The wind howled as Oliver R. Ocasek started up his Cadillac.

Despite subzero cold and heavy snow, he would not change his plans. He had to drive to Columbus.

Barreling through drifts, Ocasek pulled away from his Northfield home at 5:30 a.m. Jan. 26 and disappeared into the Blizzard of 1978.

If it were any other day, he probably would have stayed home, but he had called a news conference for 9 a.m. at the Ohio Statehouse to announce a major decision. After careful consideration, the Ohio Senate president was prepared to reveal that he would not run for governor in the Democratic primary.

Ocasek, 52, a former educator in Tallmadge and Richfield, worried that he had low name recognition outside Greater Akron, and he feared that the $51,000 he had raised for a potential campaign wasn’t enough.

“The reason is very simple. Money,” he told the Beacon Journal a day earlier. “I was never in the ballgame. I had to come to the realization that although a lot of people told me how much they liked me, all that palaver doesn’t get you elected.

“Sure I’m disappointed. I’ve always wanted to be governor. But I have an ego and I don’t want to lose. I’m not a big gambler.”

Not a big gambler? What do you call driving into a blizzard? The barometer plunged to a record low of 28.33 inches that morning. Nearly a foot of snow fell on top of a 16-inch storm from days earlier. With the mercury at zero and gusts topping 75 mph, the wind chill was estimated at 60 below.

Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes announced the closing of all state offices at 7 a.m. and declared a state of emergency. “Ohio is in trouble,” Rhodes said.

The Highway Patrol reported that all highways were closed. “Those that aren’t closed are so bad they’re nearly impassable and will close shortly,” Trooper Joe Blosser announced.

But Ocasek was past the point of no return. It was a white-knuckle ride as he rolled south on Interstate 71 in near-whiteout conditions. Studded tires didn’t even help. Abandoned trucks and automobiles were scattered everywhere along the 140-mile journey, buried deep in wind-sculpted drifts that resembled nothing less than Dr. Seuss illustrations.

“It was the most frightening experience of my life,” Ocasek said. “In 37 years of driving, I’ve never seen anything like it. I saw hundreds of cars stuck in the median or on the side of the road. You would have to slow down because of the ice and then speed up to get across a snowdrift on I-71.”

Somewhere north of Mansfield, he passed the snow-encased truck of James Truly, 42, of Cleveland, who would spend six days in the cab of his vehicle before being rescued. He survived the ordeal by eating snow and became a folk hero after being freed from his icy truck.

With a little luck, Ocasek would escape that fate.

The senator continued to slog south, eventually realizing that there was no way in the world he was going to make it to his news conference. About 20 miles north of Columbus, just when it looked like he might make it to the capital safely, his vehicle “went flooey.”

“A dashboard light went on and the engine heated up,” Ocasek explained. “I didn’t know whether to let my $12,000 Cadillac burn up or my 215-pound body freeze.”

He rolled to a stop on the desolate highway, girded himself against the cold and abandoned his car. In those days before cellphones, there was no way to call for help. He really didn’t have a plan as he stepped into the Arctic cold, but he knew he wouldn’t survive in his vehicle. The wind pummeled the 6-foot-2, bespectacled senator as he battled to keep his balance in the snow along I-71.

“I felt like the girl Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz,” he said.

He walked, walked, walked. What else could he do? It felt like an eternity, but it probably lasted only a few minutes.

Like some kind of ghostly mirage, an Ohio Highway Patrol cruiser appeared on the snowy horizon and pulled up next to Ocasek.

“Sen. Ocasek?” the trooper asked quizzically.

“I was so surprised that he recognized me that I almost reconsidered my decision not to run for governor,” Ocasek told the Beacon Journal.

The heroic trooper, who was not identified, got Ocasek to the Statehouse by 10:15 a.m. The news conference was canceled, of course, but there probably wouldn’t have been any reporters in attendance because they were all out covering the storm of the century.

Ocasek hunkered down at the Statehouse and assisted Gov. Rhodes, a Republican, as officials tended to the emergency. By the time it was over, the 1978 storm had killed more than 50 people in Ohio and caused $100 million in damage.

Although he never did run for governor, Ocasek spent 28 years in the Ohio Senate, retiring in 1986 and inspiring the name of the Oliver R. Ocasek State Office Building in downtown Akron.

After a long battle with cancer, he died June 25, 1999, at age 73.

It was a sunny day with temperatures in the 80s, a good distance down the road from the infamous Blizzard of 1978.

Mark J. Price is the author of the book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

We’ve had it wrong all these years. The devil strip isn’t that narrow swath of land between the street and the sidewalk.

At least, it didn’t used to be.

For generations, Akron residents have taken pride in the devilish colloquialism to describe the neutral ground between public and private property.

While we call it the devil strip — or devil’s strip (or even devilstrip) — other communities refer to it by other names, including tree lawn, berm, curb strip, swale, parking strip, boulevard, planting strip, terrace, grass strip, tree row, green belt, sidewalk plot, street lawn, tree bank, neutral plot and utility strip.

As it turns out, the term “devil strip” didn’t originate here, and when its usage finally gained popularity, it meant something else entirely.

Thanks to and other online databases, we now have the ability to track the linguistics of the phrase. Naturally, there were coincidental mentions such as this passage from A Journal of the Life of That Ancient Servant of Christ, John Grafton (1720, London): “… so would the Devil strip Religion, and make it poor, and bring Ignorance and Contempt, and destroy the Church if he could.”

Or this headline from the New York Herald in 1875: “The Devil Strips Adam in 15 Minutes.” Or this 1876 sentence from The Jeffersonian newspaper in Stroudsburg, Pa.: “Those sly California devils stripped me of everything.”

The earliest known mention in the Beacon Journal, though, was published in 1890 in an item from Cleveland about street railroads: “Mayor Gardner ordered Supt. Schmitt to stop all traffic on Woodland avenue street railroad from Wilson to East Madison for failure to obey State law which gave Cleveland [the] right to compel street railroads to pave a strip 16 feet wide. This meant all space between the tracks, the devil strip and two feet on the outside.”

What? Cleveland had a devil strip before Akron? Say it isn’t so.

The nickname referred to the center path between streetcars going in opposite directions. The distance between tracks varied from city to city, but usually was between 1 and 4 feet. Streetcars passed so closely that there was little standing room between.

And that made it dangerous. Grim articles chronicle the awful deaths of pedestrians, bicyclists and sled riders who got caught in the middle.

In 1895, the Toronto Bicycle Club crafted a rhyme so cyclists would remember the right of way when riding near the tracks. Here’s that catchy little ditty:

“When on the ‘devil strip’ you ride,

Be sure and by this rule abide:

All wheelmen riding westward must

Give way to wheelmen riding east.

And likewise all who’re going north

Give way to those who’re coming south.

Wheels east or south, by night or day,

Shall always have the right of way.”

Practically rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Yes, the term “devil strip” was common in Canada, especially in Ontario, Ottawa, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia. In the United States, it also was used in New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota and Iowa.

Ohio, though, is where it stuck. In Akron, it was common terminology for Northern Ohio Traction & Light Co., which supplied power and had nearly 300 miles of interurban track.

For decades, the term applied only to the strip of land between sets of tracks. Somewhere along the way, as more communities built curbs and sidewalks, the phrase jumped the rails and plowed into front yards.

Although we can’t be sure, this July 3, 1912, editorial from the Athens Daily Messenger might be the missing link between the old definition and the modern one:

“There are no double track street car lines in Athens — yet. But the proverbial ‘Devil’s strip’ is here just the same. Did you ever note how often, between a well-kept lawn and its adjacent sidewalk and a well-paved street, you see a strip of unkempt stony and weed-grown ground? It mars the otherwise beautiful street, especially when a dead tree or two helps to add to the neglect of this ‘devil’s strip.’

“Suppose each property owner should go home tonight, stand on the street in front of his home for 10 minutes and ponder over the little things that would add to the beauty of his property, and then pay a few hours and a few dollars more the execution of the ideas that come to him. ‘Athens Beautiful’ stock would go up several points within the next week. Try it. Begin. On the ‘devil strip’ in front of YOUR house.”

That’s the devil strip we know and love, but the phrase didn’t appear in the Beacon Journal in that context until the late 1920s. On Sept. 4, 1929, Dr. William C. Terwilliger complained that police had towed his car while he responded to an emergency call on Long Street.

“Dr. Terwilliger said that the desk sergeant told him that he should park his car on the ‘devil strip’ on Long st. out of the congested traffic area,” the Beacon Journal reported. “Having parked his car in such a place, Dr. Terwilliger said today he was bewildered by the conflicting police orders.”

Soon there would be no such confusion. The city produced red-and-white “No Parking on Devil Strip” signs to guard motorists against the offense. Those signs remained in common use in the late 20th century, no doubt causing confusion and possibly frightening some out-of-towners.

And that brings us to the end of the devil strip. It has inspired the name of Akron’s alternative newspaper, The Devil Strip, an Akron rock band, Devilstrip, and Akron guitarist Calfee Jones’ album No Parking on the Devil Strip.

Reproductions of the old street sign have been plastered on Akron merchandise, including T-shirts and magnets at Rubber City Clothing and other retailers.

So what did we learn about the devil strip?

Don’t get caught in the middle. Don’t park on it.

And for gosh sakes, don’t call it a tree lawn.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Everyone loves a good mystery. Several weeks ago, we presented the puzzling case of the iron sign.

John Maag, 70, of Green, wanted to learn the origin of a cast-iron plaque that he bought last year during a yard sale at the home of Jim Mezaros in Coventry Township. Mezaros had explained that his father fished the sign out of the Ohio & Erie Canal in downtown Akron in the 1960s.

Measuring about 52 inches long, 28 inches wide and 1 inch thick, the heavy marker features scalloped, decorative flourishes and bears the bold inscription:







After the article appeared in the Beacon Journal and bounced around and other websites, several readers stepped forward to offer suggestions about the sign. Was it a remnant from the Akron riot of 1900? The great flood of 1913?

Robert Dill of Stow found confirmation in Samuel Lane’s history Fifty Years and Over of Akron and Summit County (1892) that the three commissioners were in office up to 1891. He suggested that the plaque could have identified their offices in the Summit County Courthouse.

Tom Schindler wondered if the sign had served as a marker at the Summit County Children’s Home on South Arlington Street in Akron. He found an article from March 5, 1890, in which the three commissioners inspected the new building.

“These Commissioners have done themselves great credit in the work which they have just completed,” the Beacon Journal noted.

However, history detective Jim Salay offered another possibility: “The cast iron plaque in today’s article is most likely a bridge plate, typically erected over the entrances of iron truss bridges which were replacing old wooden bridges at the time. Examination of the bottom or back of the plate may reveal some attachment mechanisms.”

He submitted photos of bridge plates including one on the Station Road Bridge, which spans the Cuyahoga River in Brecksville. A consensus seemed to be building as readers Jim Schlauch, Scott Davenport and Mike Elliott also suggested iron bridges as the likely source of the sign.

Debbie Gamauf Hensley of Portage Lakes Historical Society searched her collection to no avail. Then she started searching other collections.

“Bingo!” she wrote. “Sort of. I found a very similar shape on the top of a steel bridge, one at each end! Not our plaque, but straight across the bottom like it and about the same size.”

The image of Hawkins Bridge is from the Edwin Bell Howe photo collection at Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Summit Memory project. It shows 30 people and at least four dogs on the iron span over the flooded canal in Northampton Township. On top of the structure, one gentleman leans against the bridge plate.

John Maag’s sign appears to have come from a similar bridge.

Here’s a possible clue from the Summit County Beacon on Feb. 19, 1890: “County Commissioners Wash Johnson, C.C. Hine and Henry Frederick, together with the County Civil Engineer, C.E. Perkins, went to Massillon Wednesday to close a contract with the Massillon Iron Bridge Co. for the construction of two bridges in the county.”

But where? Unfortunately, the locations were not identified in the Beacon or the Massillon Daily Independent.

It was a big era for bridge construction as communities got rid of wooden structures in favor of iron works.

The Reilly Iron Bridge Co. of Cleveland won a contract in June 1890 for a bridge over the Cuyahoga River in Boston Township. The Novelty Bridge Co. of Cleveland started work in October 1890 on an iron bridge over the Cuyahoga River at Red Lock near the Summit line with Cuyahoga County.

Although the 1890 sign was fished out of the Ohio & Erie Canal, Salay cautioned that it might have started out somewhere else.

“The location where the plate was found may not be where it came from,” he said. “It may have been taken as a prank or for scrap metal and dumped in the canal later when the perpetrator realized the inscription could tie them to the theft.”

Plaques that were not essential for the structural integrity of a bridge often were donated by authorities to scrap metal drives during wars, he said.

The fact that this artifact exists after nearly 130 years is pretty remarkable. Even though we’ve narrowed the search, we still don’t know precisely where the sign was posted.

