Anderson - now there is a town for you! Since that's where I was born I have some rather far reaching memories of the place. And for sure I'll never forget the first day of school down in the old Central Avenue School building. Or my teacher - her name was Miss Goyer (I think that's the way she spelled it) and from then until now a vision of her always comes to mind every time I hear an allusion to the typical primness of a school teacher.
We lived down on Noble Street then - 1901 Noble Street. And we belonged to the Noble Street M. E. Church. The pastor's name was Reverend Kent. Seem like that was back in the days when the various denominations were not quite so tolerant of each other as they are today and one of my earliest memories church-wise is of a terrific argument then going on between the pastors of the Noble Street M. E. Church and the Christian Church. Only then it was referred to as the Cambellite Church, for what reason I never bothered to learn.
One Sunday night we had guests for dinner - only then it was supper. And our guests were likewise good Methodists, of course. And religion was one of the chief topics of table conversation. After the meal we were all seated in the living room when one of the men pulled a watch from his pocket and remarked that "Right about now the Cambellites are roasting Reverent Kent good."
That statement gave me a very bad night. I always liked Reverend Kent and I went to bed with sorrow in my heart and in my mind I had a horrible picture of the austere Reverend being roasted alive in a huge roast pan in a monstrous oven. My dreams were all bad, but maybe an excessive amount of mashed potatoes and gravy may have been a contributing factor.
And from the dark mists of those early memories come but very few names of those early-day school mates. Oddly enough I can't recall faces to match them but the names stand out plainly enough - Virginia and Hortense Druly and George Chittenden or Crittenden I can't remember which. After all, we moved from Anderson when I was still in the first grade so too much can't be expected.
But I came back again!
And my return happened when I was in the throes of my first pair of long pants. What a town that was then. For a long time I worked as a yard clerk out of the South Anderson yards of the Big Four. That was a twelve hours a day and seven days a week, and after a year or so of that I got wise to myself and went to work at Remy's. Life was a lot easier there - and there were wimmin!
A guy by the name of Joe Plummer was my bosom buddy and certainly I can't write here of the places we went and the things that we did. Those are things that Joe and I might talk about privately if ever I could find him. Never could learn what ever happened to him.
Gosh, how did I ever wander off on this subject?
It couldn't possibly be of interest to you. But it is to me - and in just a few hours now I'm going back. Yep, going back to a place that's filled with many a dear and youthful memory. And somehow or other I can't help but find in the back of my mind the hope that my visit there will bring me into contact with some of those with whom I used to get around. My soul is sorta filled with expectancy. I guess that's how come I've wandered so.
I've got a crop of wild oats sowed back there and I want to see how it's doin'!
We moved into Winchester fifty years ago  when my father accepted employment as a bottle blower with the old Woodbury Glass Company. Then, as now, the town's leading industry. The town was a stronghold of the Grand Army of the Republic and the "old soldiers" were then the men of substance and importance to the community. The Civil War was only slightly more distant than World War I is today and the Spanish-American War was even more recent than World War II is now.
It was in Winchester that I grew up. I strongly suspicion that my thoughts of Winchester are so dear because they represent virtually all of my childhood memories. You see, I grew to 'manhood' at the early age of fifteen and fared forth into the world to seek my fortune after completing (none too satisfactorily) the first year of high school. From that time forward there was no chance to accumulate childhood memories and those which did accumulate are somewhat tinged with the struggle of trying to live on $6 a week.
So-o-o-o, while my memories of Winchester may be somewhat lacking in depth, they more than make up for it in their richness; a kaleidoscopic jumble of people and events.
We took up residence on South Main Street, near Fountain Park Cemetery and Chris Wright's greenhouse. Next door south lived Mr. Boltz, the Postmaster. On the north lived a girl named Hazel Yeagy. Across the street lived my first playmate, Robert (Dutch) Roland, who to this day must wear a scar on his forehead as a result of a sled ride with me one day. The sled stopped and Dutch kept going. On the corner lived Ralph Fielder, an older boy who inspired my long continued effort to do everything the big boys did.
Up the street lived Merrill (Nick) Nichols and Bus Engle and Mary Bales. Nick was famous for his reptile collection, a dark box filled with at least one live specimen of every kind of snake common to the community. And I well remember the Nichols' beautiful carriage in which they fared forth for a ride each Sunday, weather permitting. Bus Engle's the one who broke me of catching behind the bat without a mask. I caught one of his fast ones with my nose. And Mary Bales - there was a time when I thought Mary was the most beautiful, most desireable, most gorgeous bit of femininity afoot.
Back of Nick's house was Nichols' pasture. It was here that their horse munched grass all summer long. It was also here that the boys from all round gathered to play along the banks of Salt Creek, which flows through it. It was the spawning place of the Salt Creek Desperadoes - a gang of boys who turned up their noses when the Boy Scouts came into being along about 1910 or 1911. The Scouts had nothing in their program that the Desperadoes hadn't been doing since they were eight - only far more so in many cases.
Bill (Stink) Pugh was the biggest and toughest of the lot. And he had a sister, Celia, who was most charming. Up the hill, on Orange Street, lived Skinny Thomas. Skinny used to break all his dogs to harness and drove them to a wagon in summer, a sled in winter. The boys played cowboys then, too, and Johnnie Weaver killed his collie dog, skinned it and made a pair of fancy cowboy chaps with the hide. Old John Summers also lived up on the hill and near his house he owned a strawberry patch. The patch was guarded over by a talking crow who all year around would scream, when a stranger approached the house, "Oh, John - the boys're in the strawberries." Thanks to that crow I've never tasted a berry stolen from John's patch. Others were not so fortunate. Besides that, the old G. R. & I. Tracks were lined with wild strawberries which we enjoyed in walking back and forth to and from "the dam," a belly-deep "swimming hole" which we patronized before we were big enough or old enough to make use of the deep, deep waters in the South Pit - an abandoned, water-filled gravel pit south of town.
