This page is for our readers' and contributors' memories of Mt. Vernon. Read these and if you are so inclined, send us some of your memories of Mt. Vernon.
|Gerald Allen Wiggins|
|by the webmaster, February 9, 2013|
About 5 years ago, I renewed a friendship that I had known but lapsed since childhood. Gerald Wiggins and I began corresponding via email and we eventually came up with the nexis of an idea with another classmate of ours for this website. Allen, as he was also known had a huge collection of historic pictures of Mt. Vernon and the surrounding area. We put stories around the pictures and I collected them into this website. Allen also wrote many of the articles in this section of our site.
I came to know that Allen was in the Navy after high school during the Vietnam War. We wrote about that time back and forth quite a bit and came to know each other much better.
Gerald Allen Wiggins passed away last week in Evansville. He is survived by his wife and children, whom I know miss him.
Allen, we did not touch base as regularly as we should have, but I too will miss you. Rest in peace and may the Lord bless you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you; and give you peace...
|Uncle Billy Answers Last Bugle Call|
|by Laura J. Alldredge - June 14, 1912|
William Lupton, more familiarly known as "Uncle Billy" and owing to his jovial disposition was known to every man, woman and child in the city, died at his home on West Fifth Street, Friday evening at 5 o'clock, after a lingering illness, suffering with a complication of diseases.
Uncle Billy was born in Yorkshire, England, and when but 21 years old came to America, and after spending a few weeks in the east came to this county where he has since resided.
When Uncle Sam called for troops he enlisted in the 25th Ind. Inf. Vol., and was assigned to Co. F., which was in command of Capt. R. F. Larkin, in which he served for over three years, and his comrades say no braver man ever shouldered a musket.
Several years ago owing to his health he turned his farm west of this city over to his son, Walter, and moved to town where he resided up to the time of his death. He was 76 years, 5 months and 21 days of age, was the father of seven children, three of whom beside the widow survive - Walter Lupton, Mrs. Sarah Johnson and Mrs. Laura J. Alldredge, all of this county.
His remains were interred in the Thielman Cemetery west of this city, Sunday morning at 10 o'clock, the funeral services being in charge of Rev. Whipple and Harrow Post, G. A. R., of which he was a member.
|Lunchtime Growing Up In Mt. Vernon|
|by Allen Wiggins|
When I was just a child growing up at home in Mt. Vernon I was totally naive and happy. To me life was just fun and eating to have the energy to go outside for more fun. I was a child in a very simple world. We knew almost nothing of modern conveniences like television, satellite radio, space travel, atomic energy and all similar things.
Fun was sitting on the side of the concrete curb around the courthouse on Saturday evenings watching people go by. Or walking down to the riverfront park and playing on the slides, May-Pole, swings, or merry-go-round. Fun was running around the neighborhood with other kids during the day just playing like kids did back then - just simple games of tag, baseball, football, basketball, and riding bikes when we got older.
And back then, unlike today's world, we sat around the kitchen table and ate meals together as a family. They were simple meals. Usually such simple meals were nothing more than a grilled cheese sandwich and potato chips or a lunchmeat sandwich and chips. Sometimes we ate leftovers modified as lunch instead of a dinner type meal. And we sat and talked about our day with our parents or whoever was delegated to care for us while Mom and Dad were at work - someone like our grandparents or an aunt or uncle.
One night when I was about seven years old this all changed. One night Mom and Dad went up town and bought our first new television - that wonderful modern marvel that changed life forever. And from that time on our lifestyle changed. Instead of those walks uptown or to the riverfront we spent many a night together on the couch watching television.
It wasn't television as we know it today. It was this huge mahogany wooden box with this huge black and white picture and lots of static at times. When Dad first brought it home we had to use an indoor "rabbit ears" type antenna until we could afford a better one outside. Later it had to be connected to this huge antenna on top of the house and that had to be turned in the right direction to receive a good picture.
We still ate our meals together as a family but often found ourselves as time went by eating in front of the television. The first shows came on about 8 A.M. and the television stations went off the air around ten or eleven P.M. shortly after the news back then. My mother even invested in a set of those fancy TV tray things that became so popular back then. And almost always we sat and watched an evening movie together with Mom popping a huge pan of popcorn for us all to share. My brother and I even usually got to share a small Coca-Cola with each other while eating popcorn. It was like having our own movie theater right there at home.
Back then there wasn't much television programming like there is today. There were actually several times a day when there wasn't any programming. Over time certain television stars became known to all. People like "Soupy Sales", "Red" Skelton, and "Uncle Bert". Later we got such shows on a regular basis as the Disney Hour and the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights. And most of these well known people and shows came on in the evening hours after most people were home from work with their families. There was little programming in the earlier parts of the day. Mostly things like the Farm Report and educational type programming for the homemaker.
Later we managed to get this wonderful surprise each day locally of being able to watch "Uncle" Dudley and Gerry the Giraffe after the noontime news. From that time on it became ritual to be sitting in front of the television every day at lunchtime to be able to watch that wonderful first hero of my life. I actually discovered them very early in their programming due to a rainy day when I was forced to stay inside.
Being so young and so amazed at this wonderful new wonder in our home I used every opportunity to watch television. I'd never seen anything so beautiful in my life even if it was only in black and white. I was amazed daily by Milton Berle, Soupy Sales, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan, Walt Disney, and many more as time went on. Yet at first there were just those few mentioned above. It was that time when television was just beginning to be in the homes of America. Not that many people owned televisions yet. And those that did shared them with families, friends, and neighbors.
Later on, Saturdays became the day of the week for kids. "Sky" King, "Howdy" Doody, "Bozo" the clown became regular heroes for kids. Rin-Tin-Tin and his sidekick Rusty or "Lassie" and his sidekick Timmie gave all kids that sense that any kid could be a hero. All kids loved their pets and what was that ultimate pet? FLICKA the horse. And of course every kind of western hero you could think of. Heroes like John Wayne, the "Sunset Kid", the "Lone Ranger and Tonto", and of course that ever popular "ZORRO."
