Chapter III - The Stillborn
A few weeks after our trip downtown, Bill and I were walking past a creek down along Redbank Road. As we passed over a culvert, Bill leaned over the edge and said, "Hey Ed, look down by that big rock. Does that look like a doll?" I said, "Yea, lets climb down and get a closer look." We skidded down the rocks and gravel, holding on to the sides of the concrete abutment, as we went. Part of the doll was wrapped in a newspaper. All that we could see was one arm was sticking out. It was lying next to the little stream of water.
When we got closer, Bill yelled, "That's not a doll; it's a real baby." We had never seen a dead baby before. We scrambled up the side of the culvert, and tore out as fast as our legs could carry us. When we got home, we told Mom what we had found. She was busy tending Bob and Betty. She said, "Go over to Hazenfields and have Mrs. Hazenfield call the police, and report it to them." As soon as we told Mrs. Hazenfield what we had found, she started yelling, "Oh My God - Oh My God- Oh My God." Then she started waving her arms like she did when we shot her ironing board in the back. In 10 or 15 minutes she calmed down enough to call the police and report what we had found. They said they would check into it at once. The following day the police returned her call and said that the baby had been stillborn and perhaps the mother could not afford a proper burial. The case was closed.
One of our favorite places to play was the lagoon. This was a shallow man-made lake, covering approximately two acres. It was built in a beautiful glade in Mariemont (Pronounced Marymont). The village was conceived and founded by Mary Emory, wife of the wealthy industrialist, Thomas Emory. The village was platted with strict architectural parameters. All buildings had to conform to the traditional English Tudor design, patterned after the old English country houses, resembling the wattle and daub technique of construction. A modern, centralized, steam-heating system was installed with supporting infrastructure, to supply steam heat to every home in the village.
The lagoon was one of two focal points, open to the public free of charge. On one end of the lagoon was a small boat house, constructed of stone with a low, sloping, slate roof. A rustic stairway made of stone was set in the hillside leading to the boathouse. It had two solid wood doors at the water level. The boathouse would accommodate 6 flat-bottom rowboats. The boats were rented on Sunday afternoon for 25 cents per hour. On the south side of the lagoon, was a wide boardwalk, running about three quarters of it's length.
Several beautiful, white swans, with their cygnets trailing behind, added the final touch to this peaceful idyllic setting. Young men, dressed in their best white ducks, bow ties, and straw hats and seated in the prow of a rowboat, faced their sweethearts - she, all decked out in her finest Sunday dress and Easter bonnet. As they plied the calm waters of the lagoon, the bells of the carillon softly pealed the melody, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". Sweethearts of a by-gone era, seated on park benches, threw bread crumbs to the swans.
The carillon was situated on a hilltop above the lagoon. This was a modest but beautiful bell tower of white limestone, approximately sixty feet square at the base and, one hundred thirty feet high. A keyboard controlled the chimes.
Flowering Dogwood was one of the founder's favorite trees. The park is called Dogwood Park. A number of Dogwood trees were planted in small groves, and still survive along the edges. Through the years following WW II, the lagoon area was allowed to grow over with weeds and saplings. The local community has preserved the park. It now serves as a recreational facility for children. This was a hallowed sanctuary for people living through the decade of the great depression.
More than sixty years have passed, and this little village still remains one of the most sought-after residential areas in the Midwest. The time has long, long since passed, when young men spent Sunday afternoons rowing their sweethearts in a boat. The lagoon has been drained in the name of progress. Mother Nature has reclaimed the boathouse. She has colored it in hues of green and brown, as moss and ivy creep up, struggling eagerly, to engulf it. Few remain who remember Thomas Emory or his wife, even though the village bears her name. The bells in the Carillon however have been faithfully tended every Sunday afternoon since 1929. The weather has never been able silence this celestial tribute to a loved one.