Incidentally, the right away of the G. R. & I. with its well-worn paths on either side, beaten there by us kids en route swimming or fishing, was a popular strolling place for enamoured couples. We often used to follow them on Sunday afternoons as they strolled hand-in-hand out south. If they left the right away, we trailed them in the best approved "Indian fashion," at which we were pretty good. Many of the Salt Creek Desperadoes learned the facts of life at a very early age - and quite accurately, too.
Everett (Shoestring) Coats also lived on the Orange Street Hill and so did Roy and Ray Sparrow, the Spatsy Twins we called 'em. And right near the corner of Richmond and Orange there lived a balloonatic - a guy who made a living making parachute jumps from a hot air balloon. I don't remember his name but I'll never forget the licking I got for crawling into the soot-encrusted inside of that smoke bag to help him repair it.
No matter what the calendar said, spring officially opened when Ellis Bailey and his sons Ty Cobb (Hubert), Pin Worm (Robert) and little Ralph got out their poles, lines and a can of worms and seated themselves on the cold, damp sod at "second" bridge, where Orange Street flanked Nichols' pasture on the south and crossed Salt Creek. This same brief expanse of water, when frozen, was where we played "shinny," a very rough poor boy's version of ice hockey, played with make shift equipment. The clubs were little saplings dug from the ground and sawed off so the bulbous part of the root, found just below the ground, served as a club head while the stem or trunk of the little tree was the shaft. The puck we used was a small milk can. I still have nicks in my shinbone and I imagine there are still many facial scars left today that were caused by that flying tin-can puck.
Louie Mendenhall had a pair of racing blades which placed him a notch or two up the social scale from us common souls who had clover leaf or heart clamp-on jobs. One night a bunch of us were racing and the course lay under "second" bridge. Byran Templin, older and bigger than the rest, didn't duck quite deeply enough on his approach to the bridge and what happened to his forehead when it struck one of those steel girders was a very bloody sight to behold. Louie lived on Carl Street at the corner of Richmond. Their big yard sloped downward sharply to the banks of Salt Creek. The corner of their yard, where the incline was steepest and longest, was our foot-slide, where we went down standing up. It can be done but not without the exercise of some dexterity. The Mendenhall barn was a huge three-story bank barn. It was the locale of another of our favorite games called catcher-over-the-stalls. One player was it, and called out the name of the player he was going to tag. Then the chase commenced, up and down through every part of the structure - in the mow, down hay chutes, over the stalls and mangers. No one was ever killed. I don't know why.
Across on the other bank of Salt Creek stood the remains of the old woolen mill, a skeletal structure for the most part but with some of its weatherboarding still intact on an upper floor. Here was another of our "dens" and many were the plots that were hatched therein. The old mill was always a safe haven when we were pursued by angry citizens as a result of Halloween pranks. And certainly Halloween was not just one night long. There were many preliminary events, such as corn night, gate night, soap night and cabbage night. The main event was reserved almost entirely for tipping privies. And terrible was the fate of he who "followed through" and failed to step back in time as the little structures toppled. Then there was the night we dismantled a carriage and reassembled it on the roof of a house. Until you've seen it, you'll never believe how funny a cow looks on top a barn roof or sticking her head out of a hay mow window.
Johnny Carter, and sister Rella lived just west of the old woolen mill on Carl Street. Later they moved down on Richmond Street in an old house surrounded mostly by real estate. Out back was a pond during wet years. When it was frozen it was a perfect skating spot and well do I remember the night that Toad Brown, not possessing ice skates, tried his luck on the ice with rollers. Toad will never forget, either.
And Dude Scholtz. Dude was about sixteen and still in the second grade. En route to the then brand new Frances E. Willard School we passed the vacant site of the old barrel heading factory, just west of the G. R. & I. tracks. Nothing remained of the old factory except some charred remains and a length of what had once been the smoke stack. I promised Dude a nickel if she'd crawl through it. She started crawling through and I ran around to the side and pried upon it mightily with a piece of timber. The length of pipe started rolling and gathered speed as it spun down the side of a gentle slope with Dude still inside. Me? Well Dude would make three of me and I took off for the tall uncut grass before she had a chance to get out.
But there was a day of reckoning! One day she caught me out in the alley along side our house and before I could get the gate of the tall board fence unlatched she pounced upon me and fairly well beat hell out of me. I was a sorry mess when I got back into the house and my father never ceased to laugh every time he told the story of the beating Dude had given me.
C. V. Graft ran a flour and feed mill and as I recall it was the first to sell his horse and buy a truck for deliveries. A high-wheeled wheezing old contraption with buggy-style wheels as tall as my head. Right across the street was the Goodrich elevator and what a wonderful fire it made on the night that it burned. The Big Four passenger station then stood right across the tracks from where the old (and the new) elevator stood. I used to pick up a few coins nightly selling the Indianapolis News to traveling men as they impatiently paced the station platform while waiting for the evening trains. My source of supply was the old Bowers Book Store on the north side of the square. Later I carried a regular route, distributing the Indianapolis and Muncie Stars. John Ferris was circulation representative for Winchester and later moved to Muncie and a position on the reportorial staff. Today I think he is either city editor or managing editor of that sheet, having been there these many long years.
I was seven when my brother came along. He wasn't a healthy baby and required a special diet. Included in his diet was breast milk which we obtained from a wet nurse. Three times a day it was my job to go get it, fresh from the source, a buxom lady who was possessed of a surplus. The container was a regulation titty bottle of the time and I was always mortified at the thought of some of the boys catching me carrying that damned thing around. I always kept it hidden under the bib of my overalls and many's the time I took off in the wrong direction when I sighted some one whom I knew approaching. No one every discovered my secret sin.