As I mentioned earlier I was very young and naive back then. Actually not much different than others my age. I remember when we first got our television I saw on the Disney Hour one Sunday night this show called "Alice in Wonderland." I'll never forget my mother holding me while I bawled like a baby when Alice fell down the rabbit hole and I thought she would be injured badly when she hit bottom. Back then television was so new few of us realized the difference between reality and fiction on television. It was an entirely new concept to us and that naïve seven year old boy.
I guess that had so much to do with Uncle Dudley being my first real hero on television. He was a simple man who came on the television each day at noon with this little giraffe and a few other small animal friends. Uncle Dudley would usually take out a piece of charcoal and this large drawing pad and he would tell a story while drawing the figures of the story in picture form on that large art pad. He would be helped by Gerry giraffe and his friends. Normally there would be a cartoon played somewhere along in that show also.
Uncle Dudley always spoke in such a soft and friendly voice. He never got mad or hollered at anybody. He always taught us something that we needed to know as we were growing up. Over time as people bought televisions and telephones became more popular it became possible to phone into that show each day and actually speak with Uncle Dudley in person. He would have contests which involved kids phoning into the television station and being heard on the television show along with Gerry the giraffe and others. Later they even set up a set of bleacher seats for kids to sit on and be part of the show right there in the station.
It became the dream of nearly every child in the tri-state to be able to visit that television station and sit on those bleachers during that show. Uncle Dudley became one of the most popular people the tri-state ever had. He appeared at local church socials and school PTA carnivals and such other events. He would make his drawings on that art pad of each child he spoke with for a small fee to help the event where he was appearing at the time. I'll never forget how I talked my Mom and Dad into waiting nearly 45 minutes one night at the local PTA carnival and paying the huge sum of nearly two dollars for him to draw me and my brother on that art pad of his. We pinned that drawing up on our bedroom wall where it hung for several years until my Mother cleaned house one day while we played outside and it disappeared.
I'll carry to my grave the memories of that naive little boy who didn't know the difference between reality and television fiction back then. I'll always remember eating my boloney sandwiches nearly every day while listening so intently to the stories Uncle Dudley would tell. I'll never forget crying and laughing back then at those stories, cartoons, and those first "Little Rascals" short-short films. I'll never forget how raptured I was back then with this totally knew concept of television and Uncle Dudley.
Uncle Dudley was actually a man by the name of Chester "Chet" Behrman. He not only became the first true local television hero in the tri-state but was also the station manager for the channel 14 television station where he worked. Some might ask how this should be part of Mt. Vernon history. Yet Chet Behrman was a major part of the childhood of nearly every child in Mt. Vernon back then. He helped mold nearly every one of us into the people we are today. Not only was he a true pioneer of television for all of us in the tri-state he was and always will be Uncle Dudley who babysat nearly every child in town each day at lunchtime.
It was his soft voice full of love for children that lulled so many to sleep for their afternoon naps. His local television show ran through the 1950's and 1960's before finally being taken off the air. For over 20 years he appeared at every possible local charity and school event. He was well known and respected by all who knew him. I will always remember that he grew with me from the time I was seven years old and we bought our first television to the time I was grown and left home to be in the Navy.
Now I am 61 years old and retired. Recently I read a news article telling of the passing of our beloved Uncle Dudley at the age of 86. Sadly back then local television stations did not record all their local shows for posterity and to my knowledge the old shows of Uncle Dudley and Gerry Giraffe are lost for all time. EXCEPT for those in our memories. Chet is no longer with us in person but will be with most of us the rest of our lives in our memories of how he had lunch with each of us daily for all those years growing up as kids in Mt. Vernon.
In our memories and web sites like this one Chet Behrman and Uncle Dudley live on. Gerry the giraffe live on. Our childhoods in Mt. Vernon will not be forgotten. To this day I still occasionally see the cartoons, the "Little Rascals", and some of the old Shirley Temple shows from back in those times. When I do I also usually regret that Uncle Dudley wasn't filmed and recorded for posterity also.
That was a time when kids grew up without having to see guns and explosions, and killing daily or hourly for so called entertainment. It was a time of true entertainment and frivolity with those heroes of television and stage such as Uncle Dudley and Gerry Giraffe who made us laugh every day without fail. It was a time when kids were naïve like I was and were just beginning to learn about television fiction. Back then Gerry giraffe was as real to us as the animals at the local zoo. Only they had this wonderful ability to talk to us and that enraptured children every day at lunchtime for years and years without violence.
I was lucky to grow up as a child in Mt. Vernon with Uncle Dudley watching over me every day at lunchtime. He kept me off the streets and safe. He kept me happy and laughing every day at lunchtime. He was my first true hero in life. I had others as time went by. Like Superman, the Green Hornet, Batman and Robin, John Wayne. But the hero of heroes to me will always be Chet "Uncle Dudley" Behrman. To this day I still think of him often and those times back then when I first learned of the wonders of television as that naïve little seven year old boy.
Isn't it amazing how such wondrous joys can come from something as simple as a wooden box with a glass window in one side? Who among us knew that we could see the future and the past both through that little glass window in that wooden box we call television?
How many of you joined me with Uncle Dudley and Gerry Giraffe daily for lunch? Do you miss them and the wondrous simplicity of those times like I do? No matter how old I am I'll never forget lunchtime back home in Mt. Vernon growing up as a child and being safe sitting with Uncle Dudley eating another boloney sandwich and chips. Do you remember that he also ate a baloney sandwich each day with us from his lunch box? That black metal lunchbox from which he took his sandwich along with Gerry giraffe each day at lunchtime and transported all children into this wondrous new world of television. Who'd have thought we'd ever have such beautiful wonders in little ol' Mt. Vernon?
|The Life of "Aunt Jane" Ratcliffe Lupton|
|by Mrs. Clarence Todd - November 8, 1928|
I was born in Yorkshire, England. My parents names were Abe and Hannah. At the age of three years, we came across the sea landing in New York. The only thing I remember about the ship was when a sailor just in a joke said he was going to drown me in the sea and how I clung to my mother. This was in the year of 1841.
Then we wandered from place to place until my father bought a home from a woman by the name of Katsey Bacon, but now my mother dies. We go on with our home, which is near Upton Station and is now known as the Herman Alldredge home. It was then a vast wilderness, all woods from the range of hills over to what is now known as the bayou. Our first house was up on the hill over near the old Wilburn schoolhouse, a rude log house, with one room and a kitchen and a mud and stick chimney. I took the place of mother the best I could. I had a brother and sister, the sister later becoming Mrs. Ludlow.
