An unusual song invaded the Akron airwaves in the summer of 1958, a novelty record that didn’t sound anything like the current pop hits by Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Darin or Peggy Lee.
Listeners tuning in to WAKR, WADC, WCUE or WHKK could catch the bouncy number, which the Beacon Journal described as “a catchy, toe-tapping tune.”
“Down at the Soap Box Derby, all the kids will be gathered there. It’s the race of the year. They’ll holler and cheer …”
Bruce Overbey, general manager of All-American Soap Box Derby, listened to the record over the loudspeakers in the ballroom of the Mayflower Sheraton Hotel, where actor Guy Madison, singer Pat Boone and comedian Eddie Bracken would soon arrive as celebrity guests.
The derby had never endorsed a commercial product, Overbey said, and wasn’t about to start.
“But I don’t see anything wrong with saying this tune’s better than a lot of things I’ve heard lately,” he said slyly.
“The racers are all lined up and ready to go. They’re off, down the hill they go. Faster and faster to put on a show. For fame and for victory …”
Chicago musician Hugh Lyons had composed Down at the Soap Box Derby and sent demo records of the song to Akron radio stations. The sheet music was available for 50 cents (about $4 today) at O’Neil’s, Polsky’s and other Akron department stores.
An overflow crowd gathered under sunny skies Aug. 18 at Derby Downs for the All-American race in Akron. The event featured 160 racers from across the country, and when it was all over, James Miley, 15, of Muncie, Ind., had edged Ron Ashley, 14, of Los Angeles, and David Hilligoss, 15, of Anderson, Ind., for the championship.
“It’s the race of the year all right. They’ll holler and cheer with delight. At the Soap Box Derby.”
The 1958 song had just about run its course by the time the All-American was over. After making a blip that summer, it was swept away like confetti after a parade.
Mysterious songwriter Hugh Lyons wasn’t seen around these parts again, but mostly because he didn’t exist. Lyons was a pseudonym for Hubert A. Wiedemeier, a prolific composer.
Born in Burlington, Iowa, in 1885, Wiedemeier had studied violin and piano as a child and was a protégé of bandleader J. Henri Fischer. He moved to Chicago as a young man, married Mabel Furry of Peoria, Ill., and worked as a department manager at the Rothschild & Co. store in Chicago.
In his spare time, he composed tunes under the name Lyons, the maiden name of his mother, Anna.
His first published song was At the Derby, which he wrote in 1947 as a tribute to the Kentucky Derby.
“On Derby Day, it’s a sight to see. All the racing fans have a jubilee. The roar of the crowds falls upon the ear with a mighty sound at the race of the year.”
Wiedemeier wrote so many songs that he didn’t remember them all, but some of the titles included Agnes, the Juke Box Queen, My Pretty Little Robin, We Salute You, Mr. G.I., Let’s Go for a Buggy Ride, Crazy Horse, My Cimarron Rose, Cora from Aurora, Tillie from Philly, I’m Only a Mustard Seed and It’s Just Corn.
He wrote Prudence Be Prudent for Prudential Insurance, Happy Landings for Trans World Airlines and, of course, Down at the Soap Box Derby for the All-American. He was 73 when he wrote that little ditty.
When he wasn’t composing, his hobby was collecting the horseshoes of famous horses. He owned more than 200, including Gene Autry’s Champion, Buffalo Bill’s Barnum, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Dot, Rudolph Valentino’s Jadaan, Tom Mix’s Tony, Gen. John Pershing’s Kidron and champion racehorses Seabiscuit, Man o’ War, War Admiral and Whirlaway.
Nicknamed “The Horseshoe King,” Wiedemeier estimated that his collection was worth $50,000 (more than $117,000 today). He discussed his horseshoes in the early 1940s on the NBC radio show Hobby Lobby with host Dave Elman in New York.
“I could tell you many stories about horseshoes and saints,” Wiedemeier once told a reporter. “In fact, I was named after St. Hubert, patron saint of the turf. My passion for horseshoes I inherited from my Irish-born mother, whose father owned and bred jumpers in Calway, County Mayo.”
He joked that he would always have good luck because he owned so many horseshoes.
In February 1985, a smoke detector began to blare at a Chicago apartment complex. Residents fled to safety, but realized in horror that their elderly neighbor’s apartment was on fire.
Firefighters found the 99-year-old man next to his bed. Neighbors said that the widower was deaf and almost blind, and liked to puff on a pipe. Investigators determined that the blaze originated in an armchair and blamed careless smoking.
Authorities said the apartment was filled with newspaper clippings, old magazines, sheet music, horse photographs — and cartons and cartons of old horseshoes.
Hubert A. Wiedemeier, also known as Hugh Lyons, was pronounced dead at the scene.
And somewhere on Derby Downs in Akron, the wind may have whistled a forgotten song.
“It’s the race of the year all right. They’ll holler and cheer with delight. At the Soap Box Derby.”
Moonlight danced along the waves. Bright white lights shimmered across the surface of the dark water while the sweet strains of music drifted in the breeze.
Silver Lake Park was a scene of ethereal beauty at night. Taking a break from the dance floor, couples stood on a covered balcony to admire the romantic views.
Proprietor Ralph H. Lodge founded the park on the western shore in 1876 with a modest bathhouse, a small pavilion and a big dream.
“I think that the fishing, boating, bathing and picnicking business will become more popular, and that I will live to see the day when I can take in $100 a day here,” Lodge mused.
More than 25 years later, the resort averaged more than $2,000 per day (roughly $62,500 today) and up to $5,000 for special occasions ($155,600 today).
The amusement park, nicknamed “The Coney Island of the West,” offered a campground, hotel, cottages, miniature railroad, roller coasters, racing speedway, merry-go-round, water toboggan, steam launches, bathing beach, aquarium, zoo, roller ink, bowling alley, pool hall, arcade and baseball fields.
The centerpiece of Silver Lake Park, though, was a grand pavilion built in 1903. Lodge constructed the 90- by 236-foot pavilion with 16 railcars of wood from Falls Lumber Co. and more than 1 million shingles, according to historian Mary McClure.
While the park’s original dance floor was a mere 20 feet by 30 feet, the new wooden structure provided 15,000 square feet for couples to trip the light fantastic, and more than 400 feet of promenade. Lodge boasted that the park had one of the largest dance floors in the United States “except, perhaps, those of a few of the largest pavilions along the Atlantic coast.”
The pavilion was built over the lake to provide easy docking access for boats. The first floor offered a dining hall for 500 patrons while the second level had a dance hall for 2,000 guests. Orchestras performed on a special platform suspended from the ceiling over the middle of the polished oak floor. Eight laps around the covered balcony were the equivalent of 1 mile.
A 112-foot tower featured a souvenir shop and concession shop but was more utilitarian than ornamental. It hid a 9,000-gallon reservoir of water in case of fire in the wooden building.
“The citizens of Summit County have reason to feel justly proud of the high character of that noted resort in their midst known as Silver Lake,” the Beacon Journal reported in 1903. “From a country farm a few years ago, it has been transformed and improved until it has become one of the most widely known pleasure resorts and the most extensively visited of any in the state.”
Lodge and his wife, Julia, raised 10 children at the park. Attracting 10,000 visitors a day, it was a family-friendly resort with strict stipulations. Alcoholic beverages were not sold on the premises, rowdy behavior would not be tolerated, and the park would not be open on Sunday in observance of the Sabbath.
Banquets, conventions, company outings, private dances and grand galas were among the events held at the pavilion. Guests arrived on interurban cars and enjoyed daylong excursions. Admission to the dance hall cost 50 cents per couple and 10 cents for “extra ladies.”
When Ralph H. Lodge died in 1907 at age 76, son William R. Lodge promised that the park’s strict rule book would be followed.
