Life in Broughton: The Early Years
By Rick Moore
While on a recent history gathering expedition, the historian I was chauffeuring, mentioned something about red rubber car innertubes for slingshot construction. His comment brought back fifty year old memories of a kid growing up in the village of Broughton in Hamilton County during the early 1950's.
In those pre-TV days, my self organized entertainment regimen included a frequent circuit around town to see what might be of interest and there was always something to marvel about. Following an erratic route, sometimes alone and sometiomes in the company of others of my ilk, I would often check out the cob burner behind the grain elevator, and if the cobs were unburned we might have a corncob fight. Or if they were burning we might just watch them burn which was always a delight but was especially pleasant in cold weather. Sometimes we sacked the cobs up in a burlap bag and peddled them around town for a nickel a bag to be used as kindling in cook stoves. A couple of times a year when the owner wasn't around, Frank Ritchey, who worked at the elevator, as a special treat, would take me up to the top on a manual self propelled elevator to look over the countryside. Back on the ground, I could wander around to the liar's bench in front of Vera Coontz's grocery store and take a short course in world (and sometimes worldly) affairs from the seasoned citizens there. Afterwards I could mosey over to the defunct Allen store building wondering about what exactly the many remaining shelves had held. My Mother had told me where a large lemon tree that bore lemons had been when the store was operating and I had to visualize that and wish that it was still there so I could maybe pick a real lemon. Some where along my tour of the store I would remember what my Dad had told me about the first bananas that had come into town. A local, very conservative farmer, Irish Tom Allen, had pulled a banana off the hanging stalk and upon eating it was asked how he liked it. He said there was too much waste as it was all cob. Then I would meander into the attached Farmer's Exchange Bank, examine the bullet hole in the thick plate glass window where the owner had shot at and hit a would be bank robber one night, and admire the big floor to ceiling vault sitting in the corner and speculate about what treasures it might still contain.
To conclude this part of my tour I might go around to the back of the building, climb one of the trees that had grown up there and then jump over to the long ascending roof and make my way to the high front and survey the main street of Broughton and it's activities. Sometimes I would try to imagine what the flood waters from the 1937 flood, that got as far into town as this street, might have looked like. Or I might see in my mind's eye the body of Ed Rittinger lying on the freight cart beside the old store where it was put on display, after being brought in by a posse dispatched after he shot gunned to death his caretaker's following a dispute. Justice before the sun went down as one of the men on the liar's bench described it. This same vantage point would save a quarter on the traveling movie that sometimes set up across the street in a vacant lot in the summer time. The sound wasn't too good but when your're saving a quarter some sacrifices have to be made.
If I had been good recently I might have a nickel in my pocket for my weekly sody pop so I would go to Thinrind Griswold's store and agonize over whether to get a big 8 ounce Pepsi or a better but smaller 6 ounce So Good Grape. Sometimes I would take my selection home and pierce the cap with a nail and make it last an hour or more because it took that long to get all the pop out of that little hole. At Thinrind's I once watched as a big bear of a man named Claudie Hardesty ate two icy fudgecicles in quick succession in two bites. Amazing. And it was there too where Ben Foley, who ran the L&N train depot, "rubbed" the big wart on my wrist and made it disappear.
No tour of town was complete without a trip to the back of Roy Hayter's garage where he discarded old tires and inner tubes. The holy trail I sought was a red rubber inner tube that my historian friend had mentioned. Only about one percent of the old tubes were red rubber while the rest were the regular black rubber which were next to worthless for slingshot bands. But something about the rubber in the red rubber tubes was very lively and made a great slingshot. I would take these prizes home and using one of Dad's discarded single edge razor blades, carefully slice out the half inch wide by ten inch long bands. Usually I would have on hand a Y shaped handle from an ash tree I had collected on a previous outing and using grocer's twine I would attach the bands to the handle. With leather cut from an old shoe tongue, I would form a pouch to hold the rock projectile. On one very memorable occasion I used a tongue from a shoe that hadn't yet served out it's useful life. When you're seven or eight years old there are still a lot of life's lessons to be learned. Because I was still in training and because of the aerodynamic irregularities of the rocks I used, my accuracy left a lot to be disired.
My role model was Gus Herpel who lived a couple of miles west of Broughton and who on his daily walk into town, would sometimes have a rabbit that he had collected with his slingshot. Word was that Gus could hit a silver dollar thrown into the air and when I asked him one time if that was true he told me to get some silver dollars and he would keep what he hit and I could keep what he missed.
Such projects as slingshot manufacturing, and many others, kept me entertained and introduced me early to the demands and joys of first-aid, organization, acquisition, design, engineering, construction, and utilization that have stood me in good stead as I have continued my journey. Who needed TV anyhow?