By Craig Hastings
I was rummaging through some of our old achieved newspapers when I came across a Tuscola Journal dated Thursday, Aug. 1964. It’s the week The Journal celebrated 100 years in existence. My Dad’s old nemesis Phil White was at the helm of The Journal during this time and did a fairly remarkable job of putting together a publication of not only The Journal’s history but also that of Tuscola. On the front page was a picture taken 1872 of “The Union Block” building. The caption stated the building had been built by William R. Johnson who also established the then “Water’s Insurance Agency”! This was great stuff for me to read (learn).
On this same stretch of the down town muddy street is a sign on a building that reads, “HASTINGS&VANDYKE”. I have no idea what they sold but I am sure there is no relationship or dad would have spoken about it. “UNION CLOTHING”, “SADDLES and HARNESS”, on the same boardwalk. This is really great stuff for me being born and raised here. Did you know the CIPS building complete with the “Ready Kilowatt” sign on front was built in 1902 at 206 North Parke Street? I remember it being there as a kid because of that great sign. I think it was a bad thing to retire that guy. All the kids loved that logo. The business reportedly located there because of the access to a 3000-foot well next to it. CIPS provided water, steam heat, and electric service at the time.
Mr. White wrote that the first newspaper in Tuscola was called The Tuscola Union and published in 1855. It seems all this “Union” reference is connected to the then Union Party. The Tuscola Press was next in 1859 but expired in just a few months followed by The Douglas County Shield also in 1859. The Journal was started in 1864 by E. C. Siler and Amasa S. Lindsay. In 1872 The True Republican was established which sold in 1875 with the name changed to The Gazette. The Douglas County Review (Tuscola Review) appeared in 1874. The Tuscola Republican printed in 1884 and later absorbed by The Journal in 1900. On the front page of this edition is a picture of the front of The Journal. The building front appears in 1964 exactly as it did when it burned down forty some years later.
On page two is a plat map of the Parkview Subdivision building lots. Just a handful of houses were built at the time. The lumber companies were advertising their ability to supply any and all homebuilders with everything they will need to build a new home in Parkview. Page three there are three large advertisements of Mitchell’s Department Store (clothing), and Roger’s Florist. Surely most of you remember doing business at Bill and Irene Rogers Flower Shop! Was there a single High School dance that Roger’s wasn’t the go to place for your date’s flowers! I’m stumped with an advertisement on page four. The Tuscola Locker established in 1939 located at 129 West North Central, by Elmer Cook is one I don’t remember at all.
Page five has a picture of the present Court House building while under construction in 1912. King and Wills Insurance advertised their business this week proudly noting 85 years in business located at 208 North Main Street. How many of you knew that Dean Mulligan, who we all remember, was the manager at one time of Tuscola Cooperative Grain Company? Bob Hausmann’s Tuscola Milk Company appeared on page six and adjacent to this on page seven was Zane’s Pastry Shop located at 302 South Washington Street and another for Carpenter’s Clothing Store. You could call Carpenters at telephone number 179-W?! Four digit telephone numbers for all the stores. Throughout the paper there appear citizens of note. I found an interesting one on page ten you might all know; a very young picture of Boyd Allen Henderson. Notations read: “was recently promoted to manager of the local Furste Auto Supply store and has been with the company for nine years. During his high school career, Boyd was active in the Diversified Education Club and served as president 1957-58, was on the State Board of Directors for the DE and was State Representative to the National Convention in 1958. Boyd is unmarried and resides with his mother, Mrs Glenn Bensen and Mr. Bensen at 909 Glenview Drive. He is the superintendent of the Sunday School at the Lutheran Church. He served two years in the U.S. Army, with service in Korea.” Early on Boyd was dedicating his life to Tuscola.
There was an interesting store located at 128 West Sale Street I vaguely remember, or at least remember hearing about a lot. Rosie’s Cash Store sold merchandise new and used and it appears in their advertisement they sold about everything. Rosie claimed to be everybody’s friend in the advertisement. Without a doubt the two most interesting buildings I wish still existed today were The Beach House located at the corners of Parke and Pembroke Streets. What a magnificent hotel built in 1868 and burned in 1927. The Merchant’s Motel located at the corner of Main and Sale Streets was also a building to behold. I believed it burned sometime in the 1970’s. Festival Corner now occupies part of the ground where the motel once stood.
For twenty years I’ve listened to the conversations of Tuscola residents, council members, mayors, and business owners expressing frustration of the dwindling downtown cornerstone of the community. What to do, how to do, and when to do projects, promotions, anything to build up the foundation. After reading and studying the 16 pages of the 100 Year Anniversary Edition of The Journal I will confidently say to you this: had fire not destroyed these two monuments of old school business practice of welcoming travelers and shoppers to our community our downtown Tuscola would still today be a must see destination. The Flesor’s girls are doing an outstanding job of maintaining their grandfather Gus’ immigrant dream of building a business and a life in America. Under Gus’ picture in this edition it reads: “Gus Flesor has operated the Tuscola Kandy Kitchen since 1901, and holds the record for the longest service in one business establishment. He is a student of the Bible and an active supporter of the Masonic Lodge.”
This paper is packed full of short bios of many of the community leaders, business people, and people who just loved Tuscola for what it had to offer in the 1960’s and before. If just half of what was going on pre-1970 was still here, not burnt down, not torn down for newer, not forced out, my god what a place to be living and experiencing! Don’t misunderstand me; I love Tuscola and will likely die here and be buried here but, if, if, just a few of what was, still was, no one would care one thought about luring the new stuff to town. Why, what for, Tuscola had it all up to 1964 all starting in the 1800’s.
I want to ride my horse to town for stick candy and meet my friends. I want to go to Mitchell’s, Matinee, and Carpenters with my mom to buy my school clothes. When I’m 14 I want to walk the new car lots and dream about owning one of Red Profitt’s new GTOs or Trans Ams, Ned Ferguson’s Boss Mustangs and Torino Cobras, Tom Powell’s and Herschel Hooker’s SS Camaros and Chevelles, and Jack Allen’s and Whitey Walker’s Hemi Cudas, Six Pack Superbees, and 440 Roadrunners! Please, I’ll do anything! Can you remember and believe four new car dealerships, five grocery stores, and three big clothing stores?! Who wouldn’t make Tuscola their destination? I have so much more from this 1964 paper I could tell you about.