Through a wide field of weeds and grass, about two hundred yards in back of our house, was a shady lane we called the Dusty Road. It was a rather secluded place of enchantment. Bill and I, along with Toy Hazenfield, practically lived there all through the summer vacation periods. We considered it to be our very own private playground. We had no idea that these areas were someone's private property. Mom was happy to see us play there since it was mostly visible from our back yard. Each summer, countless numbers of horses and wagons of every size and description cut and churned our Dusty Road until it accumulated a thick layer of dust about four inches deep. 20
Words can not describe the thrill that we as children experienced while running barefoot through the dust. It was beyond description. You simply had to be there.
There was a family by the name of Hurst, living back in the woods. They had a son named Jack. He used to bum around with Don and Buster Raye. Buster had an Indian motor cycle with a sidecar. It was the first and only one I had ever seen. It seemed as though he was forever pushing it up or down the roads. I believe he and Don pushed it more than they rode in it.
We three musketeers gathered in Toy's cellar to plan our next adventure. His cellar was much larger and brighter than our. After several suggestions were mulled over, Toy decided it would be great if we could dig a secret underground cave over in the woods. This was to be a covert operation. We didn't want our enemies or old girls nosing around asking stupid questions.
As we dashed across the field in back of our house, Bill let out a scream and fell to the ground. Toy and I ran back to see what happened. Bill had stepped on the bottom half of a broken mason jar. It looked as though most of his heel had been cut off. It was just dangling by a little piece of skin.
Toy and I lifted him up and started for the house yelling at the top of our lungs. Mom ran out and carried Bill back into the house. She put a big glob of carbolated mutton tallow on a clean rag and bound his foot tightly with it. After a little while he was able to hobble around quite well on it. [The product we refer to as phenol was called carbolic acid prior to WW I]
Then we returned to the task at hand. We gathered up all the excavating tools we could find, and started running through big field. We searched around for a likely spot to start digging. We scraped away the leaves and dead wood, and Toy scratched a circle in the dirt about 6 feet in diameter to outline the perimeter. We started to create our secret underground cave. We dug and scratched at the hole religiously for almost a week. Finally, we had a hole about 6 feet across and 3 feet deep. Bill figured out the entrance. We could dig a sloping trench to crawl through, and cover it with branches to hide the entrance. The roof of the cave looked like something to catch a wild animal. We covered it with dead branches and leaves. It was a pretty good job of camouflage. Our secret underground cave had become a reality after a lot of hard work. Now we had to furnish it. We scrounged the neighborhood, and came up with an orange crate and a candle. Toy went in first and lit the candle. Then Bill and I followed. We weren't in there more than 10 minutes when our arch rivals, the Cribbit twins, showed up with their big brother. They chased us out of our cave, and took possession. This was an act of war. 21
They may have won the battle but they were not going to win the war. Bill went over and enlisted the help of our cousins Bob and Larry Schlottman. When Bill mentioned the word fight they were both ready to go. They would rather fight than eat when they were hungry.
Their mother, Hilda was a very devout Catholic. Her twin boys, Larry and Bob tried to emulate her. They were forever defending the faith. They seemed to think that they were ordained by God to thrash any infidels that uttered one unkind word about the Pope or the Catholic religion - and believe me, they had their work cut out for them. They made believers out of quite a few pagans in the neighborhood. When they weren't fighting the infidels, they were fighting each other just to keep in practice.
Toy went down to the corner and enlisted Arnie Prindle. I went to get Tom Watson. Now we were ready for the counter offensive. Bob developed the plan of attack. We were to circle the cave and on his signal all 6 of us would jump in on roof of the cave. Bill was sidelined because of his foot.
We approached the cave quietly, we could hear the twins inside laughing about how they took our cave from us. We circled the cave like an Indian war party. Bob signaled and we all jumped on the roof, right on top of the twins. They were screaming and bawling like babies when they climbed out of the debris and headed for home as fast as they could go.
We didn't have the heart to rebuild the roof, and we didn't care about staring at the candle in the dark. All of our allies went back to what they were doing before we enlisted their help.
We came upon a rather large tree, and noticed a piece of wood, nailed about ten feet up in the tree. We thought it was a ladder rung of sorts. If one of us could reach that piece of wood, it would be a great help in climbing higher into the tree. An assessment was made of the options available to us.
