It was 50 years ago this month that my mother and father moved my brother and I from the place I called home for the first 14 years of my life. I recall, like it was yesterday, saying goodbye to classmates on the upper level sun deck of the swimming pool (yes, the old pool had an upper deck which was used by a few as a jumping off point into the pool below). I also vividly recall the final meal out family had with one of closest families in town that evening.
Since that time I have lived in a few different cities and towns across the United States. The one constant, with the exception of a six-year stint in northern California, was the fact that I always had the Memphis Democrat to read each week as my Mother, who is still living, subscribed to the Democrat. She would without fail always save the paper for me to read.
While I read the paper in its entirety the first section that I routinely gravitate towards is the living in the past section. What use to be of importance, the 10 year ago section, has over time transcended to the 50 year ago section! In fact it was also 50 years ago this month that 10 members of Boy Scout Troop 97 floated 60 miles downstream from Keosauqua IA to Alexandria MO in canoes and row boats. My Father, who was one of the Scout leaders on that journey, wrote a very detailed and colorful report of the trip and was published in the Democrat in one of the August 1969 editions.
I get back to Memphis once or twice a year around Memorial Day to place flowers on my father’s, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles graves as well as playing in a golf event.
While the population of Memphis has changed very little ( I think the population when I left was 2,106 and is now 1,900+) gone are institutions like the Dairy Queen, Gardine Drug Store, the Chuck Wagon, Lairds Jewelry and Pennys amongst others. The hatchery on the northeast corner of the square is now a funeral home! The one constant during the last 50 years… Dr Donelson!
I recently just completed another RAGBRAI, along with 1,500 others (annual bike ride across Iowa from the Missouri River to The Mississippi River). We go through many small towns that struggle to survive which were much larger 50 years ago. Memphis seems to have avoided the significant population decline that many of those towns have experienced.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to the current owners of the Memphis Democrat for their continued news coverage of Memphis and surrounding area. In today’s world the traditional newspaper has become a vanishing breed. I notice in recent publications that the Democrat is for sale. I hope the tradition of the weekly publication continues for years to come. Memphis will ALWAYS be my hometown and I hope and pray the Democrat will remain and continue to be part of the fabric that holds the community together.
John T. Mallett