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Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Lumberyards, Pot-Bellied Stoves and Mormons

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rumor has it that Osama Bin Laden called the US Navy Seals strike himself. He had grown tired of five years of being stuck in a house with 3 nagging wives.

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Le Mars now has only one lumberyard but fifty years ago we had one for approximately every 1200 residents. That wasn't unusual, for Akron, Kingsley and Remsen, (all in the 1000 neighborhood) each had two. Brunsville and Craig also had yards. Veale's, then run by Fred Veale of an old line Le Mars family, and had the lion's share of the business. Fareway grocery now is on that location.

Just north of Veale's at 215, 1st Street NE, Moore's was owned and managed by Stanley Post, with right hand man Ivan Shultz. Carrie and Ed Nelle had Nelle's at 116 Central Avenue SE, with storage across the street. Their son, Myron, would later open Le Mars Cashway on highway 75 Southwest.

When I first started in the construction business in 1957, Lampert Yards was the ugly stepchild of Le Mars lumber suppliers. The small office with its pot-bellied stove was located where the public library is today, with storage across the street. A very young Jud McDougall Jr. was a fine manager but Lampert's didn't give him much to work with. A lack of inventory and non-competitive pricing were too much to overcome.

I have no doubt that if about a decade later Ubbe Jurrens hadn't come to manage the Le Mars Lampert Yards around 1970, there would not be a Lampert's in Le Mars today. Ubbe was aggressive, personable and knowledgeable, and it wasn't long before he cut deeply into his competitors' business. Webster City and Le Mars are the only Lampert's stores remaining in Iowa.

Originally founded in 1887 in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, it was called "Lampert's," by brothers Jacob and Leonard Lampert who had been born in Switzerland. They owned ten yards by the turn of the century and currently operate 34 lumber yards, located in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

After a dispute 1924 over whose son should control the company, Leonard retained all properties west of a line from Duluth to Mankato, to approximately Sioux City (Le Mars should have gone to Leonard!) and became Lampert Lumber. Jacob kept those yards east and south of that line and they became known as Lampert Yards. By 1937, the combined Lampert's had a total of 53 yards, and would later reach a peak of 75. They are now listed as Lampert Yards, Lampert Lumber, Lampert Building Supplies, or just plain Lampert's.

Almost all lumberyards in those days sold coal and it was not unusual to have to remove coal dust from material after receiving it. They also stocked rock lath, and wood lath, but not much drywall in 1957, for it would be a few years before it would come into general use in rural Iowa. Nor did they handle tools, or electrical and plumbing supplies. Thin balsam wool blankets was the insulation of choice, and birch cabinets and trim were considered top notch.

Pot bellied stoves were in the center of many yards in those days, and the offices were a magnet for carpenters, both working and unemployed. Nail keg "chairs" and spittoons were other reasons most women avoided these old time lumber yards.

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Talk about politicians not getting along! Competition was fierce and lumbermen would often send a truck to a Sioux City wholesaler for a few items rather than borrow from a competitor.

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I started the Le Mars Building Center in 1966 but stocked only a few pieces of lumber, concentrating on tool and specialty items the yards and hardware stores did not sell.

Nearly every older lumberyard in the country was located within shouting distance of a railroad, for that is how nearly all material was delivered to them.

There aren't many true lumber yards left in Iowa, having been replaced by Home Centers. Most of those have as many tomato plants and appliances as lumber. Noticeably missing at most of these mega stores are sales people, both in quantity and quality -- and spittoons and kegs.

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Only 10% of likely U.S. voters say they would vote for or against a candidate because of the latter's religious faith, but eighteen percent of Evangelical Christian voters wouldn't give their vote to a person based on the religion the candidate practices. These results from a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey are particularly important to candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, both Mormons.

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Weinergate -- has any incident ever given rise to more jokes?!

Don Paulin 7557 30th AV, Norwalk, IA 50211. 2carpenterdon@gmail.com. 515-201-7236

By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That