VOLUME IV, NUMBER 2 (May 1987)



A story of the manufacturing industries of North Manchester

Of the past and present.  Reproduced from and article

Compiled by William E. Billings, 1950


The short and almost instantaneous toot of the whistle of the Peabody Seating Company is all that is left of the chorus of many a century or more ago.  Electricity has taken the place of steam power in the other manufacturing establishments.  It was during the war time days of planned economy that the late Thomas A. Peabody, head of the company, ordered that the long drawn blast of the whistle , the habit of years with local manufacturing concerns, should be shortened to a mere toot.  It is possible that consideration of late sleepers’ nerves as well as thoughts of economy may have something to do with the order.  Anyway, all that is left of that once active chorus of factory whistles has been shortened down to a hardly noticeable toot.


And in the old days, as if all these whistles were not enough to keep the community nerves on edge, there were twenty passenger trains through her each day, six over the Big Four and fourteen over the Wabash, whose long toot coming into town and toot-te-toot-te-toot going out kept life from being quiet.


Steam plants with whistles that awoke the sleepers and set the echoes re-echoing fifty years ago, about the Turn of the Century, included many of the real old timers.  There was the Jesse Miller Foundry and Pump Factory; the Ulrey Saw and Planing Mill; the Scott Dunbar Heading Mill; the J. W. Strauss Saw Mill; J. A. Browne Wagon Wood Factory; Browne-Mills Electric Company; Harry Townsend Wood Working Factory; the Eel River Creamery; Syracuse Screen & Grill Company; Tom Miller Gun Shop; the Big Four Elevator operated by H. Kinsey; the Wabash-Vandalia Elevator operated by I. B. Wright; the North Manchester Water Works, and a considerable number of others now lost to the memory of man.


Both the North Manchester Journal and the Rays of Light, from which The News-Journal of today is a legal and lineal descendant, for some time printed their newspaper editions by steam power, but there were no whistles attached to the boilers, and the papers had to depend upon their news columns to make what noise was needed.  Nor should forgetfulness take away the memory of the squeaky whistle of Dan Sheller’s popcorn wagon that steadily screeched through the Saturday afternoon hours.


A little to the east of town, down on the Banks of Eel River, the stillness of the summer mornings was broken by the whistle at the Michael Geik Tile Mill, and during the threshing season there was a good natured but nevertheless active rivalry between “Thresher Jake” Ulrey and Stephen Heeter as to which could blow the earliest and longest.  Even at that time advanced age had forced “Thresher Jake” from the footboards of his engine, but he was none the less an interested observer and attentive listener as his son, Joe, tooted the whistle to call in the hands.  And through it all, winter of summer, “Steve” Heeter was never seen without his red bandana handkerchief neatly knotted about his neck.


The whistle at the Water Works, along with a bell perched on an iron tower at the intersection of Market and Main Streets, constituted the fire alarm system.  By and by as electricity took the place of steam at the water pumping station a “Wild Cat” whistle was installed at the Electric Light Station.  It blew so hard and so loud that the sound went away up in the air to come down with more noise in the country than in town.  One calm peaceful and silent night it set up its howl.  The watchman at the electric station could not stop it.  The populace, urban and rural, garbed in nightshirts or less, turned out en masse.  And it still howled, though there was nothing still about it.  A slight shower earlier in the evening dampened the whistle cord, the shrinkage tightened the cord enough to set the whistle going.


However in those good old days plenty of noise was considered essential for a good fire.  The sound of a fire alarm was the signal for most of the whistles to blow themselves out of steam, and according to Si Walters, one of the old time firemen, the added commotion seemed to help a fire into being a grand success, which most of them were.


It was about midnight, Monday, April 25, 1898, that the Water Works whistle sent out a call that touched more homes than had ever been reached by a fire call.  That was when Company D of the Indiana National Guard was called into service for the Spanish-American War.  The call had been expected for several days, and arrangements were made that a long blast on the whistle should announce its arrival.  A little before midnight the call came, and John Colclesser, engineer, pulled the cord that set the signal going, bringing dread and sadness into several hundred homes about North Manchester.  Marked activity followed and early in the forenoon the company, under command of Captain B. F. Clemens, headed by the North Manchester band, marched to the Big Four station, there to take the train for Indianapolis.  On the following Thursday, The Journal said “fully eight thousand people were at the station to extend good wished and bid “fair”well to the war going soldiers.


