Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1985 and May 1985


Mrs. N. F. Cunningham, a 90 year old artist of Malvern, Arkansas, writes that her parents moved to North Manchester in 1900.  Her father was employed at the grain elevator owned by Horace Kinsey who had been a country school teacher.

The family lived on West Fourth Street on a corner opposite the owner, John Coz.  Mrs. Cunningham began school at West Ward (Maple Park) under Martha Winesburg, a lovely lady with silvery hair, floor-sweeping dark skirts and “Gibson Girl” shirt waist, often with a ribbon bow under the chin.

There was a small portable organ for music lessons each day.  The “big” boys carried it across the hall where Ethel Shaffer taught third and fourth grades in time for music class in Miss Shaffer’s room.  Then up the stairs to Miss Blanche Forrest’s fifth-sixth room.  U. R. Young had seventh and eighth on the north side of the second floor.  Orville Watts was janitor and presided over the huge coal furnace in the basement.  He sharpened the pencils and shouted at boys on the playground when they got into little kid “scraps.”  In the basement were stored extra or damaged desks.  In winter the country kids who brought lunch from home would eat their lunch at those desks.  (When it was nice weather, they ate outside.” }  “Sometimes in winter when the weather was very bad, Mom would pack lunch for me and I had the treat of eating in the basement near the huge furnace.”

“We had art lessons each day, painting with Prang water colors – three small blocks of primary colors in a tin box.  They cost 25 cents.  My father ‘raised hell’ over the cost, but I was so interested in drawing and painting.  He bought a 3 X 5 metal sign, had it framed in wood molding, and painted it with graphite paint.  Then he bought me chalks and an eraser.  He  hung my board in the corner of the living room where I was usually busy at my own private blackboard!

“I recall those desperately cold winters,” she writes.  “Thought nothing of it at the time.  Frost on the window panes.  I drew pictures in the frost.  Evenings men with heavy coats and caps drove team horses, hauling logs to the saw mill at the west end of Second or Third Street.  The men’s mustaches and beards were white with frost.  The snow squeaked under the wagon wheels and the men walked beside the horses to keep from freezing.  After they unloaded the logs, they would have to go back to the country in the dark – cold, tired, and hungry – men and beasts.”

“We lived in North Manchester for 12 years.  I graduated from Central High in 1913.  There were 17 in the class.  At graduation exercises Bishop Quayle gave the address.  He had red hair and said ‘Red haired people are the salt of the earth.’  He must have made other sage observations, but that’s all I remember!  My parents did not attend the graduation; they had already moved downstate.  I left the next day to join them.”

Mrs. Cunningham mentions she had two or three small watercolors on exhibit at the Saint Louis World Fair in 1903.  She idolized her art teacher, Meda Sexton (Mrs. Charles), who let her use her pastels to do a picture of a home and large weeping willow tree for a woman moving to California who loved her tree.  She feels she had unusual high school training; A. L. Ulrey, 3 years Latin; Ellen Dwyer, 2 years German; made Spanish easy; 12 years art classes, water color, pastel, pen and ink.  Mrs. Cunningham is still painting, in oils mostly, strictly for her own satisfaction.

She remembers the ostriches raced at the 1904 or 1905 fair.  The drivers claimed the ostriches would kick like an ill-tempered horse.  When she moved to Arkansas 12 years ago, she learned that there were ostrich farms at Hot Springs about that time – possible source of racing stock.

She describes her first experience with the electric “auto-mo-beel.”  “Mr. DeWitt drove it.  Built to look like a single buggy with motor under the seat, a dashboard, a tiller (not a wheel like now) for steering.” 

A crew put the brick pavement down on Main Street in 1901.  About that time Charles Reed and Dave Krisher owned a grocery and meat market on West Main (at Buffalo Street?).  “My Mom would give me a dime and tell me to get a ‘dime’s worth of GOOD steak!’  Round steak, usually.   Believe it or not!”


*Father (Harry E. Shoemaker) was the manager and at times the only employee of Horace Kinsey’s grain elevator just north of the depot.  He worked six days a week, 6:00 to 6:00 for $10.00 a week.  He bought two barns and a frame house on the corner of First and Colfax Streets for $800 about 1905.

