Echoes of the past
City of Echo prepares for its 125th with look to the past
Antiques tell stories about the past. Combined with old newspapers clippings, fascinating tales can be told about even small towns like Echo.
Former Echo residents Brad Kurtz and Anne (Kvistad) Anderson will be exhibiting their collections of Echo memorabilia at Echo’s 125th anniversary celebration Aug. 18-20.
“I have a large enough collection to fill a museum,” Kurtz said. In fact, he had had plans to purchase the old brick building on the north side of main street that had housed most recently a catering business, but also a bakery, a photography studio and a pharmacy over the years. That was his plan until Yellow Medicine County tore it down.
Kurtz and Anderson brought a few select items into the Echo Community Center on Tuesday.
One of Kurtz’s prize possessions was the sign from the Echo Hotel that used to stand between an apartment building and the grocery store, across main street from the current beauty salon and spa (which in turn used to be the dentist office).
Kurtz also brought in a sign for L.P. Dolliff Lumber and a couple of painted mirrors with thermometers, one for the Tri-County Station and one for the Farmers Warehouse. There was also a level from the Tri-County Co-op and an Echo Milling flour sack. Kurtz will also have a stack of Echo High School yearbooks going back for decades on display during the town celebration.
Anderson, too, brought in two flour sacks, each different from the other and from Kurtz’s. Among her collection was a cigar box full of Echo Bucks, an antique Echo High School pennant, a copy of an old Echo Enterprise newspaper with a story about her father, grandfather and great uncle Rueben who used to run Rube’s Rec. Along with the newspaper, Anderson had a 5 cent token and a cigarette tray from her great uncle’s pool hall. Most of the items, Anderson said, she was able to get on eBay, but the pennant came from a neighbor in Cottonwood.
Kurtz said he goes to auctions or finds people cleaning out their houses and adds to his collection. The two avid collectors are always looking to add to their stash of Echo memorabilia.
Several other women from Echo are also collecting items from Echo’s past for the upcoming anniversary. Lynn Kuehn, Alice Dahl and a handful of others have been gathering information on the history of the city of Echo.
Beginning with the year it was established, 1892, to present day Echo, the women found out some interesting facts some of which they shared and will be publishing in a book for sale at the event and possibly as early as next week.
The story goes that naming the village of Echo was a problem. The town fathers sent in names, like Prairie Rose and others, but the name kept coming back, like an echo, as already been taken.
Another theory was that when the train whistle blew, it echoed off the surrounding hills in a mournful way.
“We went through the old Echo papers at SMSU (Southwest Minnesota State University) to verify as much as we could,” Kuehn said. “We took pictures of the articles (instead of writing notes). Digital cameras are so advanced, the pictures turned out well.”
Speaking of pictures, Dahl said that the women included more photos than in the previous history book.
“We have all of the town mayors’ pictures except one,” Dahl said. “We read all the newspapers since 1895, except occasionally one that was missing.”
Kuehn said she learned a lot about her own grandfather and the experiences he had. Her grandfather was George B. Hughes, the editor of the town newspaper for 50 years beginning in 1905.
She also noted feeling like she was a snoop, looking into people’s pasts, such as wedding announcements for people whose spouses have since died and the living person went on to marry someone else.
“They also wrote a lot about residents buying new cars back then,” Kuehn said. “Echo was a booming hub back in its day.”
“We tried to expand the war era in the book,” Dahl said. “Letters home from World War I and II soldiers. And, the entertainment section, too, with local authors and musicians.”
Kuehn added that there was a family of missionaries who were executed during WWII, and a WWII veteran who came back to Echo to live out his life in a wheelchair.
Kurtz could remember when he was 8 years old and playing cards with WWII veterans at one of the pool halls in town. He also learned to shoot pool at about that age, saying that he never had to pay for the games like the adults did. They just needed a fourth or an opponent.
Then they discussed a little more recent years and the stores and cafes along main street, now named Second Avenue. It was easy for them to sit back and reminisce about the years they lived in town.
Something else that not many people remember about Echo is that the school mascot wasn’t always the Rockets. In 1947, without any fanfare or hoopla, the mascot quietly changed from the Black Raiders to the Echo Rockets, Dahl and Kuehn said. Since then, there has never been an explanation.
The women also mentioned a monumental fire that took four buildings on the north side of main street in 1912.
“They worked hard to save the hardware store on the corner of Second Avenue (main street) and 4th Street,” Kuehn said. That wasn’t the only fire that nearly destroyed the Village of Echo back in the day.
And, it all started with the village that sprouted on the south side of the hill heading to Vesta, in the valley near a large lake that has long since been drained.
The town was transplanted to its current location when the post master back then heard about the train going through further north and moved the post office to be near the depot.
These and many more memories are shared in the new 125th anniversary book the Echo women compiled.