Chamois 5

 

I was born in the front room of a small four-room house on North Cherry Street where it intersects East Pacific Street. The house was one block west of the intersection of East Pacific and Main Street.  The sidewalk ended in front of the yellow house next door,  owned by Dr. L. F. Biesmeyer who came to Chamois in 1917; he had a medical office in his home until he died in 1936.  Even though there was a doctor right next door, I was delivered by Doc Townley, who charged $20 for my birth. 


Our house was right next to the railroad tracks, but there were no trees hiding the tracks, so I could watch the trains going by. There was a huge snowball bush in our front yard. it is gone now, but there is a catalpa tree near the street sign.  A catalpa tree has beautiful white flowers which turn into fruit that looks like long green beans which turn brown in the fall. 


Chamois is noted for its great number of catalpa trees which were planted during the “strawberry hoax” when a stranger came to town and told the gullible residents that strawberries grew on these trees. 

The Chamois depot was only a few yards from our house.  it has been torn down, but the sign for Chamois remains.  There were several trains that routinely stopped in Chamois, but the town was also a “flag stop” for other trains.  The milk train stopped around 4 o’clock in the morning.  At one time, my father drove a milk truck and picked up the milk from the local farmers, then brought the milk cans to Chamois in time to meet the milk train; he had to start his route at 2 a.m.


The A.P Green Company had a loading station in Chamois for clay that was used to make brick. There was a “tipple” right across from our house where trucks loaded with clay from Robert Townley’s pit would drive up and tip the clay into open gondola railroad cars.  In 1924, my father bought the first truck used for hauling clay to Chamois.

The railroad tracks divided the main Chamois street into North Main Street  and South Main Street. My good friends Cathleen Dudenhoeffer and Sarah auf der Heide lived on the north side.


Lucille Bingelli, who took in washing and ironing, used to live on the north side of the railroad tracks.  The Methodist Church for “the colored folks” was located in her yard.  North Main Street ends at the Missouri river where there is a nice city park.  The old swinging bridge over Greasy Creek, which drained into the river, was torn down in 1960. 


There is an old red brick house on North Main Street and Tennessee Avenue, where Leona Mertens used to live.  Her father was Lorenz J. Mertens, the brother of Peter Mertens, the owner of the house. The house was first owned by William Cochran. Walter Lamb had an insurance office upstairs.


Frank Schollmeyer, a local artist,  painted a picture of a window similar to the windows of the Mertens house; his paintings were for sale in a booth on Main Street on Chamois Day in 2008.


My childhood friend Patsy Lock used to live in a two story white house on 2nd Street.  Ninety-two-year-old Melva Perry still lives in the house next door and she came out on the porch to find out why a stranger was taking pictures of the house. Melva graduated from the old school on the hill in Chamois in 1934. She has seen a lot of history in Chamois, and she told me why the town has declined in recent years.  She says that there is no law in Chamois and “trash” has moved in and set up meth labs.  Melva lives only a short distance from the old city jail which is on the corner of West Pacific Street and North Locust Street. She told me that in the old days, when Chamois had 3 saloons, the “rowdies” from nearby St. Aubert used to be locked up on Saturday nights by the sheriff, Ferdinand (Ferd) Peters.

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Otto Noack had a store on Main Street at the intersection of 1st Street.  Behind his store was Rudy Toedtmann’s  store, facing 1st Street, where I used to go to buy a “poke” of penny candy when I was a child growing up in Chamois. His store building has been torn down, but there is a similar brick building facing 1st Street that is now a garage.



 

The grain silos for the MFA are east of the old town jail, facing Pacific Street on the south side of the railroad tracks.


The first building in Chamois was built in 1854 where a small white building now stands beside the railroad tracks on North Main Street.  The red brick Masonic Hall, which was built in 1856, is the oldest building still standing in Chamois.