When 12-year-old Eddie Baugh decided to purchase two Easter chickens in 1957, he had no idea that one of the chicks would still be remembered 56 years later as the meanest, most territorial rooster in Cleveland history.
Baugh purchased the chicks at Beaty's Hardware on Wildwood Avenue.
While one of the chicks died mysteriously a few months later — Baugh found it decapitated and assumed a dog was responsible — the other chick grew to be big, fat, and frightening.
His name was Bock Bock.
For the children who grew up around Arnold Elementary School between 1957 and 1959, there was no sight more terrifying than that of Bock Bock.
Baugh said the white Leghorn rooster (pronounced "leggern") was especially large, with red on his head and razor-sharp spurs. Some children thought Bock Bock resembled the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn.
"His body was very large, but he was not a fighting rooster — just a regular rooster," said Baugh, now an attorney in Cleveland. "He stayed in the yard, along with our other animals and my pony that we called Buddy the Wonder Horse."
The rooster lived with Baugh, his brother Johnny, mother Betty Jo, and his grandparents, J.D. and Marie Slaughter, at 463 8th St. NW — directly between the school and the popular Ms. Rymer's Sweet Shop.
The sweet shop was located on Milne Avenue behind the home of Zoe C. Rymer, the widow of J.D. Ms. Rymer's home was at 445 8th St. N.W. Some children in the neighborhood thought Rymer looked like a grey-haired Aunt Bee from “The Andy Griffith Show.”
There were no supermarkets in Cleveland in 1957, so the Rymer store served as the neighborhood convenience store and a popular gathering place. The occasional fight would also happen in the lot next door.
Any child who attended the school or wanted to visit the sweet shop for a candy bar or a fistfight was likely to walk by Bock Bock's attack zone and encounter the rooster — and the meeting was never pleasant.
"I was so afraid of Bock Bock that I always stayed away from the fence," said Eddie Spencer, a former Arnold student. "The kids would gather at Rymer's Sweet Shop every morning before school and everyone knew to avoid Bock Bock at all costs. The rooster would hide in the bushes and wait for you to go to the sweet shop. As soon as he spotted you, he would instantly attack."
Randy Fox, a friend of the Baugh family and now a retired postman, said he would throw rocks into the bushes to try and locate the rooster before attempting to enter the yard.
"As children, we always wanted to go over and see Eddie's pony," Fox said. "Bock Bock chased me many times, but I am grateful that I was faster than he was and he never caught me. He was very territorial — and his territory was large."
Steve "Doughball" Hixson, a former Arnold student, recalls being well aware of the Bock Bock legend and says he also took steps to avoid being attacked.
"I went over to Ms. Rymer's Sweet Shop every day, but I was smarter than everyone else," Hixson said. "I stayed as far away from Eddie's house as possible so that Bock Bock never had a chance to attack me."
Bill Varnell, a former Arnold student and now a stockbroker, wasn't as careful as Fox or Hixson.
"I wanted to see the pony one morning, so I poked my head through the bushes to take a look," Varnell remembered. "Before I knew it, Bock Bock whacked me in the head. It was quite a surprise — and it hurt!"
Jim Davis, another neighbor of Baugh's, also recalls being surprised by Bock Bock.
"One afternoon we were in Eddie's yard playing basketball and I looked over and saw Bock Bock sneaking through the hedge — and then running as fast as he could at my legs to attack me," Davis explained. "The rooster was a nuisance and seemed to be everywhere. All the kids knew how unfriendly he was and tried to stay out of the way."
Bock Bock's favorite spot to perch was above a fishpond in Baugh's backyard, on a mound of rocks.
"That was his roost and he stayed there no matter how cold or hot it was," Baugh said. "Rain, snow — you name it — Bock Bock was always on his roost. He could have slept in the garage for shelter but he was too proud."
One famous attack came at the expense of Allan Jones, a 5-year-old at the time who eventually founded Check Into Cash.
Jones, Baugh's cousin, would visit the house each Sunday after church with his parents, William "Bill" Jones and Virginia "Gincy" Jones, and two sisters, Anne and Amy, to eat his grandmother Marie Slaughter's famous Southern fried chicken for lunch.
On one such visit, Bock Bock attacked Jones.
"He ambushed me from behind and got me down," recalled Jones. "My dad came bursting through the screen door to rescue me."
Jones said his father kicked Bock Bock so hard that the rooster's body came off the ground and went several feet into the air. While the rooster was elevated, it turned in mid-air to fly back and flog his father.
"I can still remember that evil look Bock Bock had — once he decided to attack you he just would not quit," Jones noted. "After that first attack, I was always scared to go in the backyard and I always had to know the location of the rooster before I would go into my grandmother's house."
Amy Banks, Jones' sister, also recalls the fear of Bock Bock.
"We were terrified to play in the backyard," Banks said. "Bock Bock was a very mean rooster and we all feared him tremendously. I don't know what his deal was. I was fortunate that he chased me but never caught me."
Sherry Farris Storm, who lived across the street from Baugh, remembers being attacked by Bock Bock on several occasions.
"It was a huge, beautiful rooster — big and fat," Storm advised. "He loved to raise up his wing and flog people and you could tell he enjoyed it. Every time Bock Bock came after me, I would scream and Eddie or his grandmother would come out with a broom and try to knock it off. I lost count of how many times I got flogged over the years. I was terrified."
Ricky Butler, whose grandmother, Ms. Foote, lived next door to Baugh, recalls a quiet afternoon that quickly turned tragic.
