FRONTENAC — It all started with a plate.
Well, the reason Anna Marie Fuertsch Krusic decided to share her memories of her beloved hometown.
Anna Marie had a visit with her physical therapist at her residence. Her therapist looked up and and saw a plate which read “Frontenac, Kansas 1886 -1986 centennial.”
After Anna Marie told the story of the plate, she was told she ought to share her story.
At first, she was hesitant of the idea. After her therapist left, she thought to herself that maybe she should.
“After she left, I thought it would be great to share for homecoming,” Anna Marie said.
Anna Marie is a life-long resident, she was born and raised in Frontenac.
She said she’s proud of her town and all the memories of her early days.
The plate led to the first homecoming in 1986 during the city’s 100th year anniversary.
“That’s part of me,” she said pointing to the plate. “My daughter fixed this all up [room setup] for me and I told her I had to have my plate. That’s part of me.”
As a homecoming committee member Anna Marie and others, had to find a way to raise money for the event.
She searched for old pictures of the town and designed the plate for that special day and then went out on the town to sell them.
“I had to look for old pictures and put them all together,” Anna Marie said. “Norm didn't help me and I did it all by myself. I put them all together.”
Norman — Norm for short — was her high school sweetheart and husband who was also involved with the community and had an eye for art.
Along with Anna Marie’s involvement with the homecoming committee she was also active in the Education Foundation and had also received a Citizen Award.
Anna Marie has a keen memory of the past and took the time to write it just for everyone to see.
Her story includes where all the stores were on what was once Main Street, and the devastating fire which burned many structures to the ground in 1940. She also remembers the homeless men who sought warmth at city hall.
Here is her story:
“When I was young, Frontenac seemed so large because it had so many stores and buildings, especially those on Main Street. On the south side, starting from the east, was a Parisalt bakery, Sylvester’s barber shop, a cleaners and Ziegler Jewelry store, Friskel’s Funeral Home and Fedell’s Drug Store, which also housed Dr. Scott’s medical office. Next door Josie ran her restaurant, an extremely popular eatery; Scavezzi’s bar was next door and nearby was Bertone’s auto shop. A popular attraction on this side and occupying a prominent place was the Band Dome where local citizens with musical talent held enjoyable band concerts. In this area, too, were public free movies in the summertime, public speakers, plus an itinerant “medicine man” who sold his “cure all” wares from his horse and buggy.
A block west stood the Catholic Community Hall, commonly known as Parish Hall. Near it was the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and elementary school building. Our community was devastated when both structures burned to the ground in 1940. Our loyal citizens rose to the occasion, however, and were not to be denied of their religious services and schooling, for a new and magnificent Sacred Heart (still existing today), was up and running, along with the elementary school (grades 1-8) by the fall of 1941. Much of the church and school labor was done by proud and industrious local people. The parish priests’ home was adjacent to the church, and around the corner heading south is where the Sisters of St. Joseph, the school’s teachers had a home.
Moving a bit west and on the north side of the street, one could find a tailor shop, Turlip’s grocery, and Johnson’s potato chip factory. On the corner sat Dr. Columbo’s medical practice where he treated many of our local residents. Also on that side and several yards from Dr. Columbo was Moriconi’s Italian grocery and near it was Lipashek’s garage. Over east a half block, one could drink and dance at the Blue Goose. A short distance away, Mr. Guerrieri repaired shoes in his shop, and next door Pallucca’s Italian grocery satisfied customers with its choice products.
On the corner was the Miners State Bank, and across the street one could enjoy a game of pool at my uncle John Fuertsch’s pool hall, where he also rented the southwest room to barber Jack Silva and later Frank Prete. On February 28, 1928 a major fire on the north side devastated my dad’s property.
