First Church steeple, Ipswich MA

A Wager on the Rooster

by Harold Bowen

If someone offered me all of the gold at Fort Knox, or all of the tea in China, I doubt very much if it would be enough to induce me to climb up and sit on the rooster‘s back at the Congregational Church. And today, it is only 100 feet off the ground.

But years ago, one man was bet five dollars that he wouldn’t dare to do that same stunt. Then the rooster was about 150 feet from the ground, on the steeple of the Old North Church.

Most people remember Raymond Dodge as the man who put in the greatest number of hours spotting planes during the war and reporting the same from the observation tower on Town Hill. For this he was honored several times by Uncle Sam.

Raymond Dodge and Rubin Andrews planted a flag on the North Church spire in 1900 while they were painting it red. This photo was taken by Angus Savory, courtesy of Sandy Godzik.

But in his younger days he was a painter and worked for Rubin Andrews, the contractor. One day when they were painting the steeple, Angus Savory, who owned the drug store across the street, bet him five dollars that he didn’t dare to go up and sit on the rooster’s back, as the story remembered by Vincent Boylan goes. Granted, five dollars then was worth three times as much as today. But even fifteen dollars is not much for this kind of a stunt.

Raymond Dodge climbed up and sat on the back of the rooster. Of course, he won the bet, but in doing so the rooster tipped up a little, so to right it again, Raymond laid his whole body across it and balanced it across the back of the rooster.

In so doing, he righted the rooster, but his weight drove the rooster down on the spindle so hard that it wouldn’t give the wind direction. Finally, after several months, with the help of the winds of mother nature, the rooster was able to free itself, and it has been giving the wind direction ever since. Some people will do anything to make a buck.

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