■ Editor’s note: This is one in a series of feature stories on the events to be held during Imperial’s 125th birthday celebration this summer, July 2-4, 2010.
By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
Charley Colton’s hobby has evolved into a history lesson. The Imperial resident has been collecting black and white postcards for many years, and has amassed a large collection of Imperial sights and people.
Colton grew up in Flagstaff, Ariz., but has lived in the Imperial area since April, 1980.
He has several hundred old postcards that have meaning in his life, such as the church his grandparents were married in and another ancestor preached in during the 1700s.
The 48-year old has postcards of Flagstaff, postcards of Imperial, postcards of Champion, etc. He’s trying to collect postcards of all of the old courthouses in Nebraska. Of the 93 counties, he has over one-third in his collection to date.
He collects postcards through five or six postcard companies as far away as Baltimore, Md. and from E-Bay.
Colton is also collecting old photographs and store tokens. During the Depression, he said, tokens were given in exchange for goods received, such as eggs and cream. The recipient then spent the token at the appropriate store.
As for the postcards, “I try to stay with black and white from the 30s and 40s,” he said, of buildings and people, “that you can put a history behind.”
Colton can date the postcards by the company that printed them.
In collecting the postcards, he is also collecting history.
“I throw out the postcards and say, ‘Let’s talk and see what you remember,’” he explained.
He said sometimes people disagree about a building’s use or location, but, “It’s fun to watch their expressions when someone mentions a name” that triggers a memory.
Colton said he’s putting together an exhibit of Imperial history. Sunday he took pictures of all of the buildings in downtown Imperial. He’ll blow them up to 8 by 10s, then attach pictures or lists on the reverse side of businesses that have occupied those buildings.
The photos and his postcard collection will be on display to the public during the Quasquicentennial celebration next weekend. It will be part of the city’s history display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lied Imperial Public Library on July 3.
Colton plans to ask people for their memories during the day, to gather additional history.
“I don’t want to lose that information,” he said, as older people with those memories are lost.
He talked with historian Willard Rouze two weeks before his death this past spring, which added much to his information.
Colton has heard some interesting stories during his talks with old-timers. One is of the prostitution in Imperial during the 1930s. One man told him he and his classmates had a ditty they sang regarding “loose women” and “carousing.”
There once were bad feelings between the country folk and the town folk, Colton said, over parking in Imperial.
By the time the country residents made it to town on Saturday, the town residents had taken all of the good parking places downtown.
Evidently, Colton said, Saturday night parking was then what the Chase County Fair Parade parking is now, with people staking out the good spots.
He said Saturday nights were hopping in Imperial, with the kids going to the movies and adults dining and talking up and down a two to three block area.
“When they see some old pictures, elderly people say, without fault, ‘That had to have been taken on a Saturday,’” he commented, if there were lots of cars parked on Broadway.
Colton said he ultimately hopes to put together a pictoral history of Imperial.