Chapter 13 – Neshnala’s Saga: 1920s

But the war effort and fast changing social and cultural attitudes – the children of the band members who had once performed polkas and Sousa marches in the park’s bandshell now preferred playing jazz in the newly opened nightclubs − meant that by 1922 Falls Park was for all intents and purposes broke − the hotel had been shuttered, the gardens had gone shabby, the picnic shelters had fallen into disrepair…

When Iver Hubbard, the great-grandson of Elias Hubbard, assumed control of Hubbard Enterprises in 1918 he inherited a diverse and mostly successful collection of businesses – a chain of general stores in eastern Iowa, a new and even more luxurious edition of the Captain’s Hotel in downtown Lees’ Landing, and their freight hauling business, all doing well; only Falls Development was not. Within just a couple of years, though, he had come to recognize that things were happening that meant the company either had to adapt or die…

Trucks were quickly becoming a more efficient way of hauling freight than horse-drawn wagons, and what used to be mostly rutted gravel roads were being paved over into modern highways and interconnected; in 1926, for example, U.S. Rt. 32 – which started in Chicago, and passed through Lee’s Landing on its way to Council Bluffs − became one the country’s first interstate highways; which meant the Hubbard freight company had to make the switch from horse-drawn wagons to trucks to stay viable.

Similarly, starting in the late teens, large and well-stocked self-service food stores, the earliest iterations of modern-day supermarkets, had begun appearing in eastern U.S. cities; which meant the Hubbard general stores needed to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

But those two large scale transitions would require lots of capital, so Iver Hubbard made a big bet on the future by selling their most valuable property, the Captain’s Hotel, and using the cash to…

Redesign and rebrand the general stores as the FoodHub food stores… Between the late-20s and early-50s the chain expanded to more than a hundred locations in the northern Midwest; it was eventually acquired in 1959 by a competitor, Major FoodMarts, in a deal worth tens of millions of dollars.

Retire the horses and their wagons and replace them with a fleet of gas-powered trucks. The freight-hauling business was renamed Hubbard National Trucking, and by the end of the 1930s was one of the larger U.S. interstate firms. In the late-1960s the sixth generation of Hubbards would move their headquarters from Lee’s Landing to the booming western suburbs of Chicago and its proximity to multiple modern interstate highways.

Then there was the problem of Falls Park that had to be dealt with…

To be continued…

(C) 2018 Dave Lager