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Small town ‘skyscrapers’ a thing of the past

By Staff | Apr 27, 2015

With time comes change, and for the city of Wells, the time came last week for a big change.

On April 16, demolition began on the Frank Brothers Elevator in Wells. As the city celebrates getting rid of an eyesore, one woman is saying goodbye to a landmark that is dear to her heart.

For Wells resident Sue Boeck, whose father originally owned the elevator, seeing it fall to the ground and ripped apart has admittedly not been easy.

“I grew up in there,” says Boeck. “I remember my dad sitting me on the counter as he tended to customers. I remember watching the trucks go in and the corn go through the weighing scale. It was hard to see it get knocked down.”

Harold Frank, Boeck’s father, purchased the elevator back in 1933 with his wife Mable, who was fond of raising chickens and turkeys.

Boeck also mentions that her uncles owned neighboring elevators to create the Frank “Brothers” group of elevators.

“Every brother owned one. My dad had the Wells elevator, Uncle Everett had the Blue Earth elevator, Uncle Rudy owned the Winnebago elevator, Uncle Ed took care of the Mapleton elevator, Uncle Al had one in Prescott, WI, and their one sister had one in Fulda,” remembers Boeck.

But it’s not all bad seeing the elevator go, Boeck

says, for she knows that when the old goes out, the new comes in.

“It’s hard, but it’s good for the city. I know that it will bring an opportunity for another business to come into the town,” says Boeck. “I’m really glad that Kiester was able to salvage the scale and put it on display in their town, that’s really neat.”

At the time, that’s what farmers depended on: community elevators; but now, Boeck says that times are changing, as is the elevator business.

“That’s back in the days when farmers didn’t have their own storage and used the elevators in town,” she says. “That’s the era I grew up in and that’s what I remember. My sophomore and junior years, I worked for my dad in the summers.”

Her father put her to work with cleaning file cabinets and making sure things ran smoothly.

Fondly remembering of the elevator in its hey-day, Boeck recalls an annual breakfast that her father would put on for the farmers that he worked with, which, for him created a good community rapport.

“I don’t remember if it was fall or spring, but he would have breakfasts and serve eggs and pancakes and all sorts of things for whoever showed up,” remembers Boeck.

And now, it seems that rapport is paying off, as families who did business with Boeck’s father bring her antique items from when they did business with Frank.

“I’ve got a whole garage filled with things my father gave to – and shared with – farmers, from feed bags to little give away items, they’re all there,” says Boeck. “The city of Wells was even kind enough to give me the Frank Brothers sign.”

Though the sign is in need of some repairs, Boeck is excited to refurbish it and display it at her home.

“It’s sad to see it go, but it had to come down,” admits Boeck, “I feel better now when I drive by seeing it gone rather than being abandoned with holes in the roof and damage done and there was nothing I could do about it. Memories work that way it’s sad for a little while, remembering the good, but knowing that there’s more good to come in the future makes it easier.”

Last Saturday, the tower of the elevator fell, and crews are still cleaning up the rubble, but what will remain for Boeck and her family are the fond memories of her father and his elevator.