Monday, November 29, 2010

WANTED: Green male, age 53 - The Grinch Capers Return to Fairport Harbor

The denotation of 'lore' is acquired knowledge on a particular subject, for example, local traditions handed down by word of mouth and usually in the form of stories or anecdotes.  An icon of the winter holidays, The Grinch returns to Fairport Harbor this Saturday for his annual capers.  Theodor Suess Geisel, a German immigrant better known as Dr. Suess, wrote the tale of our infamous green character in 1957.  Appearing in an issue of 'Redbook' and in book form, the classic storyline is this - Bitter and hateful, the Grinch is irritated at the thought of the nearby village having a happy time celebrating Christmas.   A television special followed in 1966, and rocketed The Grinch to his iconic status. The Grinch, Max and Cindy Lou Who have reveled in their lore for the decades that followed.

In 1994, the village of Fairport Harbor began an annual event known as Harbor Holidays.  It is held the first Saturday in December and features shopping, eating and entertainment at the local businesses, churches, schools, museums and organizations.  In 2000, a green figure emigrated to Fairport Harbor and has been seen on the first Saturday in December throughout the village.  His capers include stealing gifts from the local merchants, driving around the village in a classic 1960's red Ford sedan and appearing at the Fairport Public Library at noon to autograph his book and take pictures with the little true believers.  " Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  What if Christmas doesn't come from a store.  What if Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more."  Thus, the Grinch began a new local tradition of reading his classic story from the top of the lighthouse tower at 6pm that Saturday.  The crowds below, many in blankets and sitting in lawn chairs listen to his classic transformation and join him afterwards in the park for free pictures ( Santa is present too ) , free hot chocolate and a snack.

While there is much holiday lore in Lake County from the Corning House at the Holden Arboretum to the Nativity Scenes in Historic Kirtland Village, it is the shared generational program sponsored by the Fairport Harbor Business Association, Fairport Public Library, and Fairport Harbor Historical Society that should be visited and revisited the first Saturday of each December.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Willoughby's Hidden Gem: The Indian Museum of Lake County

Recent discussions about downtown Willoughby center on its revitalization, eclectic business district, and most recently the fate of its lost centerpiece, a clock face.  Missing from those discussions is the arrival five years ago of the Indian Museum of Lake County.  Located just a few hundred yards off the main business district found on Erie Street, the museum has served as an educational hub for thirty years.  The museum is located in building B of the Technical Center and is open seven days a week.  From humble beginnings at Lake Erie College in Painesville, the museum which opened in 1980, now preserves over 27,000 artifacts.  Artifacts range from prehistoric to the Native American crafts from 1800 to the present.  The Indian Museum is an experience that serves all age groups and levels of interest.

On the day I stopped by, Director Ann Dewald and her volunteer staff were sharing their experiences with a group of preschoolers.  Arrows from the Paleo era and Plano complex were available for viewing.  The Fairport Collection of the Cat Indians and Celts are depicted in detail.  Pipes, Native American attire, and other archeological finds were there to view in detail.  The museum library contains over 1,000 books and periodicals to be used by any community learner.

The heart of the museum's collection centers around three experiences.  The Whittlesey Culture (900 AD to 1600 AD ) are examined in detail.  These people occupied areas of Ashtabula,  Geauga, and Lake Counties. They were the last group of Indians to  live in this area before the arrival of the Europeans.  Artifacts found during a 1973 dig at the Reeve Village Site ( Eastlake Middle School ) of 1929 comprise another focal point of the museum assets.  Finally, student workshops allow hands-on experiences with dig basics, corn grinding and interactions with Native American speakers.

