Sometimes, when I go through the old newspapers looking for column ideas, I find little, overlooked historical nuggets, like Susan B. Anthony’s appearance.

Other times I’ve run across items that are just plain weird.

Take the November 25, 1887 Noblesville Independent’s announcement that the Ladies’ Working Society of Noblesville’s Presbyterian Church would be holding a “Rat Supper.” Admission was 15 cents. “Rats will be served by Wgun Wah, Tong Hay, Ah Ying and Guy Ming.”

Excuse me?

I tried to learn more details, but couldn’t find another mention of the event. The closest I came was a story in an out-of-state newspaper about a “rat-tail supper” held near Lafayette in 1880. (In an effort to rid the area of a rat infestation, an oyster supper was offered to the person who brought in the most rat tails as proof of the rats they’d killed.) 

I’d like to think that was the case here, but that “rats will be served” is a little disturbing. Even if they meant MUSKrats rather than your average everyday rats, eeewww.

Another strange item, or rather series of items, appeared on the front page of the Noblesville Daily Ledger in 1923.

The first of these ran on August 18 in a conspicuous box with the heading “Notice to Thelma.” The mysterious Thelma was asked, “Can’t you see that your husband is nightly paying court to N’s wife?”

This went on almost a week with Thelma being warned daily that she needed to do something about the disgraceful scandal of her straying husband.
It wasn’t until the August 23 issue of the paper that it was revealed that “Thelma” was the title character (portrayed by the “Scintillating Jane Novak”) in a motion picture showing at the American Theatre that week.

The April 12, 1913 Ledger included the tale of a Carmel man whose pet skunk was said to have left home in a huff over some insult. (How do you insult a skunk?)

The man didn’t see his friend again until the Great Flood surrounded his house at the end of March. When the floodwaters were at their highest point, the skunk, apparently tired of life on the road, came floating home on a piece of driftwood (and he stayed this time.)

The July 26, 1927 Ledger reported that 35 to 40 hats had been enshrined in concrete at the west end of the wagon bridge (the old Logan Street covered bridge over White River.)

It seems one of the workers on the Noblesville-Cicero road (State Road 19) paving project got so excited about finishing, he celebrated by tossing a couple of hats into the concrete mixer. His fellow employees caught the fever and soon the headgear of the entire crew ended up in the last load of concrete.

Then there’s the bug bonnet mentioned in the September 16, 1904 Hamilton County Ledger. The first of these fashion statements arrived in Noblesville a mere 48 hours after it received an official sanction from the National Milliner’s Association in Chicago. (“Official sanction?”)

Apparently, the bug bonnet was exactly what it sounds like — a hat, the chief decoration of which was some kind of insect.

One of the city's leading milliners explained that the bug was replacing the bird’s head ornament that had adorned ladies’ hats for several years. She called it “the latest contribution to the gayety of a city like Noblesville.”

The reporter covering the story had another opinion. He felt the bug looked like it had overdosed on the toxic insecticide Paris green.

(Hmm. Maybe that explains why I only found one reference to “bug bonnets” in the old newspapers.)

I did NOT make any of these up.

Honest.

- Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com