The Odessa Record -

This Week in Odessa History

Businesses change ownership, pool opens, gold found in Grant County


100 years ago

The Odessa Record

June 13, 1919

News updates: The AIG Barnes Shows yesterday brought one of the biggest crowds to Odessa in recent years.

The circus was late in arriving and children were informed that they would be held strictly responsible for any absence at school, but even then, there were enough boys on hand to see that it was located and set up properly. The late arrival caused the management to cancel the parade.

Crab Creek is gradually drying up and local fishermen welcome the fact, as they plan to eliminate all carp found in stagnant ponds.

Official notice has been received of the return of pre-war postage rates, and first-class letters can again be mailed for 2 cents.

Manager Al Wagner is a busy man, getting the Odessa Concert Band lined up for the Ritzville Fourth of July celebration, where they will play. Many of the members are still with the armed services, and the present membership numbers only 15.

The Odessa schools are rounding out the year. The present graduating class is the largest in history, including four boys and five girls.

The class roll includes Anna Mayer, Martha Schafer, Madeline O’Leary, Esther Deets, Doris Ganson, Clifford Patton, William Geissler, Eardly Glass and Joe Weik.

The war is over, but Glen Becker writes of the bakery at the camp where he is stationed in France. They are still producing 27,390 loaves of bread each day, he states.

Superintendent E.L. Cherry has just about finished taking the school census for the district. He reports there are 447 names, including the children between the ages of 4 and 21, in the district.

The Odessa baseball club returned to its stride and took the Lind team by a score of 12 to 1.

J.I. Webley and family have filed a placer claim on gold bearing ground in Grant County near Beverly.

Farmers again this year will follow a method they used during last year’s harvest. They have found it profitable to build wooden grain storage bins in their fields and, where combines are used, pull a wagon or two-wheeled tank by the side of the rig to receive wheat for dumping in the bins. Some draw the cart with an extra horse.

75 years ago

The Odessa Record

June 15, 1944

Swimming pool opens Friday: The public swimming pool will open on Friday, June 16, with Miss Marge Wachter as manager and life guard. She announces that tickets will be sold at the pool office until 1 o’clock Friday, at which time the pool will open.

Pool hours are from 1 till 5 in the afternoon and 7 to 9 in the evening. Season tickets will be sold on a restricted basis, the management reserving the right to lease the pool to private groups at any time.

Season tickets will be the same as in former years, with grade school age at 75 cents, high school, $1.50 and adults, $2.00.

Wedding plans are announced here: With the arrival of Pfc. Elmer Heimbigner from his medical studies at the Northwestern University in Chicago, announcement of his forthcoming marriage to Miss Lois Weber, at Ritzville, on Tuesday, June 20. Invitations have been mailed to an informal reception for the couple at the Odessa city hall the same evening.

50 years ago

The Odessa Record

June 19, 1969

W-W Insurance Agency sold to Schmidt: The W-W Insurance Agency has been sold, effective July 1, 1969, to Clarence Schmidt, it was announced this week by Harlan Wilskie and Mr. Schmidt.

Dan Wilskie, who has operated the insurance firm since 1951, suffered a stroke on May 26 and has been hospitalized here since that date. E.J. Wachter, a former partner in the business from 1951 until 1963, has been managing the business since Mr. Wilskie became ill.

After 20 years with the Odessa Trading Co. – the parts department manager – Clarence has submitted his resignation in order that he might spend his full time in the insurance business. Assisted by his wife, Helen, the Schmidts will be operating from the same office as that held by Wilskie. Mrs. Schmidt has been working with Mr. Wachter for several days in becoming acquainted with the new enterprise.

It is planned that the Schmidts will be continuing with the insurance coverages and accounts which have been handled by Mr. Wilskie for a number of years. They will also retain their association with Farmers Insurance Group in the new office.

No announcement has been made, yet, of a successor to Mr. Schmidt at Odessa Trading Company.

Wants ground floor location & larger area for library: “I wish to re-state the need for a ground-floor location for the public library,” Mrs. Anona Heimbigner, library board member told the town council Monday evening. “We desperately need more room, too,” she stated. The library is currently located on the second floor of the city hall.

The council visitor urged that the members continue to plan for and consider the need of the community for a better library facility. She also requested that the librarian’s salary, which is only $25 per month, be increased. A request for more than the $1,500, which has been the total annual budget in recent years, was also made.

The library board representative also asked the council to consider placing the $500 Library Building fund on interest. The council voted to have the treasurer invest library and city building accumulated reserve funds of over $2,000 in pay bonds where interest could be earned.

