Water balloon battles

The following recollection was written by Paul R. O’Connor of Redondo Beach, Calif., in February 2015. Unfortunately, no images were submitted, but it’s a great story!

In the late 1940s, Geneva-on-the-Lake was in its halcyon days. The end of the war and returned employment to many gave an excuse to vacation at the Lake.

A group of men from the Cleveland area and employed by Thompson Products, descended on Geneva. Thompson Products became TRW and eventually was acquired by Northrop Grumman. The group was between twelve and fifteen. Most were veterans of World War II. Many were Engineers. All were bright and funny. Most were married but no wives came for the earlier part of the trip.

They arrived and rented a large Cottage a few blocks east of town center. Some dressed in funny clown costumes and they had an Antique Car that they drove through the main street with a big bazooka horn blaring. They visited all of the bars but always in fun. No one was thrown out of a bar, tossed in jail or started fights. They and everyone who came in contact with them had a rip-roaring good time.

One day the were driving through in the Antique car and began pelting pedestrians with water balloons. Most of those receiving the bath took it in good spirit. A number of us worked at Madsen’s Donut Shop, owned by Carl “Pappy” Madsen, who was also the Mayor of the town. They made the mistake of pelting one of us and we jointly took umbrage at this invasion of our territory. On their return trip we had our own cache of water balloons and proceeded to pelt them back.

Like most border skirmishes, the activity escalated. Soon they returned and challenged us at the Donut Shop to a full-scale water balloon battle. We accepted and laid down the rules of engagement.

We enlisted Pappy Madsen to close down the main street for a period of time for the massive battle. Surprisingly, he agree, contacted the Police and we agreed on a fifteen-minute war in a few days hence.

Carl Madsen Jr., known as Duff, was the smartest of us and our general and leader. Duff later  became Dr. Carl Madsen Jr., and is one of the leading psychiatrists in the state of Ohio. (Dr. Madsen is a resident of Lafayette, IN).

On the eventful day and hour we locals were prepared. We awaited the arrival of the enemy and they approached our position carefully. Above the Donut Shop we had a flat roof and we had stocked many buckets with our ammunition. We having the high ground had the advantage, but they soldiered on and gave as much as they got. We were all laughing, the crowd was laughing, even our dreaded enemies were laughing.

At the appointed time a policeman blew his whistle and all hostilities ceased. The battle was declared a draw by the mayor.

We then repaired to their cottage to tell tales of our valor, laugh some more and drink Moscow Mules. I notice that Moscow Mules are becoming popular again, but remember this was in the late ’40s.

The great water battles continued the next year and possibly even a third year, but my memory fades. Then the great fun crew from Cleveland disappeared. It could have been they were tired of their own shenanigans, they began to have families or maybe their wives simply said “that’s enough.” It could have been all of these reasons but we had a great time while it lasted.


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