Will they never end???
It'
s Another Mr. Eha's Place


Picture Page

#35 in a series
(Ten more splendid photographs from Oteseraga County, New York)



Here's your first splendid view! I thought about making this picture part of the Picture Page Expert Level Quiz, but I really couldn't do it in good faith. You don't have a clue, do you? Well, there's not one good reason why you should unless you read the Guardian back in the '40s.

Who? That would be Herb Garble and me, left to right. The only other person on the scene was Wilberforce Dimsey, whom we asked to take our picture for the paper after we dug up what we had hoped to find.

Where and When? Up around the small quarry near the caves at the west end of Oteseraga Lake during the summer of '46.

What? Herb and I got wind of a rumor that someone had buried a sack of $20 St. Gaudens coins in the abandoned quarry shortly after FDR called in U.S. minted gold coins back in '33. We went in together and bought a mine detector from a war-surplus store in Rome for $30.00 and swept the area. We got a strong signal where you see us digging, but all we found was a big hook from a pulley. We didn't strike it rich, but we did have some fun.

Why? Why do you think? We wanted to make a quick buck. As it turned out, of course, there was absolutely nothing to the rumor. Dimsey published this photo anyway, making us look like complete jackasses, but we did sell the detector for $45.00, which may not seem like a lot, but it would amount to about $450 today.

I have mentioned Dougal Anderson, Esq. on my site several times. He's my cousin and a lawyer who has helped me out several times for this reason or that. Here he is with a couple of his children on the little merry-go-round in the basement of the Busy Bee back in the '50s. Mr. Brooks does not make much mention of Dougal in his series, the only time being a reference to his address and phone number in Freddy Goes Camping. I think Mr. Brooks missed capitalizing on a truly interesting person as the basis for one of his characters, just as he did in the case of Priscilla Belette. Of course, Mr. Brooks might very well have created a two-dimensional lawyer stereotype based on Dougal, so perhaps it's best that he passed on the opportunity. Dougal certainly would not have deserved such treatment. He was a grand husband and father, and his professionalism and integrity were beyond reproach, even when he defended me, which is probably why I did so little jail time--just what I had coming to me and no more.

Another look at the spectacular gams of Priscilla Belette...and, yes, she is still alive, though not getting out much lately, and certainly not twirling her skirts on stage. Some folks, including Mrs. U. (perhaps especially Mrs. U.), complain that I give Miss Belette way too much space on Mr. Eha's Place. To them I say: Whose site is this anyway? That's right. It's mine. If you want to create a site that does not ever include mention of one of the most interesting of the surviving old timers of Centerboro, go right ahead.

I think, too, that it might be disagreeable for certain readers of the Freddy series to brush up against the realities of Centerboro on my site. They may prefer Centerboro to be their "happy place" to which they enjoy returning again and again, like the 100 Aker Wood or the Mushroom Planet--a place where the general awfulness of life may be temporarily ignored. But surely reading about the antics of Miss Belette and catching a tantalizing glimpse of her dancer's legs would provide just as enjoyable a diversion as the fictions of Mr. Brooks, wouldn't it? I believe so, and, therefore, though I risk irritating Mrs. U. further, I will continue to feature Miss Belette now and then. I have recently concluded a rather rambling and gossipy interview with her, and I am considering publishing it here. All I will say at this time is that she certainly does know a lot about the notable figures of old Centerboro, many of whom became characters in the Freddies.

You've read plenty about Sheriff Higgins in the Freddy series, but very little is mentioned about the Centerboro constabulary. There were actually two law enforcement agencies at work in Oteseraga County. The Sheriff's office took care of thumping the felonious miscreants throughout the county, and the Centerboro Police Department concentrated on controlling the degenerate reprobates within the city limits. This fine example of the executive branch is Officer Oglethorpe, better known as "Straight Arrow" by everyone in town. You can find out how he got this nickname in the story "Running Away" on the Tales Out of School (and Elsewhere) page where I also detail one of my encounters with him involving my Quackenbush airgun. (The only other encounters I had with Straight Arrow involved a cap pistol and the Centerboro water tower.)

In this photo you see Officer Oglethorpe posing with a chicken on one of the downtown sidestreets to encourage the home front to buy bonds during WW II. The biggest building in the background was the site of The Tough and Ready Garment Co. which specialized in clothes for farmers and sportsmen. It no longer exists. Nor does the building. Nor does the chicken. Nor does Officer Oglethorpe. Ah, le temps vole!