The Saturday evening before there had been a public meeting at the opera house to pledge unqualified support to the cause and to the Company.  Charles A. Sala called this meeting, but no speakers had been secured, so brief talks were made by John W. Winesburg, D. W. Krisher and Jerome Wellman.  On Sunday members of Company D acted as escort to the Grand Army of the Republic to the Lutheran Church.  Monday evening the ladies of the Woman’s Relief Corps served a grand supper, the appetites of the young soldiers having been whetted by a strenuous drill on Main Street.


Fortune favored Company D, for fully loyal though its members were, they were not called to leave the United States.  In camp for some time as Company D of the 157th Indiana at St. Petersburg, Florida, the men were used to guard the water supply, a matter of considerable importance at that time.  Then one day the call came to “Board Ship,” but about the time the men were all aboard the Captain’s horse fell off the boat and the company was ordered to disembark.  Before the horse could be dried and another call issued, peace had been declared and the war was over.


Today all of these whistles, excepting that at the Peabody factory, have been permanently silenced.  Shortly after 1900 some of the users of smaller power turned to gasoline engines.  With the coming of an all day electric current, electricity generally took the place of the chug-chug engines as well as most of the remaining steam engines.  Most of these steam whistles blew their last note, if not in silence and unheard, at least without making of it an even recorded in history.


The whistle at the Scott Dunbar Heading Mill was an exception.  According to record, it was on Wednesday evening, June 28, 1906, that it tooted its last toot.  Next morning the machinery was being dismantled, loaded on cars, and shipped to Quigley, Arkansas, where the Joseph Bonner Saw Mill was located, and where timber for butter bug heading was more plentiful.  A. C. Willis accompanied the machinery to put it into service, and Dode Reed and A. Wiford with their families moved to Quigley to operate it.  Scott Dunbar had brought the factory here in 1881 and in the 25 years following, made many thousands of heads for butter tubs.  Twice the factory was burned, once in 1886 and again in the fall of 1897, but was promptly rebuilt after each fire.


Those good old days were long and busy.  The workday at the turn of the Century was generally ten hours, 6:30 in the morning to 5:00 or 5:30 in the evening depending on whether half an hour or an hour was taken off at noon.  Occasionally as a special concession, quitting time was set up to four o’clock on Saturday afternoon.  There were fewer vacations, less money, but people ate fully as well or better, had meat a little oftener, spread their butter a little thicker on their bread or real buckwheat cakes, and were supremely happy in not knowing any different.


There was no job insurance except personal ability.  No old age pensions; no social welfare.


In the last half century and more of industrial progress, the North Manchester community, like most others, has seen much of the old set aside for something new, for something often times before undreamed.  Changing from the swaddling clothes of a wide place in the countr4y road into the somewhat oversized and sometimes rather uncomfortable garments of a good-sized town has not been made without some losses.  Whether we could have kept all of the desirable advantages of a primitive community life and at the same time enjoy all the conveniences of the modern age may be open to question.  Certain it is that in these modern days we do miss the old time friendly spirit.  Not that we are intentionally less friendly or kindly to those about us, but because of our modern ways we have so little chance to know our nearest neighbors, or to form really neighborly friendships with them.  This is only one of our possibly many losses.  We would not want to go back to our old ways of living, but in our haste to grab for the new, we may have let slip many of the worthwhile features of the old.


By Edna L. Heeter


Alongside the former J. B. Williams Drug Store on the south side of Main Street in the early 1900’s, there remains the memory of a small, wood frame building used for the shoe repair business.  Ollie Speed and her husband, Peter B. were busy people.  Even then there were pressures which often rang out from the little shop to “get it done” in plenty of time!  Working hard at their jobs, the Speeds won the hearts of everyone in town.


Battered, wooden chairs out front, to rest Ollie’s “leather like” hands and talk a spell with passers-by, probably added to the good will of the town.


