Story by Ronald Ahrens, photo from the Neil A. Lieb archive
Reader Frank Nine recently expressed fond memories of his job with Tillotson Construction Company, writing, “I can’t believe it has been 61 years ago that I started working for Tillotson. It seems like yesterday and was some of the best times of my life.”
This view of downtown Alta, Iowa, from Tillotson’s new grain elevator for the Alta Cooperative makes his statement easy to understand. Aside from the challenge of the work itself, part of the appeal of building a reinforced-concrete elevator was the high-profile nature of the job, in every aspect.
In a town like Alta, with 1350 inhabitants in 1950, the construction crew had to feel the eyes of everybody in town. Wherever they went, whether the cafe or saloon, they were known and perhaps treated differently.
And from their lofty perspective, the workers could be forgiven for harboring a sense of superiority over the townsmen, some of whom may not have been inside a building taller than three stories. Building an elevator made you part of an elite team, rather like a visiting circus troupe.
In the photo we look to the south-southeast and see a lumber company, the downtown businesses, and an important church. Assistance would be welcome in identifying buildings around the smokestack, as well as other establishments.
I love the row of old cars along the main street. Without the cars, you could hardly date the photo. But with them, you experience a bit of historical Americana.