Ida Johnson and United Neighbors, Inc. of Davenport

In celebration of the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Special Collections would like to feature Davenporter Ida Johnson, recipient of the 2001 Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans’ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award exactly 15 years ago tomorrow. 

Ida Johnson helps with shirt sales at United Neighbors Inc. in Davenport on Martin Luther King Day.

Ida Johnson helps with shirt sales at United Neighbors Inc. in Davenport on Martin Luther King Day, 2009. Image courtesy of the Quad-City Times.

Johnson is the recipient of numerous awards before and since, including two in the past year: the 2015 Athena Award honoring local women in leadership roles, and induction into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame, “the most prestigious state-level honor volunteers can receive.”

Johnson is the founder and longtime Executive Director of United Neighbors, Inc., a community-based social service organization that has enriched the lives of the city’s residents for 43 years. From an initial desire to provide a safe place for neighborhood children to play and learn, Johnson increased the ambitions of her non-profit to offer after-school and summer programs for youth, street and park beautification projects, home-buying and home-repair assistance, senior programs, and a host of other free services aimed at improving the quality of life in Davenport’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Johnson’s work at United Neighbors places her squarely in the local tradition of social reform efforts headed by women, such as Annie Wittenmyer, Clarissa Cook, Maria Purdy Peck, and Phebe Sudlow. And as an African-American woman, she joins Cecile Cooper as a Davenporter dedicated to providing equal opportunities for all.  As one of her many awards states, Ida Johnson is indeed “one of Iowa’s most valued history makers,”* and we wish her continued success in realizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream here in the Quad-Cities.

(posted by Katie)

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*Ida Johnson was honored by the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids as a 2009 Iowa History Maker.

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Our “Special” Visitors in 2015

In 2015, genealogists and researchers from all over the country came to use the wonderful resources here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. We also had email and phone requests from all over the world!

To fill in the branches of their family trees, they found copies of birth, marriage and death records of their Scott County, Iowa ancestors. They came to research the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, Colonel George Davenport and Bix Beiderbecke. They viewed newspaper articles on microfilm, information in our online databases, and images in our photograph collection. Their searches were made easier by the many indices prepared by our volunteers from the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society.

Last year we had visitors and research requests from 23 U.S. states, Canada and Israel. We had visitors from both Apple Valley, Minnesota and Apple Valley, California, and received research requests from both Troy, Missouri and Troy, Michigan!

Our furthest visitors came from Santa Cruz, California and Mukilteo, Washington; our furthest correspondents wrote from Tel Aviv, Israel, and Aiea, Hawaii.

Check out this map showing all of RSSC’s visitors for the year 2015, as recorded in our Guest Book. Pretty cool, huh?

(posted by Cristina)

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A Look Back: Snow removal in the 1940s

We thought we would take a look back this week at snow removal in Davenport as we wait to see what kind of winter awaits us in 2016.

The picture below shows the Davenport Public Works department hard at work removing snow in 1944.

Snow Removal in downtown Davenport 1944. (2008-20.65)

Snow Removal in downtown Davenport 1944. (2008-20.65)

We were able to research the addresses of the buildings behind the trucks to identify the location of the photograph. We learned the photo was taken not far from the Davenport Public Library Main Street branch.

The Davenport City Directory 1944 lists the Security Fire Insurance Company of Davenport as being at 217 West 4th Street. The Model Laundry was at 219-221 West 4th Street.

Today the buildings are gone and the site is a parking lot. The photo was most likely taken from across the street near the front of Davenport City Hall.

Just a reminder that the Davenport Public Library and Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center will be closed December 31, 2015 and January 1, 2016. We will reopen January 2, 2016.

We wish everyone a safe and happy New Year.

(posted by Amy D.)

 

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Closed for the Holidays

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center and the Davenport Public Library will be closed Thursday, December 24th and Friday, December 25th in honor of the Christmas holidays.

We will be re-open on Saturday December 26th from 9am – 5:30pm.

We would like to wish everyone Happy Holidays.

Conservatory in Vander Veer Park, Christmas Display, 1948; poinsettia and ferns. Grover C. von der Heyde photographs.

Conservatory in Vander Veer Park, Christmas Display, Dec 1948; poinsettia and ferns. Color slide. Grover C. von der Heyde photographs.