The little shop eventually collapsed from wear, but along the brick wall where the drug store sign is still visible, (when the sun shines right) remain the memories of Ollie and her husband, and of the little shop that was so-o-o crowded that you just stood at the doorway with your shoes.



Taken from the History of the North Manchester Congregation,

Church of the Brethren, prepared by Otho Winger, July 1941

By Edna L. Heeter


In 1852 the original congregation was divided into the Eel River and Manchester congregations.  Though the first members were on the Manchester side, the northern part retained the original name, since it seemed best for the southern part to take the name of the town, Manchester, as the present North Manchester was at first called.  Most of the officials at first lived on the Eel River side, but others were moving into the Manchester congregation.  Joseph Harter and Nicholas Frantz lived near Manchester.  Israel Harter and Jacob Karns soon moved from Ohio.  Two prominent laymen who moved in and whose families were to become prominent in the church were Peter Wright 1845, and John Miller in 1853.


During the early years of the congregations, worship services were held in houses and barns, and often dinner was served in the homes where the meetings were held.  Many of the early settlers spoke and understood only the language of the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, a mixture of German and local brogue.  Joseph Harter the Jacob Karns usually preached in Dutch; Nicholas Frantz and Israel Harter in English.


Southeast of North Manchester, there were a number of Brethren families who felt they should have a house of worship.  The matter was talked over one Sunday afternoon when a number were visiting in the home of Daniel Barber, the father of Joseph, Samuel and Mrs. Henry Wright.  Brother Jacob Heeter offered the ground and the timber.  Others volunteered labor.  In a short time a house was erected under the direction of John Heeter, a deacon in the church and a carpenter, the father of John, Jesse, Mahlon, Charles, Lydia and Elder Gorman Heeter, all deceased.  There was no building committee, no architect’s plans, no laying of a corner stone, and no church dedication when the work was completed.  They build as it seemed good to them such as would meet their needs.  This was in 1856.  There are no records of the nature of the building, except as may be gathered from the memories of old ones who attended services there.  From these descriptions from memory, Mrs. A. W. Cordier has drawn a sketch of the building which older people say well represents the building.  Mrs. Cordier’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Esli Butterbaugh, attended services there for many years.  Meeting was held every four weeks.


The building stood on the southwest corner of what was the Jacob Heeter farm, now in the southwest corner of Roscoe Garber’s farm, about three miles southeast of North Manchester.  It stood in the corner of the woods , the churchyard being open to the road running east and west but separated from the Heeter farm by a rail fence.  The building was 30 by 40 feet, with the longer side parallel to the road.  It was built of logs with the corners locked in the usual way of those days.  On the front side were one door and two windows, one window in each end and two more on the north side.  The building was about ten feet high to the roof, which was made of old-fashioned clapboard shingles.


Now entering by the one door on the south side, one saw the humble interior.  On either side of the one aisle in the center of the building there were long benches facing north towards the preachers’ table.  At each end of the room there was a stove.  The stoves were much needed in a building that did not always keep out the snow.  But there was plenty of fuel in the woods nearby.  The women sat on the west side of the room, the men on the east.  The preachers’ long table was long the north side, with a bench along the wall, which the preachers used for a back.  On the other side of the table, facing the preachers, was a backless bench for the deacons, who were always expected to sit there during services.  On the west end of the table there was usually a bucket of water and a dipper where mothers could come during the services and supply the want of the children, who were often provided with cookies to keep them still while the older ones were receiving the bread of life.  The walls were neither papered nor plastered, but merely the log finish, with mud filling for the crevices.  Such was the primitive building that was the first house of worship used by the Manchester congregation.  This continued to be used long after the large frame church was erected two miles west of town, and occasionally until the first brick house was erected in town.  It is interesting to know that a number of older members still living remember services held in this old church.


John Heeter, the carpenter, also built a strong brick house and a sturdy barn, one mile west of Liberty Mills.  It is now the Howard Warren farm.  The buildings are all still in use today.  The old brick oven used in those days, is also still there and visible from the road.  The story is told of the many trips by foot that John made from this home back to his boyhood home in Ohio.  His wife and children would go out the lane every evening and sit on a big rock looking east for sight of John arriving home.  Sometimes many days were spent watching until he returned.


