following article by Barbara Krupp Selyem first appeared in the
May/June 2006 issue of "Grain Journal Magazine". It is provided
courtesy of the Country Grain Elevator Historical Society, a 501
C3 nonprofit corporation. For more information about the society
please call 406.388.9282 or email email@example.com.
The photo is © Bruce Selyem and used here by permission.
The Selyem's Web is: http://www.grainelevatorphotos.com
A Lot of Stories to Tell... May/June 2006
by Barb Selyem. Photos by Bruce Selyem
The wood elevator at Corbin,
KS will be 100 years
old in 2007. It’s a battered structure–worn out by time, use,
and weather. The storage bins haven’t been filled for a long time,
and the bucket elevator has been idle since 2003, when the Famers
Cooperative Grain Association quit using the concrete stave silos
on the northwest side.
Artifacts record the obvious. The elevator is a metal-sided,
frame structure. Some of the siding has blown off leaving holes
that invite pigeons and other birds. The raised headhouse
records an extension made to the wood leg, when the silos were
installed in 1958. That leg was replaced with a steel one in 1968.
The old engine mount and line shaft
components are still there, but they became obsolete when electricity
became available in the 1930s. Once an 8-foot climb up the ladder
from the work floor led to the manlift.
Now, the lift is gone, and only tracks remain.
Observation provides clues to the genealogy of the elevator.
Though most of the paint has worn off except for overlapped brush
strokes, the name “Wallingford”
is faintly visible on the rail side. “Wolcott & Lincoln” is
on the end of the office. A sign across the street says “CO-OP.”
Recorded deeds reveal more ownership details: 1922 – Hunter Milling
Co. bought the property from Luella F. Stewart.
1946 – Ralph and Velma Moore.
1947 – Moore Grain Co. (name change only).
1948 – Sam P. Wallingford.
1974 – Garvey Grain.
1988 – Wolcott & Lincoln.
2004 – The Farmers Cooperative Grain Association.
But artifacts, observation, and recorded deeds are only tangible
records. They lack sentiment. Their influence is in the memories
they evoke in the people who grew up under the elevator’s domain.
“It’s the stories that make the elevator interesting,” says Eric
Watts, who has been the manager at Corbin for nine years and began
hauling grain there as a kid with his dad.
Some of the Stories
remembers working at the Corbin elevator from 1943 to 1946. “For
a young girl, working at the elevator was a great job. I weighed
trucks and wrote scale tickets during the day and then recorded
them before I went home. I knew little about farming when I married
a farmer in 1945. Because of my elevator experience, I was able
to keep his books.”
Jerry Niebaum worked at the elevator for 12 days during harvest
when he was 12 years old. He writes in his autobiography, “In
1952, my dad arranged for me to work at the Sam P. Wallingford
grain elevator in Corbin. I had two responsibilities – I ran the
truck lift to dump wheat trucks, and I pulled boxcars into position
with my John Deere tractor.
“It was hot, tiring, and dangerous work,” says Jerry. “One
day, I reached for a grease gun that was hanging from a ladder
extending up from the 15-foot-deep dump pit. Someone had left
the trap door open, and I unwittingly fell in. By grabbing onto
the rungs of the ladder, I was able to break my fall. I only injured
He continues, “Pulling boxcars required hooking a long chain
on the side of the wheels and pulling the chain with my tractor.
A loaded boxcar is incredibly heavy – heavy enough to flatten
a penny to the size of a quarter. (This we did with some regularity.)
It took two of us to move a car. I drove the tractor, and a brakeman
on top operated the brakes.
“One time, I caused a boxcar to move too fast. The brakes didn’t
work, and the car picked up speed on a slight decline. We tried
throwing 2x4s in front of the wheels, but it sliced through them
like butter. It came to a stop when it struck another car at the
neighboring elevator. A worker on top was thrown off but luckily
was not injured seriously.
“Because I had a tractor, I was paid $20 a day. (The other
workers only made $8.) After paying my fuel expenses, I netted
$200, and I thought I was rich!”
Two Managers in 60 Years
Carl Stiles managed the elevator
from 1961 to 1988, when he retired.
“I was raised in Corbin and applied for the manager’s job when
Jiggs Davidson died,” Carl recalls.
“He had been the manager for 33 years. Between the two of us,
the elevator only had two managers in 60 years. By today’s standards,
that’s pretty remarkable.”
Carl continues, “I really liked working for Sam Wallingford.
He had a great sense of humor. Sam was a good boss, a fair businessman,
and a very generous and honest person. He never tolerated cheating
a customer at the scales. He used to say, ‘I should have only
what is mine, and our customer should have what is his.’
“It’s very sad to see how things have deteriorated,” he says.
“We ran a lot of wheat through that old elevator.”
What will come of it now?
Eric Watts says, “The company owns the property the elevator
sits on and does not pay any lease to the railroad. There hasn’t
been any talk about tearing it down. I do know if a tornado came
through, the company wouldn’t replace it.
“We still use our steel bin storage, and though we no longer
load to rail, we do load a lot of trucks. I’m here every day,
as someone always needs something. It gets lonely at times, but
there is always something to sweep.”
Barbara and Bruce Selyem are directors
of the Country Grain Elevator Historical Society. For more information,
contact the society at 406-388-9282; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.