Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Broadway Market in Abilene, Kansas

Broadway Market. Courtesy Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum.
Throughout a large part of the twentieth century in Abilene, the Broadway Market, located at 311 N. Broadway Street, was a small grocery store that despite its size, carried several items.  The market was a family business, first owned by Charles Benignus.  His son, Albert Benignus later took over the business. 

In the early 1900s, the Broadway Market was exclusively a meat market, one of five in Abilene.  By 1939, the market was promoting their many different food items, including 139 different types of cheeses in stock!  As it is told, Dwight D. Eisenhower loved to stop by the Broadway Market, and buy some steaks to cook up while visiting his parents at home.

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Benignus. Courtesy Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum.
Albert Benignus' right hand man, Isaac "Ike" Wesley Robinson, worked in the meat department and was known for his skill in preparing ham loaf, Swedish potato sausage, and pon haus.  For those of you with inquiring minds, pon haus is a dish of Pennsylvania Dutch origin, and is a mixture of corn meal and pork leavings.  It is commonly fried and served for breakfast.  Eisenhower apparently loved the dish so much, that the Broadway Market shipped it to him in Europe during World War II on multiple occasions.

Courtesy Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum.
The Broadway Market no longer exists today, as is common with many small grocery stores, it went out of business after the advent of supermarkets.

The basis of this post was inspired by the writings of Bill Jeffcoat, who wrote down many stories of people from his hometown of Abilene.  The story of Albert Benignus and the Broadway Market is featured in the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum's current exhibit.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bishop Ray Witter

Courtesy Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum.

For today's blog post, I thought I would briefly tell the story of Ray Witter, one of the stories featured in the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum's current exhibit Our Community, Our Stories: Through the Eyes of the Jeffcoat Studio.

Witter grew up on a farm south of Abilene.  His family were devout to the Christian faith, and were members of a Brethren in Christ parish, as many people in Dickinson County history have been.  Witter was a cousin to the Eisenhower boys, and was close to the same age as the future President, Dwight.  Since they were related to one another, the two boys knew each other well, and Eisenhower would often visit and work on the Witter farm during the summer.  The Witter family had horses, so the boys enjoyed horseback riding when they had free time.

As the two boys grew up, their lifestyles greatly parted from one another.  Of course, Eisenhower had his famed military career and was an expert in the ways of war.  Witter took a much different path and became a Brethren in Christ pastor, eventually becoming the minister for a church in the Hope, Kansas area, and later attaining the role of Bishop.

After Witter's retirement, he moved to Abilene and worked as a painter and paper hanger.  After Eisenhower became President, Witter and his son were invited to visit the White House, which must have left quite an impression on Witter.  According to a note written by Bill Jeffcoat, which is featured in the exhibit, "This was the proudest moment in Ray's life."

Our Community, Our Stories: Through the Eyes of the Jeffcoat Studio, is currently on display at the Jeffcoat Photography Studio Museum through the rest of August.  Be sure to visit the museum's Facebook page for more information.