We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Mark J. Price is the author of the book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Wanda Goodrich was a big woman with a big voice. During the golden age of Akron nightclubs, the 375-pound singer delighted audiences with a bawdy routine that kept the crowds coming back.

A native of St. Louis, Goodrich arrived in Akron for a two-week engagement that, by popular demand, turned into a 12-year stay. She became the queen of clubs, presiding over four shows a night, including a five-year run at the Wagon Wheel at East Market Street and Case Avenue.

No relation to Akron rubber baron B.F. Good­rich, the singer was the daughter of Andrew Good­rich, a trumpet player in the St. Louis Symphonic Orchestra. She took singing lessons as a girl and began entertaining professionally while still in high school.

Samuel Bradley, who booked shows for the Wagon Wheel, caught her uproarious act at the Palm Room in St. Louis and invited the 32-year-old to Akron in 1942. Goodrich’s routine included popular tunes, dance numbers and novelty songs.

Advertised as “A Ton of Fun” and “375 Pounds of Mirth and Melody,” Goodrich belted out such originals as I Don’t Wanna Get Thin, Pappy Turned Her Picture to the Wall, Gladys Isn’t Gratis Anymore and She Tickled the Gentleman’s Fancy.

While the songs were suggestive, Goodrich performed with a twinkle and a smile, disarming audiences who might otherwise be offended.

“The secret of selling songs like mine is getting the women to like you,” she said. “If you can get them to laugh with you, they don’t resent what you say. And it’s the women who bring in the men.”

Her cheerful plumpness helped win over audiences, she believed.

“I’m afraid they wouldn’t accept my stuff if I were slender,” she said. “That’s why I don’t want to lose weight.”

Shimmying and strutting, Goodrich earned enthusiastic applause at the Wagon Wheel, performing with a rotating cast of characters as “Akron’s Biggest Attraction.”

Four times a night, she shared the stage with burlesque stars, dancers, comics, magicians, jugglers, acrobats and animal acts, and developed a reputation as “The Poor Man’s Kate Smith.”

“Now that we’re this far into the nightclub field, something could be said about Wanda Good­rich who is well on the way to establishing an all-time record of some kind or another at the East Akron Wagon Wheel,” the Beacon Journal reported in 1943. “Wanda, all 373 pounds of her, has been appearing for five months at the East Akron spot and, judging from her reception by the audience there, has another five — or more — to go. They call her a ‘Kate Smith’ type. Wanda does look a little like Kate but where Kate’s songs are nice, Wanda’s are naughty.”

Goodrich’s secret weapon was her brother Dwight “Ace” Goodrich, a 375-pound musician billed as “The Falstaff of the Piano,” who wrote her original tunes. The World War II veteran, also known as Ace Newell, penned the military musical Stars and Gripes in New York, which included such ditties as Blow It Out Your Barracks Bag and Clean the Latrine.

His sister wouldn’t let other singers perform the original songs and carefully guarded the music from misappropriation.

“Wanda never let her material out of her sight,” recalled Akron bandleader Kenny Baird, who performed with her in the 1940s. “Wanda passed out new songs to the band every week, and collected all the old ones — counting them carefully.”

Goodrich resided at the Dollar Hotel at 1077 E. Market St. When she wasn’t singing, she was sewing. When a joke circulated that Akron Tent & Awning Co. designed her dresses, Goodrich called it “a gross untruth.” She made her own gowns.

“She likes low-cut necklines to set off her jewels and her pretty face,” Beacon Journal reporter Betty French noted. “And she prefers black because it is most becoming to her size. However, for summer she also has a chartreuse gown, a lavender one, and a light blue one — all of lace.”

In October 1946, Good­rich marked her 3,000th performance at the Wagon Wheel. Patrons received autographed photos of “The Sensational Singing Comedienne.”

“Akron has presented many outstanding stars but none have achieved the height of popularity of this great performer!” the Wagon Wheel advertised. “Akron loves her and she loves Akron.”

When the club unexpectedly closed the next year, Goodrich remained in demand. Al Berris, owner of the Hollywood Sho Bar at 55 S. Main St., welcomed her in January 1948 and proclaimed her “Akron’s Sweetheart.”

Berris renovated the second floor and named it Wanda’s Club 55. Although the establishment lasted only a short time, the offers kept coming.

In February 1949, Gus Girves signed Goodrich to perform at the Brown Derby at 1157 E. Market St. After a year, she switched to the Yankee Inn at 231 W. Exchange St., then Club Topper at 1157 E. Market St., where she celebrated her 5,000th appearance in Akron.

Ted Boyer, owner of Backstage at 112 S. High St., booked her in late 1952 for an engagement that lasted 30 weeks. Per doctor’s orders, Goodrich had shed 125 pounds and was performing at a spry 250, still belting out “The Songs Her Mother Told Her Not to Sing.”

“Her songs and patter, although sometimes a little on the earthy side, never seem to offend because she has the knack of telling a story and getting real humor out of it,” Boyer explained.

The golden age of Akron nightclubs was nearing its end, though. Audiences grew sparse, a trend blamed on the rising popularity of television. Sometimes there were more entertainers in a show than patrons.

Goodrich made one last stand at the Trocadero Nite Club on Barberton-Doylestown Road in 1954. Billed as “America’s Famous Songbird,” she spent nine weeks entertaining audiences with her bawdy routine. Her final show was on New Year’s Eve 1954, although no one knew it was the last. When 1955 arrived, she quietly packed her belongings and returned home to St. Louis.

Over the next several years, Good­rich’s health took a turn for the worse. Diabetes claimed one foot and then the other. After repeated hospitalizations, Wanda Goodrich died March 1, 1962, at the young age of 52 and was buried at Bellerive Gardens in St. Louis County.

In the world of Akron nightclubs, there was no greater figure.

Mark J. Price is the author of the book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

That’s what U.S. troops said over and over after receiving a flood of cards and letters from strangers during the Vietnam War.

In 1967, the Akron Beacon Journal helped brighten Christmas for Summit County service members by publishing their addresses and encouraging readers to send them greeting cards, letters and packages.

The troops were happy to receive mail from home and penned thank-you notes to the newspaper. Here are some of those poignant letters that the Beacon Journal published 50 years ago on Christmas Day.

To the Editor:

Many thanks for the printing of the names and addresses of those servicemen who will be unable to celebrate this most significant holiday of Christmas due to their present tour of duty in the Republic of South Vietnam.

As a result of your published listing, I received a number of sincere Christmas wishes and holiday greetings from Akron area citizens who thoughtfully expressed their support and to let me know that someone is thinking of me, as well as other servicemen, during this holiday season.

Again, I send to you my most heartfelt appreciation, and to those whose kind words brought spiritual comfort and joyous feelings within me, the best of holiday greetings now and in the years ahead.

Pfc. James McClain

To the Editor:

Christmas is nearly here and the folks back home are doing a wonderful job of trying to make it easier on us.

I want to thank you and all the people in Ohio who have taken the time to write a note or to send a card to the men in Vietnam. I wish I had time to write each one who has sent me a letter or a card.

We hear a lot about the draft card burners and demonstrators and it gives me a chill down my spine when I open a card and read that the people are behind us 100 percent.

A lot of young men have grown up fast in Vietnam. And, as in every war, many will not be coming home. They are giving their lives in the hope that the spread of Communism does not reach America.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

John E. Gretsinger


To the Editor:

This is to thank the Beacon Journal, the faculty and children of Betty Jane School and particularly one Betty Jane student, Mark Critchfield (2519 Nedra Ave.) for the Christmas greeting I received today. Mark writes a nice and very intelligent letter.

He has some good ideas about our situation over here in Vietnam. His letter was quite a morale booster. Since I’m sure I wasn’t the only GI who had a letter sent to him, I want to commend the school on this activity. (I went to Annunciation school and the last letter I received from them was one telling my parents that little Richard had better pull those “D’s” up to “C’s.”)

To Mark, keep up the good work and some day, when this is over, I’ll come to Betty Jane during recess and we’ll toss the ball around a few times.

Sgt. Richard L. St. John

To the Editor:

I’d like to thank the Beacon Journal and all the people in and around the Akron area for the cards and letters I’ve received.

I’d also like to thank the Little Forest Medical Center for sending me a package.

Pfc. Walter D. Ward

To the Editor:

It gives me pleasure to take a moment to thank you and your readers for the kind consideration I have received since I came to Vietnam. Your own News Letter with its recent highlights brings a touch of home to me here.

Likewise, the cards, letters and packages sent me by your readers reflect a personal interest which is most appreciated. The warm and open letter of a school child, the inquiring and selfless letter of a young man or woman, the understanding note of an older one — each brings its own special blessing.

I hope that each of the senders has received his own blessing in return for this unselfishness. Thank you again for your interest and kind attention.

1st Lt. Kenneth

W. Rhoades Jr.

To the Editor:

I appreciate what you have done for me. This Christmas will be much brighter with all the Christmas cards I’m receiving.

Staff Sgt. Stanley E. Cutlip

To the Editor:

Thanks to all who sent me Christmas cards and packages.

All of us overseas thank you for everything you are doing for us. We are doing everything in our power to keep you all at home safe, even if it means giving up our lives.

Thanks for your prayers, from every serviceman, no matter where he is.

Spc. Lawrence L.


To the Editor:

I never knew I had so many backers.

Thank you! Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year.

Staff Sgt. Bob Waller

To the Editor:

In response to your publishing the names of those in the military service and the Peace Corps, I have received many cards and letters.

I thank all the people of Summit County for their interest and concern and for making my holiday season away from home more enjoyable.

I took the liberty of sharing my letters and cards with others stationed here with me and we all thank you, our friends back home.

Lt. j.g. Barbara

H. Kalcik


To the Editor:

I just want to say “Thank you!” to all the wonderful people who sent me Christmas cards. If you could see all the letters and cards I’ve received, you would know that it is impossible for me to answer each one.

I wish I could put into words what a great feeling I get when I read letters from young boys, high school girls, housewives and, yes, nuns. It’s amazing to find so many people actually care about a serviceman that they don’t even know.

I’m stationed in the states. I’m sure I’m going to have a better Christmas because I know that someone besides my loved ones cares about me.

I’m also sure that the boys in Vietnam will have the best Christmas possible, thanks to these Americans who take five minutes of their time to send a soldier a greeting.

John Muzljakovich


Mark J. Price is the author of the new book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition (The History Press). He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Times were simpler and wishes were fewer. Even so, the needs seemed greater.

Christmas 1917 was the first since the United States entered World War I. Children dutifully wrote letters to Santa Claus, but the frightening uncertainty of the era filtered through their thought processes.

One hundred years ago, the Beacon Journal published these plaintive notes from local youngsters. Some are surprising, some are touching and some are amusing. All are compelling.

We certainly hope that these youths received what they wanted all those years ago.

Dear Santa Claus: I’m a little girl, 10 years old, and, Santa, I don’t expect presents this Christmas as my big brother is a soldier and is in war and my mother is a widow and has to work every day for our support. I have a little sister two years old, and my mamma is sick and has to have an operation. So, Santa, if you have any presents left, please leave us some. I would like a set of furs.

Your loving little girl,

Mary Farl, Cuyahoga Falls.

Dear Santa Claus: I don’t want much because of the war. I want the things following: Soldier hat, a knitted slip-over sweater, lead soldiers, a book; also a book that will make Grandma well.

Please, George Russell

Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl eight years old. I want you to go to all the little poor children’s houses first, then I will take whatever is left. I want a little baby doll, a story book, a game, a pair of bone knitting needles, and some candies, nuts and fruits.

Your little friend,

Zelma Patterson

Dear Santa Claus: I am a nice little boy and go to school every day and mind my teacher and get my lessons well. I do not use bad language, smoke like some naughty boys do. So please bring me a few toys. I want a jumping jack and a jack-in-in-the-box. I want a train of cars and a track and a box of blocks and a top. Also remember the soldiers and sailors. Hope you have a lot of toys.

Mortimer Leggett

Dear Santa Claus: I will be glad to see you this year. Of course I don’t expect so very much because it is war time. But I will ask you to bring me a desk and a lavaliere and some candy and nuts and oranges. I will thank you if you remember me.

From your little friend,

Beatrice Davis

Dear Santa Claus: Please bring me a little auto, a little horn and a box of handkerchiefs. I want a red ribbon for my dog Gyp and a green ribbon for my cat Fritz. He is a red cat and it will match his hair.

Yours truly,

Albert Klein, Kenmore

Dear Santa Claus: I am a good little girl. I am eight years old. I go to school every day. I want a big doll and a piano and some candy and nuts. My brother wants a train. He is 12 years old. Goodbye, dear Santa.

Ethel Winland

Dear Santa: I want some nuts and candy and a book, a Christmas tree. I am a good boy. That’s all. I think it’s time to close.

Winton Doncaster

My Dear Santa Claus: Are you coming to see us this winter? I live at the Children’s Home. I will go to bed early so you can come and fill my stockings. I would like to have a pair of gloves, a pair of stockings. I would like to have a sled. That will do for this time.

