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Remembering ‘back in the day’

By Staff | Oct 16, 2013

WYLIE ERWIN, left, of the Johnson-Hempstead Commission Co., and Larry Lowe, a calf buyer and former feeder pigs and feeder cattle auction caller, visit about their Sioux City Stockyard experiences during the Oct. 10 reunion. “I enjoyed every minute of it,” Lowe said. “The people were the best in the world.”

SIOUX CITY – A chorus of sound accentuated with animation and smiles filled a crowded room on Oct. 10 at Bob Roe’s Point After in Sioux City.

The conversation would halt briefly and resume as yet another member of the “family” at the former Sioux City Stockyards arrived for the group’s fall reunion.

The camaraderie of the gathering carrying over from the employees’ days at The Yards, which closed in 2002, was the informal theme of the day.

“Everybody down there had good humor,” said Tom Steinbeck, 85. “People usually had a nickname when they worked at The Yards.

“Often if they had a physical feature that wasn’t always normal, that became their nickname.”

JIM RODENBURG, left, former Sioux City Stockyards’ market news director, and Gene Schultz, of the Hudson-Coe Commission Co., catch up on one another’s experiences following the Yards’ closing in 2002.

Such was the case Steinbeck said of a Yards’ worker whose eyes “bulged out a little and was nicknamed Bug Eyes” while another, “a slender fellow, but with a potbelly” went by the name of Hay Bag.

This he added was not considered offensive at the time, but was rather a part of their being part of The Yards’ team.

Steinbeck explained that his grandfather, Carl Steinbeck, started at The Yards as a speculator and cattle trader in 1906.

The elder Steinbeck’s son, Elmer, and later Tom, left The Yards in 1972, closing the family firm’s three generations of buying cattle in Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Tom Steinbeck moved to Texas where he operates a cow-calf operation on a leased Texas ranch and pasture ground. Born and reared in Plymouth County, he returns to the Siouxland area during the summer “to beat the Texas heat,” he said.

The oldest of the former Stockyards’ employees attending was Art Hansen, 94. It was the people made the difference at The Yards, he said, recalling his days working with several of the long-time commission companies, Switzer-Beeson, Steele-Simon, Wood Brother and Don Flynn.

“You name them. I worked for them,” Hansen said. “It was the camaraderie that made The Yards special.

“I’ve always liked people, and if you wanted to be working with good people, The Yards was the place to be. We had a wonderful time.”

Loren Frisch agreed.

“Being at The Yards was a great experience in my life, and I still miss it,” he said.

A 15-year employee, later retiring after a 20-year career as a John Morrell and Co. hog buyer, said he worked with producers on farms throughout the area.

“I’ve been gone from Morrell now for 17 years,” Fritsch said, “and it’s amazing how today I see these people and get to visit with them even if I can’t immediately place their name.”

Charles Kreymborg recalled his 20 years “working hogs” with the Johnson-Hempstead and Steele-Simon commission companies.

“At that time I had five children and needed to make a living,” Kreymborg said. “My dad had worked at The Yards, and I just followed him through.

“The people were so wonderful. I just couldn’t quit.”

The Yards’ former U.S. Department of Agriculture market reporter Jim McElhany said his Yards’ days coupled with those spent with the Air National Guard.

The combination, he said, disrupted his plans to return to his native Oklahoma when he left The Yards.

“It ended up most of my friends were here and it just made sense to stay,” he said.

Among those attending the Oct. 10 event was the occasional non-retired former Yards’ employee. Jim Rodenburg said he was hired “fresh out of Iowa State University” in 1976 as news director for the Market News

Following The Yards’ closing, Rodenburg said he “stayed in the Yards’ family” moving on to the Omaha Stockyards. When it closed he joined Ag Processing Inc to head corporate communications.

“I’ve been fortunate to still remain heavily active in agriculture,” Rodwenburg said, “as well as to be involved in travel visits to China, Taiwan and Hungry.

“This, too, has been a great experience and one growing out of my initial experiences at the Sioux City Stockyards.”

Steve Moore, currently a hog buyer for Lynch Livestock, of Waucoma, assisted by Dick Weikert, a former Morningside College instructor, sent out 110 invitations for the luncheon and said he was pleased with what he described “a decent crowd” of approximately 80 attending.

Moore commended former Yards’ employee Mary O’Connor for her role coordinating earlier reunions.

He said he’s hopeful for more future luncheons.

“Everyone seemed to be having a good time and sharing their memories once again.” he said. “I hope the tradition can and will continue.”

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