And twice a day I had to go for cow's milk over at Mary Shockley's house. That was different! I would have gone there uncomplainingly a dozen times a day. Mary was a grade ahead of me in school but I always thought she was mighty easy on the eye and I guess there was a time or two when I had her down in my book as the one and only. Her mother was the ticket agent for the Indiana Union Traction Co., the operators of the streak of rust electric line which ran through our town. Her brother Harry was a bundle of mischief.
Paul Page lived with his grandmother or an aunt out on East Washington. He had asthma and smoked cubeb cigarettes for it. He was very much looked up to because he was the first and only one who could smoke in the house. Cigarettes of the day included Hassan, Sweet Caporal, Piedmont, Nebo and other names long since passed and forgotten. The well known Lucky Strike green circle then adorned the side of a tin can of smoking tobacco. Camels were the first of today's popular brands to be introduced into the area. Their arrival was preceded with a teaser advertising campaign depicting the camels in a circus parade and screaming in big black letters: "The Camels Are Coming." Everyone started looking forward to the visit of a circus and interest ran quite high. Every boy had a collection of the pictures of famous ball players found in every package of cigarettes and they were amongst his best trading stock. Lucky Strike came to a switch from smoking tobacco to a tailormade cigarette much later. The price was 10 cents a pack but the best we poor boys could muster was a nickel sack of Duke's Mixture or Bull Durham (we called it heifer's delight). I think it was Bed Bug Edwards who first taught me how to roll one.
I remember Paul Kraft for the fancy clothes he wore. Don McIlvain and I used to run a string of traps along the banks of Salt Creek in the winter. It was with these two boys that I later grabbed a hand full of freight train and set out to see the world. We wound up as cabin boys on the old City of South Haven, a sister ship of the Eastland, which sank in the Chicago River at the Clark Street Bridge with loss of hundreds of lives. It was while sailing the waters of Lake Michigan that I learned first hand what mutiny is and how it is handled, but that is no part of this story.
When they first paved Meridian Street the parking area between the side walk and the curb was piled high with paving blocks. Frank Focht, his brother Wilbur and Jimmy Perry and I had tons of fun with those paving blocks. We'd remove the blocks from the center of the pile leaving only the outer two tiers of brick intact. Over the resulting hole we'd place boards and thus roofed, we'd have a "cave." And it seems I remember a venture into the lemonade business, too, from one such home made stand. On down the street Skunk Mendenhall (not related to Louie) engaged in much the same sort of activity. It was Skunk who was driving the ambulance which took me to the boat upon my return from France following World War I. Or did he meet the boat on this side? I don't remember - but it was quite a surprise re-union.
Paw Paws were one of the delicacies we searched for following the first frost. High on the list were hickory nuts, with their sweet and delicate flavor. And sad indeed was the boy who on his maiden effort brought home a sack of "hickory nuts" only to find that instead they were pig nuts and bitter as gall! - totally unfit for human consumption. Next time he shunned hickory nuts with the thin outer shell, recognizing them for exactly what they were. And butternuts, the richest tasting of all the nuts. What a flavor! And every fall the hands of every boy were hopelessly stained a dark walnut brown from shelling the walnuts that would find their way into cakes or be eaten around the fireplace during long winter evenings. And beech nuts, too. The tiny three-cornered delicacies whose nutty goodness made it well worth your time to shuck them from their hulls. And last, but far from least, the hazel nuts and the chinquapins.
I can fairly see such characters as Louie Mendenhall, Nick Nichols, Johnny Carter, Francis Simpson, et all as they roll back their own curtains of the past as they read here - and remember.
Fall was a time of sheer gluttony as we enjoyed the blessings of a bountiful harvest. The apples and the turnips were harvested and buried against the frost of the winter. The corn was shucked and thrown in the cribs and the first hogs were butchered. The hams and sides of bacon were cured; the sausage, the ribs and backbone fried down for future use. Gluttony indeed! Epicurean delights the likes of which are found no more, much to the sorrow of the world.
Fresh boiled pork and turnips; sausage that tasted like sausage; ham and bacon cured to perfection with a delicacy of flavor never since attained. And around the fire at night, apples, nuts and parched corn washed down with huge gulps of sweet cider.
Well, you know what I've done? I've sat here and written about food until my appetite will no longer be denied. And me on a diet.
The gigantic forces of Nature were revealed when with a sharp cracking and popping sound the ice broke up on Salt Creek and White River, soon to be flushed outward and onward at flood tide following the early Spring rains. Time then to hang up the ice skates and stand safely atop a bridge gaping at the awe inspiring sight of a stream shaking itself free of it's icy winter shroud.
The robin was not to us then the harbinger of Spring. We had a more dependable and certain sign that this gracious season of the year was close at hand. Spring could not be far away when Ellis Bailey gathered his brood of boys around him and, fishing poles and bait can in hand, wandered down to the banks of Salt Creek at what we called Second Bridge. And when Ellis and the boys went fishing, a horde of us would follow suit. Ellis could never be wrong. Not only was his appearance on the banks of the creek a sure sign of the approach of Spring, but also a sure sign that the chubs and sun perch were starting to bite.
Sometimes the business of exploration and discovery bordered upon the daring, or even dangerous side. There was the time when several member of the "Salt Creek Desperadoes". as our gang was known in the community either rightly or wrongly, journeyed afoot far up the banks of the stream with which we were identified. Rain had fallen incessantly for a week and the steam was roaring bank full.
"Boy, wouldn't it be great to build a raft and ride it back to town?" someone suggested.
"Gosh, we might even ride it clear out to sea!" exclaimed another youthful student of geography to whom a few mere more hundreds of miles meant nothing.