“We couldn’t change it if we wanted to, and we wouldn’t if we could,” William R. Lodge said. “The success of the resort is largely due to the strict observance of these rules.”
A year later, however, a controversy arose when a dozen black campers arrived at the pavilion and began to dance. In those days, whites and blacks did not mix at the resort. About 150 white people rushed for the exits to demand a refund. Lodge, the new manager, talked them back into the hall and resolved the crisis by pulling a curtain across the center of the pavilion. Separated by a flimsy partition, blacks and whites enjoyed a night of dancing.
The pavilion survived several mishaps over the years, including being struck by a steamship, being flooded by high water, being charred by fire and being the setting for occasional brawls. What it could not survive was the end of the park.
The Lodge family put the resort up for sale in 1917 and developers divided the land into 468 lots for Silver Lake Estates, a residential neighborhood. Workers dismantled amusement rides and took down old buildings to make room for beautiful homes.
The grand pavilion stood unused for several years. Its demise barely registered in the community, but was signaled in a 1925 classified ad: “Building material for sale; secondhand building material from the pavilion at Silver Lake; pine framing lumber, timbers, ceiling, sash, flooring, at attractive prices; also secondhand brick.”
Summit County residents might be surprised to learn that they own a home, barn or other structure built with materials from the park structure.
The village is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The Silver Lake Boathouse was constructed on the site of the old pavilion.
Moonlight still dances along the waves at Silver Lake, but now it’s residential lights that shimmer across the surface of the dark water.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
There were so many auto theaters that we bet you’ve forgotten about some of them. How many of these drive-in theaters do you remember attending?
Ascot — 3409 State Road, Northampton Township (now Cuyahoga Falls). Opened in 1948. Closed in 1984. What’s there now: Residential area.
Auto Voice — 1420 S. Arlington St., Akron. Opened in 1948. Renamed Arlington Drive-In in 1951. Closed in 1952.
Blue Bird — 11436 Cleveland Ave. NW, Uniontown. Opened in 1940. Closed in 1950. What’s there now: Residential area.
BMP — 10265 Wooster Pike, Creston. Opened in 1939. Renamed Creston Drive-In in 1950. Closed in 1953.
East — 600 South Ave., Tallmadge. Opened in 1950. Closed in 1993. What’s there now: Acme Fresh Market, Eastwood Square.
East 30 — Trump Avenue Southeast at Lincoln Highway, East Canton. Opened in 1950. Closed in 1985. What’s there now: Empty field.
42 Drive-In — 2350 Pearl Road, Brunswick. Opened in 1967. Closed in 1987. What’s there now: Heartland Auto Sales.
Gala — 2215 E. Waterloo Road, Springfield Township. Opened in 1948 as Sawyerwood Drive-In. Renamed Gala in 1949. Closed in 1997. What’s there now: Gala Commons.
Midcity — 9205 Columbus Road, Louisville. Opened in 1948. Closed in 1982. What’s there now: Farmland.
Montrose — 4022 Medina Road, Copley Township. Opened in 1948. Closed in 1986. What’s there now: Retail district including J.C. Penney.
Northfield — 10271 Northfield Road, Northfield. Opened in 1950. Closed in 1983. What’s there now: Northfield Village Fire Department.
North Canton — 1113 N. Main St., North Canton. Opened in 1947 as Automobile Theatre. Renamed North Canton in 1949. Closed in 1981. What’s there now: Beckford Place Apartments.
Park — 23389 U.S. 62, Alliance. Opened in 1948. Closed in 1984. What’s there now: Northeast Used Auto Parts.
Skyline — 3401 Brecksville Road, Richfield. Opened in 1965. Closed in 1979. What’s there now: Empty lot.
Skyline — 6058 Lincoln Way E. near Wooster. Opened in 1947. Closed in 1986. What’s there now: Habitat for Humanity in Wayne County.
Stark — 2506 Lincoln Way E., Massillon. Opened in 1948. Closed in 1985. What’s there now: Retail area, former Kmart.
Starlight — 1320 Starlight Drive, Akron, near Waterloo Road. Opened in 1940. Closed in 1983. What’s there now: ABC Supply Co.
Summit — 3205 Manchester Road, Coventry Township. Opened in 1956. Closed in 1988. What’s there now: Acme Fresh Market.
Sunset — Akron Road at Wadsworth Road, Rittman. Opened in 1947. Closed in 1950. What’s there now: Residential area.
Valley — 5317 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Barberton. Opened in 1948 as Al-Stan Auto Theatre. Renamed Valley in 1949. Closed 1950. What’s there now: Farmland.
Blue Sky — 959 Broad St., Wadsworth. Opened in 1947. One screen. Admission: $15 per car Sunday through Thursday, $20 per car Friday and Saturday. 330-334-1809.
Lynn — 9735 State Route 250 NW, Strasburg. Opened in 1937 as Boyer’s Auto Theatre. Renamed Lynn in 1948. Two screens. Admission: $7 for adults, $3 for children 5 to 11, free to children 4 or younger. 330-878-5797.
Magic City — 5602 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road, Barberton. Opened in 1950. Two screens. Admission: $15 per car Sunday through Thursday, $20 per car Friday and Saturday. 330-825-4333.
Midway — 2736 State Route 59 near Kent. Opened in 1950. Two screens. Admission: $20 per car. 330-296-9829.
To learn more about movie theaters, past and present, visit http://www.cinematreasures.org.
The tension ratcheted as the ghastly monster stalked its prey. Closer, closer, closer … it wouldn’t be long now … closer, closer, closer. With a sudden jolt, the beast launched its attack, and terrified screams filled the air.
Flash, flash, flash.
Flash, flash, flash.
Horns honked and headlights flickered as the open-air audience signaled its approval. It was just another night at the drive-in horror show.
When I think back to those long, hot summers of the 1980s, I smell the aroma of wafting popcorn, hear the metallic vibration of in-car speakers and recall a cavalcade of low-budget movies.
Blood Beach. Zombie. Mausoleum. Basket Case. Re-Animator. Xtro. The Boogeyman. Pieces. Return of the Living Dead. The Gates of Hell. Invasion of the Blood Farmers. Mortuary. Make Them Die Slowly. The Beast Within. Night School. Xtro.
My friends and I weren’t too selective. Raised on the 1970s fare of Cleveland horror hosts Hoolihan and Big Chuck, the Ghoul and Superhost, we liked scary movies, and we gravitated toward drive-in theaters as soon as we passed our driver’s exams and were old enough to see R-rated films.
On any given weekend at summer, our ragtag caravan of rusty, dented, wheezing vehicles might include a Nova, Gremlin, Toyota, Chevette, Hornet or Pinto station wagon, plus one shiny, new Camaro because one of us apparently had a real job.
We checked the Beacon Journal movie ads to see what horror films were playing that weekend, rounded up the gang and piled into our cars for the drive-in. Since most of us were from North Hill and Cuyahoga Falls, our first choice was the Ascot on State Road in Northampton, but we weren’t averse to traveling elsewhere — especially the Gala, East, Montrose and Summit — if the movie lineup sounded compelling enough.
We tried to get to the drive-in early to pick out good places to park. Cars filed past the ticket booth and rolled slowly onto the gravel lot. No, we never tried to hide anyone in a car trunk to avoid paying. We may have had bad taste in movies, but we were exceedingly honest.
The boys raided the concession stand, loaded up on popcorn, candy and soda, and tossed a Frisbee back and forth in front of the big screen until it was showtime.
We removed the heavy speakers from their posts, hung them on our car windows and turned up the volume knobs. There was nothing worse than getting there early, finding a good place to park and then discovering that the speaker wasn’t working — or worse yet, missing — after the movie had started.
