Water Tower

Cidu Bill on Sep 11th 2017


Is this a real thing, or is Mallett extrapolating based on a single water tower near one minor league ballpark somewhere in Michigan? I personally have never noticed any water tower/ballpark correlation.

Filed in Bill Bickel, Frazz, Jef Mallett, baseball, comic strips, comics, humor | 38 responses so far

38 Responses to “Water Tower”

  1. Kilby Sep 11th 2017 at 08:37 am 1

    I think the water tower correlation may be based on ballparks located in rural small towns as depicted in movies. I think I’ve seen more of them in a theater than I’ve ever seen in real life(*).

    P.S. I assume this is supposed to be a CIDU, even though the tag is missing. I think “flipping the formula” means that Caulfield’s next 10 months will be filled exclusviely with boring facts that are definitely going to be on a test.

    P.P.S. (*) - Berlin does not have a single (functional) water tower (there are a few historic relics). The entire water system is supplied and pressurized with pumps, and is designed so that the time between leaving the filter system and getting all the way to the customer’s faucet is less than a day. This also means that under normal circumstances, Berlin water contains no chlorine at all.

  2. padraig Sep 11th 2017 at 09:12 am 2

    The water tower in my home town (pop 4,919 at the time) led you to the Catholic Church and school. You could have used the steeple for that.

    I think he’s talking about even smaller towns, like with one intersection where they’re still debating stoplights (remember we’re talking 1950’s-60’s here). Definitely true there since there’s only about 12 square blocks and all the public features (water tower, ball park) are jammed together.

    But the movie theory holds up too because that’s how the director lets you know where the movie is taking place. You might also find the water tower is always next to the protagonist’s house. ;)

  3. Olivier Sep 11th 2017 at 09:46 am 3

    I thought Sim City. The ballpark won’t be in the quiet neighborhoods, where people live ; it won’t be downtown : valuable commercial space. So there’s just the industrial section, where the water tower is likely to be, even if it’s the only “industry” in very small cities.

  4. James Schend Sep 11th 2017 at 10:05 am 4

    It’s kind of a film meme (but even there I don’t think it’s a very strong one), but there’s no correlation I’ve seen in real life.

    @Killby: The US doesn’t have very many (functional) water towers *now*, we use pumping stations too. But he’s talking about his grandma’s generation, so think 40s, 50s, during which there’d still be lots of water towers in use.

    Most of them have been town down, but some are painted and left up as a decoration (frequently with the name of the town, or its high school mascot), and some have cellular antennas built in them (those ones, in Western Washington at least, usually have pine trees painted on them as some kind of awful camouflage.)

  5. James Schend Sep 11th 2017 at 10:07 am 5

    Wow I shouldn’t type before breakfast.

    Grandma’s generation was supposed to be “grandpa’s”.

    “town down” was supposed to be “torn down”.

    I need coffee.

  6. Kilby Sep 11th 2017 at 10:54 am 6

    @ James Schend (4) - The region of the D.C. suburbs in which I grew up still has a number of major water towers: not the classic “small town movie” variety, but rather the “gigantic steel cylinder” sort. There’s no real way to know (from the outside) that they are still being used to maintain water pressure, but if not, I would think that they would have been scrapped long ago, more for their property value than for the recycled steel.

  7. Irene Sep 11th 2017 at 12:09 pm 7

    I’m not technically in a rural area. Less than a mile from my home is the shopping hub for the region and we are also the medical hub for the region. The “big city” next town over has actual industry (tank plant, refinery, P&G plant) However, before the new high scholl was built a few years back, the people across the street from me had farm land in their back yards.

    Having said that, we also have a new-ish water tower. The old one- which was near the old high school- was in fact fairly close to the football field, from which one could see the baseball field.

  8. Kedamono Sep 11th 2017 at 12:13 pm 8

    I remember Atwater ball field in my hometown of Lake Orion, MI. There was a water tower right by the field, and Lake Orion wasn’t a podunk. Of course there were at least 4 other fields in the area, but Atwater was the main one.

  9. James Pollock Sep 11th 2017 at 12:26 pm 9

    The area where I lived through high school was, at the time, recently converted from agriculture to housing development, and there was a big water tower nearby. There was an elementary school at the bottom of it.

    The surrounding suburban communities expanded and surrounded what was once a unique and distinct area.

