Picture Page #42
Trick or Treat Special

October 2011

Almost certainly, but not necessarily, the last of the picture pages!

Other than for the Busy Bee, I believe, Mr. Brooks seldom provided any kind of detailed information regarding the interiors of the Main Street establishments he named in the Freddy series. Though Beller and Rohr's is mentioned several times in the canon, I cannot recollect an instance of its having been described beyond the type of business it was. Well, here's a photo of the main showroom in 1959 when it was an appliance store featuring radios and televisions. As attentive readers of the series know, it had been described at first as a jewelry store, then a radio and jewelry store, and finally a music store. Mr. Brooks must have confused Beller and Rohr's shared enthusiasm for jewelry and their little sideline of singing at weddings and other festive occasions for their main livelihood, for as long as I remember it, the store sold appliances and that was it. For more on Beller and Rohr themselves, Miss Belette has provided some interesting tidbits in my third interview with her, so I will not rehash them here.

Here's a photo of an "old school" Hallowe'en gathering in one of the side rooms of the Willow Bend Inn. I don't know who these masked merrymakers are, but I suspect that since the aristocracy of those days held their Hallowe'en party at the Centerboro Country Club, the folks pictured here are undoubtedly farmers and townspeople. I think that many folks today have the mistaken idea that Hallowe'en has been hijacked by adults. Perhaps there is a bit of truth in that lazy assumption, but Hallowe'en in and around Centerboro has always been a festive time for everyone regardless of age. October 31, 2011, will mark my ninety-first birthday, and since the Willow Bend and I are still in operation after all these years, that's where I'm heading for the annual "Hallowe'en Bender," an event I have rarely missed. I did not attend when overseas during W. W. II and once when Mrs. U. made me attend a deadly boring Ladies' Literary Society of Centerboro Hallowe'en party. If you happen to be in the area on Hallowe'en, drop in, say hello, and buy me a drink. I'll be the fellow at the end of the bar with the over-the-head pumpkin mask.

From left to right, we have the siblings Elmira, Cuthbert H., and Minerva Camphor in an old family photograph. Cuthbert was the father of the C. Jimson Camphor of the Freddy series. Some pictures and narration concerning Elmira may be viewed here and here. Clearly she has been frightfully maligned in the Freddy books, for what reason I do not know, and Minerva only slightly less so, as she did have a mirthful side, too, as evidenced by the photograph here. In meteorological terms, I suppose Minerva could be described as "mostly inclement and blustery with occasional sun."

Here's the story on Cuthbert H. as best as I can recollect. He was fortunate enough to be born into circumstances of great wealth and privilege. His mother died of consumption before his second birthday, and his early rearing was taken over by his stern paternal grandmother and a string of nannies, for Cuthbert's father, Horace R., was much too preoccupied with amassing money to pay attention to his son. As a young man Cuthbert had neither the need nor inclination to work. Much to the disappointment and disgust of his enterprising father, Cuthbert developed into a useless layabout more interested in perfecting his snooker game and chasing girls than reporting to an office. His father died before Cuthbert reached his mid-twenties, at which time his spinster sisters attempted to take him in hand. It was at that time that the three started spending considerable time at the family's upstate New York vacation estate on Oteseraga Lake. His sisters were certainly more nurturing than his father, but they were strong-willed and demanding, and Cuthbert did not respond well to their attempts to guide him. He managed to entice a simple-minded society girl from New York City into marriage, and then, after she produced a son, Cuthbert Jimson, Cuthbert père ignored her and him and set about the serious business of squandering his wealth; however, long before he succeeded in emptying the coffers, his prudent sisters put an end to their brother's shenanigans by having him committed to the Oteseraga County Asylum where he passed away. Shortly afterwards, his wife pined away and followed him, and thus did their young son, little C. Jimson, come to be raised by his aunts Elmira and Minerva. You can find more about C. Jimson here, here, here, and here...and elsewhere throughout the site.

I found this vintage Zippo item the last time I was able to get to the Tushville Flea Market before it closed down for keeps last year. I asked the seller if she knew anything about the Walter Brooks named on the thing, but after much head scratching, she declared that she did not. I asked her where she had obtained it, and she told me that she had found it in a bureau drawer when cleaning out her late aunt's house. I kept up my questioning, but try as I might, I couldn't find out anything else about it. Of course, it has diminishingly little chance of having anything whatsoever to do with Walter R. Brooks--at least I don't think so, although Mr. Brooks's official biographer might know something I don't Nevertheless, I bought it as a curiosity anyway with the idea of selling it to a Freddyite who has to have everything associated with the name Walter Brooks however loose the association; e.g., the Grumbacher Art of... books by Walter Brooks; A Child and a Boy by Walter Brooks; Paul Gallico's Trial by Terror (cover art by Walter Brooks); vintage photos of Dr. Walter Brooks Roberts (born in Moreau, Saratoga County. New York, on May 15th, 1823); first day covers signed by the stamp's designer, Walter Brooks; and 45 rpm recordings of "Encore" featuring Walter Brooks. And so, to that lucky collector I say

it's yours for only $50.00 plus shipping and handling.