City Hall, housing city business, the fire department and the city jail was perched in the middle of the street. Next door was Hebenstret’s blacksmith shop and later auto garage. On this corner sat the Post Office handling two mail deliveries a day. We could always see Mr. Menichetti carrying the mail on his manual cart from the depot one block north, at precisely ten in the morning and two in the afternoon. In an office in back of the Post Office, Charles Cicero and Frank Borgna with Anton Baima as their printer published the Frontenac Press, a weekly newspaper of the late 30’s and early 40’s. In the middle of Depot Street was Verna Davis’ telephone office, which employed many young women, including me, through the years. Across the street was the Friskel rooming house and the town’s earliest post office, home of Charles Friskel, our first postmaster.
Incidentally and back to our City Hall, homeless men could often be seen there where they sought warmth and sleep in the winter time. The young paper carriers delighted in hearing their wanderlust stories. Many of these homeless could also count on the charitable people from Frontenac for a sandwich and sometimes a dinner.
Two blocks north of the depot, citizens relished their hearth with baked bread and bread sticks baked at Vacca’s bakery (this business still operates today) and Veltri’s always crowded tavern, dance floor and Bocci court was just north of the bakery. A couple blocks north, Buffo supplied the area with groceries. Two more grocery stores, Terlip’s and Ginardi’s thrived north of the railroad tracks in an area called Grasshopper. Not too far away, east of these two were the Menghini Packing House, home of fine meats and Shorty’s Speakeasy, a satisfier for the late night and early morning drinker.
Now back on the corner of McKay Street on the north side and across from the Post Office sat P. P. Mingori’s bar, noted for its late night hours. Next to the bar was Komac’s wallpaper and paint store. A short distance to the east, Sam Cicero had his service station and across the street Joe Oberto ran his station. A few doors from there was the Methodist Church, one of the two denominational churches in Frontenac. Unfortunately this wooden structure burned to the ground in the 40’s and its loyal parishioners built a new one nearby and a half block south of Cicero’s. Two blocks south of the church, the Wolowniks operated a small grocery store and craft shop and two blocks west of here Dr. Gish took care of his patients in his home
In our early days, getting to Pittsburg and back was never a problem, for a bus ran hourly from six in the morning until 10 at night. With that mode of transportation one could ride a trolley carrying passengers to Girard. Other remembrances include the following: Outhouses were prominent and we would take our baths in a tub placed in back of the warm cook stove. To economize we sometimes would help feed the coal stove by our walking the railroad tracks and picking up the loose coal that fell from the coal cars. We could also get chunks of ice the same way in the summer for our iceboxes. After the arduous and primitive task of washing clothes, we hung them to dry on our outside wire lines. For much of our entertainment, we relied on the radio for the news and soap operas until television arrived in many homes in the 50’s.
Frontenac, my town, celebrated its Centennial in 1986. To help celebrate I gathered many of the old pictures of the town and designed and made a plate with those pictures. Lacking cookbooks, I then put together three consecutive ones and called the last one Festa Italiano. All of our Italian ladies and others contributed recipes and we sold them and the plates. My husband Norman, an art teacher and artist, painted a large watercolor picture of 1905 Main Street Frontenac. Reprints were also made and sold. Many years later that picture, as a prototype for early small towns, was used for the cover of the journal Teaching Cather. Ever since that time, Frontenac Education Foundation has sponsored a Festa Italiana where many local citizens and others would gather and offer their specialties for sale. The proceeds from this highly successful venture are still used for college bound Frontenac High School graduating seniors.
Until 1941, my high school could not claim a yearbook, but in 1941 my class decided to end that void. So we designed one and Norman again came to the forefront and designed the cover with his portrait of the Raider, Frontenac’s long-time mascot. The school and town still use that design.
No question that I have a love affair with my hometown and I cherish the Outstanding Alumni Award, Citizen Award and later being the Grand Marshall of the Homecoming Parade. And am I ever (hopefully you too) looking forward to our Homecoming this year June 7-10.
The above memories are to me realities and will lovingly remain with me forever.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.