The Circus

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, June 1, 1911:

Of all the months, my favorite is

The radiant glorious month of June.

How many are the joys it brings,

And also tells that the year is noon.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Ruth and I went to the circus, accompanied by Miss R. O. You see my darling sister sometimes changes her mind for the better. I though the circus was great even if you did blow 60 cents.

Article in June 1, 1911 issue of the Milton Evening Standard.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Yeah! I’m glad that Grandma was able to go to the circus after all. R.O. refers to Rachel Oakes—a friend of Grandma and her sister.

The circus came to Milton on the train. There then was a parade as the entertainers, the animals, and their equipment went through town to the fairground (where the actual circus was held).

Recent photo of railroad tracks and an old railroad station building. A hundred years ago today, the circus train probably sat on a siding here--and the parade would have begun in this area.

The parade apparently was awesome and the focus of the front page story in the June 1, 1911 edition of the Milton Evening Standard.

Somewhat surprisingly there don’t seem to be photos of the actual circus in either the June 1 or June 2 issue of the paper. I suppose the paper “went to bed” too early for photos on June 1—though I’m not sure why there were none on June 2. Maybe newspaper photographers weren’t allowed under the big tent to help encourage people to buy tickets and attend the circus rather than just viewing it vicariously by reading the newspaper.

It sounds like Grandma enjoyed the circus—though she doesn’t seem ecstatic about it since she mentions blowing 60 cents. She seems to doing some sort of cost-benefit analysis in her head—and almost wishing that she still had the 60 cents.

Sixty cents  in 1911 dollars would be about $17 in 2011. A dollar today is worth about 1/28th what it was worth a hundred years ago. In other words, there has been an average annual inflation rate of 3.4% per year over the past hundred years.

The Circus is Coming! But May Not Go :(

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, May 31, 1911: Was so very disappointed this evening. Ruth said she was not going to the circus which is to be held this month at the Milton fairground, and I intended to go if she would go.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Ad in May 27, 1911 issue of Milton Evening Standard

Riverside Park

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, May 27, 1911: Went to Watsontown this morning, and up to McEwensville this afternoon. Oh the countless errands I have to perform keeps me rather busy. Ruth went to Riverside park.

Source of old Riverside Park postcards: Milton Historical Society

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

A hundred years ago today, it sounds as if Grandma’s sister Ruth had all the fun—and Grandma had all of the work. I wonder if Ruth got home in time to help milk the cows—or if Grandma had to do it by herself.

Riverside Park

When Grandma was young, Riverside Park was the center of the summer social scene.

A trolley ran between Watsontown and Milton. According to Robert Swope, Jr.”

The line passed through a popular recreational park called Riverside Park just south of Watsontown. The park had amusements, swimming, boating and romantic scenery.

 Robert Swope, Jr. in Watsontown, McEwensville, and Delaware Township: A Real Photo Postcard History

The park was only open during the summer months—and probably had just opened for the season. An article in the Watsontown Star and Record from three years later describes the park opening.

Watsontown Star and Record, May 15, 1914 (Source: Montgomery House Library)

Riverside Park was located near the current location of Fort Boone Campsites.

Running Errands

When I was growing up on a farm, after I got my driver’s license,  I remember clearly how farm machinery broke with maddening frequency—and how I’d be sent on errands to buy the needed parts. In Grandma’s day, farm machinery wouldn’t have been nearly as mechanized, but maybe repairs still needed to be purchased—or maybe the errands were totally unrelated to machinery repairs. . .

No Dentist (Again), So Onward to the Bijou Dream Theater

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, May 13, 1911: I went to Milton this afternoon to get my teeth filled, but it happened to be a wild goose chase, for he wasn’t there. I walked around town until I was tired, then went into Bijou Dream. I’m so very tired now. Oh, dear.

Advertising Ruler from Bijou Dream Theater (Source: Milton Historical Society)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma’s not having much luck getting her tooth filled. This is the second time that she went to Milton to see the dentist, but he wasn’t there (see the May 6 entry); and she’s been complaining on and off about a toothache since mid-April (see April 11, April 15, and April 18 entries). I can’t imagine this kind of delay in treating a toothache today—I guess some things are definitely better now.

