Hop, Skip and Jump to Toad Hop

toad hop bachelors0001

In the summer of 1960 we moved to Larimer Hill, a little sprawl of houses located on a bluff just west of West Terre Haute.  It was named after a Mr. Larimer who had once owned a coal mine near there where he attempted to wrest a living from the coal-packed bluff.

I don’t remember hating the move, possibly for two reasons.  One was we were moving from Terre Haute, which to my 6 year old mind mainly served as memory-host of the most desolate moment of my life.  With the arrival of my stepfather we had moved to a house on north Center (aka Central) Street.  I suppose one of the reasons were located there was that it was only a few blocks from Union Hospital and was walking distance for my mom to go to work.  That was the desolate moment.  I still remember with aching clarity one particular Saturday afternoon.  Mom was working the 3-11 shift then.  So I had all morning to dread her leaving.  My sister was barely a toddler and my brother was simply not an interesting enough 3 year-old to play with.  Communication with my stepfather was not something I sought.  Thus the sight of my mom walking away toward her shift at the hospital, not to be seen again til morning, left me with a sense of total desolation.  It was just me now.  I carry that feeling still.  I remember huddling in a grassy patch just off the back porch.  No sole survivor of an arctic exploration could have felt more alone than I.  Had my six-year old vocabulary contained the word “bereft” I would have described myself so.  But anyway…..

The other reason for accepting the move was the Columbia bicycle.  It was possibly given me as a reward for making it through my eye surgery, which removed both my lens and left me blind in my left eye.  The bike was used, purchased from a second hand store at 4th and Ohio.  It had dents and dings, but had been given a glossy coat of dark blue paint to cover them.  I think my Uncle Danny had some part in procuring this marvel for me.  I loved that bike. 

We moved into a small house atop a hill.  If I remember it had two rooms plus a caboose-like kitchen.  Across the road was Granny Cooley, a kindly ancient woman who still tended her garden wearing a dress to her ankles, a daycap and bonnet and talking softly to her cat.  She was a continuing source of smiles, lemonade (which was too bitter for my taste) and hard cookies.  Behind us was a family my mom did not approve of as the mother was prone to lock her kids out of the house in the morning, only to let them return briefly for lunch and after the father came home.  I remember them always asking for drinks around the neighborhood.  Mom often sent me out with plastic cups of Kool-Aid for them.

The best destination to ride my bike was to Zelma’s.  Zelma was this happy woman who ran sort of a sandwich shop cum ice cream parlor.  Unlike the couple who ran a small grocery store down the hill from her (my interaction with them stemmed from being gullible enough to saunter into the store at the behest of the Harmon boys and ask for a Kotex), she liked kids.  She often treated us or said she would collect from our moms later.  Riding your Columbia bike to Zelma’s on a hot day, knowing what awaited there, was a sublime journey.

So my bike and I made our various journeys of exploration.  One place I was forbidden to go was Toad Hop!

Toad Hop was a scattering of houses down the hill.  It was located hard against Sugar Creek on the east, US 40 on the north, Dresser Road on the west and a long hill to the south.  Of course, like the name Hoosier, there are many thoughts about the origin of area’s name.  General consensus is that because it was bounded by Sugar Creek, whenever there was a heavy rain it was inundated by frogs.  Thus Toad Hop.

Among many, especially one surmises, my mom, Toad Hop had an unsavory reputation.  It was viewed as an inbred little place, filled with ne’er-do-wells, scofflaws, and the generally bad.  A place filled with hard people, not to be trifled with.  Granted, it was not a scenic spot.  Most of the houses were dilapidated, every other one seemed to offer itself as part junk yard, part second hand furniture store.  I vaguely remember what can best be described as a saloon there, with some western sounding name like Blazing Stump, Long Branch or Ponderosa (anyone remember?) that had reputation as a place one might lose and ear or nose should one venture an ill-advised opinion.

I went to school with a raft of kids from Toad Hop at Consolidated School.  They did seem a rough sort.  The type to be avoided in the playground if possible.  There was one large family that totaled about 10 or 11 kids.  I got along well enough with the boy in my grade.  He seemed a bit jumpy and sad, but nice enough to play baseball with.  Later, I learned from another classmate that the boy’s father was the follower of a fundamentalist minister who had a Sunday morning ranting program on the radio.  Each evening the father would return to Toad Hop from work and after dinner would line all the children up, no matter age or gender, and give them five strong whacks with his belt.  It was done, he said, to punish them for whatever sins they had committed that day while he was away.

