One more thing about Columbus . . . Andrew Jackson Higgins

My jarhead husband reminds me that I can’t talk about Columbus (home of the Gottberg Auto Co. building) without mentioning the Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial. Higgins, creator of the “Higgins boat”, was born in Columbus and was the man Dwight D. Eisenhower said “won the war for us.”

Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial, Columbus, Nebraska

The Higgins boat, or LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle and Personnel) was key to the success of the Allies’ amphibious invasions during World War II, including D-Day. It was a small, light wooden boat with a protected propeller and diesel engine capable of carrying 36 men or a dozen men and a jeep.

Ford GPW at the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles in Lexington, Nebraska

The Navy didn’t initially see the value, but the Marine Corps did and was willing to lobby for it. By September of 1943, the Navy had 14,072 vessels and 12,964 had been designed by Higgins. Fortunately for the Allies, Higgins was able to produce so many boats because he had possessed the foresight to purchase the entire 1939 mahogany crop from the Phillipines. A great American, he also once demanded that a Navy contract be renegotiated downward because he was making too much money while American boys were dying. The display, located in Pawnee Park, is a beautiful and fitting memorial, consecrated with sand from beaches around the world where the Higgins boat saw action.

Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial, Columbus, Nebraska


Andrew Jackson Higgins Nebraska Historical Marker, nd, Andrew Jackson Higgins National Memorial, Columbus, Nebraska.

Greenberg, Paul. “D-Day Museum Helps Honor Man Who Helped America to Win WWII.” The Clarion Ledger, 9 March 2001, p. 11A.

Ringle, Ken. “The Miracle Boat That Won A War.” The Hartford Courant, 6 June 2000, p. 1.

Watkins, Billy. “The Man Who Won the War.” The Clarion Ledger, 6 June 2004, p. 1.

Vintage Ford Dealership – Gottberg Auto Company

What is it about old car dealerships that tug at your heartstrings?  When we are road-tripping, I look for these glimpses into the past on the main street of every town we pass through.  It is always a pleasant surprise to find such a structure that has been preserved and given new life, and one superb example of such a property is the former Gottberg Auto Company dealership (now Dusters Restaurant & Gottberg Brew Pub) in Columbus, Nebraska. 

This structure, built in 1920, features the front ends of four automobiles, made of stone, at three upper corners.  Each stone car has a “G” on the grille:

This dealership was built by a man of vision named Max Gottberg.  Gottberg had been a farmer since 1881, but a discussion with a local attorney in 1905 changed his career path.  Gottberg had purchased his first automobile, a Ford Model A 2-cylinder, a couple of years earlier at the St. Louis World’s Fair. The attorney owned the same type of car, but it had broken down and the attorney had hired a “mechanic” to fix it.  The alleged mechanic had fled after strewing pieces and parts of the automobile across the yard, leaving both the attorney and his poor car in a bind.  Gottberg, who was in town on jury duty, agreed to attempt to re-assemble the parts. He had the car “running like a top” within a day and a half and soon decided to open his own repair shop.

By 1907, Gottberg was ready to open a Ford dealership in Columbus.  The first of any kind established in that city, it was also one of the earlier Ford agencies in the United States.  The first few years of business were lean, however. Gottberg once recalled, “The first year I sold 22 cars, and, after all was said and done, I had lost $64.” Livery work helped to keep the doors open until America fell in love with the automobile, and soon Gottberg’s business was thriving. 

In 1929, Gottberg established an airfield north of Columbus.  An aviation enthusiast, he had purchased an American Eagle biplane.  At that time, Ford was manufacturing a $50,000 tri-motor and encouraged Ford dealers to take an interest in aviation with a view toward the production of smaller aircraft.

Gottberg driving up the steps of the local YMCA to showcase the Ford’s power in 1911.

Gottberg Auto Company celebrated their 25th anniversary in 1932 and was one of the oldest Ford dealerships in the country at that time.  It remained in business until Gottberg’s death in 1944. 

It makes my heart happy that this uniquely beautiful building has not only been preserved, but is also being honored.  Dusters Restaurant (named for the garments worn while driving the earliest automobiles) & Gottberg Brew Pub is a restaurant, banquet facility and micro-brewery featuring lagers, ales, root beer and cream soda.  When my family and I stopped there for lunch not long ago , the food was great and the root beer was fantastic.  If you are anywhere near Columbus, be sure to take the time to appreciate the building as well as the brews.