Youthful imaginations were instantly fired and action was quickly fitted to the thought. A huge pile of "poles", ideal for the purpose of raft building, was at hand and without thought or question they were shortly assembled into a craft second only to Christopher Columbus' Santa Maria, in its grandeur. What did it matter that it's deck was awash with inches of water as it struggled bravely to carry it's cargo of happy boys.
And how startling was the sudden discovery that we had no method of controlling our craft. Bobbing along merrily we braced ourselves to prevent tumbling into the icy waters as we bumped first into this and then that obstruction. Then came a bridge. We were plunging headlong for it and the water came within three feet of the bridge floor.
There wasn't room on the raft for all of us to duck our heads and go beneath that bridge. Here the abutments restricted the flow, forming it into a veritable mill race. Would we all be scraped off into the surging flood never to appear again? Many hearts leaped into as many mouths as we contemplated the possibility so immediately before us.
We reached the bridge bobbing along with great rapidity and here the kind Destiny, which so often puts it's arms around the shoulders of small boys to save them from certain peril, took over in our dilemma. One of the larger boys brace himself, reached out and clutched the bridge. Our pace was instantly arrested and for seconds that seemed like years we waited to see if he could hold us out from the maw open before us.
He could and did!
As he hung on desperately to hold the raft, we one by one made our way onto the safety of the bridge, with the lad who had held the raft waiting until the last. He let loose and sprung to safety. The raft shot forward. Some one caught it on the other side of the bridge and held it. Had we had our fill of adventure? We had not! We all piled back on and down the stream we went our merry way again. Crossing bridges now became a technique.
In due time we were back in town and our voyage now over, the raft came to rest in the back water which in the flood ran back under Old Man Johnson's grocery hung out over the creek on stilts. On looking up one of the boys discovered that the floor of the grocery above them boasted a trap door. It was only shortly after this discovery that all of us enjoyed a feast of cheese, crackers, minced meat and sardines, washed down with the waters of an ever-flowing artesian well ocated in the wilds of atwo-block long strip of vacant land along the east bank of the Creek. It was here that Governor Goodrich later built his home.
It wasn't long until the aftermath of our watery journey caught up with us. It seems that the "poles" from which we had built the raft, were in reality large cedar corner posts, intended for use in building fence. We had misappropriated them and now we must pay. That's what the man said. None of us were working at any paying occupation except Francis Simpson. So Simp took the blame and for a long time he paid 35 cents a week out of his 50 cents weekly salary as a messenger for Western Union. Years later, I am told Simp owned the grocery under which our uncontrolled raft drifted that Saturday afternoon a long time ago. One day he called up Beef Bullock, the chief of police, and complained tat bys were robbing his store and by heck something had to be done about it. Beef just laughed and laughed - then replied, "Listen who's talkin'!" None of us ever turned out to be sailor!
As Spring followed Spring adventure followed adventure, always spreading in an ever widening circle as we grew older. There was the collection of snakes "and other wild animals" which Merrill Nichols had in his barn; the day Siss Reed knocked my front teeth loose with a broom; catcher-over-the-stalls in Lou Mendenhall's barn; all these and a host of others far too numerous to be mentioned here.
Then suddenly the pattern of Spring commenced to change. And oddly enough this change came at a time largely co-incidental with the change in our voice. Within the scope of a single word a voice might range all the way from high soprano to basso profundo. Girls, who previously had been identified as being people who weren't boys, suddenly assumed a new significance. Their previously despised fluffy softness suddenly became highly desirable. Their presence, previously shunned, was now something to be actually courted through ever so many perfectly goofy antics aimed exclusively at attracting feminine attention and approval.
Then came the first pangs of undying love!
Puppy love, some call it, but call it what you will it has an indefinable, indescribable something about it which silences the most boistrous boy once within it's throes. No sacrifice is too great or too foolish but that he will lavish it upon his loved one unflinchingly in an heroic effort to express his affection. His sensations vacillate between bitter and sweet, burning and cold, dazzling light and dismal dark. His morale is at one moment raised to terrific heights by a winning feminine smile, only to be plunged into abysmal depths the next when the same or a brighter smile is lavished upon another.
These are the moments we remember forever. They are perhaps the most treasured moments of our life. There may be a difference between puppy love and the love which inspires one to marriage but never can anyone forget the clear, wholesome, soft warmth and tenderness of one's first school romance.
And with time still turned backward I recall not without a certain twinge which still remains, that distant Spring when my own attention was first focused upon femininity. Food seemed not to satisfy my appetite and I was sorely beset with I knew not what. Sleep was sometimes late in the descent upon my consciousness, as hour after hour I lay awake dreaming of impossible situations in which She was the heroine and I was an humble and attentive hero willing to give my all.
Heaven can produce no greater reward than those fleeting, furtive moments in which I was in Her company alone - moments, the memory of which still lingers. Clandestine meetings after school and after church, where even the touch of Her hand brought goose pimples, shortness of breath and palpitation. Innocent games at our school parties had a significance to us which none other could see or know. And the times when we played "Post Office", there always came the yearning to crush Her to me in brutal abandon, while in fact I timidly pecked her innocently enough and permitted my mind to soar in flights of fancy.
There were other and later Springs when the techniques may not have been so tender, but neither has it been so long remembered.
It may not be interesting to read about life as it was led by a member of the Salt Creek Desperadoes (the gang I ran around with) but I can tell you for sure that there was never a dull moment in living it.
However, there were girls, too! Not that they were ever permitted to play with us--heaven-- forbid! --but there came times when we were not out swimming, fighting, skating, fishing, exploring or fighting bumble bees. These rare moments were sometimes devoted to playing with girls.
