George H. Hackstadt

An article on the aftermath of the 1937 flood in Bromley, author Herb Lukens noted that “from one end to the other, Bromley is a shambles; houses twisted and warped, empty foundations, like tombstones, marking the place where a little time ago a house had stood, mud encrusted yards, and gaping shattered window panes.”  Four-fifths of the homes in Bromley suffered damage.

But Luken’s articles switches focus about half way through, and instead of talking about the flood and its aftermath in Bromley, he focuses on the man he is interviewing – 78 year old George H. Hackstadt, chairman of the Bromley Board of Trustees, and owner of “considerable real property” in the city.  Here’s what he said about Hackstadt:

“He faces the future with optimism and carries his 78 years lightly.  He began his career as an apprentice to a tailor, and made himself into a blacksmith.  In his youth, he operated three blacksmith shops, one in Ludlow, one in Crescent Springs, and one in Bromley.

“When it comes to floods, he is a veteran, and in 1884, when the flood was at its height, made his first investment in real estate – buying a piece of property which was under water.  There has always been the thought lurking in his mind that some time there would be a flood just like the present one, but, he said ‘I always hoped it wouldn’t.’

“Hackstadt left the blacksmithing business, and interested himself in amusement devices.  He operated merry-go-rounds at the Lagoon in Ludlow, and later in the amusement parks at Louisville.

“He opened the first picture show in Covington in 1905 in the building now occupied by Dine-Schable on Madison Avenue.  Marx Furniture Company had just finished building their new store and their lease on the other building had several months to run.  Hackstadt obtained the lease and installed a shooting gallery and penny arcade on the first floor.  On the second floor he opened a five-cent picture show, obtaining his films from Chicago.

“Marcus Lowe, who was operating a penny arcade in Cincinnati at the time, recently related in a magazine story that he obtained his cue from this show in Covington.  He realized that there was more money in a nickel than a penny, and in New York, opened a “Nickelodeon” which became the foundation of the present day chain of theaters.

“Just prior to the flood, Hackstadt said that he was making plans to open an “Athletoreum,” patterned along the lines of the “Sportaloreums” in several parts of the country.  The “Sportaloreum,” he explained, is on the order of a penny arcade and is filled with marble games and other similar devices.  Prizes are given for high scores made on the games.

“His idea was to group together number of athletic, strength-testing and skill devices and to give prizes for performances on them.  He had a number of these devices stored in his property in Bromley, and much of it was lost in the flood.

“Hackstadt has been active in public affairs for many years.  He is a member of the Kenton County Road and Bridge Commission, and served as a member of the board of Governors of the Northern Kentucky Motor Club for several terms.  Good roads were one of his chief interests.


Herb Lukens, in the Kentucky Post, February 15, 1937