In those days bread cost a nickel, as did laundry or toilet soap.  In the fall Pop had shallow shelves built in the cellar and bought Northern Spies, Greenings, and Rambos (apples) for 50 cents a bushel and spread them on the shelves for winter use.  Irish potatoes were 25 cents a bushel, sugar 5 cents a pound and flour 79 cents for a 25-pound bag.”

Mrs. Cunningham wrote that she did not buy the high school annual ($1.50, a “hold up”) which is “why I can’t remember #17” of the 17 graduates, Class of 1913 (Ethel Naber, Lois Wright, Ruth Kimmel, Mary Brookins, Esther Lautzenhiser, Marie Shively, Gladys Rockwell, Lottie Wolf, Ira Grossnickle, Ethel McPherson, Dwight Brown, Kellard Dohner, Charles Wilson, Warren Grossnickle, Ross Kennedy, herself, and #17!)

High school kids on Saturday night went to the college where three literary societies (Lincoln, Adelphian, and Majestical) put on programs in second floor rooms, such as music, debates.  They walked the two miles each way and “sometimes if we were ‘lucky’ college boys walked us home.”

Itinerant Peddlers

In 1900-1905 there were summer itinerant peddlers, including the Greek toting two heavy “telescope” type valises.  Mama seldom let them in.  One time she did, however; he had short lengths of lovely brocades, velvets, silks, laces, embroideries.  I was quite fascinated by those materials.  The peddlers went from house-to-house, bargaining, trying to sell what they had likely picked up “for a song” in large mercantile places like Chicago, wherever.

The scissor grinder man had a push cart on which were mounted his grinding wheels and tools for repairing and sharpening knives and scissors.  He would go down the street calling out “scissors sharpened” and occasionally stopped and knocked on our door.

Each spring the rag man came.  Bud and I, as little kids salvaged discarded clothes, any sort of rags, and crammed them into an empty 25-pound flour sack.  We were happy to get a few pennies per pound for “paper rags.”  Good quality paper was “rag” paper in contrast to newsprint, etc., made from wood pulp.  He also had a push cart or sometimes a decrepit horse or mule hitched to a small wagon.  He might also buy our collection of bones or rubber for salvage.

Tell Your Fortune, Lady?

Bands of gypsies in small covered wagons drawn by small ponies camped along the river south of town.  Men were swarthy, suspicious-looking, not very trustworthy---“steal the pennies off a dead man’s eyes.”  The women in long full skits, shoulder shawls with many strings of beads, earrings, trinkets were very colorful and always in two’s when they called at your door.

“Tell your fortune, lady?  Only 50 cents.”  Mama never let them inside.  It was said while one “told your fortune” the other had “sticky” fingers (things missing when they left).  They would camp for several days, two to three weeks, and were frequently chased away by town authorities.  At the fair in North Manchester, there was always a tent  or two of fortune tellers and, of course, tales of children being stolen, along with anything else left lying around loose at night.

Did you ever hear the story of Ragged Jack?
Well, he comes down the street with a pack on his back. 
He comes in the morning, and he comes at night,
And he gobbles up everything in sight.
He stole all his furniture, he stole his wife,
He’d steal from a friend, he’d steal your life.
He gets beneath your window when you try to go to sleep.
And he calls out in a voice so mild and sweet,
“Any rags, any bones, any bottles today?
It’s your old dad, “Ragged Jack,” coming your way.”
Did you ever leave a little thing out all night?
Get up in the morning, and it’s gone from your sight!
Well, old man “Ragged Jack” has been your way.
He’s a very bad old man people say…
(Old song of early 1900’s)

In olden days, 80 years ago, my daddy bought Chicago examiner  every Sunday.  I read the funnies: The Katzenjammer Kids, Fritz and Hans who delighted in playing tricks on Der Captain & Mamma.  There was Happy Hooligan with his tin can hat; Little Nemo; Buster Brown with Buster Brown suit, a tunic belted at the waist, the Buster Brown collar (Eton), knickers buckled at the knee.  His dog was Tige, his playmate was Mary Jane.  Later there was “Bringing Up Father” (whose knees were the talk of Bughouse Beach); Chic Jackson’s Roger Bean, with the maid, Goldie Stubbins.  In the Indianapolis  paper were the Hall Room boys, a couple of “el cheapos” trying all sorts of stunts to impress their various girl friends.

