Archive for Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Shouts and Murmurs

It’s all part of Tonganoxie history

June 23, 2004

Two weeks ago in this column I asked readers for information about Nick Marel. "Old Nick," as he was called, lived in the Tonganoxie area from 1942 until his death in 1968. He was a stonemason, and most, if not all, of the homes, structures and barns he built in this area still exist today.

On the day the paper came out, by 8:30 a.m. two readers had already called to tell me more about Nick. Numerous other calls came in during the next week. Among those who called was Gladys Steffen, a former Tonganoxie resident -- and a former neighbor of Nick's. Mrs. Steffen now lives north of Jarbalo.

Mrs. Steffen said she remembered the newspaper story about Nick that had run in area newspapers in the early 1960s. (Kay Soetaert had first mentioned a newspaper story about Nick.) In fact, Mrs. Steffen recalled that she had clipped the story and mailed it to Mrs. Charles Stough, the wife of a Lawrence attorney for whom Nick had built a house on a lake near Lone Star.

Turns out, Mrs. Steffen had held on to the thank you letter the Stoughs sent to her. Last week she hunted that up, and from the date on the letter she approximated the date of the newspaper story.

The industrious lady then went to the Leaven-worth Library and scoured through microfilmed copies of the Leaven-worth Times.

About a week after Mrs. Steffen called, I came to work one morning and on my desk was a copy of the story from the June 26, 1961, edition of The Leavenworth Times. And, just as nice of a surprise was her photo album that included two snapshots of Nick Marel.

At last, I could see a picture of the man whom I could only vaguely recall from my childhood.

To Mrs. Steffen and others who've contacted me with information about Nick, thank you. Because of other obligations last week, I didn't have time to work on the story. But starting today I'll get back on it. I will call and visit people whom readers have told me will know about Nick. And gradually, thanks to the enthusiasm and input of many, I hope to compile a written portrait of a man whose stone houses will probably outlast all of the other buildings in town.


The sound of cannon balls is no more.

At last week's city council meeting it was announced the city's insurer would not insure the swimming pool unless the diving boards are removed.

According to local historian John Lenahan, the pool opened in 1926.

Those of us with long memories of the "Chief Tonganoxie Swimming Pool" will recall the annual unofficial summer contest among teenaged boys to see who could make the biggest, loudest splash.

They'd jump off the high dive, knees tucked to their chins, arms wrapped around their legs and as they hit the water there'd be a loud boom -- and then the splash.

It's a special pool, unique in its circular shape, as well as in its history. Who around here hasn't talked to someone whose parents or grandparents learned to swim in the Tonganoxie pool. And it's a pool, with or without diving boards and the cannonballs that go along with it, where memories will continue to be made.

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