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Number 28, the penultimate picture page...

 

Main Street, Centerboro in 1907 I don't believe I have published this 1907 glimpse of the intersection of Main and Herkimer anywhere else on my site, so here it is. I also think I have never said much about the history of Centerboro, and so here's the condensed version. Centerboro was founded in 1802, incorporated as a village in 1815, and became the Oteseraga County seat a bit later. Centerboro was and still is known for nothing special (except--and this to only a very small group of Freddyites and others--as the setting for Freddy stories and as the location of the 1955 Martian visitation). Centerboro has produced no citizens worthy of note beyond the Oteseraga county line. It claims a world class author and a World Bank president as two of its sons, but they actually were residents of a nearby town. At one time there were several manufacturing concerns in Centerboro--a paper box factory, a tractor plant, a die casting factory, a television and radio manufacturer, and so forth--but all these businesses are long gone along with the relative prosperity they afforded their employees, and today Centerboro has become, as most old time residents would agree, a shabby dump one cut (maybe two) above a landfill site.

Main Street, Centerboro in 1909

Main Street, Centerboro in 1916

Here are two later pictures of downtown Centerboro in 1909 (top) and in 1916--the latter view from the little park by the Court House in which I later made a few appearances. There is a glimpse of the Centerboro Hotel at the middle of the right-hand edge of the bottom picture. I have often thought how peacefully pastoral it must have been back then, and how nice it would be to travel back in time and (time paradoxes notwithstanding) put down roots. But then I remember the lack of reliable dental and medical care, the general exploitation of the poor and working classes, the average lifespan at the time (about 40 to 45), and what the next picture signifies, and then I am quite satisfied to have been born in 1920 and lived the very life I have lived and wound up in the circumstances I enjoy today.
Oteseraga County doughboys marching off to war An image of Oteseraga County cannon fodder marching along Centerboro's Main Street before being shipped overseas and dumped into trenches to be shredded by machine-gun fire and gassed by the Kaiser's troops. Not a very pleasant thing to think about, is it? And yet, that's the way it was back then. And that's pretty much the way it was before then and has been ever since. And that's probably the way it will continue to be unless (a) by some miracle the human species evolves to a sufficiently high level of moral development before it exterminates itself, (b) the human race does indeed exterminate itself, or (c) the Martians do the job for us. My hope is on (a), but my bet is on (b) or (c) as more likely and very likely respectively.
Proper attire for the Martian invasion Speaking of mass exterminations, this is a picture of me a number of years ago suited up and as ready as can be for the Martian invasion mentioned above (and at many other places on my site). Now, of course, it is no longer necessary for me to worry about the invasion as I have been able to make arrangements with my old friend "Two Clicks" to be spirited away to start a brand new life on Mars with Mrs. Underdunk, Axon Spardoze, and the lucky winner of the last Mr. Eha's Place jackpot just hours before the Martian expeditionary force materializes on Earth. I suppose that I could have sold this suit to a Freddyite desperate enough to survive the onslaught, but that merely would have prolonged his or her suffering. So for that humanitarian reason and because I no longer have the patience to conduct Internet yard sales, I just threw the cumbersome thing out.
A remarkable event in the history of Centerboro

Who said nothing exciting ever happened in Centerboro before the Martian visitation in 1955! Lots of exciting things happened in this little podunk upstate New York town. There were, for example, (not in order) the hepatitis outbreak originating in the Centerboro Hotel, plenty of barn fires and other farm mishaps, the annual visit of Boomschmidt's circus, hundreds of "police blotter" misadventures, countless Friday night high school football games, summer baseball, county fair after county fair, etc., etc. I will have to say, however, that most of these happenings paled in comparison to the occurrence depicted here early last century. From what I have been able to piece together from some clippings I found in the vertical file in the library, a handful of Centerboro residents saw this sight appear in the skies just before sunrise on September 17, 1917, and one Main Street apartment dweller had the presence of mind to run for his camera and snap this shot. It was turned into a postcard, but as far as I know, this is the only one that still exists. Some say that Felix Rohr, a Tushville crackpot inventor, built and flew this airplane, and others have come to believe that the Martians were using a replica of the airplane designed by the Wrights to test the air defenses of Centerboro as far back as 1917, but no one really knows for sure what the heck was going on that day. Why the Martians would have used a flying machine long obsolete by 1917 when much more advanced planes existed is quite beyond me.

New York Central Station Here's the New York Central Railroad depot on the south side of Centerboro. You'd go down Railroad Street to the station to catch your train for a civilized ride to just about anywhere in the U.S. What a splendid way to travel! Over the years I took several business-related trips to Buffalo and New York City and several points in between--but never by this or any other means, as reported in Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars, to Rochester to burgle houses.
A Centerboro Resident Quiz

Quite the dapper gentleman, wouldn't you say? Who could he be? He is the real Centerboro resident upon whom one of Mr. Brooks's characters in the Freddy books is based. Here are some facts (accurately reported by Brooks here and there in the series) which should help you make the identification if you don't know right off.

