[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 59°F  
High: 60°F ~ Low: 48°F
Monday, May 2, 2016

History repeating itself on Berry Street

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Berry Street festival and flea market organizers Jackie Young, Joyce Leer and Cheryl Salsman spent time Tuesday at Treasures on the Square going over plans for this Saturday's traditional event. In the background you can see some of the birdhouses made by Leer and her husband and sold at the festival over the years. The three "Berry Street" girls have been involved with the festival for 34 years.
For more than 60 years, the residents of Berry Street, Greencastle have had a tradition of doing things together. This Saturday is no exception as the 34th Annual Berry Street Festival and Flea Market kicks off at 8 a.m.

The event provides visitors a chance to roam up and down Berry Street and from Jackson Street east to Bloomington Street to look for antiques and collectibles, crafts and rummage items, food and baked goods and work from local artists.

In 1947, the late Russell Myers, a Berry Street resident and owner of White Cleaners, sparked the idea of the neighbors getting together for a picnic.

According to Berry Street lifetime resident Cheryl Salsman, "on the last Sunday of July, at dawn, Russell went up and down West Berry Street, signaling folks to fill their picnic baskets and line the street withtheir vehicles."

"With crepe paper streamers flying on the radio antennas and car horns blowing, he led the caravan to McCormick's Creek State Park for the picnic, " said Salsman.

The picnic went on for 15 years, but after the death of several residents and some that moved away, interest in the picnic diminished.

In 1975, West Berry Street residents Jackie Young and Joyce Leer brought back the long time tradition of Berry Street neighbors spending time together and invited all the neighbors to have a yard sale on the same day.

Leer laughingly tells the story of how Young gave her two weeks to let all the neighbors on her end of the street know about the flea market.

Now the two women have passed the torch of getting the information about the festival and flea market to Salsman.

"It's time for the next generation to take over," chuckled Leer referring to her younger sister Salsman.

"Doris Casper, the last treasurer of the picnic, was still holding the records from the picnic. There was $7.23 left from the picnic money and that paid for the advertising of the Berry Street Festival and Flea Market," said Salsman.

A few years ago, the group put together a Berry Street Cookbook with old favorites from the original picnics in the 1940s. They sold very quickly and the group still uses the money raised from the books to pay for advertising, Port-a-lets and other expenses.

Salsman talked about one of the recipes in the book from 1936 that "required a nickel's worth of cheese" in a Pineapple Marshmallow salad recipe.

More than 3,000 people attended the first festival and flea market.

"That encouraged residents to continue the ever growing tradition, held on the first Saturday in October. Over the years it has grown to include Berry Street from Jackson to Bloomington Streets, plus several streets in between," said Salsman.

"But it's really the people who live on Berry Street that make it all work. In the beginning, everybody just took an interest in it. Now it's a tradition," said Lear.

"Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm," adds Salsman. "We always had enthusiasm and we would get out and talk to our neighbors and pretty soon everybody was involved."

A lot of tradition comes from the Festival every year. The first year of the event, Homer and Lucille Cook, who moved to Berry Street in 1958, cooked soup beans in their driveway in an open kettle. Lucille spent the day in her kitchen baking "Kentucky Cornbread."

"This required a special trip to Kentucky to purchase the cornmeal," relayed Salsman. "They thought they went overboard by preparing 22 pounds of beans. But, they were sold out by 10 a.m.," she laughed.

The next year they cooked more and even more the next year. The last known number was 84 pounds of beans along with 25 pounds of cornmeal.

Orie Eggers sold Grandpa's Fudge in his front yard for years. Sadly, he passed away in July, but his kids will be at Salsman's house collecting donations for a Putnam County Foundation Memorial Fund in Eggers' name.

"The traditions live on in some form or another," added Salsman.

Bean soup and cornbread still remains a favorite among festival goers.

Last year local Boy Scouts made the beans and this year the Evans family will offer the favorite soup at 1107 S. College Ave. But beans aren't the only food available. There will be Rib eye steak sandwiches, sloppy Joes, conies and hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches and dinners, barbecue chicken, biscuits and gravy, pocket tacos, cinnamon rolls, shishkabobs and plenty of baked goods up and down the street.

Leer and her husband have made birdhouses and sold them at the event for years. At the beginning of Berry Street, all four of her children were involved even the youngest one at age four.

"Julie was four. She sold apples, my son Chris made and sold chimes from silverware. My other daughter Beth Ann made Raggedy Ann dolls with her grandmother and sold them," said Leer.

"The festival is also a homecoming reunion for some. Many former residents who moved away, return to renew acquaintances and experience the tradition of the Flea Market," added Young who has lived on Berry Street for more than 60 years.

Salsman has lived on Berry Street for 54 years and she and her sister Joyce Leer grew up on the Street.

The three women epitomize the value of being good neighbors. Leer summed up their feelings about the street they grew up on with a stanza from an anonymous poem that says," If I could have my 'ruthers,' when I come to settle down, I want to move to Berry Street out at the edge of town. I love it's hills and hollows, the Ash and Sycamores', the willows, elms and maples that shelter cottage doors. . ."

For more information about the Berry Street Festival and Flea Market, call Cheryl Salsman at 653-8591.

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on bannergraphic.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

What a great tradition. No matter what is going on in this world isn't it great to know you have great neighbors.

-- Posted by DRL on Wed, Oct 1, 2008, at 8:45 AM

Wow...what a great story...kind of makes me wish I was around in the 40's and could've joined Mr. Myers and his neighbors for the picnic.

-- Posted by seventiesgrl on Wed, Oct 1, 2008, at 9:33 AM

I grew up on Berry Street and was good friends with the Leers. The Berry Street Festival was always a favorite time of year. It was a time when neighbors were like family and all of us "Berry Street" kids ran from the Leer's to the Green's to Homer and Lucille Cook's and to Elmer and Nyla Abbott's house. The street would be crammed with cars and it was an occasion to visit and eat and for relatives to come for a long weekend. I loved the festival because Ron Abbott would come to stay with Elmer and Nyla and we would spend long evenings by the organ singing hymns. I am now the mother of two and I wish I could share this experience with them.

-- Posted by jka on Wed, Oct 1, 2008, at 5:59 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: