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WATCH NOW: 'Old Friends, Charlie' Lombardo suffered disasters

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"Old Friends, Charlie" persevered through disasters that leveled his home, killed his wife and ruined three business locations.

Charlie Lombardo known as “Old Friends, Charlie,” was the owner/operator of the “Yellow Spot” fruit and confectionary store opened in 1885 in downtown Mason City. His stores were named Yellow Spot after his second location, a bright yellow wooden building situated where Federal and State streets intersect.

His third location was situated in the first block of East State Street. When fire threatened that building he moved farther east on State. His fourth store was completely destroyed in a fire that consumed an entire block in downtown Mason City on Feb. 17, 1940.

In the evening hours of Feb. 17 the devastating fire caused $15,000 ($280,000 in today's dollars) of damage to local business. The cause was unknown but a possible cause was from paints, oils and varnishes at the hardware store igniting.

Damon’s, located next to the hardware store, suffered losses of spring shoe stock, curtains and draperies. Flames roared up through the elevator shaft in the buildings, shooting 15 feet into the air making the sky red, attracting crowds from the theatre that had just let out.

Following the fire, Charlie moved his business one more time to another location in downtown, continuing to meet and visit with the residents of Mason City, selling candy and fruit until fire took this building, too.

Arriving in Chicago from Naples, Italy, in 1877, Charlie met and married Camilla Caponi who was born in Sicily, Italy. They settled in Mason City, starting a family with six children and embarked on a journey of fruit and candy sales.

Tragedy struck on July 10, 1910, when Camilla was using kerosene to start a fire. The flames whooshed up and claimed Camilla’s life, the youngest child was thrown clear of the fire and rescued by a neighbor. With six children to raise alone, Charlie provided all six with a public school education and continued to run a successful business.

Charlie’s stores were described by the Globe Gazette: “From the time he started, Charlie’s store was a center of interest in an ever-changing Mason City.”


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