Friday, February 10, 2012

The Jefferson Highway Garage in Kensett

Photo Courtesy of L M Forland Family

Photo Courtesy of L M Forland Family

These photos are taken at the Jefferson Highway Garage in Kensett, established about the same time Highway 65 was built to run the north-south length of Iowa.  The Top photo was taken facing north and the other was facing south.  Here is the story behind the photos as told by Stan Arendts:

That is a picture of my grandfather, "Doc" Arendts. My father and grandfather were partners after WW2. The original Jefferson Highway Garage was established in the 1920's by my grandfather and as I recall was the oldest Ford dealership in the state, at one time. Huso was a competiter in Northwood as was Pritchard in Mason City. Prichard was a friendly competitor, Huso, not so much.

When I got my drivers license, I became the "gofer" and made many trips to other dealerships in the area to get parts, etc. I was very well respected among the group due to my family's longevity in the business and history of fair dealing. The garage was named after US 65, which was originally known as the Jefferson Highway, much like US 30 was the Lincoln Highway.

I could add that the building blew up twice, both caused by natural gas leaks. After the first time, the gas company added "aroma" to the odorless natural gas, to assist in recognizing leaks. The first explosion injured Johnnie Olsen, a Northwood resident, who was a mechanic. It occurred during the day and was caused by Johnnie lighting a cigarette.

The building was rebuilt and business continued. The second time was after my father sold the building to a Mason City hot-rodder, who used it as storage and a place to work on his cars. The second explosion happened at night and no one was injured. As far as I know, the building was not rebuilt. Maybe he didn't have insurance?

I have a lot of fond memories about that place. Spent a lot of time there and created many projects.........a wooden car, go-carts, tandem bicycles, flagpoles, hot rods, bazookas, sleds, etc.

Stan's memories are hopefully being shared with his offspring, totally unedited as he would demand.

The name "Jefferson Highway" may be unknown to many outside of Kensett, but the story is told in this History of the Interstate Trail provided by the Iowa DOT.  A different photo is included in the DOT report, of the Iowa/Minnesota marker commemorating the completion of the highway in both states in 1930, sitting along Hwy 65.  I have passed the marker and noticed it hundreds of times and never knew what it was.

The cigarette explosion reminds of a story told probably by Don Faris or possibly Maynard Midtgaard, of a service station worker who for years threw his cigarette butts into a pail of used oil, with nary a problem . . . until one very warm day when the oil was warm enough to combust.  The lesson, of course, explained the ingredients required to cause fire.  (Why in the world do we remember such trivia as a story like this?)

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