I first saw that Littlestown was part of
a great country in the fall of 1884. The Presidential Election
of that year had the town all agog. Almost overnight every
boy in town seemed to be wearing a dark blue, high-crowned
cap with gold letters naming the candidate of his choice
stamped on it. Almost overnight they suddenly disappeared!
The color was not fast and all were walking around with a
dark blue band on their foreheads.
Each party had a big torch-light parade before the election.
Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate, won. Being
out of office for more than twenty years, they put on a
real parade, with all types of pranks, mimicking the losers.
This wound up with an ox roast on the race track.
By the middle 1880's, Littlestown was beginning to feel
the effects of a waning boom, which starters in the late
1860's due to the railroad connection with Hanover. The
town had become the receiving and shipping center for a
large north, south and west area. It was during this period
that practically all of the three-story buildings were
erected. During the 1870's the town had enthusiastically
supported the extension of the road to Frederick, thinking
that they would draw from a greater area. They forgot that
the trains could go straight through.
During this period Littlestown was not lacking in its
amusements and entertainments for both young and old. Though
experiencing the effects of the waning boom, the town still
had plenty of bounce. An outstanding event was the building
of the Fire Engine House with its fire alarm bell and the
hand-pump engine with its rows of rubber buckets and boots.
The fire bell with its distinct signal for each street
was exciting; so was the remarkable job the firemen did
passing the rubber buckets from the water pump and the
four men on each side of the engine working the levers.
The dedication of this building was quite an event for
the town. There were bands and fire companies from the
adjoining towns. The event wound up in McSherry's Woods
where all such events wound up in those days. This woods
during this period was a popular meeting place on social
There was quite a sporting element in the town during
the 1880's. The horse and buggy was at its height. Fox
chasing was a popular sport and the race track was built.
We had running and trotting races, high wheeled and tandem
bicycle races, foot and walking races and also a professional
ball club that played larger towns like York, Harrisburg,
Frederick. In those days, the streets of Littlestown were
lined with trees. It was the custom during the summer months
for people to rush through the evening meal and then sit
on the front porch. The more fortunate young men with their
fine horses and buggies took their girl friends for a drive
up and down the streets, generally stirring up the dust.
But they were not fortunate enough to hear the comments
from the porches, like the young men and girls who promenaded
the pavements. When passing a porch with a group on it
and then tarrying in the dark spot, they could get a good
record of their pedigree, especially if there were someone
who were hard of hearing on he porch.
Before 1890, East and West King Street was a mud road
with stone crossings at intervals. North and South Queen
Street was part of the Baltimore Pike but not much better.
A popular sport was for the young men to watch the girls
cross the square and have to raise their skirts above their
high-top shoes. Some of the more daring girls would give
them a thrill.
In the late 1880's, traction engine and threshing machine
went up East King Street and stuck in the mud a little
on this side of the engine house, remaining there for nearly
a month. After that East King and West King streets were
Bob-sleighing on Toll Gate Hill, at the bottom of South
Queen Street, was very popular. Sometimes as many as 100
young people would be there at one time. They had sleds
that held twelve and ware guided by the front man. They
would get quite a speed. When they hit a breaker. the sled
would jump twenty feet. It was a big thrill and sometimes
a big spill. Ice skating was very popular in those days,
as were block sled parties, visiting neighboring towns.
Mehring's Skating rink was a favorite meeting place for
skating; also theatre groups would come and play such thrilling
melodramas as The Danites, East Lynne, The Convict's Daughter,
Ten Nights in a Bar Room, etc. Itinerant amusements were
always coming through town, such as a man with a bear,
a grind organ sometimes with a monkey, singing groups,
and very often a violinist with a harpist. One such was
Italian Joe with his harpist. Whenever he came to town,
the young men would have a dance in the skating rink starting
off with a grand march. The floor of the rink, being gritty
for skating, had to be cleaned and waxed for dancing, and
then again cleaned and chalked for skating.
It was the custom in those days for a farmers on retirement
to move to town. Possibly 40% of the families had one or
more horses; about 25% had a cow or more; practically all
had hogs and chickens. Some families had grazing lots near
town. During the summer you could see the cows driven out
in the morning and brought back in the evening. Many had
what were known as spring wagons, also two-horse wagons
and carts. These were stored in open shreds or in alleys
back of their lots.
A custom that was unique in Littlestown developed in the
early 80's and followed through until about 1900. When
a couple was married at home or when they returned from
their honeymoon., the bridegroom was presented with a note
requesting a donation for one or two kegs of beer, depending
on his resources. If he refused, the bride and groom were
in for what was known as a 'blockade.' This consisted of
gathering all loose wagons and picking up anything else
that was loose along the way. (A very popular item was
that square upright building at the end of the lot). These
things were put in front of the home, sometimes piled up
to the second story and nearly across the street. The big
ones even attracted visitors from surrounding towns. In
fact, there were times when a week would pass before all
possessions could be reclaimed.
This was the era when picnics, outings, and excursions
were popular in the summer and there were parties, social
gatherings, spelling bees, and debates for groups of all
ages. Yes those were the good old days when you would walk
three or four blocks on a cold winter evening to visit
friends or relatives. You walked home stimulated mentally
and refreshed physically. Today when you make that very
occasional visit, you are rushed to a seat in front of
the television. Should you make a casual remark, you are
made aware that you are interrupting the program. After
absorbing several re-run Westerns, a 1920 gangster movie,
and the antics of a senile comedian, you give your "good-nite" after
your conversation of "good-evening." You get
in your car in a semi-conscious state to drive the one
half block home, and then retire to a fretful sleep, wondering
if you can meet the next installment.
Yes, those were the good old days when you could take
your girl for a buggy ride, and returning home by moonlight,
you could wrap the lines around the whip socket and have
confidence that Old Dobbin would bring you safely home,
and not have your companion saying "John, keep your
hands on the wheel."