The Day The Tower Tumbled Down

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

Nearly 20 years ago a Crothersville landmark came tumbling down. The original town water tower stood approximately 250’ west of the current town hall. Though, at the time, it was behind to old town hall which, like the old tower, is no longer a part of the town’s landscape.
To enlighten some of the newer immigrants to Crothersville of our history (and to refresh the memories of veteran locals), from the Curt Comments archives here is what was written after the tower stubbornly came down.
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There’s an empty space against the sky in Crothersville.
A major portion of a landmark which the majority local residents took for granted fell to earth with a resounding crash Thursday afternoon. The remnants were to be demolished early this week.
The water tower which for more than three quarters of a century served as the source of water pressure and volume for the 750 or so water utility customers in Crothersville went by way of the cutting torch.
And like many of the advancing age residents of Crothersville, it too, showed a stubborn streak in the end. The plan was to notch the tower and cut it from the opposite side to form a hinge and allow the top of the tank to plummet to earth.
The physics and the mechanics were all okay. But when tension was applied to topple the tank, the hinges started to work but then broke early and the tank wedged itself against it base. And then refused to budge.
Well over two tons of quarter-inch steel sat wedged at an angle more than 120 feet up in the air. It was more cutting and rearranging placement of a chain (and definitely more courage than most of us earthbound sidewalk superintendents had) and a couple of tire squalling tugs from a truck which finally brought the top of the tank to earth.
The tower hadn’t been used in more than a year when it was decommissioned in favor of the new 300,000 gallon tower constructed a block and a half to the north.
Erected in 1922 when the Crothersville Water Utility Company was formed, the 50,000 gallon high tower, just like other water towers in other communities, served as a source of identity for the community.
It had more coats of paint than most folks could remember. Through the years it had been a light blue, gray, and at one time was a patriotic red, white & blue.
For some Crothersville area teens and young adults, the water tower was a rite of passage. Many local youth foolishly climbed the 140-foot tower to prove adulthood. It wasn’t manhood, because some girls were known to have climbed the diagonal braces of the water tower legs.
To mark their territory or to evidence their thrill-seeking ways, names and dates were often spray painted on the tower for earthbound mortals to see.
Adding to the danger, the tower climbing was always done at night so to avoid detection by police and other adults.
More than one well known Crothersville personality not only climbed the tower but went atop the roof to sit on the metal ball at the apex of the cone. In one instance, his peers attested to his daring that night as they saw the intermittent glow of a cigarette he smoked while sitting atop Crothersville’s highest point possibly as he attempted to screw up enough courage to make the trip back down.
And the old tower served as home to thousands of pigeons over its lifetime.
I always thought the old tower could be put to some useful purpose, other than recycled into scrap metal.
Maybe placing a monstrously large spinning gyroscope on top of the tower’s ball would attract visitors to town. Or removing the top and planting flowers and promoting it as the worlds largest flower pot would have attracted sightseers to the community. Afterall, don’t folks know Greensburg in Ripley County as the courthouse with the tree growing from its roof?
But who would plant and who would maintain it and who would pay for the liability insurance all shot the ideas down.
So along with the original Crothersville Water Tower—like Crescent Mill, Crothersville Hardware & Schlueters Store, the multiple general and 5¢&10¢ stores at the stoplight corner, the bandsaw mill, Kern’s Grill, the plethora of grocery stores & restaurants—some of Crothersville’s history and heritage fades into oblivion only to be reminisced over coffee or occasional newspaper columns.