My grandfather Clifford McArdle (1916-1943) died young in a tragic accident. He was quite a character though! (and he came from a family of unique individuals) My grandfather McArdle lost his mother young (at 6) and was raised by his father (who was trick shooter, moonshiner, and all around character – if I remember the story correctly Elmer McArdle was even friends with Buffalo Bill Cody). He drowned in 1943 when my mother was only three while swimming at Ellsworth Park.
Most of the stories I’ve heard about him involve his ‘wild’ young days… plus one that involves him sitting in a creek with a high fever ‘rowing his little canoe’ while his sister Hattie Jane was caring for them.
Most of the stories include antics that my grandfather did with his brothers that were everything from dangerous to illegal. Stories include everything from running moonshine, with Clifford driving a decoy car to my uncles burning down a barn. My Uncle Frank chose to go to the military for that one and my Uncle Ralph went to jail. Ralph was released when they found he had TB. He passed away shortly after being released. Stories even include them breaking my grandfather out of the little jail in Belgiumtown Illinois that isn’t there anymore – they pulled the side off from what I remember.
The stories are like things you would hear as tall tales. Clifford McArdle even took a guitar and billy club from a policeman’s car one evening…. Hard to believe it’s true, but I’ve actually seen the guitar and billy club. I have no idea where they are now, but at the time they were being passed down through the family.
Another story included my grandfather going to a dentist during the depression and not paying. He had given a false name and knew the dentist wouldn’t find him. – I wonder how that worked since it’s such a small town you would think everyone knew each other!
Stories from growing up included my great grandfather Elmer expecting the boys to learn to shoot – setting up a small hoop and a bell and expecting them to shoot through the hoop and ring the bell. My grandfather and his brothers would also run around in my great grandfather’s house and reset all his clocks – he was determined to have lots of clocks, all set to the same time). They devoted a lot of time to pulling off pranks.
My grandfather died in 1943 when swimming at Ellsworth park by one of the spillways. The story I had always heard was that he was swimming with my mother and brought her to the shore and sat her down before venturing out into the river again. He was on the spillway when someone opened the gates on the dam upriver. The undertow from the spillway held him underwater for several days before finally releasing him. His hair was a bright red color and finally made it easy to find his body stuck in the trees with the sun shining on his hair.