Friday, April 13, 2012

A Fatally Botched Operation & Two Divorces

The death of Cecile Coulombe, as written about in this column from September 13, 1934, is about as mysterious as the term "illegal operation." I don't know if that's an euphemism for an abortion, and I don't particularly care to speculate because some familial genealogist will come along and curse my eyeballs for doing so, but that's the only thing I can gather from both the legal inquiry into the matter and the lack of knowledge on the family's behalf of the girl's medical condition.

It's also unclear if Dr. Douglas H. Radcliffe was a surgeon at Eloise or if the initial procedure took place there at all and seeing as I can find no follow-up to this article I guess it's going to remain a mystery.

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Although it's oft repeated as the gospel of our time that people are somehow becoming more naked and savage within their humanity and the media is fueling that sort of thing, my experiences reading papers from then and now suggests that not much has changed. I was always shocked that the poet Robinson Jeffers's affair with his then married and future wife was a front page story back in the early 1900s but I guess that people have always been gossip driven. Not only were these divorce court stories around at the turn of the 19th century but they easily rivalled the salacious news coming out of Hollywood and political circles of today as these were generally close-knit towns and cities. Given that Charles Layton, an optometrist, was publicly outed as a drunk tank guest at Eloise and his wife a supposed adulterer, you basically have a hometown version of TMZ on the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper.

Frank Wadham, laundryman at old Eloise, had more on his hands than just the dirty laundry of his occupation. According to him he had a battering ram for a wife who abused him with clubs and left for spates of time to travel with a theatrical troupe. Given that her maiden name was Lulu Force it should have been a portent for things to come. The fact that she once participated in a recreation of the Philemon and Baucis tale (an elderly couple who gave aid to Zues in disguise and were rewarded with eternity together standing side by side as trees) only adds to the irony. Just the same, before these hitches and itches they had nearly seven years of marriage between them.

from The Detroit Free Press, October 25, 1900


camille asztalos said...

I love the blog :) Where did you find the article about Cecile Coulombe?

the said...

Thanks. The article was from The Border Cities Star, September 13, 1934