Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Harbor Profiles

Each city, village or town has its memorable persons.  Oftentimes athletics, world events, or singular moments allow some to become larger than life and become legendary in the annals of community history.  Fairport Harbor celebrates its bicentennial month of September looking back at some of the local residents who rose to prominence in their chosen professions over the years.  Today's entry pays tribute to three hidden gems in village history. All three women were inducted into the Achievement Hall of Fame at Fairport Harding High.

                                             Jesse Owen Hayduk Winter

From the Fairport Class of '36, this inductee began her journalistic career at the age of 16 as a reporter for the Fairport Beacon.  Upon her graduation from FHS she was a correspondent for the Painesville Telegraph until its closing.  Her career spanned 52 years and her accounts of Lake County events remain as eyewitness testimonies to local history.

                                             Christine (Kapostasy) Jansing

This '74 graduate of the Fairport Harbor schools has a family name well remembered in village annals.  Christine carved out her own legacy and continues to do so in her chosen profession.  After a 17 year run on local TV as a news reporter, she joined NBC Nightly News in 1998.  She has appeared on and contributed segments to the Today Show, Dateline, and MSNBC as well as covering world events.  Her reporting has included notable events in the Middle East, Olympics, Space Shuttle Missions, and even 9/11.        

                                              Christin Zalar

A member of the Class of '73, this  Fairport Harbor graduate was the main consultant in the 1996 Life Flight Eagle Program at George Washington University.  Her contributions revolutionized the field of emergency medicine and transport protocols.  A Professor of Emergency Medicines at GWU, her numerous published books and articles are used today by Life Flight and other emergency personnel.

Monday, August 27, 2012

As Mentor Celebrates 50 Years - A look back at City Landmarks

The landscape of a community changes over the course of time.  Ask my aunt and uncle, both of whom are 90 years plus and Mentor is remembered mostly as a rural town. Their children attended JHS at Center Street, one attended HS at Memorial, another opened Ridge JHS, and two were the first to attend a new HS located on Center Street.  I grew up with a Mentor Recreation Park as a summer constant and participated in my high school varsity sports at the Mentor Memorial Stadium site.  As my relatives remember their past, I ask you today do you recall these Mentor Landmarks from years ago. Many are still visible as you drive the streets of your hometown.

The Mentor Post Office from 1921-1962 was located at the corner of Mentor Avenue and Hart Street.  Some will remember the one at Center Street next to the old village school.  Today the post office is located on Tyler Blvd.

St. Mary of the Assumption Church (second of three built) occupied the current PNC bank building at 8537 Mentor Avenue.  The present church was constructed in 1964 opposite the 1934 structure.  The original church building from 1868 currently is home to Temple Am Shalom ( 7599 South Center Street).

The Gray-Coulton House at 8607 Mentor Avenue was built in 1868.  Many businesses have been located there but history tells us it was first a seed store and grocery.  Famous names from the past included the R. N. Whitcomb Dry Goods Store and Snell's Grocery ( 1920-1936 and again circa 1961-62).

Mall shopping hit the Mentor landscape and debuted in 1961.  Acres of orchards near our family home were sacrificed for the DeBartolo vision.  I even remember the mall when it wasn't totally enclosed.  Some of the first retailers were Newberry Five & dime, Krogers, Cowell & Hubbard, Higbees,Petries, May Company, Winklemans, Bill's Clothes, Sears, J.C.Penny, Spencer Gifts, Gray Drug and Stanbough-Thompson Harware.  These names from the past have been replaced by Kaufmann's, Dillards, Horne's and Macy's over time.  Erie Commons came later in the '70s at the expense of Horton's Nursery I believe.  Zayre's and Gold Circle anchored the corner early on along with the current Giant Eagle.

2013 marks fifty years for Mentor as a city.  Eleven structures in Mentor are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bargain Fair is long gone.  The Mentor Avenue Drive-In where we watched 'The Godfather' is a distant memory. Target arose on the long familiar dealership site of Ed Pike .  In 2004 Center Street School not only closed but was sold off just two years later.  It doesn't seem like many years, but the Mentor of my youth has been transformed. Yet the many little gems still remain if you just take the time to look.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Program Tonight Celebrates Fairport's Business History

Tonight at 7pm the Bicentennial Year Lecture Series will continue with the fourth of six history lectures.  The topic will explore the businesses of Fairport through its 200 years and will take place at the Harding High School Auditorium.  FHTC and Bicentennial chairs Mike Scruggs and Pat Spivak will be presenting.

                                                 Arthur J. McCrone

Born of pioneering parents in Fairport, Arthur J. McCrone was proprietor of McCrone's Clothing Store.  Celebrated as a youth for his prowess as a member of the famous Fairport Baseball Clubs of the era, his belief in the village's future led him to establish one of the earliest business blocks in Fairport.  His store became an anchor of this business section of the village for over two decades.  McCrone served several terms on Village Council.  His civic mindedness led him to serve on the Board of Education and become involved with many community projects.

