Picture Page #43

Sundry Gimpses of Elsewhere and Elsewhen

I've noted before that Mr. Brooks provides passing little detail about the Centerboro business establishments he mentions in the Freddy series. The same may be said for the real-life residents of the town and surrounding coutryside. Even his descriptions of the Bean homestead leave much to the imagination of readers. For example, can you say with any certainty how many rooms there were in the Beans' house and how many outbuildings were scattered about the property? No, you can't. I suppose that had Mr. Brooks intended to produce a series of bloated doorstops like the Harry Potter books, we'd know the brand of hairpin Mrs. Lafayette Bingle employed to keep her frizzy hair under control, the seating capacities of the dining room at the Centerboro Hotel and the Grand Palace Motion Picture Theater, exactly how many eggs Henrietta produced on average per day, and the make and model of the lunatic Benjamin Bean's "atomic powered" station wagon. However, as it was clearly Mr. Brooks's intention to crank out lean tomes for pre-teens, we've been spared a deluge of pointless minutiae.

Anyhow, what you see in the picture is a typical gathering about the juke box at The Palms, an "other-side-of-the-tracks" joint on Ellicott Street in Centerboro. I include this picture only because one of the women is mentioned in the Freddy books. That's Genevieve Stamp sipping her drink, and she, as you recall, once quite rightly called Frederick Bean a pig, as nice a detail as you will ever get from Mr. Brooks.

The elderly gentleman in the picture is but one of many hundreds of Centerboro residents never mentioned in the series at all. "Pops" Pottle was the long-time groundskeeper and factotum at the Oteseraga County Orphanage (more commonly known as the "Children's Home") which once stood on Main Street next door to the old Y.W.C.A. Everyone in Centerboro thought very highly of the Children's Home which provided a clean and safe refuge for the parentless children of the county. Of course, most of the younger and more, shall we say, photogenic children were adopted by well-established married couples after a rigorous examination of their backgrounds and abililty and willingness to provide more than mere room and board. Older and less attractive children usually stayed on at the home until they either were able to go to work and provide for themselves or had reached the age of eighteen.

Mr. Pottle's family was among the first to settle in Central New York in the tiny one-lane hamlet of Horsefly which prospered, grew, was renamed several times, and eventually became the once-bustling small city of Centerboro. One might expect, therefore, that the Pottle name carried a certain cachet about town, and one would be correct. Though none of the Pottles attended a prestigious school, and none became a distinguished member of the professional class, neither did any of them descend into politics, finance, or other criminal activities. Instead, the Pottles were known and valued as a hard-working and kindly clan whose good-natured decency could be relied upon.

One of Mr. Pottle's most noteworthy contributions to Centerboro was his daughter Evelyn Pottle, a beloved fourth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School. Miss Pottle was, in fact, my teacher, and it was my class's great misfortune to pass from her caring and encouraging tutelage into the 5th grade dungeon presided over by Alice "Prune Face" Peppercorn. I regret to say that I have no picture of Miss Pottle to share; however, if you'd like to take a gander at my fifth grade classmates and our warden, you can do so here.

I find it curious, and you might, too, that Mr. Brooks features the orphanage run by Miss Threep way down in Dutch Flats, yet chooses not to say a single word about the Children's Home right here in town.


BOOM--be quick! Buy a ticket at the wicket.
BOOM--get your pink lemonade; get your gum.
BOOM--get your peanuts, popcorn, lollipops.
BOOM--Mr. Boom--Mr. Boomschmidt's come!

Ah, the memories! To this day, the haunting sounds of a calliope or the trumpeting of an elephant brings back such wonderful recollections of Boomschmidt's Circus parading through town on the way to the fairgrounds. Well, now, who do you imagine produced all those BOOMs? The bass drummer of the Boomschmidt Circus Band, of course, and there he stands in this photo.

One of the more peculiar happenstances that I've encountered in my almost 93 years is that the bass drummer is the father of Axon Spardoze, the editor-in-chief of Eha Industries Incorporated Publications and the self-published author of the 783-page novel Mostly Water, one of the most arcane, allusion-ridden, rare, and highly sought after books ever written. Mostly Water is, as it were, a large BOOM sounding an alarm about "...the future ruination of mankind owing to its inability to reconcile technological progress with its fundamental and ineradicable irrationality and stupidity." But I digress.