  1. He relished bubblegum.
  2. He once served on the same school board as Herb Garble!
  3. Mrs. Winfield Church and he were cousins.
  4. He was nearsighted, hence the glasses.
  5. His police dog was named Olga.

    So, who is it?
    a. Mr. Weezer
    b. Mr. Gridley
    c. Mr. Groper
    d. Judge Willey
    e. Mr. Dimsey

I know you'll get the answer from the clues, so I won't bother publishing it here.
Two pages from my primer Actual pages from my first reader, the Field-Martin Primer. How is it that I became a literate adult from such a humble start? I think that the basic elementary school education we received back then together with a strong two-parent, much less child-centered family and culture tended to produce fewer of what I would call off-the-rack human beings who are good for not much more than responding to commercial programming, bellowing vulgarities in public, and wearing baseball hats backwards. I'm not going to launch into a diatribe here, but I think my basic premise is sound and self-evident. A basic grounding in the fundamentals of the 3 R's and a culture which promotes independence of thought and action will produce higher quality individuals than the typical consumer cult automata we see milling around the big box department stores and waddling into fast food joints. This is, of course, a generalization. There are some decent families, schools, and teachers out there who struggle mightily against our benighted educational system and our culture of mass stupidity.
Charles's final residence: Attica State Prison Here's a postcard to Chiquita Merrythought, which her father Charles Polo sent from Attica State Prison way up near destitute, decaying, and ugly Buffalo, NY. (How Charles wound up behind these walls is disclosed here.) It had been my fervent hope for many years that this (or an institution just like it) had become Freddy's final destination, but, as you can imagine, my disappointment was keen when I discovered that Freddy still lives in a nursing home, the specific whereabouts of which, alas, remain a mystery to me, darn it. Anyway, Charles writes: "Dear Chiquita, I am sorely disappointed that you do not visit much, but understand your reluctance under the circumstances. Have had to stop speechifying since the increasing number of threats against me which follow my little talks have become alarming enough that the guards no longer let me lecture in the exercise yard. My regards to all and love from your father."

I thought the old map on top would interest you Freddyites and other students of the history of Oteseraga County and Centerboro. The map is undated, but it accompanies the Centerboro Public Library's copy of 18th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1896-97 Part II: Indian Land Cessions in the United States, compiled by Charles O. Royce. Maps from this publication, although printed in 1899, show data on tribal locations going way back to the early 1700s, and the extensive territory of the Oteseraga tribe (which I have marked with a red "X") is clearly seen in this image. Compare the location and area of the Oteseraga territory with that of present-day Oteseraga County shown in the second map, and it will be evident to you that the land once inhabited exclusively by the Oteseragas no doubt was acquired from them in about the same way land was acquired everywhere in North America from the indigenous peoples. The tribe has opened a gambling casino on their reservation north of Oteseraga Lake, and though it is off the beaten path, it has always attracted a multitude of customers. I guess this could be seen as a subtle form of revenge which, properly managed, should eventually pay the Oteseragas back many times the amount of their past losses. The Oteseraga nation's sales of tax-free cigarettes to their smoke shop patrons seems a form of payback, too, doesn't it?

For those of you who have written to tell me that they cannot find Oteseraga County on any map of New York State counties, I reply that you should get yourselves a good map. The Centerboro Chamber of Commerce puts out a free promotional brochure which you can order. You'll find a map of Oteseraga County and many facts about the county and Centerboro therein.

My one attempt at being religious
This is the Baptist church on Centerboro's Main Street. I attended services here when I experienced a brief period of religious enthusiasm which seemed just after I had returned alive from overseas in 1945 to be just the right thing to be experiencing and which necessitated my regular attendance at Sunday services somewhere or other. I don't know why I chose the Baptist church--I think I just liked the way it looked from across the street--but my enthusiasm did not last long. To begin with, the sermons delivered by Rev. Less did not inspire me much to elevated thought or action. Before long, I knew I could find better things to do on Sunday mornings without having to fork over good money to be scolded for my sinful nature and to be lectured to by someone far less intelligent than I. The incident that precipitated my leaving the congregation had nothing to do with sermons, doctrines, dogma, or the collection basket, though. It involved my offer to play my accordion for services which was turned down in a most condescending letter from the church council saying thank you very much, but the congregation was quite satisfied with the Odell organ. Well, poop-poop-a-doop! I thought, and I immediately began to stay home Sunday mornings with the newspapers and a pot of coffee.

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