Author Archive

Birthplace Bragging Rights

May 28, 2012

Waterloo, N.Y., claims the official title as birthplace of Memorial Day, but down South, a feud about the holiday’s origins still simmers.

Nugent Hardware

May 27, 2012

Nugent HardwareWaterloo, New York© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Waterloo, New York

This business hasn’t traveled far since opening in 1887 – it started two doors up the street from its current site, according to owner William B. Velte Jr. It moved to this spot in 1932.

Velte bought the store in 1965. Apart from a 28-month stint in the service, starting in 1950, he’s been a steady presence. “I love to fix screens and windows,” he says. Velte started working in the store in the winter of 1948, right out of high school, earning $26 a week. The first thing his boss told him: “If we have another Depression, you’re gonna have to take a cut in pay.”

Velte says the secret of his success is simple. “Work. 60 hours a week. I clean the streets, I clean the parking lot, I don’t take coffee breaks.”

Though he appears to sell everything in his store, it’s not quite the case. At one point his daughter (who began working at the store when she was a 4th grader) came by with a customer. She told her dad, “He’s looking for a propane fogger.”

Not even bothering to look up from the screen he was repairing, Velte replied, “That’s not us.”


Hard Bargain

April 21, 2012

Hard BargainShipshewana, Indiana© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Shipshewana, Indiana

Shipshewana claims to be home to the Midwest’s largest outdoor flea market. It’s also a place for the van-driving set and the buggy-driving set to do a little business.

What’s in a Name

February 27, 2012

Beginning of Route 20Boston, Massachusetts© jan albers | all rights reserved© jan albers | all rights reserved

End of Route 20Boston, Massachusetts© jan albers | all rights reserved© jan albers | all rights reserved

Boston, Mashachusetts
© jan albers | all rights reserved

In Boston, Route 20 either begins or ends, depending on which direction you’re facing. Speaking historically, however, Boston is part of the road’s beginning, where it was originally called the King’s Highway. Later the name was changed to the Upper Boston Post Road, when it became part of a colonial mail route between Boston and New York. The road roughly follows the Old Connecticut Path, a Native American trail that extended from Massachusetts Bay to the Connecticut River.

End of Road, West

February 14, 2012

End of the RoadNewport, Oregon© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Newport, Oregon

The Yaquina Bay Bridge, opened in 1936, is on U.S. Route 101, the north-south route at the far western edge of Newport.  Route 20 comes to an abrupt end at 101, with no fanfare whatsoever. The view of the bridge offers a nice coda at the end of the accidental highway.

Meeting Place

February 6, 2012

Hay Springs, Nebraska© jan albers | all rights reserved© jan albers | all rights reserved

Coffee Cup Cafe, Hay Springs, Nebraska

This is the story told to us about the restaurant by Selma Kudrna, who owned a tax services business in town and who was volunteering the day we stopped by, in 1991:

The owner, Blanche de Haven, is a farm woman. Two young fellas bought the cafe, coming up with the cash with Blanche’s help – she cosigned on a loan. The business was going well until the sheriff came in one day and arrested one of the men, who had a prison record and had been stealing money from the business – and who’d cosigned on the loan.

Blanche, who’s in her late 70s, then took over the cafe herself. She gets up every morning between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. to do her farm chores, then heads to the restaurant, where she works until the afternoon. She’s helped by folks in town who volunteer at the restaurant one day a week to keep it running.

They don’t mind helping. One patron sums up the community spirit neatly: “Along here, we own our towns.”

They did mind when Blanche raised the price of a cup of coffee from a quarter to 30 cents – especially since the senior center across the street sells a cup of coffee for only a quarter.

Happy Anniversary

January 23, 2012

North Ridgeville, Ohio© jan albers | all rights reserved
© jan albers | all rights reserved

North Ridgeville, Ohio

(Uncle) Fred and (Aunt) Mandy Stobe, on their 50th wedding anniversary. Fred took her out to dinner but refused to pay 50 cents for a cup of coffee afterward, so they came home and made a pot of their own.

In Hot Water

January 20, 2012

In Hot WaterThermopolis, Wyoming© jan albers | all rights reserved© jan albers | all rights reserved

Thermopolis, Wyoming

This city, home to plenty of geothermal hot springs, is aptly named – the word apparently derives from the Greek words for “city” and “hot baths.” Local lodgings take advantage of the waters by featuring hot mineral spas, steam rooms and Jacuzzis along with freshwater pools.

Uncle Fred’s Bucket

September 26, 2011

Uncle Fred's BucketNorth Ridgeville, Ohio© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

North Ridgeville, Ohio

Uncle Fred was Jan’s uncle, Karen’s great uncle. He was a successful, rich farmer – and incredibly cheap. It visibly pained him to lose out on any opportunity to make or save money. True, he’d give produce from his farm stand to family members, but only with great reluctance, and after several false starts. He’d pick up a pepper, say, and set it back down, and mumble about what Kroger (“the Kroger’s”) was charging for peppers, and gaze across his fields, repeating this circuit several times before inviting us to take the pepper.

He burnished his reputation in family lore when he made a show of giving Karen a free pumpkin – which, on closer inspection later, turned out to be rotten. He’s probably tossing in his grave right now, wishing he could have charged us a photo fee for shooting his bucket.

Little Red School House

September 13, 2011

Little Red School HouseBrothers, Oregon© jan albers | all rights reserved© jan albers | all rights reserved

Brothers School
Brothers, Oregon

Recent statistics put the enrollment at this K-8 school at six students, which represents about one-sixth of the town’s population.

Here, U.S. 20 is known as the Central Oregon Highway. Brothers occupies the otherwise empty space between Burns (to the east) and Bend (to the west). The origin of the town’s name is somewhat cloudy. Some say it comes from several families of brothers who settled in the area, and others say it was inspired by three local hills backed by the nearby Three Sisters Mountains.

And yes, farther west on the highway there’s a Sisters, Oregon, named after those same mountains. Among these two “siblings,” Sisters appears to be faring better than Brothers – its four public schools serve some 1,300 students.

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