I also remember my  Uncle Wayne and his family living there for a while, but my Uncle Wayne was the strong, silent, Clint Eastwood type who kept his nose out of other’s business and could handle himself if pushed to do so.

There is some dispute as to whether Toad Hop was actually platted as a community or not.  One source says it was, in 1907.  Another that it just kind of grew up around the mines and clay plant located near there.  Whether because its comical name or the because the people who lived there were looked down upon, Toad Hop was often the object of derision. 

In 1914 there appeared a photo that was carried in newspapers around the state that purported to be seeking brides for the lonely bachelors of the village.  The photo showed a ragtag group of old men, scalawags, and hard cases.  Calling Toad Hop an “historic and unique village,” the caption averred that Toad Hop had a larger percentage of bachelors than any town in the state.  The photo provided ample proof of why that might be.  It was almost certainly a joke.  One of the pranks that some, like West Terre Hautean turned-Hollywood screenwriter Grover Jones (see previous blog entries for more about Jones), like to pull was to see if they could get phony photographs inserted into the papers.  To test the idea I did a census search and found that only 3 of the men in the picture could be found to have lived in or near Toad Hop, according to census records.

Grover Jones later wrote several short stories published in Collier’s and other magazines set in Toad Hop, including one titled The Amazon of Toad Hop.  More on that in part two of this blog coming soon.

The 1936 WPA Federal Writers’ Project guide entry on Toad Hop was succinct:

“There have never been any distinguished persons or families residing in Toad Hop.

The architecture is of a general nature and has no unusual features.

There are no parks or monuments here.

The place has never been noted because of foreign groups that have resided here.

There are three groceries there, and a combination garage and soft drink parlor.

There are no churches there.  There is one school known as the Toad Hop School.  It has the first five grades with one teacher and 19 pupils.”

There may have still been a garage and soft drink parlor there when I was a kid, but I do not remember a grocery store, but then again I was never allowed to venture in to see.

I am currently gathering as many of the Toad Hop stories by Grover Jones as I can find.  Most contemporaries who read them assured others that Jones’ basically only changed the names and slightly caricatured some of the protagonists.  And they knew exactly who the character was based upon.  I will blog about them soon.

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63 Comments on “Hop, Skip and Jump to Toad Hop”

  1. brad joy says:

    I believe the saloon was called, “The Western Star.”

    • tcrumrin says:

      Thanks, Brad. I knew it had a western theme, but…..If you or any other readers have memories, photos, other materials you would be willing to share on WTH history, I would be pleased to see them.

      • brad joy says:

        The Vigo Clay Company was converted into a mushroom factory. My Grandma and Aunt told me stories about working in the mushroom grow house. They also said that people brought eggs there to sell. Grandma, and others, would crack eggs all day into big wooden barrels which were then transported to Terre Haute buisnesses.
        Check out the following link about Toad Hop.http://tribstar.com/features/x1155775806/Memories-of-Toad-Hop-Indiana/print

      • tcrumrin says:

        Glad you mentioned the mushroom plant. I have been trying to gather more information about it. I have a few items. I believe it was begun in 1937. I remember it still being in operations in the 1960s. Thanks for sharing.

      • There were two bars in Toad Hop that I recall. We would get our allowance and spend it there. They stocked candy and soda and we would stand at the door while the bar tender would get our requested items. I mostly remember buying Bubble Up.

      • tcrumrin says:

        Yes, I remember BubbleUp and RC cola, my favorite at that time. Thanks for sharing your memories. Do you have any photos showing Toad Hop or West Terre Haute from that time?

    • donnie diggs-ream says:

      Thanks for the info! I have only lived here 10 years, came when I married one of the Ream boys. This town has such a history!

  2. grfoster says:

    It was Marie French tavern long before Western Star, and across the road (old U.S.40) was Vi and Noel Lindsey tavern. I moved to Larimer Hill in 1962. Toad Hop was my stomping ground. The most noted person in my book was Jesse Allsup. He was a good old man. An all white town (but then again what part of West T. wasn’t) that was wary of strangers. I swam at the mushroom plant and climbed the stacks There are tunnels all thru the place. As a teen that was a fun place to hang out especially the trussle at sugar creek. Toad Hop is about vacant now due to flooding, but I will always feel like a Toad Hopian. Sure miss those days.

