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Remember When: Horton pulls off an ‘egg-citing’ street trick

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By W.B. Evans

Editor’s note: This Remember When column was originally published in the June 19, 2008, edition of The Lancaster News. Given it’s relevance to how Main Street and downtown Lancaster was in its heyday, we thought our readers would enjoy reading it again.

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A crowd had already gathered down on Main Street at the Corner Drug Store.

Something was going on. 

Sweating men in Panama and flat-top straw hats with rolled-up shirt sleeves were huddled together.

Maybe someone had robbed “The Old Reliable,” I thought, as I saw bank cashier John Poag make a beeline toward Pierce Horton’s drug store.

Curious young’un that I was, I headed that way, too.

Since I was right short, I was able to scramble unnoticed between legs and weave through some empty spaces to get a bird’s eye view of the action.

Something was definitely up and scrambled was the word to describe it.

There – in front of the drug store – stood fire chief Crawford Billings, local businessmen Ben Hough, T.C. Hicks, John Edwards (dressed as usual in black), Fred Vaughn, Tommy Witherspoon, Fred Thomas, Clyde Funderburk, Tom Myers, Bob Weeks and Mr. Bucklelew.

They were all staring down at the ground. It seems these men had bet on whether Horton could fry an egg on the cement walkway.

And he just about did. 

Doggone, if Horton didn’t get a soft boiled (sort of) egg out of the deal. 

Yes sir, it was hot enough that June morning to fry a rooster bullet on Main Street and it was big news.

Sure as shooting, the next edition of The Lancaster News had a nice picture of the whole thing. However, I was disappointed. Given my vantage point of the whole thing, I wondered why I wasn’t in the picture. 

I vowed at that precise moment there was coming a day my photograph would grace every Sunday paper. That’s enough of that foolishness.

There was tons of stuff was going on during that humid summer. Lemonade stands were sprouting up like weeds in every neighborhood.

Now, it was a given that some of it was better than others. Just like today, there were guys trying to push off sour stuff for real lemonade. It was hot everywhere, too. 

Mr. Gregory was turning out huge blocks of ice for delivery throughout the city. Our little G.E. oscillating fan was doing its best, but it was missing the boat. 

It’s no wonder Daddy saw red when he caught me standing in front of the open refrigerator trying to get a little coolness.

None of the Main Street stores operated by those fellows with the rolled-up sleeves were air-conditioned.

The only thing air cooled at the time was the picture show.

And driving around was an option; folks rolled down car windows and opened up the air vent, but it was so hot that it didn’t do a lot of good. 

Sunday school assembly rooms had those big, black slow moving fans hanging down from the ceiling.

In “big church,” those little fans were stirring up the heat waves and all the ladies had their funeral home fans swirling.

After church and Sunday dinner, the older folks sat in front porch rockers while we children ran naked (almost) and barefoot through streams of hose-pipe water.

Grown folks working in the cotton mill had to get used to the heat, too. There were no fans or air conditioning in the offices and the only breeze coming from the looms was hot. We were all baking.

Reddy Kilowatt, the Duke Power mascot, might could “take the dust, dirt and germs away,” but this heat was another thing.

Window air conditioners that would one day be traded out for central air and heat systems were still a long way off.

Summertime was here, it was hot and that’s just the way it was.

 

– W.B. “Bill” Evans is a columnist for The Lancaster News