Keep reading ’til the part about biscuits and ducks

One of our god-nieces will soon celebrate her birthday. Her big sister — and I think they have the dynamic where they work and play well together, while also each delighting in pushing the other’s buttons, but if one of them gets picked on by someone else there will be H- E- double-hockey-sticks to pay — asked us to make a video. It was a sweet thought by an older sister, and so we made a little video.

We would have made the video anyway, because the kid can’t have a proper birthday party under stay-at-home orders, but mostly I want to point out how awesome the pre-teen is in all of this. They’re both swell, really. Cool kids, except for the pushing-each-others-buttons part, but I understand that’s part of the sibling deal.

Anyway, all of that to say there were multiple takes of this video. And there were outtakes. Here is one clip, and to honor the motif of multiple takes, I have uploaded and deleted and re-uploaded several different versions of this, which is brilliant in a meta-sort of way.

Right after this The Yankee says “I didn’t know which key to start in.”

Kazoos, y’all.

And then she asks if I want to start the video over again, because she’s considerate like that. I got to use one of my most recent trusty throwaway lines. I can handle it; I’m a professional.

It was funny and we’re still giggling about it and I could watch her laugh all day.

Besides, if you don’t emerge from their stay-at-home orders without at least a half-dozen new stories and three traditions and 15 new inside jokes then you’re just not enjoying your time.

Let’s look at the paper. We’re falling through a rift in the Internet’s space-time continuum, which intersects with so many rabbit holes, and we’re falling out, oddly enough, in this same town, on this same date, 111 years ago, 1909.

Yes, friends, people read the newspaper, even when it looked like this. And, for 1909, and for a very basic rag such as the Evening World, this has a lot of design elements on the front page. And front page ads! ¡Qué horror!

People were starved for information, as you’ll see, or they just wanted to take a break from whatever else they had to do, so they pored over every word. Like … the only sports story, and one of the few news pieces in the whole paper.

It goes on like that for a while. Coach Roach didn’t say the victors, in-state rival Purdue, were better at baseball. His players were just distracted, see. Wommins. Perfume. Fluffy clothes. Have you seen their corseted figures? And also the fans, including the “girls,” which are fine enough for a university, should have been there to cheer his men on the diamond. His lovestruck, distracted men.

Skel Roach played professional baseball for 10 years, including one game in the bigs, for the Chicago Orphans, which was three years prior to a newspaper re-nicknamed them the Cubs. And, you know, baseball is wild about statistics … let’s see if we can take a quick detour … Orphans beat the Washington Senators 6-3 in his one game. Roach was the winning pitcher. He threw a complete game, which didn’t even merit mention back then, he allowed three runs on 13 hits and was never seen again. Couldn’t agree on a salary with the club. He got shipped to the Orphans because their star pitcher was hurt. He was 27 at the time, and he played for six more years, but that was his high water mark as a player, a career that tallied 133 wins in the minors and across the prairie leagues. He coached throughout the midwest, studied the law and practiced in Chicago.

He got married just two months after this story about lovey dovey players not being hardened enough for matters of sport was published. It was his first year on campus, and he’d stay for three seasons, practicing law in Chicago around the demands of baseball. Apparently his time at IU marked the Hoosiers’ first success on the diamond, this criticism notwithstanding. He’d go on to practice law for 35 years and serve several terms as a judge in Illinois. He died in 1958.

Edwin Shelmadine was fighting for himself, and everyone like him. And he wasn’t going to give up.

Congress approved the increase for Shelmadine the previous March alongside a host of other veterans and widows. He was upgraded to $30 a month. His obituary talks about how he was hanging on to sign that first pension check, taking medicine he didn’t like to live for that happy moment, and he did, but only just. He went out for a buggy ride that same day with a friend and died.

His unit, the 48th Regiment of the Indiana Infantry, fought at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, was a part of Sherman’s March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign. I wonder how many of those he was a part of.

Curious thing: the roster for the unit lists an Edward Shishmadine, who mustered in as a private in December 1861 and left as a sergeant in 1865. His obit, where he’s Edwin Shilmade, (just like the paper and the Congressional record) says he mustered into the service in October 1861. What’s a few months and a completely different name at a remove of 58 years?