 

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A Christmas “Fowl” on West 6th Street

While the holiday season is known for its colorful lights and joyful atmosphere, many of us find the hustle and bustle to be a little stressful as well.

While we like to imagine that holidays past were more peaceful, we sometimes come across articles that remind us that our ancestors might have had a little holiday stress of their own.

We recently ran across an article in the Tri City Star from December 24, 1904 on page 2 that caught our attention.  Another article in the Davenport Democrat and Leader from December 25, 1904 on page 13 confirmed what we read in the first article.

This story took place on the west side of Davenport on the evening of December 23, 1904. Those involved lived in the area of St. Mary’s Catholic Church on W. 6th Street and had resided in the neighborhood for several years.

Mr. James Malone was a single man about 40 years old that year. He lived in the family home on West 7th Street and was employed at the Rock Island Arsenal.

Mr. Patrick Kennedy lived with his wife, Josephine, and their two daughters just down the street from St. Mary’s in a house on West 6th Street. Mr. Kennedy was about 47 years old in 1904. He was listed as a laborer in a search of local city directories. Mrs. Kennedy was a seamstress about 33 years old. Patrick and Josephine had been married for 18 years in 1904.

To walk from the Kennedy house to the Malone house would have been very easy to do. The Kennedy home was five houses from the corner of West 6th and Taylor Streets. If they walked north up Taylor Street one block and then turn right the Malone home was the fourth house on the left.

We have no idea of the relationship between the two families, but based on the incident that night it appears one family member was worried that a street length apart was not enough distance between the two houses.

According to the newspaper articles, Mr. Malone was walking home from work along West 6th Street when he passed the Kennedy house. Mr. Kennedy was entering his family’s yard carrying a goose that one assumes was for Christmas dinner.

Mr. Kennedy confronted Mr. Malone over the issue of his wife. Kennedy felt Malone was making “goo-goo eyes” (Tri City Star, Dec. 24, 1904) at his Josephine. Mr. Malone denied the accusation and protested the two were barely acquainted.

Patrick Kennedy appears to have not believed James Malone’s assertions as his next move was to begin beating Mr. Malone about the face with the Christmas goose before using his own fists, as the goose had been thoroughly tenderized. We imagine this caused a stir in the neighborhood.

The police were called and arrested Mr. Kennedy who was presented in court the following morning, Christmas Eve. Following the testimony of the two men, Mr. Kennedy was fined $5 and court costs. The total amount owed was $10.85. As Mr. Kennedy did not have the money to pay the court he was returned to jail for a time not specified in the papers.

We did further checking through U.S. Census records and local city directories. It appears that the families either moved past this incident, or at least managed to avoid each other, as neither moved from their respective houses for many years following the great goose incident.

We do not know if this incident was a long simmering feud or a sign of holiday stress. We are able to find one positive in this whole incident though; at least Mr. Kennedy was holding a fresh goose and not a frozen one that night!

Christmas Goose

Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 25, 1904. Pg. 13.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Riefe’s Restaurant: A sad goodbye

Riefes

The Davenport Morning Democrat, December 24, 1960.

It was 66 years ago that a father and son team opened what would become a landmark restaurant in west Davenport.

Orval Riefe and his son, Del, opened Riefe’s Sno-Cone Drive-In at 1737 Fillmore Lane in 1948. Located between West Locust Street and West 17th Street, the seasonal drive-in operated April through October.

Over time, Sno-Cone was dropped from the restaurant’s name and it became Riefe’s Drive-In. By the late 1950s the Riefe family decided to enlarge their business.  On November 13, 1958 Orval Riefe applied for a permit to demolish an old building located at 1417 West Locust Street.*

The building removed was originally the Schreck and Schmidt Garage that had been built in 1924. After the building was removed, the grounds were cleared and left covered with 12″ of “good black dirt”.* The work was finished by early December that year.

It was about nine months later that Orval applied for another building permit. The August 7, 1959 permit describes the new building requested to be built by Riefe as a new restaurant building. It was to include a one story building along with a basement that was to operate as both a drive-in and restaurant. The building size was 30 x 64′ with an off-street parking lot for 40 cars. The building was finally completed in early June of 1960.