From your friend,

Frederick Yates

Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl eight years old and would like a big doll and a box of chocolates and some oranges and apples. My brother wants some chocolates and oranges and apples and a rocking chair.

Maude and Alfred Fleiding

Dear Santa Claus: I am a little boy 9 years old. I live at 1219 Moore St. My mamma says that she doesn’t think that you will come to our house this year, but I thought maybe if I wrote to you, you would come. Please. I don’t want much, a little candy, nuts and a game or toy of some kind. Please don’t forget my little sister. She is 2 years old.

Your boy,

Charles Leroy Stiles

Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl 10 years old, and my mother works so hard to buy my winter needs. My papa is dead and I have no money to buy a wagon. I would like to have an Overland coaster wagon to bring the groceries home because the grocerman will not deliver our groceries. It is so hard for mamma to pack them home after working all day. Also I would like to have a new pair of rubbers and a new dress, as I do not like to ask for too much. But I need them so bad.

Please bring mamma a ton of coal for she has none in the house, and bring sister and me some candy and apples and oranges. I hope you will remember all the little orphans. I am praying every night to be a good girl so good, old Santa Claus will bring me some useful things for Christmas. Well, I will say goodby.

Your friend,

Marie Scott, Cuyahoga Falls

Dear Santa Claus: I hope you go to every home, even the home of the poor, and send some of the toys overseas to the homeless, friendless boys and girls. I do not want very many things this year.

Your friend,

Julius Prince

Dear Santa Claus: Will you please bring me a big girl doll and buggy? I am a little girl seven years old. I got a little brother five years old. Will you please bring him a horn? I hope you will get this letter. I will be good as I can. I await your early reply. I am your loving little friend.

Charlotte V. Barnett

Dear Santa Claus: I will have to write you a letter because I hurt my foot and can’t come to see you. I am a little boy and want you to bring me a little gun so I can shoot rabbits. I want you to bring me some candy and some marbles and a pair of little rubber boots and a little wagon. Please don’t forget my brother, Willie. Bring him a football and a sweater and a little red top.

Your little boy,

Ernest Falb

Dear Santa Claus: I am a girl only seven years old and it is very cold and the snow is deep. I am in the 2-A grade. So I would like a pair of boots for Christmas. Well I guess I will stop. Good bye Santa.

Louise Mitchell

Dear Santa Claus: I am a girl four years old. I want a little table, teddy bear, a table cloth and some napkins to go with my set of dishes. I want an orange and lots of nuts and candy. I want you to fill our babys’ stockings too. Our babys are our dolls. Good bye.

June Sullivan

Dear Santa Claus: I am a little boy nine years old. I will tell you what I want for Christmas. I want a sled and a spinning top and bicycle. That will be all this year. Don’t forget my mother and my papa. Your friend,

Edward Thompson, Kent

Dear Santa Claus: I would have written to you last year but I did not know how very good but this time George is helping me. We don’t want playthings because grandma said that we need shoes and little dresses. You know we are eight little children. You know me. I am 7 years old and Ida is 9. George is 13, Mike is 10. Then Tony is 8 and Marguerite is 4, but she said she would rather have a doll. You know the twins, they are only 1 years old and they cannot tell you what they want. Come to see us all, and don’t forget grandma.

Your little girl,

Helen Varrecchia

Dear Old Santa: I am 13 years old and would like a choo-choo train, a dolly that says “mamma,” a rocking horse, a blackboard and some chalk. Don’t forget my friend Dolly at Five Points. Don’t forget some candy and peanuts and a tree.

Your good little boy,

Billy Jarrett

Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl seven years old. I would like you to bring me a baby doll with light bobbed hair and blue eyes. And please bring me a writing desk and a box of candy, some nuts and oranges. I will not ask for anything else because I know that you have lots of other children to take things to. So I will be very good.

Marian Chapes

Dear Santa Claus: It has been a long time since last Christmas, and I am glad that it shall be here in a few days. I hope you are well and happy, making toys for good little boys and girls. I hope all the children will have a good time on Christmas Day. I would like you to please bring me some useful books for Christmas for I like to study, and please bring me an erector.

Yours truly,

Joe Hywick

Dear Santa Claus: I want a pair of boots, a raincoat and a toy piano, a set of furs and some candy and nuts. I am six years old. Don’t forget my uncle in the army. I want some clothes for my doll and a set of furs for her.

Marjorie Fragler

Dear Santa Claus: I am a little girl 7 years old. I want a little muff and fur, and so does my sister want a fox fur. Bring me a little fiddle and a little dining room set, and please bring me a little go-car, and anything else would be nice. Good-by.

Mary Miller

Dear Santa Claus: Please bring me a nice set of boy scout books, a sled, a drum, a choo-choo train and some nuts and candy. I am six years old.

Morris Goldman

Dear Santa Claus: I am eleven years old. I am trying to be very good. Please bring me a new dress for Christmas and I would like a pair of house slippers. I want some candy and oranges and apples. I should like to have a drawing set. Please bring papa a new rocking chair and a new Christmas record for the Victrola, and mama a set of silverware and some new handkerchiefs. Bring Albert something to take his cough away, and my two brothers you may bring them some new skates for the winter, and I have asked for enough. But bring John some things he wants.


Eva Hensler

Dear Santa Claus: I hope you won’t forget to come to my house and also to all the poor children. I want you to bring me a pair of shoes, a pair of rubbers, a Christmas tree, a hair ribbon, nuts, candy and peanuts. I am nine years old and I am a good girl.

Regina Nuss

Dear Santa Claus: I am six years old. I want you to come and see me. I live at the Big Reservoir. If the snow is all gone you could come in that big war balloon that sails over our cottage. I want a dolly, teddy bear and a little broom. Bring something to Aunt Mary Garret — she is little too but she is older than I am. Uncle Jim is a big fellow and he don’t need so much.


Irene Myers

Dear Santa Claus: I’ve been a very good little boy this year and mamma has not had a chance to scold or spank me. And I wish you would bring me a drum, some toy soldiers, some candy and a sword. Please don’t forget the soldier boys or my friend Myrtle who wants a doll called Grace.

Your little boy,

Earl Viall

Dear Santa Claus: Are you coming to my house this year? I wish that you would bring something to the soldiers and the poor people. I wish I were you, Santa. I wish you would hurry up. I am tired waiting for you to come.

Your friend,

Clyde Bowers

Mark J. Price will sign copies of his new book, Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition (The History Press), from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Summit County Historical Society, 550 Copley Road, Akron. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

While children pressed their noses against the glass to see the Christmas windows at O’Neil’s and Polsky’s stores, their parents gawked at a display on the next block.

A giant platform slowly whirled under bright lights in the front window of the Akron Furniture Co. at 209-211 S. Main St. Partitioned into segments, the 18-foot disc revolved to showcase three modern suites of furniture for a living room, a kitchen and a bedroom.

Now those were the kinds of gifts that Mom and Dad could appreciate.

“Come and marvel at this modern wonder!” the company boasted of its revolving window. “ ’Round and ’round it goes … every minute of the day!”

More than 32,800 shoppers attended the Nov. 23, 1937, grand opening of the Akron Furniture Co.’s eight-story headquarters between Stone’s Grille and Eckerd Drug Store. “Aside from the department stores, I’m sure it was the biggest crowd ever to attend a store opening in Akron,” owner Max Bear told reporters. “They were lined up clear down to the Mayflower Hotel and we had to turn a lot of people away.”

A Jewish immigrant from Russia, Bear had established the business in 1902 with former peddler Max Arenson, also from Russia. Their original store was on the southwest corner of State and Main streets in a brick building formerly occupied by the Kubler & Beck Varnish Works.

After Arenson died of heart disease in 1926, Bear became the sole proprietor. His brother Simon Bear owned Bear Furniture at 71-75 S. Main St., but the two stores were separate entities. When Max Bear’s shop outgrew its corner near O’Neil’s — a site later home to Scott’s 5 and 10 and today’s Canal Park — he bought an empty lot on the other side of the street and three doors up from Polsky’s.

Eight stories

New York architect Robert Heller designed an eight-story building that the Carmichael Construction Co. erected in 1937 as a $300,000 project — about $5 million today. With floors measuring 50 feet wide and 140 feet deep, the structure was built with brick, concrete, steel, limestone and granite. On the upper levels, six rectangular rows of glass-block windows produced a soft glow at night.

Down the center of the building, the store’s most prominent feature was a vertical sign nearly eight stories tall. The Bellows-Claude Neon Co. built the 85-foot advertising beacon out of porcelain enamel and stainless steel.

“Located in the heart of the shopping district, it is visible from the B.F. Goodrich entrance on the south to the intersection of Market and Main on the north,” boasted H.B. Link, vice president and general manager of Bellows-Claude.

Model rooms

The new building offered 35 departments, including furniture, appliances, washers, ovens, refrigerators, radios, carpets, bedding, lamps and other household items. The company built several model rooms so shoppers could imagine what the furniture might look like in their homes. Of course, the revolving window, the only one of its kind in Ohio, provided suggestions before customers set foot in the place.

Among the grand-opening deals were a 10-piece modern living room suite for $100 and a four-piece bedroom suite for $78. Other specials included a gas range for $64, a washing machine for $49, a lounge chair and ottoman for $22, a cedar chest for $18 and a 50-piece cutlery set for $10.

Customers were invited to open accounts. The store’s slogan — “Just say ‘Charge It’ ” — was painted on gigantic signs that took up more than half of the northern and southern exterior walls.

“You will get a great thrill out of visiting this new store,” Max Bear told shoppers as the holiday season began. “Nothing has been overlooked for the convenience of the customer. … Although our organization has grown and added many new lines, we have not altered our fundamental policy of doing business and giving best values obtainable and the highest degree of service.”

Up to date

Bear was often the first one to arrive at the store in the morning and one of the last employees to leave. He oversaw every detail of the business, and it flourished despite the lingering effects of the Great Depression. The store worked diligently to keep up with modern trends and changing tastes.

There were major setbacks, however, including a 1946 three-alarm fire that caused $25,000 in damage and a 1956 burglary in which $14,000 was stolen from a safe.

The most devastating loss came in 1948 when Max Bear suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while working at the store. He was rushed to Akron City Hospital, but he died at age 68.

Sons Joseph and Philip Bear took over the business and operated it for another decade. In March 1959, they announced that the 57-year-old company would close.

“It is our desire to retire from the active management of the business and make the building available for a new commercial enterprise,” Joseph Bear announced.

Liquidation and closeout sales stripped the building to its bare walls. There was no hint of the revolving platform that lured customers or the giant neon sign that beckoned from afar.

New tenant

Yeager’s department store at 56 S. Main St. opened a satellite branch at the vacant building in 1960 but it closed after a year. Other tenants included a Richman Brothers store and B.F. Goodrich offices.

In 1969, the advertising agency Norman Malone Associates bought the eight-story complex, moved its headquarters there and renamed it the Malone Building, which it’s still called today.

Located across the street from Lock 3 Park, the building contains offices for attorneys, title agents and other professionals. The ground level has been the home of several restaurants, including Serpico’s, Spinelli’s, Hattie’s and, most recently, El Gato.

Life continues to rotate at the former Akron Furniture Co. As Max Bear liked to say, that location was “the heart and center of Akron’s business district.”

Mark J. Price will sign copies of his new book, Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition (The History Press), from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at The Bookseller, 39 Westgate Circle, Akron. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Today’s drug epidemic didn’t just happen overnight. It’s been building for a long time — longer than we’ve all been alive.

Growing distress, rising confusion and creeping paranoia are evident in old newspaper articles about substance abuse. As the incidents multiplied, an early message began to form: Just say no.

Early news coverage about the deadly crisis makes for fascinating reading in the 21st century. It’s a potent mixture of apprehension, disorientation and occasional misinformation.

For a glimpse of where today’s habits were formed, keep reading.

Double dose of death

“Mrs. Barker, wife of Zenas W. Barker, Esq., an old and esteemed citizen of Sandusky, was poisoned Saturday evening, and died in a short time, aged 51,” the Cleveland Herald reported Nov. 6, 1849. “Mrs. B. had been ill for some time, and was in the habit of taking morphine. She sent her son to the drug store in the evening for some, and the druggist, by mistake, gave him a bottle of strychnine. Though it was thus labeled, it was overlooked by the druggist, her son, and the lady. Mrs. B. took what she supposed to be the usual dose of morphine, and feeling worse, she soon took another. In half an hour, she was dead!”

Fatal potion

“David Ruggles, blacksmith, an aged citizen of Akron, committed suicide on Monday evening, by taking a large dose of Opium,” the Summit County Beacon reported April 18, 1855. “He has been drinking hard of late, and much depressed in feeling. He told his wife after taking the fatal potion, what he had done, but he had done the work so effectually as to preclude relief. The Coroner summoned a jury yesterday and a verdict was rendered in accordance with the facts. Mr. R. bore the reputation of an honest man.”

