© 2014 Enfys McMurry All rights reserved.
July 12 1921: The reputation of Centerville was spreading and it was not good. Crime was constant and escalating. Children ran away from home; some were abandoned, some neglected. Young men loafed on 13th Street across from the Majestic, in stairways and outside buildings on the Square, exposing pedestrians to obscene language. Window peeking was rife. Children begged outside movie houses and on street corners. One spent the night, undetected in the armory; another, a girl of 14, wandered the Courthouse at closing time and spent the night as a guest of the sheriff. Young men cruised in cars. Girls were harassed, some abducted, some raped; 4 of those were under age - 15, 12, 11, and 8, the 11-year old by her own father. In July 1921, the Des Moines News placed a story about Centerville’s violence on its front page. The article cited 21 deaths in the area of South 18th Street in the previous 15 years, “...not by accidents or mad rushing waters, but by the modern revolver, knives, bottles, picks or anything that the murderer might lay his hands on while in the mood for killing.” A business visitor at the Continental asked, “Why is it that the only time you see Centerville mentioned in the city papers, is in connection with some murder or sensational case?” The people of the town had had enough. (261-262)
July 13 1936: The severe winter of 1936 was followed by the severe summer of 1936. An egg was successfully fried on a heavy iron manhole cover at the intersection of Main and Maple Streets. Discarded turkey eggs at the Merritt Farm south of Seymour spontaneously hatched. Vegetation dried. Crops were ruined. Fire swept the fields of tinder-dry grass. People died of heat stroke. The healthy suffered prostration and exhaustion. The feet of Centerville’s prize-winning band, marching in the streets of Kansas City, stuck to melting hardtop. The brass players stopped playing unable to bear the brass pieces in their mouths, and the reed players, including E flat clarinetist Himie Voxman, spat into their instruments to keep them from drying out. In a 15-minute hailstorm on July 20, temperatures dropped 20 degrees. By August 13 the heat returned, remaining at or above 100 degrees for a further 16 days. (375-376)