Tenth Street School, Flood Again, and Centennial Celebration: 1950-1959

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10th Street schoolThe decade opened with the Korean War resulting in the deaths of many, including Sergeant Laverne “Bud” Meuffels in 1951. The decade also opened with Eudora voters passing a bond for a new elementary school. At the September 3, 1951 formal dedication of the new school building at the southeast corner of Tenth Street and Main Street visitors toured the downstairs grade school and the upstairs high school. Special features of the school were a cafeteria where three full-time cooks prepared 25 cent lunches and the gymnasium that could seat 900 people.

1951 flood. The big news of the 1950s was the flooding again of the Kansas River. Although the river had flooded many times ― Indians told of floods in 1826, 1827, and 1844 and high water also was recorded in 1876, 1881, 1888, 1892, 1903, 1908, and 1935 ― none were as devastating as the 1951 flood. Beginning in mid-June, rains caused the river to reach 25 feet high. The waters peaked at 30 feet, three and one-half feet above the 1903 flood.

Wrote Henrietta Schubert in her July 13, 1951, journal: “Flood of all floods: the worst in history in these parts. It got in sister’s house this time—doing much damage to house and farm as the current was very swift thru her yard.” (The previous July, the 19th, Schubert had written: “Amaretta Gabriel and I walked up the R.R. track from Lothholz Crossing to view the flooded areas, etc. after having driven all over Weaver Bottom with Mr. [Kelvin] Hoover. The dikes are keeping water off the bottom so far.”]

Jack McCabria, who lived west of Eudora, said the rain began when it was time to combine. As the rivers got higher, the McCabrias moved their milk cows and 1,000 turkeys to brother-in-law Carl Koehler’s place. McCabria said on Friday, July 13, his father got up before 4 a.m. and predicted the Wakarusa River would flood the road into Lawrence at any time. The McCabrias moved all their furniture upstairs, including the kitchen cabinet drawers. Rising water blocked their highway access, so they decided to drive west along the railroad tracks with one wheel on the rails and one on the gravel, dropping a load of turkey feed as they drove. They went north and then turned back to Eudora.

As they got within a mile on Country Road #442, the water already was a foot deep over the highway and morning shift workers at Sunflower Ordnance Works plant were racing back to Lawrence, trapping their cars in the rising waters. After the waters went down, the McCabrias returned home where the only thing left in the downstairs was the second-hand refrigerator. They cleaned the refrigerator used it for more than 30 years later.

Edwin Ott wasn't as lucky. He lost 70 cows, hogs, and horses because he couldn't get his truck to start. Harry Schmidt lost about 1,250 turkeys. The big lake of swirling, muddy water forced the families of Eugene McCabria, Don Westheffer, Bob Shellack, Merritt Musick, Bob Hadl, Wayne Vitt, Goody Schaake, Howard Whaley, Mrs. Jack Hughes, Larry Several, Phil Saunders, Bill Saunders, and John Moody to evacuate as well as the Dumires, the Barrons, and some Altenbernd families. The flood also washed away the Saunders home.

E.C. Altenbernd, said in a December 13, 1990 Kansas City Star article: “When my great-grandfather was choosing a site in the flat bottomland, an old Wyandotte Indian pointed one after the other to two small knolls. ‘Build teepee there. Or build teepee there. No water in teepee,’ said the Indian.” His forefather, Conrad Alternbernd, took that advice and during the flood, the family home stood dry, barely. In the barn, he said, the water was neck-deep and his father let go the pigs to give the pigs a chance at life. The pigs swam to the other knoll and survived the flooIn Weaver, the river washed away the Spitzli outbuildings. Louie Kindred remembered riding in a boat with friends to help his parents put items from their Weaver house on five gallon buckets to keep them from the water. After the water went down, a sow and eight of nine piglets had survived. When Lois Neis got home, she said Weaver neighbors worked together with a crew in each house to clean the muddied belongings. If anything such as a cupboard door was left open during the flood, it would not close and if it was closed, it would not open.

