In December 1930, a month after they returned from their trip to Longview, Ralph and Chleo Jarvis bought a farm on the southwest edge of Salina.
Actually, they traded
On December 11, 1930, Ralph and Chleo Jarvis bought the farm from H.B. and Clara Lamer. On the same day, the Lamers bought the house at 955 South 9th Street from the Jarvises. The Jarvises had to assume a $5,000 mortgage on the farm as part of the deal.
H. Bernard and Clara Lamer had a family of four children. They were in their mid-30s, like the Jarvises.
H.B. was vice-president of the Lamer Hotel, the prominent hotel in Salina. He and his brother owned five Lamer Hotels around central Kansas.
The farm was 40 acres. It was the “Southwest quarter of the Northeast quarter of Section Twenty-six (26) in Township Fourteen (14) South, Range Three (3) West.”
It was just a quarter-mile south of the city limits and Cloud Street. There was a dead-end dirt road south from Cloud Street to the farmhouse.
The farm would be perfect for Ralph and Chleo and boys. It had a large farmhouse, a big garden area, and a great barn for their horses.
There were chicken coops, and a small house. There were 35 acres of wheat and oats.
The main farmhouse was big, a two-story with a basement. It had a coal furnace in the basement, and floor grates to vent the heat to the main and upper floors.
The front door faced west. That’s the view we see in these photos. But no one ever used that entrance. The back door on the east side was where people came and went.
The east door entered a large vestibule, open to a sitting room on the left and the stairway on the right. Continuing straight ahead entered a large kitchen, with sink and countertops facing a north window. There was a breakfast room off the kitchen.
The kitchen had two stoves – one a modern range, the other an original wood-burning stove. Chleo used both. Because of Ralph’s job in the utility industry, Chleo always had the latest appliances.
The kitchen had a doorway to the dining room on the south, which bordered the entry vestibule and sitting room. Finally, there was a large living room on the west side. That was the room that entered from the front door.
The upstairs had four large bedrooms and a bath.
On the south side of the house, there was a driveway and detached single garage.
The little house
On the south side of the driveway was the “little house.” It had everything needed – a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room.
I don’t know if it was rented out. From my knowledge in the 50s, it was vacant.
The barn was huge. On the ground floor, there were horse stalls. And an oats bin. The lean-to had tack, equipment, and tools. Upstairs was a huge hayloft, with hay stacked to the rafters. It smelled so great.
Ralph and Chleo had a tractor at their ranch, but not at the farm. Field work was done with horses, a throwback in 1930.
Remember that Ralph Jarvis was a “gentleman farmer.” His main purpose was to have a place to keep their horses and toys and have a good setting to raise his two sons.
Garden and arbor
Between the farmhouse and barn, there was a huge vegetable garden and arbor. I recall the arbor always being shady on hot sunny days.
There was a windmill and big water tank by the garden. The well provided water for the house, livestock, and garden.
From my knowledge in the 50s, there were several large hen houses, or chicken coops. I don’t know if they were there in 1930.
The boys attended Lowell School. In 1927, Mel had started school at age 6. Don followed two years later.
At Lowell, Mel was a good student.
Lowell School was just around the corner from the Jarvis house at 955 South 9th Street.
When the Jarvises moved to the farm in 1930, the boys continued to attend Lowell. Chleo would drive them, or they could walk.
Family lore says that some days they rode their horses to school.
Certainly, Ralph Jarvis and Nathan Jones weren’t suffering the Great Depression in 1930.
Ralph Jarvis had bought a cattle ranch in 1929, and a farm in 1930. Ralph was age 36.
Nathan Jones was continuing to live high. He bought and showed horses. His philanthropic gifts continued. Nathan was age 38.
The Jones had a ranch in Estes Park, Colorado. They traveled to and fro in their private airplane.
You’ve seen in past stories how we’ve had unexpected surprises and people connections. It happened again. We connected with Nathan Jones’ granddaughter Nancy. She has personal recollections of “Pappy,” and some good stories.
Nancy said that the Joneses and Jarvises socialized often. She related one story of an elaborate treasure hunt party at the Jones home. Nathan had made treasure maps, and showered the guests with gold coins from the top of the staircase. Nancy still has the invitations to that party.
We also talked about some of our grandfathers’ problems. They were successful in business, but they had problems and weaknesses and frailties. They weren’t perfect, like any of us.
It was great to hear from Nancy. She and Joan and I had a long Zoom call to reminisce about our grandparents.
1930 was a record year
Any way you look at it, 1930 was a record year for Public Utility Investment Company and its affiliates. More properties, customers, and earnings. Here are the 1930 financial highlights.
