Cloydia Joel Ahlers Newton's birth on Oct. 15, 1922, caused headlines in local newspapers.
This was because when her doctor arrived at her rural home by horse and buggy, he suffered a stroke and died.
Cloydia Joel Ahlers Newton’s birth on Oct. 15, 1922, caused headlines in local newspapers.
This was because when her doctor arrived at her rural home by horse and buggy, he suffered a stroke and died. She was named for him, Dr. William Cloyd (W.C.) Guss. Her middle name, Joel, was for her neighbor, Joel Hastings, whom she credits with coming to her home to replace her doctor, and saving the lives or both herself and her mother.
Her life in Hannibal has continued to be newsworthy. Her parents, Alfred (Buddy) and Mary Etta Rybolt Ahlers, operated a grocery store, then opened Hannibal’s first motel, Ahler’s Tourist Courts at 3603 McMaster’s Ave. It was later named Ahler’s Motel and included a restaurant.
Cloydia credits her parents with teaching her the work ethic that she believes has kept her healthy and active all her life. She and her two younger sisters, Nettie and Helen, first worked in the store and continued in the motel. “I started working in about seventh grade,” Cloydia said.
In 1998, Cloydia self-published a book about her life, titled, “A Journey From the Beginning.” It includes genealogies of both her family and her husband, Fred Newton Sr.’s family. She wrote it as a member of the Memoirs Writing Club at the Hannibal Arts Council. Some of her memories in this article are from her book.
After 93 years in Hannibal, Cloydia is preparing to move to New Mexico to be closer to family.
The Ahlers home on McMaster’s Avenue put Cloydia near a roller skating rink, and this was one of her favorite things. The Indian Mound Skating Rink was across the street from the store. The Ahlers girls also played games, such as Hide N Seek and Red Light. When they got their first radio, they listened to “Orphan Annie,” “Jack Armstrong” and “Amos and Andy.”
One strong memory was when Cloydia’s sister, Nettie, in seventh grade, fell off Lover’s Leap during a Girl Scout outing on April 14, 1937. Nettie and her friends, Mary V. Hickman and Mary Holman Stillwell, went to the edge, and Nettie fell 20 to 40 feet, then started to climb back up. She fell again and tumbled down at least 120 feet until she caught a tree before dropping the last 20 feet to the River Road below. Train personnel, J.W. Canote and Mr. Luckett rushed to rescue her, handing her up, man to man. Dr. W. Francka treated her at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, and she had no broken bones, just cuts and rocks embedded in her skin. Her winter coat helped prevent major injuries.
Dad’s diphtheria changed their lives
At age 25, Buddy Ahlers was working at Sultzman’s Bakery on Third Street and was building his first home in the 3800 block of West Ely Road, when he became critically ill with diphtheria. Dr. Lucke of the health department quarantined the home. Because he was believed to be dying, his doctor gave him an extra dose of toxin, which caused partial paralyses of his body. “Grandmother was able to remove the large growth caused by diphtheria in his throat that was choking him to death,” Cloydia said.
“Grandmother was very determined and very religious and believed in miracles. She fed him raw eggs, German beer and many liquids made from solid foods, since he had difficulty swallowing. … Carl Sultzman (co-owner of the bakery) seldom missed a day stopping by, bringing extra bread, rolls and encouragement.”
Buddy Ahlers walked with crutches and had partial paralysis for about 1½ years. “Dr. Gull, a chiropractor, treated him for many months, and he was some better,” Cloydia said. Mr. Sultzman realized he could not do his former job and loaned him $5,000 to buy a little grocery store at McMaster’s and West Ely Road, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Tom Kirby.”
In 1926 the Ahlers family moved to an apartment adjoining the grocery store. “Mother was a healthy woman and very hard worker, so my dad could rest every afternoon,” Cloydia said. She worked, stocking shelves, filling little metal containers with candy, and taking orders over the phone for groceries to be delivered.
“My father’s paralyses was a blessing in disguise, as it took him on a road of success from groceries to building the first motel in Northeast Missouri and the restaurant business,” Cloydia said. “So miracles do happen. He lived to be 91.”
In the mid-1930s he built four brick cottages with garages. In 1949 an eight-room addition was built. It had 49 units in 1954, when the cabins were demolished to allow the main building to be constructed. The Ahlers sold the motel in 1974, when he was 74 and she was 76.
Her first job at YMCA
After graduating from Hannibal High School, Cloydia worked at the YMCA. “I worked for the Hannibal Community Chest for two months with Bertha (Bert) Catlett. She was women and girls’ secretary at the Y, where the Community Chest was located. E.E. Cordry, the Y general secretary, asked me to stay and work at the Y as a bookkeeper.”
She met her husband, Fred Newton, at the Y. He graduated from high school with her, although she did not know him. He had been living in St. Louis and was waiting for pilot training in the U.S. Air Force. At the Y he was teaching swimming, gym classes and weight lifting and had only a few days, but he kept asking her if she was going to marry him, although they had not dated.
Cloydia next worked at the City Hall for the Board of Public Works until her marriage.
When Fred returned to Hannibal, they dated and began writing letters. During World War II, he flew 35 missions with the 8th Air Force 92nd Bomb Group. He was honored for flying in Normandy, Northern France, and several more campaigns. They became engaged on Feb. 14, 1945, and were married on May 10, 1945.
Fred was an auditor with the Missouri Division of Employment Security for 36 years. The Newtons lived in several Hannibal homes, including one he built at 36 Holliday. He died Dec. 11, 2000.
Cloydia took time off work to raise their son, Frederick Lee Newton Jr., then worked part-time for a railroad, first as a vacation cashier in the freight office. “I worked part-time for 10 years and made exceptionally good wages,” she said. In 1960, she had to take a permanent position or quit. Her son was in ninth grade, so she worked full-time.
“I worked for the railroad most of my life and had 30 years’ credit,” she said. She believes she was the first married woman hired. “They didn’t hire women unless they were an old maid,” she said. “I got in, because the war had changed things.”
Now a resident of Pleasant View Assisted Living, Cloydia has no relatives in Hannibal and is looking forward to moving to Albuquerque, N.M., where her son and grandson, Erick Newton, live. Her granddaughter, Heidi Newton, lives in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Cloydia will be moving in mid-September in time to celebrate her 94th birthday with her family there. Her new address will be Montebello on Academy, 10500 Academy Road NE, Albuquerque, N.M. 87111.
Reach reporter Bev Darr at email@example.com.