SEYMOUR, IN—Local authority figures and townspeople assembled Monday at Seymour Town Hall to call for the closure of the town's controversial roughhouse, alleging that it has caused countless scrapes, bumps, and bruises since it opened in 1986.
"We're fed up," said Dolly Geary, the local PTA chairwoman and a co-founder of the Task Force Against Skinned Knees. "That place is dangerous. It needs to be shut down before someone gets hurt."
The roughhouse, a crude wooden shanty erected on a vacant lot in the southwestern edge of the city, serves as the site of activities that Geary characterized as rowdy. She said screaming, giggling, and "slamming sounds" often emanate from the structure, especially when school isn't in session.
"I'm tired of people asking 'Where's the rumpus?'" Geary said. "We know darn well where it is, and it's about time we did something about it."
While roughhousers have never reported injuries more severe than minor skin abrasions, pulled hair, squeezed ribcages, and hyperventilation, authority figures said greater harm could occur if the antics continue unchecked.
"I'll bet that place is littered with rusty nails," Geary said. "It's all fun and games now, but when someone gets lockjaw, who'll be laughing?"
Neighbors report that they are losing patience with the racket that emanates from the roughhouse.
"You tell them to knock it off until you're blue in the face," said Larry Diggs, a task-force member and high-school shop teacher who lives across the street from the roughhouse. "Sure, it'll quiet down for a minute, but as soon I turn my back, the squeals and thuds start right up again."
Little is known about what goes on inside the roughhouse, as its visitors are reluctant to snitch. Seymour authority figures have not visited the roughhouse personally, for fear of slipping and breaking their necks.
Former roughhouser Will Keegan provided clues to the place's seemingly irresistible attraction.
"Aw, yeah, the good old roughhouse," said Keegan, 22. "Haven't thought about it in years. Does it still have that ratty old mattress? We used to crouch on the windowsill and leap onto the mattress. You had to have good aim, because anyone who missed and hit the floor got beaten with Wiffle-ball bats as punishment. Oh, and that grocery cart! Is that still there, too?"
Roughhouse proponents like Keegan argue that the horseplay remains voluntary, and that risk of injury is low because total wusses aren't allowed inside the structure.
Brad Martinelli, an area resident who frequented the roughhouse during his youth, said his years inside instilled him with a sense of confidence and belonging.
"Even though I was failing at school and struggling with my parents' divorce, the roughhouse showed me that I could win a good chicken fight or worm my way out of a half-nelson," Martinelli said. "I'm sure that even the queers who got smeared knew it was all in fun."
This defense has failed to satisfy roughhouse opponents, who maintain that the site is an eyesore, a nuisance, and a recipe for trouble.
"If we don't take action now, the problem could get worse," nurse practitioner Shirley Stotts said. "I don't want Seymour to go the route of Muncie, which has a big roughhousing development right downtown. Police are always getting called there to break up giant monkey piles."
With so many grown-ups, from librarians to softball coaches, calling for the roughhouse's closure, it seems likely to soon go the way of the giant mud hole, a downtown mud-pie-making location shut down in 1997.