Good times in Allen, Nebraska
Written by Bob Heliker
After my Dad died when I was 5, I spent a lot of time visiting with my relatives. My Grandparents, Roy and Jessie Heliker lived in or near Allen all of their lives, and I spent a lot of time with them. I have many pleasant memories of the days that I spent roaming the hills and playing with friends in Allen. I remember good times with Bill Mitchell, Roger and Bill Schrader, Jack Dietz and Bob Good.
Back in the early 1940's, car tires all had inner tubes made of natural rubber. We would take tubes that weren't good enough to use on the road anymore, cut across the tube to form large rubber bands. We would stretch them over "guns" that we had sawn out of the ends of peach crates or other wood that we could lay our hands on, and secure one end with a clamp style clothes pin. When the pin was squeezed, the band would launch and travel for quite a distance-especially if it was from a long barreled version. At close range, they also gave a pretty good sting. Distance and sting ratings could be increased by tying a knot in the band effectively shortening it and increasing the tension. We would play army until well after the sun went down with these weapons.
Grandma and Grandpa lived in a small house across the street from the park. The house was small and did not have running water until the early 50's. The old out house still stands in the back yard today. Grandma and Grandpa always had a big garden. Grandma would can and preserve and store the output of her labors in a root cellar behind the house. The large strawberry bed provided strawberry preserves throughout the winter until the berries were producing the next year.
Neither Grandma nor Grandpa ever had a driver's license. In Allen, they could walk anywhere they needed to go. There was a bus that ran daily if they needed to go to Sioux City or any of the small towns around, and they rarely needed to leave town. Grandpa liked to sit on the back porch in the evenings, smoking his pipe and listening to the birds singing in the trees. Grandma spent much of her time in her gardens tending iris, phlox, peonies and many other varieties of flowers. The whole south side of the lawn ended in lilac bushes, so the whole house smelled of lilac blossoms in the spring. A large consul radio sat in the living room, and I remember Grandma and Grandpa listening to the news, particularly during World War II when my Uncle Virgil was serving in the Army in Europe. No television in those days.
In the fall, I would go to the elevator with Grandpa and roam among the conveyors and chutes in the back, and watch as wagons and occasionally a truck would come to unload corn. There was a big section of the drive through that could be raised to elevate the front of the wagons so the corn would run out without having to shovel. Allen had rail service at that time, and the tracks ran on the backside of the elevator, which was much lower than the main floor as it was built into a hillside. Corn was shipped in regular box cars back then, so long flexible chutes were directed into the car and the corn directed into the corners and ends and then the center of the car filled as full as possible. The chutes were manipulated by my Granddad. The corn dust would be so thick that you could scarcely see across the car, and the only respiratory protection was a handkerchief tied across his face. Gravity provided all of the energy to move the corn. It was quite a process compared to filling hopper cars as we do now. I'm sure unloading was an even greater chore.
During hunting season, Grandpa would walk home from the elevator, eat a quick sandwich, and walk with me to the edge of town where he could get a limit of pheasants out of the road ditches and still be back in time for him to go to work
I recently returned to Allen to see what the town looked like after nearly 40 years. To my surprise, the main part of town was much the same. Anderson's Drug Store and the Allen Bank now are used for other purposes, but the old Cash Store is still operating as a retail store. Today, it is a grocery store, were it was primarily a dry goods store when I was a kid. The old Movie Theater where I watched so many of the old classics has been torn down, and the Holmquist elevator that my Granddad managed burned to the ground many years ago.
My Grandma was librarian for a number of years. The building where she watched over the town's books and periodicals is still there, but is used for another purpose. The Assembly of God Church now houses the Historical Museum.
I missed the old Methodist Church that sat on a corner across from the City Park. It was torn down a number of years ago and another built across town. My great Grandfather Joseph Heliker helped build the original building.
I was able to find the farm where my "Uncle" (actually a second cousin) Rollie Chase had a few milk cows. He ran a small milk route in Allen. I can remember delivering milk on a cold winter day in his old Model T truck. I also remember him squirting the cats as he milked, and the old hand cranked cream separator that stood on the back porch.
I was also able to find the site of the farm that my Uncle Clifford Clem and his family rented for awhile east of town in the 1940's. When they lived there, the house had neither electricity nor indoor plumbing. Nothing remains of the buildings today.
I visited the site of the Springbank Friends church where my Grandpa Clem was pastor from 1925-1930. It was during this time that my Mother met my Dad. They were both going to Allen High School at the time.
As you can see, I have many fond memories of Allen and the people that I knew and loved there. I really enjoyed being able to return and revisit so many of the places that I remembered from all those years past. People and places may come and go, but childhood memories go on forever.
(C) 2003-2014 Robin Mosier