Dang It! Already Sold!

A very rare glimpse of Main Street, Centerboro, circa 1920. There's the trolley that ran from the outskirts of town on one end of Main to the other. And how about those old automobiles! Back then, it would not have been unusual to see horse-drawn wagons and carriages on Main Street, too. As I write this, I think how quickly time has passed since those days and how things have changed and how they have not. Considering the state of the nation and the world, I sometimes think that I'd not mind packing my bags and traveling back in time to live in what I conceive as the Golden Age of Centerboro. Of course that is quite nonsensical. I already have lived through those days, and the dental care wasn't that good.
Many groups have marched down Main Street, Centerboro, over the years. To name but a few, we've seen the Ku Klux Klan, returning war veterans, high school marching bands, the Socialist Farmers' Union of Oteseraga County, the Ladies' Literary Society, and Boomschmidt's circus. In this photo from the early 1920s, you see a column of Fresh Air children from New York City who spent part of their summer in the rustic paradise of Centerboro and its outlying countryside. Only once in the mid-1930s did the Beans host a young man from the Bronx, if I remember correctly, who liked nothing more than to eat a plate of eggs fresh from the henhouse, take a dip in the duck pond, do a few farm chores during the day, and burgle houses at night. He had managed to collect quite a wad of bills before being caught and deported downstate to whatever fate awaited him there. I have always suspected that that damnable Freddy Bean put the boy up to it, but I have no proof and Freddy's dodgy record is not admissible as evidence. Anyhow, that was the last time William and Martha boarded a Fresh Air kid.
The Centerboro Hotel wasn't the only game in town. There's an old photograph of the second largest of Centerboro's hotels, Padrone's, here, and what you see on this page is one from the 1960s shortly before it was torn down along with all the other buildings in the shot as part of the crackbrained Urban Renewal project which turned Centerboro from a somewhat charming town into just another place. The Centerboro Hotel under the management of Ollie Groper catered mostly to what you might call the high society of Centerboro. It featured relatively fine dining and well-appointed rooms and suites. Padrone's, on the other hand, was more of a saloon with second-storey rooms for short- or long-term rent. It was the main watering hole for the hoi polloi of Centerboro's south side ethnic neighborhoods for many years. In its day, it was the scene of numerous bar fights, loud parties, rowdy celebrations, marathon poker games, husband-girlfriend-wife confrontations, police interventions, and one documented murder. Therefore, it's easy enough to see why Mr. Brooks did not choose to include Padrone's in any fashion in the Freddy series. Now for one reason or another, I patronized both places over the years, and If you were to ask me, I'd have to say that the food was better at the Centerboro Hotel, but Padrone's was one heck of a lot more lively and entertaining.

I'll wager Freddyite scholars know who's featured here and what's going on. For those of you not acquainted with the Freddy series or for those who are but have for some reason never read Perilous Adventure, let me fill you in. This is a picture snapped by my father at the last exhibition by the balloonist Mr. Henry P. Golcher as a Boomschmidt Circus act. Mr. Golcher was known for his derring-do, and this particular stunt certainly made his name known all over Central New York. I suppose today that it would have been uploaded numerous times and gone viral almost instantly, but back then the unexpected dénouement of this trick--Golcher's spectacular fall--took some time to make the papers outside of Oteseraga County. Briefly, for you can order online the full account from the archives of the Guardian (now the Sentinel), here's what happened. Initially the ascent of the balloon and Golcher went without a hitch. Clutching the attached bar, Golcher lifted slowly into the sky with the idea of parachuting to the ground once he had reached 10,000 feet or so, the balloon to be recovered later. When he had risen only 100 feet or so, a sudden gust caught Golcher by surprise causing him to lose his grip and plunge earthward. Luckily for him, he touched down on one of the Boomschmidt tents, bounced a couple of times, rolled off to the ground, landed heavily on his arm, and broke it in several places.

I was there to hear what Mr. Golcher said as he lay on a stretcher waiting to be carted off to the hospital. I don't know why, but it's stayed with me all these years. When asked if he had any regrets, Golcher said, "A broken arm Golcher can put up with--no shame in that--but he wishes he had worn a diaper." That's just the way he talked.

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