    My dad used to talk about traveling through the empty area “between Bellevue and Redmond” in Washington. There’s no such thing. My daughter looks at me the same way when I talk about “between Beaverton and Hillsboro”. When I was in high school, you could look out either side of the car on the TV Highway and there would be cows. Now there’s mini-malls, almost but not quite the entire way from downtown one to downtown the other. The exception? The cemetary.

    Also, at the time this comic refers to, Portland was a “minor-league” town. It had a Pacific Coast League team, along with all the other cities on the west coast. The stadium the old Portland baseball team used to play in is still there, but there’s no baseball any more.

    And there have NEVER been water towers here.

  10. ja Sep 11th 2017 at 12:41 pm 10

    First of all, I wouldn’t assume the relationship in comic is between water towers and minor league fields. In fact, the premise would seem to indicate to me that we aren’t talking about minor league ballparks. Minor league players have already been signed and minor league ballparks aren’t in what I consider small towns. Caulfield’s grandpa’s buddy was probably looking at high school players. Most likely scouring middle America. Ball diamonds and water towers share a common need– they need enough real estate to be practical and need to be close enough to town to be convenient. Given that, the suggested relationship is probably not altogether unreasonable. In my own midwestern home town, the water tower stood on the edge of the city park with the best ball diamonds. That was true for the neighboring town as well. And that probably has led movie makers to conclude that nothing says small town America like a water tower overlooking the ball park.

    That said, the scouting story still falls flat. If you drive into a small town in middle America looking for the local ball park, you don’t have to look for a water tower– all you need to do is ask someone. Anyone. It’s a small town. Everybody knows where everything is. Tell someone you are a pro baseball scout, and they will know who you want to see and where you should go.

    When the town I grew up in got its first McDonalds, there was a parade led by the high school marching band. A local kid having a chance to make it in the big leagues? That’s big news.

    Plus, I can’t help but think that Mallet is trying to evoke an era that would pre-date Caulfield’s grandpa’s friend working as a baseball scout. Padraig said 50s or 60s. Caulfield is supposed to be about 10, isn’t he? His grandpa’s friend is more likely to have been the age of a typical prospect in that era than he would have been a scout.

    Regardless of the dubiousness of the setup “fact,” the primary joke is the pending exposure to boring facts that wil

  11. ja Sep 11th 2017 at 12:45 pm 11

    And just to be clear, when I said “that probably led” I meant “that type of relationship has probably led…” I really don’t expect that movie makers made any decisions based on my specific childhood!

  12. Wherever Sep 11th 2017 at 01:48 pm 12

    I grew up in a town of 7000 people in the 50’s. It was the seventh largest town in North Dakota. In those days before GPS, as you were driving, you knew that a town big enough for a high school was coming up because the water tower would come into view ten or twenty miles out. You headed for that, and could expect the municipal property to be nearby. Well, the whole town was nearby, actually. But the point of this strip has nothing to do with this odd “fact”. It has to do with the coming reversal of the direction of information flow because of the start of the school year.

  13. Cidu Bill Sep 11th 2017 at 02:35 pm 13

    Ja, New Jersey teams are represented in at least two independent leagues, Northern and Can-Am, whose players aren’t under contract to any Major League teams. While these teams aren’t TECHNICALLY refered to as the minor leagues — in part I guess because Major League Baseball (MLB) owns the trademark for Minor League Baseball (MiLB) — normal human beings refer to these as minor league teams.

  14. billybob Sep 11th 2017 at 05:58 pm 14

    his grandpa’s generation (maybe around the time his father was born) would be more like 1980 than 1950.

  15. joel hanes Sep 11th 2017 at 07:06 pm 15

    I spent five summers in Dysart, Iowa, pop 2000
    The water tower was in the municipal park.
    So were the ball diamonds.

    I think this former generalization has lost most of its truth in my lifetime;
    most of the little towns have had to take down their old water towers,
    and build new ones, usually not in the same place.

  16. Mark in Boston Sep 11th 2017 at 08:08 pm 16

    I’ve heard that small-town people used to have a cistern in the attic of the house. Someone would have to pump the water to fill up the cistern from time to time to provide running water for the bathrooms.

    “Never mind pumping any water til the cistern’s empty on a Saturday night and that’s Trouble, with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for Pool.” — Professor Harold Hill

  17. billybob Sep 11th 2017 at 08:10 pm 17

    another level would be that the “hot properties” were the ones who had water towers to aim at.