Like when we lived on South Richmond Street. Right next door lived Pauline Albright--a doll if there ever was one. I recall that on the north side of the Albright home there was a swing upon which Pauline and I whiled away many an idle hour. And Pauline had a cousin, Flavia Ward, who used to come visit her. I blush to recall that upon the occasion of Flavia's visits the three of us sometimes played our own adaption of "Post Office"--and most interestingly. We must have been all of nine or ten years old.
Across on the corner lived Helen Addington. Directly across lived a man named Chenoweth, a motorman on the old Indiana Union Traction line, who was killed in a head-on collision of two I.U.T. interurban cars in the west edge of Union City. On up the street was Mary Ballard, who had the prettiest blue eyes and fairest complexion. And up on the corner of Carl and Richmond, where lived the Mendenhall boys, Louis and Bill, there also lived their two very lovely sisters, Miriam and Marguerite. Both were beauties, with Miriam as attractive as a brunet as Marguerite was striking as a blond.
In every neighborhood there's one boy who sticks pretty close with the girls. In our neighborhood it was Reed Monks. On one of the very few occasions when he made so brave as to go out with the Desperadoes, he separated me from some of my baby teeth. We had gathered in Nichols' Pasture, our usual hang out. Reed started swinging a club around and around his head just as I raised up from picking up firewood--and there they went! Hit me square across the mouth.
No matter what the season of the year, wherever we went it seems that we always built a fire. And usually we could dig from our collective pockets sufficient apples and potatoes, thoughtfully brought along, to nourish our bodies if it developed that going home for lunch would be an inconvenience. And together with the apples and potatoes we added green corn in season--and many an unwary bird that fell the victim of a well-placed stone or a B.B. shot. For cooking utensils we were never in need. Just wrap the provender in the center of a mud ball throw in the fire and cook until done.
In due time we were able to add more meat to our outdoor diet when we came into the possession of .22 rifles, a forbidden item I kept hidden in the hay mow. We'd buy .22 flobert cartridges because they were cheap, and use them for target practice. Came the day at the South Pitts, just after a swimming session, when we were shooting at the brass firing cap of a 12 gauge shotgun shell, held in place in a knot of a tree. Most of us had our trusty .22's with us but Johnny Weaver was armed with only a B.B. gun, with which he could do but little business. Johnny got disgusted. Louie Mendenhall was lying prone on the ground readying to fire his .22 when Johnny went over and kicked the muzzle of Louie's gun. Just then Louie pulled the trigger and the bullet smashed into Johnny's heel, hit the bone, turned downward and lodged in the heel of his shoe.
"My God, I'm Shot!" yelled Johnny. He took off his shoe and sock and dunked his injured foot in the cool water of the old gravel pit until the bleeding stopped. Then he put his shoe back on and hiked with us the three miles or so back to town with nothing more than a limp. If he ever missed a day of play, I don't recall it, nor did he ever have a doctor. He said he kept the hole plugged with axle grease until it healed.
Remember Johnny! I mentioned him before. He's the guy who shot his big shepherd dog and tanned the hide to make himself a pair of woolly cowboy chaps. I've often wondered what ever happened to Johnny.
For awhile we lived up on North Main, next to Boltz's sawmill. The old mill was a never ending attraction to me as a boy. I remember that I used to get weighed on their big platform scales at least once every day--and always with the same result. Just fifty-five pounds. It seemed then that I'd never grow up but since then I've added a hundred and twenty pounds.
In that neighborhood there was James Leavell, Marie Moorman, Walter and Isiah Saucer, Virginia Shires, Thelma Keener, Wilma Lewis and Hodge Copeland. Hodge was a colored boy who was admired and respected by all who knew him. He earned that respect and admiration with his impeccable conduct, his keen personality, a winning smile and a wonderful ability to make friends. I though a lot of Hodge and never knew any one who didn't.
The old North Ward school boasted of the stinkingest outdoor plumbing imaginable. And the walls of the place were ornately carved with initials and hearts and sex symbols against a scribbled background of pornographic verse, names and declarations of undying affection; all the memorabilia of the alumni who had passed before.
It was while attending school at the North Ward that I encountered one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. It was Monday--and Monday was wash day. I came home for lunch and my mother directed that I change shirts, putting the dirty one in the wash. I did--but when I did I forgot to clean out the pocket. My mother did it for me and in doing so, found a note I had secreted there. This note contained a super abundance of four-letter words that all parents--both then and now--think that their third graders never heard of. To make matters worse, the note was written by a girl, whose name I have carefully left unmentioned here.
The first I knew about it was shortly after school resumed for the afternoon. My mother strode into the school room quite unannounced, madder than a hornet and ready to whip her weight in wildcats.
"What kind of a school is this, where naughty little girls write naughty notes to innocent little boys like my son? Why of all the . . ."
My teacher, Gertrude Henderson (I think it was), handled the entire matter most adroitly. I'll never forget the skill with which she soothed my mother while at the same time sparing both the girl and myself as much embarrassment as possible. I don't know how the young lady felt but as for myself--I wished at the moment that I was dead or at least that I could fall through the floor.
I've been scared of wimmin ever since.
With but a single exception my memories of my school teachers are indeed very fond ones. There was Edith Ludy, to whom I started in the first grade. What a crush I had on her. If only I could have told her how she had me completely charmed. And the faint odor of the perfume she wore haunts me yet. For months I kept in my possession a handkerchief with which she had tied up a minor cut on my hand and surreptitiously sniffed at the delicate scent it bore.
