Thursday, January 27, 2022

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Once Upon A Time

From the Des Moines City Council minutes


100 years ago (March 1915) :

Legal department asked to render an opinion on City rights, and manner of control or regulation of fees of the new “so-called jitney bus business” — aside from “ordinary taxi-cab regulation.” (A jitney, from 1906, is a “bus which carries passengers for a fare,” then, typically a nickel, giving rise to this 1915 “Jitney Jingle”: “I’ll give a nickel for a kiss” said Cholly to a pretty miss. “Skiddo,” she cried, “you stingy cuss. You’re looking for a jitney buss.”)

“License of Hollenbeck to move houses” will be revoked unless, within 30 days, they “remove the house they recently placed on south 20 feet of lot 2, O.P. lot, in block 13, East Fort Des Moines, to such a position on said lot” that the adjoining lot owner is satisfied with, and files “her consent thereto.” (This location is now under Riverhills Business Park area.)

Council approves “sickness leave” for Fireman George Rambo, Fireman F. Dunagan and Fireman Jesse Jackson.

Superintendent of Public Safety to “sell 5 head of horses, 2 colts, 3 motorcycles and the old White Motor Company automobile”… proceeds to go “into the Police Appropriation for the purchase of a new car.” In addition, the City Purchasing Agent to “sell the old patrol wagon harness for $25” with money held in trust to “apply on the purchase of a police automobile.” ($25 in today’s money is $578.)


Resolution 3838: “That all five and ten-cent stores” are taxed at $125 per year if store frontage is 25 feet or less and $200 if frontage is over 25 feet. ($125 = $2,900; $200 = $4,600.)

Resolution 3869: “That telephone calls and private conversations during Council meetings be declared out of order.” Vote held = Yeas: four; Nays: one. (Even 100 years ago, there was one person who spoiled it for everyone.)


50 years ago (March 1965):

Bids approved by the Council:

Glenn’s Motor Co. bid approved to supply a four-door station wagon, Plymouth Fury P-96 at $2167.59. (About $16,000.) Jasch Harley-Davidson bid accepted to supply four three-wheel motorcycles at $1,696 (about $12,500) each for total $6,784 minus trade-ins for $830. (Total more than $44,000.) Higgins Ford Sales to supply Fire Station No. 1 with a four-door sedan Ford Custom at $1,806.92 ($13,499) and will sell the City 43 more Fords for sum of $77,506.01. (About $575,000 in today’s monies.)

KRNT-TV Vice President R.W. Dillon granted permission “to present, from amplifiers on the KRNT-TV tower, chimes striking the hours of the day and night.”

City Auditor to pay $7.40 ($55) to J.W. Rullman because “City Testing Station” damaged the hand brake cable on his car while inspecting same.

“Definitions: For the purpose of…ordinance…Words used in the present tense shall include the future, the singular number shall include the plural and the plural number shall include the singular; the word ‘shall’ is mandatory, the word ‘may’ is permissive, the word ‘person’ includes a firm, association, organization, partnership, trust, company or corporation as well as an individual; the words ‘used’ or ‘occupied’ include the words intended, designed, or arranged to be used or occupied.” (‘nuf said…)

Dutch Elm disease is extensive and dozens of elm trees “declared a public nuisance” to be removed by the owner, or City removes, and costs are “collected as other taxes” against the property. Previous general fee of $55 per tree now replaced with actual bid costs, varying, some are $35, most $60-$100, a few $140. ($100 in ’65 about $742 today.)

Permission granted for upcoming Drake Relays Parade and allowance “to use a public address system.”


25 years ago (March 1990):

Invocation by Andy Bales, Door of Faith Mission, opens first March meeting.

Regarding the Airport Terminal second floor parlor asbestos removal, retracting previous low-bidder ESCORP, for failure to provide insurance coverage, and, contract approved for new low-bidder Controlled Asbestos, Inc.

Approved street closings: East First St. from Grand to Locust for “Mayor’s Bike Ride.” Drake University Relays allowed closing Third from Court to the “Alley north of Jukebox for a dance.” “Downtown Des Moines, Inc.” to close streets for upcoming Farmers Market season.

Bids approved: For the Police Dept., Charles Gabus Ford to supply 26 vehicles at total cost of $299,121.17 ($534,864 today), and Dewey Ford to supply one vehicle at cost $10,848 ($19,398). Bob Vollbrecht and Associates to receive $39,960 ($71,453) for parking meters and $32,931 ($58,884) for meter replacement parts.

“Land Application of Sludge Agreement” approved with Edward Ernst, Owner, and Joseph Ernst, Operator, for application of sewage sludge fertilizer on parcels in Marion County. CV


Steve Nelson-Vaux is a retired Iowa farmer-turned-library explorer and vintage prospector digging Des Moines’ and S.E. Polk’s historical aether-ore.

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