Posted by: Marie | July 6, 2014

(949) Lessons in renegotiation – Part 5 of 7

Post #949
[Private journal entry written near bedtime on Saturday, September 1, 2012 – continued from previous post]

We made it to Collyer a few minutes before 3:00pm. The town currently has about 100 people living in it, although, from around 1880 to 1930, the population was maybe a couple of thousand. So, much of the town is abandoned now. I’ll have to admit, it was an impressive ghost town . . . I’m not sure if it was worth driving so many miles to see, but I will say it was worth a decent level of appreciation as far as history goes.

We meandered around the town, stopping to take pictures here and there . . .

St. Michael's

St. Michael’s

The most visually outstanding feature of the town is St. Michael’s Catholic School building, built in 1916-1917. It was used as a school until the late 1960’s. It is currently being restored and is a registered historic site.

We also found the oldest still-standing house in town. It is a sod house that was later covered in wood siding. The walls are starting to bow outward and starting to crumble, but the house appears to be in the process of being restored, or at least preserved.

We then found a commercial building that appeared currently occupied, but it had no signage to indicate what might be inside. It had half of a car (cut length-wise) attached to the front of the building, above the doors. We laughed and laughed . . . what a creative idea! Of course, we parked the car and started taking pictures . . . and Melodie noticed that a side door was propped open . . . she cautiously walked over to the door and peeked in . . . and hollered . . .

Oldest house

Oldest house

It turns out that it was someone’s living quarters . . . and the “someone” was a guy who came to the door in response to Melodie’s voice. He came outside and visited with us . . . told us that he closed in one corner of the building as his living quarters and then the remaining space is a bar that he operates.

Melodie asked if there was anyway we could use the bar’s restroom . . . he said, “Oh, sure! No problem!” So, he led us through his living quarters (a sunny and comfortable one-bedroom suite) and into the bar. After the restroom break, he invited us to take a tour of the building . . . we accepted . . .

He offered us something to drink (we declined as neither of us drinks and it was too hot to drink anything but water – which we had plenty of in our water bottles). He told us that he is originally from Denver, but that a number of years back, he and his wife moved to Collyer. Then, they split up, she went back to Denver and he stayed in Collyer.

Pontiac Bar

Pontiac Bar

He had no place to live and no job. So, he bought this old building that was all but falling down – it had been a Pontiac dealership in its heyday. He stabilized the structure. Then he created the living quarters. Then he started creating the bar, piece by piece. He opened for business as soon as he could, even though the bar wasn’t finished (it still isn’t) . . . he needed the income.

For the back wall of the main bar, he got one of the main support arches from a very old local railroad bridge that was being replaced. He said it was a bit tough to get it cut down enough to fit inside . . . he commented that cutting down and transporting an iron bridge support is a bigger challenge than one might think . . . LOL . . .

In the corner of the bar, he had an old fireplace he had rescued from a house in town that was being destroyed. He uses it for heat in the winter.

He said he put the half-car – a Pontiac – on the front of the building in honor of the building’s history. When I asked him if he had cut the car in half, he said he did . . . he said he doesn’t always know how to do everything he does, but he always gets it figured out. He said the other half of the car was on the backside of the building, on the patio seating area. Of course, we had to go back there and see it . . .

On the way to the back patio, he pointed out an elevated seating area in the back . . . the ceilings are high enough he was able to create an indoor balcony situated above the main seating area. The staircase going up to the balcony was rescued from a very old house in town that was going to be burned down. The stairs were a half-circle and they had ornately hand-carved railings and banisters. It was a gorgeous staircase! I love how he is capturing and protecting the local history by folding it into his own historical story . . .

He showed us the bar’s kitchen . . . it is still under construction, but it looks like it will be very nice when it is finished – all stainless steel commercial equipment . . . I don’t know much about restaurant and bar kitchens, but it looked very nice to me!

Anyway, he was the nicest guy and he visited with us for quite a while. I think he enjoyed having the company and showing off his building. We thanked him for his hospitality and for the tour and the stories . . . he walked us back out through his living quarters and out the same side door through which we entered . . . and when we got outside, he said, “Oh, wait, let me show you something!”

He called us over to his garden area located a few yards away from the side door we had just come through. He had raised planters with vegetables and herbs . . . and flowers to attract butterflies . . . many of the plants were climbing up the lattice board he used to visually close in the garden to create the sense of sanctuary . . . he had zen statues and water fountains and a coy fish pond . . . it was such a wonderfully creative and lovely space . . . I loved it!

We thanked him again as we climbed into the car . . .

So, that was the ghost town we drove more than 150 miles to get to . . . actually, by that point of the trip, we had traveled just shy of 180 miles (290 km) . . . so, I’m guessing we took the long route . . .

And, we still had a two-hour drive to get the cemetery . . . and it was 6:00pm . . . the sun would be setting in just 2½ hours . . .

As we left Collyer, I wondered to myself if Melodie felt the experience in Collyer was worth the travel. For me, the history captured in the buildings was interesting, but not worth the drive . . . however, the experiences with the people made the trip worthwhile . . . I truly do enjoy going out and meeting people in their natural element . . .

We may have been able to find interesting buildings around Red Cloud, but I’m not sure that we would have found anyone in Red Cloud who would match the Pontiac guy for character!

[Continued in the next post . . . ]



  1. A very interesting ‘ghost’.

    • Very creative ‘ghost’!

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