The Public Outdoorsie   Leave a comment

Above:  A 1936-1941 Illinois Public Health Poster

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98508956/)

This poster is a piece of Americana which should not invoke nostalgia, for the “good old days” were not as good as some like to think they were.

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Town Branch enters Summerville through what used to be Bitting’s pasture, now a thriving residential section.  The Branch approached town near the depot and disappeared from view as it neared the confluence with the Chattooga River just south of town.

On this branch, a short distance from the depot, was located one of the most popular sports ever to grace any town–the public outdoorsie!  We were bursting with pride over ours because it was different.  It was a duplex!  More than that, it was a three-holer on each side.  The male of the species entered from the northwest corner, while the distaff contingent were permitted to seek solace through the southwesterly entrance.  As long as it was in existence, it was suspended across Town Branch on sills, only a a few feet from the railroad (near the old Warren’s Ford place).

They tell me that in a nearby state the designers of such installations had made special arrangements for the small fry, with the inclusion of holes graduated for the various age groups.  This may have been well and good, and I take no issue with that state; for, after all, this is a democracy.  However, in our town, we operated on the assumption that the children should arrange to take care of this important function at home, unless Mother Nature saw fit to create a state of emergency; in which case, necessity had to be the mother of invention.

One year Hallowe’en pranksters removed a large sign from the front of the building where our weekly paper was printed.  Next morning, the astonished passengers on the train were informed by the sign that this noble institution astride Town Branch was the SUMMERVILLE GAZETTE.

There was no doubt that this “institution” was the most popular place in town.  This was especially true during court weeks, and horse-trading days, when the path to this place was broadened by the footprints of pilgrims on their way to and from the temple of relaxation.  There were times, during school celebrations, when I have seen boy and girl walk complacently side by side on their pilgrimage, separating only as they reached the proper door.  As I think of these incidents, the soundtrack of my memory seems to play the haunting refrain of a once-popular song:

‘Two by two they go marching through….

Yes, business was always good at the outdoorsie.  It it had been a private enterprise, the manager would have had it made, even though he might have had the dubious title of Johnny Manager!

JOHN DODSON TAYLOR, JR.

Leaves in the Wind, pages 12-13

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