■ Editor’s note: Leading up to Lamar’s 125th birthday celebration July 15, The Imperial Republican will run a story each week on the community’s history.
By Carolyn Wallin
Some stories about Lamar, Nebraska are arriving almost daily. As I have been studying the history of the town of Lamar, many things have come and gone, including the most central theme of almost every story, which was the Lamar store. What a history the store has had!
The town of Lamar began when the Lincoln Land Company bought the school section on May 31, 1887 because the railroad was building its grade right through the center of it. That August they had a town plat surveyed and the plat was filed on Sept. 1, 1887. The Land Company named its new town “Lamar” after Lucius Q. C. Lamar, the Secretary of the Interior in Grover Cleveland’s cabinet.
The town of Lennox, located just two and a half miles west and a half mile north quickly moved to Lamar and Lenox no longer was a town. By 1890 there were several businesses in Lamar, including two blacksmith shops, a hardware store, a drug store, two implement stores, a post office and a millinery shop.
There were three general stores: one was moved from Lenox and was owned by C. Parain. A man named Peiderlue owned a general store and another was owned by W. and C. C. Ruff.
There were tough times during the 1890s including a drought that lasted from 1893 until 1896. Many people left during that time because they could not raise crops to feed themselves or their livestock. By 1894 there were still a few businesses, but just one general store, operated by John Sugar.
In 1902 H. J. Gingrich owned a general store managed by John Sugar. Then Hait & Son opened a general store and also sold hardware and shoes. Marrell Hait’s store burned down in January 1913. Marrell rebuilt his store within a year and it was a cement building.
He continued to operate the store into the 1930s and then he sold it to George Deselms. In the 1940’s the store was owned by Fitzwaters and then in the late 40s it was bought by Keith and Grace Radcliff.
The Radcliff store survived the blizzards of 1948 and 49 and entered into the 1950s and 60s. In the 50s the Andrews Hardware store closed and moved to Imperial, and the blacksmith shop closed.
Lamar still had several businesses at that time, including the post office, creamery, Co-op Station, two churches and a school.
After operating the I.G.A. Store in Lamar for 27 years, Keith and Grace Radcliff sold the store on May 27, 1974 to Amel and Eunice Peterson. The Petersons sold the store to Steve and Brenda Traxler in 1977 and they operated it until 1981 then sold it.
The store has been vacant ever since. It is sad to see the store today, slowly deteriorating. Everything must go the way of progress, but some things just want to linger a bit longer on our minds.
In almost all the stories I have received there is hardly one that does not mention the Lamar store. It was the central meeting place on Saturday nights from way back in the late 1800s until the 50s.
People came to Lamar to sell their cream and eggs and buy groceries. Sometimes they stopped by the store on their way to school, or the post office or to get gasoline. It was a happy and nostalgic time for many people who remembered the busy little town of Lamar throughout all the years.
Keith Radcliff had quite a rapport with all the kids. Many times I noticed him teasing them or getting them to tell about their school work or adventures. Keith and Grace always took a lot of interest in all community events. Keith was a town clerk for the town of Lamar for many years.
The store sold much more than food. It sold hardware, clothing, dishes, pots and pans, greeting cards, school supplies, medicines, first aid supplies, sewing supplies, and even hair rollers and makeup.
My memories: I remember buying my school supplies in Radcliff’s Grocery Store when I was in seventh and eighth grade. Later, as a young married woman I bought everything I needed to keep house and feed our children. Sometimes, I would not have anything on hand to prepare Merv’s lunch, so I would send slices of bread in his lunch box and Merv would stop by the store to buy one slice of lunch meat for his sandwich.
It is hard to imagine anyone doing that today, with the “already packaged” lunch meats.
Keith and Grace Radcliff were always accommodating to our family. When Merv’s father, Elmer passed away, our house was suddenly filled with lots of people. Even though it was a Sunday, Keith opened up his store for a while so we could go there to buy food to feed people on short notice.
Keith and Grace also donated a variety of lunch meats that day, which I remember really helped a lot until other foods from the community started arriving. What wonderful memories of living in this rural community with such loving neighbors and friends. We were almost like “family.”
We may not have had a “Super Store” in Lamar that stayed open for 24 hours seven days a week, but we had friendship and love in that store for many years. So to us, it was always a SUPER STORE!