Loss of faith

“There is a great mystery about some families,” the Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage noted in a sermon published June 3, 1885, in the Akron City Times. “You do not know why they do not get on. The opium habit is so stealthy, so deceitful and so deathful. You can cure a hundred drunkards easier than you can cure one opium-eater.

“I have heard of cases of reformation, but I never saw any. I hope there are cases of genuine reformation. I have seen men who for 40 years had been the victims of strong drink thoroughly reformed; but the opium-eaters that I have seen go on and go down. Their cry in the last hour of life is not for God, not for prayer, nor for the Bible, but for opium.”

Unhealthy remedy

“Dr. W.C. Jacobs went to Lima, O., his old home, to attend the funeral of his lifelong friend Superintendent J. M. Matheany, of the Grant Rapids & Indiana Road who died from blood poisoning,” the Summit County Beacon reported Dec. 25, 1889. “About a week ago he became troubled with an ulcerated gum, to which he applied cocaine with a brush. A pimple appeared on his thumb Sunday, and he applied the cocaine brush to it. In a few minutes he commenced suffering intense pain and the member began swelling. The poison spread with frightful rapidity, and he died Wednesday.”

Maniacs on loose

“Persons given to the use of hasheesh who become maniacs are apt to commit all sorts of acts of violence and murders,” the Akron Daily Democrat warned May 13, 1893. “Sometimes the intoxication of hasheesh impels the person under its influence to suicide or the commission of acts forbidden by morality… [The] long use of hasheesh weakens the body and causes atrophy, dulls the mind and creates hypo­chondria, idiocy and mania.”

Slave to the habit

“His condition is pitiful,” the Akron Daily Democrat reported Sept. 6, 1899, about John Vordeman, 34, a laborer judged insane because of his addiction to cocaine and morphine. “The unfortunate man’s arms and back are completely covered with the holes made by the needle of the hypodermic syringe which he uses when taking the deadly drugs. The continued use of cocaine has result in large sores on his back. He is a slave to the habit.”

Criminal rampage

“Have you considered how many crimes, from race riot to robberies, are reported due to the use of drugs?” the Akron Beacon Journal wondered Sept. 30, 1913. “Have you any idea how many drug-crazed people roam this country, this state, this city? Wherever an investigation has been made, the results are appalling. Is there any good reason why nerve-destroying, fiber-breaking, soul-slaying drugs should be at the command of all who seek them? Of course, there are safeguards, but, as a matter of fact, any one wanting cocaine, morphine, heroin or codeine has small difficulty in obtaining them.”

Akron beware!

“There is a dope ring in Akron,” Police Lt. Frank B. McGuire, vice squad leader, told the Beacon Journal on March 9, 1922. “Two or three white men of foreign birth are responsible, I’m sure, for no small amount of the sale of illicit drugs in this city. I haven’t evidence that warrants arrest but I know them. They do not use the ‘dope’ themselves. They are too smart. …

“The dope is smuggled in here from Canada. It is hard to seize the violator because he can so successfully hide his goods. It’s the most sneaking, ramifying business with which police have to deal. When an addict is arrested he can be searched four times and the searching office can still find cocaine or morphine hidden in his clothes. It is secreted in hat bands, in rolls of money, bills and even in the lining of a vest between the buttons.”

The devil’s weed

“A quantity of marihuana, a Mexican dope reputed to drive users insane in about five years, had been seized Saturday by the vice squad and two men were under arrest as being suspicious persons following a raid on a house at 937 Bank St.,” the Beacon Journal reported June 2, 1934.

“Marihuana is a Mexican weed that is dried, ground up and rolled into cigarets. The cigarets sell for $2 a dozen, according to Robert Hackett, head of the vice squad.”

Mark J. Price will sign copies of his new book, Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition (The History Press), from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Learned Owl, 204 N. Main St., Hudson, and from noon to 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Mustill Store, 89 W. North St. Akron. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

The 1926 dedication of Akron’s Garfield High School provided a real history lesson for the children of Firestone Park.

The keynote address was delivered by none other than the son of the assassinated president for whom the school was named.

Cleveland attorney James R. Garfield, 61, the third eldest of Lucretia and James A. Garfield’s seven children, was the guest of honor at the Nov. 19 ceremony. The date would have been his father’s 95th birthday.

“It is not the schools and opportunities of today that will bring youth’s success, but as ever, the full understanding of life and its obligations,” Garfield told the overflow crowd in the auditorium.

“That great school has been dedicated to my father and perhaps the manner in which he kept the confidence of his sons and those he taught as school teacher can best explain his views of building youth. He kept up his association with the youth he knew. For that reason, I believe, he was a great teacher.”

James A. Garfield (1831-1881), a native of Orange Township in Cuyahoga County, was elected president in November 1880 and took office the following March. He was shot July 2, 1881, by Charles J. Guiteau, a disappointed office seeker, at a train station in Washington, D.C., and died Sept. 19, 1881, at age 49.

His son James was only 15 at the time. The younger Garfield (1865-1950) was born in Hiram, home of the small college where his father had taught and served as president. The Portage County native grew up to be an Ohio state senator and the U.S. secretary of the Interior Department under President Theodore Roosevelt.

He didn’t hesitate when Akron Public Schools invited him to attend the tribute to his father. Akron had built Garfield High School to ease congestion at South and West high schools in the rapidly expanding Rubber City.

The Clemmer & Johnson Construction Co. won the contract for $243,155 (about $3.4 million today). The three-story brick structure included an education wing, auditorium and gymnasium.

“Here is a building that is the last word in modern school construction,” the Beacon Journal editorialized in November 1926. “Only last spring the site where it stands was a forest. … Today landscape engineering has converted that part of the forest not occupied by the new building into an athletic field for school children, a remarkable evidence of what transformation may be wrought by modern skill and implements.”

About 900 junior high students and 500 senior high school students attended Garfield when it opened that fall.

Engraved in marble over the school’s front entrance was a motto: “Enter to Learn.” Over the exit: “Leave to Serve.”

Joseph B. Hanan, president of the board of education, presided over the 1926 dedication ceremony. George E. McCord, superintendent of Akron Public Schools, welcomed guests to the building. Dr. and Mrs. W.T. Easton presented a portrait of President Garfield to students. The school orchestra performed and the girls chorus sang.

The Rev. Stephen E. Keeler, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, delivered the invocation. The Rev. G. Taylor Wright, pastor of Firestone Park Presbyterian Church, delivered the benediction.

Presidential son James R. Garfield told the children in the audience to appreciate the lessons in everyday life. He recalled a childhood story in which he and his brother were performing handsprings on a bed when their father happened past the room.

“I can do that as easily as you,” the older Garfield told the boys.

“And he did,” Garfield recalled. “He turned the handspring and he surpassed us in the ease with which he did it. Then he gave us the message he had sought to give. It left a lasting impression. And it was thus he often brought his messages to us and they always remained in our minds.”

As the standing-room-only crowd listened, the attorney explained:

“This modern and advanced education given your boys and girls is of little avail if it teaches them only to use their hands and minds as trained members. They must learn to take their full share of the duties of the community.

“We are hearing too little of the duties of life. No joy is due in this life unless it is based upon fulfillment of duty to life and community. Obedience to law is the foundation of liberty.

“Unless we learn to serve, we have failed to get the best of education.”

More than 90 years later, the Akron school district has retrenched as the student population has retracted. This fall, Garfield High School merged with historic Kenmore High School in a move to save about $1.3 million annually.

To say the least, the decision wasn’t entirely welcome in Firestone Park or Kenmore, but students, teachers and administrators are learning to adapt and adjust.

A new school will be built at the old Garfield site to complete a nearly $800 million districtwide construction program. The lessons of everyday life must be appreciated.

Enter to learn.

Leave to serve.

The words still ring true.

Mark J. Price is the author of the new book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

People don’t find things like this every day at yard sales.

John Maag, 70, of Green, wants to learn the origin of a cast-iron plaque that he bought less than a year ago from his 1966 Coventry High School classmate Jim Mezaros.

Measuring about 52 inches long, 28 inches wide and 1 inch thick, the heavy marker features scalloped, decorative flourishes and bears the bold inscription:







The mysterious sign looks like it may have been designed to top a doorway or building entrance. But which one?

“It has its original patina with no cracks or chips,” Maag said. “Some of the original silver paint still remains in different areas.”

For something that may have spent decades underwater, it’s in remarkable shape.

Maag said he stopped over at Mezaros’ yard sale in Coventry and noticed the plaque while talking to his classmate in his garage. Mezaros explained that he had owned the sign for years, and that his father had fished it out of the Ohio & Erie Canal in the 1960s at one of the locks in downtown Akron.

“He looked right at me and said, ‘I’ll tell you what, John, you want that?’ ” Maag recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty daggone interested in that.’ He said, ‘Forty bucks.’ ”

Maag couldn’t dig into his pocket fast enough. He planned to use the plaque to decorate a room at his home, but he soon began to wonder about the story behind it.

Maag’s granddaughter Lauren Fairley, who will soon graduate from Kent State University’s Stark Campus to be a schoolteacher next spring, has been helping him with research.

The old sign has a somewhat burned appearance, so Maag and Fairley speculate that it might be debris from the infamous Akron riot of 1900. A mob dynamited the Akron City Building, Columbia Hall and smaller buildings after a fruitless attempt to lynch a prisoner. Police officers shot into the crowd, killing two children.

The angry mob surged through the streets, smashing windows, setting fires and looting buildings. Vandals even pushed the Akron Police Department’s motorized patrol wagon, the first in the world, into the canal. Might the county sign have ended up there, too, during that night of fiery destruction?

Here is a little more information on the commissioners named on the plaque:

• Charles C. Hine, a native of Hudson, was born May 1, 1841, and died Aug. 12, 1930. He served for 20 years as a Hudson Township trustee. He died at age 89 after a short illness and was survived by one daughter. He is buried in Markillie Cemetery in Hudson.

• Washington G. Johnston, a native of Green Township, was born Feb. 18, 1836, and died Feb. 10, 1919. He was elected in 1888, and served six years as county commissioner. He later served as president of the Ohio Board of Public Works. He died at his home a week before his 83rd birthday, and was survived by five children.

• Henry Frederick, a native of Wayne County who grew up in Doylestown and Copley, was born March 20, 1834, and died March 10, 1915. Besides commissioner, he served as Portage Township trustee and Summit County Infirmary director. He was president of the Frederick Lumber Co. He died of influenza 10 days before his 81st birthday and was survived by a widow and two sons. He is buried at East Akron Cemetery.

“I took the time, and I looked in the phone book,” Maag said. “All three names are still prevalent in the Akron directory.”

Newspaper research from 1890 failed to identify any county structures that the Summit commissioners might have dedicated. So Maag’s search continues, and the public is invited to help.

Do any history buffs recognize the plaque from old photographs or know where it originally was located? Let’s solve this nearly 130-year-old mystery.

Lost relic returns

Speaking of Akron relics, a wooden artifact has returned home after more than a century.

As we reported in July, Shauna and Steve Cannon of Hornell, N.Y., opened their sealed attic during a home renovation and discovered an 1890s crate lid from the F. Schumacher Milling Co. of Akron.

The crate had once contained Rolled Avena, Ferdinand Schumacher’s trademarked name for rolled oats, and featured an illustration of the devastating Jumbo Mill fire of March 1886.

After the article was published, several people stepped forward to make offers on the old artifact.

The winner was the Cascade Locks Park Association, which purchased the lid for an undisclosed price and put it on display at the Mustill Store on east North Street across from the former site of Schumacher’s Cascade Mills.

Executive Director Don Gordon said the group is working on a display to show off the box top.

Soon Akron residents will be able to see it for the first time in more than a century.

Fun videos to watch

And just for fun, here are two YouTube videos that are must-see viewing for local history fans.

One 30-second clip from a British Pathe newsreel shows the 1938 Rubber Ball at the Mayflower Hotel ballroom in Akron. About 1,800 guests wore rubber costumes for the formal dance.

Charles W. Seiberling, vice president of the Seiberling Co., was crowned king while Jeannete Verheyden, an O’Neil’s elevator operator, reigned as queen.

The clip shows guests dressed as tires, a hot water bottle, a boot and more. See it to believe it:

Finally, a friend and former student of Akron dance legend Jean Shepherd has posted a 10-minute video of her performing at various recitals.

Shepherd passed away on Dec. 31, 2015, at age 93.

If you were one of her legions of students (or fans), you will enjoy seeing her doing her thing onstage:

Shuffle ball change, Jean.

Mark J. Price is the author of the new book Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Ghostly manifestations just aren’t what they used to be. In the 19th century, spectral sightings were reported as local news.

Mysterious apparitions took shape in the dim light from gas lanterns. Were they ghosts? Dreams? Pranks? Something else?

Just in time for Halloween, we’ve decided to revisit six old cases as reported by local newspapers of the time.

