Sunday, May 25, 2014

Clothesline Night


For all its virtues, the Internet has a heavy bias for information created after it came into existence.  Some of this is slowly correcting itself.  When I first came online, I discovered that it contained more references to me than to Konrad Lorenz.  This deplorable situation is, I believe, no more.

Other distortions remain.  If you search online for Clothesline Night -- much less Bean Day -- you'll find next to nothing.  But in the Winooski, Vermont, of my youth it was a very big deal indeed, the opening of the season of vandalism centered on Halloween.

And what was Clothesline Night, you ask?  It was the night when boys ran through the neighborhood with knives (all boys had pocketknives then), cutting every clothesline they found in pieces.  It was definitely a Vermont thing.  My family came to Winooski from Schenectady, New York, and found out about this quaint custom their first year there.  Old-timers all knew to take their clotheslines in the night.

I am the most honest of men.  But it appears that I do not have a trustworthy aspect.  Long ago I learned that if I told somebody it was a beautiful day out, they'd grab their umbrella.  This is a cross I've learned to live with.  Occasionally, I make money by betting that I'm telling the truth.

So it was a particular pleasure to discover the following paired items from the Moberly (Missour) Monitor Index of November 19, 1934, in a column titled AROUND TOWN WITH GOETZE JETER:
HERE'S one for you! It was that always-anticipated "Clothesline Night" before Halloween and the (what scientists term “identical”) twin sons of a certain w. k. local family were out for a lark.
Armed with a pocketknife – surreptitiously sneaked out of t h e house – and accompanied by other youngsters of their neighborhood they set off on a snipping expedition. They had grand sport until they reached one south-side residence.
There they encountered a clothesline that defied the pocketknife, It was made of wire.
Temporarily stumped, one of the twins solved the problem. Knocking at the front door he asked if he could borrow a pair of pliers. They were given to him. He retired to the rear of the house, put them into action, returned to the door with them, extended his thanks for their loan very solemnly and disappeared.
And with him – so the dismayed householders discovered the next morning – had gone their coil of clothesline!

EVERY story has a sequel – and this is this one's.
            Knowing the twins well, the householders still can't place the blame for the trick. The appearance of the twins is so similar they haven't yet remembered which one came to their door that night.
            And the twins haven't confessed. As yet!

I share this with you in the hope that somebody else might step forward to share memories of this revered old holiday which, inexplicably, seems to have faded into obscurity.

The explication of Bean Day I shall leave for another time.

Incidentally, I rather like ol' Goetze.  He seems to have been a man with a sense of humor.

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