Bugbee Forgery

Greensburg Daily News
April 11, 1985

Charles Lewis "Jack" Abrell

Many of you will remember Charles Lewis Abrell, better known as "Jack." He was known for his sense of humor and most of all, over the years we've all seen examples of his genius as a photographer.

Jack was also a barber when he first came to Greensburg, but maybe you didn't know that he left home at the age of 14 to join the Circus. His son, Ivan, remembers him as being good at everything he undertook.

In Alden Westhafer's book, "Sundown and Payday," there is a story about Jack when he worked at Cohee's Barber Shop (which was in the basement of the DeArmond Hotel). Seems that the barber shop was "a spot for a laugh a minute." Jack and Cohee were always pulling a prank on someone, remembers Westhafer, and a popular one was to hide the package usually brought in by Mr. Menje who ran a meat market on the North side of the square.

Once Menje brought a package, Jack hid it and Menje didn't come back for it. After a few days the shop was filled with a horrible odor, and upon investigation, the package was found to contain a dead fish. They wrapped the fish in an air tight container, took it to Cincinnati, and sent it to Menje's Meat Market, via express "collect." Menje was too smart for them, however, and refused the package.

Jack was born in Patricksburg, Indiana and when he was 14, left home to join the circus. He became a contortionist with the circus and just a few years before his death in 1947 at age 51, could do some of his old stunts to the delight of those who knew him. As a matter of fact, he did one of his acts on the square not long before he died. This was the one where he put his hands on the sidewalk, put both feet in back of his head, and walked on his hands.

His main act in the circus was the "revolving ladder." This was an act where he interlaced his body between the rungs of the ladder while it was spinning. This was undoubtably made somewhat easier by Jack being only 5'3" or 4" and weighing one hundred pounds. The light weight kept him out of the army when he tried to join.

Jack came to Greensburg in 1924 with the idea of just passing through. He was going to work as a barber for a couple of weeks and then move on. But then, one day, Iva Katherine Metz came into the barber shop to get her hair bobbed in the style of the 1920's.

Jack and Katherine married in 1930. Three children were born, Ivan, who lives in Greensburg, Garth who died in 1961, and Rilla who lives in Florida and works with an airline. Katherine now lives in Florida.

Jack worked in Ben Licking's Barber Shop which was just North of the Union Bank and Trust building. He was interested in photography and worked part time in the Beck Studio. (Beck's son, Sirlett, became a photographer at Pogue's Department Store). In 1935, Jack opened the Abrell Studio specializing in portrait work and photographic supplies.

The studio was located over the Licking Barber Shop. Other stores along there at that time, were (going from South to North) Union Bank, Licking's, two millinery shops, run by Lula Mason and Anna Wheeldon, the K of P Theater, a mortuary owned by Charles Howe, the K of P Lodge entrance, and the Palms Drug Store.

Jack became widely known for his work with the camera. Only a few days before his death he was notified of his appointment to the Daguerre Club which is an exclusive international photographic society.