The museum's goals have been to preserve materials important to the Native American history of NE Ohio, all of Ohio and to exhibit art and crafts of today's Native Americans throughout the North American Continent.  Willoughby's Hidden Gem stands this test of time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lot #32 in Grand River, Ohio - It's a Nice Place to Perch

While working at the lighthouse or local port authority in Fairport, I am often asked to recommend a fish place for a meal.  While some local establishments in the village get my support, I usually mention the eclectic Pickle Bills before endorsing Brennan's Fish House in Grand River, Ohio.  The town of Richmond ( Grand River ) was established in 1832. Thus, a New Era began on the banks of the Grand River as New York speculator Thomas Richmond bought properties and sought an Erie Canal for his land.  1835 marks the first mention of a newspaper, The Grand River Record and numerous saloons.  Never used glass and iron factories are noted circa 1853.  Lime kilns were operated in 1876 in the town. In 1889, Frank Jerome began a second New Era in Grand River and Fairport Harbor anticipating an extension of the B&O railroad.  Warehouses and grain elevators were built.  Jerome even buys lot #32 and three surrounding properties for $800 from a Henrietta Hendrickson.  Lot #32 is resold and a Grand River Hotel begins a long and often sullied history.  The boom town of 1890 complete with saloons and houses of ill repute fizzled by 1903.  In the aftermath only a Hotel ( lot #32 ), saloon, fish net store, fish company, town hall and jail survived.

Lot #32 is sold to Louis Seelbach in 1903.  The Hotel continued to operate under their stewardship. George and Martha Evans acquire the Hotel, also known as the Net House in 1917 from Louis' widow.  A restaurant is born.  The Evans' and their ten children operated Evans Lunch through 1968.  Harry's Lunch took over lot #32.  Harry Jones, the proprietor, transitioned the building to a Lake Erie Nautical theme.  Harry's became Brennan's Fish House in 1974.  Tim and Betty Brennan owned and operated their establishment for the next 32 years.  Another ' New Era' began in 2006 when Sharon and Steven Hill became the newest owner operators of Brennan's Fish House.  From the starry eyed hopes of Thomas Richmond to the anticipated boom and fizzle of the area, lot #32 has stood for over 160 years and remained the one constant in the local lore of Grand River, Ohio.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The "Reeve" of Lake's "Shire" - from Sproat to Dunlap

Ebeneezer Sproat, Edward Rasmussen, Edwin Cunningham, and Daniel A. Dunlap are just a few of the 31 names that have served Lake County as "Reeve".  The history of the Sheriff's Office dates back to 871 AD and King Alfred the Great.  King Alfred created a new form of government known as a 'shire' or county.  Each 'shire' was led by an appointed 'reeve' or chief.  Thus began a civil service position that to this day has remained largely unchanged.  The Sheriff had the power to arrest, collect taxes, preside over court matters, and deal with maintaining the peace. The Sheriff represented the government's interests and the handling of criminals throughout the judicial process.

In history and in legend, the office of the Sheriff has been immortalized.  History tells us after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Normans centralized power and used a Sheriff as its enforcer. King John and the Magna Carta made mention to a Sheriff over nine times.  As English settlers arrived in America circa 1634, the Office of Sheriff traveled with them.  Thomas Jefferson spoke directly to the importance of Sheriffs in his work "The Value of Constitutions".  Westward expansion in the late 1800's led to the legendary iconic images of two Sheriffs, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.

In 2010, over 3,000 counties now exist in the United States.  Other than Alaska, the only state without a Sheriff's Office, order is maintained locally by an elected Sheriff. In fact the Office of Sheriff was the first County Office created in the United States.  Ohio has 88 counties and each has the Sheriff as its 'reeve'.  Prior to Statehood, Ohio had its first colonial governor appointed Sheriff.  It was the year 1788 and the appointee was Colonel Ebeneezer Sproat.  Until 1803, Sproat's jurisdiction covered all of eastern Ohio from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.  An interesting side to his appointment is that the Indians of nearby Marietta nicknamed him "Hetuk", an Indian word for buckeye.  From Sheriff Sproat to current Buckeye Sheriff Dunlap, this serves as a tribute to their community service.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

OLD OHIO SCHOOLS: Then and Now ( Memories of our Youth)

