William Theophous Simonton moved to Logantown around 1911. He and his wife Nancy had four children born in Sedalia, Missouri before their arrival. The three girls and one boy grew to adulthood in the small home at 3742 So. King Street. Dad was a cobbler by trade and worked at the post (Ft. Logan). He probably stayed quite busy by the repairing of boots, saddles and harnesses, etc. Mom and the girls did laundry for the soldiers at their home carrying basket loads back and forth daily. For a Christmas present, the soldiers chipped in and bought them a wagon to make the loads easier. The house had no electricity or running water which made the work a bigger job!
Their only son, William Justice Simonton worked on a farm (near present Bow Mar) and became very skilled with animals especially mules. He got a job at the fort as a Muleskinner, but when America entered WWI Bill enlisted in the Army in 1917. Bill's brother - in-laws, Ed Price (Ethel Simonton) and Mack Markowski (Nellie Simonton) also joined at Ft. Logan and became career Army Officers. WWI ended, son William J. was discharged at Fort Logan (1918). He married Edna Burt from Englewood on his birthday, Aug. 24, 1924. They had two children, Edna Belle (b. August 1925) and William Jay (Bill or Sonny) (b. April 1930). Their dad Bill worked at the Downtown Union Station for Railway Express and mom Edna was a switchboard operator for the telephone company at the "loop" on Broadway. In 1935, when Grandma Nancy Simonton died, Bill's & Edna's young family moved back to Logantown at 3742 S. King.
In the Fall of 1935, Belle was a 10-year-old and brother Bill "Sonny" was four. She started attending Ft. Logan School as a fourth grader. Fourth through sixth grade Belle had an individual teacher. By seventh grade, as today, you got specialized teachers, i.e. science, math, socialstudies, music, PE etc. Miss Alice Bodine (later Terry) was her science teacher and favorite and was very "special" to all her students. Belle describes Miss Bodine making learning fun by having all of them participate in classroom activities. One such activity students learned our solar system by kids becoming planets and moons rotating around each other in a classroom! She made things happen taking field trips in a bus to observatories and the National Western Stock Show.
Fort Logan School went through the ninth grade until the end of Belle's eighth grade year when it was suddenly discontinued. The kids that age in Logantown walked to the Fort's PX (post exchange) at Oxford and Lowell to catch the Army bus to Englewood High. However, in Belle's case she and her best friend continued all the way to St. Joseph High (7th & Fox). They attended St. Joes ninth and 10th grades.
World War II started and many older school age kids quit school to either join up or work in a support job. Belle got a job at a Naval Armament Plant (near Oxford & Santa Fe) at night and finished her 11th grade year at Englewood during the day. An interesting story at this time was the negotiating skills of her father Bill who was the School Board President and Alice Bodine who was now the principal. They worked a deal with the Army to build the gymnasium at Fort Logan School. The school needed a gym and the army needed a place for the troops to have recreation! I asked Belle what that date was and she immediately said it was dedicated on August 27, 1942. How could you remember that? "Well it was my 17th birthday and my father and I had the first dance on that new floor.
After the dance he placed a nice ring on my finger & told me it was the best 17 years of his life --- how could anyone forget that! The next year, the Harlem Globetrotters performed in the new gym. They were morale boosters at many Army Posts around the country during the war. A year later on September 21, 1943, Edna Belle Simonton married Sgt. William W. Brown of Elkview, PA at the Ft. Logan Army Post Chapel. He was the MP Army bus driver who drove Belle to school for three years!
The Chapel was located inside the Oxford/Irving gate north side. (Just west of the new library.) It was given to the Sheridan School district in 1970.They had to lift it, move it and pour a new foundation. It now faces east behind the District's bus barn and used for storage. When shown to Belle recently she said "that's it!"
I'd like to "backtrack" to the days preceding WWII and the events at Fort Logan at this time. One of my favorites, from Belle's amazing recollections was their family, Mom and Dad, Belle (14) and brother Bill (8) traveling to the Golden Gate Exposition (San Francisco World's Fair) in the summer of 1939. Since Dad worked for the Railway Express at Union Station, securing train tickets possibly was pretty easy. The kids uncle was now a Major, and he and his family lived the Presidio (Army Installation) located at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Getting there and with a place to stay was an opportunity not to be passed up!
The notable remembrances of the train trip were: going through the six-mile Moffat Tunnel, the Glenwood Canyon, and the Great Salt Lake. The tracks were laid on a "causeway" across the lake. With the inability to look forward or back and just out windows to the side, it appeared that the train was floating on water!
Upon arrival at the Major's home, Belle quickly noted the brick house was identical to the homes she babysat at for army families at Fort Logan. These pretty duplex houses were built around 1935, were reserved for higher ranking NCO's (enlisted) with families. (Inside the Irving St./Oxford gate to the south.) While in San Francisco all transportation was arranged by Belle's Uncle, compliments of the U.S. Army! "Staff cars" would get them to their daily destinations then picked up at day's end.
Times were good in San Francisco at this time. Both bridges, the SF/Oakland Bay and the Golden Gate were finished within six months of each other (1937). Treasure Island (the largest man-made isle of 576 acres) was completed to house this Exposition at the same time. This was definitely a life-time thrill for two kids from Logantown. I'm sure their classmates at Ft. Logan School heard a lot of neat stories! Fort Logan was very active 1942-46. The families and kids of Logantown had jobs within walking distance. The younger boys could have been "pin-setters" at the three-lane bowling alley in the basement of the PX (NE corner of Lowell & Oxford).
She remembers this as a three-story brick building with a "filling" station on the west side facing Lowell. Asked if it had service bays, which she said no but, "it did have a grease pit." She drove her Dad's car into it at 16. With the help of many G.I.'s it was lifted out. Unforgettable! This was the largest of three PX's (reception centers). Belle and friends worked here and babysat. Housing for civilians who worked in the Fort was in Logantown and outside the east gate at Sunset Ridge (on South Hooker and Irving).
The cannon at the Flagpole sounded once at 5:15 a.m. and p.m. At that time cars pulled over, passengers got out, saluted or hand over heart until flag was completely raised or lowered. A bugler usually played reveille and taps at these occasions. Patriotism was at its finest at this time. How things have changed!
The Simonton Family story was possible because of the wonderful memories of my friend Edna Belle Blair.
- Tom Webb - Friends of Historic Ft. Logan.
Copyright © 2018 by Tom Webb - Friends of Historic Ft.
All rights reserved.
Republished: February 9, 2018 by the Sheridan Historical Society,
with permission from Tom Webb - Friends of Historic Ft. Logan.