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Thompson, Oscar T. / Home town : some chapters in reminiscence
(May 1942)

Chapter 3,   pp. 6-8 PDF (910.0 KB)


Page 6

to trim the wick as the candle
burned down.
In the sixties kerosine lamps
were introduced. They were a
great improvement over the can-
dles, but were rather dangerous
as they were liable to explode and
set the house on fire. They were
made of glass.
The next step was the so-called
student lamp with round wicks
and tall chimneys. They gave a
fine soft light and were especial-
ly nice for reading and studying
at night.
Then the incandescent electric
light was invented by Thomas
Edison and the era of electric
lighting came in.
Incidentally, I might mention
that when I was in Paris in 1878
I saw the first street in the world
lighted by electricity - the fam-
ous Boulevard de L'Opera. The
lamps were arc lights mounted on
lamp posts on each side of the
street.
Chapter 3
Er
About the first of my definite
childhood recollections was when
President Lincoln was shot.   I
was five years old and remember
how my mother fastened two small
flags to the gate posts in front of
the house, the flags draped in
black. Later I remember seeing
the trains go north on the C. &-
N. W. headed for Madison, with
the coaches filled with returning
soldiers. All this made an indel-
ible impression on my memory.
Mother told us the war was over,
"no more war."
My next special experience was
my first day at school. When I
was six it was time to start going
to school, and as I was the first
in the family to go, my father took
me up to the old No. 2 stone
schoolhouse on the top , f the hill
where the present Parker School
is located. We went to the Pri-
mary room where the teacher, Miss
Murray, asked father if the little
boy knew his letters. My father
said, "Yes, and he can read too.
Just try him and see." The folks
always used to say I read my
primer like a little preacher. My
mother, like a good mother, had
taught us the letters at an early
age, and to read in both the Eng-
lish and Norwegian languages.
In 1860 the city of Beloit was
not a very big community, per-
haps around 4,000 people. There
were only two schoolhouses. Old
No. 1, a three story red brick
building was located on the hill
where the Horace White Park now
is. It was popularly known as
the "brick pile."  No. 2 school
was a three story stone structure
located where Parkei School now
stands. Each building housed the
grades from the primary room to
the grammer room, now the eighth
grade.: The children were rough
and ready pioneer children, most
of the boys going to school bare-
foot. Facilities of all kinds were
very crude and meager. Corporal
punishment was frequently resort-
ed to.
In those early days the upper
end of Third street was peopled
mostly by Irish and Norwegian
families-there were the Cunning-
hams ,the Garrigans, the Finne-
gans, the Riordans, the Smiths, the
Donneleys and the Welches in the
Irish homes, and the Hansons, Le-
dells, Thompsons, Tanbergs, Gun-
dersons, and Bredesens in the
Norwegian homes. All these fam-
ilies had plenty of children.
By some freak of the biological
cycle the children from these
homes were at that time almost
without exception boys. In our
family there were six boys in a
row.
We had a Third Street gang con-
sisting of Irish and Norwegian
boys, and we all got along fine to-
gether. Once in a while there
might be a fight, but it was of
small consequence and soon for-
gotten. We played ball on a va-
cant lot, slid own hill on our sleds
in winter and skated on the river
ice and had a good time. Some-
times the boys venturel too far
and broke through the ice but I
do not recall any of the kids be-
ing drowned.
I have mentioned the Third
street gang. There was also an-
other gang of wild Irish boys liv-
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