Two more additions would add on to the restaurant as the drive-in portion faded out with time.

The second addition permit was applied for in November 1967 with work being completed by February 1968.* This addition was marked on the permit record as a 1 story, 37 1/2 x 20′ dining room addition on the western section of the existing structure.

The final addition was permitted on August 10, 1976 as an “L” shape addition added onto the rear of the restaurant. This work was completed in the spring of 1977.*

As for the original Drive-In from 1948. The City of Davenport Building Permits show that Orval Riefe applied for a permit that was issued on December 22, 1959 to tear down the restaurant. Someone has written on the permit card that the job was completed by December 24, 1959.**

One interesting part of our research was that no further information was found about the original building at 1737 Fillmore Lane. No other building permit cards, no information from the City Directories, and no telephone book information besides the original phone number in 1948 was 7-5160. How the structure came to be built and when is unknown.

The advertisement at the top of this blog ran in the Davenport Morning Democrat on December 24, 1960. This was the first year in their new building and the Riefe family started a new tradition of closing for two weeks during the Christmas Holiday and giving their employees a paid vacation.

Every year since 1960 Riefe’s Restaurant has closed on December 23rd for two weeks.

In 2015, 55 years after starting this vacation tradition, Riefe’s will close on December 23rd forever.

Rick and Dan Riefe, grandsons and sons of original owners Orval and Del, along with all their employees will be missed.

If you are reading this before last closing on December 23rd, it is not to late to head down to Riefe’s for a breaded tenderloin sandwich or their other home style foods while sharing in the memories of a 66 year old Davenport tradition.

*Microfilm Roll 025. City of Davenport Building Permits. Inact. 1920-1980.

**Microfilm Roll 018. City of Davenport Building Permits. Inact. 1920-1980.

(posted by Amy D.)

 

 

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A December Thanksgiving in Davenport, 1865

One hundred and fifty years ago this coming week, on December 7, 1865, Davenporters observed a memorable National Day of Thanksgiving. In the words of Iowa Governor William M. Stone’s proclamation, printed in the Davenport Daily Gazette on the 6th, it had so “…pleased the Divine Ruler of Nations, during the year which is drawing to a close, to deliver our Land from the horrors of Civil War and sustain us by the abundance of his mercies…” that Iowans must “assemble together in our accustomed places of public worship and give thanks to Almighty God for all His mercies and goodness so graciously vouchsafed unto us…”

The newspaper’s editor, Edward Russell, boldly asserted that “[i]n no State can the National blessings secured through the overthrow of the rebellion and the annihilation of Slavery be more sincerely appreciated than here in Iowa, ” and he continued to wax lyrical about the state whose

… patriotism throughout the war was unexcelled by that of any other State, and whose citizens have sacrificed most freely of life and treasure to secure and preserve these blessings. In no State will this Thanksgiving day be more generally observed. Nowhere else will there be more devout assemblies in village church and humble school house. From no other assemblies will the ascriptions of praise be more sincerely and earnestly offered. No homes will be more joyous that those of Iowa in which the long absent braves now re-unite around the family board…

Perhaps Iowa was indeed exceptional in celebrating Thanksgiving. A few days later, on December 11th, Russell reported that cold weather had kept many Rock Islanders from assembling on the appointed day. In contrast to Davenport’s  “sister city” in Illinois, he wrote, “[t]he ‘severe cold’ wasn’t discovered on this side of the river, and our churches were very largely attended. Our mills, factories, &c. suspended operations, the stores were closed, fireside circles were well filled, and the day heartily observed.” Early evidence of the practice of defining the cities on the two sides of the Mississippi against each other?

And as is also the case today, holiday shopping was encouraged immediately following Thanksgiving. Advertisements such as these appeared in the Gazette in the early days of December:

Surrey

Luse and GriggsHere they areGold and Silver

Cook's

 

Happy Thanksgiving and happy holiday shopping!

–posted by Katie

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The St. James Thanksgiving Feast: 1891

We have located another wonderful hotel menu printed in a local newspaper highlighting the amazing Thanksgiving feast awaiting hotel patrons at a local establishment.

This year’s selection is from the Davenport Daily Leader, published on November 25, 1891 on page 5. The St. James Hotel not only printed the dinner menu, but also printed selected names of hotel guests who would be dining that day.