Permits were approved for the hanging of a small sign over the sidewalk and at the new business enterprise, Trash and Treasures, and for the construction of a new home by Delbert Cook in the 700 block of East 2nd Avenue.

Water problems on the north hill were discussed. With the heavy draw-down during hot afternoons and evenings on hot days, the city has been unable to maintain water pressure at Dave Wacker’s new home. Several ideas as to a solution for the problem were discussed.

It was stated by the City Clerk Dorothy Schauerman that several inquiries had been received as to the availability of city property on or near the north hill. The council determined that they be held in abeyance until a solution to the water pressure problem is determined.

Cleaning and/or conversion of the heating plant at city hall was discussed after Lamar Heimbigner reported that fire brick was falling out of the fire box. Conversion to fuel oil was considered as was the possibility of installing blower-type heaters to serve the third floor, thereby cutting down the demand on the old furnace. No decisions were reached.

No action has been taken on the pending sewer project. A report given for Don Gray of Yakima engineering firm indicates that they were awaiting approval of federal and state grant funds, estimated at $60,000, for the sewage treatment lagoon before proceeding with the project.

Leon Walter, newly-appointed council member, attended this, his first, council session Monday night.

25 years ago

The Odessa Record

June 16, 1994

Odessa Drug, town’s oldest business, changes hands after 36 years: Odessa Drug, the town’s oldest business, in continuous operation for the past 93 years, has been sold.

Announcement of the change in ownership was made Friday by Marshall and Joyce Roberts, who are retiring from business after operating the store for nearly 36 years, and Ted and Kelly Bruya, the purchasers.

The Robertses plan an active retirement, and they will continue to make Odessa their home. Marsh Roberts, an Odessa business and civic leader, is the longest practicing pharmacist in Lincoln County.

The new owners are originally from Colfax. They have been living in Snohomish, Wash., for the past seven years. They have two children, Alexia, 5, and Aaron, 2. Ted Bruya was a hospital pharmacist at the Evergreen Hospital in nearby Kirkland. The Bruyas assumed operation of the business on Monday.

A classic Odessa dust storm was raging on the summer day in 1958 when Marsh and Joyce Roberts first came to look at Odessa Drug. Marsh had earlier graduated from the School of Pharmacy at Washington State University and had just completed a year with the prestigious Hart & Dilitush Pharmacy in Spokane, where he was assistant manager. He’d heard the Odessa Drug was for sale and had come to see the store and the town.

A tumble weed was bouncing down the main street, Joyce recalls. The Robertses weren’t overly impressed on that first visit, but the second time they visited Odessa it was a beautiful day. They decided to buy the drug store but agreed between themselves to stay only two years before moving on to bigger and better things.

Marsh and Joyce had both graduated from Tekoa High School. Marsh grew up there. His father, a pharmacist, owned the drug store. Joyce was born in North Dakota. She moved with her family to Kalispell, Mont., and later Tekoa. After high school, she went on to graduate from the University of Idaho while Marsh went to WSU, serving for a time in the U.S. Navy before completing his studies.

Odessa Drug was opened on April 1, 1901, by Dr. J.L. Kelly, then one of two physicians in the as yet unincorporated town of less than 400 inhabitants. The business was sold in 1904 to Frederick Thiel, a pharmacist whose family were pioneers in Ritzville and Odessa.

Thiel built the two-story Thiel Block to house the drug store, a bank, the post office and another retail store as well as professional offices upstairs. He operated Odessa Drug for 22 years, selling the business to J.R. Parrish, a pharmacist from Wilbur.

When Parrish died in 1936, Dr. L.J. Bonney bought Odessa Drug, and employed pharmacists to manage the store. He sold the business to Alvin and Margaret Iltz in the early 1950s.

In 1959, the Robertses moved the store from the Thiel Block across the street to the southeast corner of First Avenue and Alder Street. Four years later, Odessa Drug’s floor area was expanded to include the two store spaces next door. These had been occupied by Ed Heubner’s barber shop and the office of The Odessa Record.

Through the years, Marsh has operated a personal-service store, typical of the vanishing breed of small-town drug stores. He’s gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to fill prescriptions and provide medicine. He remembers the Mount St. Helens ash fall of May 18, 1980, when one patron needing medicine rode into Odessa on horseback from Schoonover. Both the man and the horse wore masks. The horse was tethered to the lamppost in front of the store. For the first two days after the ash fell, Marsh handed prescriptions out the front door. Patrons were not allowed inside the store for fear of contamination by the ash to medicine stocks.

Accidents and emergencies have brought Marsh immediately to the store after hours on many occasions.

