By Gary Herrity
Special to the Herald
— Picture: The old horse livery business in the 1880’s, which became Becker’s and the Fire Place Shop, near where Doyle’s is today.
Four Square Park in Lyons was always the hub of wonderful entertainment -- at its band shell and, of course, in the Parkside Movie Theater, which showed all the latest movies at very reasonable prices! Every year after the town’s first centennial, in 1936, Lyons would have a huge celebration there, with ferris-wheels and all kinds of carnival food and entertainment. Behind and along-side the theater, Muffy remembers Augus Gerdes’ welding shop.
In the second half of the fourth block was: Stuedeman’s Shoes, and the Budweiser Tavern, which is now well-known as The Lyons Tap. Across the street, you may recall LaCantina at #116 and Maury and Joe Brick’s Plumbing, at #118-120. There was a Mr. Papykyriakos who ran a restaurant there, which later became Chuck’s (Holm’s), and on the alley, Art Feddersen ran a popular soda shop that served as a north-end rendezvous for all the Clinton Herald’s paper carriers.
Back on the other side of the street were Mike Lollich’s at #119; Kershner’s Bakery; and The Lyons Drug Store, once run by G.W. Schenk and, later, by Travis Schankel. There was a Ben Franklin’s around the corner, operated by Joe Robinson; and the Steiner Meat Market was right next-door. Just behind them, Max Naeve, a kindly acquaintance of Muffy’s, ran a welding shop. Let’s not forget Rudman’s Insurance, just before the Drug Store, which was later run by Carl Bach and his right-hand-man (as well as Lyons Business District backbone), Paul Murphy. Just east of the drug store was Frank Busk’s Bar. His son Russell went to Iowa and played football with the famous Ironmen of 1939.
Two baseball teams emanated from Main Avenue --- The Lyons Merchants, for adult players; and Muffy’s Rox, for 12-15 year-old youth. The businessmen of Lyons always took seriously and supported the civic activities in their area, and these were just a few of them. Art in the Park got its start in Lyons, and the north end’s week-end farmer’s market continues to flourish there each summer.
Then came 2nd Street, with its Buell Block on the north side, built in 1891. In it were Hagge’s Dry Goods, W.C. Roeh Hardware, Otto Rockrohr’s Clothing, and one of Sino’s Grocery Stores at #206. Upstairs, there was McFarland Photography; Drs. King and Johnson; A.K. Meyer; and Judge Insurance, with Ray Judge and his proficient secretary and partner, Gert Lego. Beyond that was a Standard Oil service station, now Jensen’s. At #208 was Ray Jost Jewelry; #210 Joe Roode Barbershop; #212 was the Liquor Store (later to be Sweetheart Bakery); and Mayer Law Offices were located at #214. On the south corner of 2nd and Main was Adler’s Standard Station, (after the Congregational Church was torn down). After the alley would come the extremely popular Snack Harbor drive-in, with its delicious Beef Burgers, run by Allan Jensen; then, Ernie Jones Shoe and Saddlery; and the Flatiron Park, which disappeared after about 1936.
In the sixth block was: Del Thompson’s, Peters & Holm Cream Station, F.H. “Francie” Mass Grocery, and Clara Gregerson’s Antiques at #228; Clint’s Barber Shop at #232, and Paley Shoe Repair. All of those businesses existed between 1936-1945.
Frank Proost had a welding shop across from where Rastrelli’s Restaurant is today. Frank’s son, Bob, once studied art at Stone City under the great Grant Wood. Before Rastrelli’s, there was The American Tavern at #240; Fada’s Tavern at #242; Chris Boysen's Hardware; and within that general area, Brad Fellows ran the Mello Crème Donut Store. McClusky’s Plumbing Shop was also in that vicinity.
At #241, was the Lyons Auto Body; and at 243, Joe Roode’s Barbershop; Clem Holdgrapher’s Bike Shop; and, near Proost’s, The Harry Kamer and Sewell Farm Machinery Co.
As the picture of the 6th Block depicts, there was Becker Feed, after a “shoeing and livery” business; Boy Petersen’s, which became Herrity cousin (Milo) Doyle’s place; Porky’s; and an auto dealer known for selling Whippets, which were related to Willys and Overland automobiles. Then, Louis Craft’s; and A.E. Jensen’s Groceries, (who later ran Snack Harbor!) Across the street, on the corner, was the Lyons Lumber Company, run by the Borbecks. And finally, in the seventh block, were the Struve Model Roller Mill and Reimers’ Grocery Store. Paddy Babcock’s Skelly Station was on the corner, too.
Muffy lived his business life thinking mostly about Main Ave. He had a couple of scary experiences along the way. On March 31, 1977, the Paaske Fire took place and Muffy was afraid for his business, so he started handing boxes of things from the store to any helpers who came in, directing them to take them to Darlene’s, Soesbe’s, or Rastrelli’s. He and friends cleared out the entire store in no time, and when he restocked all of that merchandize, he noted that “not a sock was missing!”
Another close call happened in 1960 when some men came in and robbed Muffy and tied him up with his own ties, and taped his mouth shut and threw him into the restroom, took everything they could, and locked the door. Muffy had moistened his lips before the tape went on and he soon had his mouth free to yell for help to Susan Junge’s beauty shop next door. Coincidently, his dear wife Lois was there, and came to his rescue. One man was shaking so badly that he couldn’t undo Muffy, so Lois said, “let me do that” and soon had him free. Clinton Chief of Police, then Detective Buck Friis was on the scene in no time, and knew where the crooks were headed and had them picked up in the van spotted by a sharp neighbor!
Think of all the businesses -- and of all the people running them!! The avenue must have supported literally hundreds of families and, as Muffy recalls it, they were all very good friends too ... who really enjoyed the busy hub-bub of local commerce in those old-fashioned, neighborly times!