We hope you enjoy reading this selection. We are sure the dinner guests at this long ago feast enjoyed this extravagant (at least to us) meal.

St. James Thanksgiving Dinner.*

Little Neck Clams.

Mock Turtle, aux Quenelles.

Consomme de Volaille, a la Brisse.

Boiled California Salmon, Hollandaise Sauce.                    Pomme de Terre a la Parisienne

Fried Smelts, Tartar Sauce.

Celery.

Leg of Mutton, Caper Sauce.                                    Filet of Beef, a la Durham.

Salmi of Red Head duck, a la Bigarade.                            Supreme of Bear, a la Sicilienne.

Sweet Bread Patties, aux Champignons.                       Cutlets de Foie-Gras, a la Strasburg.

Orange Bavarian Timbale, a la Parisienne.

Champagne Punch.

Prime of Beef with Yorkshire Pudding.

Mashed and Boiled potatoes.                                                                   Sweet Potatoes.

Green Peas.                           Oyster Plant.

Succotash.

Wild Young Turkey Stuffed with Chestnuts.               Saddle of Vension, with Current Jelly.

Lettuce Salad.

Chicken, a la Mayonnaise.                                      Shrimp, a la Russian.

English Plum Pudding. Brandy Sauce.

Cream Meringue Pie.                          Mince Pie.

Banana Ice Cream.

Fruit Cake.                            Cocoanut Cake.                     Assorted Cake.

Grape Jelly.                           Fruits in Season.

Coffee.                  Tea.                        Milk.

American Cheese.

While many of the items we feel we could replicate today, we are a bit stuck on the Supreme of Bear, a la Sicilienne. That one will take a little investigating on our part.

We wish everyone a pleasant Thanksgiving.

*The menu has been copied with original spelling left in place.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Turkey Notes: The 2015 additions

As loyal readers of this blog know, this is the time of the year when we share our favorite Turkey Notes submitted by staff of the Davenport Public Library.

If you are not among our regular readers, our best explanation is here. To find other Turkey treasurers from years past, please enter the phrase “Turkey Notes” into our search box on the right hand side of this page.

This year, our regular Turkey Note wrangler is feeling a bit under the weather, so we compiled some notes we hope she will approve of:

Turkey Chomp
Turkey Bite
Turkey says “You won’t be eating me tonight!”

Turkey outwitted
 Turkey outfoxed
Turkey says ” I am Sher-locked”

Turkey romance
Turkey mystery
Turkey loves to look at her reading history.

Turkey Fix
Turkey Cobble
Turkey says
Only boy turkeys gobble!

Turkey Wink
Turkey Think
Turkey says
I’m high in zinc

Turkey Harold
 Turkey Mable
Turkey says
No electronics at the table!

Turkey juicy,
Turkey yummy,
Turkey better worry,
Turkey taste better than jerky

Turkey Red
Turkey Blue
Turkey says
 AHHCHOOOOOO

Turkey Satin
Turkey Lace
Turkey Says
We miss your face!

We hope you enjoyed this year’s addition and we would love to hear your versions. While we always enjoy traditional Turkey Note distribution at the Thanksgiving table, we have found Turkey Notes work just as well (and bring just as many smiles) via text, email, or whatever form of social media you prefer for your family and friends far away.

 

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A Veteran and a Friend

In honor of Veterans Day we would like to share a portion of an Oral History interview conducted on June 4, 2001.

Interviewer: Susan Carlson, WWII/Korean War Oral History Project

Veteran: Army PFC Kenneth Roy Plumb

Enlisted June 1954. 82nd General Engineer Battalion and 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 24th Infantry Division.

Kenneth R. Plumb was born on April 29, 1936 in Iowa City. He passed away on October 3rd, 2015 in Davenport. Mr. Plumb was a long time member of the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society and was a volunteer in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Mr. Plumb, along with his wife Shirley, helped to create many of the indexes helpful to our researchers. They also spent countless hours prepping materials to be microfilmed to improve public access to local historic records.

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Kenneth Plumb was named SCIGS Volunteer of the year in 2007

 

Plumb2001

We will miss Mr. Plumb’s ever-present smile, sense of humor, and amazing recollections in Special Collections.

(Cristina and Amy D.)

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