  3. grfoster says:

    Being born in West Terre Haute, 1n 1951 I can remember living on 4th and Johnson. On the corner was Valley High School. Paris Ave. was a main drag with Gropps Hardware, Storms Tavern, Calvary Tabernacle Church, Dennis Combs Grocery, Berry Drug Store, Luchens Tavern, First National Bank, WestT Post Office, 2 five and dimes, Blue Bird Café, Young Mens Club, West Terre Haute dump by the Selvia Distributers. Bedino Funeral parking lot was a big hole with huge chunks of concrete then. On U.S. 150 between Johnson and Miller Ave. was a chicken house where you could pick a bird to buy and the guy would cut its head off and pluck it.. Across the street from us was the Harris family Mr. Harris had the old shoe repair, and Mrs. Harris worked the soda fountain at Dodge Drugs on National Ave. Next door was Miss Dumas, the first grade teacher. Hard to believe the memories and I wasn’t in 1st grade yet.

  4. tcrumrin says:

    I have a form I send to to people who lived in West Terre Haute. If I email it to you would you be willing to fill it out? It asks question about growing up there.

  5. grfoster says:

    Sending my e mail address

  6. grfoster says:

    1956 to 61 lived on 4th Riggy St. In 56 started 1st grade 1st -3rd at Central. 4th-6th at North. 7th-8th at Concannon. 9th-12th at West Vigo. Starting NE to W. What I remember. Dump, Selvia Distributor, Big Zephers, Dan Smith live bait behind Zephers. Bedino Funeral, Flower Shop, Marathon Station, U.S.150, Hunters Shell Station, Brownies Feed Store, 4th st., Ramsey Tavern, Police/Fire Sta.,alley, Warehouse, VFW Post, 6th.st. American Legion, train car cafe,7th st IGA food, church, 8thst. Garment building, Little Zepher (Red Wallers) 9th st. Phil Glicks Standard Gas Station. Houses spotted all along between these places.

  7. grfoster says:

    Starting SE to W National Ave. Ellis Pond (wet lands now) ?street, Jones&Brooks fabricators, Dog&Suds,? Street, Ernie Forster Texaco, 2nd street, homes 3rd st, Manns Grocery, homes, Junes Ice Cream, Warehouse, 4th st. Ramsey Liquor Store, Bluebird Ice Cream Shop, 5th st, Owens gas station, car lot, 6th st. Pages food store, Produce house, Honda Motorcycle, 7th st.Ace Hardware, coffee shop, Small grocery,8th st Bertha Diner, Lawn mower sales, National motel, 9th st. Wayne Miller DX gas station, Wheel of Fortune, West Inn Truck Stop, Kuykendall popcorn, D&H, junkyard. Homes spotted between some places. May not be accurate but close. Is this what you want?

  8. grfoster says:

    By the way. It isn’t Dresser Road to the west. It is Darwin Road which to the south will go into Illinois and to the T in the road. Right will go to Illinois U.S.1 and entrance to Lincoln trails. Left goes through Bullskin and to Darwin Ferry at Darwin Illinois

    • grfoster says:

      People of Toad Hop were Niccums. Allsups, Certains, Frenchs, Ellingsworths, Lindseys, Comptons, Heyens, Andersons, Beelers, Powers, Biddles, Fortunes, Millers, Dillinghams, Lascurains, Shueys, Browns, Parsons, Clarks, Fritz, Vines, Pruitts, Longs, Johnsons, Morris, Lemays, Attersons Neices, This was when Marie French had her tavern on the south side of the road where the Supper Club is now. I got married in 1970 and left Larimer Hill. Still with her and have two boys, ten grandkids and five great-grandkids.

  9. Donna "Faye" Heyen Davidson says:

    I don’t know why Toad Hop was viewed as such a dark place. It was a great little village to live my 19 years. We would play after dark with all the neighborhood kids and had no fear of anything because all the families looked after each other. It was common to find all of us, boys and girls of all ages, taking sides in a hot summer’s day of softball in Miller’s Field. The railroad track was our highway to South Lake or WTH. By the way, the grocery store was called Miss Mack’s. Great memories . . . .

    • tcrumrin says:

      Donna, I would love for you and others to send me more memories of growing up there. By the way, I have already had 200 accesses of the Toad Hop blog today. How did this happen? How did you find out about it? just wondering. Thanks.

    • tcrumrin says:

      Donna, I think the view of Toad Hop was one of perceptions by outsiders. It is much the same with the West Terre Haute of today. People hear things, just look on the surface and accept that as how a town is. It is one of the ideas I want to explore when I write the book.