                                                     A. Rogat

A. Rogat was reared in Newark New Jersey and arrived in Fairport in 1921.  Aged 23, he immediately established his first business at 328 High Street.  Within three years his business prospered and he erected a brick building on the original site  The store became known as Rogat's Hardware.  Business continued to do well so much so that Rogat enlarged his store once again and in time added a second store to his business block.  The second store became Rogat's Furniture Store.  Both stores became lasting staples in the Fairport and Lake County business communites.

Other well known Fairport Businesses (partial listing) were Tantre's Market, Kapel's Winery, Ulle's Market, Lunka's Tavern, Isaly's, Thall's Shoe Store, Mackey's Self Serve, Rasmussen Deli, Ben Franklin, Lyric, Lake& Park Theaters, Bailey's, North Star Dairy...

Monday, August 20, 2012

As Mentor Celebrates 50 Years - A look back at Center Street School

Education has always been at the forefront of all our ancestors.  The earliest pioneers and settlers to the Western Reserve and Lake County were no different.  Some fifteen years after the signing of the U. S. Constitution, the first Mentor school was in operation.  Located in the old village section of Mentor, the names Thomas Skinner, Abraham Skinner, and Warren Corning played important roles in the early school's creation.  A 15' square school house had been erected from a log shanty belonging to Peter French.  Perhaps meant to serve as a cow stable in its initial construction, this first school was situated on the site of the current Mitsubishi showroom and served the first students of Mentor.  Thomas was looking to settle in the area but only if it suitable school were in place.  Assured by his brother Abraham that this was no issue, property deeded by Warren Corning for a brick schoolhouse allowed the first school to be improved upon.  By 1853 Mentor had 15 school districts, all distinct and unique in philosophy.  The present Center Street Village School ( Mentor Village School) was built in 1914.  The 1862 bell from the old building was perched on top of the school.  That 1000 pound bell may be seen today on the brick island in front of the former school.  Some legend and lore surround the story of the 'well' that was once located in the front yard.  1927 saw a gym and auditorium added to the school.  Junior High at Mentor Village School is a part of the building's history.

In many ways the growth of Mentor from a sleepy village with a rural ambiance into the bustling big city of 2012 can be seen in the history of one of its earliest edifices located in the old village section on the corners of Mentor Avenue and Center Street.  Many of the lives and their childhood memories touched by its walls still reside nearby.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Fairport Businesses Continued...

August 23, 2012 will begin the second slate of historical lectures that are being shared with the public as part of the Fairport Harbor Bicentennial.  The fourth of the six programs for the year will highlight the businesses that dotted the Fairport landscape over time.  Do you remember Rogats, Colgroves, Lunkas, E.E.Lawrence Marine Supply, or Wolff's Ice & Coal?  Do you remember the merchants featured below?

                                                  John Guraly

John Guraly was proprietor of Guraly's Restaurant, which at one time was the largest in the county.  Born in Hungary, he arrived at the age of 9 in Fairport and went into the restaurant business in 1935.  He also took an active role in the village government.  He served on council and was instrumental in assisting in the water plant project.

                                                  B. H. Synder

B.H. Snyder aided in the growth of Fairport.  Manager of Harbor Land Co., he supervised the construction of over 40 homes during Fairport's infancy.  These homes were located on Paradise and E. Street.  A second building project under his guidance saw 35 more homes added to the village proper.  He also owned a retail coke and coal business in his day.  Synder also was responsible for the 1933 planting of 1600 maple trees in town.  He even found time to commit six years to the local Board of Education.

                                                Charles K. Pohto

Charles K. Pohto was born in Finland but came to Fairport to make his mark.  After a brief career as a pipe-fitter at the Alkali, he returned to the trade of his youth.  Applying the apprenticeship knowledge gained as a baker, Pohto opened his bakery business in the 1930's.  His Fairport Bakery specialized in Finnish and Swedish baked goods and became famous county-wide.  His bakery and grocery businesses were the largest in Lake County for some years.  Civic mindedness was another trait of Charles as he served terms on Village Council, volunteered for community needs, and aided in the water plant project.