Drive-ins with multiple screens were generally preferred because you could always turn around and watch other movies (silently) if your film was boring. Wait a minute. Was that a nude scene on the other screen?
Um, back to the movie.
The great thing about drive-ins was that you could talk during films. My friends and I kept a running commentary, inventing the concept of Mystery Science Theater 3000 years before it aired on television. When one film opened with a scene of a man fishing, I joked to my friends: “I told you this movie had a great ‘cast.’ ”
Sometimes the movie titles alone were enough to get us giggling. Shriek of the Mutilated, about a yeti death cult, and The Boogens, about subterranean monsters, were so ridiculous that my friend Tim spent the next several years randomly intoning “Shriiiiiiek of the Mutilated” or “The Boooooogens.”
I don’t know where the trend began, but drive-in denizens often honked their horns or flashed their headlights during murder scenes or nude scenes. A wave of beeps rolled across the lot until order was restored — until the next murder scene or nude scene.
While drive-ins had a reputation as passion pits for couples, my friends and I were actually there to see the movies. We attended dusk-to-dawn marathons and I remember staying for all five scary movies. There were only a handful of vehicles left by morning: ours and a few cars that had fogged-up windows.
We frequented drive-ins during our college years but didn’t go as often after the mid-1980s. The popularity of home video was partially to blame, I suppose, but we also had other priorities, including careers and girlfriends.
At some point, we just stopped going. Over the years, most of our favorite drive-ins shut down and were demolished. I was sad to see them go, and I felt culpable for their demise because I hadn’t gone in years. I did buy a lot of those 1980s movies on DVD, though.
Today, we are fortunate to have a handful of surviving drive-in theaters in our region, including the Blue Sky, Magic City and Midway.
It’s been more than 30 years, but maybe I should round up the old gang for another night out at the movies. I wonder what horror films are showing?
If we go, you’ll know it. We’ll be the ones honking our horns and flashing our headlights.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
The city was hot, the water was cool and the clothes were optional.
Akron youths splashed and frolicked all summer long in the muck and grime of the Ohio & Erie Canal during the late 19th century and early 20th century. The water was of questionable purity and content, but children didn’t seem to mind as they escaped the swelter and enjoyed a free swim.
Local historian Cloyd R. Quine (1881-1967) recalled some of the most popular spots along the canal in his 1952 booklet Akron’s Old Swimming Holes. The waterway was at least 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep in the center, providing ample space for hundreds of swimmers each day when the city’s population was 16,500.
Each spot had a nickname, and some were quaint, if not mysterious.
“The Pee Zee,” also known as “Ninety,” was a short section of the canal between South Street and Summit Lake. “On the tow path on the east side was a large ice house later removed when Nollan’s Park was established,” Quine recalled. “On the west bank there were several small boat houses and an old sunken canal boat.”
Why the place was called “The Pee Zee” or “Ninety” is anyone’s guess today, but it was the most popular swimming hole south of Exchange Street.
“The Forty” and “The Eighty” were swimming holes between Thornton and South streets. They were also known as “Forty Rods” and “Eighty Rods,” their supposed distance from the Thornton Street bridge.
“The Saw Mill” was located near the Lower Basin of the canal, close to the Brewster Coal Co. near the southwest corner of Exchange and Main streets.
Also thronged with swimmers were Lock 2 near W.J. Payne’s boat yard between present-day Akron Children’s Hospital and Canal Park; Lock 5 near the Stone Mill at the foot of Mill Street at South Howard Street; Lock 13 beneath the Baltimore & Ohio trestle at Cascade Mills; Lock 17, then outside the city limits, a half-mile north of Market Street; and Lock 19, also known as Black Dog Crossing, the present site where Memorial Parkway crosses the Little Cuyahoga Valley.
Lads harass passers-by
Children were supposed to wear bathing suits, but many couldn’t afford them in those days. Some kids, mostly boys, peeled off all their clothes and plunged into the water, creating an ongoing battle with city officials. As it turned out, nude boys could be rude boys.
They mocked the passengers of passing canalboats and threatened to tip over canoes. They shouted profanities to women on the banks of the canal. They ripped apart barns and stole the wood for floating in the water. They tampered with the locks, opening the wickets to raise the water level for swimming.
Worst of all, they committed “depredations of many kinds.”
In other words, these ornery boys were exhibitionists.
Fielding citizen complaints, police frequently chased the lads out of the water. Some boys left their clothes on the banks and sprinted naked through town.
Violators face fine
In 1886, the Akron City Council passed the following ordinance: “It shall be unlawful for any person in a naked state, or with the person so much undressed as that there is an indecent exposure of the body, publicly, or where he may be publicly seen, at any time to bathe in the open water of the Ohio Canal, between Locks One and Nine of this city, or during the hours of daylight in any other portions of said canal, or in any other waters within said city. It shall be unlawful for any person at any time to bathe beneath or immediately adjacent to any bridge in said city, crossing said canal or any other water.”
Violators faced a whopping fine of $10 (more than $350 today) if they were caught au naturel along the canal.
This, of course, solved the nude-bathing problem once and for all.
Naked boys cavorted in the water all summer. Some played practical jokes on each other, hiding clothes, tying them in knots or slathering them in mud.
Occasionally, police arrived to shoo the children away. The boys skedaddled to another section of the canal and started splashing again.
“They go in bathing without the semblance of a rag to hide their nudity, and many intentionally make exhibitions of themselves that ought to cause every one of the offenders to be sent to the stoneyard until the water is too cold to make bathing desirable,” the Akron Daily Democrat fumed in 1894.
City leaders approved construction of a changing booth downtown and proposed a swimsuit-lending system for kids who didn’t own one. These steps seemed to have little effect.
In 1900, Police Chief Hughlin Harrison announced a crackdown on nude swimmers, saying: “Decency demands it.” Harrison said officers would not tolerate young men “exposing their persons” in plain view of businesses where young women were employed.
“In fact, I am convinced that some of the boys and young men take great delight in doing this,” Harrison said. “Again, a great many of the females, in going to and from work, have to cross and pass along the canal and during the bathing season have to take roundabout ways to avoid these scenes.”
The hooligans would not be contained. For another decade, complaints persisted of noise, profanity and disorderly conduct from nude bathers.
Mayor William T. Sawyer suggested “a good drubbing” was in order.
“It’s all right to go swimming, but if the young men who are given the privilege do not know how to behave as gentlemen, it is time to stop them,” Sawyer said in 1908. “When the order is given for no more swimming in the canal at that point, any violators of the order will be arrested.”
In 1912, Mayor Frank W. Rockwell announced new restrictions on canal bathing: “It is not our object to keep the boys from enjoying themselves so long as they conduct themselves with decency, but their present conduct there must be stopped.”
Nature ends au naturel
It took an act of nature for that. The flood of 1913 wrecked the canal system, making the depleted waterway less appealing for swimmers. Meanwhile, Akron and Summit County opened public beaches, wading ponds and artificial pools so kids could cool off in the summer.
Although bathers have occasionally ventured into the murky water over the past century, the canal remains a swimming hole best relegated to the past.
Clothed or unclothed.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
It was a sunny day near the end of the Great Depression when William J. Schoenbeck learned the wonderful news.
The 69-year-old widower was busy laboring in the potato patch on his 20-acre farm off Hawkins Road in Richfield Township when his daughter Gertrude Rodney rushed out to tell him that his horse had come in first place.
“Goodness sakes!” he yelled, dropping his hoe on the ground. “Now it came true! After all these years.”
Schoenbeck had purchased a $2.50 ticket for the Irish Sweepstakes in June 1938 and won $150,000 (about $2.6 million today) when French thoroughbred Bois Roussel, a 3-year-old colt, captured the Epsom Derby in England.