Herb Kable was the principal at Frances E. Willard school, then brand new. I never tangled with Herb, who had a reputation for being a real tough guy. One day he whaled hell out of Fat Willis and the next morning Mr. Willis met Mr. Kable enroute to school and suggested that Kable might want to try beating up on some one his own size. I don't know what Kable said in reply but there was a terrible fracas following Mr. Willis' suggestion. For two or three weeks after that Mr. Kable wore the most beautiful shiner, which from day to day alternated its color through the entire spectrum of the rainbow. When I got to Herb's room he'd softened quite a bit.
Viola Butts probably influenced my future as much as any one; she and Celia Bates. I was No. 20-A in Viola's room; Glen Jones was 20-B. Viola's forte was art and she didn't give a durn if you couldn't draw your own breath so long as you could make critical and intelligent comment on a Rembrandt or other old master. Balance across the geometrical center, graying of colors, location of the center of interest, over all composition--these were the things which were important and which she drilled into us with singular effectiveness. I've use that training in the purchase of many thousands of dollars worth of commercial art.
Celia Bates I had in language, grammar, English, rhetoric, etc. I always stood near the bottom of the class but I think Celia used to pass me each year because she felt that I worked at it. She nearly fainted when years later I met her on the street and informed her that I was advertising manager of the Curtis Wright Airplane Co., in St. Louis. I'm sure that she little suspected the dumbest cluck in her classes would ever make a living in the writing field but it has been so since early 1927.
John Stines taught us mathematics but the thing I remember best about John had nothing to do with numbers. John lived two doors down the street from us. One night he was enroute home when Don McIlvain bombarded John with a snowball. The missile hit John's stiff kelly dead center and sent it skimming out through the wild blue yonder. Don lit out and John lit right after him. Unfortunately Don made a very bad mistake. He ran into our back yard and, once there, made the starling discovery that he had been stampeded into a box canyon. There was no back gate and no escape and no use in my taking space to narrate what happened.
Nellie Cornelius was a gentle soul who also taught me something of the ways of the English language. And then there was Bessie Smith! It seems that Bessie had once taught my uncle Russell and didn't like him. Every time she looked at me she didn't like me, too, because I reminded her of him. So the feud was on. It was nip and tuck all the way through. The first month my grade in deportment was 55, a condition that was sparked by my climbing to the ceiling on a steam pipe during her absence from the room one day. She returned to the room before I could get back down, walked right under me and, not looking up, did not see me. Everyone was roaring with laughter and she knew not why until she noticed my empty seat, then--following the gaze of the kids--she spotted me up there. Returning to earth I then made the first of many, many trips into the office of Oscar R. Baker, the superintendent.
Tell Wilson ran the biggest livery stable. Parents in other towns frightened their kids by telling them the Booger Man would get them if they weren't good--but not in Winchester. Here they told us Buck Fletcher would get us. A man named Irvin, who formerly ran a saloon, owned the Irvin Opera House and wasn't that a bloody mess there on the kitchen floor the morning he committed suicide. Bill Hodge ran the barber shop, where I shined shoes and cleaned garboons on an extra basis. Spending money usually came from collecting bottles, bones, rubber and the zinc cases of discarded dry cell batteries.
I have memories such as these: The Saturday night shooting at Meridian and South Streets, when Mae Brown was killed. All day trips to the slaughter house to return in the evening loaded down with all the hearts, livers and brains I could carry--for free. Similar trips to Roby's Fertilizer Plant to watch 'em skin out, cut up and cook recently deceased horses and cattle collected from the pastures of farmers over the countryside. John (J.H.B.) White ran the corner drug store with a clerk named Stewart, whom I met years later when I was promoting town sites in Oklahoma. Stewart had a son, Basil. And Reid's Drug Store on the other corner. Romine Hanscom, we used to call him Happy, whose pappy had the Maxwell auto agency and was there ever anything so big or so fine as the Maxwell Special, when it blossomed out with a 100 inch wheel base. Ernest Thornburg, whom we called Froggy. The Draher girls delivering milk with a spring wagon pulled by a buckskin pony. Mabel Brown, June Payne, Doris Hutchins and the Chenoweth girls on East Washington.
Bumblebee fighting to get the honey and bee bread from their nests. And the knots they put on your head and other places. And the eyebunger we sometimes ran into. Snaring suckers in the spring from the north Main Street bridge over White River. Gathering walnuts and hickory nuts and chinquipins. And beechnuts from Goodrich's pasture. Winter week-ends spent in flipping rides on sleighs, bobsleds and mudboats. Roller skating around the courthouse square. Jim Perry driving Judge Engle's White touring car. The White Steamers they used to sell on North Main Street. The Davis garage where they sold the Flanders and the EMF and didn't they later turn out to be Studebaker and Buick. The Buicks with electric bells on the front end instead of a horn. The Overland with an Owens automatic gear shift years ahead of its time. And the cute little Saxon.
Edwin Pogue and Shavey Barnes, who used to live over by the High School. Garnet King, who sat in front of me in the fifth grade. Liss Daly, the night constable, and the time his son, Jim, sent me to Union City after some beer and his dad almost caught me with it upon my return. Pat Davis' cigar store, the high school hangout. Camping out at Funk's Lake, where the mosquitoes could be shot for blackbirds. China Hole, where we used to catch catfish. Dingbat Newman, who was killed when a train backed over him. And the day Mr. Flanagan was struck by a fast through passenger train and his remains scattered all over the landscape. And the team of horses the train hit at the Union Street crossing. Raymond Watts and his electrical experiments, and the quince tree out behind his house. Old Dolly, our white mare that used to pull us down to Grandma's at Huntsville and who threw me off right out in front of Pin Worm Bailey's house when once I tried to ride her.
