Marshall Historical Society
Quaint Old Deansboro
Arthur H. Sanders
I used to think old Tige Tuttle's habit of picking up discarded, half-used cigars and smoking them in his pipe was disgusting, but maybe the stink made me hate tobacco. As youngsters we tried to avoid going to Ben Smith's barbershop in the early afternoon, because the old men would be in there chewing tobacco and spitting into the brass spittoons. Joe Rizzo was a good shot, but Frank Gruman would usually miss and the juice would splash all over. Ben didn't mop the floor every night either, and there was a wide brown stain on the floor, just in front of the line of chairs opposite the windows. Evan Davis was proud of his ability to hit C F Ingersoll's spittoon which was two feet away. (Nearly always). Oh, those glorious days!
The penny candy counter in Lynn Bingham's General Store must have been a nuisance for the clerks because we took so long to choose, but we wanted to find all the "two-fers" and "three-fers". One morning, my grandmother gave me a dime to go over and get a loaf of bread, and she gave me a penny for candy. But the bread had gone up to eleven cents a loaf, so I came back with the bread and no candy, probably crying. When grandma found out what was going on, she and I went back over to return the bread, and while I was choosing candy, she declared she would bake her own bread before she would pay eleven cents! She baked an oven full of bread once a week for about two years, but by then she had to pay twelve cents a loaf to buy it.
We wondered if all the hissing of steam and clanking of machinery on the trains down at the depot, was really necessary, but we could wave at the conductor and he would wave back! Sometimes he would toot the whistle! Over one summer, we must have flattened fifty pennies. We learned to put the penny on the track in front of one of the drive wheels where it didn't usually fall off right away. Just past the train station, the tracks curved sharply to run close to the water tower. Maybe that is why our Ontario & Wester Railway was called the "Old & Wobbly". There were six trains a day coming through, with people and baggage, and freight. Several Deansboro people spent the whole day in Utica, Ilion, Hamilton, etc, and were back home for supper.
People were neighborly and they enjoyed sitting on front porches, usually with friends who came specially to visit, but more often just with passers-by. In the evenings when we sat on our porch, we sat in the dark because lamps would draw bugs and mosquitoes, so voices came out of dark lumps in the chairs. In the late twenties, my grandmother, Mary Skerritt, and I would walk around Deansboro on good afternoons, and we might sit on a friend's porch and visit. I think she knew everyone. Gramma taught me to be still, sit quiet and listen, but I soon became interested in these elderly people and their lives. When I was allowed to ask questions, they eagerly described tragic accidents, or how they appreciated the good things that happened to them, or funny little stories. More than once, I got them talking about incidents my grandmother was unaware of.
Two houses below the "lower" or Congregational Church, lived Mrs Florence Peck and Miss Young. I think they were sisters, and they had a "glass green-house" in the back yard, and sold flowers and plants. Mrs Peck was an accomplished painter of flowers and landscapes, and whenever we visited, she always had her easel set up in one corner of the living room. They were both nice old ladies, willing to talk about their troubles with lazy helpers and some of the strange-acting people who came to buy flowers.
Mary "Pickles" Miller lived with her mother Mrs Stanton Miller, almost across from the Congregational Church, in what used to be an old boarding house. Old Stanton Miller, and his wife, and later Pickles, held short-term mortgages on local people for years, and were quite successful. Pickles claimed her nickname came from her strong desire for pickles when a youngster. She was a trained as a librarian, and I think she worked for years in Utica schools. She claimed to have sat in the co-pilot's seat during a flight to Chicago, but no one believe her. In her later years, she lived alone in the house with her two Siamese cats, and one night there was a loud crash upstairs. Was it a burglar? She held on to her cats and was afraid to even get out of bed, but in the morning, with the help of neighbors, she discovered some plaster had fallen from the ceiling!
