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Signs of life appear
APPLE FESTIVAL is the feature of this display at the Gays Mills Library. The display features buttons, bottle openers, pens and more.

GAYS MILLS - It was a real treat this holiday season to see the wonderful light displays  in Robb Park. A picture of the people responsible and involved in that project was in the Independent-Scout recently. Thank you to all concerned for your efforts and for the idea in the first place. What a beautiful site for such a display. The well-decorated powerhouse was particularly stunning. That much-photographed and often painted (by artists, anyway) landmark is a part of local history and a point of civic pride.

At the other end of Main Street you may have noticed something new also.

There is a destination pole with a large apple on top at the juncture of Highways 131 and 171. The multicolored painted wooden arrows are a whimsical (if you’ve read the destinations) and eye-catching feature for locals and all the visitors we get through town each year. The message of the pole is ‘All Roads Lead to the Apple Capitol, Gays Mills.’ That was another volunteer project involving several people and reflects pride of place.

Both of those displays show what I call signs of life in the community and say “We’re glad we’re here.” And right now, in the Gays Mills Library, there’s another example of that. It’s an inside display that you might want to take a look at.

In the display case in the entry way to the Gays Mills Library and Village Office is a very interesting arrangement of items related to village. Thanks to the generosity of Joe Brandt, most of these items are from his considerable collection. Owning and operating the Village Greenhouse for 37 years, Joe amassed quite a collection of very interesting objects of local interest. Longtime residents will recognize some of the items and young people and new arrivals will marvel at the look into the past that they offer.

Most of the things on display fall under the category of business promotional items. It was common in earlier times for businesses to give away small, useful items to their customers around the Christmas holidays. The items were imprinted with the business name as a thank you and a reminder to shop locally where you are known and appreciated. We don’t see such things as much anymore, but things like calendars, customer appreciation events and of course timely sales are now commonplace.

So in the display cases, you can see a collection of Apple Festival buttons, bottle openers, pens, screwdrivers, coin purses, rulers and yardsticks, and ashtrays. There’s a broom holder with the message from Kickapoo Locker: We hold your friendship, let us hold your broom, a napkin holder from Watson’ IGA, a Crawford Electric Co-op fuse tester, and some attachable wrist band calendars (remember those?) from the Bank of Gays Mills. 

It’s interesting to see the names of former businesses in town: McDonald’s Stores, Heal Hotel, Pettit’s Standard Station and Apple-land Motel, Mel’s Coffee Shop, Reber’s Station, Dobson’s Garage, Lund’s Shoe Store, Florence’s Café, and the Bonton Restaurant.

The Larson Creamery is well represented with such gifts as a heavy duty bean pot and a small flour sifter. My favorite item is a wooden spoon that was compliments of my dad’s store, Gibbs IGA.

Among the other items are several great pictures of early Gays Mills and a copy of the full-page ad in Life magazine concerning one of our early floods and how telephone operator Wilma Gander helped to save the day.  There’s also a copy of a letter that one of Joe Brandt‘s customers gave him. Here it is:


To Mr. Peter J. Stussy

July 17,1936


Inclosed find check to the amount of $40 which is the amount that the gypsies stole from you on the 16th day of July, 1936.  We have succeeded in getting this money out of them by disposing of their car and have fanned them out of town.  Trusting we have settled this matter in a manner that is satisfactory to you, I remain    J.L. O’Kane   Sheriff