BY: SUSAN BARON

Why does the building on the NW corner of 60th and L looks like it is not of this world? What was there before and who built the motel? To figure that out, we need to go back in history.

Before white settlement, Native Americans hunted, fished and lived in the broad valley of the Big Papio Creek. They planted corn on its bottoms and the creek cut so deep into the land that an ox belonging to Mormon leader Brigham Young broke its neck trying to get down the Papio’s steep banks to get a drink. That was in 1846, when the Mormons, after an arduous three-month trek across Iowa, were given permission to cross into what was then Indian Territory.

Hundreds of Mormon wagons began crossing the Missouri River in late June of 1846 and found temporary respite in the open prairie near what is now 60th and L. It was a temporary stop for the Mormons and because of a large spring seeping sweet, clear and cold water, they named it Cold Springs Camp. Here they prepared for the trek to Grand Island, where it was thought they would winter since it was too late in the year to attempt a mountain crossing

 

Plans changed. By August, Mormon leaders directed the hundreds of wagons and tents to leave Cold Spring Camp and go to Winter Quarters in modern Florence, Nebraska. In 1854, Indian Territory became Nebraska Territory and the land filled up with white settlers. Margaret Baier Bauman and her husband settled on a farm at 54th and L in 1867 and lived there for most of 50 years. Fast-forwarding to 1893, Fred Tex, Sr. married Lily Bauman, Margaret Baier Bauman’s daughter. The Tex’s first child was Fred Tex Junior, born in 1900. Three daughters followed while Tex and Lily took up the business of farming.

By 1909, Fred Tex Sr owned parts of Section 1 and Section 6 on the Douglas County plat map of that year.  Fred came to own quite a bit of land in the area, but that’s another story. For now, it is important to know that a parcel of land in Section 1 would eventually be the landing pad for the Satellite Motel.

The first building to cover the pasture land on the NW corner of 60th and L, was a garage built by Fred Tex, Sr. for his son. Fred Tex, Jr. had a glass eye from being kicked by a horse or cow and, perhaps for that reason, he did not farm with his father, but he did have an interest in motors. This was in the 1920s and neither L or 60th streets were paved.

 

These dirt roads needed grading from time to time to level out ruts and holes created by wheels and weather.

 

At about this time, Fred Tex, Jr, friends with Floyd J Kidder, Sr, married Floyd’s sister, Blanche Kidder, and Floyd married Fred’s sister, Ida Tex.  Floyd and Ida Tex Kidder’s marriage holds significant importance for this bit of history for they also had a son, Floyd J Kidder, known as Junior. Junior would eventually take over the garage from Fred Tex Jr, build a new one and also build the Satellite Motel.

Junior was born August 4, 1922 and he was special from the beginning, for he was a person of little stature, only growing to a height of 4 feet.

 

But nothing held this enterprising young man back. Junior attended South High School; participating in the school orchestra as a saxophone player and soloing in choir.  Junior had difficulty walking long distances, so to traverse the long halls at South High, he used a tricycle. It seemed like a logical solution since he did the same at home. Junior was excused from his classes 3 minutes early to avoid the rush of students in the hall and he had the privilege of using the elevator.  Soon after graduation, Junior took a position as bookkeeper and dispatcher at Omaha Concrete Stone. He worked there for 15 years.

Junior and his brother Gene took over the garage from Fred Tex, Jr. in 1957. The Kidder brothers became widely known as builders and racers of dragsters.

Students across the street at Ryan High School remember the roaring of car engines as they were being tested.

 The widening of 60th street to four lanes was planned for 1964. The roads had long been paved, but now the garage on the NW corner of 60th and L would be in the way and would have to be moved or demolished. In 1963, Junior worked out a deal with Fred Tex, Sr. to get a piece of ground just north of the old garage in order to build a new garage. That building stands today operating as All Pro Muffler and Brakes.

After construction of the new garage, there was a bit of land left over just to the south, right on the corner. Junior and brother Gene drew up rough plans for a building that would fit the site. Architects Gollehon and Schemmer drew up the final plans for the octangle building and it was completed in May 1966.

The Satellite motel was not only unique in design, but in purpose. It housed Junior Kidder and his parents, Joe and Margaret. The first level had motel rooms all around, with outside access and an interior hallway providing interior access. In the core of the structure were living quarters for the family. The dining room and kitchen were on the ground level. On the second level, reached by elevator, were bedrooms and baths. The third level, called by some a penthouse, was actually a recreational space for Junior, complete with a bar built to accommodate his short stature.

There is no clear reason why the name Satellite was chosen, but Junior played it up by having a Sputnik type sign made that seemed like it was orbiting the motel. Before it was damaged by a recent hailstorm, the ball, nor longer painted orange, blinked lights at the end of its numerous antennae.

Sadly, Junior had a heart attack in 1977 and died at the age of 55. Due to health concerns, ownership of the motel had been transferred earlier to his sister and brother-in-law, Margaret Kidder Kosalka and Joe Kosalka with the condition that Junior be able to live there for the rest of his life. The Kosalkas decided to sell the motel in 1986. Unfortunately, the current owners did not respond to a request for an interview so we don’t know how much the interior has changed. However, the motel exterior looks today much like it did back in the 1960s, still attracting notice from passersby, wondering if The Satellite Motel might begin to whirl and lift off to fly to distant universes.

Author’s note: This article was made possible by the research help from the librarians and archivists at the Omaha Public Library, but most of all from Robert J Kosalka, whose mother and father lived in, worked in and owned The Satellite Motel for most of its past history.

Bibliography:

Keith Pauley – owner of All Pros Brank and Muffler shop 4646 S 60 Street, Omaha, Ne

Omaha City Directories and Street Guides

Omaha History Club Facebook page

Omaha World Herald historical obituaries, births and marriages

Franzwa, Gregory M The Mormon Trail Revisited, pg. 74-76

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