By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Lamar was at least six times its current population Sunday as its 23 residents, along with family, friends and descendants of the community’s early business owners, gathered to celebrate the quasquicentennial, or 125th year, since its founding.
People from three states including Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas gathered for a 5 p.m. potluck and program at the Lamar Fire Hall, less than a block west of the town’s main street that once thrived with a strong business community.
A look at the guest book shows 143 people signed in, but organizer Carolyn Wallin and husband Merv said several did not sign. They figure more than 150 attended.
The overflow crowd spilled out onto the grassy area east of the hall to enjoy their meal and visiting.
Carolyn Wallin said it was a wonderful afternoon and evening, and so many people were appreciative that the 125th celebration was organized.
“I was overwhelmed with thank-yous,” she said this week.
“I think 100 people thanked me four times each,” she smiled.
Like the crowd, food was overflowing for the potluck meal. Three tables originally set up to hold the covered dishes and desserts had to be expanded to four.
In the program after the meal, Wallin became nostalgic as she talked about what could have been.
“Perhaps, if the railroad had actually come to Lamar.”
“Perhaps if the banks had not failed.”
“Perhaps if the Great Depression had not come.”
“Perhaps if the highway had not by-passed Lamar.”
In anticipation of the railroad that was laid out to come right through Lamar after the land was purchased in 1887, businesses sprang up nearly overnight, Wallin said.
Its population grew to between 300 and 400 people by the late 1920s.
But, then the stock market crashed, the railroad never did expand west of Imperial and, in the early 1950s, Highway 6 was moved from a route north of Lamar to three miles south.
Despite the steady decline of population and business activity in Lamar over the years and the closing of Lamar Grade School after the 2004-05 school year, Sunday’s celebration was on a high note.
That, in part, was likely due to the attendance by several people whose families operated businesses in Lamar at one time in the community’s rich history.
Among the attendees introduced were:
Doris Piedalue Baney Carpenter of Greeley, Colo. Many remembered her as a rural school teacher at three area schools—Crete, Champion and Chase (also known as District 66). Her father farmed in Dundy County, but an uncle, Caleb Piedalue, owned and operated a general store in Lamar in the late 1800s.
Jim Radcliff of Colorado Springs, Colo. His parents, Keith and Grace Radcliff, operated Radcliff’s Grocery in Lamar, opening in 1947. Radcliff’s IGA remained in the family until 1974. The building still stands on Lamar’s main street.
Shirley Briggs Lee of Littleton, Colo. She is the twin sister of Sherwin Briggs, who lived west of Champion. Their father, Herb, was a blacksmith in Lamar until the late 1950s.
There was a lot of reminiscing, laughter and recollections of days gone by.
Carolyn Wallin said it best at the closing of the program.
“As we celebrate 125 years of Lamar history, maybe those who were a part of that history will smile and remember the good times they had in Lamar in an earlier era.
“A time that meant hard work, but a time that made each family better for those hard struggles.
“A time that we were all part of one big family who lived together in a close-knit community where family values mattered, children could play on the streets safely, people helped each other when tragedies occasionally happened without warning and everyone knew each other.”
The program concluded with the ringing of the church bell by Jim Radcliff at the Lamar Christian Church on main street.
The bell is scheduled to be moved to the Chase County Museum in Champion this year.
The community of Lamar will also be the focus of the museum’s program on Sunday, July 29, which has been designated “Lamar Day.” Much of the history and artifacts displayed at Sunday’s celebration will also be put out at the museum from 1 to 4 p.m.
More history books being printed
All 120 Lamar history books printed for the quasquicentennial celebration were sold, but more are to be printed, reports 125th coordinator Carolyn Wallin. People lined up Sunday to purchase the books compiled by Wallin and her committee.
Anyone wishing to order one of the 150-plus page books can contact Wallin at 308-882-5922.
She already has requests for 12 books and will take orders for more until the end of August. She notes the reprinted books will be cost more than the book’s original $15 price tag.