In a Lawrence Journal World article, Old Man River Did His Worst, Nora Cleland wrote: Farmers are by nature the greatest gamblers on earth as each year they trust to the elements to bring them a good crop. But yesterday a Journal-World reporter saw an extreme example of the gambling nature of the men to till the soil. In flood-raged Weaver bottoms, northeast of Eudora, all but a few humps of the protecting dikes have been swept out by the ugly Kaw River. Yet in a field along the banks Oscar Lotholz was working down the waffle-surfaced fields with a disc plow. His neighbor, Floyd Broers, has already cultivated a large portion of the flooded land south of his home on the Irene Roberts farm. Throughout the bottoms were fields which have been worked down. In some places the silt has turned up in shiny black slugs, in other fields it has crumbled down to small clods, which will make a fair seed bed. The farmers plan to plant legumes and wheat this fall. For instance, Delmar Spitzli who farms near the old Weaver store plans to seed what on most of his land this fall. The strange thing about the soil in the Weaver bottoms is that is has not been cut as badly as it was the first flood. Some deeper holes appear but in general the land has been leveled off. One extremely bad wash is across the road and north from the house formerly occupied by Bob Zinn. Another is south of the Robert Neis home, but north of the Neis farm, little or no soil damage is evident from the road. The greatest damage is apparent along the dike sites. The river has cut back into the fields sometimes for a hundred feet in length and from 10 to 30 feet deep. With the exception of the Delmar Spitzli home the farmsteads in Eudora's Weaver bottoms are not as badly damaged as in West Eudora bottoms. The mud weight on the floors has been from two to four feet deep, however. Residents made it a point to get in and shovel the mud out, so few floors were lost. All small buildings are gone and in some instances barns washed away — the big red barn back of the Zinn home is gone. Spitzli farmstead is a sight to behold. As the observer approaches from the west, the first building missed is a new corn crib, which is now parked by the Santa Fe railroad right-of-way a quarter of a mile to the east. Next the visitor realizes that the old Weaver store for which the bottoms were named is gone. The old store which withstood the 1903 flood was nearly 60 years old. Only one side remains in the Spitzli front yard. The Spitzli garage, with all shop tools, is gone. Pieces of the structure are strewn over a quarter of a mile area. To the north of the road, the huge dairy barn, complete with hay loft sits half-covered in a hole of water, 19 feet deep. The barn, which was modern, was built in the last 1920s and was one of the largest in the valley. The bale-filled hay loft has dropped down into the water and the water soaked, mud-filled bales stink. The owner plans to build the Spitzlis a new home on the south hill overlooking the valley. Spitzli plans to salvage the lumber from the barn and granary and build again near the new house. At the Irene Roberts home, the current has jammed the furniture downstairs into the partitions of the house. A floating block of wood crowds one window. Upstairs, most of her furniture escaped the water by two inches. But in the yard is a box of dishes. Included in the mud-filled box is French Haviland China, cut glass tumblers, and handpainted china from the Orient. North of Eudora the Kaw has nearly doubled in width and leaves the main bed of the river roughened by submerged drift and sand bars. The north approach to the Kaw river bridge, owned jointly by Douglas and Leavenworth county narrrowly missed being washed out. Pile of logs and debris from 10 to 30 feet high are jammed against the bridge. Farther west, the Perkins family has planted a sorghum crop in the sand and silt. The two-inch high green slips are growing rapidly. Most spectacular in the west Eudora valley is the destruction of the Phil Saunders home. The river has widened to the south until it is nearly three times its width just two months ago. The Saunders moved their home and outbuildings at great expense following the flood but old man river followed. The four walls and a roof of the remaining half of the home now sit only about 25 feet from the river's edge. The home is stripped. Nothing but the telephone with the receiver on top of the bell box remains. Four feet of mud covers the floor. To the south, the granaries have collapsed in a hole. The house sits on a high pinnacle which will be surrounded each time the river rises slightly. A truck, a hay loader and several other pieces of equipment are half-buried in the white river sand nearby. One of the pecularities is the uprooted tree south of the house which is holding its root "fingers" a telephone pole. Neither end of the pole touches the ground. Only one road leads thru the West Eudora bottoms. It is between the Kaw and Wakarusa river bridges north of Eudora. It is impossible to pass thru the bottoms and go south to highway 10 or travel west into Lawrence.

At the 100 year mark. In 1953, Max Clee Burkhardt, a descendant of Bavarian emigrants, and wife, Vera Lucille, moved to 934 Pine Street in Eudora. They first had lived in Sunflower Village and, similar to many who had come to work at the ammunition plant, they remained in the area with their children, from oldest to youngest: LaVerna Maxine (Simons); Connie Lucille (Lovsky); Rex, who worked at the ammunition plant after high school for many years; Donna Marie (Oleson), a long-time Eudora city hall clerk; Janet Kay (Taylor); and Brenda (L'Hommedieu).

The town’s two elevators consolidated in 1954, and in 1955 city officials used surplus funds from city utilities to build a brick city hall at the northeast corner of Seventh Street and Main Street because the old frame city hall didn’t have enough space. It was so small that Alma Gerstenberger, city clerk, had to do office tasks at her home.

Owen Miller Construction designed and built the $18,000 city hall. Natural wood paneling covered the interior and the building contained a 30-foot by 5-foot meeting room with adjoining kitchen that could hold 200 people. Al Colman, mayor at the time, said the space was built for any community organization that needed to hold a meeting or a dinner.