There have been vast changes in drug stores during Marsh’s career as a pharmacist. A wide array of health, insurance plans of patrons have made computerized record-keeping mandatory. In the retail aspect of the business, inventories today are far different than they once were. Appliances once sold well. Today only a limited variety is stocked.

“I believe we’ve seen the pendulum swing as far as it’s going to,” said Marsh, referring to the trend by small-town residents toward shopping at discount houses in the cities. In many areas of merchandising, small-town stores can still compete by virtue of the service to shoppers they offer, he said. Odessa Drug can do a better job of serving customers such as prospective camera purchasers, he explains, because attendants in the super-stores have little knowledge of the products they are selling.

He also feels shoppers are experiencing increasing satisfaction in buying many items available closer to home. Many of Odessa’s new residents are retirees, eager to avoid the rush and turmoil from which they escaped. To them, he said, the small-town stores are far more appealing than a Walmart.

“We need to keep our rural communities strong, and to do this, we must support our local businesses,” Marsh said. “In return, local businesses support our schools, hospital and community activities.”

He said statistics prove every dollar spent in a community such as Odessa averages a turnover of five times, reflected in additional jobs and employment.

Marsh sees the medical situation in Odessa as stable now. The local hospital and clinic are again on solid footing. Odessa is regaining its traditional position as a medical center for a wide area. The drug store plays an important role in supporting this position.

The Robertses plan to stay in Odessa this summer. Marsh is assisting during the ownership transition of the business, and he plans to be the relief pharmacist at Odessa Drug when Ted Bruya is away.

Veteran travelers, the Robertses are planning future trips. The first of these will be to China and Tibet for three weeks next fall. They may also join other pharmacist groups in world tours. They have participated in these in the past, to Sweden and Russia.

Beginning next winter, the couple will divide their time between Odessa and Mexico, spending the winter months in Manzanillo, Mexico, where they have a beachfront home.

They will also devote a good share of their time to visiting their family and having the family members visit them.

Their family includes son Richard and his wife Lois, of Richland, and their children, Rebekah, 7, Rachel, 4, and Peter 2; daughter Kathleen and husband Jack Howard, of Beaverton, Ore., and their children, Katie, 13, and Jeffrey, 11; son Doug Lacey-Roberts and his wife Karen, of San Jose, Calif., and daughter Peggy Jo and her husband Rod Martin, of Port Angeles, Wash., and their children, James, 5, and Emily 2 1/2.

The decision to stay in Odessa beyond the two years they originally planned was due largely to the way of life they found here, Marsh and Joyce said. They found the town to be the best place in the world to raise a family. They also say they’ve always been impressed by the friendly, industrious people who make up the community.

Grasshoppers latest menace to area’s wheat, by Donald E. Walter: It’s been a great year for insect pests in the Big Bend country.

In April the wheat curl mite struck in northern Lincoln county, spreading the deadly wheat streak mosaic virus over thousands of acres of green wheat.

Next came the black grass bug, which crept out of CPR acres into wheat fields. It was a worry mainly to growers in the Lind area.

Now it’s grasshoppers–the same kind which have been found in wheat fields in the summertime ever since farming began in eastern Washington.

Grasshoppers in great abundance were first observed about two weeks ago in wheat stands south of Batum and Moody. Like the black grass bug, they had migrated from CRP ground planted in crested wheat grass to the borders of neighboring fields of wheat during the dry weather of April. Green wheat leaves provided far better forage than the dried-out grass.

Grasshopper invasions in wheat fields south of Odessa in northwestern Adams County are spotty, but they occur only in fields adjoining CRP land. The insects are not fully developed, only about a quarter-inch long. They feed on stems and flag leaves, causing destruction to the young wheat plant. In some instances, they are thick enough to blacken the ground. Heaviest concentrations have been observed in border areas of fields 2 1/2 miles south of Batum and near Moody Road north of Interstate Highway 90.

Wheat damage at this point is not believed to be significant. Recent heavy rains could lessen the migration of the insects from the CRP.

The best method of control is to spray with malathion, Washington State University area agronomist Bill Schillinger suggests. The product is relatively inexpensive and is safe to mammals. It is relatively inexpensive, and can be applied on the spot. As most grasshopper concentrations are near the edges of fields, spraying only 100 or 200 yards into the crop may provide sufficient control, Schillinger suggests.

He said rain will wash off the malathion. More expensive systemic pesticides not susceptible to rain wash-off are available.

Growers in the area so far are taking a wait-and-see approach to the problem, as no crop damage is yet apparent. There is no federal cost-share program for control of insects migrating from CRP land.


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