Ridden by jockey Charlie Elliott, the 20-1 long shot rallied down the backstretch to win the 1½ mile race by four lengths before a cheering crowd of 400,000, including King George VI and Queen Mother Elizabeth.
Just like that, Schoenbeck was wealthy.
“I’m a gambling man, even though that’s only the third ticket I ever bought,” he told the Akron Times-Press. “When I was young, I was quite a poker player, but when I got married, my wife [Barbara] put her foot down on that. She was the best woman that ever lived, but she’s been dead three years now, and I thought I’d try my luck again.”
The German immigrant was a retired woodworker and stair builder who had lost four fingers on his right hand in a Cleveland factory accident. Schoenbeck built the five-room cottage in Richfield for his wife when her health began to fail, but she died in 1934 before they could move.
Schoenbeck spent the days working in his Richfield garden, tending to chickens and looking out for his adult children Gertrude Rodney and William Schoenbeck Jr., daughter and son-in-law Eva and James Schamadan and grandsons Jim, 10, and Bill Schamadan, 8.
Beaming about his sweepstakes jackpot, Schoenbeck mused: “There ought to be enough for everybody.”
Salesmen began pestering Schoenbeck at the farm, trying to sell him stocks, bonds, insurance, automobiles and appliances. He also received bushels of letters from single women who had marriage on their minds.
“I lived 45 years with my wife and I’m still true to her, and I don’t think the young girls would like an old man like me anyway,” Schoenbeck said.
Schoenbeck wasn’t too worried when he hadn’t received any prize money after a month, but he admitted that “I’d kinda like to have it” because “some people seem to think I’m either a darned liar or a darned fool.”
Finally, he received a check on July 22 at Dime Savings Bank in Akron for $86,810 (about $1.5 million today) after the government took $63,190 in taxes. “I don’t mind the government getting its share,” he said.
He built a prefab house at 4460 Hawkins Road for the Schamadans, constructed a lake and windmill, landscaped his farm and repaired his chicken coop.
“I have paid all my debts,” he said a year later. “I have the remainder of my money where I can’t touch it. I won’t need to make a will for my children and grandchildren are all taken care of. As far as I know, I didn’t spend any money foolishly.”
Schoenbeck lived to be 89, passing away in 1958. The college trust fund that he set up for his grandsons was one of his lasting legacies.
Dr. Jim Schamadan, 90, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Dr. Bill Schamadan, 88, of Mansfield, remember their grandfather fondly and are thankful for the opportunities he gave them through his Irish Sweepstakes winnings.
“We were living in a place called McFadden’s Flats in Cleveland, which was an Irish ghetto,” Jim recalled. “There was virtually no grass anywhere. It was populated by what my mother called lace-curtain Irish. Everybody was Catholic. They ate salmon on Fridays or went to a fish fry.”
After their grandpa won the sweepstakes, the boys were thrilled to move to Richfield. “We looked forward to having a house and going to a real school,” Jim said.
Through the fund established by Schoenbeck, the boys attended Ohio State University College of Medicine and became physicians.
“I can tell you that Grandpa’s money did help out,” said Jim, a Navy veteran of World War II and an Air Force veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“They set that up because nobody in our family had ever gone to college,” said Bill, a former medical columnist and lecturer who served as a physician in the Air Force. “Those were the days when most of the men dropped out maybe in sixth grade and went to work. My mother and aunt didn’t get through high school. Nobody ever went to college.”
“He changed the dynamics for both of us,” Jim said.
The brothers remember little things about their grandfather. He sipped whisky but never got inebriated. He used a spittoon while chewing tobacco. He scored baseball games while listening to the Indians on the radio. He played cribbage with his buddies. He absolutely loved gardening.
Jim said his grandfather was a traditional, old-school European who believed that a handshake was the law, but he did have a mirthful side.
“I would call it a wry sense of humor,” he said. “In other words, I think people with low IQs would not get half of it.”
Schoenbeck believed that all-black cats brought good luck and offered substantial sums to anyone who could find him one. Some people tried to pass off cats that had a few white hairs on their chests, dyeing the fur or plucking the strands.
“Growing up, we always had a number of almost-black cats on the farm,” Bill said.
Jim, an occupational medicine specialist, and Bill, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist, weren’t the only ones to benefit from their grandfather’s generosity. Generations of families hit the jackpot after the Schamadan boys went to college.
“Look at my brother Bill,” Jim said. “When I asked him once how many babies he delivered, he said he stopped counting at 7,000. Not too bad, huh?”
Mark J. Price is the author of Mafia Cop Killers in Akron: The Gang War Before Prohibition from The History Press. can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
Three massive chain links, green with oxidation, top a gray granite monument on the grassy lawn of Glendale Cemetery in Akron.
Marble columns separate bronze screens that are secured with bulky padlocks. When a visitor climbs the two massive steps and peers through the metal mesh, thousands of inscribed names emerge from the shadows.
Harry A. Smead, 33, was hit by a freight train in 1912. Byron S. Hamlin, 78, died of the flu on a 1926 trip to Florida. Ira A. Cocklin, 67, passed away at his Delia Avenue home in 1936. Evan J. Evans, 76, collapsed during a 1946 stroll along May Street.
They weren’t just any fellows. They were Odd Fellows.
A century ago, nearly 10,000 Ohio members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows converged on Glendale to dedicate a memorial to members of the fraternal group who died in Summit County.
The ceremonies were lavish because that’s what Odd Fellows did. They marched in plumed hats, carried swords and wore ornate uniforms laden with exotic medallions and ribbons. The Odd Fellows occupied a brick-and-stone temple at Main and Mill streets, a seven-story building that was regarded as the city’s first skyscraper when it was completed in 1896.
Near the turn of the 20th century, Akron had about 40 secret societies in a city with only 40,000 residents. One of the largest was the Odd Fellows, whose creed was “Visit the Sick, Relieve the Distressed, Bury the Dead and Educate the Orphan.”
Local lodges included Apollo, Nemo, Pharos, Granite, Howard, Akron and Summit. Meanwhile, the women’s auxiliary, the Daughters of Rebekah, belonged to local lodges such as Colfax, Huse, Columbia, Elm and Alcoyne.
More than 400 Summit County Odd Fellows had marched off to the great hereafter during the group’s first 70 years of existence. In 1918, plans were finalized to build a memorial to honor them.
Thousands of plumed Odd Fellows, including 5,000 from Summit, gathered Sunday, June 16, on South Main Street for a parade that began at 1:15 p.m. Elderly members and women rode in automobiles while the others marched south on Main Street and west on Exchange Street to Glendale.
Two giant American flags veiled the monument as the crowd gathered in Section 28.
Palmer’s Band and the Great Western Band performed rousing music for the occasion. The audience sang The Star-Spangled Banner and America as the flags were lifted to reveal the impressive shrine at 2:30 p.m.
“The ceremonies held in connection with the unveiling of the memorial were carried out with every member realizing the solemnity and importance of the occasion,” the Akron Press reported.
Topped by three massive chain links, which stood for “Friendship,” “Love” and “Truth,” the bronze-and-marble memorial featured symbolic carvings, including a Bible, crown, sword, ax, scythe, scales, bow, arrows, mystic eye and a heart in a hand. Its three pillars rested on pedestals marked “Faith,” “Hope” and “Charity.”
Inside the I.O.O.F. monument, bronze tablets displayed small, individual plates bearing the names of Odd Fellows who had died locally since 1845 — with plenty of room to add more.
“There are 4,412 spaces for names of our deceased of which but 446 are now occupied,” Past Grand Master A.C. Bachtel noted during the unveiling. “It will be many generations before these tablets are entirely filled and we have erected a memorial to last for many years.”
Professor E. Robert Jones sang two solos: Open the Gates of the Temple and Holy City at the dedication.
