WL history strikes again

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The 175th Committee delivered one last time Monday night, April 28. Though West Liberty's 175th Anniversary is over, committee member Bob Cline revived his video series for a final hurrah.

Throughout 2013, Cline headed several video presentations at the community center, highlighting the fire department, veterans and other pieces of West Liberty's history.

He thought he had shown his entire collection until a few weeks ago when, after taking a closer look, he realized there was one last nugget of history hidden in the stacks.

"I misunderstood the bottom videos in the collection," said Cline before the presentation," I thought they were about veterans, and we had already had a night for veterans. Turns out they weren't."

The lost footage was actually a collection of specials about West Liberty recorded in the 1970s, covering everything from the phone company to the American Legion Building.

"I need to thank Millie Gregg for having the foresight to put these together," said Cline. After that, it was showtime.

First up was a discussion between Filmore Melick and his mother about the history of the WL telephone company, known as Liberty Communications today. He highlighted the growth of the business and the changes to its current location.

There was a photo showing the last call from the manual machine as the business switched over to dial phones. Then it went from electronic boards to digital boards.

Next, an in-depth discussion with Don Bemis and his lifelong work to bring a Legion building to West Liberty. In the 1920s the Legion got its charter, paying $10 a month for rent to stay in a shoe store.

However, they changed locations and built the American Legion building we know today, even though there was little money to aid it along. It truly was a community project.

Former WL Postmaster Roger Johnston gave a history of the post office in town, including how it jumped around several times before landing where it is today. That was followed by a discussion by Wally and Dotty Mays of the ancient Lake Calvin that ran through our part of Iowa an estimated 60,000 years ago.

Next, Mrs. John Blair talked quilting with a group at the Simpson Home, Ruth Kirby highlighted downtown West Liberty and several 1970s community members talked about coming to town at the senior meal site.

It was a smorgasbord of history, pieced together into a 110 minute special. The whole time the audience of more than 40 could be heard reminiscing with the video.

While the 175th Committee has been disbanded, it has risen again as the 176th Committee, a group committed to a cleaner, greener West Liberty.

It now focuses on the beautification and future of West Liberty, but for one last night residents were able to live in the past.

A quick note, The Index was graciously given a 175th banner. We’re now looking for 175th Committee Members to come in and sign it. So far we have five signatures, we’re looking for the following people: Bill Koellner, Ken Ruegsegger, Conrad Gregg, Scott Peters, Tim Atkinson, Wayne Steen, Letha Ottaway, Priscillia Haessig, Tara Lindsay, Miny Heick, Anne Hocke, Francisco Martinez, Marian Hart and Jim Keele.
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