As Sunflower Ordnance Works began shutting down, Eudora residents looked for new occupations. William and Una Kelly opened a Dari-Ring in the 1950s at the northwest corner of Locust Street and Tenth Street. “He was a firefighter at Sunflower and when it was obvious that it would be closing, some man convinced grandpa to plow up his garden and build a Dairy Treat,” said grand-daughter Janet (Sommer) Campbell. “The Dairy Treat originally only was a 'walk up,' the inside was built later. I remember going to the window and asking for 'goofs’ ― Grandpa would dump an ice cream that got messed up over a sundae dish and then stick it in the freezer ― it then became a free goof. Mildred Trefz bought the Dairy Treat in the early 1960s and later sold it to Wayne Powell.

“At the time the Dari-Treat opened, grandma was operating a laundry out of their basement in their house on the corner. Grandma, my Aunt Mildred (Kelly) Trefz, my mom Helen (Kelly) Sommer and others would do your laundry in wringer washers, dry it, and fold it.”

SchrererAnd, new residents continued to flock to Eudora such as George Raymond Durkin (born December 1, 1918, in Atchison County, Kansas, the son of William and Harriett Cox Durkin) and Susan (Cline). George, an aviation mechanic for more than 50 years, started his career in the Navy during World War II. The Durkin children were: Susan (Bartlett ), John, James, David, and Don.

Stalwarts Kaw Valley State Bank, Farmers’ Elevator with Henry Giertz as president, Trefz Variety, and the Eudora Lumber Company made it through another decade. Other businesses this decade were [Paul Kennett and Kathleen Kennett] Nu-Way dry cleaning; Louise Neis Beauty Shop; [Melvin] Morriss Service Station; [Bill Schehrer, Bert Seiwald, and Charles Schrerer] Eudora Oil Company; The Mutual Telephone Company, [Harry] Edwards Motor Service; [Don Rayl] Don’s Barber Shop; [George] Bichelmeyer Butchering; Scott Electric & Plumbing; [Robert Clark] Bob’s Mobil Gas Service; Mercier and Hoover Insurance Agency; Reusch & Taylor Truck Line; Trefz Plumbing & Heating & Electrical; Rothberger Motor Company (Chevrolet car sales); Hy-Klas Food Store; Grill Café; Mac’s White Spot Café; Oleson’s Rexall Drug Store; [Jim] Smith Truck Line; Colman Hardware; Fulk’s Skelly Serivce; Wolfe’s Grocery Store; Harold’s Repair; Eudora Lumber Company; [Viola] Gerstenberger Insurance Agency; Tom Pyle Custom Butchering, Alice Beauty Shop, Wanda’s Beauty Shop, Sunflower Café, Happy Hal’s Jr. Café, Joslin Radio, Hadl Oil, Pine’s Radio and Television, Broers Chevrolet, Edwards Garage, according to Mutual Telephone directories. Several Eudoran worked at these companies for years such as Dessie Williams who was employed by Glen Wilson's HyKlas Grocery from 1958 to 1971.

And, in 1957, Eudora pulled out the stops for its centennial. Overseen by Harold Hadle, the event was a series of parades and contests, complete with an antique display. Barbara Spitzli reigned as its Miss Eudora in her ruffled strapless formal gown donated by Weavers Department Store in Lawrence. Richard Folks was chosen as Mr. Eudora. Barbara Everley wore a polka-dotted black dress to win the pioneer woman contest. Coming in second was Henrietta (Schubert) Fuller with a black bustle skirt and cape. Charles Gerstenberger won the pioneer man contest in a black frock coat and trousers.

In the parade arranged by Fred Walker, children rode their decorated bicycles or led their pets. Kaw Valley Bank took the front spot with a float depicting its bank window in the early days, the Central Protective Association hung a horse thief on its float, and the Methodists made a copy of the Methodist Indian Mission complete with a 100-year-old organ. St. Paul United Church of Christ float won first place with its replica of its present building and huge cross. Celebrants also vied for prizes in contests of watermelon eating, three-legged sack hopping, greased pig catching (the prize was the pig), foot races, tug of wars, hog calling, nail driving, and musical talents. The pie-eating contest for boys and girls under age 12 was for chocolate pie only.

The event took place during the C.P.A. Picnic, held that year on August 3 and 4. An “Old Settlers Round-Up” tent south of the band stand was open from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. St. Teresa’s Society served sandwiches, pie, cake, ice cream, coffee, and iced tea.

A blaze destroyed the Eudora mill at Fifth Street and Locust Street, just east of the Farmers’ Elevator, in the late 1950s. Harold Morley, who worked to put out the blaze, said peanut hulls caught on fire and caused the blaze.

Copyright 20150. Cindy Higgins. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: A History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.