Later, father remarried and built a part of the house where Mr. Herman Alldredge now lives. Now my memory is not the best, but something like the year 1860 I married a Mr. Warren Jackson and had one little girl. Her name was Mary Ann. My husband now enlisted in the Civil War. Captain Hodges was the captain. My husband came back one time to visit me and I went to Caseyville with him and then the next I heard of he was sick with the small pox at Knoxville, Tennessee, and there he died.
Then in 1865, the war being over, I married a Mr. William Lupton, familiarly known as "Uncle Billy". He was also a Union veteran and is now deceased.
Now as to the pioneer days - yes, I remember the year of the cholera. I knew a John Woody. As for the Woody children, there being two pair of twins, one of each pair died with the cholera along with John Woody.
Yes, I remember also the first wagon I ever saw drawn by a horse driven by a Mr. Neal. Then everything was drawn by oxen. I plainly remember when I rode my horse to town with a basket of eggs and hitched him there the Masonic Hall is. I don't remember any stores or grocery but of course there were some and I don't remember the Court House. Whiskey flowed plentifully, it being two bits per gallon. The men folks always put it on hands. There was a covered bridge over Mill Creek.
Now I know a lady by the name of Mrs. McCleary, she being the mother of Mrs. Mary Ann Black. She had a cancer. I asked her if it was bad blood that caused a cancer. She stiffly said, "No, her folks had no bad blood in them."
Yes, father made fires by hitting two flints together and catching the kindling in this way, and sometimes we would borrow fire. Our chimney was made of mud and sticks would often get afire. Eggs sold for five cents a dozen.
My father, like many other pioneers did not rely on the banks to keep his money. They had smoothing irons made in such a way that the handle served as a lid and in the iron they kept their silver and gold.
Now father bought this land from Mrs. Bacon at $1.25 per acre and the remains of the same Mrs. Bacon, along with many, many others are laid to rest in the cemetery known as the McKenzie Cemetery, the land being donated by a Mrs. Sarah Broadhead, a cousin of my mother. The deed runs thus, "This shall be a burying ground as long as grass grows and water flows."
Now in my girlhood days, a new calico dress was a nice dress and we would grease our shoes to make them black and our every day dress would be of homespun goods. We then saved the things that people throw away now. I seldom went any place. I was always too busy.
Yes, my first husband was an American and the second one was an Englishman. I had one child by my first husband and seven by my second one. I have raised my own family and four orphans and have gone far and near to help the sick. I have acted as midwife for many, many mothers and have dressed and laid out many of the dead. I have two living children now that I live with, first one and then the other. They are Mrs. Clell Johnson and Mrs. Joe W. Alldredge. I am now a cripple, having broken my hip about ten years ago. I use my wheel chair and love to have my friends come to see me. I was born June 24, 1838, making me 90 years and 7 months of age. I am proud to say I voted for our President-elect, Herbert Hoover, but I expect to be gone before the next election.
Now I hope my story interests you and if my memory were better I could tell you more.
This story was told by Mrs. Jane Lupton and written by Mrs. Clarence Todd on November 8, 1928.
|Point Township in the 1930's|
|by Ray Kessler|
In 1977, my dad's youngest brother was recovering from a heart attack and he wrote down some family history and I will include some here. I don't think he would mind.
Ken lived with my grandfather Jim and a large group of siblings in what you called "The Gourdneck", a cluster of three shotgun houses a half mile north of the big Hastings barn in 1934. Grandpa Jim worked the fields for "Doc" Hastings and in return he equipped them with a number of homes for their families, rent free. Most had four rooms.
Jim used mules to work the land back then, "getting every ounce of energy from the team." Although, he made the transition to tractors, when "given the option, he always chose to work with mules or horses." My father, Phillip quit school around the seventh or eighth grade to work on the farm, as the eldest to help support the family. I remember dad would drive me through Point and show me places he lived, and schools he attended and where he made his first fifty cents.
In 1937, the great flood came, and "covered about everything in sight. I remember we moved four times that year", Ken recalled. "First across the field to Charlie and Sally Emory's house we stayed there until the dogs could get a drink from the water licking through the cracks in the wooden floor of their frame house." Dad had told me that as the flood water rose the animals either were tied right up to the house or in the house. "The next move was to the big Hasting house wher we were invited to wait out the flood. It sat majestically on a rise near the horse barn which covered an entire acre of land." Ken recalled, "life at the Hasting house was far different than what we had known...abundant supplies of food...fresh eggs, sausage and ham, gravy, pure whole milk, fresh honey and homemade bread...we kids didn't care if the water ever went down." The water kept rising and after a few weeks the Kessler family were loaded on a ferry boat with chickens, cattle, pigs, and a few favorite possessions and brought to Mt. Vernon. Dad said he lived with relatives in Evansville for a short while. It was the 1990's before I met some of long lost Kessler's. Finally, the water receded and they moved back home..."but it wasn't where we left it...it had floatd off it's foundation and was setting 40 degrees of center...the wooden floors were so warped, they could pass for corn ridges...we lost everything to the flood." The neighbors found some Indian head pennies and other old coins around the foundation of their previous home...."for some reason I never could get too excited about them picking up what I thought should have been ours, I had forgotten about the inconvenience we must have put them through when we moved in with them during the flood." Typhoid fever killed two sisters from contaminated well water and my dad, Phil became very sick with it also, but survived. Their mother died in her late 30's, four days after losing a child in childbirth. Dad continued to work to help the family. Ken says that the family did have a car...not many did in that area and because of that " many neighbors depended on them to get groceries and supplies from town on a Saturday night." Ken recalls trying to stay warm in the car with a kerosene lantern beneath a blanket, 'with the fumes wafting through the car...and in the summer, the flat tires, and patching, patching, patching...I remember dad and Phillip patching one innertube 10 times making three miles. Dad always told his father Jim to try and get a good piece of land away from Point that would not flood. Dad was soon in the Army in World War II and then brothers Johnny and Ken looked for work. They found it at Buchanan's Grocery at Hovey, Indiana. John made about $15 a week, working about 60 hours to get it. He would load groceries on the grocery van like wagon and made the trips along with Mr. Buchanan to the homes to deliver goods. He also worked in the main store. Ken finally joined his brother at the store too getting $4 per week and room and board. He would work before and after school as well as the weekends. Getting up around 4:30 am to meet the bread and meat truck deliveries for the store.....thus was a window into the depression filled, flood and war period of my family.
