I hope all of you who live within Peabody’s city limits and get a municipal water bill will take a few minutes to study the city newsletter that reaches your home every month with your water, sewer, and trash statement.
Mostly, I want you to look at the page that has three 1940s snapshots of downtown Peabody. Two snapshots show the front of the Heckendorn building when it was the German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. If you look closely you can see the camp sign jutting out from the building. The third photograph was taken of the front of the old hotel that stood at the northeast corner of Walnut and Second streets. Some metal lawn chairs and a bicycle are on the sidewalk and a man is leaning against the building. That building burned in the mid-1980s.
We would like to know the names of the people in these pictures, especially the POW camp personnel. Any ideas?
I am not sure the museum or the historical society has any pictures of the prisoner-of-war camp. Those two photographs may be the only ones available to the community. Pretty neat, huh? A part of our history came home to us.
The pictures are a gift to Peabody Main Street from Don and Judy Hess who live in Greeley, Colorado. Don is a hometown ‘boy’ who seems to be well-remembered by many an old codger around town. His wife grew up elsewhere, but they come back to Peabody often and have maintained many friendships here. Don had some surgery recently and during his recuperation, took on a project sorting out old family photos. The ones he sent back to Peabody are snapshots taken by an unknown relative. The people in the pictures are not family members or anyone he remembers from his years here.
However, he thought we might be able to use them for the community good, either at the Main Street benefit auction or as an addition to the museum archives. Now wasn’t that a nice thing for him to do? Instead of just tossing them out, he sent them back to us.
So check out the newsletter and grab a magnifying glass. Let us know if you can attach a name to any of the faces. We may never know who they are, but the photos are valuable not only to us, but also to the state historical society which is seeking information about World War II and its impact on Kansas communities while that information is still available. It would be grand if we could identify the POW camp personnel in the pictures! (It is not urgent to know who is leaning against the hotel building, but it would be nice to know. Fitting together pieces of the puzzle is always a good thing.)
We will give the pictures to the historical society, send prints to the state, and maybe keep a couple for Operation Celebration or a benefit auction. Thank you, Don and Judy, for remembering us!
— Susan Marshall