The drummer never did marry Axon's mother and became the focus of an annual buzzing scandal in Centerboro. For four years he rolled into town with the circus, took up with any number of married and unmarried women, sired an unknown number of children (some of whom must surely have wound up in the Children's Home), and then went on his merry way. Eventually he was reported to the authorities, escorted to the Pennsylvania state line by the State Troopers, and told in no uncertain terms never to show his face this side of that border or any other again. I've heard that the Troopers punctuated their seriousness with the BOOM of a 12-gauge shotgun aimed between his feet and the crack of a billy club to the top of his head. Axon confesses that all these years later, he wishes he had not succeeded in discovering who his biological father was and continues to find himself ever wondering if this person or that strolling about town might be a brother or sister. But neither he nor anyone else ever asks.

As far as wishes go, I sometimes wish that Mr. Brooks had chosen to write at least one serious novel based on some of the more colorful characters associated with Centerboro's history. How much better reading that would would have made instead of, for instance, the abusive defamations written about me.

May I introduce two exceptional Freddies from my mammoth collection of ex-libris copies. I'm offering both for sale on a luck-of-the-draw basis. Just mail me a 3 X 5 index card with your name, address, and telephone number to express your interest, and I'll throw your card in a hat from which the lucky winner's entry will be drawn on the Ides of July 2013. Though I have a long-standing affection for the ex-lib copy, I find I must part with these two gems because I need a bit of cash to help[ finance my ongoing interplanetary project, the details of which may someday be revealed to my readers and, indeed, the world. At this time, however, I can say only that the purchaser of these two books will gain not only valuable additions to his or her collection of Brooksiana, but will also go down in history as having supported a major advancement in interplanetary good will. In addition to fame of the first order and two nifty books, the purchaser will also possess my autograph as I will inscribe and sign each of the volumes as per his or her wishes.

Though both items have their obvious strong points, may I suggest that the glue residue and black electrician's tape on Pilot make it a particularly desireable copy? Were I you, I'd not tarry. Get your card in the mail today!

They're both yours for only $300.00
(plus a modest shipping and handling fee).

Sheez! Dagnabit!! Already Sold!!

Though I no longer conduct my incredible Internet Yard Sales, I do occasionally make Centerboro-related items available online. If you make it a practice to check Mr. Eha's Place for updates, you stand a fair chance of getting the jump on those who merely stumble in and scoop up one of my treasures...like these bits of paper ephemera, for instance.

I found the vintage The Palms matchbook in the tackle box I used to lug up to Oteseraga Lake when I still had some interest in sweltering in a boat for hours under a boiling sun to reel in a few panfish. The Palms rivaled Padrone's for disreputability and hijinks. However, though the police were called to The Palms two to three times a week owing to a brouhaha of one sort or another, there never was a recorded homicide on the premises. I, myself, rather enjoyed mixing with the lively crowd at The Palms on a Saturday night and only twice felt the need to make a speedy exit.

The poorly preserved matchbook pictured next names a Walter Brooks as a "Pennsylvania Oil Co. Recommended Dealer" and claims that "Every Dollar Spent With Us Continues to Serve and Help Build the Community." Humph! I rather doubt that last claim, oil companies always having been what they still are. I doubt, too, that the Walter R. Brooks esteemed by Freddyites ever was even remotely associated with that noisome industry. Nonetheless, the coincidental novelty surely makes this matchless matchbook worth a goodly price and your consideration.

Now, about the bookplate. I discovered it pasted in a copy of Mr. Faulkner's nearly unintelligible The Sound and the Fury which I picked up in the mid-sixties with the intention of improving my mind. The book turned up on a "sidewalk specials" table outside the long-gone Battered Boards Used Books in nearby Aeschylus Center. I had just failed to make it through Finnegans Wake and thought that I might have better luck with an American author. I made several determined attempts to wring a meaningful experience out of reading the damned thing, gave up like most others, steamed the bookplate loose and kept it for future reference, and chucked both Mr. Joyce's and Mr. Faulkner's works into the Centerboro Free Library's book sale donation bin. I'll have to say that over the years I've enjoyed no little amusement at this party or that challenging those who sport pretensions to membership in literary culture to explicate either book for me.

