Drive-by

Armed with purses full of discount coupons, my mother and two of her sisters rode across the state line to Superior every Saturday, coming home late in the afternoon, the trunk of the car bulging with overstuffed grocery bags.  With religious devotion Mom made day-to-day purchases of bread, milk, Fresca and ice cream at Howard Ross’s grocery store two blocks from her house, because she knew that if the little town stopped supporting Howard’s store it would go away, and Formoso would lose what served the community as a neighborhood mini-mart.

Superior was the nearest town with three grocery stores and a meat market.  There was competition and variety, plus full-page newspaper ads beckoning shoppers with the promise of incredible bargains.  In addition to the ordinary inducements, there was no sales tax in Nebraska.  Crossing the Republican River a few miles north of Lovewell earned the ladies an automatic 2.5¢ savings on every dollar spent.  It was a little bonus that made the trips virtually irresistible.  Since Superior was also home to the Crest Theater which showed Saturday matinees complete with cartoons and the latest episode of a thrill-packed serial in front of the feature, all for 25¢, I always tagged along.

Despite the fact that there were smooth highways connecting our home to Superior, the carload of us generally bounced along the rutted, rock-covered Omio road at 30 miles an hour, slowing to 10 or under for the hairpin turns through Lovewell.  I never understood why we took that route until recently, when it occurred to me that in addition to stocking family larders for another week and allowing me to take in a movie, we were making a pilgrimage to pay homage to the family’s past.

In 1893-4 my mother’s maternal grandmother, born Juliana Lovewell in 1857, lived in the town with the man who was just then her significant other (and my mother’s grandfather), that will o’ the wisp of my family’s story, John Robinson.  At that moment my mother’s paternal grandfather, one of the town’s blacksmiths, was also serving as police judge.

The more I delve into the history of the little town that Thomas Lovewell built, the more of my own family members I trip over.  My great-grandparents, the eight people from that generation born in the 1850’s who contributed to my genetic profile, all lived in the little village of Lovewell about the same time.  I have to say “about” only because my dad’s paternal grandparents, Samuel and Anna Switzer, arrived late to the party, making their way to Sinclair Township from the Beatrice area sometime between 1900 and 1906.  Dad's maternal grandparents, Will Simmons and Emma Alice Van Meter, married in the late 1880’s and lived at Lovewell where their daughter Sarah would meet and marry Samuel Switzer’s boy, Jacob.

Simmons relatives Ventura, California

My dad loved to visit relatives, no matter how distant, in both the genealogical and geographical sense.  I have to admit that a few of my recent postings have been flimsy excuses to share some of the photos from the album he started keeping in Lovewell, Kansas, in 1936.  Here are a few more, one which I've given a whimsical caption because I know none of the people in it for sure except for the young man at the center, and because my dad also loved to laugh and I know he’d get a chuckle over it.  The sailor in the picture looks as if he might be the same young man (Get it?  “Young man …" Oh, never mind) shown in profile in another photo, proudly displaying a haul of tuna.  The two fishermen are identified as Fielding and Delbert Simmons, so I’m guessing that everyone in the top picture is from my dad’s mother’s family.

Fielding Simmons, Delbert Simmons

I remember going with my father to some sort of family reunion at a hall in Mankato, Kansas, when I must have been about ten.  Dad introduced me to a few people in the standing-room-only crowd but I’ve long since forgotten who they were, and I was so overwhelmed by the sea of unfamiliar faces that I soon wandered outside.  

I found a news item about it in an old Jewell County Record recently and realized that it was not a Switzer reunion, as I had always thought, but a reunion of six Simmons brothers and their descendants.  Delbert Simmons and his wife were there from Aurora, Colorado, as were Chet and Orel Poole from Belleville, the Chester Van Meters from Lovewell, the Charles Doxons from Formoso, and dozens more whose names I still don’t recognize.

If I had only taken notes that day, and maybe a few pictures, this would all be so much easier.    


© Dale Switzer 2016  dale@lovewellhistory.com