Lock your doors, bolt your windows and read these haunting passages … if you dare.

A visit from the dead

“Kent has a ghost,” the Summit County Beacon reported matter-of-factly April 11, 1877. “It may not be a real ghost, although they say it is. It appears that eight years ago, a woman now living in Kent assisted in dressing another woman for the grave (the last named woman was dead).

“Last Saturday night, just after the first mentioned woman had gone to bed, the ghost of the dead woman appeared at the bedside of the live woman, clothed in the very raiment she (the dead woman) had been buried in. The live woman jumped out of bed and started down stairs. She had gone half way when she fainted and fell the remaining distance to the bottom.”

Unwelcome visitor

An elderly widow and two daughters lived in an old, rickety house on Silver Street in the late 19th century on West Hill. They complained of an unwelcome visitor on five consecutive evenings.

“One night last week, the old lady was awakened by the deep, painful, prolonged breathing of someone evidently in his death throes, and from the best service which her eyes could give her, judged by the affrighted woman to be ensconced directly behind her stove,” the Summit County Beacon reported Dec. 25, 1878. “Presently this manifestation ceased and the sprite by way of diversion playfully gamboled about the room, spinning about at lightning speed and winding up by mounting upon the bed and reclining upon the feet of the terrified occupants.

“Later it passed its ghostly hands upon their faces, cavorting for a brief season about the walls and ceiling at last retired, leaving the unprotected trio to resign themselves again to Morpheus, as speedily as the harrowing recollections of the dread manifestations would permit.”

A ghastly sight

A Cuyahoga Falls correspondent filed this report Feb. 26, 1879, in the Summit County Beacon:

“We have a new sensation in town, nothing less than a genuine ghost. One of the houses owned by Mrs. Myra Cochran on River Street has been haunted by a restless spirit of late, for several nights. The apparition is robed in white, with his throat cut, and blood flowing from it, presenting anything but a pleasant appearance, and creating rather of an uncomfortable feeling to beholders. It is said of one of our brave youths who has recently taken to himself a better half and rented the abode of the ghost, that he became so frightened one night that he jumped from his bed and ran away, leaving his young wife to the mercies of ‘the man in white.’ ”

A white apparition

Walking along West Market Street after midnight, two young men reported seeing a white-robed figure materialize out of nowhere. Naturally, they decided to attack it.

“They were peacefully pursuing their way between West and Maple streets when they were horror stricken at beholding a white spectre rising, apparently from the pavement in front of the resident of J.A. Long,” the Akron Beacon Journal reported Sept. 18, 1891. “… Gathering courage, the young men picked up stones and sought to lay low the visitor from the other world. As might have been expected, all efforts were in vain. … The showers of stones were unheeded and apparently had no effect.

“In a moment it was gone, perhaps swallowed up by the earth, perhaps melted into thin air. Astonished and aghast, they waited for its reappearance, but none came and completely dazed they found their way home.”

Nocturnal prowler

Two employees of the Diamond Match Works were returning home to South Akron about 3 a.m. after finishing their shift. When the men reached the intersection of Cross and Main streets, they stopped in their tracks.

According to the Akron Daily Democrat on Aug. 23, 1892, “they were suddenly surprised by the appearance about 20 feet from them of a mystic object, clothed in the regulation spotless white, with a graveyard look upon its features and a slaughterhouse groan emanating from its articulatory organs … [The apparition] retreated as they advanced until reaching a particular spot in the alley in the rear of the lot the ‘pesky thing evaporated,’ to use the characteristic description of one of the witnesses. Just before vanishing, however, the nocturnal prowler turned upon its pursuers and directed a glance toward them which was so expressive of malevolence, disgust and pity that it plunged everything within the range of its glaring optics into a state of temporary frigidity, after which it disappeared.”

Great ball of fire

At the turn of the 20th century, John Breitenstein’s family reported fearful sightings of a “blazing red ball” at their home in Norton Township, a mile south of Johnson’s Corners.

They believed it was the ghost of “Mr. Shaneman,” a neighboring farmer who had died more than a decade earlier. As Breitenstine told the Akron Daily Democrat on Aug. 8, 1902:

“We never saw any of these strange things before the death of Shaneman, and the first time I saw anything supernatural was the night after Shaneman’s death. Peter Shaffer, John Mong and myself were sitting up with the corpse. Mong was smoking, and Shaffer and I had been talking.

“All of a sudden Shaffer gave me a little nudge and directed my gaze to the ceiling at the corner of the room where the corpse lay, when I saw a sight that fairly made my hair stand on end. What seemed a ball of fire had started from the corner of the room and was traveling slowly around the ceiling of the room. …

“I have seen it many times, as had every member of my family and many others. It is more often seen in the winter than at any other time, but I have seen it twice this summer, the last time only a few weeks ago, when the thing looked into my bedroom window, making the room as light as day, waking me up with the glare.

“We see this strange light at many times and places. Sometimes it rises out of the fields behind the Shaneman house, other times it rests upon the roof of the house.”

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Time had taken its toll on the Hidden Aspect.

Erosion and the natural progression of seasonal freezes and thaws, decade after decade, forced the folks at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens to close off the stone overlook some 15 years ago.

The walled-in area, constructed from large rocks shortly after the Seiberling family took up residence in 1915, was pulling itself apart, in danger of toppling from its perch into the lagoon some 25 feet below on the estate’s northwest corner.

Back in the early days, Goodyear co-founder F.A. Seiberling’s family would sit on stone benches on the overlook and contemplate the issues of the day or enjoy a picnic and admire the Cuyahoga Valley off in the distance.

But it has sat hidden for years, closed to the public.

An ambitious project to restore the Hidden Aspect and the celebrated Tea Houses a stone’s throw away, along with the cliff base they rest upon, is changing all that.

Workers have been toiling daily for months to shore up the cliff and ensure it will be around for another 100 years.

Zach Goebelt, owner of COI Stonework in Akron, said they have been using a historic photograph snapped in 1916 as a guide to help restore the cliff to what it looked like then.

Working on historical projects can be tricky, and there are rewards.

He points to “Buddy,” the crew’s mascot. Shaped like a dog, the small plastic toy was found tucked inside a stone crevice on another project on the property, and has been their companion ever since.

“We found a rotted chisel once, but that wasn’t worth saving,” he said.

Original look

Goebelt said the goal is to make it look like they — and other restoration workers over the years — were never there.

This has meant removing some previous patch jobs along the cliff base and using the photograph to re-create the way it looked originally.

They have even removed some 175 tons of dirt and other natural debris that had collected along its base over the last 100 years. Instead of a sloping surface leading to the cliff face, the area below is now relatively flat — just like it was when F.A. and Gertrude Seiberling strode the grounds and perhaps discussed the state of affairs at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Cracks had developed in the bedrock — some extending 8 feet deep — so before the work even started, a geologist was brought in to assess the cliff and create a 3-D map, to ensure whatever had to be done to stabilize the cliff would be repaired and restored to the way the family’s landscape architect intended.

Goebelt said the Hidden Aspect was sturdy enough when it was first constructed, but there were some issues that needed to be addressed, particularly where the original workers placed the cornerstones.

There were drainage problems that allowed water to collect, and over time, the freeze and thaw allowed the rocks to succumb to gravity and pull some 8 inches away from the cliff.

One troublesome crack in the overlook, Goebelt said, extended the length of the structure, up and down the cliff base and 4 feet deep.

To correct the problems and shore up the overlook, workers had to painstakingly remove each of the layered rocks that make up the Hidden Aspect, one at time.

This proved to be a tricky task, Goebelt said, because two enormous trees sit on either side of the stone feature that could not be disturbed. Workers wrapped padding around the branches and trunks to keep them from harm. Wooden planks were used to protect the roots.

Instead of using a crane or other large equipment, Goebelt said, they had to use a “ridiculously” tiny excavator and rollers to move the stone blocks and pieces — some that weighed as much as 1,700 pounds — one at a time onto a conveyor belt to be moved out of the way.

Mark Gilles, Stan Hywet’s director of historic restoration, said each piece was numbered and categorized.

“They went back exactly where they were before,” he said.

Getting it just right

The overarching goal of this project — like others in the modern era of the grand estate — is to restore the look to what it was like when the Seiberling family first walked through the front door.

That’s why workers rely on historic photos, Gilles said, to make sure they get it just right.

The cliff project is interesting historically because the overlook was one of the driving factors that led the family to pick the property in the first place.

It was once home to two quarries (“Stan Hywet” is Old English for “stone quarry”), and this is how the cliff face and lagoons came to be.

This side of the property was home to the Akron White Sand and Stone Co. Quarry in the 1890s that mined silica sand for glass and fire brick manufacturing in Akron and beyond. When the mine closed, it left huge gouges in the earth.

Instead of seeing a negative, Gilles said, the family saw potential.

“They saw these scars as pluses instead of scars,” he said.

They created steps down to the mined areas, planted gardens and created pools of water to eventually swim in.

These pools also were used to help drain rainwater from the estate. There is a gate at the lowest pool that could be opened and drain all the water from the gardens in an emergency; as far as anyone knows, it has never been opened.

The lagoons served a practical purpose.

At the base of the Hidden Aspect, near the bridge, is an odd rusty-looking steel rod protruding from the ground. This was an important feature, Gilles said, in an age when fire claimed many grand mansions.

“This marks where the fire hydrant was,” he said. There were other such primitive hydrants on other parts of the grounds.

Sweeping view

The edge of the quarry created man-made cliffs where the Hidden Overlook and Tea House were constructed. This created vistas for the landscape architect to plot places where the family and guests could enjoy unobstructed views of the forests below in the Cuyahoga Valley.

Looking at what is now the national park off in the distance, Gilles surmises this is the very view John Frederick Seiberling Jr. saw as a child growing up at the estate.

Gilles said this vista may have planted the seed that inspired the longtime congressman to work tirelessly to establish what would become the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“You could look over the whole valley from here,” he said. “And that’s why the Seiberlings wanted to build here.”

The goal now is to re-create that view for future generations to enjoy. So some trees are being removed and others are being relocated.

This means other obtrusive trees will remain. There are a number of them on the edge of the estate that block the view of modern structures, like the Timber Top Apartments.

Some other trees will go over time, Gilles said, like the rows of tall pines that stand like giant soldiers atop the cliff. Although they seem like they have been there forever, they were never part of the original landscape plans.

When the efforts began in the 1950s to open the estate to the public, Gilles said, city fathers felt a fence should be built on top of the cliff to ensure no one falls off of it. As a compromise, small pine trees were planted.

These once tiny trees now tower high in the sky and simply are not historically accurate.

The same goes for some plants and trees in the lower lagoons, where guests gather for special events like Shakespeare plays in the summer, and peer down to see festive displays during Deck the Hall.

“We want to give our guests a sense of what it looked like when the Seiberlings lived here,” he said. “We want them to see what they saw.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

They say a sucker is born every minute. In Akron, it was more like 500,000 per day.

During its prime in the 1930s, the Akron Candy Co. cranked out a half-million lollipops over three shifts during a 24-hour cycle.

Its signature product was the Dum-Dum, a small, spherical sucker known to trick-or-treaters everywhere. The fruit-flavored lollipop was the perfect size for little hands to unwrap and hold on Halloween night.

“The world’s best pop,” the manufacturer boasted.

Confectioners Lloyd D. Bader and Peter L. Heckman opened a candy factory in late 1907 at the brand-new Hower Building, a seven-story complex on West Market Street near the Ohio & Erie Canal. The partnership soured almost immediately, dissolving in 1908 and falling into receivership.

Bader joined rival candy maker John V. Schwartz in the formation of a new business, the Akron Candy Co., which was incorporated for $5,000 in February 1909. Its officers were President Schwartz, Vice President Bader, Secretary Jesse B. Merriman, Treasurer Lewis F. Ott and counsel Harvey J. Bachtel.

A month later, the Hower Building collapsed in flames after a gas lantern exploded in the basement. More than a dozen companies were destroyed, including the new candy firm.

Undeterred, the Akron Candy Co. found a permanent home at 244 Sumner St. near the University of Akron. The company specialized in cream chocolates, caramels, nougat rolls, coconut candy, peanut brittle and taffy.

“The candy business is a piker’s business,” sales manager C. Frederic Bahr once explained. “All you need is a little sugar and a stove.”

A catchy name also helped. In 1924, Bader invented a round lollipop on a paper stick. The company didn’t know what to call it until Bahr suggested “Dum-Dum,” a reference to a British hollow-point bullet from World War I that had been named for a city in India.

“Dum-Dum” seemed to roll off the tongue.

“Our chief business is naturally with the children, and it is a word a 2-year-old can say,” Bahr explained.

The company manufactured Dum-Dums with cane sugar, corn syrup and “pure fruity flavors.” Among the 10 earliest flavors were lemon, lime, orange, raspberry, cherry, grape, butterscotch, chocolate, anise and root beer.

Dum-Dums sold for a penny apiece, but the company made the math easier for young children, noting: “5 for 5 cents.”