[Edna’s husband, Dale, was a grandson of John Heeter and son of Jesse Heeter.  From the picture window in their home on Singer Road, you can still see the spot where the log-meeting house once stood.]


By Orpha Weimer


Do you recall those jolly little jingles of Burma-Shave that tickled the funny bone of young and old alike?  The signs are gone now except for a set on permanent display in the Smithsonian Museum.  However, if you search your memory a bit you will probably come up with several.  They began as the brainchild of Allan Odell in 1924 and the last was taken down in 1964.  Thus ended the most famous of all outdoor advertising ventures.  Those little six-sided signs had many facets of appeal.  They were witty and humorous, clean and not offensive, even if corny and a bit earthy at times.  No one would call them preachy or stuffy and certainly not down-putting.  Their condensed little messages tried to stay abreast of the times, which included both world wars, the great depression, the economic recovery, and our westward expansion.


The Burma-Vita Company still exists.  They have on record 600 of these little gems, the years they appeared, and the section of the country in which they were displayed.


Times or modes change so fast it is hard to keep track or recognize small beginnings, but in the fall of 1924, the Odell family of Minneapolis, Minnesota was down to their shoe soles financially as Leonard Odell, president of the Burma-Vita Company, which is a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, Inc., will tell you.  The head of the family was the grandfather, who several years before, had purchased a liniment recipe from an old sea captain.  Grandfather was a lawyer, rather short on education, but long on enterprise.  He manufactured his liniment in a back room of his office.  “It was potent in both action and smell.  You could even smell it at the street door when he was mixing a new batch five floors up,” declared his grandson.  Some  nearby druggists did a little marketing for him and the big Odell family used it generously.  It did lessen some pain.  Oils from Burma and the Malayan peninsula, plus the energy and vigor of this big family, added up to the name Burma-Vita and thus the product.


Son, Clinton Odell, was also a lawyer but was educated as well.  Like everyone else in those days, he too was out of work.  So he thought he would take up salesmanship and thus became a part of the business.


After nearly starving for two years, grandson Allan, while driving home from a small job in nearby Red Wing, saw some little serial signs along the road.  Oil-Gas-Tires-Water-Free Air-Restrooms-Tobacco, etc.  He thought, why couldn’t we do that too?  Even though a Chicago Advertising Company, when approached, said it wouldn’t work, Allan hung on like a bull pup.  He borrowed $200 to buy some used lumber and a broken down old truck, built a shop in his back yard, hired a couple of high school boys for helpers, and started into business.


The first year, signs were prosaic affairs, hurriedly and crudely made, but they did notice some repeat sales coming in.  Encouraged, the family got into the act.  They formed a corporation and sold 49% of the stock to well-wishing friends in order to buy supplies.


Come springtime, Grandfather manufactured, Father bought sites for signs from farmers and managed the business, and Allan, with his high school boys (now with D.H.D. degrees-short for post hold diggers), worked at planting signs.  The whole family critiqued the little jingles, added new ones, and dropped some as not worthy of the family name.  During this year the newly born enterprise really prospered.  Soon those jolly little rhythmic jingles were titillating the entire nation.  Didn’t you and your children enjoy them?  My family did  Often when driving we chose a new road just to look for a new jingle.  Our two sons were approaching that period of being aware of both shaving and girls, so they were greatly  amused and started collecting them.  They did much to keep the family peace on our long drives.


The signs appeared in all but three states:  New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.  These states did not show a large enough volume of traffic.  Massachusetts was dropped after a short while because it was too hard to find suitable open spaces for the signs.  Indiana did not have many, as I recall, but one we found on Highway 24 over near Lagro, I’ll always remember.  We had been delayed on our long drive from Bridgewater, Virginia because of a faculty wedding, so we were tired and the boys were restless.  Then we spied:  A Guy / Who Would ? Middle-Aisle It / Must Not Scratch / His Little Violet / Burma-Shave.  It struck us all as very funny. 


Some other gems were:  He Played a Sax / Had No B.O. / But His Whiskers Scratched / So She Let Him Go.  Every Shaver / Now Can Snore / Six More Minutes / Than Before.  Said Farmer Brown / Who’s Bald / On Top / Wish I Could / Rotate The Crop.


