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Shoving a nut up Broadway with a crowbar

Posted Monday, July 2, 2012, at 9:01 PM

I figured that headline would get your attention!

It certainly caught my eye when I was flipping through the online archives of the Weekly Tribune and Cape County Herald newspaper from 1916. The back page of the Nov. 17 edition featured a story about a man who lost a bet and was set to perform the bizarre stunt of pushing a peanut up Broadway Hill using a crowbar.

Here's the text of the story:

Skinner Speak To Roll Peanut Up Hill Today

Republican "Fryer" Bet Hughes Had Defeated Wilson -- Will Wear Dress Suit and Shove Nut up Broadway With Crowbar

Gene Speak, leader of the young Republicans' league in the Cape, and a violent partisan, tomorrow morning will don a plug hat and full evening dress scenery, take a crow bar in hand and roll a nut up Broadway from Main street to Lorimier, as a result of a freak election bet.

Speak's wager was made Thursday when the final outcome of the Wilson-Hughes race still remained doubtful.

He made the bet with Marcella Temple, who agreed at that time to perform a similar feat with the crow bar and similarly apparelled, if Wilson should be defeated by Speak's personal candidate, Mr. Hughes.

Speak last night admitted his defeat and spent a part of the evening getting his scenery ready for the appearance Sunday. The journey up Broadway is scheduled to begin at 11 o'clock in the morning, and many of Speak's Democratic friends have promised to be on hand with horns and noise-makers to join in the festivities.

It must have been a simpler time back then.

The man was beat to the punch, however, by a girl who had already performed a different stunt on Broadway, as reported by another story on the back page that day:

Wears Sheepbell Hitched to Ankle In Election Bet

Cape High School Girl Makes Necks Crane and Eyes Bulge as She Rattles and Clangs Down Broadway

It was either a liquidation of an election bet, a dare or a new way of celebrating President Wilson's victory at the polls!

Whatever was the cause, a pretty, bright-eyed, High School maiden yesterday afternoon created a commotion on Broadway as she made her way along the sidewalk with a clanging, banging, rattling, harsh-voiced sheep bell tied to her ankle.

Heads were turned, good ears gotten into action and necks craned to get a glimpse of the young lady with her sheep bell securely fastened to her ankle. The young celebrator was Miss Inez Paar and she smiled broadly as she carried out her stunt.

If it was a liquidation of a freak election bet, hers is the first of that character to be paid in the Cape. A celebrated peanut-rolling stunt has not been staged yet for the reason that the losing man declared that he would await the official returns before submitting to the irksome duty of pushing a peanut up Broadway with a crow-bar.

I thought that crowbar-peanut-rolling might have been some kind of peculiar Cape Girardeau custom, but apparently this stunt was performed elsewhere. A story in a Pennsylvania newspaper from 1911 describes a similar penalty for losing an election bet.

The obvious question, of course, is whether Mr. Speak was able to push the peanut up the hill in one try without letting it slip and fall back down to Main Street. Sadly, next week's edition doesn't mention the outcome of the story. Instead, the newspaper had more important things to cover: like a clothing salesman who was found sleepwalking and talking to imaginary customers. Here's the riveting details:

Col. Dave Harris, Walking In Sleep, Peddles Clothing

Anti-Ham Apostle Eats Overdose of Pork and Prowls at Night -- "Isch-ga-bibble!" He Chirps When Awakened Before Dream of Sale Is Finished.

Col. Dave Harris is one of the few men in the city who do not forget business even when asleep. Bargains for customers are constantly on his mind, whether he is behind the cash register in his store or merely "pounding in his ear in the hay."

To a close friend yesterday, he related a story told on him by his wife. A few nights ago, the Colonel ate several ham sandwiches before retiring. Mr. Harris was taught as an infant to snub pork, and he has never quite outgrown the prejudice, yet he admits that swine flesh, if properly cooked, isn't all bad.

Instead of digesting, the ham apparently "jelled" on Mr. Harris' stomach. The family where sleeping soundly, when shortly after midnight, the wife of the clothing merchant was awakened by someone walking in an adjoining room.

She listened for a moment and her fears were allayed when she heard a familiar voice say: "This coat and pants cost $6.98. It's a bargain."

She recognized the voice as that of her husband, and as he frequently walks in his sleep, she was not alarmed. But while she was attempting to enter slumberland again, he husband hurried from one room to another, addressing imaginary customers and attempting to dispose of some suits at "fire escaped sale" prices.

"Everything guaranteed," remarked Mr. Harris when he had apparently induced someone to purchase. "If they ain't what I tell you, then you bring 'em back and I'll refund your money. But if they wuzn't what I say there are, I wouldn't say they wuz, would I?"

"Here they are, wrapped up in a nice little package. Six ninety-eight! We sell strictly for cash. The next time you come in, bring your papa along with you. Oh yes, we have ladies ready-to-wear! Su-u-u-r-r-ee!"

As the Colonel was about to tackle another customer, Mrs. Harris, who had become irritated, said: "Oh, for goodness sake, Dave, wake up and come to bed!"

"How'd I git out here?" remarked the merchant as he emerged from the trance.

"Walked out, as you do every night," snapped his wife.

"Oh dat ham! Never again! Isch-ga-bibble!" he muttered as he loosened the packering string of his pajamas and inserted himself between the blankets.

Out of curiosity, I searched Google for the phrase "isch-ga-bibble" and found that, believe it or not, this was an actual expression that was popular at the time. You learn something pointless every day. On the other hand, the catchy phrase "anti-ham apostle" appears to be unique to this particular story.

In other news, the Normal School beat the Will Mayfield rugby team by a score of 111-0. And Mr. Frank E. Fithen, the "armless automobile wonder" from Ohio, was passing through Cape on a national tour showing off his skills at driving a car hands-free (literally).

It's a shame, really, that the Weekly Tribune and Cape County Herald didn't last beyond 1918. With a slogan of "A newspaper that prints all the news that's fit to print and prints it first," this publication would hang nicely with modern-day tabloids.

Showing most recent comments first
[Show in chronological order instead]

The reality at every paper I ever worked for was "All the news that fits we print."

-- Posted by Ken1 on Thu, Jul 5, 2012, at 10:45 AM

Really enjoyed this! Thanks!

-- Posted by maccadave on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 3:26 PM

Quite an amusing diversion. Thanks for sharing.

-- Posted by Jon_K_Rust_PUBLISHER on Tue, Jul 3, 2012, at 6:58 AM

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The webmaster of seMissourian.com and its sister newspapers, James Baughn has lost track of the number of websites he manages. On the side, he maintains even more sites, including Bridgehunter.com, LandmarkHunter.com, TheCapeRock.com, and Humorix.
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