Number 26

 

South side of Main St. in 1920

This is a picture of the south side of Main Street circa 1920. The arrow points to the old Centerboro Opera House. Originally, touring companies staged all kinds of uplifting and edifying entertainments here. One could take in plays, musical revues, and, yes, even the occasional opera. I may be mistaken, but I believe that Mark Twain once gave a reading here. The Great Depression and the migration of the social upper crust out of Oteseraga County did the Opera House in, and it became, successively, a Masonic temple, a movie theater, and a burlesque hall, which was very popular until the local do-gooder societies, clergy, and town leaders rammed an ordinance against such enterprises through the town council--even though many members of these three groups, it is said, frequented "The Palace" quite regularly. Well, it's all about appearances, isn't it? The building was demolished during Centerboro's urban renewal debacle of the 1970s.

Hannibal and Abdullah

A picture taken by me of the grand big top entrance of Boomschmidt's circus, led by Hannibal who is followed closely by Orestes' red and gold wagon. The fellow with the immense turban on Hannibal is Ed Peabody, an elephant driver, known professionally as "Abdullah." He was never known to mistreat the elephants, and he was a heck of a poker player. The poor fellow was fatally stricken after eating moldy peanuts, an event alluded to on page 147 of Freddy and the Perilous Adventure.

Macy's pigpen

Farmer Macy and his wife (seated) are surveying a corner of one of their pig pens. The Macys ran Oteseraga County's largest, most prosperous pig farm and produced both pigs destined for the table and some of the largest show pigs around. (You can see a picture of Elmira Camphor and one of Macy's giant prize-winning hogs here.) I am no student of pigs, so I can't tell you what breed you see in this photo. I can tell you that the Macy operation was not very popular with the residents of Centerboro. If you take a look at the third map on the "Where Is It?" FAQ, you will see that the Macy farm was upwind and not too distant from downtown Centerboro. On many a warm summer's evening, pungent odors of pig manure would waft on the westerly breezes through the streets and alleys of Centerboro, a fact missing from the Freddy series.

Jinx and rooster cart

And you thought you had seen it all! From one of the Bean family albums I saved from the big fire (and never got around to returning), here's a photo of James ("Jinx") Bean being pulled around the farmyard by a rooster in a rig that his Uncle Ben made. Impossible? Not at all. Just look at the size of that sturdy bird! I'd like to be able to tell you that this rooster was named Charles, but I can't. The Beans were not at all sentimental about chickens or ducks. They did name some of the animals, like their pig Otto, but by and large, chickens were just chickens to them--a source of dietary protein --and roosters were, of course, just a means of producing more chickens.

Harriet's Bird Hospital

After my ex-wife Harriet's ties with the Ladies' Literary Society of Centerboro were severed, she became depressed and remorseful about her use of bird feathers and animal parts to construct hats. (It was about this time that we got married.) She closed up "Harriet's--Hats" and, against my advice, opened up a bird hospital where she ministered to ill or injured birds such as bilious budgies and sparrows stupid enough to stun themselves by flying into windowpanes. Though she was a faithless and whimsical creature, she did have a nature-loving, sympathetic side to her. The hospital did not provide much income for Harriet. People did not exactly flock to it when their little birdies became indisposed. I guess folks regard birds as more disposable than cats or dogs or hamsters and tend to let nature take care of parakeets. Harriet closed this operation within a couple of months and went on to nearly ruin us financially, have a notorious  affair with that &@%%*# Pomeroy, and fly off with him to start a new life. I have not heard from her in quite a while, though I've heard that she lives not too far from here just over the border in Pennsylvania.

Centerboro Free Association Church marriage ceremony

I have mentioned the Centerboro Free Association Church several times on my site, and here is a picture of a group wedding performed by one of their ministers, called a "Speaker." The Free Association Church started right here in New York State with just eight members. So did the Mormons much earlier in 1830. Mormonism eventually made a big hit and become a thriving religion. The Free Association folks went on to become a defunct religion owing to a practice they imposed upon members and converts--marriage, yes, but absolute celibacy within marriage. As you might imagine, few spiritual seekers found this doctrine attractive, the number of converts dwindled to zero, and the church folded.

The stern fellow on the far right was a church official called a "Stickler," and one of his duties was to make sure no one lapsed in the practice of "non-practice," shall we say. One wonders how he went about his duties. Relentless interrogations? Peeping in windows? Who knows, for there's no one left to tell. By the way, the name of this church derives from a part of their daily three-hour services in which members were required to stand in front of the congregation and employ the method of free association (which Freud adopted during 1892-1898) to cleanse their souls of sin, degradation, and impure thoughts. This was probably another reason the church passed away...although today, considering that we have no lack of morons willing to parade the shabbiness of their so-called lives on "reality" talk shows, such a church might actually flourish.

Miss Belette performs

Isn't this a spiffy sight? It's Priscilla Belette in another performance (not the Miss Flying Saucer Contest) back in the early '50s, I would guess. At the conclusion of our first interview, she gave me this snapshot which shows her waiting for her baton to descend from the upper reaches of the Opera House on Main Street. Miss Belette's memory does not serve her very well anymore, so I checked into her notion that she may have done some <ahem> "interpretive dancing" in The Palace. It turns out that she did. Miss Belette makes frequent references to the great legs she once had--and I must agree! What a set of gams! If any of you would like to send a cash-only donation to a fund I've established to help her get her horrible varicose veins stripped, please contact me by clicking on the e-mail link in the Table of Contents for details. N.B.!!! Your donation will be appreciated, but not tax-deductible or acknowledged.

Old Wiggins, Wogus, and Wurzburger gals

Yes, sir, you guessed it! This is a another snapshot of (left to right) Millicent ("Millie") Wiggins, Matilda Wogus, and Mavis Wurzburger. You can read all about what happened to these inseparable widows by clicking here and you can see a picture of them in their younger days here. This scene depicts the old "corn fed" gals in their declining years, just before they retired. You can't tell from their looks or attire, but they were quite wealthy, having prospered in the dairy industry and in shrewd real estate investments.

Ladies' Literary Society picture

When Harriet was drummed out of the Ladies' Literary Society of Centerboro, there was certainly no love lost between her and the rest of the gals. She was actually quite obsessive about the Society for some time after she was dismissed. Harriet dwelt on this photograph in particular--a non-candid picture of the board of trustees of the Society dressed up for some ceremony, the purpose of which she could never make me understand but which she had desperately looked forward to. I believe this picture is actually of LLSC members posed in the uniform of some other women's organization to which they also belonged, but I don't know what it might have been, and I've better things to do than waste the time finding out. Anyway, Harriet scribbled the names of the women here on the back, and I have numbered them for easy reference: (1) Gladys Pippin (2) Florence Winnick (3) Mrs. Winfield Church (4) Felicia Blore (5) Mrs. Lafayette Bingle (6) Mirabel Margarine (7) Gertrude Halsey. Felicia Blore was the wife of Senator Blore and as such became the alpha bitch of whatever pack she joined. I use the term "bitch" in a technical sense only.

 

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