These results don’t count any of the big deals of 1930, as their results hadn’t yet been integrated.
Perhaps the successful years 1929 and 1930 are epitomized by the fancy Christmas cards sent by the Jarvises and Joneses.
Nibbles Extra Credit – Great Depression – 1930
While Public Utility Investment Company had its best year ever in 1930, what was happening to other people and businesses in the first year of the Great Depression?
In October 1929, market prices had crashed, but that may have been as much a symptom as a cause. The economy had exposed weaknesses over the preceding several years. Construction was down. Farm prices were declining.
Many hoped the crash would be short-lived. After all, unemployment at the end of 1929 was only 3.2%.
Any lack of confidence in the economic future or the basic strength of business in the United States is foolish.President Herbert Hoover, November 23, 1929
But Hoover’s optimism didn’t match reality. By March 1930, 1.5 million people had lost their jobs. By the end of the year, unemployment had climbed to 8.7%.
The economy shrank by 8.5%. Prices fell by 6.4%.
Soup kitchens, bread lines, and homelessness became common in cities. “Hooverville” shanty towns were appearing across the country.
Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act
In June 1930, Congress passed, and President Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Meant to support farm prices, it had the unintended consequence of imposing tariffs on hundreds of other products. It caused a huge reduction in international trade.
Drought and Dust Bowl
1930 was the beginning of a protracted drought that affected almost half the states in the country. The drought was soon to become the Dust Bowl, causing farmers to struggle to grow crops and keep their farms.
Hoover originally asked the Red Cross to offer food and shelter to farmers. As things got worse, Congress provided $65 million for food and seed relief.
In September, bank runs began. People tried to withdraw their money, for many their life savings. But only 1/3 of banks belonged to the Federal Reserve system. Non-member banks didn’t have enough reserves to meet withdrawals. Bank failures resulted. And people lost their money.
In December, the Bank of the United States failed. It was the 4th largest bank in the country, making its failure the largest in U.S. history to that time. Over 300 banks failed in December alone.
As bank failures grew, more people rushed to withdraw their money. By the end of 1930, over 1,300 banks had failed.
Everyone was worried about the deficits that the federal government was accruing. Hoover, infamous for doing the wrong thing, raised the top income tax rate to 25% to reduce the deficit. It was another dagger in the heart of the economy.
Opportunities and obstacles
While auto sales were way down, and construction was almost non-existent, people still needed electricity and telephones. There were still expansion and acquisition opportunities.
In 1930, one-third of American homes did not have electricity. 90% of farms did not have electricity.
On the other hand, there were obstacles. Expansion and acquisition required capital, and that required investors. But the pool of investors had dried up. Raising money was next to impossible.
In 1928, the government had begun federal regulation of utility and holding companies. The free-wheeling days were over.
By the early 1930s private utility holding companies were the most distrusted industry in the nation. Government targeted these companies with more oversight and eventually passed legislation to break them up.
While most Americans suffered, there were those few who profited mightily during the depression.
There were sports stars like Babe Ruth and movie stars like Mae West who made plenty of money during the depression. And there are some businesses that prospered.
Could Nathan Jones’ companies overcome the obstacles?
Could Ralph Jarvis follow Jones to success through the 1930s?
Timeline – 1930
- Deeds – Ralph and Chleo Jarvis to/from H.B. and Clara Lamer – Saline County Register of Deeds – Salina, Kansas
- Photo – Lowell School – The Salina Journal – https://www.salina.com/story/news/2021/04/11/historic-salina-buildings-find-new-life-solve-housing-crisis-schwans-great-plains-manufacturing/7093195002/
- Letter – W.S. Heusner to Mel Jarvis – Jarvis Family Documents – Chleo Webb Jarvis collection
- Map – Jarvis farm to Lowell school – Google Maps 2021
- Postcard – Lamer Hotel – HipPostcard – https://www.hippostcard.com/listing/1929-salina-kansas-lamar-hotel-automobiles-allis-press-flag-postcard-8333/7920436
- Photos – Ralph Jarvis and Nathan Jones – Diversified Utilities Investments – sales brochure – Jarvis Family Documents – Chleo Webb Jarvis collection
- Christmas cards – Jarvis and Jones – Jarvis Family Documents – Chleo Webb Jarvis collection
- Photo – Apple seller – The Great Recession – Britannica – https://www.britannica.com/place/United-States/The-Great-Depression
- Photo – Herbert Hoover – The Other Worst President – The Walrus – https://thewalrus.ca/the-other-worst-president/
- Photo – Bank failure – Banking relationships: Vital to the economy – Chicago Booth Review – https://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/banking-relationships-vital-economy
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