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Gracious Courtliness the Gift of “The Mayor of Clifton Terrace”, William Gradolph—seasonal memory from back in the day by Erwin A. Thompson

I knew him personally. In my growing up years he was a legend. He lived on Clifton Hill, so designated because it was a pretty formidable hill on the road from the main highway to the little settlement of Clifton Terrace. He was a veteran of the 1898 Spanish-American war.

In his younger years he courted all the eligible young ladies in the neighborhood. He and my Uncle Ed Riehl vied for the hand of Olive Lowe. She married my Uncle Ed.

If he was heart broken nobody ever heard him say so.

He had a matched team of fine black horses, adorned with sleigh bells. The sleigh was well kept, as was everything that he owned. Nothing but the best. He would take the neighborhood children for a ride as soon as the snow got to the right stage for a sleigh. If a snow stayed on the ground for quite awhile it got better sleighing with each passing day, as it got more packed on the traveled roads. The horses and the sleigh were his joy and pride, and the talk of the neighborhood.

He never stopped courting the ladies. In my childhood, I lived with three maiden aunts. Each Christmas eve Mr. Gradolph would arrive with a box of quality chocolates. He was probably in his fifties, and had reluctantly exchanged the fine team of horses for mechanical means of transportation.

He lived next to the school house, and I believe he courted all of the unmarried ladies who taught the school through the passing years. In 1923 he helped build the new school house on top of the hill, next to the church. I never heard the business part of the deal, but he ended up with the old school house which he remodeled into his residence.

As I gather the happenings of that era, this practice of visiting the ladies during the Christmas season was a custom of his, almost as predictable as the coming of Santa. It was said that the lap robes in the sleigh were made of fur. He would also call on the ladies who were safely married that he had courted in his younger days. So far as I ever heard, the husbands did not object to his visits. There was a gracious courtliness about his manner that would be hard to find today in our hurried world.

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  1. I am interested in this story as I now own the property where the old schoolhouse sat. While building a spec house there, I came upon the old foundation which caused quite a problem for me in laying some utility lines. I also uncovered what seemed to be part of the chassis of an old model t. It was too imbedded to unearth though. I did get quite a collection of old bottles which were thrown out by the school and possibly added to by the 8 ball club which sat to the downhill side. Most of the bottles were medicine or liquor, but some were food I believe. I am interested in the history of this area and would like to know more about the school. Do you have any pictures? I would also wonder what your relatives house within the school looked like. All of Clifton Terrace interests me. I am also interested in your father, Erwin Thompson. His tractor looks like mine. I still use mine and do much of the same things he does. I maintain and rent houses and spend a lot of time clearing brush and brush hogging. I would be interested in any tips he could give me, as at times I feel like I would like to know more.

    Sincerely, Rod Booth

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