Pittsburg, Kansas Early History

updated April 5, 2008  
  Early History Articles

Kate Massey Recalls Pittsburg 75 Years Ago
By Gladys Mundt

She remembers buying school books at Crowell’s Drug Store when she was seven or eight years old, that was in 1894 or 1895, soon after Crowell’s opened for business near Fourth and Broadway Jan. 2, 1890. There were wooden sidewalks on Broadway, and hitching posts in front of stores and most of Broadway was unpaved. She wore high-top button shoes and long cotton hose and long dresses and, in the wintertime, long underwear.
These are some of the memories of Kate Myers Massey, 105 East Adams, who was born Jan. 25, 1887, at Duvall, Mo., 14 miles east of Pittsburg, where the four corners of the crossroads village were occupied by a blacksmith shop, a general store, a school and a church.
The Myers family moved to Minden, Mo., around 1895 and to Pittsburg in March, 1902, and young Miss Myers entered High School that fall as a Sophomore, skipping her Freshman year. Her eighth grade teacher had tutored some of [the] more promising students in advanced work, in addition to their regular lessons, and Kate had learned her lessons so well that she was able to qualify as a Sophomore.
She attended High School in the new building at the northwest corner of Eight and Broadway. The next year, 1903, the Pittsburg Board of Education loaned the “old” High School building at Fifth and Walnut to the State Board of Regents for the opening of the new State manual Training Normal.
At the new High School Frances Palmer taught Kate Myers bookkeeping and history, and Lottie Finley instructed her in German and English.
But Kate’s father became seriously ill with pneumonia and its aftermath and she quit school to go to work. From then, when she was 17, until she married Charles (Charlie) Massey in 1911, she worked at the 99 Cent Store at 515 North Broadway in downtown Pitsburg.
Everything in the store sold for a figure ending in nine, from nine cents to nine-dollars and ninety-nine cents. A six-cup coffee pot for making boiled coffee sold for 39 cents, a brass spittoon, plain, sold for 49 cents and a “fancy” one for 99 cents.
Almost every day sale articles were displayed in front of the store on and beneath a wooden bench. A necessary adjunct to early household plumbing, or the lack of it, was a chamber pot and this item took its turn “on sale” in front of the store. When a customer wanted to purchase this necessity the embarrassed sales ladies had to take one from the sidewalk display and carry it into the store to be wrapped for the customer to take home.
Owner and manager of the 99 Cent Store was F. F. Rutz, a tailor by trade, who worked for the clothing stores in town until he became too busy with his store and gave up tailoring. The Rutz family lived in rooms above the store.
On the south side of the store by the front window, in space so small they could hardly turn around, Louis Kumm and his bachelor son, Charlie, operated a successful jewelry store under the name of “R. V. Kumm & Son.”
“Mr. Kumm was a fine man,” very interested in his church,” Mrs. Massey recalled. “That would be the Presbyterian, and his pastor stopped to talk with him often. My first watch and rings came from Mr. Kumm’s store.”
The 99 Cent Store was the only “dime store” in town until Kresses came and as head saleslady and bookkeeper Miss Myers earned six dollars a week, the other girls, at one time there were seven, earned a little less, from three dollars for a beginner, up to five dollars. Grace Hunt Hamilton, 504 Utah, was one of the girls who worked with Mrs. Massey at the store. Paydays at the mines and railroads were busy ones at the 99 Cent Store.
There were brick sidewalks in the downtown area then and most of the streets were paved with brick, but in the residential areas there were few sidewalks and not many paved streets.
“I had to know my stock,” Mrs. Massey commented, “and one of the best-selling items was whiskey glasses. We had a phone at the store and bartenders around town would call in their orders and then send someone to pick them up. We did a good business in whiskey glasses.”
On the east side of Broadway, between Fourth and Sixth Streets, there were a good many saloons, also on the side streets to the east, but there was only one on the west side of Broadway.
One of the saloons, probably called “The Scout.” On the east side of the street was operated by Max Leon. “I sold him a lot of whiskey glasses,” Mrs. Massey recalled.
For many “years the better” businesses in Pittsburg kept on the west side of Broadway because “ladies” who were downtown shopping would not walk past the saloons on the east side of the street.
To the north of the 99 Cent Store was Ramsay’s, which had moved there from its former location just south of Fourth and Broadway on the east side.
South of the 99 Cent Store was a men’s clothing store called Sam and Oscar’s, owned and operated by Sam Holden and Oscar Ward.
A prized possession of Mrs. Massey’s is a pottery vase of Rozane Ware which came from the 99 Cent Store. Beautifully glazed, it displays a berry design in shades of brown and deep red.
“I loved it when it came into the store and dusted it every day,” Mrs. Massey said. “The other girls noticed that I liked it and went together at Christmas and bought it for me. It sold for $2.99, a good bit of money then.”
Mrs. Massey remembers one of her teachers at Duvall, Missouri, Miss Bertie Stone, who lived in Iantha. Miss Stone later became Dr. Alberta Moore, a Pittsburg osteopath for many years.
A tragedy involving another teacher, a Mrs. Brooks, who taught at Minden. Mrs. Brooks’ husband was agent for the Missouri Pacific Railroad at No. 8 mine northwest of Minden. One day a shipment of dynamite for the mine was stacked on the depot platform. While Mrs. Brooks was at the depot with her husband, a freight train passed. The vibrations from the train detonated the dynamite and both the Brooks were killed in the resultant blast.
When Kate and Charlie Massey set up housekeeping in 1911, they rented a “big” five-room house for six dollars a month.

Pittsburg Almanac, 1876 - 1976, pg. 10

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