Assisting with the ceremony were 12 Rebekahs whose late husbands’ names were engraved on the monument: Mrs. W.H. Miller, Mrs. W.H. Lohr, Mrs. John Harding, Mrs. John Stair, Mrs. Charles Spidle, Mrs. W.J. Coney, Mrs. J.H. Chapman, Mrs. E.H. Whiteman, Mrs. A.C. Lodwick, Mrs. John Novotny, Mrs. Conrad Thom and Mrs. Peter Pfaff.
“We must live for others,” the Rev. W.S. Adams told the crowd. “We must follow the example of our deceased brethren and work to make the world a better place in which to live, one in which every man’s good acts can be appreciated and where our short time on this earth may be spent in a useful, helpful way.
“Our life is but a vapor, but the memories of our dead shall ever live with us because of the sacrifices they have made, the work they have done and the spirit in which they have met their duties and tasks.”
After the Odd Fellows had time to inspect their fine new memorial, they re-formed their marching units and paraded back to the downtown temple.
The fraternal group never did fill its monument. Eventually, nearly 2,000 names were inscribed on the memorial with the final ones being added in the late 1940s, but the tablet remains only half full today.
Like many other groups of the era, the Odd Fellows’ popularity dwindled in the 1920s. The Akron temple moved to smaller quarters in the former Andrew Jackson mansion at Union and Mill streets as membership declined.
Worldwide, there used to be more than 2.5 million members. Today, the group claims 32,426 members in 26 countries.
But maybe not for much longer.
“There is no reason to continue any membership program as we have known it since nothing we have done so far has worked,” Past Sovereign Grand Master Jon Petersen, the group’s membership chairman, wrote in a May 2018 newsletter.
“Changes in transportation, education, communication and society in general have made us entirely obsolete! Governmental and social programs have replaced our needed place. We meet for social reasons. No one under the age of 50 wants what we offer. WHAT DO WE OFFER???
“Unless we sit down and reconsider what we stand for, where we are going, what we are attempting to accomplish, and change to 2018 needs and requirements — WE ARE DEAD and should start making arrangements for an orderly demise within the next very few years. It was a noble organization who had great people, programs and ideas but did not change with the rest of the world.”
On its 100th anniversary, the Glendale monument may represent the demise of the organization — not just the men who belonged to it.
Once a symbol of civic pride, the Akron Rubber Bowl has become a citywide embarrassment. With demolition beginning this week at the vacant, crumbling, vandalized structure, let’s go back to the beginning.
The city was bursting with joy during the dedication of its new municipal stadium Aug. 10, 1940.
Here is how Beacon Journal reporter Oscar Smith described the happy event in the next day’s edition:
This Rubber Bowl nestling in the hills at Akron airport was officially christened tonight before the admiring eyes of 36,000 cheering citizens of a proud and lusty city.
The tens of thousands who witnessed this historic occasion applauded wildly as Charles W. Seiberling, Akron’s “grand old man,” gave the final dedication in these stirring words:
“Because this is the rubber capital of the world — in the name of the people of Akron, I now dedicate thee and christen thee Rubber Bowl.”
As the spine-tingling event unfolded itself there were these unspoken words in the minds of every man, woman and child seated in the vast bowl: “This makes me proud — proud to be a part of all this, and proud that I am a citizen of Akron.”
Before the dedication, the audience listened to a colorful program that included the singing of William “Bill” Miller, former Akronite who is now a radio and concert tenor. The spectators applauded him as one of their own and welcomed him back as the “home town boy” who made good.
No less did Margaret Speaks, famous stage and concert singer, gain the admiration of the crowd as she presented her program of songs.
Introducing the artists and acting as master of ceremonies on a huge floodlighted stage at the open end of the giant horseshoe stadium was attorney Joseph Thomas.
In christening the bowl, Seiberling asserted that “it is right that the emphasis tonight should be placed upon the spirit of youth. It is the very thing upon which our future depends.
“It is the youthful outlook that has kept up American ideals. It is the spirit that built this fine structure and brings the joy and entertainment that is ours tonight.”
Speaking further for Akron citizens was Mayor Lee D. Schroy who asserted:
“If there were any lingering doubt in the minds of any of our citizens or the rest of the United States as to which way Akron is headed they have been swept away tonight.
“It was a little more than a year ago that the idea for the stadium in which we are gathered began to be something more than a dream. In that comparatively short space of time a volunteer organization was set up and with contributions from our people this stadium was erected.”
It was a good show, from the first organ notes played by Melvyn Miller of Akron to the last burst of fireworks, and the roar of 1,500 aerial bombs, released simultaneously.
Of course, one of the features of the dedication was the presentation of the pageant “Youth on parade,” with 700 actors in the cast. This pageant beautifully brought home to the audience the uses to which the stadium may be put in the future.
The pageant opened with a conversation between the master of ceremonies and “Voice of the Stadium,” coming, mysteriously, from a distance.
“I am young and inexperienced,” said the voice. “I was built by man, but what are my uses? What are the services expected of me? How can I best be of service to those who have constructed me?”
Said the master of ceremonies: “Before your young eyes, Mr. Stadium, there now will pass in review here at your christening party, multiple groups of our youth who can, and who will, depict in the span of a few short minutes, the myriad ways by which you will be of service. Of service to them, and to generations yet unborn … You have been built for permanency.”
Then began the parade of youth, through a huge tire at the back of the stage. There were Akron University uniformed football players; 100 talented dancers, pupils of cooperating dance teachers of Akron; high school students, some in caps and gowns, some in lettered sweaters, students from North, South, East, West, Garfield, Central, St. Vincent’s, Kenmore, Ellet, Hower and Buchtel; there were representatives of archery, badminton, casting, boxing, softball, dog shows, fencing, gymnastics, field hockey, motorcycling, ping-pong, polo, skating, skiing, tennis, track — in fact, about every sport and activity you could name. All representatives were in costume.
“You ask, Mr. Stadium, how you can be of service,” said the master of ceremonies. “Do you still ask?”
“And the ‘Voice of the Stadium’ replied: ‘No! Nor will I ever ask again. Your challenge has been most beautifully presented. I can only answer that with the help of these thousands of persons who have given of their time, their effort and their money to build me, large and strong, I will be forever and forever at the service of EVERYBODY!’ ”
Others in that pageant of youth were Boy Scouts, 4-H clubs, boys with model airplanes and sailboats, junior firefighters in uniform, school boy patrolmen.
The information portion of the dedication program gave Akron musicians an opportunity to be heard. It was a beautiful and effective beginning. Melvyn Miller, organist, first played, and he was followed by the Colored Community Center women’s quartet, of which Miss E. Lucy Perry is accompanist and director.
The formal opening included music by the famous Harrison Radiator band of Lockport, N.Y., procession of drum and bugle corps and color guards, with Lieut. Col. John Emde and Sol Peffer in charge, and the impressive flag-raising ceremonies. Clark Miller, director of Akron’s Masonic band, led the audience in the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Devotional services were conducted by Rev. E.E. Campbell of Margaret Park United Presbyterian church. Rev. Roy Bourgeois of St. Peter’s Catholic church and Rabbi David Alexander of Temple Israel.
The world’s largest match was shown, and an impressive match-lighting ceremony followed, with everybody in the audience participating.
There was a tribute to the Stadium Builders, those who purchased tickets in the campaign more than a year ago, who were seated in special sections at the dedication.
White-haired Gen. Charles Dick, former United States senator, led the audience in the pledge of allegiance to the flag — a solemn and yet thrilling moment, as the firm voices of those in the audience responded to the leader.
A procession included the Soap Box Derby band, Derby champions, the “world’s largest flag” carried by Boy Scouts, Miss Speaks sang “God Bless America,” the words appearing in a fireworks piece, along with an aerial flag, and Bill Miller and the audience sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
A routine commute took a deadly turn 100 years ago when a streetcar plunged off a high bridge in Cuyahoga Falls.
