Created By: Reno County Museum
For a fleeting moment, this little town was touched by the silver screen.
It was 1951, Francie White Grilliot recalled to The Hutchinson News in 2010. She and her grade-school friends were excited to be part of the background in a Hollywood motion picture being shot on location in their hometown of Castleton - a film to be called "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie." A wardrobe of old-time clothing was kept at the high school, and her mother, a seamstress, was charged to make it fit the extras.
The film crew transformed little Castleton into Sevillinois, Ill., a town set in 1905. They built a fire station, barber shop, livery stable and other period pieces that were situated around the already existing post office and Santa Fe depot. And for about two weeks, Castleton boomed with activity.
But then the crew packed up and headed west, and the tiny town of Castleton, already well amid rural decline, continued its downward spiral.
Death of the town
Castleton was laid out in 1872 by W.E. and Clinton Hutchinson. It was named Castleton for C.C. Hutchinson's sweetheart's hometown in Vermont.
The town grew to 450 people. It had two blacksmiths, a livery, a depot, meat market, groceries, hotel, restaurants, hardware and a creamer, the article stated.
Then came the death dealer, Charlie Hornbaker, the unofficial mayor, told The News when the post office close.
"The auto not only ruined our town, but others," he said. "We can now go to Hutchinson in the time it took to hitch up the horses. But who'd want to go back to the horse and buggy days?"
The post office closed in 1957, and the red brick depot, which had attracted the eye of the Hollywood producer, was razed in the early 1960s.
"There's not much left," Francie said from the kitchen table in the farmhouse where she grew up.
A faded sign on the two-story township building still reads "Sam Eichenbarger, General Merchandise," which, according to a 1970 story in The News, was seen in the film. The basic plot in "Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie" centers on a man who moves to a small town and sets up a barber shop.
It starred David Wayne, Hugh Marlowe and Jean Peters as Nellie. Peters was Howard Hughes' girlfriend at the time, and Hughes had hired a chaperone to make sure Peters didn't stray. Fresh roses from Hughes arrived at her room at the Bisonte Hotel in Hutchinson every morning, according to News editor Stuart Awbrey's column from the 1960s.
Awbrey said he was traveling west after the Castleton filming, so he stopped in to see the director, Henry King, who was putting finishing touches on the film.
"King was using the studio's biggest sound stage, and on it was a re-creation of what had been at Castleton a few weeks before," Awbrey wrote. "The railroad station seemed to have been rebuilt, stick for stick, and rubbed to the same dilapidated look. And, of course, the barber shop, firehouse and such might have been moved directly form central Reno County. I was stunned."
"What was that bit about getting authenticity in Kansas?" Awbrey asked.
"Well, we salvaged some scenes from our trip," King said. "But after we saw the runs out here, we decided on some script changes. And I wasn't too happy about the lighting we got in Kansas."
Thus, how much of Nellie's release was actually filmed in Castleton is anyone's guess, it seems, although Francie Grilliot says she thinks she saw herself in the film.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Reno County Ghost Towns