Speaking of felonious miscreants and degenerate reprobates! This comical fellow must have been quite the barrel of laughs at family parties, I'll bet. It took me a long time to track down a photograph of him, but here you see the real-life basis for another of the major characters of the series, and this time I won't make you try to guess. This is Simon, the patriarch of the Rodere clan. Human nature being what it is, every community must have its ne'er-do-wells, and the Roderes were Centerboro's most outstanding example until the early '60s when the whole tribe promptly picked up and vanished. For years they stunk up the works here and left only because of the last and stinkiest of Simon's escapades, a brief account of which you can read here. Besides engaging in all sorts of major illegal activities, Simon and his boys were not above lifting a chicken or two from an unwatched henhouse, and perhaps this photo attests to their propensity for pilfering poultry.

Here's another photo from the Beans' albums, irrefutable and incontestable proof that the author of the Freddy books actually did spend time at the farm. There is a notation in white pencil below it in the album: "Walter napping." I wonder why anyone would want to take a picture of someone while he was sleeping, but somebody obviously did and snapped this picture of Mr. Brooks taking a snooze in Byram and Adoniram's old room during one of his stays at the Bean farm, of which he was a sort of self-styled "historian." You can see, though not too clearly, that he had been working on some writing project, perhaps one of the published or unpublished Freddy novels. I took a quick look through the albums for more photos of Mr. Brooks, but, at least at first glance, I was unable to find more. I'll look a little more carefully sometime later, and if I find any more, I'll publish them in a future picture page.

I'm sure you've read Freddy the Pilot if you're any kind of Freddyite at all. Well, what you probably don't know is that the real Frederick Bean did in fact take flying lessons for a time from Johnny Guild...right up until the incident recorded in this snapshot. Believe it or not, no one was seriously injured in the crash, although Johnny terminated Freddy's lessons on the spot, and Freddy suffered an injury to his coccyx which made it difficult for him to sit up straight.

Topiary. Here's its etymology (just in case you've always wondered) from the Online Etymology Dictionary: "from L. topiarius 'of or pertaining to ornamental gardening,' from topia 'ornamental gardening,' from Gk. topia, pl. of topion, originally 'a field,' dim. of topos 'place.' The noun is first recorded 1908, from the adj." And there you have it.

This snapshot was taken on the Margarine estate, just up the Centerboro Road from the Bean farm. The cowboy-themed topiary reflects both the history and whimsical nature of the mother (not in the photo) of the little girl here pictured, Francine Margarine, who grew up to achieve some local fame as the winner of the Miss Flying Saucer contest in 1955. Francine's mysterious disappearance shortly after the contest has been the subject of much debate even to this day. I have my theory, but no proof, so I'll not engage in idle speculation except to say that it may well have involved the Martian judge who cast the deciding vote in her favor.

Speaking of the Margarines, here's Billy, by golly. I think Billy's life is a fine example of destiny at work. As you see him here, you'd hardly foresee his end as a result of a fraternity hazing. Consider, though, that if his mother Mirabel hadn't one day read an article about New York City while idly thumbing through a travel magazine at the beauty shop; hadn't consequently gotten it into her head to leave Casper, Wyoming, for New York; hadn't been eating a sandwich at a little restaurant near the Chrysler Building when Elihu Margarine walked in for lunch; hadn't caught his eye and impetuously gone out on a date with him; hadn't accepted his marriage proposal a year later; hadn't eventually produced Billy; and then hadn't pulled up stakes and moved to Centerboro to get away from the bustle of the city-- why, then Billy would not have gone to school in Centerboro, graduated at the top of his class, gotten into the college of his choice, and once there pledge the fraternity that did him in. Perhaps if Mirabel had been flipping through a National Geographic instead...but that's a road not taken.

Everyone around here knew Mirabel's story since she told it often enough, and bitterly so after Billy's bye-bye, while thumbing through magazines in Miss Marie's Elite Beauty Salon on Jackson Street--at least until she sold the estate, moved back to Casper, and was never heard of again.

This is, I believe, the absolute last of the moneymaking schemes Herb Garble came up with while he still lived in Centerboro. It's hard to say with 100% certainty because he had so many. In any case, shortly before he moved to Florida permanently, Herb got the brainstorm for a traveling hot dog stand. You could see Herb's wieniecar (as it came to be known) poking along the streets of Centerboro, Tushville, South Pharisee, and Lakeville between the hours of 11 AM and 7 PM most days during the summer. When he wasn't busy in his office, Herb would drive the thing around himself. When he was busy, he'd hire someone else. I even sat in for Herb occasionally to make some pocket money and enjoy the fringe benefit of all the hot-dogs I could eat, which never amounted to more than two during any one shift. This enterprise was fairly successful. People back then were not nearly as morbidly "health conscious" as we are nowadays, and the contents of the average hot-dog didn't faze them one bit because few knew anything about the contents of the average hot-dog or would have cared much if they did.


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