One moment, the passengers were riding. The next moment, they were falling, falling, falling …
The Mountain Line wreck of June 11, 1918, is one of the most infamous disasters in local history, partially because of its unusual location. The streetcar fell nearly 100 feet from the Prospect Street Glens Bridge, also known as the High Bridge, and landed in the Cuyahoga River below the rocky cliffs of the Gorge.
Brave rescuers were challenged to reach the wreck to find survivors.
The Northern Ohio Traction & Light Co. operated the Mountain Line from Akron to Cuyahoga Falls. The tracks traveled from Main Street to Furnace Street to Bettes Corners, and then paralleled the railroad tracks before turning onto Prospect Street, crossing the 325-foot Glens Bridge and ending on Front Street.
The line owed its mountainous name to the lurching, rugged terrain.
“It is certainly a lulu,” General Manager Charles Currie once said. “Up and down, up and down the whole way.”
The line primarily served people who lived in northeast Akron, and usually was crowded with dozens of riders when it left the city. By the time it reached Cuyahoga Falls, only a few passengers were left. Most Falls residents preferred to take the more direct Cuyahoga Falls-North Hill line.
It was after 4 p.m. June 11 when Car No. 350, a 42-foot vehicle with a seating capacity of 42, approached its final destination. A young mother and her baby disembarked on the east side of the Glens Bridge, leaving a two-man crew and four passengers to complete the journey.
The 47,420-pound car rolled down the Prospect hill, curved onto the 1888 wood-and-iron bridge and made it halfway across before something went terribly wrong.
Witnesses said the back wheels derailed, turning abruptly to the right, and the streetcar swung north toward the edge. The iron guardrail “gave way like a piece of brittle wood,” and the planking collapsed.
The streetcar slid backward off the bridge, flipped upside-down and slammed into the river with a sickening crunch.
“The roof and sides were crushed by the impact like an egg shell hit with a heavy hammer,” the Akron Beacon Journal reported.
News of the disaster spread quickly in the community. Firefighters and other rescuers climbed down the jagged rocks to reach the hulking wreck. After being shooed away from the bridge, curious spectators lined both sides of the Gorge.
“The scene at the banks of the stream was one of horror,” the Akron Evening Times reported. “The tangled wreckage, the steep banks, the rocky bed of the stream, the huge iron girders of the bridge bent from the impact of the falling car were mute but vivid evidence of the tragedy that had been enacted.
“Women held fast to children, with tears in their eyes, and men worked with grey, drawn faces. A girl, losing her foothold on the steep bank, screamed in terror. The scream was echoed by a score of women.”
Rescuers did not know how many people were in the streetcar, so they carefully searched the water and wreckage. They rigged up a block-and-tackle system to lift the heavy steel frame.
Motorman Leroy Bessemer, a Silver Lake resident, and Henry Van Loosen, a B.F. Goodrich Co. mechanic from Cuyahoga Falls, were found alive with fractured skulls, broken bones, deep cuts and other injuries.
Rescuers used heavy ropes to pull the men up the steep cliff. Van Loosen almost didn’t make it.
“As was done with Bessemer, he was tied, as his rescuers supposed, firmly in a rope loop under his arms, but in the course of the ascent, the knot being untied in the last few feet of his perilous trip to safety, Van Loosen held on with only one hand, whirling around and around in the air,” the Beacon Journal noted. “All this time, hundreds of spectators held their breath in horror, expecting him to lose his hold and take the awful plunge for the second time.”
The survivors were whisked in critical condition to hospitals, where they remained for weeks before recovering.
Crews pulled four dead men from the Mountain Line wreckage and took the bodies to Weller’s Morgue in Cuyahoga Falls for identification.
• Conductor O.D. Gilmore, 27, of Cuyahoga Falls, was survived by his wife, Artis, and children Auvern, 6, and Arden, 4.
• Emory A. Prior, 64, secretary of Falls Building & Loan Association, was survived by his wife, Abbie, and daughters Margaret and Ruth.
• Charles C. Hoye. 49, a bartender at Hill’s Café in Cuyahoga Falls, was survived by his wife, Mary, and kids Beulah, Clara, Elbert, Elizabeth and Lydia.
• Liuzzi Peligione, an Italian immigrant on his way to work in a victory garden for World War I, had no known survivors.
Official inquiries began almost immediately.
“We are conducting a thorough investigation,” said C.C. Thorpe, inspector of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. “It has yet to progress to the point where something conclusive can be given out. Certain it is, there was a defect somewhere.”
State inspectors pinned the blame on worn flanges on the wheels of the streetcar, although there were other factors, including a lack of guardrails on the bridge.
“A speed of not to exceed four miles an hour should have been run, especially at a location of this nature,” the PUCO report noted.
The agency called for better maintenance, better guardrails and reduced speed on the bridge.
After the disaster, the Cuyahoga Falls City Council passed a resolution ordering Northern Ohio Traction & Light to stop operating all cars on the Mountain Line, removing all poles, wires, tracks, switches and other material from the streets.
The streetcar line continued for years, but never escaped the pall from the deadly crash. Debris from the wreck was visible for years in the river. The bridge was closed until being rebuilt in 1920.
Today, High Bridge Glens Park near the Sheraton Suites Hotel on Front Street offers splendid views for visitors. For those enjoying a nice stroll, the picturesque scenery and swirling water offer no hint of the terrible tragedy from 100 years ago.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
American flags flapped in the wind on a sunny day. A pilot circled above and dropped bouquets. A military band struck up the national anthem.
Hundreds of khaki-clad troops paraded into view while 3,000 spectators waited in crowded grandstands. When the audience spied the war hero, it erupted in applause.
Akron attorney Dwite Schaffner, the subject of the elaborate 1923 ceremony, marched onto the field and stood at attention in his U.S. Army uniform, which still fit nicely after five years. He was thankful to be alive after all that he had endured.
“It is probable that citizens in Akron may never again witness the spectacle of having a soldier-son of this city awarded the Medal of Honor,” the Akron Evening Times reported. “Only 105 have been granted during and since the World War, and the majority of these were for the ‘honored dead.’ ”
The American Legion promised that the service would be one of the most inspiring occasions in Akron’s history, and it did not disappoint. The event was held at Wooster Stadium, a Wooster Avenue sports complex later known as Lane Field.
Schaffner, 33, was honored “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy.” Brig. John R. McQuigg, a commanding officer in Europe, pinned the Medal of Honor to Schaffner’s chest. Afterward, the Akron crowd surged around the veteran to congratulate him.
A Pennsylvania native, Schaffner was a graduate of Bucknell University, where he was a captain of the football and basketball teams. He was studying law at the University of Michigan in 1917 when the U.S. entered the war.
He joined the Army, trained at Fort Niagara and Camp Upton, both in New York, and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in Company K, 306th Infantry, 77th Division. He sailed overseas in March 1918 and quickly learned that war is hell.
“The average peace-loving man will become vicious and merciless when herded together and pitted against the enemy,” Schaffner later said. “A soldier can kill in an instant with no qualms. That’s war.”
In muddy trenches of France, Schaffner experienced heavy fighting against German troops in Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, Champagne and Lorraine.
“The fighting was so close at times that the enemy came right up and tried to pull our men out of the trenches,” Schaffner recalled.
Battle scenes were forever seared into Schaffner’s memory. In addition to Army buddies killed in battle, he also remembered some of the German soldiers who fell.
“They were brave men,” Schaffner once told a reporter. “One, an old man, had been shot through the chest. He lay in the mud, calling out, ‘Verdammte krieg, verdammte krieg!’ — ‘the damned war, the damned war.’ Pretty soon, he died.
