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Monday, September 13, 2010

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: Memories of Dennis Maxwell, Middleville 1920's - by Dennis Maxwell

Provided by Joe Maxwell and authored by Dennis Maxwell.

"Back in the 1920's when I was a youngster, Middleville was a self-supporting little town. It had five gas stations, three blacksmith shops, two milk stations, one ice house, and an ice cutting business. There was the hydraulic canal, a dam, a feed mill, a saw mill, the tannery, the felt mill, two hotels, and a coal business. The railroad was operating with a station, station master, and telegraph operator. Also in Middleville were four grocery stores, a drug store, three garages, two woodworking shops, wagon and sleigh makers, three restaurants, four active churches, two shoe repair shops, a post office, a bank, and two bars. There was a farm machinery dealer, a building material dealer, a hardware store, two barber shops, a meat market, a bake shop, an insurance business, a beauty operator, and one junk dealer who later had a successful trucking business. There were also numerous home brew and moonshine makers.

Nine farms were located in or near the village: Jay Goodman, Holly Petrie, Bert Randall, Joe Pocus, Bert and Stewart Atabor, Byron Pickert, George Smith, Aronald Huyck, and John Dorsey. Itinerant farm help used to go from place to place. The ones I recall are J. Crossett, Tom Gorman, Doc Smith, Peter Thompson, Jack Leahy, Ed Enright and Jack McPhillps. The only abandoned farm that I knew of was the Peter's place, up back of Harter's Mountain.

When I was in early grammar school in the middle to late 1920's, I went to the third grade at the old high school ( since razed ), Miss Edith Sidell, teacher. The fourth grade met in Corey Hall, Miss Wineta Wood was the teacher. The fourth grade next was on the stage of the Polish Hall with Miss Marian Dickens, teacher. Fifth grade was on the main floor of the Polish Hall with Miss Florence Budlong as teacher.

In the 1920's and 1930's many of the younger boys used to enjoy sliding down the four big hills when the roads were covered with snow. The favorite run was Strobel's Hill (Summit St). Next was Fairfield hill where Jack Casler used to run his eight - man bobsled, a most impressive ride. I had the privilege of experiencing it on one occasion. There was rarely a car on any roads. We could use our sleds without the fear of being run over. The other two hills were the Limekiln and the Reservoir hills, but the coasters never took to them like the others. I preferred Strobel's , it was steep, well lighted and it didn't take long to walk back up.

One time, at about age twelve, I put on a fur coat and crawled across the top of the high bridge that spanned the creek. I was trying to make people think I was a bear. I guess I was lucky someone didn't take a shot at me.

One day in the spring of the year , Joe Schfranek, Benny Zaborek and I were up by the dam. We pried away a huge chunk of ice from the shore and got it water-borne. I was on it, pushing it out to deeper water with a pole. Before I knew it, I couldn't get off and I was heading down stream at a pretty good clip. What a wild ride it was. The ice flow was awash and it seemed like I was going 100 miles per hour. My pants and legs were soaking wet and I could hardly stay on the darn thing. It finally came close enough to shore by Stoney Brook so I could Jump off. TO ALL KIDS, DON'T EVER TRY THIS!!

Dave Strobel and I had to stay after school one day when we were in the fourth grade. When we left , we crawled under the stage of the Polish Hall and found a bunch of Utica Presses dating back to World War #1. We also found enough pencils, erasers and money that had fallen through a long crack in the floor to last us for a year. We heard voices and noticed that a polish class was being held on the main floor of the hall. We then made a hasty exit, fearing capture by the adult students in the class.

Once I was fishing with Bob Boynton, he caught a nice 14 inch trout and was so excited that he didn't even reel it in. He ran backwards away from the creek as fast as he could go until the fish was dragged to the shore. Bob was so anxious to show his mother his prize fish that he immediately packed up hisw fishing gear and headed home.

One day in June our class had a picnic. It was suggested that I bring ice cream. I was allowed to go two hours early to make it. I took Bob Staring along to help. First we had to stop at the milk station to get a hundred pound block of ice. We had to drag it all the way up to the farm in a burlap bag. I had to go up in the pasture to get the cows and milk them for the milk we needs. Then I had to start a fire in the stove to cook the mixture. It was then put in the ice and salt freezer. We lugged it all the way to the picnic up behind Huyck Ave. On our arrival the picnic was all over. Nothing left to eat except a couple of rolls and some chips. The class ate all the ice cream, so we got none of that either. That was one picnic Strib and I will never forget.

One time there was a carload of coal that was not deposited in the proper location by he train crew. It had to be moved 150 feet to be unloaded. The owner of the coal yard tried to get it moved by asking various farmers if they would hook up their teams of horses. They all failed. They finally put two seperate teams togeather, to no avail. My father, Joe Maxwell, happened to come along at that time with his big team of dapple grays, Tom and Jerry. He was asked if he could help. He asked that the other horses be removed and he hooked his team to the coal car. His horses bucked down, their bellies almost touching the ground, and moved the car like it was a wagonload of hay. My Dad knew without question that his team could do the job. He was the talk of the town after that.

Mr. Dennis Maxwell of Boston grew up on a farm on Voelke Hill in the 1920's and 1930's. He served in the navy in World War 2. He and his wife, Margie, built a successful refrigeration business in the Boston area. Later they branched out into a thriving restaurant business at which he still works 12 hours a day. He has maintained a friendship with Dave Strobel for over sixty years." - By Joe Maxwell

This information can also be found in the book:   Middleville "The story of a Village", 1990

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