As the candy flew off store shelves across the country, the company increased production until it operated around the clock for six days a week. During peak candy season, it expanded to seven days a week and made 500,000 Dum-Dums a day.

Curt A. Schwartz, most likely a relative of co-founder John V. Schwartz, took over operation of the company in the early 1930s.

How they were made

More than 80 employees, about two-thirds of them women, helped make the signature product. To begin the process of lollipop manufacturing, the ingredients were boiled in big cauldrons and pounded on marble slabs.

“A foreman starts kneading each batch, his gloved hands turning, folding, massaging, until it is too stiff to be manipulated,” Thomas Polsky reported in the Akron Times-Press.

“Several batches lie on the slab at the same time, oozing slowly toward the edge, like molten lava. The flavoring has given each a distinct color.

“The foreman then carries the batch to the batch-roller machine, where it is stretched by a turning piece of canvas until it is long and thin enough to enter the machine which actually makes the Dum-Dums.”

The Dum-Dum machine chopped the candy mixture into lumps, pressed it into spheres and added sticks. The lollipops tumbled into dryers before being whisked to wrapping machines and rolling to the packing room. Packers stacked 360 Dum-Dums (a penny apiece) and five Giant Dum-Dums (a nickel apiece) into cartons for immediate shipment.

A booming business

While most industries slowed during the Great Depression, the Akron Candy Co. actually accelerated. In 1932, the company announced a shipment of 1 million Dum-Dums to a Baltimore distributor. The suckers were loaded into two trailers and hit the road bearing a subtle sign that read, “ONE MILLION DUM-DUMS.”

Adding to the candy craze, Shirley Temple’s 1934 hit song On the Good Ship Lollipop kept the Akron Candy Co.’s signature product on the minds of customers.

Business continued to boom, but the company was jolted in 1937 by the unexpected death of Curt A. Schwartz at age 46 following a brief illness. In late 1939, Schwartz’s successors abruptly began moving the company to Belle­vue, Ohio.

Hours after the last truck was loaded in early 1940, the Sumner Street factory burned down in a fire blamed on a “carelessly thrown match” near a pile of rubbish in the basement. Thousands of spectators watched the old factory’s demise.

The Akron Candy Co. maintained its name while operating for more than 12 years in Bellevue. The company considered moving back to Akron in 1952, but the City Planning Commission turned down a request to rezone a section of East Tallmadge Avenue for commercial use after North Hill residents complained.

Akron leaders proved to be the real Dum-Dums for letting the company get away.

In 1953, the Spangler Candy Co. bought the Akron Candy Co.’s equipment and assets, including Dum-Dums, and moved the lollipop business to Bryan, Ohio, where it remains a giant in mini lollipops.

Still popular today

Today, Spangler touts Dum-Dums as a product “uniquely recognized by generations as fun to share.” It makes 12 million Dum-Dums per day — almost 2.5 billion per year.

Tastes have changed over the decades and new flavors have been added. Some of the current ones are blueberry, watermelon, bubble gum, cream soda, fruit punch, cotton candy, sour apple, peach-mango and the ever-popular Mystery Flavor.

For those who prefer simpler tastes, cherry, orange, grape, butterscotch, root beer and lemon lime remain in production.

And that’s a wrap on an Akron original.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

History buffs, genealogists, librarians, teachers, students and researchers have reason to smile. The search for information just got so much easier.

The Akron Beacon Journal, its weekly predecessor, the Summit County Beacon, and four defunct Akron publications have been added to, an online database operated by

The Utah-based website digitizes historical newspaper microfilm and allows readers to browse old articles and conduct specific searches of names and dates. It contains more than 5,300 newspapers from the 1700s to the present with nearly 300 million pages available for research.

All that information is now available at your fingertips via computer or smartphone. In cinematic terms, this is the equivalent of the ape man touching the monolith and gaining instant knowledge in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Among the publications of local interest that are available for research or perusal on News­

• Akron Beacon Journal, 1872-2017, 2.99 million pages.

• The Summit County Beacon, 1840-1904, 14,281 pages.

• Akron City Times, 1884-1889, 1,294 pages.

• Akron Daily Democrat, 1892-1902, 14,691 pages.

• Akron Times-Democrat, 1900-1902, 1,197 pages.

• Akron Evening Times, 1913-1920, 29,544 pages.

The website also has plans to digitize the Akron Times-Press (1925-1938), the Beacon Journal’s main competitor, which folded after the two newspapers merged.

Users can print, save and share articles that they find on When you search for a name, you never know what you’ll find.

For example, here is an impassioned plea about Beacon Journal comic strips in December 1978: “Mark Price, 15, of north Akron, is ‘tired of all this talk’ about Spider-Man, Hulk and Superheroes ‘being too violent.’ ‘There is a lot more violence on television,’ he said.”

What a nerd.

Doing a few simple searches, I learned that my father, Joel E. Price, then age 19, was charged with driving through a red light in 1953 in Massillon, and that my mother, Angela Bollas, then a 16-year-old student at North High School, received honors at the Akron Science Fair in 1957 for her miniature solar system.

There is no end to the random searches that can be conducted. What was the price of milk on the day you were born? What was the name of that long-forgotten restaurant on Mill Street? When did Frank Sinatra perform at the Akron Palace Theater? Who played catcher for the Akron Yankees?

Visitors to News­ can plug in their street addresses to learn details about their homes, including when they were built, who lived there previously and what events may have transpired there. The website makes it easy to look up engagement, wedding and birth announcements as well as obituaries.

If you want to research a family anecdote or legend, this is a good place to start. But beware: can unearth skeletons that have been safely hidden in closets for generations.

For example, I discovered that my great-great uncle George faced an alimony petition from his destitute wife, Melea, in August 1913. She married him in Greece in 1907, had a baby in 1909 and moved to this country at his request in 1912 — only to discover that he had skipped town a few days before she arrived with their child. George reportedly was “in the company with another woman.”

What a lout. is not flawless. If a name was misspelled in the original article, it might not show up under a modern search. Also, if there are any imperfections in the source material — scratches, blotches, shadows, dark print, etc. — the searched word might not show up. Furthermore, blurry or fuzzy words in old articles can cause false hits. For example, if you search for “internet” in the 1880s, the word “interest” might pop up instead. And some editions and pages are missing.

Still, the search for old, hard-to-find information is easier than ever.

A basic subscription to costs $7.95 a month or $44.95 for six months. There is a seven-day free trial subscription available, so you can check out the database before committing.

Here is the link to the Beacon Journal editions through .

You can do a basic search without being a subscriber, but you won’t be able to pull up the articles if you find anything interesting.

And you will find something interesting. Don’t be surprised if becomes your latest obsession. There’s nothing like catching up on old news.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

One month out of the year, innocent children lost their little minds. They slinked off into the night to revel in mischief and mayhem.

No community was safe. Every house was fair game.

Goblins and gremlins roamed neighborhoods and prowled streets for easy prey. They soaped windows, toppled outhouses, tossed garbage, unhinged front gates, scrawled messages in chalk and stretched clotheslines over darkened walkways.

The childish pranks began in early October, picked up speed as the month continued and culminated in chaos on Halloween night. Many adults were not amused.

“Last night, it is scarcely necessary to say, was Hallowe’en,” the Akron Daily Beacon reported in 1891. “The Akron youth, however, are no longer contented with the harmless pranks of past years but have gradually gotten to vying with each other as to how much property they can destroy with impunity. The evil has grown worse each year, and last night’s transactions appear to have capped the climax.

“From early evening to one or two o’clock in the morning, groups of boys, grown bold by past leniency, went about the streets intent upon whatever mischief they could lay their hands to — the more destructive, the better. Another Hallowe’en should not pass without having the city thoroughly policed on that night and every offender brought to speedy justice.”

Good luck with that. There were far more children than police.

A favorite pastime of Halloween pranksters was to dismantle wagons or buggies and reassemble them on roofs of homes or businesses. They also liked to take furniture, barrels, farm implements, wagon wheels — whatever they could find — and lift them high into trees to dangle from limbs.

Kids threw beans, corn, nuts and pebbles at windows in a practice known as “tick-tacking.” They also hurled cabbages, tomatoes, turnips and eggs. They collected cornstalks and redecorated properties with the shocks, turning them into cornfields.

In the 1890s, outhouses were the primary targets. Children pushed them over and then ran away in glee. Citizens had to restore the privies to their upright positions the next morning before conducting their daily business.

“We didn’t make many arrests in those days — but we got a mighty workout on Halloween night, chasing gangs that would scatter and disappear, only to reassemble on some other corner and start their mischief anew,” retired Akron Police Lt. Alva G. Greenlese reminisced in October 1939.

“Streets were not as well lighted then as they are today and the youngsters had a better chance to escape the arm of the law.”

The night before Halloween was called “Doorbell Night” in Akron. Children sneaked up to homes and rang doorbells or rapped on doors before scampering off. Residents emerged to find no one there. Or worse yet, they found that rubbish had been strewn everywhere and their porch furniture was missing.

Unfortunately, tick-tacking led to rock throwing, bottle tossing and pumpkin chucking. Many a window was shattered on Halloween night. More and more, innocent pranks began to resemble vandalism.

“If the parents of those who commit depredations were made to pay fines for their children who go out at night and destroy and mutilate property, there would be less depredation committed,” Police Capt. Robert Guillet fumed in 1906. “The trouble is that too often when arrests are made the offenders are given a little lecture and then let go. That does little good.”

Many homeowners sat on their porches at night with shotguns in their laps to scare away intruders. Others decided to turn the tables, moving their outhouses just a few feet so that unwitting pranksters might fall into the dreadful, gaping hole in the dark. That surely would teach those kids.

After his window was smashed one year, an Akron baker retaliated by making pies containing salt, pepper, dough and rotten eggs, and leaving them on the sill. He must have smiled contentedly when he returned to find the pies were all gone.

There was no end to the mischief. Children turned signs around, greased streetcar rails and pulled fire alarms. They stuffed dummies and placed them in roads to simulate accidents. They tied long ropes to schoolhouse bells, hid in bushes and rang incessantly. They borrowed cows from barns and led them into classrooms.

Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy James Phillips took a call one night from an irate woman who was upset that boys had tipped over her outhouse.

“That happens often on Halloween,” Phillips commiserated.

“Yes,” the woman groused. “But I was in it.”

As Akron became more of an industrial city, buggies and outhouses grew scarce, but smaller communities still had plenty.

Uniontown pranksters took four outhouses and set them up on each of the four corners at the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and Route 619. In Greentown, pranksters created a corral out of snow fence and penned up a cow in the center of town. In Freedom Township, kids built a 5-foot wall with 30 bales of hay in the middle of Streeter and Nichols roads. In an oldie but a goodie, pranksters hoisted an Amish buggy on Randolph School.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the Akron Touchdown Club sponsored a “Fun vs. Vandalism” campaign, which encouraged children to go trick-or-treating or attend Halloween dances instead of pulling pranks. The campaign’s motto was “Don’t destroy! Enjoy!” Public officials thanked the program as vandalism began to decline.

Oh, but there were still pranks. Kids posted for-sale signs on homes that weren’t for sale. They rounded up all the election signs on one street and stuck them in one yard.

They poured paint on the Portage Path statue and dressed up the Doylestown doughboy in old clothes and a plaid coat with a lamp shade on his head.

And so it went from generation to generation.

Although Halloween pranks don’t seem to be as popular today, don’t let your guard down.

Keep your buggy locked up in the barn. Tighten the hinges on the front gate. And for gosh sakes, keep an eye on the outhouse.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

More than 50 stores awaited shoppers when Chapel Hill Mall held its grand-opening sale in October 1967.

Beginning on Columbus Day, the three-day event Oct. 12-14 featured the theme “Discover the New World of Chapel Hill.” The shopping center was Akron’s answer to Summit Mall, which had opened two years earlier in Fairlawn.

Richard B. Buchholzer and Forest City Enterprises developed the $75 million complex on a 175-acre site off Brittain Road with free parking for more than 5,400 automobiles. Anchor stores O’Neil’s, J.C. Penney and Sears, along with many smaller shops, had already debuted over the past year, so the grand opening was a celebration of the mall’s completion.

Shoppers admired the spacious concourses, gleaming floors and inviting storefronts. Unusual amenities included Cleveland artist Brian J. Plesmid’s The Four Seasons, a sprawling mural 218 feet long and 13 feet high, made of fresh cement troweled over metal mesh and imbedded with colorful glass, and designer Jack Erbe’s twin musical fountains that splashed and pranced to the sound of piped-in songs.

For the grand-opening celebration, 1961 Mr. Universe Bruce Randall demonstrated weightlifting exercises at O’Neil’s, Capt. Walter Kruse presented an exhibit of rare treasure salvaged from sunken Spanish ships in the Bahamas, the Akron Fire Department dedicated a display to Fire Prevention Week, the Civil Air Patrol set up a real gyrocopter and the Carbone Puppets provided free shows four times a day.

