— Answered by Linda Shanks (to the best of her ability).
1. When are you open?
We are open 24/7 – viewing through windows, online, and our QR code. Personal/small groups can be scheduled anytime a guide is available.
2. How and why did you get the Caboose?
When we were talking to the owners of the Norfolk Southern Railroad about acquiring the Depot, they offered the Caboose to us. At that time, the railroads were doing away with using a caboose at the end of trains and they didn’t need it any more. Since we were interested in the Depot as a museum, they thought we might be interested in having the Caboose for our “historical park.” They were correct! Cabooses are really hard to find and so we are very lucky to have one. It fits in very nicely with our “railroad” history for the city of Clive.
3. What was Clive’s opinion of blacks at the time? Was there segregation?
According to Mildred Swanson, there were black families that lived in the area. Mr. Ben Shepherd was a bachelor and the brother of Mrs. Robert Anderson. He lived where Barr Bicycle Shop is now located. Mr. & Mrs. Robert Anderson had two children, Leonard and Maxine. The children attended Clive School. They lived where Ream’s Noodle factory is now and they were treated just like any other residents. Mildred played with Leonard and Maxine as they were neighbors.
4. Did Mrs. Swanson make a good living? Could she eat the food and use the goods from the store?
We have ledgers from the store that shows what she sold for the years that it was open. The living she made was adequate to take care of her family. Mildred indicates in her writings that they had a good life. Yes, they could use any of the items in the store since they were owned by Mrs. Swanson.
5. Why did Clive decide to restore the home?
The Historical Society was formed by a group of people who wanted to make sure that we remembered our history. When Mildred Swanson passed away, she left the property to the city to be used as a park. The city came to us and asked if we would be interested in restoring and managing the store. For us, it was a great opportunity as we were looking for a place to move the depot and caboose to. So the two situations were joined and we certainly were thrilled to be able to restore the house back into a General Store.
6. Are you planning on expanding even more?
Well, we are thinking about it, but we are also surrounded by other businesses that makes it difficult to get much bigger. We are working with the city to see what else we could do. Nothing specific at this time.
7. What did it cost to restore the building?
Certainly more than it cost to build it in the first place. Mrs. Swanson would be very surprised but we hope pleased. Approximately $45,000. The addition had to be removed and replaced, the interior was gutted to remove walls that had been added, floors had to be replaced that had been destroyed by termites. When our contractor removed the 13 layers of wall paper in the main rooms he could see exactly where the shelves had been in the store, so he built the shelves to match the original ones.
8. What was the train used for?
The most important use were the freight trains. These handled getting things that people needed from one place to another. Cattle went to market, wheat, corn, flour went from the country to the cities. Passengers went in passenger cars to a different town along the train route. Mail crossed the country much faster than it ever could before. Our own store was a POST OFFICE and we have pictures to prove it.
9. The cookies in the store – Did Mrs. Swanson make them or did someone else?
Probably both. Mildred does talk about the cookies on display in boxes with isinglass lids. Sponge cookies with coconut topping, Mary-Ann cookies flavored with ginger were some of the ones that Mrs. Swanson purchased for sale.
10. How did her husband die?
Typhoid Fever. They lived in Grimes at the time.
11. Did the kids work in the store?
12. Why did Mrs. Swanson choose to have a store instead of a hat shop?
Because “it could provide them with every thing they ate, wore and owned” — and the same items could be used by others in the community.
13. What did a train ticket cost?
You could go from Clive to Des Moines for 5 cents.
14. What was the most expensive thing in the store?
Good question. I will need to research that one by looking in the ledgers that we have that were written by Mrs. Swanson. Remember though, things could be special ordered if the store didn’t have it in stock.
15. Did the train have first-class and second-class tickets?
Yes, although I doubt if it was called first and second class. Passenger trains had different cars for those who could afford to travel in better conditions. Some had very comfortable seats, others were little more the benches. Passenger trains had cars that were like a restaurant where food was prepared and served. Cars that had sleeping compartments with beds and facilities for washing. If you couldn’t afford those for long trips, then you sat up in seats all the way and took your own lunch/food. There were many trains that went through Clive in the early days and there were all kinds, doing lots of work that is now done by Semi-trucks.