From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.

Old Days in Leavenworth Are Recalled by Former Resident, Now A Well-Known Writer


The Morris School, the Curb Market at Fifth and Shawnee Streets, Whitney's 'Cider Making Place', Are a Few of the Places the Writer Remembers -- Miss Concert Because of Thunder Storm.


EDITOR'S NOTE: George R. Cullen will be remembered best in Leavenworth by those persons who were in their teens about 50 years ago. He has, since leaving Leavenworth, established himself as a well-known writer, having held positions on many of the country's larger newspapers. In more recent years he has done publicity work and has been an advertising specialist for manufacturers of well-known household appliances. He now lives at Tulsa, Okla. The following article is the first of a three-part story which will appear in The Times this week.

By George R. Cullen

Leavenworth Times, 1941


Who remembers the old Morris school up there on the hill? The writer went to that school for awhile in the long ago. Daniel Anthony, son of the founder of The Leavenworth Times, was one of his schoolmates, as well as many others who later played their roles, in the life of the city. Ed Fenlon was one of them. The yard was covered with black cinders . . . hard on our shoes, or the boots we wore then; . . . worse on our hands and knees when we took spills.

Who remembers when there was a curb market at Fifth and Shawnee? And Putney's store, picture framing and toys, was up the street at the corner of Seneca. Across the street from Putney's was Phelan's grocery store, afterwards moved to Shawnee, near the corner of Fifth.

Who remembers Whitney's cider-making place down on . . . was it Delaware? Out on the street were many barrels of apples, to which the boys helped themselves as they passed . . . and no comeback.

Box Factory on Lower Delaware.

Who remembers when Carter and Sparks operated a box factory on lower Delaware? They also made blank books, ledgers, etc. Had an expert binder. Also a ruling machine to rule sheets for the blank books. The writer worked for that shop . . . heated paste from a steam pipe outlet across the street helped the boss on the ruling machine; learned to make paper boxes. Candy boxes were made there by the thousands, and had to be covered with slick paper. We covered lost of 'em.

Who remembers when Frank Zipp had a shoe store on Shawnee near Fourth? My first pair of "tooth-pick" shoes was bought there. They hurt, too. Not used to that shape. The hats were bought at Rothchild's. Kid hats. Funny, too, as ancient pictures taken in them show.

My dad bought his clothes from John Seckler's. Pretty fine raiment, too. His son, Harry Seckler, of The Times, and I had a long visit years ago.

The family furniture came from Abernathy's a name that has stood up through the years in Kansas and at Kansas City.

Father Studied Violin.

My father studied the violin, my mother the piano. My brother and I were being taught the fiddle by my dad. My father's instructor was Professor Abbott. My mother's teacher was Professor Meyers. My father's violin came from Carl Hoffman's, whose business later moved to Kansas City. Had a fine visit with him there long years afterward.

Professor Kaufman taught us for awhile. He then was leader of the opera house orchestra . . . that theater site now is occupied by the Shrine temple. Professor Kaufman lost a finger on his left hand and had to stop playing the violin which he loved. We visited with him in Washington long years afterward.

tickets were bought for the concert of the great violin virtuoso Wilhelmj at the opera house . . . four of them. A terrific thunder and lightning storm came along just about time to go . . . and lasted for hours. We missed Wilhelmj. It was a tragic miss. This artist made the one tour of America . . . 1881, as we remember. But we heard Sarasate and all the other great violists who came along after Wilhelmj and Ole Bull, including Remenyl.

Worked During Vacation.

When we were boys, on vacation from school, my brother and I work as bundle carriers . . . he for Ettenson's, and I for Weaver & Small's. Ettenson's still goes on, but Louis Vanderschmidt (William Small & Company) succeeded Weaver & Small's. He was bundle-wrapper there when I carried bundles, swept out the store, (with wet sawdust) and opened dry-goods crates. Herman Burns was employed at the store then . . . afterwards a partner. His brother-in-law was Johnny Mason, photographer. Have a number of the photographs he took of the family right now. Remember them both very well. . . . fine men . . . and Bruns had a daughter . . . we called her "Girlie" Bruns. She became a newspaper woman. Wonder where she is now?

Used to walk to school from way out Shawnee. Down Shawnee to Broadway, then up Broadway and over to the school. Or, sometimes Shawnee to Fifth, past many places the names which have faded.

Used to go swimming in Three Mile creek. Had snakes in it . . . but that did not stop us. Well remembered are all-day hikes "up in the corral," hazel-nutting expeditions, buggy rides around Sheridan drive. We carved our initials on a tree they called "The Lookout Tree" because it was so tall and could be seen from far away. Tried to find it in after years, but couldn't.

Is a Vivid Memory.

One of the most vivid memories of Leavenworth was that view from a high point on Sheridan drive of Salt Creek valley . . . one of the most beautiful pastoral scenes on this earth. So we thought. Well, a few years ago, talking aobut[sic] it on a visit to my old schoolmate Henry Berry, he chartered an automobile and took me out on Sheridan drive . . . and there I saw the valley again. It looked better than ever . . . justified my memories of its splendor. So did that Sheridan drive ride. And the fort terrain, every inch of which I knew . . . and the fort road . . . and the bridge over the Missouri . . . and many other spots, hallowed in memory, which my old buddy, Berry, took me to see. We hoofed it out Shawnee to see if that house my family used to live in (we called it "The Kelly House") was still there . . . and it was there and occupied. It looked about the same. A glance showed that not much had happened out that way. But we harked back to the days when the circuses used to show on a big vacant lot (Mill's Hill) about half a mile further out from where we lived. For weeks before the date the posters told of their advent, we looked at the skies and prayed for good weather . . . and invariably our prayers were answered. We had ring-side seats for the parade past our house, and all of the circus-day activities. We were out to see the ring made and the tents pitched. When the circus was over we were out there running around the empty rings.

When the great day of the circus arrived the whole family, with many friends, walked to the tents from our house. And the youngsters enjoyed the show no less than the grown-ups. We were staked to the side-shows, spent lots of time inspecting the menagerie, and when the main show was over stayed for the concert. Peanuts, popcorn and pink lemonade, of course. The works. It was an event of the year and my dad uncorked his wad for everything. Wonder is the boys and girls of this day, who get to see so many moving picture shows, are as enthusiastic about the circuses as they were in my boyhood days? Probably they are. Human nature remains pretty much unchanged, generation after generation.

Return to Index