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Local History

History in Flames

History Going up in Flames

"Some of Springfield’s municipal government history was being burned today and some was scheduled for shredding as City Hall made way for progress. Officials have been sifting through a tonnage of old records to save those of value. 

"But as workmen piled a dump truck high with boxes of records ranging from old adding machine tapes to canceled checks, from ordinances to penciled daily report sheets, a few footnotes to Springfield history were left. These, destined for sale (at $15 a ton) to a paper company for shredding and new processing, make a passing commentary on our changing times. They recall other days when Springfield was a sleepy country town. They also brought the comment: Have things really changed at all?

"The Fire Department would have a hard time operating an American LaFrance pumper truck on oats. But only 25 years ago grain was an important budget item, when the term ‘horsepower’ meant exactly that. A feed store bill tapped the city treasury in 1919 for $8.50 for ten bushels of oats.

"Finance Director J. Oliver Gideon would shake his head in wonder at another item: Fifty-five meals for prisoners (1920) at 20 cents each -- $11. Board and room for city prisoners now runs about $1200 a month. Perhaps, the city wasn’t always prompt in paying its bills. One concerned merchant, undoubtedly plagued by depression woes, attached a personal note to a 1937 request; ‘Please send this money promptly as I need it for my little children’.

"And there were the emergency drafts on the treasury then as now. The city paid Clarence Northcutt $3.50 for ‘hauling garbage during rush.’ Then there are eye-opening bills too. In 1919 the city was paying $25 a ton for asphalt. Today’s price is about $7 a ton. Those who vent their spleen with vengeance on the high cost of automobile repairs could find ammunition for their criticisms. A 1919 bill listed ten cents for a generator brush and $3.43 for labor.

"City government has become ‘big’ business in 38 years. Finance ledgers show total income on May 12, 1917 as $309.36. The lowest income day this month was last Wednesday when total receipts ran $3160.31. One day during the tax rush last fall the take was $93,240.26. ‘Garage bills may not have changed,’ one old timer commented, ‘but city government sure has.’" 

Leader Press, June 30, 1955

Photo caption
"Assistant City Auditor Brandt Phillips, above, was engaged today in the tedious task of sifting through city records to separate finance material that should be saved."

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