Railroads of Madison County
09 Interurban Lines

Railroads and Interurbans of Northern Madison County

The Street Cars
Garland Dwiggins

I have heard many stories regarding the old interurban street car, some funny and some seriously dangerous. What I am about to write is something I have been told and heard the young men talk and laugh about. I wasn't there.

With nothing else to do, some of these fellows talked about killing the fish just east of town where the street car crossed Lily Creek. They were going to use the trolley line and its several hundred volts of electricity.

They acquired a heavy wire or cable and threw it over the trolley line with one end held in the creek. As it came in contact with the trolley cable it just turned a brilliant white. It scared all of them Harley Cook, the son of Doc Cook, was short, stout and very heavy. He started running through the brush and bushes and it was said he made a path such as a bulldozer or tractor would. These young men had encountered a very dangerous situation and were fortunate to have escaped.

One time I saw the trolley line break at the old Orestes town hall crossing at the far east end of Orestes where the road crossed the tracks. The cable parted with about thirty feet on the hot end and as it came in contact with the ground it burned everything around. The weeds and grass were burnt crisp. It would have killed anything that it touched.

The street car was also a very good friend to the folks around here. I rode the trolley to Elwood to see Ruth before we were married. When there was a heavy snow on the ground and you'd be passing through Dundee, you could look to the north and see the automobiles hung up in the drifts on Highway 28. The trolleys would make trips every hour and that would generally keep the snow cleared from the tracks. Sometimes when the cars weren't too full the conductors would accommodate the passengers. The conductor would let Ruth off nearer to our home rather than the regular stops when our first son Frank was a baby.

42nd Street Night Club

Fred Deal was accustom to moving smoke stacks and other large items around but this time his cargo was five interurbans bound for Monroe township north of Orestes. Their final destination was the northwest corner of State Road 28 and county road 350 West. The wooden trolleys were purchased from the Union Traction Company in Anderson. The trolleys were placed in a square and a roof was placed over them to form a dance floor and night club called 42nd Street. Another was positioned on the north side of the property and served as the quarters for the caretaker. Jolly Thomas was a crippled man that was the caretaker. Three sides were locations for patrons to sit and the other a spot for the band or stage shows to perform.

Russ Paddock recalls seeing the cars as they were transported down Madison Avenue. "I can remember Fred Deal transporting the coaches to Orestes with his chain drive International truck. The truck had solid rubber tires and I could feel the ground shake as they were hauled past our farm. I was just a small boy about seven or eight years old so I expect it was in the middle to late 1920's. I was told that the wheels on the truck would slip and slide as he started up Linwood Road from highway 9, and cut grooves about six inches deep in the gravel road. The cars were brought right by our family farm on Madison Avenue just south of highway 128. It was a site to see."

Prohibition was lifted and alcohol was allowed to be sold outside the city limits of Indiana cities and towns but only for a short period of time. Soon laws restricted the sales to within the city limits and back door bootlegging became quite common. Moonshine, bath-tub gin, and Jasper corn whiskey driven in from the south was available in great abundance and big money bounced around city halls everywhere. Policemen were sold like bananas and councilmen, commissioners, newspapermen, and other officials were as inexpensive. About this time the 42nd Street Night Club was operating near Orestes and was typical of establishments of the time period.

The 42nd Street Night Club was a very rough place named after a business in New York. Eda Bradley was the president of the corporation while Grant E. Whitehead was secretary-treasurer. At the same time Bernard Brady was the sheriff and Cecil Whitehead was the prosecuting attorney. Both were relatives and frequented the business along with other county officials. Certain favors were readily available for the business that was host to big bands, strip shows dogfights, cockfights and lewd parties. Every year there was a party on Ground Hog Day put on by some organization.

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