Archived Story

‘Cardinal Charlie’: Party line ‘rubbering’ and a faux circus performer

Published 9:50pm Wednesday, July 27, 2011

As a boy, our family had no car, so we used “ol’ Shanks mare.”

gillWe had to walk when we went to town.

Once, our friend Charles Price, whom I was named after, told what a rotten little scamp I was, and he always called me Muggins.

I’ve been a longtime admirer of the comic Blondie that was created by cartoonist Chick Young in 1930.

I still sometimes make me a Dagwood sandwich, like Dagwood Bumstead used to make.

Ya know what, it seems my (senior moments) have really increased, due to my getting more senior every day as I get older.

Did you ever hear of the practice of “rubbering?”

It was in the days of telephones when a person would listen in on the party line of a neighbor.

Remember when we used to have two or more all on the same line?

If I remember right, as we were just learning to read, we had what was called the reading circle.

We would sit in a circle with our little chairs and just read for about an hour each day.

Also, I can still remember the “Weekly Reader.”

I bet it’s gone its way.

In my mind, I can still envision Dorothy Lee, our old kindergarten teacher at Oak Street School, reading to us as we sat cross-legged on the floor in front of her.

Another thing I recall was how we used to make a map of the United States using flour, salt and water to make a paste.

You could build it up to make the mountains.

I can remember how scared I used to be when asked to stand up and talk or read in front of the class, but not anymore.

Peg says now when I get talking, I don’t know enough to quit.

Something my wife and I remembered was when our boys used to go to Dr. Neff, our dentist. He would always give the boys little white things he made out of what looked like plaster of Paris.

He molded different little animals, and then the kids could paint them.

Recently, I had a visitor, an old Dowagiac resident and in our reminiscing old Dowagiac characters, she asked me if I remembered a Bob somebody who pretended he was a circus performer and always had a bunch following him, as he would pretend he was balancing himself on a tight wire.

Anyway, neither of us could remember Bob’s last name, and I got a letter from my friend and she said it was Bob Crawford.

This brought back to my mind, it was Dr. Neff who once asked me if I ever knew Bob Crawford and he told me all about him. He was one guy I never got to see.

Remember when you used to put on an extra pair of socks in the cold winter and then cover them with bread covers inside your winter boots to keep your feet warm and dry?

Hey, folks, were those “Good Old Days” really the good old days? In my recollection, they sure were.

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. E-mail him at

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