Seventy years ago, clean air sold village as ...
Clean air and the prospect of quartered in a small shed that Gates
electrification, so they hired Bill to
having a cow and a garden enticed had used for corn at one time. Each
wire their houses for them.
Bill Roby to move his family to
morning and evening, Bill went up
Sometimes they would lack the
Zionsville in 1917
- those ameni-
the street to milk her. Mornings he
ready money to pay him, but he
ties, and the advice of his mother.
made the trip alone, but in the
gladly accepted produce as barter.
Bill’s parents had recently moved
evening, all four children went
“They gave us fresh meat when
into a cottage in Zionsville as the
along. “Blackie was a very placid
they butchered,” Dorothy remem-
winter alternative to summer on
cow,” Dorothy recalls, “and would bers, “and they gave us bushels of
Crooked Lake in Northern Michi-
let us ride on her back. We took
apples, and potatoes, and turnips.
gan and Mrs. Roby was so
turns doing that.”
We kept them for winter use by
impressed with the quality of life in
After the milking chore was
putting them under our house. It
the village that she recommended it
complete, Bill turned the milk over
doesn’t have a full basement and
to her son as the ideal spot to rear
to Gertrude who stored it in big
there is an area of soil that forms a
his four small children and regain
Since it was not
shelf where we placed them.
his own health.
homogenized, the cream rose to the
Bill had been employed at a
top and she skimmed it off for use
“Our house was headquarters for
creosote plant in Indianapolis, and
in coffee and the like. She also homework,” she continues. “We
although pollutants were not yet
made butter and cheese.
had my grandfather’s library which
recognized at that time, it was
“Behind the house we had a was more extensive than the school
obvious that his environment was
chicken years,” says Dorothy, “as
library at that time, and they would
not healthy for him.
did many in Zionsvillc at that time,
come to our house, especially for
The family, Bill and his wife,
that provided us with fresh chickens social studies and literature. We
Gertrude, and their children,
and with eggs. The kids had the would sit around the big mahogany
Dorothy, Frank, Betty and Billy,
duty of gathering the eggs. I don’t
table in the dining room and do our
first lived for a few months in the
think we had very many chickens
homework, and Mother and Dad,
old Hurst place on Main Street.
and they were entirely for our own
who preferred that young people
Bill, Jr., notes that the house was
use. Mother never sold chickens, or
would come to our house because
across the street from the old post
eggs, or milk. We had the chickens
they liked to have us at home,
office, because he recalls watching
for a long time, and a big garden,
would make potato chips. Dad
twice each day as someone on the
but we sold the cow in a couple of
would cut the potatoes and Mother
interurban would toss off a bundle
would put them in the deep fat.
of mail in front of the post office as
“Then we took milk from Des Those were the best potato chips I
the train rolled through town.
Gates. He delivered it in glass have ever eaten. They would bring
Mrs. Roby had purchased a lot
bottles, and he had a horse and a in big bowls of them just hot from
on West Cedar Street, and a house
wagon dray that he used for that the kitchen, and bowls of apples,
for her son and his family rapidly
and they’d pop corn.
took shape on the site under the
Bill Roby opened a shop when
“My pupils often asked me,
supervision of her cousin, a
he moved to Zionsville. People
‘What on earth did you do with no
contractor who had built the Roby
were driving electric cars, as well as radio, no TV? What did you do?
cottage in Michigan, with local
Model T Fords. He called it a
You didn’t have cars to go to
craftsmen assisting, The family
battery shop because he charged
Indianapolis or to go any place.’
soon settled into their new home
batteries for electric cars and repaired
and immediately purchased
other batteries and sold them, but
“Well, that’s what we did. We
“Blackie” the cow.
he soon began to fix small
did homework, and when our
At the end of Cedar, along the
homework was done, we entertained
west side of Sixth Street, was a
Then people who lived in the ourselves very readily. We had a
pasture where Des Gates’ dairy cows
country began to want electricity in
player piano with rolls, and we’d
grazed. Bill arranged for Blackie to
their homes and in their barns. It come in the living room and play
graze there, too, and she was
was before the days of rural
the player piano and sing.”

Blackie, the cow, provides a ride for Billy and Betty Roby shepherds Dorothy and Frank.
Roby under the watchful eye of their father as Grandma