Laros Buggy Makes One More Trip
By Michael McAllister
It has been a good many years since a Laros buggy—a brand manufactured in Grinnell in the early years of the twentieth century—traversed the streets of the town.
And it is a fairly safe bet that no Laros buggy ever was the chosen mode of transportation for a woman in a chicken suit.
But on the afternoon of Thursday, May 18, both events took place.
Actually, the explanation is fairly simple; it involves Grinnell’s chapter of Rotary International, the organization devoted to “Service above Self,” and the annual Rotary chicken barbecue, a popular fundraising event scheduled this year for Thursday, June 8.
In September of 1980, Grinnell Rotarians purchased a Laros buggy and donated it to the historical museum. The picture below, from the Grinnell Herald-Register, announced the donation and picture of Rose Stoops, then the curator of the Grinnell Historical Museum, and Bill Martin, Rotary member.
In 2017, however, museum officials became concerned about space limitations on the museum’s site, and a decision to relocate the buggy to the Spaulding Transportation Museum resulted. How to move it? Rotarian manpower, of course—all the more appropriate, after all, since the symbol of Rotary is a wheel.
But what about the woman in the chicken suit above?
The woman is Effie Hall, President-Elect of Grinnell’s Rotary chapter, and the chicken suit helps promote the chapter’s primary fundraiser that will take place on Thursday, June 8. Many posters about town provide information about the traditional event.
In everything he is eminently practical and this has been manifest not only in his business undertakings but also in social and private life, and he and his estimable wife enjoy the respect and esteem of a large circle of friends.” The quotation comes from L. F. Parker’s History of Poweshiek County, Volume 2, published in 1911, and it describes David A. Laros, who presided over “an extensive business in the manufacture of carriages, spring wagons, and buggies under the firm style of L. A. Laros & Sons.”
Mr. Laros came to Grinnell from Pennsylvania in 1877, having been schooled in both farming and the carriage maker’s trade. He worked briefly for Carver, Steele, & Austin before joining the H. W. Spaulding Manufacturing Company, and then, in 1897, Laros opened his own company.
“His business record is one of which he has every reason to be proud,” the History of Poweshiek County asserts.
Indeed, Laros & Sons consisted of four buildings by 1914—a partial depiction comes from Digital Grinnell below— but a fire that year destroyed two of the buildings, and the business eventually closed.
One hundred and three years later, a Laros buggy, powered not by horses but by men, rolled from 1125 Broad Street to 829 Spring Street home of the Spaulding Center for Transportation and where, on the floor above, the offices of Grinnell’s City Hall now reside.
Preparing to guide the buggy to its final home, the Rotarians below took a moment to pose for a picture. They are, from left to right, Howard Rafferty, Rod Rosburg, Frank Shults, Effie Hall, Jim White, Jim Buck, and LaMoyne Gaard.
And then the Rotarians eased the buggy into place…
and followed with a pose for next year’s poster, featuring Jim White and Effie Hall.
Effie Hall notes, “It is like coming home for the buggy as the building in which the City Hall is now located was the home of the Spaulding Manufacturing Company. It became the Iowa Transportation Museum briefly in the early 2000s. The buggy was manufactured at the first Laros plant located diagonally from Spaulding on the northeast corner of Fourth Ave. and Spring St.”
In 1906, a Laros buggy cost $50. When Grinnell’s Rotary Club purchased a Laros buggy in 1980, it cost $5,000, stated Jim White.
According to White, “the Rotary was able to afford to buy and donate the buggy then because it had funds raised from its annual chicken barbecue, a Grinnell summer tradition.”
When we think of history, we think of the past, yet we make history every day. Grinnell’s Rotary Club—since its founding in 1938— seeks a legacy of service above self, and it does so through a number of valuable endeavors.
A Rotary press release announces these current projects:
- Kites Over Grinnell
- Station Clubhouse
- Winter coats for the needy
- Bailey Skate Park and BMX Project
- Central Park modernization
- Scholarships for high school graduating seniors
- Rotary Youth Exchange Students
- And several other projects from organizations such as the United Way, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross
Thursday’s event blended the past with the present and the future. Mr. Laros’ buggy crossed more than the streets of Grinnell. It crossed generations of Grinnellians intent on improving the community and the lives of the people within it.
For more information about the chicken barbecue and Grinnell’s Rotary chapter, call Effie Hall, chicken barbecue coordinator and Grinnell Rotary Club president-elect at 236-8296.