"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe

Lawrence in Summertime

     IN THE EARLY 1900's, before air conditioners, and electric fans in the homes, Lawrence could be pretty hot in summertime. However you adjusted to the weather, and the long summers sped by quickly for young people. Little girls' curls disappeared, the hair was parted in the middle and two tight braids took their place. Each pig tail was tied at the end with a colored ribbon bow. Your hair was pulled back so tight, your head would be sore when you unbraided it at night to brush your hair before going to bed. Sometimes a tight bun was rolled over each ear and pinned in place by hair pins. Everybody had long hair in those days.

     With warmer weather you discarded your black stockings, socks were not known then, and went barefoot all day. Some of us had to wear sandals or moccasins to protect our feet from glass or nails. Blue jeans were worn universally by both girls and boys. But they were called, "overalls" and they had a bib attached with adjustable buckles on the straps or suspenders. The bib was high enough so that you did not have to wear a blouse or shirt underneath. This type of apparel was for the "pre-teens" only.

     Along about ten o'clock each morning, doors and windows of the houses were closed, and the shutters or the dark green blinds drawn, to keep the house as cool as possible. Women and girls took afternoon naps and on real hot days, a pallet was made on the living room floor. It was cooler than upstairs. Everybody stayed indoors until along about four or five o'clock. Then baths in the tin-lined tub were taken and you would dress for supper and the evening's activities.

     There were no summer playgrounds or Scout camps in those days. You devised your own entertainment. Sometimes it would only be sitting on the curbing in front of your house and having a friendly contest with your friends across the street, in mud ball throwing. This always took place after a good rain the night before -- dirt streets, you know. Saplings were cut or torn off of a young tree sprout or shrub and mud bails were rolled and stuck on the end. The idea was to see how far you could toss the mud ball. Distance, and not the friend, was the target.

     In the evenings, parades on the sidewalks with lighted shoe boxes, were held by all the children in the neighborhood. You spent days fixing up these boxes. Cutouts of all shapes were made on the sides of the boxes, and then the open "windows" were pasted over with colored tissue paper. You had four or five boxes in your ' train", and some were made with two stories. All were joined by heavy string and pulled. In each box was placed a candle and after dark, the candles were lighted and the parade began. This took up several weeks of a summer.

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     There always were paper dolls and Jacks for the girls to fall back on. The paper dolls were cutouts from fashion magazines. One magazine was used to file the dolls, separated as to members of the family, and then their various wardrobes. If you played Jacks, with a golf ball instead of the usual hard rubber ball, you really "rated".

     Marbles and "mumbledy peg" were the popular games for the boys. When they played these, they had to wear leather knee caps tied around the legs over the long black stockings, so that no holes were worn in the stockings. "Mumbledy peg" was a game of dexterity. With the blade of your pocket knife exposed, you tossed the knife from various positions, for the blade to light and stick straight up in the ground or on the wooden sidewalk.

     The Kaw river had its attractions in summer as well as winter. Boys swam there, or in the Brick Yard pond, and later in Potter Lake. If you were lucky and knew someone whose father belonged to the Lake View Club, a club six miles north and west of Lawrence, you swam there. Fishing and boating took place there too. Boating was popular with the K. U. students in spring and summer. Fraternities would take their dates up the river in several boat loads. They would stop at a sand bar, tie the boats together, and drift down the river, singing fraternity and popular songs. Needless to say, these parties were normally organized on moonlight nights.

     There were Regattas too, for all ages. They started at the foot of Ohio street. One summer there were 1,000 spectators. The events included a canoe race between the KU team and the Blue River Canoe Club of Kansas City. KU won "by a nose", on a quarter mile course in two minutes and fifteen seconds. Other events at that Regatta:

Single canoe.

100 yard swim. Winner -- Clarence Stevens, first; Joe Bishop, second; Ben Carman, third.

Canoe mixed double.

Row boat mixed double.

Speed launches -- Weyermiller's Daffodil, first.

Long Dive -- Sam Maffett.

Tilting Match.

Tub race, won by Frank Benedict.

Motor speed race, won by George Savage's Momus over the Van Hoesen boat.