Bertie Wood was born with one leg four inches shorter than the other and wore a special four-inch-tall metal shoe. He was janitor of the Congregational Church and ran the huge bell Sunday mornings, and after several requests, he finally let me watch. The bell hangs on a cradle way up in the steeple, and there is a four-foot diameter pulley which holds a rope so the bell can be tipped over to clang. Bertie walked up a little three-step stool, grabbed the thick rope at a precise point and jumped off the step-stool, tipping the bell to clang once. When he was on the floor he let go of the rope, and the bell would tip back over and clang once more. Then Bertie grabbed the rope at just the right point to stop the bell so it clanged once more and was quiet. Slowly climbing his step-stool, he did this five times -- perfect every time! The sound was deafening and the big wooden beams of the belfry creaked as the half-ton bell swung back and forth overhead.
Several people, (not always parents) would organize "Progressive Parties" for the youngsters. I think it was a very early idea, perhaps from the 1880's. The kids were invited to a certain house for lemonade, and were given a paper with the address of a "station" where gifts were ready -- cookies and candy, a flower corsage which could be pinned to a blouse, long colored ribbons, or maybe a little box with some toy or keepsake in it -- and the address of the next station. Over an afternoon maybe two dozen kids would be walking all over Deansboro. At the last station, many of the parents had gotten together a small meal for young and old! There were Progressives as late as 1930, but they sort of evolved into the "scavenger-hunts" at Halloween Parties.
I think it was December of 1931 when I was in second grade that the Deansboro Union School caught fire and burned to the ground. Suddenly, nearly a hundred kids had a school vacation, but the people of Deansboro met the challenge. Every vacant room that could be found was fitted with borrowed chairs and tables and obsolete desks and books and blackboards. First and second grade, with Mrs Eastman was downstairs in the "old beehive", and third and fourth upstairs with Clarabelle Stafford. This was an old store which had gone out of business, poorly lit, and heated with round-oak stoves. At recess, we boys like to watch Frank Cornelius repairing big John Deere tractors in the basement.
Didn't the firth, sixth and seventh grades use the main floor of the Macabee Hall, and eight grade the balcony? The upstairs of the Barton Hose Co was used for some of the high school which also used the dining halls at the Methodist and Congregational churches. Meanwhile, State officials and our school board was frantically working with Waterville to get an Elementary School in Deansboro which would be part of a larger Waterville Central School System.
Our new Elementary School was fantastic. Big rooms with big windows, smooth floors, with a nice metal desk and chair combination for each student. Miss Leola Kellogg had first and second grade, Miss Clarabell Stafford started with third and fourth grade, but she got sick partway thru the year, and then the "beloved" Mrs Crumby came into our lives. Every one of us had some special reason for liking her because she found our inner interests and developed our personalities while she made history and arithmetic exciting. When she read to us, scenes and characters were created in our minds. She found something good and wonderful in each of us, and no one was 'put down' or made to feel inferior or embarrassed.
Around 1930, Esther Sanders listened to unusual complaints from truck drivers while they were getting repairs at Sander's garage. They said they had to renew chauffeurs licenses every year, and they would lose a day's work, because they had to have a recent full-face photo, then stand in line at the courthouse to have the license processed. Sometimes the photo wasn't right or things were wrong on the application, etc. Esther offered to help. She would write a man's name on a little card hanging around his neck, and take his photo with her Kodak camera. When she filled up the roll of eight photos, she would take it to Hahn's Camera store in Utica for developing and printing. Then she cut each full-face photo as a circle and pasted it onto the application, which the driver had already filled out and signed, and paid for. The people at the courthouse appreciated that Esther had gotten the forms filled out properly and the pictures were the right size and clear, so she was ushered to a special window. Though she never advertised, Esther was well known as the "license lady" up into the 1960's.
After Pearl Harbor, many households found themselves with no "man" to keep the family car running. Local garage men were asked by the governor to gather groups ;of neighborhood women and teach them the basics of operating a car. Hardie Sanders enjoyed his "Motor Mechanics School" of about twenty women, who learned how to change the spare tire, fill and change engine oil, check radiator water and antifreeze, jump-start the engine, etc. He also explained "repairs-in-progress" which might be in the shop.
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