Minden news, circa February 1918

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Periodically in these columns I take a look at events in Minden from a specific number of years ago this week. I usually try to make it an even increment, fifty or one hundred years (although writing the fifty-years ago columns are getting more difficult as I have a hard time realizing those events I remember were that long ago.) Unfortunately, the Minden newspapers for early 1919, a century ago are lost, so, today, we are going back over a century to the Webster Signals for the month February 1918, 101 years ago and take a look at the news and advertisements of that day in Minden.

On the front page of the February 1 newspaper was a letter from Oscar Amber, who had operated a general merchandise store in Minden for the last 17 years. He was a big customer of the newspaper, often taking out multiple half-page ads in the same edition. In the letter he explained he had closed his store and moved to New York City. He thanked the people of Minden and particularly the Webster Signal for the great job in running his advertisements that promoted his business. A separate ad in the newspaper announced that Oscar Amber had sold his business to Will Sugg and Finis L. Lowe. Sugg would manage the store while Lowe moved his cleaning and pressing shop into the rear of the store. Lowe announced his phone number was 244 and he would deliver anywhere within the city limits.

In a side-bar to the Amber letter, the editor of the paper noted that Mrs. Amber, who had gone ahead to New York ahead of her husband, had written back to say that their son, Charles, a third-grader, had experienced no problems transitioning to his new school. The editor noted that indicated that the “rating of Minden High School” is on a par with the public schools of New York City.” I am not sure if folks today would consider that a good measure of quality, but it seemed to impress folks back in 1918.

Another front-page story was written by Superintendent of Schools Thomas W. Fuller announcing that Principal Dunmeier and the student body of Minden High were engaged in an attempt to win a $50 prize for the largest sale of war stamps of any school in the state. Each stamp cost $4.12. The school was reportedly leading the competition, but later editions of the paper do not mention the competition, so the outcome is unsure.

A small news item mentioned that Governor Pleasant had issued commissions for village officers for the newly incorporated village of Spring Hill. All references to the community in the paper used that two-word form of the name, I am not certain if that was just Minden prejudice or if at some point later the now common one-word form was adopted.

G. A. Hightower had a front-page ad announcing his drug store was offering a free 10-day trial of the Edison Diamond Amberola phonograph. The only obligation for the person trying out the phonograph was to promptly return the instrument at the end of the 10 days. The top of the line model sold for $88.50 ($1468 today) and the lesser model sold for 64.00 ($1062 today). Webb Hardware was offering a similar offer for another type of phonograph, but the ad was unreadable in the microfilm edition of the newspaper.

There was a front-page ad for Fogle’s Garage, located at Sibley, touting the fact that a new Ford could be “bought right” and can be seen at Fogle’s Garage. A second ad for W. R. Fogle told consumers that “More and more the enclosed motor car grows strong in popular favor. It’s natural, especially with Ford cars which are busy running every day of the year – winter and summer the Ford serves faithfully and profitably. So, for a real genuine family car there is nothing equal to the Ford Sedan at $695 f.o.b. Detroit. Seats five, large doors, plate glass sliding windows, silk curtains, deeply upholstered seats, latest type ventilating windshield – a car of refined luxury with the everlastingly reliable Ford chassis. Come in and know more about this superior car.”

In a third ad Fogle touted “Ford – The Universal Car.” Describing “The ever-popular Ford family: Runabout, $345; Touring Car, $360; Coupe, $560; Sedan, $695; represents but one chassis – the world-famous Ford Model T – that wonder of simplicity and Vanadium steel. Then there is the new addition of the Model T One-Ton Truck Chassis for $600 f.o.b. Detroit. This truck has the regular Ford motor but has worm drive. It has been thoroughly tested for more than two years and will surely meet your wants and expectations. There’s never a doubt as to Ford cars serving satisfactorily and economically. Give us your order without delay. Conditions are uncertain.

The local merchant’s association announced that to conserve food and resources, particularly heat, all Minden businesses will close on Monday’s effective until at least March 25, 1918. Moreland Drug announced while the store would remain open, the “Heatless Monday” closure would apply to their soda fountain, cigar stand and cigar case.

In an editorial, the paper commended the action of the businesses in closing Monday, saying it is the first real sacrifice that the people of the country have been called upon to be made for the war. “Never fear but the American people will measure up to every demand. They always have, and there is yet no sign of decadence. We have torn the word defeat from our vocabulary.” 

Along with the heatless Monday, the newspaper also encouraged all citizens to make the following sacrifices for the war effort as suggested by the Food Administration. Each day have one wheatless meal and each week have Wednesday as a wheatless day. One meatless meal each day and one meatless day on Tuesday. Also, one porkless day on Saturday.

