Keeping up with the Times
by Lou Bernard
Slow, rainy day. Sitting here in my office. And I’m stuck for an idea—I have no clue what to write about for this week’s column.
Fortunately, I have an easy fix for that. Often, when I can’t think of a topic, I just go back an arbitrary hundred years and see what was happening then. That usually leads to something good. So, let’s see if I can find something from April 1917.
My favorite place to start is the microfilm of the Clinton County Times. I’ve written before about the Clinton County Times. It’s one of my big favorite sources, mainly because it was so bizarre. This newspaper was willing to report anything, no matter how wild. They reported on fictional war battles that never happened. They reported on crimes that were too strange for words. They spent about sixty years interviewing the statues on the Civil War monument.
A few words before I start. The last time I wrote about the Clinton County Times, I received multiple calls and e-mails correcting my location. I’d written that the Times began at 39 Bellefonte Avenue, which recently burned down. People came out of the woodwork to tell me that I was wrong—It was up further, at 115 Bellefonte Avenue. They remembered it being there.
The correct response to this is,”Right. You remember it in 1902.” The era I was writing about was the turn of the century. Yes, the Clinton County Times was at 115 Bellefonte Avenue after 1936. Before that, it was at 114 Vesper Street. And before about 1920, it was exactly where I said it was, 39 Bellefonte Avenue.
Before you call or e-mail to tell me I made a mistake, PLEASE, look at the date. You don’t remember 1902. Nobody except Betty White remembers 1902. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about some big stories from a century ago.
On April 9, 1917, the Clinton County Times reported on a string of food robberies on East Walnut Street. People who had refrigerators on their porches were reporting the theft of food, which was blamed on a “Delegation of hoboes.” Among the thefts were chickens, roasts, steaks, ham, butter, eggs, milk, celery, and apples. Crime doesn’t pay—Not in cash, at least, but food-wise it seems to work out pretty well.
Speaking of milk, there was a huge spill of it on North Fairview Street in Lock Haven. Reported on April 13, a milk delivery wagon was hit by a trolley, dumping a hundred gallons of milk into the street. The horses weren’t injured, but bottles and cans were thrown everywhere. The neighbors all came out to look, presumably thinking there could be free milk if they hurried and had a container.
In the same issue, William Miller of Woolrich was riding a bike home from Avis when he was attacked by two masked men who tried to rob him. He sped up, but one of them hit him in the head with a club, and he fell off the bike. While they were hitting and kicking him, one of the robbers dropped a revolver, and Miller grabbed it. Once he had the gun, the two men turned and ran—Too stupid to remember they had a gun while they were clubbing him, but apparently not too stupid to run when someone else had it.
April of 1917 was a bad week for milk. A milk delivery driver named John Kohli stopped his wagon on Erie Avenue in Renovo, and ducked into a local hardware store. He left a young boy named Robert Soder in the wagon, supervising the delivery. A train frightened the horses, and they began to run up the avenue, Soder still in the wagon.
The Times reported,”When they reached Sixth Street, the animals turned toward that street and backed the wagon between the iron electric light pole and the railroad tracks. The smoking car of the passenger train struck the wagon, breaking it in two.”
Soder escaped with only a few scalp cuts, fortunately. But again, the milk was totaled.
Anyway, that’s what was going on a century ago, according to the Clinton County Times. I’ll be back next week, hopefully with a new topic to write about. In the meantime, have some milk.