Column: Where are there were many twos, there are several ones
WORTHINGTON -- A recent column recalled the department stores which once lined Worthington's main street. Worthington had three. More often when a conversation centers on Worthington it is said, "Worthington had two."
Well -- Worthington had two lakes, as everyone knows. East Okabena and West Okabena. When we drive on the new four lanes on Worthington's south side, we're driving -- in part -- through the East Okabena lake bed. The banks of the lake are apparent from the highway. Although residential development has greatly altered the view, it is also apparent East Lake was visible from Worthington Cemetery -- the lake view was a prime reason for choosing the cemetery site.
Worthington had two lakes. Worthington had two movie houses. The State Theater on Third Avenue behind the Hotel Thompson. The State Theater, with its awesome marquee of multi-colored neon lights climbing and falling and blinking, is most often talked about. The Grand Theatre in the substantial building now occupied by Carpet Plus was also a notable theater. The Grand, too, had a marquee with the name spelled vertically in neon lights: G-R-A-N-D. The Grand was older than the State by somewhat more than a decade. One of its notable features was a balcony. Long-run movies -- oh, "Gone With the Wind" -- were always scheduled at the Grand.
Two lakes. Two theaters. Worthington also had two newspapers. In the 1930s the Worthington Times, located behind what now is Rolling Hills bank, became a daily newspaper, the Daily Times. The Worthington Globe, which published three days a week, was located across from the State Theater.
The Globe hired a fresh journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota -- Carl Anderson -- to be its advertising manager. Carl persuaded Montgomery Ward (located on BenLee's site) to drop its advertising account with the Times and to advertise in the Globe -- the Globe had a circulation edge.
The Montgomery Ward account was a loss the Times could not survive, and the Montgomery Ward account made the Globe the Daily Globe. Carl Anderson made a notable difference at Worthington.
Two lakes. Two movie theaters. Two newspapers. Worthington also had two elementary schools. Central Elementary, which dated to 1930, was on the city's traditional school site in the block opposite the Dayton House. It was known only as The Grade School, and it was where all Worthington students began their educations. As Worthington's population burgeoned following World War II, it was judged necessary to build West Elementary School on 11th Avenue.
When both schools filled beyond capacity there was a decision to build Prairie Elementary, taking Worthington back to a single grade school. Central Elementary was razed. With a wink most voters did not see, Worthington was told West Elementary was in decay and could no longer be used. West remains in use to this day, filled by several school offices.
Two lakes. Two movie theaters. Two newspapers. Two elementary schools. Two railroads.
The original railroad was the St. Paul & Sioux City. Through shuffling -- with railroads then, as with airlines now -- Worthington's railroad became the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha when George Dayton bought his addition on Worthington's north side. Everyone called the CStPM&O the Omaha. So it was that Dayton named the street one block east of his Grand Avenue "Omaha Avenue."
When the Burlington Railroad came to Worthington in 1899, Dayton named the street one block west of his Grand Avenue "Burlington Avenue." Burlington -- the railroad, not the avenue -- later became the Rock Island. CStPM&O became Union Pacific.
In the beginning was the Union Congregational Church (1872). Then (spring, 1873) the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Churches took a different direction than the railroads and the theaters. Today there are no fewer than 20 Christian congregations and at least one Buddhist congregation.
The list of the "had twos" which shrank to one or none suggests a sharp decline, but Worthington's head count -- 3,878 in 1930 when Central Elementary was constructed -- climbed 350 percent to 12,764 for the 2010 census.
The "had twos" list may not be complete. You might sit down and begin reviewing -- let me see -- were there two of these, or two of those?
You may give it a try --
But you don't have to.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.