It’s true that some people did think them corny, but others considered that they had distinctive ironic humor.  Neither considered that they had distinctive ironic humor.  Neither were they antiquated slogans but quite timely in their appeal.  It’s Not Toasted / It’s Not Dated / But Look Out / It’s Being / Imitated.  His Face Was Smooth / Cool As Ice / O, Louise / He Smelled / So Nice.  The Answer To /  A Maiden’s Prayer / Is Not A Chin / Of Stubby Hair.  Pity All / The Mighty Caesars / They Pulled / Each Whisker / Out / With Tweezers.  Henry The Eighth / Sure Had / Trouble / Short-Term Wives / Long Time Stubble.  The Midnight Ride / Of Paul / For Beer / Led To A / Warmer / Hemisphere. 


Times and modes changed very rapidly in the mid 30’s and 40’s.  The Odells, in order to keep up with modern trends, started advertising contests for new slogans.  Public service was the watchword of the day, to be followed closely by highway safety.  Frank Rowsome, Jr., in his book from which I gleaned many of my facts, reported that a man in Wichita, Kansas received a $100 reward for this one:  Don’t Take / A Curve / At 60 Per / We Hate To Lose / A Customer.


A woman in Nebraska was awarded for this one:  Drive With Care / Be Alive / When / You Drive.


Another slogan winner sent this bit of wisdom:  Remember This / If You’d Be Spared / Trains Don’t Whistle / ‘Cause / They’re Scared.


Other safety gems still good today came from Iowa:  School House / Take It Slow / Let The Little / Shavers Grow.  Sleep In A Chair / Nothing To Lose / But A Nap / At the Wheel / Is a Permanent Snooze.  Car In Ditch / Driver In Tree / Moon Was Full / And so / Was He.


The big state of Texas supplied this one:  If Daisies / Are Your / Favorite Flower / Keep Pushin Up / Those Miles Per Hour.


Even college boys who were notoriously bad at appropriating signs, yet usually short on money, got into the contest act.  A couple of sharp wits from the University of Pennsylvania were most happy to receive their checks.  In the thank you notes they stated that nothing slowed down traffic speed more than a good Burma-Shave ad.  Slow Down Pa / Sakes Alive / Ma Missed Signs / 4 and 5.  Don’t Leave Safety / To Mere Chance / That’s Why / Belts / Are Sold / With Pants.


Pop Clinton Odell dictated very firmly to the family from the beginning that one must not offend people.  When they tried to abbreviate and shorten words to save space, they ran into a heap of trouble.  Every English teacher in the land wrote in “Watch your English and your spelling.”


Some ministers criticized the indelicacy over:  The Whale / Put Jonah / Down The Hatch / But Coughed Him Up / Because He Scratched.


A wild life club in Boston also objected to:  No Lady Likes / To Dance / Or Dine / Accompanied By / A Porcupine.  Apparently in Boston there was a Porcupine Club.  The Odells, being good-natured folks, deleted each of these.  The matter of good taste came up too in some criticisms.  Pop Odell at once turned thumbs down on these:  The Other Woman / In His Life / Said Go Back Home / And Scratch Your Wife.  Listen You Birds / These Signs / Cost Money / Roost Awhile / But Don’t Be Funny.


A few objections were cast at this one, so out it went:   Sleek Cheek / Pressed To Hers / Oh! / Jeepers, Creepers / How She Purrs.


This one was debated, but finally passed:  Spring / Has Sprung / The Grass Has Riz / Where Last Year’s / Careless Driver Is.


All problems can’t be stopped.  Some are funny and some are not.  A few days after this sign appeared, Allan Odell received a scathing letter from New York City.  With Glamour Girls / You’ll Never Click / Bewhiskered Like / A Bolshevik.  The letter had no signature.  A week later a mysterious parcel arrived at his desk with the same address.  When gingerly opening it, he heard a slight clicking noise.  Startled for a moment, he raced madly down the hall to the mixing room and threw it into a tank of water.  This action virtually convulsed the entire office staff that had all collaborated in the joke of assembling the package loaded with an old alarm clock.


