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Columbia: A Happening Place (1948 style)

JIM has produced one of his greatest pieces yet. It's perfect for the New Year, because it tells Columbians take of what lasting good comes from eras of unbounded optimism in Columbia. 1948 was such an Era. It was a time when a new City Council had take over made many of the most progressive moves ever, and gave the City of Columbia lasting reforms. With scant revenue, they didn't just talk about improvements - they made them happen. If nothing else is read in its entirety today, we strongly recommend reading this article start to finish. -CM
CLICK ON THE HEADLINE NOW TO SEE ENTIRE STORY. (Comments signed "CM" contain editorial commentary, some about as subtle as a sledge hammer, for which JIM is not responsible and with which he may or may not concur. -EW

by JIM

By the end of 1947, World War II was nearly thirty months in the past, the specter of Korea had not yet appeared on the event horizon, and even with post-war problems -- inflation and shortages of building materials, to name a couple -- the country brimmed with optimism. Columbia, with several new businesses opened since the summer of 1945, was a thriving community, and life was good.

Mayor Kerbow's new city council met until 1 a.m.

In the opening days of 1948, Columbia's City Hall was a happening place. On Monday night, January 5th, newly sworn in mayor James Rives Kerbow and the City Council rolled up their collective sleeves and wasted no time getting down to brass tacks in a meeting that held forth until 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. The Council, composed of Ivan Shivley, J.D. Harper, Ralph Willis, Lewis Coffey, S.C. Bybee, and J.W. Walker, re-appointed Ralph Hurt as City Attorney; James Montgomery, City Clerk; John W. Flowers, Treasurer; and Clay Smith, Tax Assessor.

And that was just a start!

Former sheriff elected Chief of Police

In other actions, Bert Harper, a former Adair County Sheriff, was elected Chief of Police to replace the recently resigned George Brockman. Brockman and George Banks were then named as night patrolmen for the city. (By the end of the month, Banks had resigned and had been replaced by former resident Theo Hatfield.) The board decided to postpone until the next meeting a decision regarding a new Fire Chief to succeed Charley Kelsay, who had resigned, and discussed purchasing a police car for use in patrolling the city.

Considerable time spent discussing water system

Finally, the Mayor and Council spent a considerable amount of time discussing the water system situation, as "the contractors and bonding company who had contracted with the City of Columbia some time ago to build the new water system" had filed letters of withdrawal with the city. Consequently, the Board "voted to give the engineering firm employed fifteen months ago to design necessary changes and extensions in the water works, 60 days to place acceptable plans before the body for approval."

News report had serious breach of journalistic etiquette

(In a serious breach of journalistic etiquette, the News failed to mention Joe Moore or Robert Flowers making the motion to adjourn.)

Winter quarter at Lindsey Wilson had started two days before the new year, with record enrollment

City Hall wasn't the only place in town where thing were happening. Up on Lindsey Hill, the winter quarter opened three days in advance of the new year with several new courses added to the curriculum and a record 271 students enrolled. (Come the start of the Spring term, enrollment jumped to 313, with over half of the students being veterans.)

President Henry met a disaster squarely, quickly, adroitly

During Christmas break, the ancient furnace in the college's gymnasium "completely disintegrated," but Lindsey Wilson President V.P. Henry quickly and adroitly handled the problem. Ever the man of action, Rev. Henry went to Chicago on December 23rd, secured a free replacement unit through the Federal Works Agency, and immediately dispatched a truck to Illinois to pick up the new furnace.

Allen Phelps was newly licensed enbalmer

Over on Greenburg Street, a young fellow named Allen Phelps received notification he had passed the State Board of Embalmers examination and had been awarded a license to practice in Kentucky.

Come January 12th, Mayor Kerbow and the City Council met again, this time in special session, "to consider a number of problems concerning the welfare of Columbia."

Parking meters installed; a revenue bonanza

One topic of discussion was the installation of parking meters around the Square and the assignment of permanent parking places off-Square for taxis.

(The meters were installed in May, and a year later the News reported that "During the twelve months they have been in operation here, $10,237.85 has been paid by the motoring public for the privilege of parking in Columbia's business section. This amount far exceeds the amount received from taxes." Due to a momentary lapse in memory, Mayor Kerbow was one of the first to cough up the dollar fine for failure to pay for the privilege.)

New City Hall, Fire Station considered

Another area of consideration was the erection of a new City Hall and fire station, with Mayor Kerbow offering to donate two years of his mayoral salary toward the construction thereof. In other action, the aforementioned police car was ordered, and officials expressed hope for an early delivery date.

Police department instructed to enforce 20 mph speed limit - which they did, with one car, 1/11th of todays fleet, but with almost half the population -CM

(The Columbia Motor Co. delivered the new police car, a Chevrolet, to the City Council in mid-March. The March 24th News noted that Chief Harper and patrolmen Brockman and Hatfield had "been given instruction to concentrate on enforcing Columbia's 20-mile-an-hour speed limit." The article went on to state that several scofflaws had already been arrested and fined anywhere from ten to one hundred dollars.)

The Council voted to pay Joe Hutchison, S.F. Coffey and H.A. Walker "for their services as members of the Board of Equalization." David Heskamp was elected as the new Fire Chief; a decision concerning appointment of a Fire Marshall was deferred; the Council voted to take the bold step of paying Social Security and withholding taxes for all City employees; and "the feasibility of placing traffic lights at several dangerous intersections was discussed" before the Council adjourned.

Kiwanis Club, a progressive civic organization, organized

Meanwhile, the newly formed Kiwanis Club of Columbia had met, and the News carried a front page photo of the group. Pictured were Board of Director members Lenwood Gore, Gaspard Brockman, Ed Vance, Charlie Hood, Harry Wilson, Ashton Shrader, and Wynn Shriver. Others in the photo were Sam Breeding, Robert Wallace, Calvin Rowe, James Humphress, Frank Browning, W.E. McClendon, Joe Glowacki, Haskell Rogers, vice president Howard Cheatham, president Frank Lancaster, C.R. Barger, B.E. Wilson, W.E. Harris, Crawford Loy, Roy Owen, Gordon Clarke, R.R. (aka Pete) Walker, and John Powell.

In the third marathon meeting of the month, the Council on the evening of the 19th drew up a list of requirements for applicants for the position of water superintendent and made the list available from City Clerk James Montgomery at the First National Bank. A fair amount of time was devoted to the parking meter issue (and securing areas for free parking should the public approve the meters); and finally, "An ordinance was passed requiring a $50 license on pinball machines."

Kiwanis Club, (without City or County welfare payments to underwrite organization's work), rented lot to provide free parking for 40 automobiles

(In mid-May, the Kiwanis Club "rented a lot adjoining the Bakery Building just off the Public Square" from the Masonic Lodge with the intention of creating a space for free parking for about 40 automobiles.)

And on the fourth Monday evening of January, 1948, the Council rested.

New water superintendent, George Devine, hired

The February 4th edition reported that the only person to apply for the water superintendent's position, George Devine of Louisville, had been hired and would assume duties in early February. It was further noted that the resigning superintendent, Herb Howell, had done an excellent job during his 14 years of service, and that the Council had voted to give him a two weeks paid vacation. Mr. Devine arrived in Columbia just in time for a major shutdown of the water system for several hours on Monday morning, February 9th:

Town's only water storage tank emptied

Water service ceased when the storage tank on Lindsey Hill emptied and could not be refilled due to a stoppage at the pumping station which the new superintendent, George Devine, could not remedy on account of lack of familiarity with the plant he had taken over only two days before.

This story was posted on 2011-12-31 03:53:26
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