                                                Arnold Toivonen

Arriving in Fairport at the early age of 5, Arnold Toivonen began a varied career.  'Huddy' as he was known to villagers was a Great Lakes seaman for years.  A second career stop saw him work for the Harbor Land Company.  His best known job was that of Manager of the Chalifin Haberdashery on High Street.  In  his spare time, he like many other merchants of the era found time to support community projects.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Lake County Mini Profiles - Painesville's Dr. & Mrs. Rucker

Dr. William J. Rucker was born in Nashville in 1898.  Educated at Fisk University, he earned his medical degree from Meharry Medical College in Tennessee and arrived in Cleveland around 1929.  It was nine years later that Dr. Rucker and his wife Mildred moved to Painesville, Ohio.  For the next 42 years his impact was felt in the community.  Mildred left an even longer legacy before her death in 1992.  Both became true cornerstones of not only the African-American Community living in Lake County but in the fabric of our entire county history.  Here is a brief tribute to Dr. William J. and Mildred Rucker.

Dr. Rucker joined the staff at Lake County Memorial Hospital in 1938.  At the time, he was the first African-American physician to serve Lake County.  Rucker also entered into private practice which he conducted from his Painesville residence.  Also civic minded, Dr. Rucker helped build the St. John Baptist Church in Painesville as well as serving as Chairman of the Deacon Committee.  He was also a member in good standing of the  Ross Bethel Lodge #105, Starlight Lodge #443, NAACP, and President of the Lake County Garden Club.  Dr. Rucker served his adopted community until his passing in June, 1980.

It has been reported that Mildred Rucker (1903-1992) literally touched the lives of every African-American born in Painesville between 1940-1987.  Mildred Rucker served as nurse and personal secretary for her husband's private practice beginning in 1944.  From their home on W. Jackson Street, She mentored hundreds of children in her lifetime.  She took them on field trips and introduced them to life experiences beyond the rural Painesville of the day.  Keeping the young busy and engaged in learning / community became a life-long passion.  Her passing in 1992 was the end of an era.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Rucker served Painesville and Lake County much like an underground spring.  They quietly made the ground above them that much better by their presence.  Both of them may be lesser known footnotes in the annals of Lake County history yet they are just another hidden gem worth remembering.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: The Village Barbers

Long ago sailors trimmed their own hair.  Parents cut their children's hair and ladies wore their hair long.  Today we remember the first barbers in Fairport when it was part of the Western Reserve's 'frontier'.

                                                               John Walli

John Walli is considered to be one of the first owners of a barber shop in the village.  Located on Marine Street he operated it for over 25 years covering parts of the 18th & 19th century.

                                                              R. A. Lake

R. A. Lake operated his shop at 323 High Street.  Born in Finland in 1893, he sailed to Ontario at the age of 15, learned the trade and became a shopkeeper.  Lake applied his trade in Copper Cliff, Sault St. Marie, and Ashtabula before coming to Fairport in 1925.  His business interests also included organizing the Orange Crush bottling works while in Ashtabula (1923).  R. A. Lake was very civic minded and made many public appearances as a musician and singer.  He served as the Fairport School Band Director and choirmaster of the Suomi Church Choir.  Both groups became reknown and were award winners.

                                                            W. H. Freeman

Freeman's barbershop was located at his home on High Street. Freeman was one of the oldest practitioners of the art in the village.  He learned his trade from his uncle, whose shop was in Painesville.  Although born in Painesville, Freeman spent his early years as a barber in Columbus and Perry.  Fairport became his final stop.  Freeman was also noted for his musicial prowess and was a member of the Fairport Band for years.

                                                            George Paul

Mr. Paul operated his barber shop at the intersection of Third and Eagle.  Paul was a barber since his youth.  His shop opened around 1935 and was long considered one of the most modern of its day.

                                                            Roy Johnson

In 1936, Fairport's oldest barber from a standpoint of service was Roy Johnson.  His shop was located on Third Street.  Roy who resides in Painesville, was born in Painesville,  and attended Harvey High.  He chose to open his business in Fairport and has remained ever since.  While known as the village barber, his ability to play many musical instruments led him to second career.  His jazz band and Johnson's Orchestra were well accomplished and traveled throughout N. E. Ohio.

                                                            C. L. Hall

C. L. Hall operated his shop on High Street next to the Theater.  Hall learned the trade as a youth and was a local fixture in the village for much of the mid 1900's.

                                                          John Mieroff

Johnny Mieroff operated his barber shop on the Tobias Block on Plum Street.  In an article dated 1936, it was reported that his shop has been located in the same spot the longest.

Today's blog mentions only those barbers mentioned in a 1936 book by Saul Olila.  Many other barbers have applied their trade in the village before and since.  Most notable include Redz, Barber in the Harbor.  Those mentioned today are only part of an incomplete listing.  Send articles or additional names of barbers to the village historical society for inclusion in upcoming publications.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Eyewitness to History - Our Continuing Resource Lake Erie

Often overlooked in the recording of early history is the natural resource itself.  Situated at 42.2 degrees North, 81.2 degrees West it is a body of water named after an Erie tribe who lived along its southern border.  For over two years we have highlighted the work accomplished by our pioneers.  We have noted their building accomplishments, celebrated their business acumen, and learned of their legacies in Lake County history. While they are important, it is the one resource that has remained a constant. As time marched on, our greatest eyewitness to history- is and will always be Lake Erie.  Lake Erie in its current form is less than 4000 years old.  Its basin began in the Pleistocene Ice Age.  Three glaciers advanced here.  The sand ridges left behind became the trails for the Native Americans and pioneers who in time followed.

Lake Erie  is the fourth largest Great Lake when it comes to surface area.  It is the smallest when compared to water volume. Lake Erie is the tenth largest body of water globally.  Lake Erie has a mean depth of 62', the shallowest of all the Great Lakes.  Its maximum width is 57.1 miles but Canada is a mere 34 miles away in our part of the lake.  The fish known as bass, perch, trout, walleye, steelhead and more call the lake their home.  Lake retention time is only 2.6 years.  Water arrives to our lake via the Detroit River.  Then it gets to Buffalo and careens over Niagara Falls.

Historically Lake Erie spans centuries.  The Erie Indians settled on the shores around 1250 and remained until their demise in 1654.  Louis Jolliett is considered to be the first explorer to find Lake Erie around the year 1669.  Etienne Brule (1615) and LaSalle (circa 1660) also lay claim as the earliest visitors to our lake.  1809 saw Colonel Talbot establish a trail alongside the lake. The War of 1812 was fought in a corner of our Lake Erie near Put-in-Bay, Ohio.  Joseph Smith landed in Fairport in 1831 and established Mormon roots in nearby Kirtland.  Balloonist John Steiner of Philadelphia spent a day in 1857 floating above the lake.  Lake Erie commercial fishing topped 4 billion dollars in revenues in past years.  Nearly 1400 shipwrecks are attributed to Erie waters and 270 wrecks are confirmed.  The Griffith Disaster is clearly remembered in nearby Willowick. The nineteenth century fishing boom made Madison, Fairport, and Ashtabula key ports.  As fishing declined and manufacturing grew, the lake became a 20th century haven for untreated sewage.  The Diamond Alkali overlooked the bluffs of Lake Erie from 1912-1976 and made our county a major contributor to the chemical corridor that spanned 100 miles from Toledo to NY. The years 1919-1933 were remembered in history as the Prohibition Era.  Alcohol crossed Lake Erie in large volumes in the day.  Lake Shore Resorts that had early beginnings after the Civil War permeated the Lake County / Lake Erie bluffs landscape thru 1979.

Lake Erie folklore recalls a Monster and a Mirage Effect.  The Mirage Effect reportedly allows one to see the Canadian shoreline from our county.  The Monster remains known today in hockey circles. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: E.E.Lawrence & Morris Toubman - Fairport Merchants

                                               E.E. Lawrence Sr.
                            Fairport Marine Supply House circa 1890

Edward E. Lawrence Sr. was one of Fairport's leading businessmen and citizens.  Born in Finland, he arrived in Fairport in 1890.  He became engaged in the meat business and quickly built a large local trade store.  In short time he added a marine supply company to his assets.  The store was located on Water Street and was the first and largest on the Great Lakes of its kind.  The 'company store' as it became known was the lifeblood of the foremen and dock superintendents who served as stockholders.  Lawrence's store supplied the ships that plied Fairport with cargoes of iron ore.  Villagers also knew his store as the local grocery.  In the early years E.E. Lawrence was even known to wield a pick and shovel during the winter months to keep his company alive.  In time, he built the largest business block in Fairport.

Lawrence found time to serve the village as a member of the local board of education for 17 years.  He was a township trustee for nearly 50 years, the longest term in recorded history.  E.E. also served as President of the Lake County Savings and Loan Company, Vice-President of the County Board of Health, and president for many professional and civic minded concerns, i.e., butcher's association, waterway commission, local chamber of commerce, board of trade et al.

                                           Morris Toubman - 'The Big Store'

Morris Toubman was proprietor of 'The Big Store'.  Born in Sweden, he arrived from Finland in his youth and at the turn of the 20th century opened a clothing store on High Street.  A business visionary, he believed in the future growth of Fairport.   Like E.E. Lawrence, Toubman built the largest business block on the corner of High Street and Fourth.  His daughter Ruth became his assistant and was charged with managing the women's department of his store.  His tenure as local businessman spanned the transition of Fairport as a raucous ship's era port town to the modern times of Lake County's commercial growth.

Toubman was yet another resident with strong civic mindedness.  He served numerous terms on the Fairport Board of Education as well as being a member of many county / civic organizations.  Toubman's passing in June 1946 was noted in the village's sesqui-centennial a month later.  His name like that of Lawrence remains permanently etched into the fabric of Fairport's early history.