Basil Beeson's crush on Georgia Clark, Young Doc Hunt, who died of an infection after performing an operation. The side shows and the carnival rides on and around the courthouse square on "Homecoming Week." The cooch dancers, the Turkish wrestler and the cigarette fiend were top attractions. The pitch men, with their gasoline torch lights who drew crowds to the northeast corner of the square on Saturday nights. Esther Simon and the time we were Cinderella and the Prince, respectively, under Edith Ludy's tutelage. Her later crippling attack of infantile paralysis and the terrific shock it was to her school mates not to see her driving her pony cart.
Harold McDaniels arrival in town and the flutter amongst the girls, Mary Jaqua and Gerald Davis on East Franklin. Ruth Fess, on South Richmond who came from Piqua, Ohio. Ed, Clyde and Evelyn Stakebake, father, son and daughter. Methinks Clyde and Evelyn had a common birthday--on their parents's anniversary. Ed owned the Dreamland movie house and Clyde was the operator. Boasted of a $1,000 mirror screen and had an old Edison projector in which the film was cranked through by hand. And the Arcadia theatre, owned by an Edith Fiske, who taught me dramatics or recitation or something. It had its own electric generating plant out back, a generator pulled by the contrariest gas engine ever built. And the opening of the Cozy by Charley Daugherty, who had a beautiful daughter, Pauline.
Enzie Parker, who supplied me with my first chew of tobacco when a carton of Scrapple cut plug fell off the back of a dray. Spit quick or puke, we called it.
I remember that day very well. It was winter time and Inzie and I were flipping rides on our sleds behind passing wagons and buggies. On this particular day we hooked on behind a dray that was loaded with merchandise and while we were riding along a carton of Scrapple Fine Cut chewing tobacco "accidentally" dropped off the dray and Inzie latched onto it as we passed by.
"Let's have a chew," suggested Inzie.
"Let's do," I responded, and we both cut loose from the dray.
We opened the carton, took a package each, opened them and each of us took a chew.
Right here I'm reminded of an old-time gag that appeared as a one-liner in the first issue of the Laugh Book. It went like this: "Love makes the world go around but so will a big swaller of tobacco juice."
Well, I don't know how it was with Inzie, but that's the way it was with me. In a couple of minutes the world started going around and it immediately became a case of spit-quick-or-puke - so I did both. As a result of this ill-fated adventure, I've always held Inzie in high regard as one of my very closest and dearest friends. He taught me not to chew tobacco. Too bad someone else could not have been handy to have served me equally well in sparing me from some of the other vices I've picked up instead of.
Memorial Day, when the National Guard fell in at their armory and marched in precise formation to the Methodist Church. Here they fell out and lolled upon the lawn until memorial services were over inside. And as they rested there they were pestered with questions from every hero-worshiping kid in town who could duck away from his parents. When the services were complete, the big parade would form and off down South Meridian Street they would go. The high school band, the National Guard, the honored "old soldiers," the Spanish-American War vets, the horse-drawn "rigs" in the procession. A thousand shouting kids and barking dogs dodged in and out through the parade in patriotic exuberance for in those days it was popular to be patriotic. Unknown was the present day custom of decorating old graves and digging new ones.
When the procession arrived at Fountain Park Cemetery, those in the rigs tied their horses and everyone gathered around veterans' circle. Here, while the populace stood with bowed heads, the minister uttered a prayer. Then the riflemen of the National Guard fired their traditional salute. Every kid in attendance fidgeted nervously after the salute until the minister delivered a final "Amen," which was the signal for the wildest possible scramble to retrieve the empty cartridges from the guardsmen's rifles--which were promptly converted into whistles and became a part of every red blooded boy's trading stock.
Memorial Day was my day. I had reason to be proud. The personnel of the local company included two uncles and a cousin, Denver, Russell and Luther Grubbs.
The old South Ward School, a deserted structure which was the hideout of the generation immediately ahead of the Salt Creek Desperadoes, Stone's Row, a block-long string of identical houses fronting upon the spacious lawn of General Stone's mansion. The day we killed the "rattlesnake" along the G. R. & I. railroad--and Nick Nichols made a belt of its hide. The Friday afternoon I played hookey from school, the one and only time I ever did, and was caught by my father. It cost me a new bicycle which Dad was going to buy me next day but which I had to buy myself out of savings.
The transition of the boys from short to long pants. The departure of the National Guard for the Mexican border. The old white house with the big pine tree in the yard. It stood at Franklin and Meridian and was torn down to make room for Mills Department store. The erection of the Christian Church. The time we moved to the country and took up residence in the Lick Skillet community. The days in Lincoln Consolidated High School, reputedly the first consolidated country high school in the United States. We traveled to and from school in a school hack, driven by our neighbor, Charlie Coats, and pulled by a team of black mules.
The Coats kids, Reva, Helen, Roger, Fred and Robert. And that mean Shetland pony they had. Esther Huffman and the Heaton girls. The days I put in with Dave Fisher, working in the woods, painting fence, cutting the boar pigs, docking the tails of the sheep. Max Diggs, our Latin teacher, a lifelong friend and one of the finest men I every knew. Hal Ruby, the long, lean and hungry looking math instructor. The seed-corn testing device I made in manual training long before the days of the 4-H Clubs. Peeda Mills, Ruth Mills, John Mills, Marjorie Mills, Leatha Mills--the community was full of them. Henry Hobbick, Glen Miller, Everett Houk, Leatha McAllister. The cider mill and the sorgham mill in the fall. Tapping the sap of the maple trees in March for maple syrup and sugar. My rheumatic crippled pet pig, the black cow who always kicked me, the sorrel colt from our driving mare, Daisy.
Came the end of school days and my first real job--that of a carrying-in boy at the old Woodbury Glass Co. In return for 8 hours of work I received the sum of $1.65 and the memories of kid days came to a grinding halt with the purchase of my first pair of long pants.
One more yarn, ere this draws to a close. A couple of years ago at a national convention of the Circus Fans of America, I had the good fortune to meet Jack La Pearl, a famous clown. We got to shooting the bull and he related an adventure in connection with obtaining a birth certificate during the war.