Local merchant Reagan and Miller had a sale on Gingham Dresses – $1.00 to $1.50 for children and misses and $1.50 to $4.00 for ladies while Burnett, Wren and Turner, had Ladies’ Shirt Waists on sale for $1.25 to $6.50

The Webster Parish Police Jury had its first meeting of the year and considered a petition received from the churches of Minden requesting that a glass case be placed in the courthouse registering the names of those “boys who had been called to the colors from the parish.” The motion was approved unanimous vote and a committee appointed to get it done.  Police Jury also received but did not discuss a resolution from the most recent Webster Parish Grand Jury requesting a reward program be established for illegal liquor production in the parish. The only other item of business was the authorization of monthly bills and payments.

The paper contained a letter home from France written by George Carroll, Jr., telling about his Christmas in France. Both Carroll’s uncle and brother were graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, so I not sure how he ended up in the army. His war “adventures” were rather tame, as he was a clerk in army headquarters, living in a Paris hotel and going to shows and operas in his spare time. Likely a product of his ties in Washington where his father had worked, and he grew up. (Three years later in 1921, his father, George Carroll, Sr., would be the victim of a tragic pedestrian accident in downtown Minden. Crossing the street from his business to the post office, Carroll was struck by an automobile driven by a young lady of the community. He was dragged thirty feet by the car and died after a week of hospitalization at the Schumpert Hospital in Shreveport. Carroll was a native of Minden who married Lavilla Tompkins of Minden. He had spent some thirty years in Washington, D. C. where he worked in the government printing office before returning to Minden where he founded the Minden Hardware Company. Interestingly another collection of “letters home” come from Carroll’s first cousin, George Carroll Hunter, son of W. S. Hunter and Bessie Carroll Hunter, brother of Larry Hunter. George Hunter would die of the flu while still in France in 1918 and be returned for burial in Minden in 1921.)

An Editorial stated that nine public school teachers in Caddo Parish had resigned to join the military, earning a 50% increase in pay. The editor (Thomas W. Fuller who doubled as Superintendent of Schools) noted that teacher pay needed an increase or we would lose too many quality teachers. MHS had lost Principal J. B. Snell to the military in 1917.

Webb Hardware announced they had received two cars of assorted furniture bought for the holidays that had just arrived, late. Must sell at a big discount.

Minden Hardware announced their January 1, 1918 audit report for their first 11 months in business showed a net dividend of 22 7/8 cents per share. Said low prices were the key, capital turned over at least three times during the year have the “biggest, newest and cheapest stock of everything in hardware, furniture, builder’s supplies, etc. outside of Shreveport.”

F. H. Drake had an ad encouraging residents to “conserve your food”, “Plant Oats Now” “make the best effort of your life to raise all kinds of foodstuff” “Win the War”

By February 22, there was a lot of news on the front page. The city of Minden was in the process of having brick street paving laid on Front Street (Main Street) from Fuller’s Garage to Chaffe’s Drug Store (today from the Minden Medical Pavilion to the parking lot on the corner of Main and Pine.)  A movement had arisen among the citizens to pave the stretch of Front Street from Chaffe’s to the L & A Depot at the foot of Depot Hill. The leaders of that movement, Dr. Luther Longino, B. F. Griffith, J. R. Miller, W. R. Fogle, J. M. Miller, T. W. Fuller and W. B. Wiley spoke in favor of taking the action immediately. They suggested that if the city allowed the equipment already in place to leave town, the work would likely be delayed or never be done. The only objection to the project was voiced by D. W. Stewart, who thought it not wise at this time. The decision was given to the Street Committee composed of J. S. Maxwell, Connell Fort and W. G. Fields, who were to work with the Finance Committee to determine the feasibility of the action at this time. The paving was never done, even when the company was brought back a few years later to pave Back Street (Broadway) so apparently the two committees rejected the idea. Eventually the paving of that section of highway would be done by the state of Louisiana, and not with the bricks used on Main and Broadway.

Another story announced that Governor Ruffin Pleasant had extended the execution date for Chester Tyson and Mark Peters, African-Americans convicted in the ax murders of the Reeves family of Grove on Christmas Day 1916. Pleasant was delaying the executions because he had requested that the two white men implicated in the crime, Henry Waller and Johnnie Long, be placed on trial before he could evaluate the calls for a commutation of the sentence for Tyson and Peters. District Attorney Harmon Drew was resisting bringing Waller and Long, who had escaped conviction in 1917, to trial again, absent a public outcry for a new trial. Eventually, Waller, who proved to be the mastermind of the crime, and Long were tried and convicted but received a life sentence, rather than the death penalty. At that point, on the recommendation of District Judge John Sandlin, the new governor, John M. Parker, commuted Tyson and Peters’ sentence to life in prison. Waller, Tyson and Peters all three died in prison while Long escaped from an Angola work crew and was never apprehended. 

So there is a glimpse at the Minden news for February 1918, another Echo of Our Past.

Webster Parish Historian John Agan’s column appears Tuesdays in the Minden Press-Herald.

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