We did not buy milk and ice cream from the grocery.  Many kept a cow in a stable in back.  We sold milk to neighbors at 5 cents a quart.  Charles Fanning had a low van pulled by one horse.  He stood to drive and dipped milk from a 10-gallon metal milk can into my little stone crock, as he drove down our street ringing a little hand bell.

We did not have an electric fridge but a heavy wooden chest lined with metal with a drain pipe for melted ice.  One compartment for food.  The ice man came three or four times a week in the summer, carried big blocks of ice with tongs, and put them in the ice box.  You paid him 10 cents – 15 cents a month.

A “Buffalo” Sundae For A Sweet Tooth

If you were good, Pop would take you to Burdge’s Drug Store and buy you a soda (for a dime). Scoop of ice cream in a tall glass, dollop of your choice of favorite syrup, then shot full of fizz bubbles to fill the glass. In 10 minutes it came up and “pinched” your nose. My favorite was a “buffalo” sundae – ice cream in sherbet glass, chocolate syrup all over, chopped pecans, and a nice big maraschino cherry on top, 10 cents!

At the grocery were jars of stick candy, cinnamon, clove, lemon. There were jawbreakers, licorice whips, nigger babies (also licorice), gum drops, chocolate drops, and candy beads on a string. This one throws me to this day: why we didn’t all die? Guess germs hadn’t been invented! One girl in third grade comes to school wearing her string of candy beads with the ends tied in back. In two or three days we finally urge her to untie and divide. The beads have been collecting dust, lint from the woolen dress, etc. In fact, it’s hard to tell now if they were pink, blue, or yellow originally. So she measures off with her thumb, a half dozen or so. Best friends first. You chewed off the specified number of beads, hand to the next in line, until all the beads are gone and until another girl can come up with another two cents to buy another string.

Taking Care of Baby

In 1900 there were plenty of babies but no Pampers, no Luvs. So the mama bought yards of white outing flannel, 10 cents a yard, cut it into 18” squares, and hemmed the edges. Supply safety pins, 5 cents … she’s in business. She washed these “dipes”, dried them on the grass in summer. She bathed the baby with a pinch of baking soda in the bath water (deodorant). She powdered him with corn starch or talcum (before Johnson and Johnson were born).

We read aloud in the evenings. We turned in early; men worked 6:00 to 6:00 and were plenty glad to turn in early. We had a small spinet-type ebony organ with real ivory keys. About 1910 Pop bought Edison phonograph with a morning glory horn, cylinder records. He would play it on Sundays. In the Summertime neighborhood kids sat on our porch to listen. In the winter they came inside where Mom had a dishpan full of popcorn or fresh roasted Spanish peanuts (19 cents a pound) from Jennings Grocery.

Lucile Wolfe, when she married Howard Young, had one room of her new house decorated solely with my pen and ink work. In return she sewed one of my graduation dresses (there were three). White ankle-length with over-the-elbow, white, silk gloves for graduation baccalaureate. For the reception a sil foulard in tan, peg top (draped on the hip). And the third a pink Lansdowne, split skirt inset with white lace and bead fringe around a lace collar.

Yes, here’s a yarn of next door neighbor, widow with one grown daughter, cashier at Jennings Grocery. To eke out a living she did washings. No machine. Pumped water which she heated on an iron stove in a boiler; poured into wooden tubs; and scrubbed the clothes on a corrugated washboard. No clothes wringer … huge ropes of sheets she had wrung out by hand, wrapped in her arms, rinsed, and dried in the sun. In the winter she strung lines in the house. Then she ironed them with heavy old “sad irons”. After she carefully folded them and put them into a willow basket, she hauled them on a child’s red wagon, thus delivered to the owner. Who said “the good old days”? Requiescat in pace, Mrs. Helm.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Blanche Cunningham has plenty of wonderful tales to tell us about North Manchester 1900-1913. Our 90-year-old correspondent, now living in Malvern, Arkansas, is a descendant of the Shoemaker and Shipley families of Kosciusko County.