Every time The Fairfield Historical Society subjects an old negative or photograph to the modern day technology of a digital scanner it’s a joy to watch an image “develop” on the computer screen.
A few tweaks here, a few adjustments there and in a few minutes we can often see a story. Many times what we develop shows more detail and more tone than the original. And, much of the time the original photographers was so thorough in their work they recorded the details for us. Date, place, subject and often the camera settings are recorded.
Not much mystery to be solved.
But there are times when all we have is an image. Those are the fun ones – the ones that make us learn more about our history.
We have to put ourselves in the time the image was captured, to try and learn what was known when the image was captured.
For example, a few months back we published the images from the old glass negatives for our friends at the Augusta Area History Museum. The series of photos captured some important event that took place in Gilman. There was a crowd and the town was decked out for an important event. Store windows were adorned with patriotic bunting. A train was at the Gilman Depot. Cars and people crowded around the depot.
But what was going on was a mystery until we opened the digital pages of the old Augusta newspapers. In those pages was the likely answer. One photo showed baseball teams from Simms and Augusta posing together.
A few weeks of digging in those old papers and the answer came to light – there was a big tournament between the two towns. So big was the tourney that a special train was hired to carry the Augusta team and crowd to Simms. At the time, around 1916, there was no depot in Augusta, so Gilman joined in the festivities.
Over the past couple of weeks we ran a photo – first the left side and then the right half – that showed an old town street. There were cars, a couple of gas stations, other buildings and a restaurant and hotel that bore the sign “Cosy Café.”
There was one building at the far right that looked much like the original Fairfield Community Hall that was dedicated in 1916 (see photo above).
But we could not be certain, since the street photo and the photo presented here were taken from two different angles.
Members of the Society debated the location where the photo was taken, and readers of the Sun Times offer their thoughts on the mystery.
Was it Bole? Maybe Dutton? How about Simms? Could it be Augusta?
Once again we went back to those old newspapers, this time we consulted the Fairfield Times (this paper did not become the Sun Times until it acquired the Sun Valley Sun in the early 1990s).
On the back of the photo was written “1930,” and that year was consistent with the cars in the photo. At least that date narrowed the search.
Our first answer came from page four of The Fairfield Times of July 18, 1940.
Under the small headline “EXPRESSES ITS THANKS TO DONORS” was this item:
"The Fairfield Base Ball Club wishes to thank those who donated to the Ball Team Fund. It also wishes to thank Henry Lease for hauling dirt and Dorothy Panka and N. W. Berge for making posters.
Those making cash donations and the amounts follow.''
Under that was this list of donors: (see embedded image)
That still did not confirm for certain that the Cosy Corner was located in Fairfield.
But this item in the issue of December 12, 1940 did:
LIONS CLUB NOTES
"The Fairfield Lions Club held its regular dinner at the Cosy Café Tuesday night and it proved a spirited session. The entertainment program was in charge of Kermit Sheie and it included a clarinet solo by Jack Larkin, a cornet solo by Mr. Sheie, a selection by the Lions Club Quarteeet composed by Msssrs. Bruce Garlinghouse, N. W. Berge, Kermit Sheie and S. L. Dahl, and a talk by Mr. Garlinghouse on Lionism. All the numbers were much appreciated.
Extended consideration was given to the proposed outdoor community Christmas trees sponsored by the club and in which various other organizations will participate, including the Senior and Junior Women’s Clubs and the Parent-Teacher Association. A committee was names to decide the location of the trees and it consists of F. C. Roth, Elmer Genger, Wm. Olson, M. J. Wedum and Fred Schoensigel. It is planned to erect the trees Sunday afternoon.
It is asked that local business people also erect trees in front of their places of business.
They need not be decorated or illuminated unless it is so desired.
Announcement was made that the Lions Club is sponsoring a minstrel show to be given Jan. 23 to raise money to finance various civic activities of the club. J. A. Blossom, the proprietor of the Movie-Tone Theatre has tendered the use of the theater for the purpose.
The club is also sponsoring a community sing to take place in the high school gymnasium Dec. 18th as a part of the town’s Christmas activities. The club took up a collection at its meeting Tuesday and this together with the contributions by the Senior and Junior Women’s Clubs and the Parent- Teachers Association will make it possible to give every child present, under high school age a treat following the conclusion of the sing.
Consideration was also given by the club to the necessity of making nominations for municipal officers to be voted on Feb. 1, and President A. W. Walker was authorized to name a committee of five to the club to confer with a like committee of five from the fire department and other organizations with a view to agreeing on a slate of nominees.
The Lions Club committee includes Wm. Olson, Maurice Kay, Dr. L. S. Crary, John T. Ammondson and S. L. Dahl."
So, not only have we solved the mystery of the photo by finding a couple of references to the Cosy Café, but we have learned that the café was a hub of community activity in the early days of Fairfield.
If you enjoy our community history and the occasional mystery, come to the next regular meeting of The Fairfield Historical Society on Thursday March 7 at 5:00 p.m. at the Fairfield Drop-In Center, or to the Society “get-togethers,” with the next one set for March 21.