September 22, 2014

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Big cat sightings ‘everywhere’ in ‘57
Written by Terry Viel   
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:43 PM

Believe it or not, Harrison was once alarmed by a black panther; this was not the comic book character or the political party, but a rumor of a large wild black cat roaming the hills near Harrison.

Around 1957, hearsay surfaced a sighting of the big cat in Blue Jay.

The sightings of the beast spread like wildfire and soon the black feline was discovered on Brooks Road just outside of town.

Supposedly one local farmer, Edwin got off a couple of shots at the intruder but missed. I think he did hit the broad side of his barn but missed everything else including the family dog a lovely black lab.

The rumor mill was churning at maximum speed, as the big cat’s presence was becoming more prevalent, sightings everywhere.

One guy coming out of the Corner Café said he was sure he saw the Black Panther just run down West Harrison Ave. towards the dump on the river bank.

Surely, the monster could catch enough rats at the dump for a quick meal. I am not sure but perhaps too many indulgences of Kessler’s Smooth Whiskey was a factor in the sighting, but maybe not, there were plenty of rats at the dump to eat.

The fear of being eaten by the black Panther reached into town, many kids were afraid to walk home from the show or even go to Jim Howard’s store for a pack of Camels for Mom.

All were aware of the stories of the big cat with the glaring green eyes that would jump out of the alley and have them for dinner.

The so-called sightings of the panther eventually subsided and the rumor mill was energized by a new topic.

The old-timer’s sitting on the bench at the town hall heard that they planned to tear down the old girl because the pigeons were doing their business on passersby.

The recent pigeon hunts by local marksman failed to control the pigeon population enough, and the residents were not happy. Surely the town would never raze the town hall. That had to be a rumor just like the Black Panther.

Well you never know when the big mean black panther will return to stalk Harrison. One quick note for you, there is no species of Black Panther itself; they are mutant color variations of other species, either a leopard or a jaguar.

I am not sure if a jaguar will bite you or not but I would love to have one captured   in my garage, specifically a1966 E type, not black but British racing green.

Be vigilant at all times for those large green eyes staring at you from the alley.

Terry Viel is an avid Harrison history buff who collects and restores vintage Harrison photograp