  18. ja Sep 11th 2017 at 08:19 pm 18

    CIDU Bill,

    Not much independent baseball in Michigan. Traverse City has a team, and there is a startup league with four metro-Detroit teams. There is a collegiate developmental league with a team in Kalamazoo. None of these leagues have a team in what I’d consider a small town (not even close), and all of these leagues have a relatively recent history. Growing up, minor league baseball (in lowercase or caps) meant the Toledo Mud Hens. Now, it would also make me think of the Lansing Lugnuts or the West Michigan (Grand Rapids) Whitecaps (the two teams closest to the setting of Frazz). Both are Class A Minor League teams. The Mud Hens are the Tiger’s AAA affiliate.

    Maybe it also has something to do with the definition of “small town.” Where I grew up, a city the size of Little Falls, NJ, would be the county seat and the biggest city for miles.

  19. Kamino Neko Sep 11th 2017 at 10:04 pm 19

    In my home town, there was a ball park under the water tower…but it wasn’t the one a talent scout would be interested in. Only ever used for little league and people noodling around.

  20. doug Sep 11th 2017 at 10:49 pm 20

    May not have a lot of water towers out west, but in the southeast thats the only way to go. Cost of power to continually run a pump will eventually overcome the capital cost of a tank.

  21. ja Sep 12th 2017 at 12:48 am 21

    @Mark in Boston

    I grew up in a large victorian-era house in a small town in Ohio. While the plumbing had been updated long before we moved into it, the large (well over 200 gallons) tank remained in the attic. We would have never used the word “cistern” for it, though, as (regionally) cisterns were strictly underground tanks used for storing rain water.

    One of the major suburbs of Detroit recently constructed a rather large water tower. Like virtually all of metropolitan Detroit, they get their water from the city of Detroit. However, Detroit charges more for water in the daytime than in the night, and the difference is enough that suburb concluded that by buying all of its water at night, it could relatively quickly recoup the cost of the tower.

  22. James Pollock Sep 12th 2017 at 02:28 am 22

    The main reason to have a water tower is that you don’t lose fresh water in a power outage. This can be important, say, in case you need to fight a fire that’s big enough (or caused by a big enough catastrophe) to affect power distribution.

  23. furrykef Sep 12th 2017 at 02:53 am 23

    @Olivier (#3): I can’t think of a SimCity game where you would construct a water tower in an industrial district. Too much water pollution!

  24. Olivier Sep 12th 2017 at 04:27 am 24

    @furrykef : you had me check (SimCity 2000) and now, I’m reminiscing ;) Here : http://i42.tinypic.com/dbn9s.jpg
    To be fair, when I was playing, there was never much strategy ; water pollution ? Bah, humbug !

  25. Catlover Sep 12th 2017 at 08:04 am 25

    When I think water towers, my first thought is a prominent blue water tower in the Buffalo, NY area near the intersection of Route 90 and the 290. What’s next to it? The Central Amherst Little League - to quote the web site: “The Central Amherst Little League complex is located at 480 Wehrle Drive in Amherst, right next to Amherst’s “big blue water tower.””

    Syracuse, NY has a water tower in Thornden Park - with many sports fields nearby. Rochester, NY has water towers in the Cobbs Hill Park, once again with ball fields nearby.

  26. Powers Sep 12th 2017 at 08:31 am 26

    I suppose technically the Cobbs Hill structures are “towers”, but really they’re more giant pools. Of course, they’re on a hill so they didn’t need to be raised higher like most water towers. Do you know if they’re still in use, Catlover, or did the Cobbs Hill Reservoir render them obsolete?

  27. Catlover Sep 12th 2017 at 10:00 am 27

    @Powers #26 I believe the Cobbs Hill “towers” are abandoned (perhaps for 25 years?) and are best known for urban art these days. However, another well known and - for many years - far more visible (for those driving down 490) Rochester water tower, emblazened with the name “Rochester Colonial”, disappeared from the landscape in 2012-2013, leaving only the name “Water Tower Park” for the facilities there in its memory. (The last references I can find for the tower were in 2012; Google Earth historical imagery shows it gone by September 2013.)

  28. Boise Ed Sep 12th 2017 at 04:39 pm 28

    When I was a kid, the water tower had the town name on it, amid lots of graffiti.

    In Lappeenranta, Finland, recently, I saw what looked like an interesting bit of modern architecture on the other side of town. Later, I showed my photo to the hotel clerk who told me it was the water tower. I wish I could show you my photo, but this will have to do.

