The Bustling Village of South Bend
This is the story of a small village, South Bend and surrounding country, 70 years ago. It was a typical village of its day. A dozen houses, two stores, two blacksmith shops, a flour mill, and a saw mill. Situated along Crooked Creek, it made a very picturesque village and quite a busy village for its day.
People came from miles around to haul their wheat or buckwheat to have it ground into flour, and no money changed hands as the miller took 1/8 for his toll. If the miller was a crook, some thought they were lucky to get their sacks back. My mother said she never saw my father really angry but once, when the miller tried to short him on his flour. He raised cain and got his just amount.
The stores were typical of their day. I remember being sent to the store for oysters. The storekeeper had them in a wooden tub with ice cakes floating around in them. You came home with 1/2 dozen oysters and the rest ice water. The crackers came in barrels and were left open to flies, and anyone could reach in to get one. The pickles were in a keg, also uncovered. One storekeeper was chided about it. His answer was that it was the best fly trap he could get.
Hanging from the ceiling would be horse collars, coal buckets, interspersed with a ladies coat or a horse blanket. A pot-bellied stove stood in the middle of the floor, with a wooden box for coal built around it. The farmers from the surrounding area would spend their leisure hours loafing at the store. They would perch themselves on the counters, and nearly all chewed tobacco. Some got so proficient with spitting that they could spin in a circle and hit the coal box from their position on the counter.
All the world problems were settled by these loafing farmers. They fought the Civil War over and over again, and usually the loudest talker was never in a battle, or was home hiding under a haystack.
I remember the time when a man from the city brought a phonograph out to the country store to entertain the country boys. It was a small affair with a large horn, and had to be wound up to play. The music was on a wax cylinder. We stood around or sat on the counter in utter amazement, that a voice could come from a machine. I remember one of the records. It was very uplifting and sounded like this: "The barber, Mr. Frazer, cut his nose off with a razor, and he breathes through his ear lobes now." It was very entertaining and I never forgot that record.