By Dr. Ferrell Miller
Geary County Historical Society Board Member
“Alida lies under the lake”
Royal R. Clemons brought his family from New York and settled on a farm in 1868. In 1870, he was appointed the first postmaster for the rural settlement, which at that point had no name. A meeting of area residents was called to make an attempt to name the little community. Finally it was decided that since the post office was located in Mrs. Clemons chest of drawers, she should be allowed to choose the name for the town. In a spell of homesickness, she selected “Alida,” which was the name of one of her girlhood friends in New York.
In 1872, the Junction City and Fort Kearney Railroad was built through the area and that motivated John Grasberger to build a log store along the railroad track. Soon after Royal Clemons and George Wilson were working with him to build a grain elevator and later a stock yard, a blacksmith and lumberyard near the frame depot.
About the same time a number of Swiss-German immigrants settled in the area including the Lehman and Gfeller families. In 1890 P.H Gfeller, Royal Clemons and George Wilson formed the Alida Co-op and Elevator Company and bought out the Grasberger store.
The grain elevators were always a landmark for Alida. Over the years they were rebuilt and improved three different times with the last being just two years before the town was demolished to make way for the construction of Milford Lake. And in the end it would be the elevator that would provide Alida with its last claim to fame.
There were four businesses and approximately six residences plus the landmark grain elevator on the site. In March of 1964, it was announced that a group of Junction City developers led by Dr. L.W. Wisby had secured permission from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to turn the one-time Alida grain elevator into a “swanky” hotel and dining facility. Permission from the Corps had been granted for this restaurant, but was later rescinded after they said further studies indicated the base of the 15 foot concrete elevator would not support the planned structure after the site was inundated with water after Milford Lake became a reality. So, the elevator was to be imploded. The demolition took place October 7, 1965. It took several tries to implode the elevator as it toppled into the waiting pit. Then the demolition contractor still had to break up the debris with a bulldozer so none of the debris protruded more than four feet above ground.
It appeared that like the hardy souls who had lived on and worked the fertile fields around Alida for four generations, the landmark elevator was not going to exit easily. Today, as we travel on or around Milford Lake, we need to remember that there are dreams and history that lie at the bottom of that man-made Lake.
This story was taken from the book titled Set In Stone, which is available at our Museum. Our Museum is at Sixth and Adams Streets and is open between the hours of 1 and 4 Tuesdays through Sunday. Come and take a look at our selection of books and galleries of artifacts related to Geary County History.
“Swimming pools In Junction City and the rules that came with them”
In an article written for the August 17, 1978 “Daily Union”, Chloris Killian wrote about “Junction City’s Earliest Pools”. She wrote that “Junction City was unusual in that a pool was built in the city’s park near the turn of the 20th century. Sumner Pierce, one of the early settlers in this area, gave the park land to the city and was responsible for building a swimming pool there. As a young boy in New York, he developed a crippling ailment at the age of 12 and lived the rest of his life with some disability. He was convinced that better swimming facilities might have prevented his illness. The first pool was built in 1913.
The swimming pool in the park had a native stone bath house. The pool was south of the stone house and had the most modern facilities of the time with a sanitary method of changing water by means of a drainage ditch that ran north across several lots to the edge of town. The pool was managed by John Rogers, who also served as the lifeguard. However, John couldn’t swim, but used a life preserver with a rope tied to it in the case that anyone needed help. Just this system caused swimmers to be cautious about going beyond a depth of water that was comfortable to them.
John’s word was law at the pool as Lois York remembered. In the early 30’s she came back to Junction City from a vacation in Minnesota with a stylish new red one piece bathing suit. When she wore it to the city pool for the first time, John gave his disapproval and told her one piece suits were not allowed in the pool. Lois climbed right out of the pool and spread a beach towel to sunbathe – after all there was no rule that one piece suits could not be worn around the pool if you didn’t go in the water.
John’s other rules during in 1913 were that swimmers must shower with soap before swimming; boys and men’s suits must be a one piece suit. Girl’s and women’s suits must have a blouse, bloomers, skirt and hose. During swim times males and girls had their own swim time separate from each other. Black females and black males had their own swim time. Occasionally boys and girls could swim together. In 1938 a second pool was built in the same place as the first one, which was more modern. The new rules were: no dunking, running acrobatic rough house, water fights, pushing or diving.
In 1988, a third pool was built in the same place and became an Olympic size pool. This is the current site of the city’s pool. It is located next to the Fifth Street Park and is open to everyone.