“And I can still see the sun shining on the bayonet of another German who had the drop on me, when one of my men got him. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how the sun shone on that steel. It glittered. It still glitters.”
He received the Medal of Honor for his actions Sept 28, 1918, near St. Hubert’s Pavilion in Boureuilles, France. According to the official citation signed by Gen. John J. Pershing, Schaffner led his men in an attack “through terrific enemy machine gun fire, rifle and artillery fire and drove the enemy from a strongly held entrenched position after hand-to-hand fighting.”
The Germans fought back in a series of furious counterattacks, pinning down Schaffner’s squadron and inflicting heavy casualties. Amid gunfire and explosions, Schaffner hunted down a German machine gun unit and “personally silenced” it.
The enemy crept closer and attacked from the front and back with pistols, rifles and grenades.
With his company under assault, Schaffner climbed the parapet of the trench, fired his pistol and threw grenades to kill several enemy soldiers, mortally wounding a German captain and dragging him back to the trench to secure “valuable information as to the enemy’s strength and position.”
Despite attacks on three sides, Schaffner’s men maintained their position for five hours until help arrived. Through “undaunted bravery, gallant soldierly conduct and leadership,” Schaffner “undoubtedly saved the survivors of the company from death or capture.”
Schaffner was in no mood to celebrate the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918.
“I was flat on my back in the base hospital at Allerey in the Argonne sector, and so sick from the effects of being gassed two weeks prior that I didn’t care a whoop if the war ended or not,” Schaffner recalled.
“I was able to understand what it meant, however, when I was told. I did not feel like cheering. I remember that I asked for a drink of champagne, not to celebrate, but because I was burning up with fever and champagne tasted good.”
After five months in the hospital, Schaffner returned to the U.S. in April 1919 and resumed studies at Michigan. In 1920, he moved to Akron to join the law firm of Musser, Kimber & Huffman.
The war hero married Elma Bliss in 1923 at the Akron home of her parents, Charles and Grace Bliss. She was a cousin of Akron’s Ray Bliss, the future national chairman of the Republican Party.
The Schaffners welcomed two daughters, Marilyn and Evelyn, and enjoyed a peaceful life at their home on Grace Avenue. Schaffner practiced law at the Second National Building and served as local commander of American Legion and VFW posts and the Ohio commander of the VFW.
He hoped there would never be another war, but worried that politicians had other plans. One sad thing about war is that politicians don’t have to fight, Schaffner said.
“If those boys were put out in front, it wouldn’t be long before the white flag went up,” he said.
World War II
When the U.S. entered World War II, Schaffner rejoined the Army and served at the Tennessee Selective Service headquarters for 3½ years before being discharged as a lieutenant colonel.
He returned home to Akron and continued to practice law for another decade. On Nov. 22, 1955, he suffered a heart attack on the way to the Summit County Courthouse and died at Akron City Hospital. He was 66 years old.
“His bravery will live on,” eulogized the Rev. Royal A. Halladay as hundreds attended the funeral at First Methodist Church and burial at Rose Hill Cemetery in Fairlawn.
Mayor Leo Berg asked that all Akron residents pause at 2 p.m. for a silent prayer in memory of the Medal of Honor recipient.
“Mr. Schaffner was a man who believed his duty to his country did not end when he put on his uniform,” Berg said.
“He was always ready to do his part for his community and country in any way possible. He was the kind of Akronite and American of whom we can all be proud.”
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
The nickel-plated machines were real beauties, gleaming contraptions that commanded attention. Gallant, daring men hopped up, slid forward and rolled away.
Crashes were plentiful as novice riders learned the nuances of navigating high-wheeled bicycles through the muddy, uneven streets of Akron in the late 19th century. Cyclists struggled to maintain balance while dodging potholes, wagon ruts and horse manure.
The gigantic front wheel, about shoulder high, had a diameter of 42 to 58 inches while the smaller back wheel, about knee high, had an 18-inch diameter. Those who tamed the iron beasts enjoyed great adventures.
“What may properly be called a ‘boom’ in bicycling has at last started in this city, and there are reasons to believe that this healthful mode of exercise will soon become as popular here as in the East,” the Summit County Beacon reported May 10, 1882.
A handful of Akron businessmen had purchased bicycles — mostly Columbia models built by the Pope Manufacturing Co. of Boston. Bicycle owners tended to be wealthy because quality machines cost about $125 (roughly $4,363 today).
Among the first operators were Charles Caskey, bookkeeper at Diehl & Caskey; Harry C. Upson, co-owner of Newell & Upson; Harry B. Houghton, bookkeeper at Citizens Savings; Clarence Howland, manager of Thomas Phillips & Co.; and Pope bicycle agent Clinton D. Miller, owner of the 99 Cent Store.
“Under ordinary motion the average bicycle will move over the ground about four times as fast as a person can walk; so the businessman who now takes 15 or 20 minutes to reach his office or store can, by mounting his nickel-plated steed, traverse the same space in not to exceed five minutes — not to speak of the healthful exercise,” the Beacon explained.
The men practiced riding at Grace Park, Union Park and, their favorite, Fountain Park, home of the Summit County fairgrounds, which offered a horse track with a flat surface. In order to master their new hobby, the bicyclists decided to organize a club “for mutual instruction and contests.”
The Akron Bicycle Club debuted with a series of races during the Summit County Agricultural Society’s annual fair Oct. 3-6, 1882, at Fountain Park. Crowds watched as the men climbed aboard their bikes and furiously pedaled around the track for a $25 prize.
When a little girl darted into his path, cyclist Clinton D. Miller swerved to avoid her. He flew over the handlebars, struck his head, got up and dusted himself off. Nine days later, he died of a brain injury, the first bicycling casualty in Akron history.
In May 1883, the club drew up a constitution, adopted bylaws, established $1.50 dues and opened a clubhouse on East Mill Street. It also added members, including Charles Howland, Bert Work, Kenyon Conger, Harold Jacobs, Karl Pardee, Carl Sumner, Harvey Hollinger, Frank Kryder and William Hoye.
The cordial group agreed to wear matching uniforms for rides: dark green coats, light shirts, knee breeches, red stockings and green caps.
Club members sponsored road trips to Stow, Hudson, Medina, Canton and Massillon. Sometimes they rode back to Akron on trains after a long day.
On one excursion to Stark County, four cyclists gave up after suffering broken wheels on the rocky roads. During a rainy trip to State Mill, Doc Carter crashed into the Ohio & Erie Canal.
The club competed for gold medals, silver cups and new bicycles in races across Ohio. William H. Wetmore of Cuyahoga Falls won a 2-mile race in 1883 at the Wheelmen’s League at Columbus.
“At the last lap Wetmore was trailing, but by a most extraordinary burst of speed that brought out the wildest applause, he passed the wheels and won by a clear lead of at least ten yards,” the Beacon reported. “In the evening, he gave an exhibition of fancy riding.”
When Wetmore died of tuberculosis four years later, club members arrived at the funeral with floral wreaths shaped like broken bicycle wheels.
By 1884, the Akron Bicycle Club boasted 20 members — the fifth largest club in the state behind Cleveland (60), Cincinnati (58), Springfield (28) and Columbus (27). Members had new uniforms: blue coats, blue pants, blue stockings and blue caps (with gold cord).
In July 1886, the club sponsored an unusual race at Fountain Park between Chicago bicycle champion John S. Prince and W.W. Richardson’s trotting horse Eva. About 400 people attended.
The 5-mile race was a back-and-forth contest between man and mare.
“The home stretch was reached and the crowd stood up and cheered and cheered again as they witnessed the bicyclist’s desperate efforts to pass the mare,” the Beacon noted.
Eva won by 3 feet. Total elapsed time: 16:09.
A bit of a poor loser, Prince told the crowd that he would have won, but the track was too sandy.
