Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fairport Harbor Potpourri

There is always a danger whenever you compile a list, give a speech or choose to highlight an event that something/someone important will be left out.  Any attempt to condense over two hundred years of community history into a brief format is an effort in futility.  I know this to be a fact.  It has happened to me not only in 2012 but many a time previously.  Good intentions and well thought out notes succumb to a momentary lapse.  For the better part of 2012 I have shared the history of Fairport Harbor.  As the village Bicentennial Year draws to close, here are some more random nuggets and lesser known facts from a by-gone time.

  • From 1925 until 1955, Fairport was a hotbed of community basketball.  A tight schedule was formulated and the gymnasium floor was in use six days a week from early morning to late evenings.  Some of the more notable teams included Hilberg's Market, Parrish Drugs, Fairport Dairy, Colgrove Drugs and the Maloney Sheriffs.
  • On March 1, 1891, the mayor and clerk purchased ten street lamps and posts, to be installed on Water Street, High Street, and Second Street.  D.A. Lewis was paid 40 cents to light the lamps.
  • August 7, 1918 is a date which lives in transportation infamy.  The weight of a Fairport-Painesville trolley caused the St. Clair Street Bridge to collapse.
  • A challenge appeared in the Telegraph on February 13, 1895.  It called for a horse race on the half mile long track laid out on the ice.  Life preservers were provided. The entire article is on display at the FHHS.
  • The first library in Fairport was on the second floor of the Kasvi Temperance Hall on Eagle Street.  138 volumes mostly in the Finnish language were in the stacks.
  • A more interesting Finnish custom was known as 'fun mail'.  After programs on holidays, mail consisting of cards were placed in a box at the hall or church.  They were then delivered to the people by calling out their names.
  • Coffee Hour or Coffee Table is a custom celebrated in Fairport to this day.  Between 3-4pm Finnish people who were at home sat together, drank hot black coffee, ate 'Nisu' or some other snack and conversed.  Members of the FHHS still practice this custom every Tuesday afternoon and meeting night.
  • Margaret Tobias was a notable graduate of Fairport Harding High.  This mezzo-soprano was a soloist in Europe, S. America and the U.S.
  • William Perry was a notable painter who hailed from Fairport.  His works were featured at various state museums.  Some of his paintings are still on display at the local high school, library, FHHS and FHM.
  • Gene Kangas was a locally reknown sculptor.  He was also a teacher at Cleveland State University.
  • Ed Wakely was a CIA graduate in 1950 and has had a distinguished career in graphic art and paintings restoration work.
  • Carroll C. Mitchell was the first resident curator of the lighthouse museum.  He served from 1954 until his death in 1970.  His wife Margeret Mitchell carried on his legacy until her death in 1972.
  • Pearl E. Killinen's death in 1971 was keenly felt by the village.  She was the historical society accessions chair, trustee, resident historian and driving force in securing National Landmark Status for the 1825-1925 lighthouse.
  • 1893 marked the year in which the first Fairport concert band was organized.  The 'Sulo' Band was under the conductorship of August Albert.
  • The Hungarian Culture Club was incorporated in May 1935.  Charter members included Paul G. Kallay, Anton Esterhay, Anton Kochis, Louis Bartich, and Joe Petrusz.
  • Ladies Aux. to VFW 26 Gold Star Post No. 7754 held its first installation ceremony in June 1952.  Norma Saari was the first president and 36 women became charter members.
  • Don Thall was Fairport's longest tenured businessman.  He was 1953's 'Man-of-the-Year and still is beloved by local residents to this day. Don was a fixture at his shoe store into the early 2000's.
  • The American-Slovenian Club was chartered in 1947.  Andy Hervatin was president.
  • Joseph C. Babcock, one of Fairport's Civil War veterans was also a keeper at the village lighthouse for many years.  The Babcock Family served as keepers of the lighthouse for its entire history from its opening in 1871 to closing in 1925.
  • Regular mail service came to Fairport in 1801.  In 1813, the postage rate was a quarter for one letter.
  • USLSS-Station Fairport (1876-1915) was originally located at the base of the Grand River Lighthouse hill. G. Francis Babcock and N.M. Rasmussen, both of Fairport served as its only chiefs.

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