Another story from Ken
My brother John and I were outside on this particular Sunday morning of 1934, running around the house, working our way closer and closer to that old Model T when we heard Mom yell, "You kids stay out of that car, your hear?" We heard, and that was enough to make it absolutely necessary that we take a make believe test drive in that car. John was the elder statesman of the pair, nearly seven and I would be about four. By virtue of his age, John earned the right to drive and there I was, the passenger side door wide open to the end of its retaining strap, and John beneath the wheel...going Vroom, Vrroomm, Verooooooommmm....slapping that wooden steering wheel first to the left and then to the right and stomping first one and then another of the three center pedals on the floorboard...now and then working the spark and throttle ears up and down. Well, there I was, doing a super job of driving that old Model T, and I couldn't even get the door shut. Shut the door, said John, and I was working on it, but when you are three and a half, working with short arms against rusty hinges you've got a problem. John seemed to realize that, and said, "Here, I'll get it" and placing the old Model T on automatic pilot, big John leaned over, braced himself with his left hand against the fuel guage in the center of the dash, and with his right hand he grabbed the strap on the door, and with a grunt and a heave he shut that door, with my left thumb caught in the top hinge! Well, I started squalling, and John's motor died...and he joined in on the chorus. My thumb was hanging by a tendon and dad wrapped me in a blanket, soaked hand in a towel and we got in that car and headed for town on a Sunday morning to find a doctor. Dad took me to one who wanted to cut my thumb off, but he went for a second opinion and he got it from old Doc Emmick. My brother Phil later lived on a street named after him. Well, Doc said, "it's awful easy to cut 'em off, but pretty hard to grow new ones. Let's see if we can do this". And he sewed it back on. It worked and though I have the scars it is as good as the other one.
|by Allen Wiggins|
I was sitting here the other night just kind of in my own little world. You know how it is. Late at night but not sleepy. Listening to music and thinking of things that had come to be in the past. And along comes this catchy tune on the radio.
I'm 60 years old and there aren't that many Christmas songs I haven't heard before. But this one takes me completely by surprise. Partially because I have never heard it but more so because it is such a catchy tune. It's called 'Christmas Cookies' by George Strait and it brings back all these memories of Christmas cookies from my childhood.
On the morning of Christmas Eve I got to walk the block and a half to the donut shop on Main Street and Second. That was back when they gave a baker's dozen (13 donuts) for only seventy-two cents. After breakfast Mom would get me and my brother ready and we'd all go to the store for Mom to get ready to bake all afternoon. And Mom hit every store in town. Remember this was back when we had Burnett's, Rohlman's, Dietz's, Mason's, Owen's, North Main, Lutterman's, Gerber's, A& P, Krogers, and Walling's groceries in town.
As silly as it may sound each of those places each was unique to itself. The odors, inside sites, and personnel were each unique and memorable. It was always half the fun to go and shop with my mother on that day each year. Granted none had that shiny new look of today's grocery stores. In fact one or two were lit by only one or two single bulbs hanging from long wires on the ceiling. Some were still heated by wood or coal stoves in the center of the store.
Owens, Burnett's, Dietz's, Rohlman's, and Mason's were perfect examples of those spoken of above. Simple neighborhood stores. Rohlman's raised their own hogs, cows, and chickens for the freshest eggs and meats to sell to their customers year round. In summer they sold fresh fruits and vegetables grown right in their own gardens and side yard. And they had a glassed in counter full of penny candy that could fulfill any child's dreams. The others listed above were much the same except that farmers supplied most of their eggs, meats, and vegetables. And each was supplied fresh daily.
'Red' Lutterman owner-operator of Lutterman's was always ready with a kind word at the meat counter of his store. Sam Noon was the same at his North Main store. Harry Gerber owner-operator of Gerber's was the joker of the bunch. His favorite joke was to get people to touch both the metal edge of the checkout counter and the metal railing leading to the exit doors. For those unfortunate enough to fall for his joke they would find they couldn't let go. There was an electrical short in the checkout counter. When you touched the metal railing leading towards the exit you completed the circuit and couldn't let go.
The Kroger store on Main Street had the tallest shelves and narrowest aisles of any store in town. And Krogers and the A&P store always smelled of the freshest ground coffee because they ground coffee fresh custom for each customer and their desires. Where Krogers was narrow tall aisles the A&P had wide aisles with low shelving.
And that wonderful Mr. Owens who had his one room store on Third Street. It was heated with a coal stove in the center of the room with seats all around it for customers to sit and talk with each other. He only had one short counter for meat that he cut to order. A second glassed in counter for eggs, cheese, and miscellaneous cooled items. Canned and boxed goods were on wooden shelves on every wall. And he maintained a grill behind the store that he cooked fresh game brought in by customers for a minimal fee. He also was well known for his B-B-Q and smoked meats.
But the shopping at these wonderful stores was only half of the fun of Christmas cookies. After mother would spend half the day shopping at each store we would go back home where she would mix and bake the rest of the day. Dozens upon dozens of cookies poured out of her kitchen. Those oh so sweet smells from her baking flowed throughout the house. And of course my brother and I had to be there to lick the bowl she mixed the cookies and icings in. And that is not to mention the testing of those fresh hot cookies as each kind came out of the oven and was laid to cool on the kitchen table.
Mother would make cookie after cookie with this little hand held thing that squeezed out cookies one by one. After she made so many she would let me and my brother do the same for dozens of cookies. Then came all those hand made cookies. Some she used spoonfuls of dough placed oh so carefully on cookie sheets. Others were made by rolling the dough out with a rolling pin. Then my brother and I would cut out cookies with cookie cutters of all different shapes. Squares, round cookies, stars, triangles, animals, snowmen, and many more.