Advertisment. Gottberg Auto Company. The Columbus Telegram, 30 June 1916, p.

“Auto Repair Shop Opened in 1907.” The Columbus Telegram, 23 May 1956, p. 6.

Dischner, Francis M. “Pioneer Auto Dealer Recalls Early Experiences.” The Columbus Telegram, 6 March 1931, p. 3.

Krepel, Terry. “Discover Columbus History Looking Up.” The Columbus Telegram, 20 December 1987, p. 1.

“Max Gottberg Among Oldest Ford Dealers.” The Columbus Telegram, 31 August 1936, p. 4.

“Second Airfield To Be Established North of Columbus.” The Columbus Telegram, 1 July 1929, 8.

“To Observe 25th Anniversary of Gottberg Agency.” The Columbus Daily Telegram, 22 April 1932, p. 8.

Fox Body Capri

Speaking of Fox Bodies, look at this 1984 Mercury Capri that is going on the auction block as part of the Kearney Cruise Nite Annual Classic Car Auction.

It has the 302 V8 with a 5-speed and, get this, only 12,740 miles! Other cars that will be sold on Friday night include a ’40 Chevy Tudor, a ’69 Goat, and a ’33 Ford Vicky, and you can check out all of them at Rhynalds Auction. Despite local flooding, all events associated with the 32nd annual Kearney Cruise Nite (including this auction) are proceeding as planned because “‘A rumbling engine and some tail fins and chrome can be very therapeutic,’ said Cruise Nite committe member Joshua Sikes. ” It certainly works for me!

NSP Fox Body Mustang

This is how one Nebraska State Trooper rolls . . . . in an iconic 1993 Fox Body Mustang:

Photo credit: My State Trooper brother-in-law

This Mustang SSP (Special Service Package) has a 5.0-liter 302ci V8 and just has to be a blast to drive. (It was featured on “The Drive” in May, where the author referenced Nebraska’s “famously flat highways”. For the record, Nebraska is not flat, and you only think that if you never get far from I-80 which was constructed in the Platte River Valley because the Valley is flat. That’s how road construction works.)

Anyway, Ford built the Mustang SSP cars from 1982 to 1993. In 1982, the California Highway Patrol bought 400 of them and nine other states followed suit the next year. One 1983 story touted the early version’s cornering capability as well as its speed (over 120 mph) and rapid acceleration (zero to 50 in 6.3 seconds). It was a welcome change for CHP officers as reported by the Oakdale Leader: “The CHP officer no longer has to be embarrassed struggling to hit 85 mph in the unimposing Dodge St. Regis, which was forced on the CHP by tough environmental laws.”

Ford advertised the Mustangs as “This Ford chases Porsches for a living,” a slogan reminiscent of this one from 1956, “It takes a Ford to catch a Ford”:

The Ford became the police car of choice in the 1930s because of cars like the 1932 flathead Ford and a specially built 1939 Ford with a Mercury motor capable of speeds up to 100mph. Ford’s overwhelming popularity with law enforcement continued until the late 1960s.

1956 (Angola, Indiana)
1952 (Brookville, Pennsylvania)
1959 (Church Point, Louisiana)

As law enforcement agencies across the country struggle with recruiting, they may want to consider allowing more officers to drive classic patrol cars. Applicants would likely be lining up (especially if they added the 1969 Dodge Monaco with the 440 Magnum back into the line-up)!


“Fast Acceleration Spurring Sales of Mustang Special Service Cars.” The Hartford Courant, 11 May 1983, p. F2.

Ford. Advertisement. The Angola Herald, 4 April 1956, p. 4.

Ford. Advertisement. The Sandusky Register, 20 March 1956, page 1.

Peters, Eric. “Lots of Police Car Lore Offered in ‘Encyclopedia'”. The Courier News [Somerville], 23 August 2000, p. 6.

Photo. The Church Point News, 1 September 1959, p. 1.

Raymond-Barth, Mary. “CHP Adds Muscle to Enforcement, Instead of Being Left in the Dust.” Oakdale Leader, 27 April 1983, p. 1.

“Special Police Auto Arrives: Capable of Speeds of 100 MPH.” The Transcript Bulletin [Tooele], 12 December 1939, p.1.

“Something New.” The Brookville American, 1 May 1952, p. 1.

“The ’83 Ford Mustang Police Car.” The Courier Post [Cherry Hill], 24 May 1983, p. 140.