Mall tenants competed for customers as they strolled through the concourse. Here is what some of those businesses had to offer 50 years ago.

• Recordland advertised “the latest in folk, teenage favorites, hard-to-find current numbers, jazz, classics, country and western, and nationality records.” The store sold 45 RPM records, 33⅓ albums, 8-track tapes, reel-to-reel tapes, phonograph needles and sheet music. For the grand opening, it had a big sale on new Columbia albums by Ray Conniff, Robert Goulet and Percy Faith for $2.79.

• Spencer Gifts had novelty items for sale, including full-page magnifiers — “Fits right over an entire page! No moving old-fashioned magnifiers from line to line.” — for 88 cents. And what kid wouldn’t want a clown face flashlight for $1? “Youngsters will beam with delight when you give them this fascinating flashlight,” the store advertised. “Light shines thru clown’s eyes, nose and mouth to guide their way in the dark.”

• Cinema I and II, “America’s Most Beautiful and Unique Theaters,” featured Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde, and George C. Scott in The Flim-Flam Man. The twin theaters had wall-to-wall screens and push-back chairs “for the ultimate in legroom.” The cinemas boasted “living room comfort” and “symphony hall sound” via “strategically placed speakers and acoustically treated walls.”

• Baker’s had QualiCraft footwear with that “with-it look” for $6.99: “See the shoe shapes with the happiest spirit!” the shop advertised. “Have fun with the girlish look of poufy pom-poms, big or little bows, straps stripping every new way, buckles in every shape, colors from spicy brights to pepped-up pastels.”

• Cowell & Hubbard jewelry store advertised anti-magnetic, shock resistant, waterproof Neptune watches for men for $19.95. “Here’s the watch that can go anywhere he can … even 600’ under water,” the store noted. “The Neptune features a precision 17-jewel movement with unbreakable mainspring, luminous dial and hands.”

• Chapel Hill Toys stocked its shelves with “lushy, plushy” stuffed animals. “Something to please everyone … from tots to grandmas,” the store claimed. “Mini animals, giant animals, almost real ones, frankly fake creatures … such great pets, so little initial cost, no upkeep.” Its big sale was 15 percent off on a Laughing Cat regularly priced at $12.98.

• Andre Duval’s salon sold wigs for $29.50 and wiglets for $17.95. Its special was a $20 permanent wave for only $5.95, including shampoo, haircut and styled set. “Prepare to look your very prettiest with this coming season’s more flattering, wavier hair styles,” the salon said. “Skillfully salon waved by our expert stylists — with Vanity Fair’s gentle, sure solutions, your hair will be lovelier than ever.”

• Woolworth’s offered the usual assortment of odds and ends. When shoppers wanted to take a break, its Harvest House cafeteria served roast turkey, chopped steak, baked ham, roast beef and chicken dinners in “liberal portions.” “The whole family will enjoy our fine selections of tasty foods,” the business explained. “Dad will enjoy our reasonable prices, too!”

• Not to be outdone, Gray Drug Store offered the Dutch Oven with Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and décor. Its menu included charbroiled steaks, sandwiches and “melt-in-your-mouth pies.”

And so it went 50 years ago at Chapel Hill Mall.

Memory Lane gift shop had “a glorious selection of quaint, charming, old world figurines” from Hummel. The Village sold mink-collared suede coats for $66 in a “delicious duet” that combined suede and “luscious mink in Antelope, Silver or Brown.”

Sears promoted a 172-square-inch Silvertone portable TV for $98 with side-mounted controls for tuning. (“Use anywhere … move from room to room.” Yes, a 172-square-inch TV was considered portable in the 1960s.

Kroger’s sold potato salad for 88 cents a pound (“Entertaining is easy when you let Kroger’s Delicatessen Department help you”). Paul Harris featured jumpers for $10.90 (“You’ll go wild when you see our jumper-land. So many styles, colors and patterns to choose from”).

And Foxwood Casuals advertised a wool poncho cape for $11.99 (“The very same you’ve admired at the game, over pants, skirts … always so young and snappy”).

Young and snappy, Chapel Hill Mall had a grand time 50 years ago at its big opening.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Behold a temple on a hill.

In 1927, the North Akron Board of Trade’s directors proposed naming the busy intersection of North Main Street and East Cuyahoga Falls Avenue as “Temple Square.” Akron Mayor D.C. Rybolt found the name to be “appropriate and euphonious,” and North Hill residents have been calling it that ever since.

Temple Square’s name might baffle some younger folks, but it made perfect sense when it first was applied 90 years ago. It was a tribute to the “most pretentious structure” on North Hill — back when pretentious was considered a good thing.

With fraternal organizations enjoying overflow membership, North Hill residents decided to form a new Masonic lodge in 1922. The Rev. John M. Baxter, pastor of North Hill Methodist Episcopal Church, selected the name: Mount Akra Lodge.

He explained that Mount Akra was the name of the hill where King Solomon built his temple in Jerusalem. Appropriately enough, Akron sounded like Akra, and the Masons planned to construct a temple on their hill.

Mount Akra Lodge 680 was chartered in October 1922 with 128 members. Baxter served as chaplain. Other officers were: Curtis J. Bowman, worshipful master; William Bennett, senior warden; Charles Gardner, senior deacon; James J. Ensign, junior deacon; Dr. J.A. Hagstrom, senior steward; Raymond Porter, junior steward; L.L. Hoopes, secretary; John H. Davis, treasurer; and George Spaulding, tyler.

In one early meeting, the Rev. Elmer Smith spoke of Masonic comradeship and declared that “every normal man has the impulse to unite with others, and that a union of right-minded men is good.” He said that fraternalism leads to the “common level of true manhood,” but warned that fraternity members needed a purpose.

He suggested that the lodge concern itself with national issues, including an “utter disregard of law,” “the lowering of the principles of Americanism” and “the curse of unrestricted nonselective immigration.”

Building a temple was of utmost importance. In 1924, the Beacon Journal reported that the lodge had completed designs on “the most pretentious structure yet erected in the northern section of the city.” Architectural drawings showed a three-story building, made of brick, stone and steel, in the Italian Renaissance Revival style.

“The plans call for five bowling alleys, billiard parlor and barbershop in the basement, two store rooms on the ground floor, and a public auditorium with balcony and kitchen on the second floor,” the Beacon Journal noted. “This will be available for any public or community gathering or banquets. The third floor will be the lodge rooms and quarters for the members of the lodge.”

The North Hill Masonic Temple Co. was tasked with building the $150,000 structure (about $2 million today) at 775-779 N. Main St.

A large crowd was present, including hundreds of plumed Knights Templar, when Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge James B. Ruhl, grandmaster of Ohio Masons, officiated at the laying of the cornerstone in June 1925. The Mount Akron octet sang patriotic songs. The VFW band and West High School band provided music.

After visiting the Holy Land, the Rev. Baxter brought back an 8-inch, oblong stone from a quarry in Jerusalem. The rock was incorporated into a pillar at the front entrance of the North Hill temple along with an inscription that was taken from King Solomon’s Mines.

Unfortunately, a vandal gouged the surface within a few days. The Masons installed heavy plate glass over the rock. After a few months, a vandal gouged the glass, too. The Masons put another glass over the rock, but it was pried off. Suspecting that boys were to blame, the Masons floated a theory that anyone desecrating the stone would face “The Curse of King Solomon.” That did the trick.

The new temple’s first big event was a Christmas gala held by Yusef-Khan Grotto No. 41 on Dec. 22, 1925. Hundreds danced in the ballroom to the music of Benson’s Orchestra.

Meetings and events were held at the temple over the next two years, but the grandest event was the temple’s dedication Oct. 2, 1927. More than 500 Masons attended the solemn, mystical rites.

Dressed in full Masonic regalia, Grand Marshal Herman Thiessen and Grand Tyler Frank M. Hughes led the Main Street procession, followed by past masters John A. Davis, William E. Bennett, Charles E. Sweeny and Wade E. Warden.

Members carried ceremonial implements, including a sword, Bible, Masonic square and compasses, candles, a silver vessel of corn and a golden vessel of oil into the lodge, which was covered in white linen. John G. Nees played music on the temple’s new pipe organ.

Grandmaster Ruhl confirmed the temple had secured “the entire approbation” of the grand lodge, and expressed his hope that the temple would be “a lasting monument of the taste, spirit and liberality of its founders.”

Long live North Hill Masonic Temple — and long live Temple Square.

Over the decades, the business district would include such mainstays as Acme, Temple Square Hardware, Isaly’s Dairy, A&P Tea Co., Kaase Co., Peoples Drug Store, Schmidt’s Pharmacy, Cevasco Jewelry, Ernie’s Chestnut Bar, North Hill Recreation, Aster Meats, North Akron 5 and 10, Temple Men’s Wear, Renee Dress Shop, DiLullo’s Bar, Central Grill, Andy’s Pizza Shop, Ruth’s Beauty Salon, Temple Square Barber Shop, Del’s Apartments, Spiegel Shopping Catalog Center, North Akron Savings Association, North Hill branch library, Lay’s Guitar, Temple Square TV, Temple Tavern, Arsenic & Old Lace, Ron’s Crossroads and the Office.

And that’s just scratching the surface. There were so many more. There were also professional offices of doctors, dentists, lawyers and real estate agents in the neighborhood.

And the service station on the northeast corner changed hands many times, going by such names as Whittaker & Fisher, Steigner’s, Robinson’s, Temple Square Amoco and European Automotive.

After Yusef-Khan Grotto bought the North Hill temple in 1942, it became known as Grotto Hall or the Grotto Building, and remained a hub of Temple Square for 40 more years. As membership in fraternal organizations waned, Yusef-Khan moved to Tallmadge in the late 1980s. Mount Akra Lodge No. 680 moved to Akron-Peninsula Road.

Temple Square has seen its ups and downs over the years. Some buildings have been razed, leaving vacant lots where prosperous shops had operated. Other businesses are going strong,

A formerly pretentious building still stands tall. Today, the former North Hill Masonic Temple holds court on Main Street as the home of Akron A.A. Archives, Akron Area Intergroup, God’s Will Apostolic Church and Arsenic & Old Lace, which are all institutions in their own way.

Long live Temple Square.

Copy editor Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

What’s wrong with today’s youth? The question has puzzled adults since the dawn of time. Parents forget what it’s like to be young, and young people don’t think they’ll ever get old.

In the 1920s, America faced a gathering menace that threatened to rip apart the very fabric of society. Young women, namely flappers, were out to have fun.

They bobbed their hair, applied colorful makeup, wore short dresses, rolled down their stockings, chewed gum, swigged gin and even smoked cigarettes. Worst of all, they listened to jazz and danced. Oh, how they danced.

“The modern dance is a carnival of death because it rips from the shoulders of womanhood of this land her only mantle of protection,” evangelist E.G. Sawyer preached in 1925 at United Brethren Church on South Arlington Street in Akron. “… Out of the 230,000 fallen women in the United States, statistics show that seven-tenths of them went by way of the modern dance.”

Dance hall days

Flappers enthusiastically performed the Charleston at East Market Gardens and short-lived venues such as South Main Gardens, Arlington Terrace, Winton Dance Palace, Zigler Dance Hall, the Red Mill, Lockney’s Pavilion and Workingman’s Dance. When the Charleston’s popularity faded, flappers switched to the Black Bottom, a scandalous dance that involved wriggling, waving, strutting and overall cavorting.

“They call it Black Bottom, a new twister,” Annette Hanshaw sang in a popular tune of the day. “Sure, got ’em. Oh, sister!”

Yes, it sure did get ’em. When Clyde McElroy of Barberton filed for divorce from his wife, Thelma, he told a judge that she spent all her time dancing. After he pleaded with her to return home, Thelma reportedly replied: “No one is going to chain down my Charleston and Black Bottom dancing.”

The Miles Royal Theater sponsored Black Bottom contests. Burlesque star Flossie DeVere starred in the vaudeville show Parisian Flappers at the Grand Theater.

Flappers flocked to Akron movie theaters such as the Dreamland, Orpheum, Waldorf, Liberty, Allen and Strand to see such titles at The Perfect Flapper, The Exalted Flapper, The Painted Flapper, Flapper Wives and Twin Flappers. Silent-film actresses Louise Brooks, Clara Bow and Colleen Moore became screen icons whose youthful looks, stylish clothes and carefree spirit were emulated by flappers.

When Bow’s 1927 romantic comedy titled It made her the original “It girl,” the Orpheum advertised: “Flippant flapper, trim and dapper, naughty, haughty, chic man-trapper. All together now, boys, ‘Has she got IT? Well, I guess. Clara! Clara! Yes! Yes! Yes!’ ”

For those wishing to dress like the stars, O’Neil’s, Polsky’s, Federman’s, Yeager’s and other Akron department stores sold the finest in flapper dresses, flapper hats, flapper shoes, flapper coats, flapper hose, flapper purses, flapper umbrellas and flapper teddies.