I remember how out came cookie tin after tin that were hidden away all year long waiting to be used again and again each year only at Christmas. Mother would bake the cookies. Then she had me and my brother decorate with icing. Once those chores were finished we carefully filled each cookie tin layer by layer with each type cookie mother had baked. Iced sugar cookies were the favorite. There were also wedding cookies, chocolate chip, oatmeal, cherry jubilee, coconut bonbons, strawberry bonbons, maple crescents, mint melt-aways, alphabet crisps, chocolate fudge, maple fudge, snowman drizzles, rice crispy treats and more. And then she would start making her candies. Almost as many candies as she made cookies.
This went on throughout the afternoon and on into the evening of Christmas Eve Day. My brother and I were filled with candies and cookies from our 'testing' all day long. Yet we were still so tired when night came around it was always easy to fall asleep thinking of Santa the next morning.
On Christmas Day we would visit with relatives and friends all day long. And each time we did Mother would give away one of her tins of cookies and candies. For nearly every one she gave away we received one back from those friends or relatives. Most amazingly the cookies and candies were almost always different from each other with few duplicating each other. It was like a contest with all the women back then not to duplicate each other and to give away different types of cookies and candies. And my brother and I ate our fill of cookies and candy that day. We couldn't be rude and pass on all those candies and cookies now. Could we?
Of course Mother always made plenty extra for us to keep at our house for days afterwards. There was no way to ever forget those wonderful Christmas cookies and the stores we shopped at in Mt. Vernon in preparation for all that baking. Gone now are all those stores we shopped at back then. Gone now are all those colorful people who owned them and visited with each customer. Mom and Dad are gone now. Yet those memories of Christmas cookies at home in Mt. Vernon as children will hopefully always remain in my heart. I still have those cookie cutters to this day. I only bring them out at Christmas when I bake cookies with my own children.
They laugh and enjoy those times so much. And each time I hear their laughter I think back to the days I got to laugh with my mother baking Christmas cookies. It is at those times I often can look across that kitchen table to see her smiling back at me. Those times are when I know I am doing things right. Have you baked any cookies with your kids lately back home in Mt. Vernon?
|Whatever Happened To Scouts & More?|
|by Allen Wiggins|
When I was a child nearly all kids wanted to eventually grow up to be in Scouts or other such groups. I will always remember those days I enjoyed as a Cub Scout. Camping at Camp Pahoka was the dream of nearly every boy. Scout Jamborees were the exultation of all that you knew growing up as a Scout and you were so proud to show it off to the world. Jamborees were the ultimate of the ultimate. Nothing could have been bigger or better.
Girls were just as happy being in Brownies or Girl Scouts. It was the dream of nearly all little girls to be a Scout and to be able to sell cookies each year. The boys sold Christmas trees each year in the larger towns. And all made wonderful crafts by hand each week in their individual troop meetings. But these weren't just simple crafts for fun even though it was fun. Each craft taught the child something useful they would carry with them in life.
Kids learned how to do things as simple as tie knots in ropes. They built bridges of popsicle sticks. They made potholders. And key holders and wallets of leather. And then they learned how to use those techniques for useful items such as tying the ropes for their tents when they went camping. Or making rope bridges. They learned how to use their key holder and wallet making techniques for making leather items they would need when camping. Things like water bottles from natural materials that were hand sewn. All things that could save a life in an emergency.
But more than anything else these techniques used to teach and to learn while in Scouts taught kids to think for themselves and to be self-dependent later in life. That was the real gift of Scouting. It wasn't just something to take up time of kids in those days like television games do today. And more than ever I am proud to be able to say I spent time as a Scout while growing up.
Just the other day a couple friends of mine shared with me an old photo of those days. One of my friends was a one day government servant while in Scouts. His photo and the photos of many others in Scouts appeared in the local newspaper. And just like that Scouting taught us to be socially responsible, too.
Today people wonder what has happened to our kids and why they are so different. Maybe it is because television games don't teach responsibility like Scouting did. Maybe it is because parents were equally involved with their children who were in clubs like Scouting instead of working those extra hours for money to spend on television games. It really isn't all that hard to figure out when you look at it this way.
I knew a neighbor who was a Scoutmaster. Both his sons were Scouts. They had a trailer in their backyard. The kids had built it from scratch to take their supplies with them when they went camping. And they went camping nearly every weekend all summer long. It had all these little doors built into the sides of it. Each door had a specific purpose. One would hold flour and sugar. Another salt, pepper, and cooking spices. Another their pots and pans. And another would hold their metal plates and silverware. Others were special made to hold specific foods to take with them each time they went camping.
At the rear was a large door that opened so they could store their camping gear like tents and folding chairs. It also held coolers to hold ice while camping. On top were special holders for fishing gear and such items. And then one area on top would hold the personal items each would take with them each time they left to camp. And all was built by hand by the kids themselves. Finally they painted it by hand in the specific colors of their troop and with their troop number proudly displayed on all sides.
I know many of the kids personally who were lucky enough to be in that troop. All have grown up and become responsible adults with children of their own now. Many are big business men while others are in local government trying to make life better for us all. Each remembers fondly those days in their Scout troop and with tremendous pride. Each has hundreds of stories to tell about their days in Scouting when they went camping with that hand made trailer.
I often think about and occasionally write about those "Old Days". I try very easily to remember the things that made life so good growing up back home in Mt. Vernon. Maybe those "Old Days" were better for a reason. Maybe somewhere along the road of trying to make life better we forgot to keep some of those things that already made it great.
I think that Scouting is one of those things that most of us seem to have forgotten. But I, two of my friends, and a group of boys that used to go camping nearly every weekend of the summer will rarely forget how much fun it was and how much it helped to make each of us who and what we are today. And each of us will be forever thankful for those days as kids growing up Scouting.
|by Deidre' Duff Johnson|
Soon after the move of the county seat to Mt. Vernon, a leading business in the town was that of barrel making, in which numbers of hoop poles – young tender saplings grown in Lynn Township were used.
About 1833, 10 or 15 flat boats were at the wharf, while their owners and the roust-abouts were up in town drinking and rioting. All were rough, vile men.
Several, as the story goes, became involved with a number of "town fellows" in which the locals were first worsted and routed. The home-towners, however, gathered reinforcements and heavily armed with hoop poles from the nearest coopery fell on the river tough with such fury that the river men were forced back to their boats. The boatmen, fearing to return to town, went on down the river.
