Yes, it's another Mr. Eha's Place


Picture Page

All New Old Pictures
(and my 2005 jack-o'-lantern)
C'est moi.

 

Mrs. U and I

I present to you first a picture of Mrs. Underdunk and me about to depart for a Ladies' Literary Society of Centerboro Hallowe'en party many years ago. A petty and sniffy gaggle of old biddies, the L.L.S.C. spent most of its time discussing unremarkable popular fiction, sipping tea, criticizing the hoi polloi for its constitutional lack of morals and money, and being do-gooders of the most insufferable, self-congratulatory kind. As a member of Centerboro's upper crust consequent upon her marriage to Humphrey Underdunk, Mrs. U was pretty much expected to join the L.L.S.C., and she did. Her encounter with my ex-wife-to-be (detailed in the story "Harriet Peebles Blows Her Top" in Tales Out of School) first made her aware of the nasty smallness lurking just behind the polite social facade of the L.L.S.C. sisterhood, and she became both fully enlightened and an ex-member the same evening this photograph was taken.

Following her brother Herb's disgrace, Mrs. U had been subtly encouraged to resign her membership by certain other members, but her stubborn streak just wouldn't let her to do that, even though by that time she had become fed up with the brain-numbing superficiality of the society. The precipitating event occurred when we unmasked ourselves at this party and were greeted with an audible gasp when her escort was seen to be me--not that we hadn't expected some such reaction. Mrs. U was a lot less polite to the L.L.S.C. than Harriet had been...and before she was fired, she quit

Gertrude Filmore

Though there were many cottages and cabins crowding the southern shore of Oteseraga Lake, especially at the eastern end near Lakeville, and their septic systems (if they existed at all) were perhaps not in the best working order, the lake was pretty clear and the swimming and fishing pretty good up through the 1960s. There were not nearly so many residences on the rocky northern shore back then, and the same holds true today. It's much more difficult to clear and level building lots up there, but developers are doing their damnable best, and before long another lovely lakeshore will be overrun and despoiled by moneyed vulgarians who have chosen poor Oteseraga Lake for the site of their second or third homes.

The Lakeside Hotel once owned by Gertrude Filmore, pictured here, stood on the then virtually empty stretches of Oteseraga's northern shore west of Lakeville. Gert didn't mind getting her hands dirty with the day-to-day business of running a hotel, and catching a mess of fish that would end up as a pan-fried special on the menu was one of the morning jobs she enjoyed. Some say she was sweet on the Margarine's chauffeur Jenks, but I think she was too busy to be sweet on anyone. Also, I always had the impression that she was not too keen on men in general after her divorce from Horace. But that's another story, and not mine to tell.

There's more information about the hotel here, including a picture of it before Gertrude began renovations in 1946 and a nice old Lakeside postcard from Jason Brewer's collection here.

 

 

What became the Margarine's land

Here's an old print from the 1870s of the residence and property which eventually would come into the possession of the Margarine family. It never was the "run-down farmhouse" that Mr. Brooks described Elihu Margarine as having purchased. The buggy in this print is traveling east along the Centerboro Road and it would pass the Lenihan, McQuee, McMinnickle, and Bean farms in that order before it turned south and finished its trip to town. Just over the hills to the north lies the old logging road known to readers of the Freddy series as the "back road" which separated the Bean woods from the Big Woods, and to the north of that the Oneida Valley and then Oteseraga Lake. The Margarines didn't stay in our area very long. After the disappearance of their daughter Francine, who you'll remember was the winner of the Miss Flying Saucer Contest in 1955, Elihu's passing away, and finally the tragedy involving Billy (see the Centerboro necrology), Mirabel sold the estate and moved back to her birthplace in Casper, Wyoming..

I can't say the Margarines were ever very popular around here. Centerboro is the kind of place that isn't exactly unfriendly to new folks moving in, but not exactly welcoming either. The old families endure newcomers, but it takes a long time, sometimes three or more generations, before they get to feel like they belong here--but not really, and sometimes not even then or ever.