On another occasion, a hardworking crew with their “Cheer-Up Face” truck was held up at gunpoint by two cars loaded with Texas Rangers.  Early that morning, it seems, the boys had been authorized to get rid of some leaky jars of souvenir samplers, which apparently had faulty lids.  They had stopped on a bridge over a good-sized river and pitched two big cartons overboard and drove on.  They were observed by an excited lady who immediately called the Rangers saying she had seen two dismembered bodies dumped into the water.  The police came and dragged the river, but they found nothing except part of a paper box labeled  Burma-Shave.  They radioed ahead to have the truck stopped.  The work crew was forced to empty the truck and their sampler boxes, while at gunpoint.  It was hot, hard, dirty work and in this case, quite a comedy of errors, which were not much, appreciated.


Some good things happened, however.  The Odells were phenomenally lucky in drawing free advertising.  Only once were they ever bested.  One of their little jingles stated it best:  Free! Free! / A Trip To Mars / For 900 / Empty Jars.


An answer soon arrived:  “Accept Your Offer.  Where shall I shop the Jars?”  Signed, Arliss French, Manager of Red Owl Supermarket, Appleton, Wisconsin.  Allan Odell chewed his pencil, then sent back this reply.  “If a trip to Mars you’d earn, remember friend, there’s no return.”  But French was not easily put off.  He published his answer:  “Let’s not quibble, let’s not fret, gather your forces, I’m all set!”  The news media took up the joke and soon the entire nation was interested.


President Leonard Odell, sent a secretary to Appleton.  Business there was booming.  The Red Owl Grocery chain loved free advertising too.  Signs, slogans, and parades saying “Send Frenchy to Mars” appeared.  An old rocket ship was installed in the parking lot where kids swarmed over it.  Clerk’s dressed in green elf suits and for each empty jar that appeared, a pint of ice cream went out.  Jars came from far and near.  Neighbors had a jolly time.  Leonard and Allan he to do something, but what?  A visit to a “Mars Bar” candy plant was being considered when a publicity man named Moran, of German ancestry, appeared.  Why not send Frenchy to Mars, Germany, he asked?  Mars (spelled Moers) was a little German town near Dusseldorf.  He would make all the arrangements if the Odells would pay his plan fare.  And so it was.  Frenchy and Mrs. Frenchy had a marvelous vacation in Moers.  A Brinks armored truck delivered the 900 jars and the newspapers had a hay-day.  The whole nation was happy.


In Moers, there was a dilly of a three-day festival with dancing girls, a dancing bear, street parades, and athletic events galore.  Photographers went snap-happy and soon it seemed the whole world knew about Frenchy and the Odells.  “It was a fun thing to do,” said Leonard, modestly.


The Odells could afford it.  As advertising goes, it was the worlds best.  Even during the depression days, the little jingles had earned over $3,000,000 a year, declares Frank Rowsome in his book.


Another lucky break of free advertising came a few years later from the U.S. Navy.  The Odells had always maintained a friendly relationship with the Navy, along with jokes, free samples, and souvenir promotion prizes.  During “Operation Deep-Freeze” in Antarctica, they asked the Odells for some signs to boost the morale of the men stationed so far from home.


Allan generously complied.  He offered several sets for the Navy heads to choose from.  Their choices were:  Lover Boy / Your Photo Came / But You Dog-gone Beard / Won’t Fit The Frame.  Use Our Cream / And We Betcha / Girls Won’t Wait / But Come And Getcha.  Many A Forrest / Used To Stand / Where A Lighted Match / Got Out of Hand.  This last set was on the road to McMurdo Sound, some thousand miles from any tree.  By happen chance, a flying photographer got a picture with a snow tractor in the background and five inquisitive penguins in front looking on.  With characteristic Odell luck, it was sent to United Press International and distributed to scores of newspapers for advertising that Barnum and Bailey would have envied.


On another occasion a submarine surfaced in the cold North Atlantic to be greeted by six little red signs sticking up in the snow.  Santa’s / Whiskers / Need No Trimmin / He Kisses Kids / Not The Women.  Later it was learned that a helicopter group, knowing they were to surface, had planted the little signs only an hour before.


