Tattle Tales by Noah: Flat Startles Morton

Staff Writer
Morton Times-News

Pins were flying on all six lanes at Louie Knoll’s bowling alley and a scrumptious burger aroma was oozing from Smitty’s eatery.

It was Baer’s Café and The Grill by day and the bowling alley lunch counter at night. I remember seeing my first jukebox at The Grill and hearing “Sioux City Sue” belted out by the one and only Gene Autry.

Indeed, Al and Jo Schmidgall had a most popular lunch counter and patrons soon noted an affectionate husband-wife team.

Louie and Bob Knoll were the proprietors of a bowling alley success from day one. Bob’s wife, Dorothy, was a heartwarming receptionist who shared the hospitality role with Jo Schmidgall at the lunch counter.

In the 1940s, these two gals assured “success” in Morton’s newest venture.

Doc Buehler was Morton’s only veterinarian and he’d treat anything from mules to a sick dog. His home and business was on North Main about a block from Miller’s flower shop and he was well known as a sportsman about town.

Doc liked to bowl and this writer enjoyed making Peoria Journal drops at his front door.

A school chum (Don Reilly) stood at my side ordering a delectable from Smitty’s grill when the bowling alley door swung open. I saw a look on Lloyd Fort’s face I’ll never forget as he announced that Doc Buehler and his son, John, had just been killed on the Mackinaw blacktop.

It seems they had been down on the Mackinaw River fishing and Doc’s wife had tagged along. About halfway home they encountered a flat tire which was quite common during the war years. Most tires were recapped, which was a new tread applied.

It was suppertime so darkness had fallen and both Doc and son, John, were leaning inside the trunk to retrieve a spare tire. Doc’s wife was holding a flashlight and jumped aside when a car rear-ended them. Mrs. Buehler suffered a broken arm.

In Knoll’s alley you could’ve hear a pin drop as activity ended abruptly.

Jokes back in the 30s were targeted at “old maids” and “farmer’s daughters,” two of the least deserving I’d say. Gutter talk was about old maid school teachers or traveling salesmen down on the farm as if “women” were the wretches of the universe.

These weren’t always the kindest of jokes and some were downright rotten.

Back then it was okay for a man to be a bachelor as he was on the prowl for any loose Millie and willing to play the Tarzan role. Morton had bachelors as did neighboring towns, but one who particularly comes to mind was known as yodeling Sam Musselman.

Most everyone knew yodeling Sam as the “musical man” who packed a French harp and squeeze box on his walks about town. Sam made “music” on both instruments but played few renditions of Mozart.

Young and old alike called on Sam to whip out his harp and play Buffalo Gal. Sam was a Morton treasure.

Harley Hasty made U.S. mail drops to Morton dwellings in the late 30s by hanging a leather bag over his shoulder and braving the worst of Illinois weather. Back then nary a man (or beast) could halt a mail drop but TODAY the mail is even stopped on President’s Day.

Mailmen walked in the ole days and fought off biting dogs, yet pretending it didn’t really matter. Who could forget Harley, a handsome clean-cut member of the Hasty family who always had a warm greeting for both kids and grown-ups.

Few (today) have seen door to door mail drops on the hoof.

Harley married young and died young but had an explosive impact on our community. His wife, Doris, could have been a Miss Illinois as she was a gorgeous lady.

Blocks of ice are no longer a door to door delivery and milk products ended shortly thereafter as personal services soon eroded.

Eleanor Getz was a classmate and her family had the only dry cleaning in town making door to door drops of clean garments.

I ask today’s merchants, “how cool was that?”