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Here's a light meal after Thursday's feast

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:01 PM

As usual on the day after Thanksgiving, I'll give you a light selection of topics since yesterday's menu was "pretty heavy" for most people. Through the year as I research I find small items which are interesting, but are too short to turn into a full column.

In 1885 one of the several traveling entertainments in our country was a Dime Museum. Its owner would bring it to a town, rent a store building and set up his museum for a two- or three-week period or until interest waned and attendance dropped.

A Dime Museum was opened at 49 E. Main St. in Norwalk in the middle of June, 1885, and operated there for about a week. The operator was J.H. Perkins, and he must have worked hard to have the newspaper say good things about his show. One editor wrote that Perkins had exhibited in St. Louis and elsewhere and was "first class in every respect." It was also reported that women and children could visit with perfect security.

Among the attractions at the Dime Museum were Madame Nora's troupe of performing canaries: Prof. Abert, the musical wonder; Prof. Kniffin, the magician; and Chlorus, the queen of flowers. In just a few days, however, these marvels all packed up and moved on to the next appointment.

A popular entertainment in the World War I era was the Human Fly. There were men who would arrive in a town, advertise that at a given time they would climb a tall building provided a sufficient amount of money was collected in advance.

When everything was in order, the man would start climbing barehanded, and would eventually/usually reach the top. A popular building for this activity in Norwalk was the five-story Glass Block Department Store on the southwest corner of West Main Street and Benedict Avenue.

Human Fly Jack Williams was climbing the Glass Block in August of 1916 when he spotted a barn fire southeast of Norwalk on Laylin Road not far north of Zenobia. Even though he alerted the crowd there was nothing to be done. The fire department didn't go out of town at the time, and no one knew exactly where the fire was anyway.

It took Williams about 90 minutes to complete the climb, using windows, awnings and sign supports for handholds. The top coping required his using a rope hand-over-hand to gain the roof.

In May of 1896, a train wreck on the north-south Baltimore & Ohio line near New Haven village was reported. It was at first claimed to be one of the most terrible ever, with six tramps buried under the spilled load of coal and presumed dead. Six other tramps were found, and it was believed that two of them could not recover.

More investigation showed that there were only three tramps riding the train. One of them went home to St. Louis within a few days; a second one found cousin in the area to care for him; and the third was taken to the County Infirmary to recover. The accident was caused by a broken rail. This story shows the value of not taking an initial news report as gospel. Later stories often modify the first report a great deal.

Remember My Just Like Old Times books are on sale at Colonial Flower & Gift Shoppe, 7 W. Main St., Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form and are fully indexed.

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