As you walk down Main Street, it is not difficult to put yourself back in the early 1900’s. Officers of the paper mills, tobacco mill, the steel mill, the banks and other businesses lived in these houses, enlarging and renovating them as their families grew. It was not uncommon for 3 generations of a family to live together in the large houses. Most homes had three or more servants; many had a tenant house on the back of the lot where the man who took care of the horses and gardens lived. Many families kept chickens and a cow and of course, the horses for the carriages. Mrs. George Verity brought her cow into the front hall to keep the cow safe during the height of the 1913 flood. The beautiful wrought iron, cast iron, and wood fences were a necessity to keep the animals out of the lawns and beautiful formal gardens.
An interurban car ran down Main Street until 1938. In the early 1900’s, you could ride out to Engle’s Corner, to Trenton and on to Hamilton. Students took street cars to high school on the third floor of the old South School which stood in the center of today’s Old South Park.
On Saturday nights, stores were open and everyone walked or rode to town. Beaus with their dates hitched their buggies to a hitching post and watched the shoppers, perhaps joining the crown in the ice cream parlor or having a sandwich at Weber’s Beer Garden under the trees at the rear of the cafe. On Sunday, families walked to one of the many nearby churches. Everyone was dressed up, the men in formal morning clothes; top hat, striped trousers, spats and cane. After church, families walked along Main greeting their neighbors. Heavy Sunday dinners were traditional and all the generations were expected to be in attendance.
The residents of South Main were the leaders in Middletown, influencing Middletown’s growth. These innovators changed history, even the history of the world, with their ideas. As one long-time resident said, “They were real people, they had character, —and they were characters!”
-Mrs J Kenneth Billman 1977