The life and times in and around tiny Myrtle

Published 8:59 am Friday, October 15, 2010

Ed Shannon, Between the Corn Rows

As I read through the new book, “The History of Myrtle, MN, and the Czech Community” by Dennis Rayman, I encountered a section on the businesses and other aspects of life in this community. Adding a special touch to this section is a map of Myrtle with numbers to indicate where those businesses and other activities were once located.

Dennis commented at the beginning of this section or chapter that some of the information came from a 1975 issue of the Shell Rock Press (of Glenville), Gordon Belshan and what I’m sure are his personal memories.

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The original site of Myrtle was located about a mile east of the city’s present location. Myrtle Lane was the postmaster (or mistress) from 1886 to 1900. That’s the year the community with a designation based on her first name moved to its present site next to the newly constructed railroad tracks.

Dennis’ narrative shows that the Myrtle Post Office had four locations, two in grocery stores, for just over nine decades. Then he wrote that “Myrtle lost its post office in the early 1990s.”

There’s a long list of grocery and general merchandise stores once located along the two blocks of Myrtle’s Main Street. I have a hunch that at one time there were three or four of these stores operating in an era when folks really made their purchases locally. Also, this was an era when farm families brought eggs to Myrtle to trade them for food items or cash.

One factor that can be emphasized is that several of the buildings in Myrtle were used for various commercial ventures and had different owners through the years.

Other business ventures of the past were hardware stores, harness shops, a horse stable, a barber shop, beauty shop, several cafes and even a dance hall and community center. Folks in the Myrtle area could also go to dances at either the Wooden Hall or Brick Hall years ago. The dance hall and community center on Myrtle’s Main Street ceased operations in the early 1960s.

Dennis listed a man named Charlie Sweet as the owner and operator of a concrete block factory from 1916 to 1919. Then the man took obvious advantage of his last name to operate a candy shop from 1920 to 1925.

We’re not yet finished with the listing of Myrtle’s business ventures of the past. Here are a few more. There was a shoe repair shop, bulk gas operation, an electrician, an implement shop and hardware firm, blacksmith shop and the Myrtle Co-op Creamery. The creamery building is still there, by the way.

At the present time there doesn’t seem to be a service station and/or garage operating in Myrtle. Yet, the book has 15 listings under this category. About half are for an obvious location near the corner of Main Street and County Road 13 operated by various people through the years. Most of the rest are for a location near the corner of Main Street and First Avenue.

This community also once had a lumberyard, stockyards, the Myrtle State Bank which existed from 1903 until the early 1930s, a victim of the Depression, several small hotels and rooming and boarding houses, and a butcher shop and locker plant. There’s still the grain elevator next to the railroad tracks.

The most extensive listing in the new book by Dennis Rayman is for taverns and bars. I can recall the era when Myrtle had four very active bars. Now the one labeled South Forty is closed. Another place has lettering on the door says it’s C.J.’s Revenge Theatre. Thus, Hunter’s Bar seems to be the last place left in this category.

Other factors from Myrtle’s past mentioned in this book are the railroad depot, the grade school (now the site of the playground and baseball field), a bandstand and even a free movie show site.

Incidentally, does the small Myrtle Museum near the fire station still exist? During my last visit I couldn’t find a sign indicating where it is.

Again, copies of this book can be purchased at the Citizens State Bank in Glenville..

Ed Shannon’s column has been appearing in the Tribune every Friday since December 1984.