Jack was born of circus parents, but he knew not where. He had reason to believe it was along the Illinois-Indiana state line, so he searched through the eastern tier of Illinois counties, certain that he was a native of that state. He found no record anywhere. However, he did run into an old timer who had known his parents. "You were born in Indiana," the old man told him, "in Randolph County."
So it was that Jack learned he was a Hoosier and hied himself to Winchester. It didn't take long there to dig up information on his nativity. On a certain date in the very early 1900's a circus came to town. Jack's mother was "making parade" when the first pains struck her. There was no hospital and something had to be done--but quickly.
She was rushed to the Randolph County jail and there it was that Jack LaPearl, circus clown, first saw the light of day. He was delivered by old Doc Chenoweth, one of the most beloved men in the county in his day, and it was Doc who supplied the information and certification which enabled Jack to get a birth certificate.
You see, in Indiana they always registered the pedigree of their hogs, their cows and their horses--but never bothered about their children until in comparatively recent years.
That's the way things were in Indiana!
As I drove downtown this evening the country boy in me wouldn't permit me to escape the thought that this would be a wonderful night for coon hunting. It's been kinda cold and today it turned warm. The snow's melting off the ground and there's a breeze from the South that's warm. There's a ground fog hovering over the landscape and the night is darker'n pitch. It's a perfect night for coon hunting. Or for possum. You just couldn't miss
Time was when nothing could keep me out of the woods on a night like this and it sure is a shame that city kids never had the chance to hunt coon in the woods at night behind a pair of well trained coon hounds. There never was sweeter music than the beller of a hound announcing that he has "treed". And in addition to the adventure of the chase there was also the income incentive. I don't know what a prime coon skin sells for today but I can tell you that they used to bring in enough coin of the realm to be a very attractive item to a country kid. I suppose that I bought my first package of "tailor made" cigarettes with the proceeds of the hide of a coon, or a skunk or a muskrat or a possum. That was back in the days when Camels were just coming on the market and Luckies had never been heard of. The favorites of the day included such names as Hassan, Favorites, Omar, Sweet Caporal, Nebo and Fatima amongst others.
Most of us kids had a string of traps to run each morning before taking off for school. At the time I'm thinking of we lived out South of Winchester on the road to Huntsville, just beyond old Sugar Creek School House. Sugar Creek ran a hundred yards out in front of the house and something over a mile to the rear was Salt Creek. Both abounded in muskrats and the hides were always worth from 25 cents to 35 cents each. Trouble was when you set a trap in the woods you could never tell what you might catch. Sure, there might be possum tracks around when you made your set but that didn't mean that there wouldn't be a skunk in the thing when you ran your traps next morning. And if there was - peee-e-eyour-u-u-! I wonder how our teachers ever managed to put up with us little "stinkers" shortly before the start of school.
Out southeast of the house we had a patch of new ground that was well dotted with stumps. A couple of kids came out from town and were poaching upon my domain. One Saturday I saw them take across the field headed for their traps in our new ground. I stated off at an angle to intercept them and chase them off. Before our paths converged they came to one of their traps and in it was a skunk. Little did they know about what to do with a skunk caught in a trap. One of them raised a rifle, aimed and fired.
He missed - but the skunk didn't! Got him right in the eyes. And the very painful result served to amplify the emphasis I placed on the advisability of their staying to hell out of my new ground patch. They never came back again and I chalked up one skunk to the good - the one caught in their trap.
At that time we were attending Lincoln High School. Lincoln High School was miles out in the country and was reputed to be the first consolidated high school in the United States. We had school buses then, too. But there was a very marked difference between the school bus of then and now. Our bus was powered with one span of very black mules and instead of being called a "bus", it was called a "hack". The distance from our house to the school house was seven miles and seven miles behind a span of mules is time consuming. We used to leave home long before daylight and got home long after dark. We literally ran our traps in the middle of the night.
As the hack wound its way about the section line roads it was possible for us boys to take out across the field afoot diagonally and keep up with its progress. This we used to do in the fall in order to visit a couple of cider mills enroute. And again at about this time of year - or possibly a little later - we'd do the same thing to visit at a sugar camp or two along the route. In late February and early March the sap would start running in the sugar maples and the camps would start in operation. There is no greater delight than heavy syrup dipped from the boiling vats and quickly congealed in the snow.
The youngsters of today think in terms of the automobile, the airplane, the radio and television but even with all those things, it seems to me they can never enjoy the rich fullness of life, which we who were born earlier in the century were privileged to enjoy. And that thinking comes to me with startling force when in New York I see the kids, who are forced to live out their lives within the narrow confines of the rocky canyons formed by the city's streets.
The leaves of the calendar flutter down into proper position again and once more time plunges headlong in it's flight. The memories of yesteryear must be forgotten. I part with them with great reluctance.
Names of Those Individuals Mentioned in Charley's Letters Are:
Bailey, Pin Worm (Robert)
Bailey, Ty Cobb (Hubert)
Baker, Oscar R., Superintendent
Bates, Celia, Teacher
Butts, Viola, Teacher
Coats, Everett (Shoestring)
Cornelius, Nellie, Teacher
Diggs. Max, Teacher
Graft, C. V.
Henderson, Gertrude, Teacher
Kable, Herb. Principal
La Pearl, Jack
Ludy, Edith, Teacher
Mendenhall, Louis (Louie)
Nichols, Merrill (Nick)
Pugh, Bill (Stink)
Roland, Robert (Dutch)
Ruby, Hal, Teacher
Smith, Bessie, Teacher
Stines, John, Teacher
Thornburg, Ernest (Froggy)
White, John (J. H. B.)