A few weeks ago, I was invited to return to my old school and speak on the occasion of an Alumni Hall of Fame Induction.  A few days ago, I was talking to my nearly ninety year old uncle about his days at Willoughby Union High School.  I drive by the old Grand River School often and I remember the former Harvey High School being demolished last year as the result of a new buildings initiative.  Each Tuesday afternoon I pass the Fairport Harbor City Hall and Police Department, which at one time was the village school building.  As a retired teacher, I have come to appreciate the memories, hallowed events, and love that each of these educational edifices elicit from students, parents, and colleagues who shared time in their halls and on their grounds.  Throughout these schools existence, they attracted the children of locals, immigrants and emigrants from every corner of the globe and from every walk of life.  Children who today continue to throb with as much life, noise, and vivacity as the buildings of their youth.

An inquiry from a visitor at my Alumni presentation led me to a website  This site is entirely devoted to preserving the memories of all old Ohio Schools by county.  I checked the site and found that my school Euclid Central 1913-1967 was missing from this archive.  A quick contact and photo later and 'The Lions Den' was part of local lore.  The site contains pictures of retired schools, endangered schools, and abandoned schools.  It also contains pictures and brief bios of schools gone but not forgotten, status unknown and those still functional.  Architectural insignia and cornerstones grace another link in the site.

Whether you attended P.S. 10,Wells or Berwick School in Euclid, Old Center Street High School and /or Mentor High School on Mentor Avenue, or P.S. 14 as I did, a look at this website is a celebration of each communities great past. It is also one captivating way to look at the way in which our hometowns have changed and evolved.  Again, - a hidden gem and nugget to our past

Monday, November 8, 2010

Edmund Fitzgerald 35th Anniversary - local connection

The gales of November came early was a memorable line from a Gordon Lightfoot 70's song.  Since 1950, there have been ninety-one recorded shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.  Nineteen of these have occurred in the month of November.  Twenty-six were the results of storms.  Of the ninety-one shipwrecks, some were tugboats, others tankers, and still others included dredgers, passenger vessels or research craft.  However, the four greatest Great Lakes tragedies since 1950 occurred on lake freighters.  The Henry Steinbrenner went down on May 11, 1953 in Lake Superior.  The Carl D. Bradley was lost in a storm on Lake Michigan on November 18, 1958.  The Daniel J. Morrell sunk in Lake Huron on November 29, 1966.  November 10, 1975 saw the Edmund Fitzgerald succumb to the worst storm in nearly three decades on Lake Superior.  Crew lost were 17, 33, 28, and 29 respectively.  Dennis Hale of Ashtabula was the sole survivor in the Morrell shipwreck.  His book SOLE SURVIVOR recounts that night in 1966.

November 10, 2010 marks the 35th Anniversary of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  Fairport Harbor resident Edward F. Bindon was the engineer on board that night.  A seasoned veteran of the Great Lakes, he nonetheless perished that cold November night with 28 other shipmates, 12 of whom called Ohio their home. To this day no one knows for certain why the 729 foot ore carrier foundered so suddenly.  The Fitzgerald and the entire crew still lie just 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point in 535 feet of water. The Fairport Harbor Historical Society, Fairport VFW Post 7754, and the USCG Station Fairport will be collaborating in a memorial program at the Post Hall on East Street in Fairport at 7pm.  An eighteen minute video, ship's manifests, archival pictures, and a ceremonial 'Call to the Last Watch' will be highlights of this hour long public program.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Local Lore

      acquired knowledge or wisdom on a particular subject, for example,
      local traditions, handed down by word of mouth and usually in the
      form of stories or historical anecdotes.

      knowledge that has been acquired through teaching or experience. 

     Local Lore by Max will appear twice weekly ( Monday and Thursday ) and will attempt to share the
     local histories of various Lake County sites.  From the well-known, to the hidden gems and nuggets
     this blogger will share historical facts, local lore, and timely events as our community of readers
     travel the annals of history in Lake County and nearby communities.