Sunday, May 5, 2013

Playing With Guns

All the little boys that lived in our neighborhood are all grown now, but a few years ago the three streets where we live were raucous with their activity. At first all the moms would make phone calls to make sure it was alright if the boys played at a particular house. Later, as they got older they were given more leeway and pretty much came and went from various houses as they pleased. Bikes, skateboards, and big wheels littered various yards as they moved through the neighborhood like a herd of locusts.

Sometimes their play became loud and a little dangerous, but hey, you really haven't "arrived" as a mother of a young boy until you utter the words, "Hey, watch out! You're going to put an eye out with that thing!"

I count myself fortunate that the majority of Dear Son's play never crossed the line to something more dangerous.

It would appear that young men have always played hard even back in the late 1800s. I found a particular article dated October, 1883 from The Weekly Star, the paper in Douglasville at the time.

The article stated Mr. Joseph H. Camp of Chapel Hill was shot in the right thigh by Mr. Abijah Arnold at the bar room of Mr. G.B. Stewart.

I haven't done any genealogy on either young man other than just a glance, so I'm not sure of their ages, but they were old enough to be sitting in one of the many saloons that were located around the courthouse.

G.B. Stewart had a saloon on Pray Street, but later moved his establishment to the corner of Price and Broad.

Generally, the only difference between the saloons of the Wild West and the Douglasville saloons were the gunfights, as the folks who frequented the Douglasville saloons preferred to fight with knives and their fists. A week without a street fight was rare during the saloon heyday, and during election time votes could be bought for a shot of whiskey.

However, this time the weapon of choice was not a knife or someone's fist. The weapon was a pistol - a toy pistol - to be exact.

The paper stated, "A toy pistol did the mischief. Exactly how it was done we could not ascertain as there was conflicting rumors about it."

One possible story advised Arnold had bought the toy for seventy-five cents and was revolving the cylinder while he showed it to Camp.

The pistol discharged.

The other story is more plausible since drinking was more than likely involved. Some folks believed the young men had been quarreling, and the discharge from the pistol wasn't so accidental.

Camp was carried to the store of Dorsett & McElreath where today's Precedence building is located at the corner of Campbellton and Broad Street. Arnold ran for the doctor.

Soon Arnold returned with Dr. P.S. Verdery. The good doctor probed the wound and cut out the bail. He advised the wound was serious. Camp was taken to his home at Chapel Hill to recover.

Efforts to get the saloons in Douglasville closed down had already started in 1883, but prohibition wouldn't pass until October 28, 1885. At that time there were only three saloons remaining in the city. 

I feel certain this one incident of "play" was used by those wanting to close the drinking establishments down.

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