Yes, they were corny, but with only an occasional deviation.  For the most part, those little jingles were concisely worded and a remarkable potpourri of folk humor, wit, and skillful offbeat merchandising.  They were clean – non-offensive, laugh provoking bonds of nationwide appeal.  You’ve Made Pa / Look So Trim / The Local Draft Board’s / After Him.  The Draftee / Tried A Tube / And Purred / Whaddya Know / I’ve Been De-furred.  3-Star Generals / Privates 1st Class / Show Equal Rank / In The Looking Glass.  The Poorest Guy / In The / Human Race / Can Have / A Million Dollar Face.  At a Quiz / Pa Ain’t / No Whiz / But He Sure Knows How / To Keep Ma His.


There were other problems hard to face.  One, how to keep signs from disappearing on dark nights.  This was solved by using counter sunk holes with huts and bolts needing special screwdrivers, but it was costly.


Perhaps the strangest enemy was the horse.  A careful check was made which disclosed that the 8 ft. signs were a perfect height for back scratching, and so they had to be changed to 10 ft.  Cows would rub the posts shinny and give them a cock-eyed tilt.  Woodchucks and trigger-happy hunters did some damage, but none equaled Old Dobbin.  Old Dobbin / Reads These Signs / Each Day / You See He Gets / His Corn / That Way.  A horse quickly learned he could sidle up to an over-hanging sign, hump himself slightly, and achieve a richly sensual back scratch, often leaning an pushing on the post until it broke off.  One sign-setting youngster allowed he was glad tractors didn’t itch!


As roads grew wider, cars went faster, signs to be read had to be larger and moved back into a field and placed farther apart.  This made placement hard to come by.  Many states passed special tax laws, taxing both sides of a sign.  Since the words, “Burma-Shave”, appeared on back, this meant double taxes.  Also, many states now reserved special colors.  Red always meant danger.


The over-all cost of the signs was growing rapidly.  In 1960 it came to over $200,000.  Television and radio made this form of advertising less effective.


The Odell family was changing.  Father Clinton had died in 1958.  The two brothers, Allan and Leonard, were no longer young.  In fact, Allan wished to retire.  All things considered, it seemed time to say good-bye.  Young George Odell, Allan’s son, placed the motion before the board for the signs to end and it was accepted.  To preserve the dignity of this forty year-old family enterprise, the “Cheer-Up Face” trucks quietly moved out and retrieved all the remaining signs rather than leave them to decay.


The Burma-Vita Company was sold to become a Phillip-Morris subsidiary.  Their “luck Tradition” still held, for the new media gave them a big farewell fanfare:  Farewell, O, Verse / Along The Road / How Sad To / Know / You’re Out-Of-Mode!



203 N. Market Street


Origin:  10/17/1912.  It was then a barn housing a horse and buggy.  Samuel Oldfather (1847-1928) and his wife, Sarah (1857-1953), established the small church.  Their elegant home at 201 N. Market was used for Sunday school during the first few months, but this was later moved to the church.


The remodeled barn became a model sanctuary.  A Reading Room at the side and back was used often by the public and by church members.  Services on Sunday were at 10:45 a.m.  Readers appeared promptly following organ music by Etta Brown, sister of George Burdge.  The organ was a pump type.  Edith (Martin) Rittenhouse of Liberty Mills was soloist for many services.  The readers had the Bible and the Christian Science Book by Mary Baker Eddy before them and this comprised the sermon.  The Mother Church is located at Boston, Massachusetts.


Wednesday evenings were open to testimonials and fellowship.  The Lord’s Prayer was always used in the ceremonies of the church.  It became a symbol of the teachings to all in attendance.


Members came from a wide area:  Akron, Urbana, Sidney, South Whitley and more.  Visitors were welcome anytime at the Oldfather home and at the services of the church.  Much of the counseling was throughout the week in the home.  Families and friends attending were:  Goehler, Naber, Ruse, Brown, Guinnup, Gaddis, Koller, Sells, Keaffaber, Frushour, Frakes, Werking, Oppenheim, Rittenhouse, Leffel, Mow, Miller, Summa and Hippensteel.


Closed 4/6/1966