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Lincoln, Nebraska: 1942

Lincoln, Nebraska: 1942

"Seed and feed store in Lincoln, Nebraska." Our third view of the Grand Grocery from 1942. View full size. Kodachrome transparency by John Vachon, OWI.


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Lincoln, then and now

I'm always excited to see pictures taken in Nebraska, because, as a Nebraskan, the fact that our state is frequently ignored by the other 49 gives us a bit of an inferiority complex. Anyway, I've greatly enjoyed the grocery pictures from Lincoln, and find the comments prompted by this one to be very interesting.

To start with the obvious, yes, the Embassay Suites is not very exciting, but I can think of much worse fates for an old part of town than having a higher-end hotel locate there. Here's a picture I snapped of it this afternoon. (I'm no tterrace, so bear with me). The people in the foreground of the 1942 picture are where the trees are in my picture:

As Lee pointed out, there is a building casting a shadow in the 1942 picture that still exists today as high-end apartments. It would be directly to the left of the people in the foreground of the photo. This building is still looking pretty spiffy:

I also love the community feel of the 1942 picture, though I disagree with the statement that our country has "lost it" (I was born in the mid-1980s though, so maybe I just have no idea). After growing up in a town of 2,000 people, I feel that smaller towns and rural areas still have a lot of the things that so charm people from this picture present in real life (including old guys in bib overalls). It probably is true that urban areas are increasingly disconnected, but their huge size and the relative mobility of their residents makes this unsurprising.

And in defense of the lack of non-carbound Nebraskans in this picture, I will mention that it was about 98 degrees when I took this picture at 5:15 tonight--not great weather for socializing outdoors! :)

@CGW: I am visiting the state capitol on Monday before I move out of state. First time since 4th grade--I hope you enjoy it! Maybe we'll be on the same tour.

Old Lincoln, 10th and P

I've walked that street. A friend in college lived in an apartment upstairs of the corner building at the end of the block north of the Grand Grocery, the little building with the gap just south of it. A funny apartment in a funny little building. The apartment was one room wide but 4 or 5 rooms deep, because the building extended to the alley, half a block. And and unbelievably cozy apartment it was. Downstairs, a courtly gentleman from the British West Indies, I believe had a tailor shop.

The thing I find so appealing about this picture is the people have the time to stop and chat with each other. No one is hurried and they seem to be enjoying themselves and each other in a way we've lost. Lincoln was much smaller then, about 90,000, and much closer to the farms around it than now, as can be seen.

The modern hotel is--well, it's there. I watched them build it riding my bike home from work in the afternoons. It has an opulent but gaudy lobby. But, to be fair, the hotel was not the reason all those buildings except one are now gone. An ill-conceived downtown redevelopment plan in the late 80s led to the entire block being razed, the only one of many targeted to suffer that fate. An even uglier parking lot was there for several years before the city convinced the hotel magnate to put up the new hotel. And also, to be fair, I remember that more than half the buildings on that block were in really run down condition by 1989, several vacant. Fortunately, the redevelopment plan failed to ruin the rest of the downtown.

The block was pretty much intact until 1989, though the Grand Grocery was long gone by then. I believe the Green Frog Lounge was in that building or just east of it. The gap you can see between the buildings on the right side between the building where my friend had his apartment was wider in my time there, with a 50's bar built back from the street that extended south to the alley where the power poles are. Otherwise the buildings are pretty much as I remember them. Around the block to the east was the best Mexican restaurant in town. Next to it was a business supply store whose elderly founder was so distressed at the loss of his building that he passed away. Next to that was Lincoln's best "hippie" store, Dirt Cheap. South of that was the Sam Lawrence Hotel, which my mother informed me that back in the 20s when she came to Lincoln on the train with her mother to go shopping, "Nice ladies didn't stay there."

The only buildings left today as they were then are the one you can't see casting the shadow on the lower left side, which is the former post office, now condos. The other you can just see the top in the upper left side of the picture and used to be the Law School at the University of Nebraska. Everything else is gone or changed.

Unlike the picture with the girl, the cars, and the office buildings, 12th Street looking north from N, which is nearly the same today, in this picture nearly everything has changed. But this one, with the people enjoying each other and the nice day, is in my opinion the most attractive of the 5 color shots Mr. Vachon took that day, all within this 5 block area.