     Fourth of July was always a big day for all ages. The fire crackers seemed louder then. "Cannon crackers" were the loudest and biggest. People would walk up and down Massachusetts Street shooting off crackers, but the deadliest and most terrifying, were the canes. A cap was inserted in the bottom of a special kind of cane, and as you walked along, boys and men would

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walk up in back of you and tap the cane on the cement walk at your ankles and the explosion and noise would result.

     July 4, 1900, there was an all-day Community picnic at Miller's Grove. We presume Miller's Grove was where the Miller house is on east 19th, where the Leo Ellers live. Buch's Band and the Arcade Glee Club performed. The band gave a concert before and after the fireworks at Woodward's Corner, which is the present site of the Round Corner Drug Store. The fireworks were shot off at the Eldridge House corner too.

     In June, 1901, Massachusetts Street was brick paved for the first time. Parades from then on could be held without worry of rains and mud. The "Floto Shows" gave a street parade in 1903 and the performances were on "South Kentucky Street." "Ben Hur's Herd of Arabian Stallions, 100 Shetland Ponies," acrobats, monkeys, Salambo and Scotch Collie dogs, and clowns, were offered for entertainment. Young people would get up before dawn and walk to the railroad station to watch the circus unload, then follow it to the circus grounds and watch the men pitch the tents.

     There were matinee horse races for adults, all summer at the Driving Park track. This track was a little north of the Mall off of 23rd Street.

     In the early 1900's, the Airdome was a popular night attraction. High school girls went in groups or line parties, as did the boys. No dates for these. Admission was 10¢. Stock companies played to capacity crowds despite the odor wafting from Moak's Livery stable next door to the north. The "theatre" was a large tent with canvas top and sides. The sides were rolled up but could be quickly dropped if a storm blew in. Seats were long, hard, wooden benches. The tent was in a vacant lot in the 700 block of Vermont, on the east side where the Telephone Company office building is now. The plays changed their repertoire once a week.

     One ad in the Lawrence Journal of 1909, gave this notice: "The Martin Stock Company will present, "The Mill Owner's Daughter", a comedy drama in four acts. In the last act of this bill, takes place one of the greatest sensational fights ever produced on the American stage. Don't miss it. Try to get in." All of the June bugs, and moths, and mosquitoes around the lights, couldn't have kept you away.

     One summer, instead of a stock company, a Merry-go-round was set up on the lot. In the process of assembling it, a worker broke his arm. He was rushed across the street to Dr. A. J. Anderson's office. After the arm was set, the man asked "A. J." how much he owed him. The reply was: "You can pay me by letting my three kids ride free on your Merry-Go-Round all summer". And they did just that!

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     If you couldn't think of anything else to do and it was a hot, sultry night, you took the street car and paid your five-cent fare, and rode around the "Loop". The summer street cars were open on both sides and you could count on a good breezy ride.

     Ice Cream socials had their place in the summertime too. They were usually sponsored by a Ladies Aid Society. Tables and chairs were set out on the lawn. Japanese lanterns were strung around the yard and were lighted, first by candles, and later by electricity. Home made ice cream, or Wiedemann's, or Zuttermeister's, was served, and home made cake. Sometimes these ice cream socials were on the night of a band concert and close to one of the parks. Most often, they were on a Saturday night, when the stores were open for business, and shoppers were out.

     Ice Cream wagons roamed the streets in summer. Jerry Ewers had a horse-drawn wagon and at the band concerts and other places where a crowd might be, he would sell ice cream, peanuts and pop corn. He made some sort of waffle-like cone while you waited, that he rolled while still hot, and he would fill it with ice cream. All of this for five cents.

     Some summers would develop into quite a social season for the high school and college age girls. Quite often nieces and friends would come for a visit. There would be thimble parties, picnics, slumber parties and line parties to the "Nickel" movie theatre, or "Patee's". The girls would bring their needlework to the thimble parties. Embroidering, crocheting lace, hemstitching, and monogramming, were popular. This work would be put on tea napkins, towels, pillow cases and lunch cloths. No knitting was learned until World War I.

     Then all too soon, it would be time to go back to school.

Printed in Journal-World June 23, 1965.

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