Bill and Toy concluded that I was best qualified to shinny up a grapevine hanging nearby. They could swing the vine close to the step. For some strange reason, Toy declined to evoke his prerogative of going first. He must have learned that going first was not always the wisest or safest thing to do.
I grabbed the vine and struggled, hand over hand, until I reached the elevation of the piece of wood. Bill said, "When I holler 'NOW', you let go of the grapevine and grab the step, then wrap your legs around the trunk." I replied, "OK". They swung me back and forth several times. Then Bill yelled, "NOW." I released the vine, grabbed the step, and wrapped my legs around the trunk. A split second later, I hit the ground like a ton of bricks.
I was out cold, not breathing for a few seconds, until they picked me up and started slapping me on the back. They dragged me home to tell Mom what happened. Then she threw another fit.
Several weeks after that, Ronny Cribbit came by and stopped in front of our house and started to talk to me. This was very unusual. I thought maybe he wanted to makeup and be friends. I was just too gullible to smell a rat. He told me that he and his brothers were building a treehouse back in the woods. He invited me to go back and see what they were building.
When I got into the woods, his big brother grabbed me, and held my arms behind a small tree. The Twins took turns beating up on me. They said, "Now we're even for hurting us in the cave".
My lip was cut, and my nose was bleeding, as I ran home crying to Mom. She washed my face, and stopped the bleeding. Then, between sobs, she convinced me that I wasn't that badly hurt. It was my pride that hurt more than my lip, for being so dumb as to fall for a story like that. Then Mom had to add insult to injury. She said, "I can't really blame those boys for beating up on you. That was a terrible thing you did, jumping in on top of them while they were in the cave." "You can thank your lucky stars that one of them wasn't seriously injured. I hope the next time you plan to get even, you will weigh the consequences of your actions. You boys could have gotten into a great deal more trouble than you bargained for." "I knew that Mom was giving me good advice, but it was falling on deaf ears, because I was mad! Dad always said, "Every dog has his day", and this little dog was going to have his. The odds, however, were not in my favor. It looked as though my allies had forgotten the episode. Nobody seemed interested in engaging in another counter offensive. I just had to lick my wounded pride and forget it.
The hard feelings between us over the cave incident, and the resulting fight, had pretty well been forgotten by this time. We may not have been on the best of terms, but you can't stay mad forever over little squabbles. Mom told me to apologize for hurting them in the cave, and they said they were sorry for beating up on me.
Ronny grew up to become mayor of Fairfax, and have a recreation building named for him. The building is located next to the old Berling Dairy facility. Both the Cribbit twins have crossed the River Styx. I feel certain they are forever watching over the Dusty Road.
Ruth brought our dog home when he was just a little ball of fur. She bought him from a friend for 50 cents. We all crowded the puppy, each one wanting to hold him. Mom said, "What are you going to call him?"
Ruth said, "I think I'll call him Toby." Mom said, "Thats a beautiful name. I believe little Toby might be hungry. Why don't one of you take him in the kitchen and give him some warm milk?" That was Marg's cue to swoop him up, and march off into the kitchen, like she owned him. She told Bill to get the milk out of the icebox. Bill said, "I want to feed him." She replied, "You don't know how warm to heat the milk. You might scaled the poor little thing."
Marg could always come up with some logical and rational explanation to prove that she was more qualified to do whatever it was that she wanted to do. More often than not, she was right. Bill and I usually deferred to her superior judgment. We knew she would figure out some way to get even with us if we didn't.
Toby never had a problem eating, even though none of us could ever remember feeding him after he grew up, except to give him a few scraps from the table now and then. When he got hungry he would just go out and scare up a rabbit and devour the whole thing, fur and all, - nothing was wasted.
He especially hated snakes almost as bad as I did. One day while we were picking blackberries, Toby lunged at a big blacksnake. None of the rest of us even saw it. We were totally surprised. He whipped it back and forth until it was dead; then flung it off in the weeds.
