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Editor's Notebook
April 4, 2020

3/2/2020 1:01:00 PM
Living life to the fullest
At 102 and 93 years young, Cain brothers are amazing
Bill Cain, left, and his little brother, Marvin, show a painting of the Scipio Covered Bridge that was painted by their mother, Bessie Campbell Cain (1890-1980). The brothers also have several other paintings and quilts created by their mother.—Staff Photo by Bryce Mayer
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Bill Cain, left, and his little brother, Marvin, show a painting of the Scipio Covered Bridge that was painted by their mother, Bessie Campbell Cain (1890-1980). The brothers also have several other paintings and quilts created by their mother.—Staff Photo by Bryce Mayer
I spent a pleasant late winter afternoon the other day with a pair of amazing brothers at the home of Marvin Cain in North Vernon.

Marvin is a spry 93 years young. His big brother, William Arvine "Bill" Cain, just as energetic, will celebrate his 102nd birthday Thursday, March 5.

The secret to their longevity is simple. Live life to the fullest, laugh often and never forget where you came from.

"I can't catch Bill now like I used to when I chased him around as a kid, but we still have a good time," said Marvin with a chuckle.

Bill laughed, too, as he and his brother recounted countless stories from their youth when they grew up in the Scipio area.

"You always got in trouble with mom for something I did when we were kids," Bill told his brother, who nodded his head in full agreement.

Charles and Bessie Campbell Cain raised their family in Scipio. Along with Bill and Marvin were two older brothers, Earl and Ralph.

"We were dirt poor," Bill recalled. "We had no refrigerator. But we had one little radio and a hand-cranked Victrola (phonograph)."

Early in Bill's life, the family lived at a location known as Possum Hollow about a mile-and-a-half north of Scipio.

"When I was born, my dad told me, the snow was so deep that he had to drag a log (with a horse) to clear the lane so Doc Wilson could get back to our house," Bill said. "I never did get back to see where I was born. That house is long gone."

Both Bill and Marvin remember when what is now State Road 7 was a dirt road.

"When I was a kid, they built the highway," Marvin said. "It was a big deal to watch the men working with the equipment."

Scipio was always small but a somewhat larger community then - with a couple of general stores, a mechanic's garage, a high school and a railroad depot. It even had a car lot, owned by Randolph Smith, where Bill bought a 1926 Ford Model T for $45.

Then as now, the area had a great natural amenity in Sand Creek, the stream that flows through parts of Scipio.

The Cain brothers spent much of their time around Sand Creek, catching fish, trapping game and swimming.

"We would put trot lines out and catch catfish under the railroad bridge," Marvin said.

"Red Miller and I set a lot of traps along Sand Creek," Bill said, bringing up a vivid memory of catching a skunk once. "Mom made me take a bath in a tub in the barn. When I went to school, Mr. (Glen) Milholland (Scipio's principal) sent me home because I still stunk too bad."

One of the favorite places to swim for the Cain brothers and their friends was where Wyaloosing Creek meets Sand Creek a short distance north of the historic Scipio Covered Bridge.

"One of our friends took a 2-by-10 board off the covered bridge to make a nice diving board for that swimming hole," Marvin said. "We swam there often and so did many other people. Crappie Miller drowned there and so did another boy."

"We swam a lot at the old Ritz Quarry, too," Bill added.

Copperhead Hill was a good place to go to pick blackberries, Marvin recalled.

And, boys being boys, the Cain brothers found other ways to entertain themselves that were sometimes mischievous.

"One time there was a tent revival across from the school," Bill remembered. "Walter Wallace and I yanked the ropes off the stakes, and the tent fell down on the people inside. We saw the sheriff coming up Highway 7 from a good distance, and we hightailed it out of there before he got there."

Sandlot baseball was popular with the boys. Earl Cain, the oldest of the brothers, may have been the best basketball player ever at Scipio High School, according to both Bill and Marvin.

Back then, the Scipio School had students in grades 1-12. Bill and Marvin recall when the school had no indoor toilets and only two outhouses, one for the girls and one for the boys.

Marvin graduated from Scipio High School in 1945, the last graduating class ever there. A large fire destroyed most of the school later that year and the high school was consolidated with North Vernon High School that fall.

Unlike his younger brother, Bill quit school when he was a sophomore to go to work at the tomato canning factory in Hayden with Homer Hines and Bo Shinolt, both also from Scipio.

Bill later contracted polio, which kept him out of work for a full year and also out of military service during World War II. Marvin served in the Army Air Corps during WW II.

Later, Bill went to work for the Link-Belt Company in Indianapolis as a tool-and-die maker were his career lasted 35 years. Marvin had a 39-year career at Cummins

Bill is the widower of the former Willetta Boggs, who passed away in 1997. They had four sons, Charlie, Herb, Donnie and Robert, with Charlie passing away in 2016. Bill also has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. For the last 22 years, he has been with Maude Michael and they reside in Westport.

Marvin is the widower of the former Ruth Perry, who passed away in 2002. They had no children.

"Ruth and I traveled a lot, taking big vacations every two years," said Marvin, noting that he and his late wife have been to 64 different countries. "The most beautiful places we visited were Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong."

Scipio in its own way, though, remains beautiful in its own way and near and dear to both Bill and Marvin in their hearts and their memories.

The Cains did a lot of name dropping in talking about people from their early days in Scipio, including Stanton Wil­liams, Carl Shinolt, Low­ell "Skeeter" Milholland, Buddy Henry, Willard Milholland, Gordon and Esther Helt, Clyde Wil­son, Herbert Hulse, Frank Madden and many others. They also did a lot of laughing and so did I.

It was a laugh-filled hour-and-a-half with two gentlemen who are as young at heart as anyone I've ever met.





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