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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 7

ing in what was known as "the
patch" down by the. North Wes-
tern tracks across the river. These
two gangs were always at war.
A Third street boy would not dare
to venture across the railroad
bridge into the patch district alone.
He would be sure to be set upon
and chased out by the patch gang,
and the same rule applied if any
of them dared intrude on the Third
street area. This all made for ex-
citement and team work.
It sometimes makes me sad to
think that I am probably the last
survivor of the old Third street
gang. They are all dead and gone.
Of all the families mentioned
above only a few of the younger
ones are still alive. I can men-
tion Julius Ledell, Conrad Han-
son, and our postmaster John
Riordan. They were all small
children when we older ones were
running around, ten to fifteen
years old.
In those days there was a big
ice-house located on the river
bank just north of what is now
the Portland ave. bridge. It was
known as Dole's icehouse. Every
winter, as soon as the ice got to be
10 inches or more thick, the ice
harvest began. The snow would
be scraped off the ice, and the
men with horses and a special
sharp pointed ice plow, would cut
creases in the ice, to form the size
of the ice blocks wanted. After
the plows the men used big saws
to finish cutting the creases clear
through.
They would then be broken in-
to cakes and the cakes pushed
along through an open channel to
the ice house where they were
caught by a hoist device and pull-
ed up an incline into the ice
house. In those days there were
no electric refrigerators and not
even factory built ice boxes. Few
families had them, and what there
were, were carpenter built boxes,
insulated with saw dust.
When Mr. Dole died or quit, the
ice business was taken over by
Alonzo Aldrich and Frank Cheney
There was by that time another
ice house farther up the river
known as the Janvrin ice house.
They operated both houses. Dole's
ice house later burned down and
I do not recall what happened to
the Janvrin building. I rather
think it was torn down.
It isn't often that a report pass-
es from man to man as an April
fool joke proves to be the truth
and not a joke at all. On April
1, 1870, one of the dryer cylinders
in the paper machine at the Beloit
Straw Board mill exploded at six
o'clock in the morning and wreck-
ed the mill. The east wall was
blown out and fell in the river,
anc the roof was rippe6 up and
shattered. When people heard the
report of the accident, many of
them would not believe it, and
called it an April fool joke, but it
was no joke when they went to
see the mill. No one was injured
as the men were at the far end of
the mill when the explosion oc-
curred.
I suppose many people in Be-
loit have read "Curiosity Shop" by
Charles Dickens. I wonder if many
people here know that once upon
a time, 75 years ago, we had what
may be called a "Curiosity Shop"
right here in Beloit. It was not a
commercial store with things for
sale, but a unique collection of
curious things. It was in a small
house located on the hillside at
the corner of Portland avenue and
Fifth Street, across from the old
No. 2 schoolhouse.
It was the home of an old couple
by the name of Smith, the father
and mother of Simon Smith. They
were English pt-ople. The elder
Smith had been a painter the same
a- his son Simon.
Mr. Smith, the elder, was a
genius. The house and front yard
were a show place. Ir the yard
he had built up a fine stone stair
leading up to the front porch, and
a lot of wonderful structures
made out of cobble stones. And
inside was a veritable museum.
Glass cases and cupboards, filled
with stuffed birds and animals,
things carved out of wood, min-
erals and stones and peacock
feathers. Perhaps there were shell
fish and snake skins too. My
memory as to details is rather
vague, but I have a vivid recol-
lection of old Mr Smith, just how
he looked with his whiskers and
bright eyes.
It was a great treat if we chil-
dren were permitted to come into
the house and gaze at all these
wonders.
Mrs. Smith did millinery work,
7


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