leads.  She originated the Civil War, a very expensive job, but it took and was copied all over the country.  Our drought was made national, likewise our grasshoppers.  They are Kansas things.  Other states have them but they take them after us and give us the credit of the invention.  John Brown and Jerry Simpson never amounted to much until they came to Kansas.  We were the making of them….
            “Cyclones are also credited to Kansas but other states are now treating the cyclone very respectfully.  Very little fun is now poked at Kansas on account of its cyclones.  It is a species of wind that makes itself respected wherever it blows.  It went pretty hard with us to have to originate war, drought, hoppers, and cyclones, but somebody had to do it and Kansas never waits.  Calamities are not so almighty amusing but it takes courage to originate them and the first patient has them the easiest.  We are now waiting for something else to originate.”
            After a fairly comprehensive review of the history of the county including an eclectic compilation of “firsts” in Geary County, Manley describes the countryside and assures an excellent supply of water.  “The supply of drinking water comes from wells and springs and is of the most pleasant taste.”  The character of the rural residents is not over looked either.  “There are at least a dozen church organizations in the county outside Junction City and all denominations are represented.  The educational resources are good and well up to modern ideas and as a consequence we find a well educated people, a sharp and active citizenship.”
            Our present county commissioners might take some comfort from Manley’s assessment of the county roads in 1915.  “The county has as good natural roads as one can find anywhere and they are as good ten months of the year as the pikes of the eastern states.  This has been made possible from the fact that rural transportation is largely done by automobile and this necessitates the making of good roads and keeping them in repair.  Geary County has one automobile for every 36 of its inhabitants and when it is known that many are owned by farmers it is at once apparent why the roads are kept in good condition and when it is known that each car has a license tax of $5 per year against it, the fund for road maintenance is not a small one in itself.”
            Junction City was described as an “aggressively progressive city of about 7,000 population.  The inhabitants are a busy, hospitable people, wide-awake, ambitious and enterprising to a degree that surprises visitors from other sections.  There is no apathy or laziness among them, but exceeding vim, zeal and courageous energy characterize their every action.  They extend the open hand of welcome to the newcomer, are frank and generous, open-hearted, unselfish and sincere in their efforts, full of commercial vim, level-headed and far seeing; what wonder the stores and the town generally present a scene of life and bustle that many towns twice its size do not show.”
            Prior to in-depth descriptions of the various businesses and professional operations in Junction City – many augmented with photographs – Manley lists all the types of retail ventures then represented in the community.  This was eye-opening even to those of us who are somewhat familiar with the history of our local business district.
            “Commercially Junction City has: three hotels; two bakeries; one ice plant; three creameries; five opticians; one airdrome; no saloons; (remember this was the era of prohibition) two book stores; three shoe stores; six drug stores; one music store; eight restaurants; six tailor shops; three green houses; one boot and shoe factory; one glove factory; six meat markets; four variety stores; two rock quarries; two rock crushers; four jewelry stores; three lumber yards; one general store; twenty-seven grocery stores; three livery stables; two electric stores; one electric plant factory; three photographers; one bottling works; one storage house; three cigar factories; five clothing stores; two cleaning shops; three candy factories; two grain elevators; three millinery stores; one job printing office; two state banks; three steam laundries; two national banks; three hardware stores; one pure milk depot; three newspapers; two flouring mills; five auto garages; one sheet metal factory; four general contractors; one veterinary hospital; two electric contractors; one sand shipping plant; two wholesale produce houses; one cement block factory; one sewing machine shop; one ice cream cone factory; two harness manufactures; three moving picture theaters; one telephone exchange; one awning and tent factory; one credit rating association; one marble and granite works; one building and loan association; three wholesale ice cream factories; five blacksmith and machine shops; one electric power plant; six furniture stores; three undertaking establishments; two plumbing and heating contractors; one wholesale grocery distributing house; seven attorneys; twelve physicians; seven dentists; one gas company; one hospital; six feed stores; four department stores; three coal dealers; one abstract firm; one architect; nine barber shops; four billiard and pool halls; one cab and baggage line; one chiropractor; five dressmakers; one express company; one insurance agency; twelve real estate and loan firms; four second hand stores and a commercial club (Chamber of Commerce) of 350 members.”

            Editor Manley concluded with the observation that “Junction City is a good trading point.”  The he offered some advice to new entrepreneurs, which might well apply today.  “Visionary individuals cannot get along in Junction City.  The streets are not paved with gold and you can’t pick big yellow nuggets out of the gutter or make a fortune in a minute, but any legitimate business enterprise, coupled with honest and energetic endeavor on the part of the promoter will succeed.”

Due to the high number of cars in Geary County during the turn of the century, businesses like Arnold’s Battery Station, on the corner of 4th and Washington, was a necessity to keep cars in the best condition possible.