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Making Early Memories in Magnolia

Children spent summer with movies, marble, swimming

By WALTER DOERSCHUK The Press-News Published: August 12, 2016 10:00 AM
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Summer time for children in Magnolia today might include taking in the Sandy and Beaver Canal Days.

It might even include jumping in the pool at the Sandy Valley Community Park and Pool or another local facility.

Way before the Sandy and Beaver Canal Days even began, swimming was also part of summer time for children. It was one of several early activities highlighted in an oral history of Magnolia completed by the Magnolia Historical Society. Several documents included stories of Magnolia residents when they were children in the early 1900s.

The following is a sample of what some of those residents shared.

John "Johnny Bill" Joseph, born in 1918, lived catty-cornered across from Dagenhard's. He recalled hanging around someone who shared his birthday but was a year younger. Joseph said they were "just like brothers."

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Joseph remembered spending plenty of time during the summer around the creek and canal.

"Many the time that we'd undressed on this side of the canal and held our clothes up and went across the canal to swim in the creek which was right next to it," Joseph said. "So that's where all the kids up in that area played down in the swamp and down the canal and the creek/ What we had was an uphill and a downhill. The downhill kids had a swimming hole over on the other side of the dike. We always called them the downhiller, the people downtown, over the hill."

Like today, the fourth of July was big for fireworks. There were no big displays, but everybody had fireworks.

"Roman candles and those things in the daytime we called them snakes," Joseph said. "You'd light them and they'd seem to foam up and curl luke snakes and sparklers and that kind of stuff.

"We went on a picnic. That was the big thing. When I was a kid, we used to get some carbide and get a can that had the lid on it, and make a little hole in the lid."

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Carbide and a little water would then be placed inside. That was placed under their feet and a match was lit.

"Man, it would blow that clear across the road," Joseph recalled. "You know, it was gas made from the carbide.

Rich Cascioli, born in 1927, said marbles was big in Magnolia "up until the snow would fly." Children would play behind barns.

"There were a lot of barnes in Magnolia," he said. "All around. They're all torn down now."

Cascioli also remembered digging caves into the sides of banks in grassy areas near Magnolia United Methodist Church.

"And of course, the railroad track, go over there and watch the trains go by," Cascioli added. "There were a lot of roller skates around so you could make carts out of those you know. Skates on the bottom, and a board on them and you'd make a little care or a scooter."

Warren Bowman, born in 1915, recalled picnics in Pike and Rose Township. The picnics would last for two to three days.

He also remembered a theater "where the stone front is in Magnolia, right when you go in on the left, next to the park."

"Silent movies," he said. "It was 15 cents. They were there for two to three years. I could remember seeing /The Hunchback of Notre Dam' and different big movies there."

Lewis J. Weis, born in 1891, wrote a a piece called "My Life (well mostly mine)".

He also remembered playing with marbles in addition to running a hoop and flying a kite.

Weis and his friends would go over Farber's Bridge in the spring time and "loop suckers as they came up the stream to spawn." In the summer time, Magnolia would celebrate Street Fair Day. Weis remembered one year winning a Klondike shirt for "being the boy who displayed the most cats in a box in front of Benfer's Store."

Virginia Esther Rinehart Heffner, born in 1923, said toys in her time included dolls, a teddy bear, barn kittens and paper dolls.

"We loved to cut out paper dolls and dress them with different outfits," she said. "Being on a farm, we didn't have much play time. We all had chores and helped in the barn, house, garden and hay field."

Mary Helen Bunker Morrow, born in 1910, remembered tennis courts.

"Rex Sanor was a great tennis player, really good," she recalled. "They built him a tennis court. He was in high school about the same time we were."

She also remembered courts where the Marion brothers lived as well as one on 183.

Morrow later added, "There really wasn't a whole lot to do. We'd walk a lot. Peg Woods and I used to walk almost every night. You could walk around the town in, what, 25 minutes I suppose."

Another favorite of Morrow was to visit Elson's Flouring Mill.

"We wandered through the mill, in and out of there day after day," she said. "Always get weighed. I bet I was weighed 10 times a day just walking through the mill... There was a trap door that you could lift up and watch the wheel go round... Oh we used to wander around the mill just like it was home."

While home may have been different for children in Magnolia in the early 1900s than it is today, it appears the memories still last.

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