MOUNT VERNON -- There's an old saying that says some things never change. The weather's not one of them, though, for if this winter continues like it has the last few weeks, we won't see the exact accident described in this column reenacted any time soon.
You'd have to have snow.
After school on Monday, Jan. 19, 1920, a group of Mount Vernon high schoolers assembled on North Mulberry Street with a large bobsled, according to the report the following day in The Democratic Banner. The group stationed themselves at the intersection of Mulberry and Hamtramck Streets.
On each ride, their goal was to head south from Hamtramck Street, passing the spot where the Public Library of Mount Vernon & Knox County today sits. They would then plunge down the steepening hill toward High Street, keeping an eye out for traffic along the way, one hopes.
Shortly after the students started their adventures, Juvenile Officer Purcell of the Mount Vernon Police arrived and ordered the teens to cease and desist sledding on the Mulberry Street hill. The youths all solemnly agreed to stop the practice. As soon as Officer Purcell left, they all jumped on the sled and took another ride. Purcell returned and warned them a couple more times, then finally washed his hands of the situation.
Around 4 p.m., the assembled students were making another run. Present were junior Nile Stadler, sophomore Don Blubaugh, Paul Yarman, Lawrence Baldwin, Russell Lewis, Sidney Ball, Lyman Garber, and Nelson Burris. The newspaper article is not clear on exactly how many of them were on the sled during the 4 p.m. run.
What is known is that Stadler was in the front, steering, and Blubaugh sat directly behind him, with “others” toward the back.
It isn't clear whether the boys were on the street itself or the sidewalk, as both descriptions are used in the article. But as the students roared down the lower stretch of the big hill on Mulberry, they approached the High Street intersection, near the current post office, at a high rate of speed.
Stadler attempted to steer around a rough spot and lost control. The sled hurtled into a telephone pole, sending the boys flying in all directions. While the ones in the back were just shaken up, Blubaugh was in pain, and Stadler was completely unresponsive.
Passers by rushed to help the students, carrying Stadler and Blubaugh to the Dwight Harris Auto Garage across High Street. While Blubaugh was bruised all over his body, his injuries weren't serious, and he was sent home.
Nile Stadler, however, was still unconscious, and it was feared his neck may have been broken in the accident. The Miller & O'Bryan Ambulance was called to transport him to the M & S Sanitarium, a private hospital just two blocks away, back up the hill on Sugar Street.
The doctors there confirmed that Stadler had some broken ribs as well as numerous bruises and abrasions, but it did not appear that the neck was broken. About 8 p.m. that evening, Nile came to. While he was in great pain, it was soon clear that the broken ribs were his only major injury.
No word on how the telephone pole was after the crash.
After Nile was transferred home the following day, Officer Purcell made it known to the newspaper that he had tried to stop the daredevil youths. He said that every possible effort would be made to break up the practice of sledding on city streets in the future, but he strongly hinted that parents could also help break up the practice, which suggests he thought the young 'uns were running amok.
Maybe, in fact, some things never do change.