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Dads Stories: The Early Years

Milestones Vol 26. No. 4

(Recollections from childhood, as told by

Leroy M. 'Roy" Kelbaugh, 1910-1997) Edited by James W Kelbaugh

My father was a committed teller of stores. Of the countless tales he told, the most frequent source by far was his own family - parents, grandparents, brothers, uncles and aunts, cousins, and in-laws. The second oldest of four boys born to Frank and Mabel (Byerle) Kelbaugh, Dad was born in New Brighton and lived in or near that town continuously until he moved to North Carolina after his retirement in 1975. Since his death, my sister Christine Musgrave and I have compiled as many of Dad's stories as we can recall. Following is a selection of stories from his early years, 1915 to 1917.

When Roy was five years old, his family (then just Pap, Mum, and brothers Jim and Karl) lived on a small farm along Grange Road, about a mile north of Dutch Ridge Road. The eldest boy, Jim, was enrolled at Barclay School, a one-room schoolhouse on Tuscarawas Road, near the intersection of Dutch Ridge Road, about two miles from their home. Neither Roy nor younger brother Karl were old enough to be enrolled, and youngest brother Claire (Tay) had not yet been born. The roads then were unpaved and Grange Road was mostly uphill and almost totally shaded by trees. Jim didn't like having to walk to and from school by himself, so he asked Roy to go with him. Roy looked on it as an adventure as long as he could stay there all day so he wouldn't have to walk back by himself. They both agreed they would look out for each other and somehow they convinced their Mum and the teacher it would be OK. But the teacher had two rules: Roy had to sit at a desk in the back of the room and he had to be quiet. So under those conditions, Roy went to school with his older brother, not just that day, but for almost the whole year. The next term, when he officially enrolled in the first grade, he could already read and could write his letters.

A year or so later, they were still living on the farm and Mum had become pregnant again. One day while Pap was at work at the Beaver Valley Traction Company, operators of the trolley systems in much of the county, Jim and Roy were playing around outside. Mum called them to the house and urgently told them, "Run down to Grandpap's and tell Grandma to come quick." (Grandparents Jim and Mary Kelbaugh had a farm about one mile North, near Brady's Run Road). "OK. What for?" "You just tell her I think I'm having a miscarriage."

The boys agreed and set off. But being just boys, they had no idea what was going on. By the time they got to their Grandpap's place all sense of urgency had vanished. Grandma Mary saw them wandering up the lane and called to them, "Hello boys; how's your mother doing?" "OK, I guess. She wants you to come up there right away, though." "Oh, what for?" "I don't know, she just said something about missing the wagon."

Grandma puzzled over that a little bit, then the light dawned. "Oh my God!" she yelled. "Jim! Unhitch that team and get down here and hitch up the wagon. Mabel's had a miscarriage!"

Everyone piled into the wagon and Grandpap Jim drove back to the boys' home. When they arrived they found a neighbor, Mrs. Strock, was already there along with one of her daughters. Mrs. Strock told the girl, "Run back to the house, get your pony and ride down to Heinman's pumping station. Ask to use their telephone, and call Mr. Kelbaugh at the Traction Company. Tell him what's happened and ask him to get the doctor out here right away." (The baby was a girl, still-born.)

Sometime later, the family was still living on the Grange Road farm and Pap decided it was time to buy a horse he could ride to his job at the Traction Company, instead of the pony he had been using. He went to town early one day and picked out a horse at a livery stable in New Brighton. He arranged for the man at the stable to deliver the horse to the Traction Company later in the day, along with a bale of hay and a bushel of oats. When he finished his day's work he went out to untie his new horse, but was surprised to find no oats there, just the bale of hay and an empty basket. He went back inside, called the man, and asked, "Where's the feed?" To this the man said, "I'm telling you, Frank, I put the hay and a bushel of oats near where I tied the horse, but out of his reach. Someone must have moved the basket and that horse ate the whole thing! You'd better get on him and ride him now or he's going to founder on you! And don't let him drink any water until you get home."

(Soon afterward, Pap sold that farm to Mum's cousin, Forrest McBrien. By the mid-1930's that land had become part of Roy's favorite hunting territory.)

The next year Frank and Mabel and the boys were living in another farmhouse that stood on the north side of Brady's Run Road, directly across from what later became the lake in Brady's Run Park. Their barn was just across the road from the house. Brady's Run formed a nice-sized swimming hole on the west edge of their property, then flowed eastward behind the barn. On the north side of the road, 100 yards or so west of the house, was the entrance to an abandoned coal mine. Twenty years later, in the 1930's, those places were still commonly referred to as "Kelbaugh's swimming hole" and "Kelbaugh's mine."

One day while living on this farm, Jim and Roy were in the house playing together. Jim got up and went to the door to go outside. He threw open the screen door and ran out onto the porch. But he hadn't reached the edge of the steps when a big hornet stung him on the forehead and sent him reeling backward, where he landed flat on the floor.

(Tragically, 70 years later, Jim's youngest son, Bill, died suddenly from an allergic reaction to a bee sting he sustained while working on his father's lawn.)

Commuting to work by horse eventually got to be too much for Pap and he decided to move the family to town. Good affordable housing was hard to find, so they had to settle for what was available. They moved into a house on 21st Street, New Brighton, close to the old canal and the Beaver River. The railroad had not yet been rerouted to its present location next to the river. In those days, before refrigeration, people commonly stored milk, eggs and other perishables in their cellars to keep them from spoiling.

One day soon after they had moved in, Mum asked young Roy, "Go down in the cellar and bring up the crock of butter." Roy started down the cellar steps in the dark, since there was no light in that space. He had gone down just a few steps when he noticed water all over the floor and part way up the stairs. "Mum!" he yelled, "the basement is full of water; I can see it!" "You get back up here right away," Mum said. Then she went to the telephone and called Pap at the Traction Company. "Frank, the river's backing up through the sewer and our basement is full of water. I'm taking the kids and we're leaving." "Well, I guess I don't blame you. Where are you going?" "We'll be up at Mum's." (At that time Mabel's parents, Frank and Sarah Byerle, lived above a grocery store they operated in the storefront building then located on the SW corner of 21st Street and 3rd Avenue.)

By 1917, Frank and Mabel and the boys had moved again, into a house in the 700 block on the east side of 9th Avenue, next to the Beaver Valley Baking Company building. These were the early days of telephones, when two competing systems were operating in New Brighton. Neither system served all customers, nor were they interconnected. Thus, Mum and Pap had two telephones in the house; one to reach family and friends, and the other provided by the Traction Company so they could reach Pap in an emergency.

One day Mum was visiting at her mother's and she decided to call back home, probably to check on the boys. Roy answered the phone and while they were talking, Pap called from work. Roy asked his Mum to hold the phone while he answered the other one. When his father told him that he wanted to talk to his mother, Roy said, "She's not here, Pap. She's at Grandma's." "Well, you run up there and tell her to come home and call me right away." Roy thought about that, then said, "Wait a minute, Pap; let me try something." He set that phone down, picked up the other one and said to his Mum, "Pap's on the other phone and he wants to talk to you. Hold on a minute." Then he held the ear piece of each telephone against the mouth piece of the other while his parents carried on their conversation, thus saving his mother a hurried trip home.