Can I say for certain that this is Walter R.'s bookplate? No, of course I can't. However, as he was a frequent visitor to the area, it is not altogether farfetched that he may have brought a Faulkner novel along with him on vacation to improve his mind. If that is indeed the case, I wonder if he fared any better than I.

How about $35.00 for all three?

(On Hold)

One of the Scenic Oteseraga County postcards (Series 1) from way back, this particular card is notable for two reasons. First, there are glaring factual and typographical errors of which any informed Freddyite will be immediately aware. While these errors do not put this card in the same class as the famous "Inverted Jenny" postage stamp, they do add somewhat to the novelty, if not value, of the card. Second, the buildings which later housed The First National Bank and The Busy Bee are featured in the foreground, left and right respectively. The same intersection from a different vantage and a later date may be seen here. Like all human habitations, Centerboro underwent changes large and small over the years, but none so drastic as the near complete destruction of the downtown area wrought by urban renewal simpletons in the late '60s and early '70s. Fortunately, a number of the buildings on the south side of Main Street survived the wrecker's ball and stand today.

I hope you're happy to hear that Priscilla Belette is still with us. If this is the first you've ever heard of her, then perhaps you'll be curious enough to read the interviews I've conducted with her over the past few years. For your convenience, here they are:

Miss Belette has but few visitors these days, I being the most faithful, and she enjoys leafing through her old albums with me and making the occasional comment. One clipping we came across recently roused her from her marginal consciousness, and she let loose a string of expletives which brought the duty nurse running. If you've read my interviews with Miss Belette, you know the history behind her reaction. And if you haven't and don't intend to, you never will.

I recall that some time ago I mentioned the former NYS Police headquarters on State Road 365 east of town. After the Troopers moved to their new digs, the building housed a succession of tenants, one of whom was Doc Winterpool who, after he sold his practice and retired, opened a two-room museum which he called Winterpool's Cabinet of Natural, Historical, and Medical Curiosities. For reasons known only to Doc, he painstakingly set up one of the museum's rooms (pictured here) in a style reminiscent of a dim, haphazardly organized, and cluttered old study.

I must say that the museum was delightfully quirky. Perhaps you will be able to gauge how quirky after considering just a few of the many items Doc chose to put on public display.

  • the late Mrs. Pratt's Brobdingnagian gallstone which lay midway between your average chicken and goose egg in size
  • a handkerchief said (but not confirmed) to have been dipped in the blood of Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865, by Dr. Charles Leale
  • a pickled two-headed leopard frog and an albino spadefoot toad
  • a collection of all Doc's own baby teeth and all the candles from all the birthday cakes his mother baked for him during his early years
  • a prototype of Benjamin Bean's Inceasingly Loud Alarm Clock and his rejected patent application
  • several complete trilobite fossils collected near Buffalo, NY
  • the chair Theodore Roosevelt sat in while waiting for his son Kermit to relieve himself at the Centerboro Hotel during a pitstop on their way to an Adirondack camp
  • the death mask of Judge Nathan Willey who choked to death on a piece of bubblegum, also displayed
  • the meteorite that crashed through the roof of the Margarine stables and nearly clobbered the noggin of Elihu Margarine
  • a faint and garbled three-minute recording of Two Clicks' farewell speech in Sibney Memorial Park in 1955
  • a small album of blurry amateur photographs of the celebrated Oteseraga Lake monster
  • a typed manuscript (stolen from its display stand in 1951 and never recovered) of an unpublished Freddy series book entitled Freddy the Forest Ranger
  • nearly one hundred fine double-terminated quartz crystals known as Herkimer diamonds

Following Doc Winterpool's demise, his unusual collections were dispersed. I was late to the auction and managed to acquire only a few items, one of which was rather noteworthy: the plaque (which may be seen here) commemorating the baseball game played on May 28, 1955, between the Martian and Tushville teams.

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