The Webb City Kress store was at 4-6 S. Main St. (next to the old Sentinel (Zinc Ore) building).

Ancestors, Legends & Time

Streetcar vibration required patience by the Kress window dresser

Jeanne Newby

First job at Kress

Going past the old S.H. Kress and Co. store, at 4-6 S. Main St., and seeing the front of the building that has been remodeled, brought to mind a story I had received many years ago from Robert Hitner. I would like to share that story with you.

Robert’s father, Frank Hitner, owned the Humphrey’s Department store, 201-207 N. Main St., from about 1906 till his death in 1933. So Robert grew up in the retail business. One of his first jobs was with the S.H. Kress & Co. His salary was only $13 per week, but he was in training. Along with his training, he swept daily, trimmed the windows, stocked the shelves in the warehouse, pulled the merchandise upstairs on a hand-powered elevator and took merchandise down to the girls at the counters.

Trimming the windows was an exciting part of Robert’s employment. The large windows were trimmed by stacking glass shelves and vases, some 6 feet high, on which to display all kinds of merchandise. To Robert’s dismay, the rumbling from a streetcar traveling down Main Street would sometimes cause the window displays to vibrate and more often than not, the whole display would wind up on the floor in a heap of broken glass and rubble. I guess that was job security because Robert would have to rebuild the display.

Robert soon graduated from S.H. Kress & Co. to work for the Webb City Bank as an assistant cashier making $125 a week. Quite a raise from $52 a week, and he didn’t have to worry about the streetcar coming down the street.

He recalled that one of his jobs at the bank was to go to the Conqueror First National Bank in Joplin for currency. He said a garage owner from Carterville would stop by the bank to pick up Robert and away they would go to Joplin, bringing home large amounts of cash. Robert, as he grew older, began to realize what a risky journey this could have been.

He also recalled that his daily trip to the post office for the bank’s mail always had him stopping by Runt Magill’s Newstand at 116 W. Daugherty St., where he and Runt would flip a coin for a Coca-Cola.

I love personal memories like Robert’s, as it gives us an idea of daily life in Webb City during the 1900s.

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.