Sixty Years Ago
by Charles F. Sullivan
Sixty years ago, every vehicle used in this city was propelled by horse or man power, no electricity for lights or power and the gas engine was unknown, while now, a horse is seldom seen in the center of the city, but gasoline and electricity drives all busses, trucks, and autos. At this time a horse would almost be a curiosity and would slow down traffic. Even a bicycle and roller skates were unknown.
Slaughter houses were scattered all around the edges of town and the stock yards were located at Mound and the Pennsylvania railroad, and if a butcher wanted anything, he would go there and buy what he wanted and hire some men to drive them to his place of business. These men would choose the route they would use and would avoid traffic as much as possible.
As I lived at 435 West Second street, in what was called the “seal-skin district” and every one had a fence, with a gate along the sidewalk it was very customary for them to drive cattle, sheep and hogs up our street, for they could not get into peoples front yards.
For sheep and cattle, all that was necessary was to keep them moving, but hogs were slower walkers and usually a horse and wagon followed, so if one became exhausted, he would be promptly loaded in the wagon for a ride. What would happen if ten head were to start up second street today?
One day, my brother and I were going home, and after crossing Third street on Charter, saw a large hog running loose in the street and it belonged to a man in business on Third street, and my brother gave him a whack with a stick, and he let out a terrible squeal and the owner came out, and what he said would not sound well and we thought there was “No place like home” and a volley of stones followed us as we went our way.
We owned a cow and kept it in the stable on the alley, and in the morning, after milking, she would be turned out in the alley to find her eats and drinks for herself, coming back in the evening to be milked and fed and stay all night. Usually she spent much of her time at the river where under good weather there would be plenty to eat and drink and in fly season she would wade into the water up to her knees and the end of her tail in the water and when a fly would bite, it would get a shower bath from her tail.
Lots of garbage was thrown into the alley, and she could eat what she wanted and leave the balance. Occasionally she did not get home in time and then it was our duty to go out and hunt for her.
What would happen now if that was practiced here? When I was about half grown, that was all changed and as we had a small triangular lot below the levee, I built a fence along two sides, the levee furnishing the third fence and drove a well there and it became my duty to take the cow there in the morning and back in the evening and see to it that she had water. About 1885, we sold the lot to Prof. Roberts who was going to make the fill there, so that lot is about ten feet under the roadway of Roberts Boulevard, and that was the end of our cow. We sold milk to several of our neighbors, and seldom did we have enough left for our own use.
The stock yards were moved to Springfield street at the end of Woodley road, and cattle are moved to and from it by railroad or truck, which is much more humane and easier done, and the animals are in better condition to be slaughtered than when driven until they are exhausted. At present, I think there are only two slaughter houses in the city or near by, and much of the meat used here is shipped from Chicago, Piqua, Troy and other places.
A youngster today hardly knows what a cow, sheep or hog looks like, yet they were common in these days.
A load of bulk hay was very common then sometimes 25 loads would be standing upon market at one time, and it was a rule that he must stay there until evening unless he sold the load, when he would pull onto the scale, pay $ .20 for weighing and deliver the load to his customer. If not sold by evening he must pull away from the market and usually to a vacant lot or along side of the road out of the city limits, unhitch his horses and tie them to the rear of the wagon where they could eat off the load, while the driver would make a hole in the hat and crawl into it backward, and he would have a good warm place to sleep all night and get onto the market early the next morning.
At this time all deliveries are made by auto, except a bakery, which is still working horses for short distances but trucks for a distance routes.
Just after the County Fair last fall, I saw a late model auto with a two wheel trailer attached, carrying two horses, and going at a faster speed than it would be possible for the horses to go by their own power and legs, does this not look as thought we have passed the horse and buggy days?
Chas F. Sullivan
December 20, 1941