Most of the dogs that belonged to our friends were named after royalty, with the possible exception of Toy's big, black German shepherd. He was called Rin, after Rin Tin Tin, the famous German Police Dog that saved the lives of many soldiers during the First World War. He wore a pack like a saddlebag strapped to his back. The pack was filled with bandages, medicine, canteens of water, and Hard Tack. That was a kind of biscuit. He ran back and forth, through the trenches in France. to bring help to wounded soldiers . The German soldiers could have killed him, but they admired his courage for dashing under enemy artillery fire. They didn't make any attempt to harm him. He was decorated for bravery, above and beyond the call of duty. He was the "Lassie" of the 1920's & 1930's.
Watson's had a huge dog he was called Prince. Our cousin's dog was Duke, and Arnie Prindle's dog was named Queenie. Queenie stirred up trouble once in a while, but most of the dogs got along together pretty well, as long as they were away from their own territory.
Every dog had an invisible border around their own yard that they didn't allow other dogs to cross, unless they were ready to fight.
That's just what happened when our whole family went over to see Mr.Watson's new machine. It was a brand new Moon. It was a big, long, black, convertible touring car, just like Elliot Ness and gangsters had. Toby followed us, just as he always did. We walked around the machine, admiring the beauty and luxury of all the shiny new things on it. Then it happened! Toby accidentally crossed over Prince's invisible border that said no trespassing in dog talk. Then, their flight or fight instinct was instantly triggered. Toby didn't know what flight was.
The dogfight that ensued was incredible. All the men ran to get buckets of water to throw on them to try to cool them off. After eight or ten buckets of cold water, the men were able to separate them. They were both battered and bloody, but no real harm was done.
After we destroyed and reclaimed our not-so- secret underground cave, we had difficulty enlisting aid to help clean up the mess. Of course, Mom had something to say about that as well - "You can't make a mess, and then go off and leave it". That property belongs to someone, and they wouldn't appreciate you kids messing it up.
Summer vacations, before the days of radio and television seemed to drag on forever. Each day presented a challenge as to what we could do to pass the time. After some lengthy discussion in Toys cellar, we decided that it would be a good idea to embark on a boat building expedition. We concluded that we could haul it on our wagon down to Lawson's (Creek) Crick, and launch it there. The whole operation sounded quite simple.
The Lawson family lived about 1/4 mile north, on the edge of a shallow creek. After a hard rain, the crick would rise to a level of about eight inches. It was at the bottom of a rather steep hill. The scavenger hunt began again. We seemed to spend more time search for things than we did using them. Mr. Hazenfield had a huge toolbox in their garage. It was our treasure chest that provided most of the tools that we needed.
The materials were another matter. We combed the neighborhood for scraps of wood that we thought we could use. Mr. Watson gave us some short pieces of lumber and some nails.
We sawed, hammered and beat and banged for several days. Our creation began to take on the appearance of something used to mix concrete. Don said, "I think some men are getting ready to pave Wooster Pike. Why don't you guys try to get some tar up there to fill the cracks?" Toy said, "Yea, that's a good idea - how much do you think we'll need?" Don said, "All you can get."
Tomorrow afternoon we'll gather up some cans and spoons, and head up to the pike. After the workers leave, we can scrape up enough tar from the side of the road to caulk it. Don said " You guys get the tar, and I'll help melt it for you."
As we approached the Pike we were terrified at the sight of the gigantic steamroller, slowly lumbering down the road. It had a huge roller on the front and great big, iron wheels. There was a boiler on the inside with a fire in it. Smoke and steam was puffing out all over it. A man was standing on a platform in the front, steering the big roller. There was a corrugated tin roof on the top of it. I guess that was supposed to keep him from getting wet when it rained. The steamroller was pulling a big tank with iron wheels on it. There were pipes sticking out the back. A fire was burning under it, too.
Some men walked behind the tank wagon, and pulled levers to let the tar run out on the road. They had to walk slowly. It was almost quitting time when we got there, so we didn't have to wait very long before all the men went home.