  10. Virginia Byrd says:

    My Dad grew Up On That Hill… He Was Born In 1955 If You Would Email Me The Questionnaire I’ll Have Him Fill Some Things Out.

  11. gary fields says:

    I no a lot of this was before my time, but I grew up in toad hop I remember going to the western star and getting chips and a coke as a kid. I still have family that live there. I think this great to hear some old stories and history. Thank you guys

  12. sam says:

    I have a book that was written about West Terre Haute and its families. I have it scanned into my computer as a PDF file and could send it to you via email. Very interesting stuff in it. Not sure who put it together

  13. D.Byrd Selvia says:

    I grew up on the hill. I was born in 1956. Zelma lived right behind me. I would like to fill out your questionnaire.
    Thanks

  14. nursroc says:

    Does anyone recall the shoe repair shop across the street from Ace Hardware? Or Johnson’s Variety store at the corner of N6th and National Avenue? I believe there was a Pages market on the corner of S6th and National. I’m sure everyone remembers Dodge drugs. They were neighbors and recall they gave full sized candy bars to all the trick-or-treaters. It was a right of passage to be old enough to walk to Dodge drugs after church, dime clutched in palm, to buy a coke at the soda fountain. I was about 6 when I saw a semi hit the gas pump at Brown’s feed store. I also had Miss Dumas for first grade.

    • georgefoster says:

      Harris shoe repair. Mr. Harris repaired shoes and his wife worked at Dodge Drugs. I lived across the street from them on Johnson and went to school with their son Terry.

  15. mary clark says:

    Mrs cooley was my great grandma….we used to visit quite often…she broke a hip and moved in with us for awhile….she passed when i was around 13. Cant really remember a mr.

  16. mary clark says:

    My great grandmother was mrs cooley….love to visit…dont ever recall a mr. She broke a hip and stayed with us awhile in west terre haute..

  17. Gloria says:

    I grew up in Bullskin and to correct location,Bullskin is about 5 to 6 miles before you get to the T in the road on the Darwin Road. My husband had some family from Toad Hop. His mother,grandfather,aunt,uncle and father all worked at the mushroom plant. His mother worked at the ten cent store,Dick Davis Diner and Dodge drugs. My husband worked at Ray Browns feed store. gloria

  18. r Mrs cooley was born a in ohio to the grape juice Welch family her family disowned when she married my grandfather and they moved to Ind, Fred bogard

  19. I will have to do some reserch on that avery body on the cooley side has passed away and Barb Greenlee who had all that stuff has passed away she was grandmas grand daughter by the way she lived behind grandma cooley fred bogard

  20. Brandy says:

    My mother(Carrie) lived in toad hop with her 3 brothers and 3 sisters. She was the oldest girl. My grandparents are gene weir (rip) ann weir, Harmon, York, uncles rob, frank, and Kevin ( still in toad hop). My aunts are Diane, Marie, and Brenda. Email the form and I will ask them what they remember.

  21. Sherrie says:

    Bottom of picture is cut off. Anyone have the original & know who is in the picture? Would appreciate it!

  22. Joe Grubb says:

    A couple of points regarding all above:
    -as I remember, the two bars in Toadhop were Frenchys and the Toad Hop Inn (which was usually followed when you were a kid “and a frog staggered out.”);
    – if you are recalling the streets ape of National Avenue, the National Barber Shop (owned by my father, De Grubb) was situated between Dodge Drugs and Pages Market.

  23. Bob Harper says:

    Anyone remember a Toad Hop Bicycle Post? In the 1890’s, that private, non-govermental service would deliver mail via bicycle. I would like to know more about it. If you have any information, mail me at xbobharper1@gmail.com. Thanks.

  24. Frank Farris says:

    Some of my family lived in this area. My Grandpa Frank Farris lived on Larimer Hill.
    My Grannies family some lived in Toad Hop.
    Mode Fortune was my Grannies brother.
    Walter Fortune owned the wheel of Fortune tavern in West Terre Haute…
    you may have know some of the family.

  25. Cheré says:

    Zelma Hunter was my great grandmother and her granddaughter (my mother) still lives in the “shop”. I have only heard good things regarding her. The family that locked the kids out during the day was my dad’s side of the family. Cousins actually. She was the step- mother to 5 children. She was not mean to them , just the way it was back then I suppose.

  26. stephen lee johnston says:

    Hey, Tim im trying this out for the first time. im steve johnston Iva was my grand ma. Ill see if ive got a handle on this!


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