Michael Grimby and his dog

Few residents of Oteseraga County lived the privileged, pampered life of a Margarine--or of a Camphor, Church, or Underdunk. This is a picture of the Grimby house located in a clearing in the Big Woods. I cannot date this photograph precisely, but I do know the boy to be Michael Grimby, one of the four sons of Arthur and Edna Grimby, and the ominous foreground shadow to belong to Arthur. It was in 1923 that the Grimbys bought what is still called "the Grimby place," even though the actual house burned to the ground in the great Big Woods Fire. The Grimbys became the last of the owners upon whom fell a heavy load of misfortune as described in my brief history of the Grimby house. Following the Grimby tragedy, the three younger Grimby boys moved to Tushville where they were taken in by the oldest boy who had already moved there a couple of years earlier with his new wife. Over the next few years, the boys did their best to keep the property up, but the emotional and financial burden of that effort eventually resulted in their abandoning their former homestead. After that, one person after another squatted in or owned the increasingly squalid property, but as far as its being a real family dwelling place, those days were long over. Mr. Brooks was quite right in assigning blame for the house's burning down along with a sizable tract of the Big Woods to relatives of the Beans, the shabby and disreputable Bismuth family.

Jinx doing a headstand

James "Jinx" Bean clowning for the camera in the field behind Centerboro High School, the old one which was torn down a number of years ago. This is a Bean family album picture, and a note on the back says it was taken the day of a football game in which Freddy was to start as a right guard. Well, if you've been any kind of faithful reader of this site, you know of Freddy's ignoble history as a member of the CHS team, so I won't go into that again. If you want to delve into that old story, here's a link.

Now as far as I know, never having heard news to the contrary, Jinx is still alive. If you have any idea of his whereabouts, I'd be most appreciative if you'd let me know. Not only would I like to return that lion marble to him, but I'd like to see if he knows where his brother Frederick is holed up. Freddy and I have some "catching up" to do.

This is Mrs. U's little dog Fluffy, a pampered pet if ever there were one, dressed up for dinner in Mr. U's parlor. Even though she began to soil the rugs in her declining years --Fluffy, that is, not Mrs. U-- Fluffy held Mrs. U's heart captive for almost 20 years before passing away, and then Mrs. U acquired Pookie, a poodle which is still alive at 19. Mrs. U certainly has a knack for bringing out longevity in dogs, and I hope that I will benefit from that knack, having been, as it were, her faithful companion for some time now, too.
Three little bears and then some I took this photograph myself up at Herb Garble's cabin on Oteseraga Lake. Note that it is hardly a "shack," as Mr. Brooks described it. That's Herb stooping over to feed one of the three little bears, completely unaware of the approach of its mama which, if you look carefully, can be seen in the background. Not more than 10 seconds after I snapped this shot, Herb and I were hightailing it to the safety of my car where the bad-tempered mother bear kept us holed up for more than an hour after ransacking the cabin for food. I guess it's harmless enough (though a bit ridiculous) to sentimentalize our little Fluffys and Pookies, but when it comes to bears, it's best to leave them to their own devices.
My friend Petey Muszkiski

Here's another picture from my albums. I took this snapshot at one of the beaches near the scout camp on Oteseraga Lake the summer before my high school graduation. That's Petey Muszkiski on the right. His family had moved away from Centerboro when his father got a good job in a steel mill near Buffalo, NY. Once in a while Petey would be put on the New York Central to visit family in Centerboro. (Readers of the Freddy series are familiar with his uncle Stanley Muszkiski, who was the owner-manager of a movie theater and the bowling alley in town.) Following the dreadful "bees in a jar" incident (see Tales Out of School), my friendship with Petey cooled off considerably, but we rekindled our relationship during one of his visits when we were both in high school. The other two people in the photo are unknown to me. I think Petey introduced them as his cousin Chet and his wife, but I cannot be 100% certain after all these years. As for Petey, I regret to say that I've lost track of him.

A great doctor!

A minor character in the Freddy series is based upon this fellow. Up for a quiz? Of course you are! He was born into a prosperous farming family on the flats just outside of Centerboro, went on to receive his medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, served in the Army Medical Corps during WW II, and returned to Centerboro to open a practice following his discharge. Yes, you're right! It is Dr. Andrew Winterpool.

