I arrived in a house on South Williams Street in Paulding, Ohio, 17 days after New Years in 1898, missing the twentieth century by just a little less than two years. The house had been built by my father nearly opposite the house where my mother had been born and raised. My birth date, January 17, is the same as that of Benjamin Franklin who was born in 1706. In 1898 our house was the last one on the east side of the street before the road turned west along the bank of the flood plain of Flat Rock Creek. On the west side there were only two houses, my grandmother Bashore's, and, at the corner, the Taylor's. The rest of the block and the area to the west belonged to Uncle Will and we called it Straw's field. When I was three or four Sam and Charles Price, two brothers in the real estate business, built homes opposite the Neeley's who were next to us on the north. Sam's son, Don, became a member of the group of boys who played together in the south end of town. He was the same age as my sister Evalyn.
I can remember quite well living in the house on South Williams Street altho it burned when I was six years old. The house next to ours on the north belonged to Dr. John Neeley, one of the three dentists in town, whose two boys, Corydon and Arthur, were about the same age as my brother Raymond and I. The same type of white picket fence surrounded the yards of both houses as I first remember them. The only other house on the east side of the street then was the Gill Barnes house on a large lot just north of Neeley's which was surrounded by a fancy cast iron fence painted black and gold. Gill Barnes owned a big chunk of Paulding as well as the saw mill just south of us on Flat Rock Creek and several farms in the vicinity. He owned all of the bottom land along the creek back of us where we put our cow out to pasture. I was four or five years old when fences suddenly went out of style; they were all taken down. About the same time, or shortly afterwards, the wooden sidewalks all over town were replaced by stone slabs which had to be fitted in place by men with hammers and chisels. There was a big oak tree in front of our house between the sidewalk and the street and the slabs had to be fitted around it leaving a lot of nice stone chips just the right size to throw. Raymond and I and the two Neeley boys began a contest to see which of us could throw the highest. Unfortunately a pretty good sized chunk of rock I threw into the air came down on Raymond's head and he let out a howl that brought my mother, my grandmother and Aunt Irene running. The stone had cut a big gash in the top of his head and I was scared to death.
I remember one other incident where I got myself in trouble by throwing things. I mUst have been about three as the picket fence between the Neeley's yard and ours was still in place. Corydon and I were in our respective back yards playing when we got into some kind of an argument which resulted in his saying his dad could lick mine and vice versa, then throwing sticks over the fence at each other, leading to the use of small stones and finally I picked up a good sized piece of tile and threw it in his general direction. It hit him on the head and he ran in the house crying. I thought I had killed him. My parents, Grandmother and Aunt Irene all put pressure on me to go over to Neeley's and say I was sorry but I wouldn't even tho I wished we had stuck to throwing sticks. The next day neither of us remembered we had had a quarrel.
Shortly after the stone sidewalks were in place three of the principal streets thru town were paved with bricks, Williams street, where we were, Main street, a block east of us, both running north and south, and Perry Street, running east and west from the bridge over Flat Rock Creek on the east to the western border of town where for many years after automobiles became common, there was a wooden sign reading 8 mi. per hr. Besides these three, Jackson street, a block north of Perry, was paved for three blocks so the courthouse square had pavement on all four sides. We four boys acted as sidewalk superintendents for the paving job as we had for the installation of the sidewalk but none of us tried throwing any bricks. Paving bricks were about twice as thick as an ordinary brick and much denser. It was fascinating to watch the work being done. First horse drawn scoops followed by a crew of men took off about four inches of the dirt road, then wagons brought in loads of nice sand, a rarity in Paulding county which had been a big swamp, and the men smoothed it out evenly with two by fours. At the same time wagons hauled in brick which was stacked along the sidewalks on each side of the street. Finally a crew of about six men laid the brick as fast as a gang of helpers could bring them from the stacks along the sidewalk. The street was paved and ready for use. Those brick streets lasted as long as I lived in Paulding and for several years after. The brick was finally covered with blacktop.
Paulding was the county seat of Paulding County and had about 2,000 population at the time I lived there. So far as I know there was no public water supply until about 1910, at least there was none in our end of town. We got our water from a well in the back yard operated by a chain pump turned by a crank. Neeleys and Gill Barnes had regular pumps with handles that you pumped up and down. Both kinds had to be primed when they dried out and thawed out when they froze in the winter with hot water from a tea kettle. Mother did her washings in an enclosed porch which had doors opening into the kitchen and dining room, the water being heated in a boiler set on the kitchen range. There were no such things as washing machines, of course - we didn't even have electricity until I was about 15 - and Mother did her washing using two round wooden tubs plus a scrub board and a hand wringer which clamped on to the edge of one of the tubs. I believe the first tubs were wood. Only after we moved did we have metal ones. I remember my father bringing home a small turtle one day, about the size of a quarter, and putting it in one of the tubs so Raymond and I could watch it swim. Raymond was still wearing dresses, as all children did until they were about two, and he hadn't learned to talk yet. The whole family stood around the tub watching the little turtle swimming around the circumference of the tub scratching the sides and trying to climb out. After a minute or two all of us went about our daily business leaving Raymond to see to it that the turtle didn't get out. A few minutes later I was playing with some blocks on the sitting room floor when I heard my Grandmother ask, "where's the turtle?" I ran to look in the tub. It was gone; must have climbed up the sides and over the edge. We all started looking, afraid to step on it, first in the laundry room then in the kitchen and finally all over the house. The little green turtle had vanished without a trace. "Well, do tell", said my Grandmother," this is a real mystery." Then she looked at Raymond who had been as busy as the rest of us looking for it; "Raymond" she asked, "what did you do with the turtle?". Raymond kept his mouth shut and look blank. A light dawned on my mother. She went over to Raymond, opened his mouth and there was the turtle alive and well, if perhaps a little scared.