Whistles and Steam and Happy New Year
Herald Dispatch, January 1, 1966
Written by: Charles Collett
Submitted by: Robert Kingrey
Welcome, 1966–That event called a Happy New Year is here. No doubt you heard it arrive. Once upon a time on December 31, about midnight, Ironton shot off a lot of steam. Whistles in midtown sounded at the Crystal Ice Plant, the Elbert Brewery and Dupuy Tannery, all located near Seventh and Railroad streets. The bell loudest in the business district was at Third Ware Hose House, now on location of the First National Bank.
Standing on the courthouse lawn 13 bells could be heard from 8 churches, and at old Kingsbury School, when the high school boys somehow always managed to get inside to pull the bell rope. The churches were the Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, the chimes at St. Lawrence, all of which made a beautiful music. In the distance was the Methodist bell at old Wesley Chapel at Fifth and Etna, which was destroyed by fire in 1913, and the two bells in the tower at the old St. Joseph’s at Third and Adams.
When there was a lull among the rope pullers, the whistles from the steam locomotives, near the C&O roundhouse at Russell, were far-away noises like foxes crying in the hills. The two loudest noises heard in the central part of town were the water works fire alarm whistle and Captain Tom Hopkins’s whistle on the Ironton-Russell ferryboat.
Every school building and church up town had a bell, but they couldn’t be heard in the upstairs front porch at the Elks Home where I usually listened for the New Year. Along the river bank old Belfont furnace, Kelly Nail Mill, the Ironton Lumber co., Fearon and Nigh saw mill whistles and the D.T. & I. Roundhouse engines joined in the noise. Of course the boys at Foster Stove foundry stayed up late to do a lot of tooting.
In the north end it was Belfont Nail Mill, Goldcamp Flour Mill, the old hub works at Third and Buckhorn and Lambert machine shops, now the Meehan Steel Products Co.. Midnight, December 31 was a big noise night in a great industrial city, and today I wonder what become of all the once familiar whistles and bells? The ringing of a bell or the blowing of whistles kept once everything in town on time. Sixty years ago the city had six hose house bells. Gone are the courthouse bells, the market house bell and sleigh bells, too.
Old-timers will remember when the hose house bell at Third and Park rang at 6 p.m. for the stores to close when workdays were 12 hours long. Baseball fans of long ago remember the Sixth Ward hose-house bell which hung in the open belfry adjoining Pastime Park, now the Schaefer Market, which was every players aim to hit with a home and ring the bell.
One day is gone, so Soliloquy blows the whistle and rings the bell for 364 happy days of 1966 for each and every reader.