Doc Winterpool had an agile mind and was a great one for coming up with theories. He was, therefore, one of the few truly interesting conversationalists in Centerboro. One of his theories was that classical music has a salubrious effect on the body, and he had record players installed in many rooms of the two Oteseraga County hospitals in which he had privileges. Another of his theories was that a humane doctor-patient relationship is a critical concomitant of healing, so it was not unusual for him to spend the night in the staff quarters at the hospitals so he could instantly attend to his seriously ill patients should an emergency arise. Here's a snapshot of him which shows a splendid convergence of these theories.

Even today folks around here remember Doc as always having "done good" by his patients, and it was a sad day in Centerboro when he passed away from whatever disorder presented the rash which he tragically brushed off as a little touch of something or other. At least he had the opportunity to depart listening to some good music.

Mysterious tentacles from beneath! It was from the stern of the little motorboat (seen in the picture of Gert Filmore above) that the Lakeside Hotel provided for the use of its guests that this shot was snapped by Harold Starkley of Davenport, Iowa. Harry had been making annual trips to the Lakeside for more than twenty years. He enjoyed the Adirondacks and the bucolic charms of Oteseraga County very much--at least until the day in late spring 1947 that he took this picture on the west side of Stony Point in Jones's Bay about a quarter of a mile from Lakeside. The tentacle-like protuberances quite unnerved him, and he never returned to Lakeside. In August 1947, safe at home in Iowa, he sent a print of the photo to Mrs. Filmore, who had not believed his tale of thrashing tentacles. She never made the existence of her print public, possibly fearing a loss of business. I knew Harry, and before he left for Iowa he told me of his run-in with the unknown. I mentioned to him my interest in strange goings-on in the vicinity of the hotel dating back to 1946, and he sent me a print, too. I had no trouble showing it around, and I think Mr. Brooks may have gotten the idea for his unpublished Freddy and the Oteseraga Lake Monster from the stories and rumors stirred up by this strange image, and they may also have formed the germ of an idea for Freddy Goes Camping. Hard to say.
A flock of sheep

Almost nothing is known of the origins of this group that splintered off from the secretive Centerboro Free Association Church which itself was a splinter of a splinter, etc. Indeed, not even the name of this assemblage is certain. Most knew it as "The Sheep of the Illumined Flock," but it was also known as "The Keepers of the Plan" and "The True Full Truth Faithful." Based on the scanty revelations of a frightened congregant who fled the flock (and shortly afterwards New York State), it is known that the group's precepts were founded on a broad and insistent denial of reason, science, and common sense. Its members were required to torture reality to fit a credo of mysterious and inexplicable beliefs and practices which would possibly have made some kind of sense in an ignorant, pre-modern culture. This credo eventually did the group in. Rather than rely upon the fruits of medical science and research, for example, an ill member turned to regimens and cures revealed personally to him or her by the group's leader known as The One True Speaker. As a result, the group, never very large, fell prey one by one to a whole host of diseases and simply died out. The significance of the masks you see in the photograph has never been accounted for. This rare 1910 image of the group, the only one in existence as far as I know, comes from Mrs. U, whose great aunt Cecily Garble is seated front and center. (For more about the CFAC, go here, here, and here.)

Just finished!

Up in the good old silver maple!

 

Anxious readers have written to me asking if I still carve a jack-o'-lantern for Hallowe'en and place it up in the good old silver maple. Yes, I do, and will continue as long as I can manage a paring knife, and it is still legal to do so. Here is the spiffy 2005 edition. Before you ask, it is indeed a white pumpkin of the Lumina variety. One of the farmers just south of Centerboro has grown a crop this year and has them for sale at the Tushville Flea Market (open Saturdays, 7 AM - 5 PM near the entrance of the north parking lot of the Oteseraga County fairgrounds). But before you rush out to find one wherever you live, I can't say for sure they'll be available there.

Although I am somewhat of a traditionalist in most of my customs and habits, I was quite taken with this variety of pumpkin--new to me, for I have never seen one before this year--and even eager to shell out the $4.99 it cost.

Because of its novelty and its nature, I'm sure that the young neighborhood ruffians and Centerboro's most extreme evangelical Churchians would be drawing lots to see who would get to smash it in the middle of Clinton Street, so I will be bringing it and all my future jack-o'-lanterns in for the night and displaying them from an upstairs window--at least until the Supreme Court rules it unconstitutional to display heathen objects on private property.

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