BY R. AUBREY LA FOY
Last Friday morning I spent several hours journeying down Memory Lane with a very delightful lady, Esther Kastrup. She was born in Harley in 1920 and moved to Okoboji in 1928. The family lived in the stone cottage owed by Val Brooks. The stone cottage is now and gift shop located to the south of the Lighthouse restaurant. She told me that John (Buddy) Brooks parents lived next door on Brooks Beach. A fond memory was how good the water was from the well by the Stone Cottage. From there the family moved in Okoboji to what was called the Mulligan Cottage on West Lake Okoboji across from the Art Bascom family home. She recalled that Art's parents and sister, Mildred, were all working cleaning cottages and his father was just starting in the insurance business.
When living at the Mulligan Cottage she related that for several summers she delivered the Omaha World Herald and the Sioux City Journey to lake residents from Okoboji Boats up to and including Omaha Beach. It was a long hike barefooted and receiving a nickel for each paper delivered. Sunday papers presented a problem because they were so big but a small wagon carried them on her paper route.
Esther's family moved to Arnolds Park when she was 12 years old and rented house owned by Don and Martha Stearns. The Stearns owned and operated the Roof Garden before Howard and Muriel Turnley took over. She attended and graduated from Arnolds Park High School in 1938. A class reunion is held often but she lamented the numbers are shrinking. High School kids growing up in the lakes region seldom have difficulty finding employment in the summers and she was no exception. In her sophomore years she managed the candy stand for Win Umbehaum at the Dreamland Skating Rink and in her junior year worked the candy stand for Lola Muth at the Majestic Roller Rink. I forgot to ask Esther if she was an expert and fancy roller skater.
The memory journey really began when Esther began to relate her years working at the Roof Garden. Her first job was Hat-check girl at $10.00 a week, seven nights on duty. It was a good paying job as tips increased the take-home-pay. The Roof Garden was a popular and she was promoted to cashier. Some of you old timers can recall that ticket box as it was carved out of the Fun House building and was at the bottom of those multitude of steps leading up to the Roof Garden. Did any of you readers count how many steps? The ticket taker was at the top and he or she would stamp your hand. The stamp would show up under a special light. There was also a ticket booth at the other end of the Roof Garden next to the Root Beer Stand. An evening of dancing would cost you 90 cents but you could buy a ticket for 10 cents and dance about three or four musical numbers. After that set the rope girls or boys would herd you off the floor to clear the dance floor until the next set. A couple could dance several sets at a reasonable price.
Wednesday night was Big Band night. Imagine meeting Glen Miller, Betty Hutten, Jan Garber, Tiny Hill, Skippy Anderson, Carl West, Dorsey Brothers and on and on. The Roof Garden had them all and Esther was fortunate to meet many of them. Many of you can recall that there was a display or advertisements of the upcoming bands posted outside the ticket booth next to the Fun House. Many times she would latch on to those photographs and if possible get them autographed. She also had an autograph book with many pages full of autographs by celebrities.
In 1942 she married Loren Kastrup. They had three children: Gary, Kent and Kathi. Loren had several beauty salons over the years and was a barber/beautician. Originally he had a shop in Los Angeles and later in Spencer and the Lakes region. His first beauty salon, 1934, in Arnolds Park was in a building between the Taylor Grocery Store and old bank building. Later he moved to a building next to the old Arnolds Park City Hall.
The Kastrup Beauty Salon featured air-condition, four experienced operators and free taxi service in 1957. Esther was not a beautician but many times took their station wagon to transport customers from their home to the beauty salon and back. Many ladies did not have transportation as their husbands would take the family car back to Omaha or Sioux City and they were stranded. The shop received a great deal of publicity in 1950. Do you remember the TV show-Queen for a Day? Rosalie Adams was chosen and for one of her prizes was going to the Kastrup Beauty Salon for the full treatment. Esther has a wonderful photo of that event with Loren, Rosalie and herself taken in the beauty shop. What memories!
Loren Kastrup died in 1964 and Esther sold the beauty shop. She worked one summer at the Chozens Department Store in Spirit Lake and evenings and weekends at Kentucky Fried Chicken. The following fall Esther was hired as cashier and hostess at the Holiday Inn in Okoboji and the following January was hired to work on the switchboard at Dickinson County Hospital. Esther was always alert to acquiring autographs and one day while working at the Holiday Inn she met a fellow in the hall. After she passed him it dawned on her that that was Ken Curtis. That name is not familiar but his stage name is-Festus Haggen. Do you recall the TV show Gunsmoke? Festus appeared in 239 episodes of Gunsmoke. The sidekick of Marshall Matt Dillon was Festus Haggen. Esther tracked Festus down at the Holiday Inn and secured his autograph and also an autographed photo. This is the first time I had ever heard that Festus had been at the Iowa Great Lakes. Wonder why Festus was here at the Iowa Great Lakes?
Esther worked at both the Dickinson County Hospital and the Holiday INN six days a week and had only one hour to get from the Holiday Inn to the hospital. It was 15 hours a day but she did get Monday off from each place. The two jobs lasted ten years and in 1994 quit the Holiday Inn and stayed on at the hospital until 1994 when she retired.
My interview with Esther was a delight. She has so many stories to tell about her life growing up and living at the Iowa Great Lakes. One letter and a short interview only scratched the surface of her experiences and brushes with Big Bands leaders, orchestras, singers and entertainers. Working at the Dickinson County Hospital and the Holiday Inn for so many years could produce many more stories about her contacts at those establishments. Everybody has a story to tell and listening to Esther Kastrup journey through life at the Iowa Great Lakes was indeed rewarding. Esther remarked that she never thought she would be living in Milford and I countered that I never thought I would be living in Arnolds Park but that's the way the dice roll. What is your story?