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  Monday January 26th, 2015    

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My home town 1950-something (02/29/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Your neighbor is...the hobo who wandered into town, the school board struggling to make the right decision, participants of a benefit for a teen stricken with cancer, locals pitching in during a tornado...that's life in a small town.

I've lived in this hospitable farm community all my life. My ancestor, Jonathon Smith Lewis founded Lewiston in 1863. Jonathon and Mary Ann Ramer, married in 1836, had sixteen children. Their zeal for many offspring was not to be carried on by the Lewis family.

Gus Obitz, a former mayor of our berg, kept my ducktail shipshape. His barbershop, on Main Street's west corner was a place where farmers dropped in wearing bib overalls and straw hats. Gus had a deep, ventriloquist-type voice, and a welcoming nature.

The Lewis Cafe, owned by Ray and Elsie Lewis, was a hangout for us teens after ballgames. One tragic occasion comes to mind. From the cheerfully noisy school bus, a somber, tearful crowd had silenced the cafe. News was out that the Presbyterian minister, Rev. Eastman, and his several little children had hit a bridge. All were killed instantly. The face of grief soon replaced rowdy chatter.

Elmer Erbe's Gamble Store was a multi-aisle treasure trove of this, that, and the other thing. The soft-spoken, congenial storekeeper, who Mrs. E. affectionately called "Daddy," would sometimes leave his store unattended. A customer was trusted to leave the correct amount of their purchase on the counter. The hands of time have swung far beyond such integrity.

Lewiston's sole drugstore for more than fifty years was owned by John W. Neumann. His daughter Rosemarie Neumann Callan operated it. She wore shorts in every season. I recall the heady scents of caster oil and liniment, the sea of brown bottles. I visited the pharmacy, in my tomboy days, to peer through the glass case at silky scarves, lace-trimmed handkerchiefs, and cologne, for a birthday gift for Mother.

Always a grocery store or two on the main drag, Bude Prigge's and Selvig's (later Jack and Sill Duane's), I was most acquainted with Nussloch's Grocery, where my dad Lawrence Lewis was the butcher for years, until his death in 1970 at age 58. Sadly, Luther Nussloch followed in 1972.

I can picture Dad giggling a lot, his brown eyes sparkling with yet another teaser. I recall him packaging meat in brown paper and tying it with white string from a reel. Mother washed his white aprons in the wringer washer with homemade soap and Lewis Lye, always starching them stiffly clean before we hung them out in the sun in all seasons.

A town of plenteous churches, Lewiston has its taverns. The late Snooks and Elmer Prigge have probably been our town's host and hostess of all time. Their sparkling love of life and congeniality, a candle in Lewiston's window...deeply missed.

Doctors and dentists played a major role in Lewiston's history. I cringed as I would enter the sterile, white ceramic, squared floor, at the top of the worn steps, to Dr. Lyman Clay's dental chair, his leering drill smirking at my fear. He practiced here from 1915 to 1965, many drill pangs and white knuckles later, as his eyesight failed. Yikes!

Up those noisy stairs, also, in the building where Wayne Schauble has his law office today, Dr. C.A. Neumann performed mysterious operations on little kids who were laid out on a narrow, padded slab. Actually, nurse Mae Larson was very kind. She spent the night there with me when I had my tonsils removed. The smell of ether and the image of long silver prongs grasping a cotton swab still give me the heebie-jeebies.

Before the Lewiston Clinic was organized in 1976, Doc Satterlee was the man to see. Not known for his bedside manner, he got the job done, serving for 50 years. I recall him stitching up my sister Mary's wrist without anesthetic. Her scar has faded.

Camera Art School Photographers was established in 1955. Presently named Herff Jones, and occupying its new building, it has been a tremendous boost to Lewiston's economy.

The fifties were Elvis, milkshakes, bobby socks, fat bicycle seats, beehive hair, drive-in movies, cracked linoleum, ceiling light strings, Gold Bond stamps, Lily of the Valley and Avon Topaz, and cream soda. Spin that music box just one more time!

"As Time Slips Away" 


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