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Memories of Richmond

From: Norman Williams
Date: 9/7/99
Time: 3:16:04 PM
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Richmond Revisited by Norman Williams

The memories of Richmond are memories of a pleasant childhood as a boy in Indiana. I was born in 1917 and that makes me eighty-two years old. My first memory is getting my little brother Vern Williams off the middle of the street on Third Street on the West Side of town. Then we moved to south J Street and lived in an old brick farmhouse on an acre of ground near the Land Dilks Kitchen Cabinet factory. There were big piles of lumber in the field back of our house. With some neighbor boys we climbed onto the pile and jumped off. I have a dent in my forehead to this day where me head hit a rock on my jump. My father chased the neighbor boy home when I said I was pushed. I really do not know whether I was pushed or not. The house had a spiked iron fence around the yard and a gate we sued to swing on. There was a cellar door that we slid down and got splinters in our behind. I can still recall how pleasant it was to sit on the steps and bask in the warm sun. The cherry tree in the front yard blew down in a big windstorm. The big barn out back was very old and it was fastened together with wooden spikes instead of nails. Between the barn and the house there was a grape arbor where wonderful blue grapes hung in bunches. On the back porch my father parked his Harley Davidson and his Indian motor cycles. This was near the wood shed where my grandmother Williams and I were throwing wood for the kitchen range into the shed. My little brother Vern sat on top of the woodpile knocking two sticks together. Grandma called him Old Boliver. My brother dropped a brick on my big toe and the toenail came off. The nail that grew back was thick and tough and is very hard to cut the thick nail. It is still thick today many years later. I can remember a cattle drive down J Street with a herd of long horns chased down the street to the market. The street corner had a light that was let down with a chain attached to the corner telephone pole. A man would stand on a little stool with glass legs to replace the carbon arcs in the street light. I can recall electric cars driven slowly down the street by old ladies. These electric cars were like phone booths on wheels. The ladies sat up high behind a steering lever that guided the car. Yes they had electric cars in 1923 but you don't see any today, except golf carts. The Orville and Wilbur Wright once had a bicycle shop in Richmond but moved to Dayton where they could fly their gliders. Richmond had many air circuses with parachute jumps from balloons and airplane rides for five dollars. The planes were two wing biplanes with wires that held the wings together. I remember a show at Glen Miller Park with a horse and rider high up. The horse stomped on the platform for the longest time before it got up enough courage to make the jump into a pond of water below. The best thing about Richmond was the circus parades with elephants, lions and tigers and clowns and circus wagons with bands on top and the steam calliope that played wonderful music that I can still hear in my memories. I will never forget going out to the fair grounds where the big circus tents had three rings in the center and something constantly happening. It was not possible to see all the acts because there were bareback riders and clown and animal trick and elephants and trapeze artists high up in the tent. Then after the circus there was a Wild West Show with Buffalo Bill and cowboys and Indians and a stagecoach dashing around the circus ring. I sold the Dayton Herald and the Indianapolis Star newspapers on the streets of Richmond and made a few pennies. I remember saving up to buy my father a present and he thought that was great. He was very pleased. I learned to swim at the YMCA pool and also in the Whitewater River and north of Richmond we swam naked in a creek. I remember the cars had to drive across the creek through the water. I don't suppose that place is still in existence today. In the woods we dug up licorice roots and sucked on them. At the corner grocery store we got a bag of candy and my favorite was the long sticks of black licorice. I would love to have one of those sticks today but they are long gone. The store had round barrels with glass tops and inside there were cookies and other goodies. I remember the big wooden chopping block where legs of meat were cut up with a saw and a meat cleaver. Mostly we ate beans and corn bread. On our acre of ground we had a garden and a chicken coop. I learned to hate chicken and tomatoes. Those were the good old days in Richmond and they are not likely ever to come back again except in my memories. You can write to me Norman Williams at cknorm@ij.net in Florida.

Revised: January 20, 2006