Shelmadine was a shoemaker. His obit tells us he had three wives. His first died during the war, then came a separation and his last wife survived him. Apparently he met all three in the same house. Presumably not at the same time.

I wonder what people from 1909 would think about the steps you have to undertake to offload a house these days:

Here’s that spot in the summer of 2014:

I wonder if it is any of those houses. Probably not.

Anyway, more from this paper after an advertisement from … the same paper …

Royal merged with Fleischmann’s and a few others to create the giant Standard Brands on the way to becoming the modern version of Nabisco in 1981. Royal is still marketed today.

Those are the most interesting things on the front page. Told you it was a rag. Well, there was a criminal conviction. A gentleman found his wife and another man in a hotel, which probably means a rough shack just off the road in 1909. He killed the other guy and pleaded insanity. Six of the jurors agreed, but the other three weren’t buying it and manslaughter was listed as a compromise conviction. His name was Good, even if neither he nor his wife particularly were at the fateful moment. But I don’t know what happened to him after his conviction and his wife isn’t name. No story, no clipping. And, really, that completes the interesting portion of the front page.

Let’s go inside!

Page two is a serial part of a feature following Theodore Roosevelt’s African safari. It’s literally history in the sense that, if you’ve read Roosevelt, or about him, you know that material. (If you haven’t, I recommend Edmund Morris’ Roosevelt trilogy. There aren’t many people, even presidents, who deserve that much copy from one author, but Roosevelt may, and Morris is the man for the job. Terrific work.) Moving on!

Page two also had a piece about a princess of Prussia who had to soon decide on a husband. Her family was going to be out of power soon anyway and she spent the rest of her days making socialite-style appearances and I’m sure it was all very lovely and worthwhile to the people in this area as there were a fair amount of German immigrants, but it seems a bit odd and gossipy, today, to speculate on a 16-year-old girl’s marital ambitions.

But this … There must have been some story here.

There’s just something so precise about this little brief. Not just the chairs, but the 114 of them. And there’s something so declaratively stern about that. It’s almost like the paper is saying “We’re too chuffed to bring it up again, but you know what happened, dear reader.” Surely people read about this in a previous issue.

It’d be a fool’s errand to try to figure out what happened, or whatever became of the chairs.

I’m not that foolish.

Page three had a serial installment of a book that was published in 1902. Why people are reading about it here, in the paper, in 1909 escapes me. They could just as easily order it from Amazon. The chapter in this edition of the paper is about a guy loading up a board of directors. And the book is called The Minority, so I just assume it goes on and on for pages about proxy votes and what not. None of the dialog is particularly interesting, so I won’t quote it. But, if you’re intrigued by my description

The back page of the paper has a lot of those society listings which just seem to grow more odd to our modern eyes with every passing year. This note was one of them.

No idea what became of St. John, but I am sure she was a proud mother. Regester graduated from law school in 1905, ran for judge a few times and finally sat on the bench late in his career. He was also a state lawmaker and just had the look of an important man.

I wonder if you had to pay extra for all of that stuff around your ad:

Several new stores had recently opened. Most of the proprietors only shelled out for the brief text mentions. Not these guys.

No idea how long their store lasted. They had a great spot though, two blocks from the courthouse at the center of it all. There’s an auto parts place there now.

Did someone say biscuits?

If that illustration makes you uncomfortable, welcome to the precursor of General Mills! Gold Brand started after they won some big flour awards in 1880, so the label still had a meaning, perhaps. So grand is General Mills’ reach that on Wikipedia the subhead “Aeronautical Research Division and Electronics Division” comes before the diversification subhead.

All of it started with a guy who was a soldier and a businessman and a politician and had a great name, Cadwallader Colden Washburn, who worked alongside a businessman with a very regular-sounding name, John Crosby. They built something big. One of their successors, a Minnesota man named James Ford Bell, got the job the old-fashioned way, nepotism. Bell started working there in 1901. When his old man died in 1915 he became the vice president. In 1928 Bell started General Mills. He’d also play a part in Herbert Hoover’s European Hunger Relief Mission in 1918, worked in the FDA and perfected the look of a gangster. There’s a library and a museum at his university named after him. Big duck hunter too.

You know what sounds like a duck call, if you work at it a great deal? Kazoos.

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