This is my rifle…

Before it became home to B-girls in the 1950s, 513 S. Main Street was the location of a shooting gallery. I have never understood what would compel a person to work in a business that involved handing a stranger a loaded weapon. It’s impossible to know if the person firing the rifle is depressed or angry until it’s too late.

Is this really a good idea?

On December 2, 1939, a patron of the shooting gallery used his last quarter to buy six shots. He fired five times at the moving targets before he turned the weapon on himself and fired the remaining slug into his heart. The unnamed man died at the scene.

It was December 14, 1940 when Duncan Adams, 37, an employee of a local dairy, strode up to the gallery, gave the clerk a quarter, and picked off targets shaped like furry little squirrels. He emptied the rifle, but then reached over and grabbed a.22 caliber target pistol and squeezed the trigger. The gun misfired, but before any of the horrified witnesses could stop the man, he frantically pulled the trigger until the sixth chamber clicked into place and discharged a bullet which ripped a hole through his skull. He died four hours later at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital.

The last tale in this grim litany occurred on September 23, 1942. In exchange for the usual quarter, Thomas Nelson, the proprietor of the shooting gallery, handed 22-year-old Willie Davis a rifle. Nelson’s story was that Davis had attempted to steal the rifle, so he grabbed a weapon and pursued him down Main Street. Davis told a different tale. He claimed Nelson had tried to pick a fight with him after renting him the rifle and he was trying to get away.

The fun never stops.

The ensuing gunfight sent bystanders fleeing for cover and tied up traffic on the busy street for at least twenty minutes. Nelson and Davis both sustained serious wounds. John Hagen, an innocent bystander who was seated at the counter of a nearby café, was also wounded in the melee.

The B-girls who eventually replaced the rifles at 513 S. Main Street could be dangerous when loaded; but less likely to kill.