  29. Meryl A Sep 13th 2017 at 12:51 am 29

    In our township (which is about 1/3 of the county or so and is opposed to local incorporated villages which are within the township as well as unincorporated areas, which are often also referred to as villages and also sometimes hamlets) there is town water in some places and private water companies in other parts. Generally incorporated villages deal with their own water (two even have their own village owned utilities which means when the grid goes down or electricity is down for weather reasons, one or the other or both still have electricity - after Hurricane Sandy mom went to the one adjacent to where she lives to eat dinner and recharge her cell phone.)

    Well, back to the point. The town water is in huge raised tanks - one for each water district. I know they still use them for the water. Normally once a year they flush the system and we have to watch during the specified week for our area for discolored water during the day - no laundry or dish washing when the water is discolored - which basically means I don’t do either during the day that week as it could start in the middle of a load of laundry and discolor it. At the beginning of 2016 we received a notice that they would be painting the water tower for several months and we should watch for the same discoloration during the entire period they were painting. We were never sure if they were painting inside or not. We know they painted the outside as about 8 months later we saw them doing so. If there was no water coming from the tanks the painting would not affect the water.

    NYC in either the late 1800s or early 1900s required water tanks on all buildings - in addition to the use of gravity to deliver the water to the building, if there was a fire the tank could be broken open and the water would rush through the building to help extinguish the fire. Or so my father told me. (I have learned since he passed away that he was sometimes wrong - we can get tornadoes and earthquakes in the NY area, for instance, then again, assuring me we could not may have been from his actual knowledge, but to reassure a little girl who had been terrified and crying on the cyclone ride at the NY World’s Fair and the tornado ride at Freedom Land (theme type park in the Bronx in the early 1960s, put out of business, supposedly, by the World’s Fair) or vice versa.

  30. mary Sep 13th 2017 at 04:20 am 30

    You people befuddle me (of course juice boxes befuddle me). Unless you really MEAN to be talking about water-towers I think you are missing the point. The water-tower was just part of a story from his grandfather (we know they always lie) directly dependent on statements by his grandfather’s friend (they double always lie). He (the author) was trying to make it silly (but unprovable imho) though he (the protagonist) still gets to be the TEACHER for a little bit (because she goes back to being the teacher for the next two semesters; 10 months).

  31. Regulator Machine Sep 14th 2017 at 02:53 pm 31

    up here we have underground water sheds, and on top of them the city has placed tennis courts

    when the city clears a large area to construct something like a water tower, when they are done, they will often turn the land below into a park (why not with a ball field of some kind? )
    it’s here you would find the un-organised ball playing, with the un-discovered talent playing with their friends

  32. James Pollock Sep 14th 2017 at 05:51 pm 32

    Portland still has above-ground, uncovered reservoirs. After 9/11, it was decided that these definitely, positively, had to be replaced by covered ones. I think they’re about done with that. (Portland’s water comes from a natural watershed, some of which is currently on fire.)

  33. Cidu Bill Sep 14th 2017 at 09:10 pm 33

    Growing up, the two places I lived were both a block or two away from major reservoirs. I looked it up, and both still exist as they always did, though in 1993 an advisory committee ruled that one of them was unsafe as is and needed to be covered immediately.

    Plans are apparently still underway.

  34. Mark in Boston Sep 14th 2017 at 10:57 pm 34

    Boston water comes from a man-made reservoir in the middle of the state. Four abandoned towns lie at the bottom of the reservoir.

  35. Kilby Sep 15th 2017 at 04:52 am 35

    Washington DC still has a major open reservoir just outside the city limits. It’s fenced in, of course, but it’s not hard to find (it’s on either side of “Reservoir Road”). It’s fed in part by an ancient aqueduct that still runs through a single-lane brickwork bridge.

  36. DemetriosX Sep 15th 2017 at 04:56 am 36

    @MiB (34): Not to mention a long abandoned farmhouse where something mysterious fell into the well and destroyed an entire family.

  37. pepperjackcandy Sep 16th 2017 at 10:54 pm 37

    James Schend @5: Hopefully his grandma’s generation is also his grandpa’s generation. The alternative would be creepy.

  38. Cidu Bill Sep 17th 2017 at 12:30 am 38

    I live a few blocks from Reservoir Avenue even though, oddly enough there is no nearby reservoir.

    I like to think the street was names after Harry Reservoir.

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