Our guest contributor today is Bernard (Bernie) Dawkins. The two stories will tell us how the kids in the neighborhood used their ingenuity to "make their own fun" growing up in Chillicothe during the Great Depression of the 1930's. I intend to publish more stories from him in the coming days. Enjoy.
Kids growing up in Chillicothe in the thirties, like most of our generation, had be resourceful. With little cash in those Depression years, we implemented our own objects of amusement.
We carved "rubber guns" from a piece of wood about a half an inch thick and a little over a foot long. On the back of the handle, we would secure a spring clothespin to the grip.
Our "ammo" was bands cut from discarded inner - tubes. We would clip one end into the clothespin, stretch and twist the band to the front end of the "gun". Now, we were loaded and ready for action. When fired at close range, the target would feel a sharp sting!
Then we got more sophisticated and made "machine” guns. We used a longer board, about a half inch thick with notches cut at intervals, and a piece of strong cord tied to the front and stretch to the rear with rubber bands on top of the cord in the notches. We would load this weapon by knotting the bands for the shorter notches and tie two bands together for the longest. An upward pull released the bands, singly, or in a volley.
We were "Armed and dangerous" ready to use our weapons! Back then our family lived on south Walnut Street. To our north were the Sinnards, who had a son named Roger. To our south, there was a family named Evans, with a son named Russell Lee, who we nicknamed "Popeye." We three constituted “our side.”
Further to the south were two families named Batson and Moling. There were at least two boys in each family in our age group. For the most part, we were friends; but sometimes we would get into little scraps and divide into “sides” and declare “war"!
Yes friends, Bernie is talking about Danny’s family!
The Batson’s had a small shed which their side used as "headquarters." Once, when they were all inside plotting their next move against us, we slipped up on them and barricaded the shed’s door!
Through a small opening, we threw a lighted "stink bomb.” Now a "stink bomb" was made with chicken feathers wrapped with narrow, inner-tube rubber bands. When lit, it emitted lots of foul
smelling smoke and was hard to put out!
We waited for them to break out of their smoke-filled headquarters and began to shoot them with our rubber guns. When we ran out of "ammo", we pelted them with rotten tomatoes from a refuse
heap in back of the shed. They let out yelps and surrendered. Our side had won the war, this time!
Tin Can Telephones
In those Depression years few homes in town had all the luxuries of "running water", electricity, and telephones. Toilets in our part of town were typically "outhouses.” We relied upon our own ingenuity to create such things as "scooters" made with old skates nailed onto the bottom of a pair of two by fours, with a makeshift vertical handle bar. One of our best inventions was the "tin can telephone.” We would take empty tin cans, punch holes in the bottoms and find some copper wire, stretch it tight and talk with each other. The wire we obtained from old coils discarded from autos of that period. Believe it, our "telephones" really worked.
I climbed a telephone pole in the alley behind our house and strung a wire from a rectangular meat can from Second Street to First Street where Jimmy Reynolds lived, and attached another tin can and drew the wire tight. Jim's dad, Homer Reynolds, who had a bad leg, climbed the pole and listened to me play my harmonica on our "telephone.”
We added yet another line to Russell Lee Evans clothesline to which we hung another can, and had ourselves a three-way party line. As long as the wires were tight, our multi-line communication system worked great!
We experimented with paper cups and strong thread with even better results, because the “tinny” sound was eliminated.
However our communication system had to be scrapped eventually because the telephone company took a dim view of us using their telephone poles!