In the Oct. 1, 1936, edition of the Gallatin Democrat, a former Gallatin man reminiscences about days gone by which now offers a glimpse into hometown details long forgotten. Dr. Seiden Stout of Maumeo, Ohio, wrote the following after visiting Gallatin the previous month (September, 1936). The article recalls many of the historic places in Gallatin together with citizens of former years in an intensely engaging and unique way:
Do you remember when John H. Townsend used to run the Gallatin Dry Goods and Grocery Co., over on the southeast corner of the square, and Billy Osborn was manager of the dry goods department, D.H. Gilchrist of the grocery, and C.A. Stout of clothing, boots and shoes, and Henry Brooks the porter?
Do you remember that J.H. Townsend had the first telephone in Gallatin. It was connected from the store to his home, and when he wanted to talk over the phone he rapped on the front of the little box office and this made a noise at the other end and notified them?
And do you recall that later on, when more phones came into use, an exchange was established at the cashier’s desk at the Gallatin Dry Goods & Grocery Company, and then as it grew the exchange was moved upstairs and was operated by Walter Townsend?
Do you remember the Arbelia Opera House which was upstairs in the Townsend block, and was named after Mrs. Townsend? Do you recall the troupes that came for a Saturday night stand with matinee in the afternoon, and generally they carried their own brass band and gave concerts on the corner of the square just before the show started both in the afternoon and evening? This writer remembers seeing such shows as Uncle Tom’s Cabin with the big blood hounds in the parade at 12 o’clock noon, Human Hearts, Uncle Josh, not to mention many home talent and school affairs that were given in the old opera house. And do you recall that the opera house, the stage and footlights were lighted with artificial gas?
Do you remember the old McClaskey bus barn just across the alley from the Townsend block, and do you recall the old busses which plied back and forth to the Rock Island and Wabash depots? And if you wanted to be taken to a certain train, your name was written on a blackboard in the office so the driver would not forget you? And do you recall that your baggage was carried on top of the bus and the driver controlled the opening and closing of the door by a strap that ran up to his seat, and to keep the door closed he sat on the strap? Do you recall the little coal lamp up in the front end to give light inside the door?
Do you remember the one and only cab that Gallatin possessed which was used for the chief mourners at a funeral or the bride and groom at a wedding? Do you recall when J.H. Townsend would have the top let down and take his entire family out for a Sunday afternoon drive? When not in use this cab was used for funerals and a span of fine black horses was driven to it. When used for a wedding, a span of white horses was driven. The writer remembers that when he was 4 years old he took a trip to Kentucky with his mother and when about to return his father wrote that he would meet them at the station with the cab and four horses and a plug hat, and so he did. Do you remember that the train on the Wabash called the “Dude?”
Do you remember when the courthouse square was a public park with a bandstand in the center? Do you recall the ice cream socials given by the church ladies in the park and the Japanese lanterns strung among the trees to give light? Do you remember that the ice cream was homemade, frozen in a huge freezer and the freezer turned by a big wheel on the outside of it?
Do you remember the Gallatin street fairs that were held in the park and streets around the square, and on the north side of the park was a stage built for the free shows, and out in front of the stage were board seats erected for the public, first come, first served? And for the amusement of the people there were negro cake walkers, magicians, public speakers, etc.?
Do you remember the balloon ascensions and parachute leaps at these street fairs, and do you remember the time that the man who had been going up daily decided to put on an extra attraction and send up his wife and she was to cut loose her parachute when he (her husband) below fired off his revolver, but that there was quite a bit of uneasiness among the crowd when she did not cut loose after he had fired several shots? Finally, she did cut loose and came down in an apple tree in the yard of Lewis Kenne in east Gallatin, and she said she did not hear the revolver shots and so when she had reached what she thought was high enough she cut loose.