For flappers in training, Akron Dry Goods offered a fascinating assortment of flapper dolls with bobbed hair. Want to bet that someone just took a pair of shears to long-haired dolls and put up a new sign?

Critics blamed flappers for many of society’s ills, including juvenile delinquency, truancy, immorality and social diseases.

Akron newspapers were filled with articles about girls gone astray:

• “Akron’s flapper rum runner, Irene Moore, pretty, bobbed haired and 22, was fined $500 and costs by Judge Gordon Davies after she had pleaded guilty to transporting liquor late Thursday.”

• “A flapper bandit, described as about 23 and pretty, pointed a pistol at a salesgirl in a downtown department store and made away with four dresses.”

• Vivian Gingram, 25, the “flapper bandit” of Toledo, slid down a rain spout after midnight and escaped from the women’s reformatory in Marysville.

Perhaps the biggest outrage was over flappers’ rising hemlines. “Nobody would be agitated about the way flappers dress if they only would,” one wag noted.

Exposed legs

In 1927, a man identified only as “West Side Reader” wrote a letter to the Beacon Journal about “the boldest and must vulgar young girl I ever saw.” He said he was riding a streetcar on West Market Street when two flappers, bound for a dance hall, boarded the car and sat across the aisle from him.

“The larger and apparently the older of the two insisted on crossing one leg over the other and I was convinced it was not done for comfort,” he wrote. “This girl was at least 20 years old, if not 25. By crossing one leg over the other she exposed at least 12 inches of her bare leg above the knee.

“I mean the leg that was under. I could not help but notice it because she was nearly direct across from me. Once she caught my eye and she stuck out her tongue and turned up her nose at me. I was just looking natural at her, but I did not feel natural.”

In counterpoint, another letter writer using the pseudonym “I. Likum” confessed: “I, for one, do not object to seeing the naked and comely shanks of flappers on the streetcars.” He criticized “pathetic greybeards” and “old fossils” for raising a fuss, and proposed a solution:

“Why not have the girls paint on their thighs chaste and moral mottoes? These might be used: ‘Evil to Him Who Evil Thinks.’ ‘He Who Looks and Runs Away May Live to Look Another Day.’ ‘A Boy’s Best Friend is His Mother.’ ‘Beauty is Only Skin Deep.’ ”

In a 1927 column in the Beacon Journal, Dorothy Dix chided middle-aged women for bobbing their hair, saying it was a “fatal folly” to invite comparison to flappers.

“The boyish bob is the exclusive prerogative of sweet and 20,” she wrote. “It calls for a slim, thin, flat little figure; a peaches-and-cream complexion; shining young eyes. And when fat old grandma brings her grizzled gray locks in competition with her, it makes you realize what an awful thing times does to women. You wouldn’t have noticed it if grandma had enough sense to keep her hair on.”

The Black Bottom couldn’t be danced forever. The flapper era flamed out in the early 1930s as the Great Depression gripped the nation. Those daring young women grew up, got married, had children and eventually became grandmothers and great-grandmothers.

What’s wrong with today’s youth? Nothing that a few decades won’t change.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Professional wrestling seemed like a strange career move for Dr. Sam Sheppard.

After spending a decade in prison, the infamous Ohio physician was expected to maintain a low profile instead of donning tights and grappling in a sweaty ring before a boisterous Akron crowd.

“This is my sport,” Sheppard explained. “Some people play golf. I wrestle.”

The osteopath said he wrestled at Cleveland Heights High School and Hanover College in Indiana before perfecting his technique at the Ohio Penitentiary and Marion Correctional Institution, where he claimed to have won six bouts against inmates.

“I’m not such a great wrestler, but I did have to fight for my life in the jungle of the prison,” he once told a reporter. “It gave me the fiber.”

Sheppard gained international notoriety after his pregnant wife, Marilyn, was bludgeoned to death in their Bay Village home July 3, 1954.

The bruised doctor told police that a “bushy-haired intruder” had attacked the couple in the dark, but Sheppard was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in a sensational case that inspired The Fugitive, a 1960s ABC-TV series starring David Janssen, and later a 1993 movie starring Harrison Ford.

The doctor spent 10 years in prison before the Supreme Court reversed the verdict, saying pretrial publicity and a carnival atmosphere had made it impossible for Sheppard to receive a fair trial. He was cleared in a 1964 retrial, although many in the general public remained skeptical of his innocence.

In 1969, Sheppard’s friend George Strickland, a pro wrestler nicknamed “The Great George,” talked the 45-year-old doctor into stepping into the ring with him as a tag team.

Sheppard, who was eking out a living with a small practice in the Columbus suburb of Gahanna, had recently divorced his second wife, Ariane, a former pen pal who had written to him in prison, and was only months away from eloping with his third wife, Colleen, 20, Strickland’s daughter.

What did he have to lose?

Serving as manager, Strickland told reporters that Sheppard would make his pro wrestling debut Aug. 9 at a benefit for cancer research in Waverly, Ohio. “There couldn’t be a better drawing card,” he said.

Tickets sold so quickly that the bout was moved to a larger venue that accommodated 5,000.

“My partner and I wish to display that men over 40 can stay in good physical shape,” Sheppard said. “We wish to encourage men to give up smoking and strive for better bodies.”

To be a wrestler, the doctor needed a signature move. Bobo Brazil had the Coco Butt, Lou Thesz had the Power Bomb, Angelo Poffo had the Neckbreaker, Buddy Rogers had the Figure-Four Leglock.

Sheppard developed the Mandibular Nerve Press. His finishing move was to plunge two fingers into an opponent’s mouth and press two nerves beneath the tongue, supposedly inducing a temporary paralysis that would render a foe helpless.

“The only new hold in wrestling in many years,” Strickland boasted.

Crowds greeted Sheppard with boos, hisses and cheers as he and Strickland conducted a small tour of Ohio and Michigan. From town to town, the tag team wrestled many of the same foes, and each time, an opponent always managed to fall prey to the fingers-in-the-mouth ploy.

“Mr. Strickland is a professional wrestler, and he is trying to make a living,” Sheppard told a reporter. “I am in it for the sport. My share, except for expenses, goes to the Sloan-Kettering Research Foundation.”

Then he added somewhat mysteriously: “Of course, my expenses come pretty high.”

The 13th match in Sheppard’s fledgling career was booked Sept. 27, 1969, at the Akron Armory, a 2,510-seat arena at 161 S. High St. (where the Ocasek building stands today). Walter Moore was the promoter of the event.

Sheppard and Strickland served as the headlining act against Jack Murphy and Porky “The Pig” Loren. Also on the bill were the Kangaroos vs. Chief White Owl and Johnny Powers, and Big Saka vs. Bob Harmon.

Beacon Journal reporter Doyle McGinley interviewed Sheppard and Strickland in a hallway of the complex on the night of the match.

“At 45, he is in excellent condition,” McGinley noted of Sheppard. “He weighs in at 195 and there’s not much fat on that six-foot frame. They were both dressed for the ring — black tights with leotards.”

McGinley wondered why Sheppard didn’t go all in on the doctor theme, wearing a doctor’s uniform, stethoscope and other medical gear when he stepped into the ring.

“I would disgrace the medical profession,” Sheppard replied.

“Both professions,” Strickland interjected.

Before boos, hisses and cheers, the tag teams entered the ring and stomped around, fighting like they had never seen each other before.

Just when all seemed lost in the loud, hot, smoky arena, Sheppard employed the Mandibular Nerve Press on Murphy and escaped with yet another win.

“Doctor is an excellent wrestler,” Strickland said. “Medicine’s loss is wrestling’s gain.”

The tour continued for a few more weeks, including an Oct. 2, 1969, bout at the Cleveland Arena before a crowd of 5,384. Murphy fell prey once again to the under-the-tongue hold.

Some guys never learn.

Dr. Sam Sheppard’s wrestling career didn’t last long because he wasn’t long for the world.

Six months after wrestling in Akron, Sheppard was found dead at age 46 in his Columbus home April 6, 1970. The Franklin County coroner ruled the cause of death as liver failure.

One of medicine’s most notorious doctors was gone. The wrestling world had lost an unlikely star.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].

Critics dismissed Akron’s urban renewal project as “the hole.” After years of funding delays and work stoppages, the 5-acre site was little more than a muddy crater in the heart of downtown. Some called it a money pit.

But city leaders refused to give up on their dream of revitalizing downtown. Ever so slowly, the plans became concrete. Mayor Leo Berg championed the development in the late 1950s, Mayor Edward O. Erickson shepherded it in the early 1960s and Mayor John Ballard oversaw its rise in the mid-1960s.

Cascade would not be stopped.

The Sept. 15, 1967, dedication of the $10 million Cascade Parking Deck (about $73.2 million today) was the first tangible sign of progress in the ambitious project, which had demolished dozens of landmark buildings, eradicated South Howard Street, enclosed a section of the Ohio & Erie Canal and bewildered downtown shoppers.

Bounded by Bowery, Main, Mill, Ash and Quaker streets, the four-level garage could accommodate 2,150 automobiles. The John G. Ruhlin Construction Co. had used 70,000 cubic yards of concrete and tons of reinforcing steel during two years of work on the parking deck, which was financed primarily through general obligation bonds and notes.

Dedication ceremony

“THIS IS CASCADE,” a billboard proclaimed as hundreds attended the dedication ceremony. Red, white and blue bunting fluttered, the North and Kenmore marching bands performed patriotic music and participants released helium balloons.

With a growing roar, the WCUE radio helicopter flew into sight and landed atop the parking deck, where a triumphant Mayor Ballard stepped out to address the assemblage at 11:30 a.m. Friday. “The city of Akron is on the march,” he announced. “We are well on our way, and this is only the beginning.”

U.S. Rep. William H. Ayres, R-Akron, noted: “We are not dedicating only bricks and mortar here this morning. We are dedicating a principle. America’s real strength lies in what is done at the local level, and this is as it should be.”

Instead of cutting a ribbon, the officials cut a large rubber band, a symbol of the city’s major industry.

The garage was the first step for the $224 million Cascade project, which would include a 24-story office tower, a seven-story professional building, a 16-story motel and a public plaza with a skating rink. The John W. Galbreath Co. was Cascade’s developer.

The project derived its name from the 1830s village of Cascade, which sprouted around the intersection of Howard and Market streets. Dr. Eliakim Crosby’s cascade race diverted water from the Little Cuyahoga River and funneled it down the center of present-day Main Street toward Mill Street and into the Ohio & Erie Canal.

Following the parking deck’s dedication, the Akron Chamber of Commerce celebrated with a luncheon. John S. Knight, president and editor of the Beacon Journal, served as the master of ceremonies.

“I’m proud of Akron — always have been,” he told the audience. “There was a great deal of scoffing about ‘that hole in the ground.’ People were afraid it would be another boondoggle. But the combination of leadership — business, civic and labor, together with government — has succeeded in achieving this magnificent development toward the renaissance of downtown.”

A. Dean Swartzel, regional director in the Chicago office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, told the luncheon crowd: “We are inspired by what can and will be accomplished in Akron, and are glad to be a part of it.”

Open for business

Hundreds toured the Cascade garage after the ceremonies, but it didn’t officially open until Monday, Sept. 18. The Russell Harp Co. supervised parking operations and John Kaman served as manager.

Rates were 15 cents for the first half-hour, 15 cents for the second half-hour and 15 cents per hour with a $1 limit for 12 hours of parking. The deck was open 24 hours. Drivers received automated tickets at the Mill and Quaker entrances and followed one-way traffic patterns.

Lighted signs directed drivers to parking spaces. The levels were color coordinated — yellow, orange, blue and green — to help people find their vehicles when they returned.

About 500 people signed up for monthly parking for $20 before the garage opened.

Akron attorney Bruce W. Bierce, whose office was in the First National Tower, was the first to arrive at 6:41 a.m. Monday. He had parked for 30 years at Central Garage, a 1919 building that Cascade made obsolete.

“For anyone located where we are, it’s wonderful,” he told a reporter. “The attendants are very helpful. It’s a great relief to have your car practically in the back door of your office.”

By 10:30 a.m., more than 200 drivers had parked their cars in the new structure.

High-tech feature

The Cascade Parking Deck provided a science-fiction element with the introduction of a “vehicle sensing system,” a giant computer developed by Taller & Cooper of New York.

“The equipment will keep track of how many cars are moving into each level,” the Beacon Journal explained. “The equipment can’t be tricked by backing over signals.

“The equipment automatically will switch on signal lights in the various sections, warning motorists that a particular area is full and directing them to another.”

Naturally, there were some bugs along the way. The deck had to close for almost an hour on opening day after a fuse blew and the lights went out. The power failure knocked out car-counting devices, but 300 cars were estimated for the first day.

About 1,500 drivers used the deck during its first five days of operation — and they’ve been coming back ever since.

Happy 50th birthday, Cascade Parking Deck.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].