An article in today's News-Herald looked back at the Great Lakes Mall as it celebrates 50 years of history. The mall of my youth had yet to be enclosed. Fazios stood alone across from Ridge JHS. Mentor Recreation Park was a private pool and sports complex. Bargain Fair offered a treasure trove for 'pickers' of any age. As I thought back to the Mentor of my early years, I recall a Horton's Nursery sitting where Erie Commons now stands. An underpass on Rt. 306 hadn't yet been built. An overpass on Rt. 615 near Mentor Lumber was still a concept. A classmate of mine was from the Wyant Family Nursery. The Civic Center Complex was still massive fields of flowers. Nurseries dotted Mentor Avenue east and west. From Willoughby to Madison, the names of the nurserymen were a veritable "who's who?" Sunday, March 20th was the first day of Spring. Today, Monday, March 21st is a good day to remember the "Rose Capital of the Nation." A little marker #19-43 is situated in a commemorative garden across from St. Mary's Church and adjacent to PNC Bank on Mentor, Avenue. This marker retells the story of a city and county whose reputation in agricultural circles was legendary.
From 1920 through 1970, Mentor was recognized as the "Rose Capital of the Nation." Dozens of growers combined to produce over five million plants annually. Lake effect climate, excellent soil composition, and abundant water provided a growing corridor unrivaled in the U.S. Gerald K. Klyn became the midwest's largest grower. Joseph Kallay secured the country's first Rose patent in 1932 for #10 Blaze. Melvin E. Wyant was a noted grower, lecturer and judge. Joseph J. Kern was a noted expert on old fashioned roses. Paul R. Bosley was an expert on hybrid tea roses. Time brought change and some of our stories became lost as land became a commercial commodity.
The next time you drive past the Civic Center Complex imagine a massive field of roses. The next time you drive past streets named Tea Rose, Wyant, or Rosebud imagine Mentor as an agricultural mecca of the Midwest. And finally, as you drive Rt. 20 from Willoughby to Madison imagine a nursery in place of every shopping strip you pass. Spring 2011 is a perfect time to take a moment and smell the roses at a little garden next to marker #19-43.