But at least Grandma got to go to the movies at the Bijou Dream two Saturday’s in a row.  The  previous week when she tried unsuccessfully to go to the dentist was also a Saturday—and that time she also ended up going to the Bijou Dream. Now that I think about it, I wonder if the fact that she kept trying to go to the dentist on a Saturday was at least part of the reason that she had difficulty finding him in his office.

Photo of Bijou Dream Theater in book called Milton 1909 that was published by the Milton Evening Standard (Source: Milton Historical Society).

George Venios has the photo of the Bijou Dream Theater in his book, Milton Chronicles and Legends. His caption says:

 The entrance to the Bijou Dream Theater, which was located on Broadway at the same site as the Capitol. It was a converted livery stable. On hot summer days, the unmistakable smell of the stable would return.

Bijou Dream Theatre

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, May 6, 1911: Ruth and I went to Milton this afternoon. I wanted to get my teeth filled but as the dentist was absent I was forced to wait until another day. While there we went into the theatre on Broadway.

Bijou Dream Theatre Ticket (Source: Milton Historical Society)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I get caught up in the story of Grandma’s life—and have worried that she has had a toothache since April 11 (and again mentions the pain on April 15 and 18), but has not treated it.

I feel relieved that Grandma finally tried to visit the dentist—and disappointed that he wasn’t there. (I guess this was the era before appointments.) Hopefully she’ll goon get the tooth fixed.

The Movies

In 1911 Milton had a movie theater on Broadway called the Bijou Dream that showed silent movies.

Advertisement in Milton Evening Standard, May 5, 1911

It looks like four short films were being shown in May 1911. In case it’s difficult to read the description of the movies in the photo above, I’ll reprint the description for  the first movie.

 No. 1. The Mother—

The home of a lonely widow is visited by gossipy neighbors, conveying the sad news of the conviction of her only son on a charge of murder—a son she had not seen for fifteen years, and had mourned as dead. The devotion of a mother’s undying love for her boy, and determination not to desert him in the hour of need, is aroused. Going to the prison she pleads to see her boy. To save her breaking heart, the son does not recognize her as his mother, that he may save her disgrace and pain. She is not convinced and leaves heavy hearted, but ever determined. She hastens to the governor and intercedes, but of no avail. The death warrant is read, and all preparation for the execution made, when the governor receives a telegram that the real murderer has made a deathbed confession to save the innocent man. Phone is out of order and a human life is at stake. The governor’s daughter makes a wild ride and reaches the prison just in time with the reprieve.

Whew, what melodrama in the old silent films. I can almost hear dramatic music (played by a live pianist) reaching a crescendo as the governor’s daughter makes the wild ride trying to reach the prison before the execution.

Milton A Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, May 2, 1911: Ruth and I went to Milton this morning. Her highness got a dress and a pair of pumps. Don’t know when I will get mine, perhaps next winter.

Postcard showing Marsh Shoe Store in Milton a hundred years ago (postally used December, 1910).
Advertisement in Milton Evening Standard, May 4, 1911

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

We’re five months into the diary–and even though Milton is probably only about 5 miles from the Muffly farm–this is the first time that it is mentioned in the diary. The only towns previously mentioned were McEwensville, Watsontown, and Turbotville. Whew, by today’s standards, Grandma never got very far from her home.

A trip to Milton probably felt like a trip to the big city.

A hundred years ago Milton had a humming downtown with lots of wonderful stores. Back then there were trolley tracks that ran between Watsontown and Milton, so Grandma and her sister Ruth probably walked to Watsontown and then took the trolley to Milton.

Milton Postcard, circa 1911 (Source: Milton Historical Society)

The trolley system was dismantled a few years after the diary was written:

 With the automobile came on the scene in the early years of the twentieth century, the trolley business began to slack. After a sharp decline in business, the L.M. & W. trolley company changed to gasoline buses in 1922. Even the buses couldn’t complete with the automobile and service ended in the early 1930s.

George Venios in Chronicles and Legends of Milton (2002)

An aside: I had a wonderful visit with George Venios, Deb Owens, and Joan Nunn at the Milton Historical Society yesterday. I enjoyed learning more about Milton, and they shared many wonderful artifacts with me including the early postcard in today’s posting. Additional Milton pictures from the historical society will illustrate future posts. Thank you!

I’d also like to thank the Milton Public Library and the Montgomery House Library for their awesome assistance with finding and navigating my way through old issues of the Milton Evening Standard and the Watsontown Record and Star. I’ll be periodically sharing materials from those newspapers.