Posts Tagged ‘characters’

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.”


Git Western!

March 5, 2012
Helen DavisBurns, Oregon© jan albers | all rights reserved

© jan albers | all rights reserved

Helen Davis
Burns, Oregon

“Either of you named Jan?” A short, sturdy woman bounded out of the Harney County Historical Society building and headed to a station wagon parked in the small lot in front.

I got out of the car and acknowledged I was indeed Jan. “Good. I’m Helen,” she said. “Git your stuff and come with me. Take everything you need – we’re getting lunch and heading for the BLM.”

Helen Davis commandeered us with her energy and strength over the next 10 hours. Neatly dressed in a white blouse, a bow tie under her pleasant but determined face, wearing a lavender polyester pantsuit, she looked like a high school counselor and spoke like a woman of the West.

“Your letter came to the Historical Center. They tossed it to me and wondered if I’d like to follow it up. It intrigued me. I even looked to see where Highway 20 ends – found it in an old book, ending at the Naval Yards in Boston.”

She drove with purpose, outlining the places we would see that day: the Bureau of Land Management to meet Mark Armstrong; the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, to talk with Gary Ivey; the lava beds; the round barn erected by Peter French, once the area’s most successful rancher (until he was shot dead); the P Ranch and the Diamond Hotel.

But her first stop was the supermarket, where she went in for our lunches. Scanning my notes on Route 20, I could find none of the places she mentioned. Were they on the highway? Maybe she knew something I didn’t.


Heading Downtown

July 27, 2011

Heading DowntownWaterloo, New York© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Waterloo, New York

Three blocks away from the excitement of Main Street.

Patriotic Spirit

July 4, 2011

Patriotic SpiritAuburn, New York© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Auburn, New York

This girl must be in her mid- 20s by now. Surely she’s performing on stage, wherever she is.

Lucy Ray, 74

May 16, 2011

Lucy Ray, 74Idaho Falls, ID© karen e. titus | all rights reserved© karen e. titus | all rights reserved

Idaho Falls, Idaho

“I get up at 2:30 in the morning to be here by 4. At 5 a.m., there’s always a trucker, and a few farmers for coffee and a bite to eat before going out in the fields. The retired guys with wives are still sleeping then, but they’ll come in later and meet for coffee. There’s never a time when we don’t have customers, which is why I like this job. I’m never off the floor more than 10 minutes total in a nine-hour shift.

“It’s the same old crowd, day after day. The same old conversations. I can always tell what time of day it is just by looking down the counter.”

L-Bow Room Bar

May 4, 2011

L-Bow Room BarJohnstown, Nebraska© jan albers | all rights reserved© jan albers | all rights reserved

Johnstown, Nebraska

This small bar offers patrons unparalleled living on the edge: The sign in the window warned “Microwave in Use,” while the sign inside the bar read, “Smoking is NOT Prohibited.”

The L-Bow Room had no running water or plumbing, so Cleo Dodd, the 70-plus owner, carried in jugs of water every morning. The bar served the needs of local farmers and ranchers who wanted a cup of coffee, a cold beer or a round of pool.

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