Fact or Fable?

By Martin Sweeney

The Grabber of Little York, Bowling Down Main Street, and Horsing Around at Dasher’s

One of the benefits of being a public historian with a regular column in a newspaper is people come forth with stories to share. Oral history is valuable, but without something in print to support it, one is never quite sure if it is fact or lore. When the person sharing the story is a reputable citizen, one is inclined to treat it as a historical fact. Here are three stories from reliable sources. You, dear reader, can decide for yourself: Are they fact or fable?

The first story comes from my cousin Tacie Anderson who grew up in Little York. When she learned a historical marker was planned to be installed near the old schoolhouse in Little York, she asked me about “The Grabber”:

Has any of your research or have old newspaper articles ever mentioned “The Grabber?” There was a man in Little York who was peeping in people’s windows and exposing himself. My Aunt Marilyn was one of his victims and never got over that. She was home alone with her newborn baby while my uncle was at a meeting. She noticed someone pulling at the locked door. Then he went around and was banging on the window, and he showed a flashlight on his private parts. She called my Uncle Rob and Uncle Jake and screamed, “It’s ‘The Grabber’!!” They came up with pitchforks ready to kill this person. At that time Aunt Marilyn and family lived on Little York Lake and thought this guy had walked across the frozen lake. They could see his footsteps in the snow. There were foot tracks all along the outside of the house in the snow where he had been looking in the windows. People in Little York always had their suspicions about who it was, but the police never caught anyone. Aunt Marilyn wasn’t the only victim. I loved hearing her tell the story about “The Grabber.” I was riveted! This would have been around 1947-48.

My cousin Rick Lansing texted me tonight and asked if I remembered the story about “The Grabber.” He said to please share that with you, so I did. There were other instances in the area. No one ever figured out who it was. I would imagine there would have been newspaper articles about it. Like I said, my Aunt Marilyn, Rick’s mom, was in the house. Rick was a little baby and Uncle Norm was at a Coca-Cola sales meeting. It was dark outside. Aunt Marilyn was in the house holding Rick and saw the door knob turning. She ran to the door and double locked it. Then the person appeared in the window. Because of this, my aunt would never live in a house on the first floor. She would only live on the second floor when they moved to a two-story house in Little York. My grandparents lived on the first floor and Rick’s family lived on the second floor. Rick was born on December 24, 1947, so this would have happened shortly thereafter. It was winter — snow and ice.

The second fascinating account came to me via David Quinlan of Homer. Asked by me to verify the story, he checked with Bruce Crandall, one of my former students. Bruce recounted for Quinlan that it was sometime between the end of the Second World War, when his father Roy Crandall returned home, and the early 1950s. It seems this was when his father and others entered into an interesting and unique competition. The goal was to stand in the middle of Main Street in the village, approximately at the midway mark of the Green, and see who could roll a bowling ball northward to Dasher’s. The winner would be the one who could get the ball the furthest. Apparently, Roy Crandall was a pinsetter at the David Harum Bowling Alley (located where the Community Building parking lot is now behind the American Legion) and was known for his powerful arm. In fact, physical strength was in the family genes. Bruce’s grandfather, Reno Crandall, in the early 1900s was known for demonstrating yearly at the County Fair his ability to bench press a “Tin Lizzy,” which wowed the crowds. I would love to see that bowling competition repeated.

The third story came to me via a phone conversation with Donald Lawson of Homer on May 18, 2018. It involves the late auctioneer and horse lover Jimmy Welch. Lawson said he recalled folks saying that on V. J. Day ending World War Two, young Jimmy Welch rode a horse right inside Dasher’s bar and restaurant on Main Street. That must have been a sight to behold and one memorable way to mark the end of the war, which had been psychologically and economically stressful for the “homefront.”

Accounts like these are what weaves color and texture into the fabric of local history, don’t you agree?

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