Now it was our turn. We each scraped some fresh tar off the side of the road until we had our little pails nearly full. Then we started for home.
The next morning, Don made a fire for us, and helped us heat the tar so we could fill up the cracks in the boat. He said, "You guys had better be very careful and don't get any of that hot tar on you. It will burn you badly."
When the tar got soft, we smeared it on as best we could. The three of us struggled to get the 50-pound boat on to our 10- pound wagon. The boat was about 3 times bigger than the wagon. It looked more like a shipping crate than a boat. It kept falling off the wagon all the way down to the crick.
It fell off again at the top of the hill, above the crick. So, we just let it slide down the hill. We pushed it as it went down. When we reached the water's edge, we had developed a new burst of enthusiasm. We were eager to launch our rowboat. It was almost as big as the pool of water. It wasn't a launch - it was a disaster! The draught of the boat exceeded the depth of water in the crick. It floated like a bank vault.
We were completely heartbroken, as we trudged back up the hill, and on home, to relate the events leading up to this latest engineering tragedy. Mom really didn't have any sympathy at all. She added insult to injury again when she said, "You kids can't go off, and leave that thing down in the creek You will have to go back down there, and bring it home." Bill said, "How are we going to do that?" Mom replied, "The same way you got it down there."
We pulled the wagon back down to the bottom of the hill. Toy said, "There is no way in the world we can drag that boat out of the water and back up on top of that hill. We will just have tear it apart down here and carry it up one board at a time."
We went to gather up the tools that we needed take it apart. It was almost as hard to take apart as it was to put together.
The hill was so steep we could only manage to get one board at a time up to the top, and put it on the wagon. We struggled with it all afternoon, and finally dumped the wood in a little pile in the back yard. The next day Don built a fire, and burned the remains of our boat.
When we staggered back home, Mom had a big bar of that smelly brown Werk Soap and a wash tub full of warm water. She said, "I believe you boys got more tar on you than you did on the boat. First she rubbed coal oil all over us, then she washed the coal oil off with the Werk soap. Don was laughing at us and said, " You guys smell like a herd of goats. After several wash and rinse cycles we were pretty well ready for supper.
The very next day, Dame Fortune or the gods smiled on us. A milk wagon was coming up the Dusty Road, when a rear wheel went into a deep rut, and spooked the horse. It reared up and the milk wagon turned over. Empty bottles flew all over the place. The driver had completed his route and was on the way back to the dairy. He unhitched the horse, and started walking back to get help. After the milkman left, Toy said, "Hey you guys, each of those bottles is worth a nickel up at Yokem's grocery." We kicked a few back into the weeds.
Would you believe, we found three of those bottles in the weeds the very next day and immediately made a beeline to Yokems to cash them in!
Saturday morning Mom needed to do some shopping. She told Marg to take charge of her brothers and little sister. Well Marg was unhappy because she had planned to visit one of her friends. She hauled out the wicker baby carriage and put little Betty in it. Then we all started off to Madisonville.
It was about a mile away. We had to go down a steep hill full of weeds. The hill was too steep for Marg to hold and control the buggy, so she told Bill to go down to the bottom of the hill and catch the buggy. She was going to let it roll down by it self, with Betty in it. The three of us boys ran down to the bottom of the hill. Then Bill got all set to grab the buggy. Marg gave the buggy a shove. It went flying down the hill, when it got to where Bill was supposed to catch it, the buggy was doing about twenty miles an hour - like a runaway train. Bill reached out for it and got knocked flat.
Little Betty was thrown out into the high grass. The buggy went North and Betty went South. Then Marg raced down the hill she was yelling when Betty became airborne, thinking she had hurt her baby sister. She rescued Betty who was crying and scared to death, but unhurt. Bill and I ran after the buggy and when we got the baby snuggled back in, Marg made us promise not to tell Mom what had happened saying, "She would kill me if she knew." We blackmailed into seeing things our way for the rest of the summer.
To Chapter 4
Back to Introduction