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Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Missing Thumbs

Perhaps a few of my loyal readers, and you know who you are, may have noticed that it is July 23rd and this is my 23rd blog post for the month. After 17 posts in June, I wondered if I could beat that number by blogging once a day in July and achieve a 31 for 31 count.

Of course, I didn’t want to blog simply for the sake of meeting my goal. I wanted to be sure the posts were varied in topic and still interesting to fans of our beloved Rock Springs Park. A new friend, Jeff Schneidmiller, has made my job a little easier. Recently Jeff has uploaded Rock Springs Park images to Facebook and shared information and questions about the park and his family’s rich connection to it. In fact, Jeff’s questions have led to discovering a few new mysteries about the park that together, he and I have been able to solve (See blog posts “The Mystery of the Red Sticks” and “Three Bears Born at Rock Springs Park”). If only Jeff’s name was Frank, we could be Frank and Joe of The Hardy Boys novels.

Jeff posed another interesting question about the park yesterday which, I think, we have answered. This one involves Jeff’s grandmother, who visited the park in the 50s and 60s. Jeff wrote, “My mother found some photos in her mother’s stuff of Rock Springs Park. She has a photo of Tom Thumb who was at the park when my grandmother was there. I will put the photo on (Facebook) when she gives it to me.”

Readers of the Guinness Book of World Records, may be familiar with General Tom Thumb “The World’s Smallest Man” who achieved great fame under P.T. Barnum. Unfortunately, P.T.’s famous Tom died in 1883. Unless, Jeff’s grandmother had a photograph of a mummified Thumb or a frozen one, which I would not put past Barnum to pull off, this General could not be our small man.

General Tom Thumb “Charles Sherwood Stratton” died suddenly of a stroke. He was 45 years old, 3 ft 4 in tall and weighed 32 71 lb. Over 10,000 people attended the funeral. P.T. Barnum purchased a life-sized statue of Tom Thumb and placed it as a grave stone at Mountain Grove Cemetery in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Together, Jeff and I determined that there must have been another Tom Thumb who entertained folks in the 50s and 60s. Jeff reasoned, “I was looking up Tom Thumb and he died in the 1800s. It had to be a person that used the name Tom Thumb. I was thinking that the park might have just brought people in for showing off.”

A quick search found that there was a steam locomotive called "Tom Thumb" and a racehorse by that name during the period we were looking for but no person named Tom Thumb. Then I saw a newspaper blurb about studio wrestlers which read, “The matmen will range from the 97-pound Tom Thumb to the 600 pound Haystacks.” From my limited days as a studio wrestler viewer, meaning I had a friend whose dad watched it, I knew “Haystacks” was Haystacks Calhoun. I didn’t, however, remember a Tom Thumb, so I dug a little deeper and discovered the advertisement below from The Washington Reporter-Observer dated Monday, August 10, 1959, touting the appearance of Major Tom Thumb “The Hercules of the Midget Wrestlers.”

I won’t know for sure if Major Tom Thumb is our man until I see Jeff’s photograph, but I have a feeling he is, as the Washington Reporter-Observer is from Washington, PA, near Rock Springs. Our Mr. Thumb was definitely in the area during the time in question. I won’t say case closed, like the Hardy Boys, but simply will end with: "Tune in next time for the latest Rock Springs Park Mystery and find out if Jeff and Joe will finally solve, 'The Case of the Missing Thumbs”!

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