"I was playing on the swing set and for some reason, I tied myself to the swing with a little piece of rope," said Butler, now the owner of Bradley Tank & Pipe. "I saw Bock Bock rushing over to attack me and I couldn't get loose fast enough. It was quite painful."
Ginger Able Swineheart, now a resident of Johnson City, was another victim.
"I loved Ms. Rymer's Sweet Shop, but a child could never go there without dealing with Bock Bock," she said. "I remember vividly the time he attacked my sister. I tore her shirt trying to pull her away from Bock Bock, while I swung at him with a stick."
While Bock Bock loved to frighten the children of Cleveland, he also had a reputation with the canine community.
"The neighborhood dogs never got near Bock Bock," Baugh said. "They were good-sized dogs, but they wouldn't mess with him. Bock Bock would attack them and scare them."
Along with his fierce nature, Bock Bock was also an annoyance to the neighbors due to his tendency to crow loudly at daybreak.
"I grew up on Brown Avenue, three blocks away from where Bock Bock lived," said David Simmons. "I never got attacked by the rooster, but my brother and I slept in the attic and it woke us up every morning. I can still hear it after all these years."
Baugh, now in his 60s, said that while he was aware of Bock Bock's temperament, he always maintained a good relationship with the rooster.
"We would play games together and I would chase him around and he would stop and look back at me — he just loved to play around," Baugh said. "It was a lot of fun. He was also friendly with my grandmother. I always assumed it was because she cared for him while I was in the hospital after my motorcycle wreck. He loved her and would just sit quietly in her lap."
Baugh maintains that Bock Bock would only attack strangers, which meant his grandfather, J.D., came out on the losing end due to his job. The grandfather worked for the federal government on the atomic nuclear project in Oak Ridge, and was only home in Cleveland on weekends.
"Because Bock Bock didn't see my grandfather often, I think he always regarded him as a stranger and continued to attack him," Baugh cited.
Baugh denies playing any role in Bock Bock's personality.
"It was not me who made him mean," Baugh said. "He was always playful around me. I certainly didn't encourage the bad behavior."
The two years of terror came to an unexpected end in the summer of 1959, when a delivery boy for the nearby Samples' Food Store came to make a dropoff. The store was located at 523 1st St. N.W., directly across from the former Little Old Fort — now the Diner on First Street.
"The delivery boy came to our backdoor and was attacked from behind by Bock Bock," Baugh said. "He was so stunned that he kicked Bock Bock and then stomped it, breaking the rooster's neck."
Swineheart also remembers hearing of the fateful encounter.
"The grocery boy had two bags in his arms and Bock Bock hit him from behind," she said. "He was so stunned that he dropped the groceries and broke the rooster's neck before he could even think about it."
Baugh says he remembers the time of the rooster's death — approximately 4 p.m.
"I came outside and saw the delivery boy just standing there with Bock Bock flopping around on the ground — his neck had been broken," Baugh said. "The delivery boy kept telling me he was sorry and couldn't help it. When he saw how angry I was he jumped in his truck and drove off. He was never allowed to come back on our property."
The identity of Bock Bock's killer remains a mystery. Baugh says he doesn't remember, while Randy Fox believes it was either David Crick or Bobby Samples — both Samples' delivery boys at the time, and who are now deceased.
Baugh said the rooster's death saddened him tremendously although the sentiment was not shared throughout the neighborhood.
"The neighbors were all happy that Bock Bock was dead and they didn't try to hide it," Baugh said. "He was the terror of the neighborhood. I thought they might have a party to celebrate that he was gone."
“I remember the phone ringing and my grandmother telling my mother that Bock Bock had been killed," Jones said. "My sisters and I danced around and celebrated like the wicked witch had finally died. For me, it meant I could finally start going to the sweet shop to get a piece of bubblegum with the nickel my grandmother had given me. I had been too scared to go there while Bock Bock was terrorizing the neighborhood.”
Baugh said he never considered replacing the ornery rooster.
"You can't replace someone like Bock Bock," he said. "I do wish I could have seen him go up against one of these fighting cocks they've got nowadays. I'm pretty sure Bock Bock would have won."
Baugh said he is amazed that so many years after Bock Bock's death, people continue to tell stories about the rooster. Some express amazement that Bock Bock's antics never resulted in a lawsuit, although Baugh dismisses the notion.
"People didn't sue as much back in the old days," he said. "If it all happened today, of course the city would be knocking on our door and we would all be in court. Bock Bock was fortunate."
Baugh's greatest regret is that he never took a picture of Bock Bock.
"I always took pictures of our animals, but for some reason I never got around to getting one of Bock Bock," Baugh said. "A picture would be nice to look at during those quiet times when you reflect on the past. It all happened so long ago."
The only known image of Bock Bock that exists is a grainy screen capture from a Jones family home movie taken while the rooster was alive. The movie features young Allan Jones and his father standing by Buddy the Wonder Horse with Bock Bock in the background.
To honor the memory of the rooster, the Allan Jones Foundation recently purchased a marker that was placed at the site of Bock Bock's death. The marker reads:
"Here Lies Bock Bock. The Easter Chicken of Eddie Baugh who grew up to be a mean rooster who terrorized the kids of Arnold School from Easter of 1957 to Summer 1959. Killed by a Samples' Grocery Store delivery boy at 4 p.m.!"
Do you have a special memory of Bock Bock? Please call 423-473-4227 or visit www.BockBock.net to watch a movie of Bock Bock and share your story.