People down along the stream of the Ohio River noticed the bruised condition of the boatmen, and in the jeering that followed, the term "Hoop-pole Township" was applied to this township. The term was used for years and "Hoop-pole Township" became known throughout the country. To this day, there are people who believe there really is such a township in Posey County and that residents are of an inferior race. The incident deserves to be written by an understanding pen, not handled in the traditional manner.
Written by Deidre' Duff Johnson (Mrs. Charles T. Johnson) for the Southwestern Historical Society
|A Dog & What?|
|by Allen Wiggins|
During my years of misspent youth I loved going with friends to the local Dog & Suds or meeting them there. And for those of you not old enough to remember the local Dog & Suds was a place to buy Root Beer drinks and sandwiches. Food and drink was served on metal trays attached temporarily to your car window. You parked in a circle around the building that had large glass windows all around. In the rear was a large metal canopy with picnic tables below it for use by customers.
Many restaurants in those days used this form of service to great advantage. Service was performed by waitresses on foot and sometimes on roller skates. The main draw to this location was the unique flavor of the root beer sold there. It was sold in small, medium, and large heavy glass mugs pre-chilled before served. The root beer and mugs were so cold that often there was ice forming on the top of the root beer when served.
People came from miles around to socialize at places like this one. It was the original day of the "cruiser" or "cruise-in." From the time school let out each day until midnight mug after mug of root beer was served to happy customers while young teenagers circled the place in their cars and pickup trucks. Many of the pickup trucks often had groups of kids in the rear yelling in joy to each other and to those they passed.
Occasionally kids would leave their cars or trucks to sit together at the picnic tables for hours at a time and enjoy each others company and have fun together. It was a time of joy and fun. It was a time of safety and pleasures you no longer see in today's world. Most parents knew where their kids would be if needed. And they knew they would not be out getting into trouble or doing things they shouldn't be doing but instead just having fun with friends.
It was a time of inexpensive pleasures. For the simple fee of roughly fifty cents you could purchase a large root beer. Then you could spend half an hour or more with friends talking and having fun. Often they would dance to the juke box playing the hit tunes of the times on speakers mounted under the large canopy at the rear.
For those who were hungry they served delicious grilled sandwiches like hamburgers and hot dogs. They tasted like those grilled on the backyard grill at home and had a special flavor not often duplicated elsewhere in that day or since. And of course tater tots and French fries to finish off the glorious yet so simple meal they served.
Doesn't sound like all that much does it? But back in that day and age a simple meal and an ice cold root beer were like Heaven on earth for those who chose to stop by. And more Heavenly was the companionship of friends and family. A simple time of freedom and friends meeting at the local "Dog." Young and old alike enjoyed those simple freedoms together extracting tremendous pleasures from doing so equally. And seldom was heard a word in anger or seen fisticuffs in that day and age.
It was a time when people enjoyed the outdoors as much as they enjoyed the companionship of their friends. Insect control was maintained through the simple use of yellow lights. And around on each side of the establishment would be mounted a fan and cloth bag designed to catch insects at night drawn in by the lights. Simple yet highly effective in practice.
The majority came by personal vehicle. Yet once in a while there came those on foot or even on bicycle. Those few would sit on wooden stools inside a room at the front looking out through the large glass windows and enjoying their root beer. All would sit and savor the cool nectar of that fabulous root beer flavor sold there. Some even took home with them gallon jugs full of root beer to share with the family.
It is those memories I wish to keep with me always as I grow older in today's world. A day and time of love and freedom to enjoy the simple life and my friends and family. A time when we often sat under God's stars together and enjoyed the cool breeze and an ice cold drink. A time when you ordered a hamburger that when you bit into it the grease ran down your cheeks. Or French Fries that steamed when served because they were so hot. And always the cars and trucks circling around us with more friends yelling greetings to us minute by minute.
It is the memory of the teens dancing under the stars together while laughing and having simple fun I wish to carry in my heart always. The occasional stolen kiss from your girlfriend. Hot food and ice cold root beer shared together with friends and family. Feats of strength between teenage boys arm wrestling. And always the boys talking about and showing off their cars and hot rods. All the while more and more friends circling around you and yelling greetings.
At certain times of the year the teens would be more rambunctious than at other times. Like during sectionals. Cars and trucks would have simple sayings on their windows and such written with shoe polish. They would yell out slogans of sympathy for the losers and praise for the home team that won. A time of joy and love for all. Companionship. And friends that would be in your heart for the rest of your life no matter where you went.
Those are the memories I wish to stay in my heart and mind all the days of my life. A simple Dog & Suds root beer and burger with steaming hot fries. Music lofting through the air of the cool night along with laughter of teens dancing together. Cars circling around for hours on end filled with laughter and smiling faces. A simple time in life where all enjoyed each others companionship. All for that fantastic sum of fifty cents and a little of your time.
|Keck's - New & Old|
|by Allen Wiggins|
I was born in 1950 so did not have the luxury of actually seeing many of those wonders of Mt. Vernon when it was a bustling commercial center. Some old papers actually stated that Mt. Vernon was a bigger commercial center than Evansville back in the early days. This was mainly due to the river traffic that stopped in Mt. Vernon or started there.
Back in the early days Mt. Vernon actually had its own dairy where ice cream was made fresh daily. It had its own soft drink bottling company where deliveries were made via horse drawn carriages. There were many wonderful smaller commercial ventures many of which were located on what was then called Store Street, later to become College Avenue. We even had our own ice company where they made ice fresh daily and delivered it to homes via horse drawn carriages. That was in the day of the true ice box refrigerator where you placed a large block of ice in the top to keep food cold.
Mt. Vernon will always go down in history for the hoop poles and staves made there. But it also was known far and wide for the many ax and hammer handles they made at the handle factory on lower New Harmony Road. And then Mt. Vernon has been known nation wide for the wonderful well built rain coats at the Exylin factory on Main Street. This is not to mention the world known steam engines of the Keck-Gonnerman Company. Those were shipped all over the world. I even read where one or more ended up in Russia and were well accepted there for their tremendous fabrication techniques and dependability.
And that is somewhat the theme of this writing to some extent. I recently came across a hard to find early post card of the Keck-Gonnerman facility that few have ever seen. I'd like to share it with you now.
