By Bill Wiest
Bill Wiest was born in Canby May 23, 1924 to Emil (Rip) and Clara Wiest. He has a sister, Lorraine, and a brother, James. Among his childhood memories were playing in the park and running through the sprinklers all summer long. Alex Knutson managed the park. Bill remembers the big checkerboard built into the ground there and the large checkers --double for kings and singles for queens --with wire handles. These were stored at the park [now Central Park] in a small building [same location as shelter location now] and the kids could use them any time. The checkers were always there. At that time there were no vandalism problems. The checkerboard was covered over when the current shelter was built.
Uptown Canby had a lot more stores at the time he was growing up. Many cafes and grocery stores. Chris Olson had a large double front store where the bank parking lot is today. Also for a short time there were two newspapers --the Canby News and the Canby Press. Stores were open both Wednesday and Saturday nights and the streets were full of people. There was a big watering place for the horses in the are which is now our main intersection. A little to the East of the intersection was a hitching post for the horses.
Bill's dad [Emil (Rip) Wiest] worked at the rollermill until it burned down. [The rollermill was located where Doug's Marine is today: 122 E 1st ST] He then went to work for Pelstring-Erickson Creamery located where the recently demolished creamery building [located across the street from High School gymnasiums] stood. Later he went into business with Herb Sherlin, creating Canby Produce. Rip's sons, Bill and Jim Wiest, worked with them running a country route, bringing eggs and cream in. At certain times of the year, they went out to the farm places to catch chickens that farmers wanted to sell.
Bill remembered the Commercial Hotel which was located on the corner where the Sioux Valley Canby Clinic and Hospital [Sanford] is today. His aunt, Kate Horner, (who was his dad's sister), ran the hotel and employed many women to cook and serve many meals and clean the rooms each day. The hotel was a half block away from The Depot and many trains came through Canby every day. Many salesmen would get off the train and stay overnight at the hotel. They would play cards and smoke cigars, making the air very smokey. Sheriff Snortum would stop in to make sure everything stayed peaceful. A man name Clair Thomas would meet the trains and put the salemen's baggage on a large cart and bring it over to the sample house located behind the hotel. The salesmen would spread their samples out for the local businessmen to look over and place their orders. Kate Horner sold the hotel to Otto Peterson. The last owner was Hilda Erickson. Then the hotel was torn down to make room for Senior Haven.
Most kids didn't have any spending money. Bill had a daily and Sunday paper route for the Minneapolis Tribune and he had about 200 customers. The Snortum kids, Millard kids, and Qualley kids also had paper routes for various other papers. The papers were delivered to the post office which was located where the current bank is now. The kids would fill their bike baskets with papers, deliver them, and return for more.
When Bill went to school, there was a normal training school and the students would come over to the high school for teaching experience. He recalled one Latin teacher who probably didn't know more about the subject than the students.
Bill also remembered Robert Wadlow, considered a giant in size. When this man visited Canby, Ed Maertens, a very tall person, couldn't reach Mr Wadlow's head. When Mr. Wadlow held a glass of pop in his giant hand, it looked like a miniature.
At that time the American Legion owned the Fairgrounds property. Dances and roller-skating were both held in the Argonne Pavillion in nice weather. This building was used for many years for [YMC] county fair exhibits. [The original building was torn down & replaced with a new building.]
Bill went into the Cities Service station in 1961 and stayed there until he retired in 1998. Previous to going into [business at] the station, he had been in the Army. Having went in when the 47th Division was activated during the Korean Conflict. He was part of Service Battery, 175 Field Artillery Battalion, a National Guard unit in Dawson, MN. Bill married LaMorne Benner from Gary in 1949, and they have spent most of their married life in Canby.
©William Wiest 2009
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