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Formation & early activities of Columbia Chamber of Commerce

Reeves Kerbow was first President of Chamber of Commerce; George Jr. Staples first chair of the membership committee. New civic club tackled getting a better entrance to the City Dump, a cleanup day for Columbia, and was a prime mover in the established of Streeval Field, to be run by the Columbia Flying Service, which served the world as well as the two locally owned airplanes, one owned outright by Dr. H.C. Randall, the other by J.L. Vaughn, Jr., David Heskamp, and William Cheatham. And in those early months after its establishment, people of foresight realized the impact of the renewal of construction of Wolf Creek Dam would have on Columbia, and formed a committee to compile a list of Columbia housing available for workers once work began anew on the dam.
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"The Chamber of Commerce is a civic organization formed to promote industry in the community, civic pride and all worthwhile projects which will add to the growth of the town and county."-- Adair County News, April 25, 1945.

On the evening of Tuesday, April 10, 1945, a small group of businessmen -- enterprising citizens, the News called them -- met at the New Adair Hotel to start a local Chamber of Commerce. The April 11th edition of the paper noted, "The matter had been discussed previously by local business men and so much interest was manifested in the project that it was decided to formally organize."

Reeves Kerbow was first president of chamber

The officers elected that spring evening nearly seventy years ago were J.B. Kerbow, manager of the Dr. Pepper Bottling Co., President; Herbert Taylor, owner/manager of The Men's Shop, Vice-President and chair of the bylaws and constitution committee; Ashton (A.B.) Schrader, a representative (that is, a salesman) in the Columbia District for the Belknap Hardware & Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, Secretary; and Charlie Hood, of the Durham (Wholesale) Grocery Co, Treasurer.

George Jr. Staples was chairman of membership committee

George Staples, of Lany Bray & Co., was named as chairman of the membership committee, his charge being "to head a drive for Charter Members, which will last 30 days." Membership was open to "any public-spirited citizen of Columbia," the annual dues being set at $12 (about $160 in today's buying power). Initially, meetings were scheduled for the second Tuesday evening of each month, but within a few weeks, that had been changed to the first Thursday

The gentlemen named above and the others in attendance that historic night, listed here, composed a virtual Who's Who of Columbia businessmen: Louis Merkley, J.W. Flowers, J.L. Vaughn, N.P. Bray, C.W; Marshall, H.T. Walker, S.C. Bybee, Robert Hutchison, Paul Young, Johnnie Johnson, Fred Hill, Ben Green, Paul Marshall, and Clyde Marshall.

Membership hit 45 of goal of 100, by April 25

By the time the News hit the stands on April 25th, membership had increased to forty-five (with a Charter Membership goal of one hundred), and already the organization was perfecting plans for a town clean-up campaign, the date which had not been set, but the stated goal was hold it prior to the arrival in June of the Red Cross Mobile Unit, "which will bring hundreds of blood donors from surrounding counties into the community."

"Among other thing discussed at this meeting...was a project to improve the approach to the city dump, which is located just off Greensburg Highway." (The article went on to state that the site was not accessible during wet weather and that over the years, "Trash and garbage has also been dumped on the approach in such a manner that it is now almost impossible to enter the place.")

By the end of April, charter membership stood at fifty and a nominating committee of three (J.W. Flowers, George Staples, and Dr. T.P. Stephenson) had been appointed to prepare ballots for election of directors, one for every six members.

Progress made on goal for better entrance to city dump

Already, there was progress on one goal, as "Arrangements have been made with the City Council to build a road from the Greensburg Highway to the city dump," and selection of the clean-up date was slated for the next meeting. (In early June, Chamber members N.P. Bray, Louis Merkley, and David Heskamp "were appointed as a committee to ascertain the cost of building a road through the city dump in an effort to make the facilities of the dump accessible.")

In addition, David Heskamp, Dr. H.C. Randall, Louis Merkley, M.F. Hawkins, and real estate man Elbert Hill had been named to the aircraft committee "to select a suitable location for an airport" and "to contact C.A.A. [Civil Aeronautics Authority] regarding necessary requirements for establishing the airport."

Streeval Field would be run by Columbia Flying Service

In the forepart of June came word that land for the airport, some six miles east of Columbia at Christine, had been leased from T.A. Streeval, and that the property would be "developed immediately for use with a view to opening June 20." The airport was to be run by the Columbia Flying Service, "a group of local flying enthusiasts." By early July, the air strip was in use with an official opening on the event horizon, and construction had started on Tuesday, July 3rd on a four-plane hangar. (There were two locally owned planes. Dr. H.C. Randall owned one outright, while J.L. Vaughn, Jr., David Heskamp, and William Cheatham shared ownership of another.)

At a May 1945 meeting, ten men were elected as directors: E.G. Hill, Paul Marshall, David Heskamp, Morris Epperson, Herb Taylor, Fred Hill, Garnett Young, Doc Walker, N.P. Bray, and C.D. Wethington.

Ralph Willis chaired clean up committee

At this gathering, the Chamber also announced June 6th as Clean-Up Day, the committee for that activity chaired by Ralph Willis, with the stated goal of "the event [being] a real old time 'town working' with everyone taking part." Homeowners were asked to have their property cleaned up on or before June 6 and to see to it that "weeds are cut and trash removed from all adjacent streets and alleys" as part of the effort "for making Columbia mighty 'spic and span...'"

In addition, the News reported, trucks were needed to haul away the trash, and citizens who wished to volunteer their vehicles were requested to contact committee member N.P. Bray. As the date grew near, the paper noted a wider community involvement, stating, "Ministers of the city are cooperating and ladies of the Woman's Club have volunteered to be on hand to furnish workers with ice water when the become hot and thirsty."

The June 13th paper wasted few words regarding the effort, offering but two sentences regarding the activities: "In spite of bad weather the Clean-Up Day met with success. Many truck loads of trash were removed from the city and the Public Square was given a washing by members of the Fire Department."

In June, Chamber announced sponsorship of Property Improvement Contest

At the June meeting, the Chamber announced sponsorship of a Property Improvement Contest "with handsome cash prizes and certificates to be awarded the business house and residence showing the most improvement between this time and September 15." Soon thereafter, plans were announced to increase the prizes for the contest; but in September for reasons not stated in the newspaper, members voted to postpone the campaign (as it was called by then) until 1946.

Committee formed to find suitable house for dam workers

Come July 1945, Chamber membership stood at sixty-two. With Germany's surrender in the spring and the war in Pacific Theater showing sign of rapidly winding down, the pending resumption of work on Wolf Creek dam brought up two topics of discussion. One was "securing a direct road from Columbia to the dam site," the proposed route being "an extension of Highway 55 from Crocus to the dam." The other was the formation of a committee -- Paull Marshall (chair), M.F. Hawkins, Elbert Hill (the latter two gentlemen being real estate salesmen), and Edward Hamlett (of the Adair County News) - to compile a list of Columbia housing available for workers once work began anew on the dam. - Compiled by JIM

This story was posted on 2014-08-03 05:12:38
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