The information I had indicated this part of their company buildings was located near what we now know to be the West end of Second Street. Supposedly the Strawboard Company was located just a short distance further along this same street. Another building was located on Fourth Street where they did much of their foundry work. There is a large well known gas station located there today.
And then there was another location of their buildings even better known to the public. It was located at the corner of Sixth Street and Main Street directly across the street from city hall and the Police Station and Fire Department. That is the building I remember best as when a child I used to play in that building often. At one time it had a huge front showroom with windows all the way around. It was large enough to house at least three of their wonderful steam engines on display to show to prospective buyers. Later it became the showroom for their newest automobiles from Ford. That building covered almost a third of a block. And that was the time in life when I was able to be in that building.
My father almost always bought cars from the Ford dealer. I remember one of the earliest cars he bought. It was a 1952 Ford Fairlane. Boy was it fast. He traded it for a 1956 Pontiac which was the only non-Ford vehicle he ever owned as far as I know. My brother and I used to jump up and down on the rear floor boards so much we actually kicked the floor out of it which is one of the reasons he sold it. And then back to Fords for the rest of his life. As such when servicing was needed we ended up at Keck's on Main Street.
Back in those days people were allowed to wander around in the building as service was done to their cars. We always went to the showroom to see the latest and best Fords available on the market. Being of average income we couldn't afford those but it was always fun to look and dream a little. And as kids it was always fun to slide back and forth on the gleaming showroom floor that was always polished to a high shine while our parents looked at the cars. As kids to us it was somewhat like going to the circus. We even got to have soft drinks, chips, peanuts, and popcorn from vending machines.
As time passed we always got to go back into the service bays and see what was being done to our car and talk with the mechanics. I'll always remember the smells of that place as long as I live. There was just a unique odor that wafted through the building from those who were polishing the cars after they had been repaired and repainted. It was so unique and fun to smell that work being done. You always knew that somebody would get a car back that shined like the Heavens above. They did the body work and painting on the upper floors. Mechanical repairs were done on the main floor.
Cars were brought in from the front of the building and then placed in bays along one side of the main room. When finished they would take them out the rear or side entrances. You could always hear a car engine being revved up and checked as they worked on them. Nearly all of them had a metal hose connected to the exhaust pipe of the car to get rid of the exhaust fumes. And there was this huge work bench that stretched the length of the building for the mechanics to work off of. It was always covered with parts being repaired or replaced and the tools of the mechanics. There were so many mechanics working there at one time it always reminded me of ants swarming on a piece of candy. And all were always so friendly and helpful. That is with the exception of the occasional mechanic who would smash his fingers with a hammer
All the way to the rear of the building was a single bay for when a car was finished and ready to be returned to a customer. In that bay they always washed the car of any grease or oil that may have gotten on the car while it was being serviced. And that way when you got your car back it always shined and gleamed in the sun as it was so shiny and clean. And right beside that area was the huge open elevator that took cars to the upper floors. It was this huge wooden elevator like you don't see anymore today that was open on all sides instead of being inside this tall enclosed thing inside buildings like they do today. It was so big I even saw them put a small bus on it one time and take it upstairs. I'll always remember being so amazed that they could do that.
For those people of average income like my family there was a used car lot directly to the South. And then of course there was College Avenue Park directly behind that where my brother and I used to play while waiting on our parents to get their car back from being repaired. For me and my brother it was a place of smells and sounds that created many a dream over the years. As time passed we also bought our cars there. Why there was even a time when you could buy a brand spanking new Mustang right off the showroom floor for only $6,000.00. And things like this are the things that remain with you throughout a lifetime. The smells. The sounds. The people. The cars and the dreams that came from them all. And for this and more many of us owe the Keck family of mechanics and sales people a great debt of gratitude.
Sadly back in the 70s or so this all came to a standstill when the building was lost. I seem to remember it burned to the ground. I only heard about it one weekend when home on leave from the service. And just like that it was all gone. All gone except for the memories and the dreams. Those will remain with us for years to come. Sweet dreams to you all.
|by Allen Wiggins|
Mount Vernon has had numerous flicker shows or movie theaters over the years. The last one was the beloved outdoor theater at the East end of town. But how many of you remember those indoor theaters that we also used to enjoy? Just that line of thought came up one day a while back while emailing back and forth among a few old friends.
The last indoor theater in Mt. Vernon, as near as I can tell, went out of business back around 1959 to 1960. It was called the "Vernon" and was located on Main Street adjacent to the old hotel in the 200 block next to the court square. It was preceded by the "Empress" and the "Dreamland" theaters, both in the 100 block of Main Street.
The "Vernon" wasn't fabulous like some of those in Evansville. Evansville had large chain type theaters like the old Lowe's and Lowe's Majestic. And it didn't compare in opulence to the beautiful "Grand Theater" in Evansville with its grand marble foyer and palace like interior. It was simply one of the thousands of independent movie theaters found in small town America back in those days.
You bought a ticket for the fantastic sum of twenty-five to fifty cents through a window at the front of the theater on the sidewalk. Then you immediately stepped around the ticket booth to the interior of the place where you had that ticket taken from you, torn in half, and half returned to you as proof you had paid. You passed this small food booth where they sold fresh popcorn, soft drinks, and a few simple candy treats usually found only in theaters back then.
And then you stepped inside a totally darkened theater to find a seat. Usually there was a boy in a uniform to assist you in finding that seat so you wouldn't fall on somebody else already in a seat. They held down towards the floor a flashlight that had tape over the ends of it so that it could barely be seen to guide you. And you had the choice between the main floor or the balcony area. Those who chose the balcony were usually more interested in "necking."
I will always remember the first time I was allowed to go there by myself. I was eight years old. I didn't know it at the time but my mother followed me all the way on foot the three blocks from my grandmother's house to the theater to make sure I didn't have problems. She watched me go inside after buying my ticket from a block away. And once sure that I was safe and sound went back home to await my return.
I will always remember watching Walt Disney's "Old Yeller." I had gone to the 1 P.M. afternoon matinee on a Saturday. I had gone then as it was always half price. Entry was a quarter. And I had been given another quarter to get popcorn for ten cents, a soft drink for ten cents, and one candy bar for a nickel.