A tip of the hat to the kind poster who mentioned our exquisite state capitol building. Most states' capitols are worth a visit but ours is a real treasure with its grand rotunda, lofty tower, and beautiful interior finishing. I never tire of touring that wonderful building. If you don't see anything else in Lincoln, you should see that. Or for an excellent virtual tour,

Thanks Shorpy, for the wonderful trip down memory lane. It was different when I came here to the university in 1963, but much more like this picture than what it is now. I've only been in the new hotel once. These old pictures are treasures indeed.

Re: Ah, yes the swell world of 1942

I agree with the notion that it is of great nostalgia to look back at such times in history. But perhaps it is best to do just that, look back.

I can't imagine the social norms of 1942 as I am merely 23 years of age, but I am willing to bet that there has been much progress made in the way of personal and individual freedoms - even if not stated in law.

I'm also willing to bet that "minorities" of race, sexuality, gender, or whatever it may be would agree.

I once asked my grandmother, born in 1921, if she could live in any time period of history which she would choose... she had many reasons for different places in time but she said as a woman, she would want to live in no time other than the present (or the future I'd say).

I'm fine right here in 2008.


I think those folks in the pic are standing on the corner where the Embassy Suites is ... looking toward the point where the Google photo was taken.
Same result, though, if you really want to embrace that whole "How sad, how sterile" stance. The building with the yellow awnings is now a multiplex theater.

No remotes???

That would indeed be a barbaric time in which to live!...There weren't even any TVs back in 1942. So, PattyAnne, you'd be getting up to change the dial on your radio. Maybe from "The Shadow" to "The Jack Benny Show".

And PattyAnne (I don't mean to pick on you...really!)
You were born AFTER war and poverty? When was that? I think the latter was certainly still there, even during the Eisenhower years. And as to war (assuming you are American) there was that little business in Korea, and then, that nastiness in Southeast Asia...etc.

Fortunately, I was born in Canada. Had I been American, I would have been just old enough to be eligible for the draft before the end of the Vietnam War.

I love the past too, but I think I'd like to just visit, not actually live there.

As the poster who "Wouldn't go back there on a bet" observed, the past was not perfect.

When people wish they lived in another time, they never seem to imagine themselves as out-ouf work and starving, as beaten down minorities, as fighting in a war, or as having an illness that was yet incurable.

All this being said, I am a "person of pallor", so I too would love to stroll down that long-ago street and exchange some pleasantries with the locals. But I'd want to be back before the draft board found me. In '42, the War was not yet going too well for the Allies.

I thank the ones who did go over there, many of whom never returned. They were fighting for the preservation of just such idyllic scenes.

[Just on a technical note: There were a few thousand telvision sets in use, mostly in the Northeast, in 1942. - Dave]

Next week

Next week the family and I are flying to Kansas City, renting a car, and driving to Great Falls to visit my in-laws. Our first stop is Lincoln, to visit some work-friends and to see that amazing work of art, the capital. A lot of the old buildings are gone, but the people are just as nice.

Going back

With family in the Seattle area we have found it nice to cross Nebraska on old U.S. 30. It is relaxing and not much traffic and we get to see a lot of nice towns.

Ah, yes the swell world of 1942

No internet (No Shorpy!). No iPod. No computers. No Lasik. No Viagra. And for those of us who are not persons of pallor, well before Brown v. Board of Education, Rosa Parks and MLK. Rationing, a world war to be fought...

I wouldn't go back there on a bet.


I am fairly certain that no generation will look back to their childhood and wish they could go back more than the Baby Boomers!!! It was a time of innocence, more prosperity than the generations before and close family ties! It was a time of feeling safe and loved. It was a time of growth! I love my "electronic toys" that I have today, but I would actually love to go back to a time when I had to actually get my butt out of the chair and change the channels on the TV. When I would have to keep calling someone until their "busy signal" went off. Sigh...I love the present, but I cherish the past!!! I was lucky...I was born AFTER the terrible times in the 1930's and WWII. I was born in the time after war and poverty - a time when America was growing!

Thanks for letting me wallow in my sentimentality!

Absolutely love this site - it lets me remember where I came from. Thank you sooo much!

Now an Embassy Suites

A little googling and someone said that a Lincoln phone book from 1938 gives the address as 1000 P Street. Well, here it is:

View Larger Map

How sad, how sterile. We've really lost a feeling in our country.

Living, breathing

Here it is folks, real life 66 years ago. I could gaze at an image like this for hours, wishing I could fall into it. In fact, if you don't hear from me after several days, it's because I'm over at the market squeezing the oranges.

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