Sunday, January 23, 2022

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Once Upon A Time

From the Des Moines City Council minutes


100 years ago (April/May 1915) :

City Purchasing Agent “to trade the value of one horse named ‘Rex’ $40; two horses, ‘Igo’ and ‘Ames’ $225; one mare and colt, $35; two horses ‘Babe’ and ‘Bob’ $90; one harness, $25; one wagon, $20; and the check received from the Cement plant for wrecking old White [Motor Co] auto, $400; one motorcycle, $100; one motorcycle, $45; other wrecked White car, $150; and one motorcycle, $70, to the Des Moines Motor Car Co in exchange for one Abbott-Detroit roadster, value $1,200.” ($1,200 in 1915 is about $28,000 today and the car company is now under Polk County Jail.)

Resolved, the words “‘City of Des Moines’ be painted on all City autos; said name to be painted on both sides of the hood and to be five inch letters.” (Yes, car hoods had ‘sides’ once upon a time.)

Amended 1889 ordinance “providing for the destruction of filth and obstructions in alleys, streets and highways…” with 1912 ordinance “regulating location of stables and barns… manure and breeding places of flies in stables, coops and pens…” to provide a “fine of not less than $1 nor more than $25…or…jail not less than one day nor more than thirty days,” if a person was convicted. (Council very busy with ordinances to clean up and control behavior.)

Ordinance making it unlawful to deposit on streets, sidewalks or public property any ashes, broken stone, gravel, sand, dirt, coal, waste paper or any rubbish; whether done directly or “carelessly by permitting such materials to roll or fall from any wagon or other receptacle…” Also unlawful to deposit “any slops… water used in scrubbing or cleaning, the contents of any cuspidor, or of any can or tank used as a container of ice, salt or brine for… holding and keeping cool any ice cream or other food or drink…” Also unlawful “to rake or place leaves, grass or any rubbish… or to set fire to or attempt to burn or to burn the same on any street…” Fine not less than $5 or more than $20 with jail not less than one day or more than six. ($5 is more than $100 today.)


Amended ordinance to tax, license, fine, and regulate public dances and dance halls; to define and clarify. “A public dance is… one… attended or patronized by the public generally, either with or without tickets or charge for admission… however, (this) shall not apply… where… devoted to benevolent, fraternal, educational or charitable purposes,” provided the dance is “not conducted within fourteen days from… the last previous dance conducted by same parties…”

Amended ordinance regulating and licensing “circuses, menageries, theaters, theatrical exhibitions, shows and other exhibitions.” Fees for theaters and opera houses are $75 per year if seating is 800 or fewer and $100 if seating is more than 800. If prizes are offered, and for “exhibitions by ventriloquists, magicians, sleight-of-hand performers and the like…,” the fee is $25 for first event and $10 for additional. For traveling concerts, “exhibitions of wax figures, statuary, paintings, minstrel shows…,” the fee is $10. Circuses are $300 for first day and $150 each day after. The “wild west show” fee is $150 for first day and $75 thereafter. Each “dog or pony show” fee is $75 first and $37.50 after. Menagerie alone is $10; side shows in separate tents along with all the above is $10 a day. ($10 is about $230 today; thus the circus fee is about $7,000!)

50 years ago (April/May 1965):

New city job: “Intergroup Relations Specialist” – to assist Human Rights Secretary investigating and conciliating formal complaints of racial, religious, or ethnic discrimination; helping resolve human relations problems. (No mention back then or comprehension of, current LGBT concerns.)

Request from “Mel-O-Dee Ice Cream” and “Jolly Roger” to operate “mobile ice cream unit” and use “electronic sound producing devices”, “music or chime boxes”. Restrictions are: control and soften the chimes, refrain from sounding chimes when vehicle is stopped, operate chimes only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., and refrain from serving to children on street side of mobile unit.

Ozark Air Lines leased facilities and rights with the Des Moines Airport for six years. Freeman Decorating Co permission to erect a street banner at 7th and Locust advertising the Shrine Circus. Goodwill to locate a building on north side of East Euclid in vicinity of E. 26th St. Des Moines Warriors Football Club subleases Sec Taylor Stadium, August to October.

SW 9th St bridge across Raccoon River restricted to passenger motor vehicles and maximum speed of 15 mph due to safety concerns and “River-front Improvement Commission” advised action to prohibit boating on the Des Moines River “200 feet upstream and 100 feet downstream” from the 6th Avenue bridge until passage beneath is declared safe. In addition, Council considering complete removal. (Serious high water problems caused 6th Ave bridge to partially collapse. Recent postings on ‘Lost Des Moines’ Facebook page had pictures and several comments by locals remembering the events.)

25 years ago (April/May 1990):

Agreement with Raymond Hines for 3 year lease to operate a “Shoe Shine Stand” at DM International Airport. Sale of Locust Mall by Tower Locust, Ltd to Bruce Gerleman. DM Power Boat Club renews lease along DM River in Birdland Park for 3 years at $600 per year. Acquisition by the DM Police Dept of “forfeited vehicles”; 1979 Pontiac Trans-Am and 1989 Cadillac Eldorado, “for undercover purposes.”

Funding application to “Governor’s Alliance on Substance Abuse (GASA)” of Iowa Dept. of Public Health for “Street Level Narcotics Enforcement Task Force” program. City to provide $50,502 and Federal $151,494.

Ed Fallon permitted to close 7th St from Indiana to Forest Ave. from 3-9 p.m. June 10th (for something). CV


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

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