I had never gone anywhere on my own like that before. And of course I had my instructions not to leave the theater to play or anything like that. I was to go straight to the theater and straight back home. Back then it was safe for kids to do things like that. And if you had a problem you could ask almost any adult for assistance and get it gladly. Only my mother forgot one important detail. When to come back home.
I was so thrilled at being a big boy in the theater by myself. So thrilled that I forgot to go back home. I sat there in that theater moving from seat to seat after each showing of the movie. Back then you could watch the movie over and over again and again as long as you didn't leave the theater between shows. And I watched it through every showing that day all the way from 1 P.M. right through until nine P.M. that night when they closed the theater. I memorized every detail of that movie.
I was so enamored with being a big boy in the theater and watching that movie I never thought about home or my parents. And in the meantime my mother had gotten upset that I hadn't come right home. Finally around 6 P.M. she had gone looking for me. Only when she went into the theater she didn't see me. By then I was probably in the balcony or such. Regardless by then she was frantic.
Finally when they closed for the night I sadly left and went home. I was eight years old. I was out after dark. I was on Main Street. And it was only then that I got scared. But I made it home safe and sound so proud of myself only to walk into the house to meet my mother who wanted to hold me, kiss me, and then kill me. She finally calmed down and demanded to know where I had been.
It had never dawned on her that I would stay all day and all evening at the theater watching that movie over and over. And she wasn't in a mood to believe me either until my Dad walked into the house a few minutes after I did. Like my mother had when I went to the theater he had been on the street watching out for me. He had seen me come out of the theater and walk home following me a short distance behind without making his presence known. And he made sure my mother didn't punish me as she had told me not to leave the theater and I didn't.
I got to watch many other Disney movies back then at that old theater. And then like all else it finally closed for good ending an era of great days in our lives. Like so many others I went to the outdoor theater for several years afterwards but it was never the same. For me the Vernon was a place of magic never to be replaced. It not only was where I saw fantastic movies but also where I became a man and learned to travel on my own. All at the great age of eight years old.
|Ice Cream! Ice Cream! Get Your Ice Cream!|
|by Allen Wiggins|
How many times do we look at something today and remember something from the past? Especially memories from our childhood? It seems that is happening to me more each day as time goes by. It seems that just the other day I was talking to a couple buddies of mine from back in the days of my childhood and exactly that happened AGAIN.
In my case I'm 59 years old and disabled retired. So I have more time on my hands than most do in today's world. And yet after having a heart operation I want that more than anything. TIME to think and remember that is. Or time to just marvel at those things right before my eyes that I was always to busy to look at before and actually see. And each day that goes by I seem to see more before my eyes than ever before.
One such item of interest is simple ice cream vendors on the streets of town. Remember those? They came in different flavors themselves just as they had different flavors of ice creams. We started out with the local boys on bicycles with ice cream freezers attached to them from a local dairy. Those boys bicycled all over town on those freezers on wheels full of our favorite flavors of ice cream treats.
One of the most fantastic things about those simple ice cream vendor devices was that they were always ice cold and never thawing out when they pulled your ice cream out for you. They used the simplest form of freezing devices known. It was a simple freezer with no form of equipment to freeze the ice cream. Instead they lined the bottom and sides of those freezers with "dry Ice" and then stacked boxes of ice cream treats on top of the ice. And no ice cream freezer equipment since has been able to compete with how cold that ice cream was when you received it. And you could always tell that was the method used to cool your ice cream by the tell-tale fog that showed when they opened the lids of the freezers.
Some of those vendors would simply sit at the most often traveled areas of town to sell their treats. But most would ride those bicycles all over town through each and every side street yelling, "Ice Cream." "Get Your Ice Cream." "Ice Cream." And kids would run from every nook and cranny to get their ice cream treat for the day. And few parents would get upset by this treat as it was a dairy product and gave the kids their daily dairy intake which was a good thing for them.
Even better yet those simple treats only cost a dime a piece back then. I remember how funny it used to be. Many of those vendors kept their change in a box inside their coolers. Kids often came running with wet hands from playing in the yard with the garden hose. Or the vendors fingers simply would have moisture on them from all the frost on the sides of those ice cream boxes. And as a result the money they handled would get minute traces of water or moisture on them. Some times the vendor would have to use an ice pick to chip his change apart because that dry ice kept those coolers so cold.
Each morning they would refill their freezers with fresh ice cream treats from the dairy. For this reason the ice cream treats were always fresh each and every day. And I was always in love with those fresh ice cream sandwiches. They were always so cold and fresh that the dark crackers on each side would still crack and crunch with each bite. And I've not had any that fresh since.
Sadly the dairy that supplied those bicycle ice cream vendors went out of business years ago when I was still very young. As I remember it the dairy was established directly behind the Alles Brothers Furniture Store. I personally was in there at one or two points in time. You see my father was also a member of the local Lions Club. They held an annual ice cream sale where they sold ice cream door to door from the back of pickup trucks loaded with freezers holding dry ice and ice cream. And so as not to hurt the business of those bicycle type ice cream vendors they sold none of the treats and instead sold only the pints and half gallons of ice cream. At least two years I got to ride in the trucks and pull the ice cream out of the freezers to hand to those that were selling them door to door.
I'm not sure if it was because of the direct lack of availability or because the dairy also owned the vending carts. Either way when the dairy went out of business the ice cream vendors also stopped doing business in Mt. Vernon. And indirectly this brings me to one of the other major loves of my childhood which was steam paddle wheeler show boats or excursion boats.
I say this as the only other place I have seen the exact same style of ice cream carts since that day has been when I visited our neighbors in Louisville, Kentucky. And as a child I was always in love with the old Avalon showboat that often stopped at Mt. Vernon for cruises. As it happens that particular boat also was eventually sold to the city of Louisville. Now I can't say that the ice cream vendor carts in Louisville are the ones from Mt. Vernon. But if you ever desire to see what they looked like and buy yourself one of those great ice cream treats they sold from them go to Louisville. Especially down near the dock where the Belle of Louisville is docked. That's the new name for the old Avalon we used to love here in Mt. Vernon. It also still has the original calliope we grew up loving to hear down the river.
For those of you that can't make that trip I can at least offer you a photo of the ice cream vendors alongside the wharf where the Avalon ties up alongside other paddle wheelers.