By 1891, Akron had about 250 bicyclists and the club had 40 members in gold-and-purple uniforms with red caps.
The club’s proudest moment was a lantern race that it sponsored Sept. 25, 1891. Hundreds of bicyclists and thousands of spectators arrived for the night parade around downtown Akron.
Riders decorated their bicycles in bright colors and put Chinese lanterns on the handlebars, creating an eerie glow.
“Big wheels and little wheels, safeties and ordinaries, Columbias, Victors and Warwicks, wheels with cushion tires and wheels with no tire at all; wheels of all kinds, classes and conditions of repair, but on each a gentleman, lady or lad proud and happy to form a part of the bicycle carnival of last evening,” the Beacon Journal reported the next day.
“… The immense mass of people upon the streets last evening was the subject of universal comment. A circus or a political meeting can fill Akron’s streets, but it is evident that to bring out the entire city a bicycle parade is required.”
The Akron Bicycle Club continued for a few more years, but the free-wheeling novelty wore off. The group’s last reported excursion was a June 1894 ride to Old Portage for supper. Months later, the group dissolved.
By then, the bumpy streets of Akron had something new to offer. Horseless carriages, gleaming contraptions that commanded attention, roamed Ohio with increasing regularity.
It wouldn’t be too much longer before the Akron Automobile Club was organized.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
When I started writing this column in May 1998, I took it as a compliment when older readers assumed I was their age and writing about local history from memory. That meant I was getting the details right through research and interviews, matching what people remembered about people, places and events.
So the running joke now is that I’ve been writing the feature for so long that I actually am starting to use some of my own recollections.
This month marks the 20th anniversary of “This Place, This Time,” a title I’ve never really liked, but I suppose we’re stuck with it now. I proposed the history feature (my suggested name was “Flashback”) as we raced toward a new century and it seemed like a good time to reminisce.
I came up with a list of 50 subjects, and Beacon Journal editors Stuart Warner and Debbie Van Tassel were sufficiently impressed to approve a weekly feature.
My first article was about the Flatiron Building, a triangle-shaped, seven-story landmark that stood from 1907 to 1967 at South Main and Howard streets in downtown Akron. It was razed to make way for the Cascade urban renewal project.
I knew we had a hit feature on our hands when readers flooded us with phone calls and letters — this was before email and social media — to share their memories of Akron.
Since then, we’ve published more than 1,000 articles about local history with subjects that vary from week to week: Summit Beach Park. The Akron Armory. The All-American Soap Box Derby. Norka Beverage. O’Neil’s. Polsky’s. The Palace Theater. Iceland. The North Hill Viaduct. Scream in the Dark. Scott’s 5 and 10. Wonderland Acres. Temple Square. The Arlington Loop.
Over the decades, I’ve interviewed many interesting people.
Robert Dolfen, a PPG Industries retiree in Norton, told me in 2000 that he believed he may have been the Lindbergh baby kidnapped in 1932 from his New Jersey mansion.
As a boy in Akron, Dolfen became the subject of a media circus when a great-aunt told police that her nephew was an imposter. Decades later, Dolfen still had doubts.
“If you find out for sure, OK, and if you don’t, hell, I’m about done anyhow so it ain’t gonna make that much difference to me,” Dolfen said.
My article was reprinted in newspapers around the world, including the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Dolfen died a year later at age 70, still unsure of his lineage.
I met actor Jack Bennett at Dodie’s to discuss his career in the early 1960s as the host of The Professor Jack Show, a children’s program on WAKR-TV. Presiding over a 60-minute live show, the cartoonish character wore gigantic glasses and a big hat.
One day when he fell short of material, he announced that he would teach kids how to create a hat from a newspaper, and he made it up as he went along. He took a copy of the Beacon Journal and he folded it every which way, wadding it up and plopping it on his head.
The next day, he discovered that kids across Akron had destroyed their parents’ newspapers.
“That’s when I realized the power of television,” Bennett told me.
I’ll never forget taking a 1999 tour with Helen Foord, 88, at the former site of the 103-acre Rothrock farm, where she lived as a girl in Copley Township. The Montrose shopping area was encroaching on the formerly rural property and the old farm was doomed.
“It makes me want to cry,” Foord told me. “When I see that good farmland made a mess of like that, it makes me want to fall on the floor and have a 2-year-old tantrum.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated her words over the years while watching local landmarks get demolished for no good reason. I feel like having a tantrum, too.
I wrote a sad story about Colonial School pupil MacNolia Cox, 13, who won the Akron spelling bee in 1936, but finished fifth at the national bee under questionable circumstances. Just when it looked like she was going to win, the judges gave her a spelling word that wasn’t on the approved list and she missed it.
MacNolia was a black girl and the national bee judges were white Southerners. MacNolia received a parade when she came home and got to meet composer Fats Waller and dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Her niece Georgia Gay later told me that MacNolia was never the same after the spelling bee and had a difficult life. She had the brains to be a doctor but ended up working as a domestic employee before dying of cancer in 1976, Gay said.
“She had the potential, but it was never realized,” Gay told me.
Akron-born poet A. Van Jordan read the story and wrote a book of poems based on MacNolia’s life.
Readers liked a column I wrote about mezzo-soprano F. Louise Butler, a reclusive woman who lived at the Portage Hotel in the 1940s. The aging diva was a tightwad, ordering hot water at restaurants and supplying her own tea bags.
After she died of pneumonia at 83 in 1949, authorities unlocked her hotel room and gasped. More than $1 million in cash, jewels, stocks and bonds was hidden in drawers and suitcases.
That’s a lot of tea bags.
One of my favorite stories was about Duke, a beagle who attended second grade for six years at Betty Jane Elementary. The family dog followed a child to school one day in the 1960s and kept going back. Teachers, pupils and a reluctant principal all welcomed the dog.
I remember receiving a voicemail message from a woman who started to tell me how much she liked the column, but then her voice cracked and she started crying into the phone and hung up. She never did tell me her name. If she happens to be reading today, thank you!
Oh, there have been missteps along the way. In an interview about Cuyahoga Falls bard Hart Crane, I quoted Akron poet Elton Glaser as saying: “You go through a passage that seems full of these naughty, extravagant lines and then suddenly you hit a line that’s like coming out of a forest into a clearing and the sunlight is just shining down beautifully there.”
Such wonderful imagery. The only problem was that Glaser had actually said “knotty,” and I heard it as “naughty.” How embarrassing.
My phone rang for days after I accidentally referred to a Corsair, a Goodyear Aircraft airplane built in Akron, as a Corvair, a 1960s Chevrolet. What made it really painful is that I had relatives who built Corsairs!
We’ve had worse errors, though. When news of the Titanic broke in 1912, an early Beacon Journal headline noted that the ship was being safely towed to shore. We also misspelled it as “Titantic.”
I’ve written about landmark buildings, rubber factories, movie theaters, old schools, haunted houses, eccentric inventors, mud wrestlers, rock concerts, atomic golf balls, latex fashions, stuffed parrots, disappearing stairways and devil strips.
I’ve learned so much about my hometown, and still feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Thanks to my hard-working editor Lynne Sherwin, who has guided me for 18 years, offering suggestions and saving me from myself. Thanks to my trusted colleagues on the Beacon Journal copy desk, who proofread my work and write the headlines and captions.
And thanks to readers for joining me every week at this place and this time.
As long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
The University of Akron generally does not name institutes for students who got expelled.
There’s one exception.
Raymond Charles Bliss (1907-1981), namesake of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, became embroiled in an odd scandal in May 1931 during his senior year at UA.
He and his fraternity, Sigma Beta Nu, were accused of stuffing the ballot box for May queen in favor of Bliss’ college sweetheart, Ellen Palmer, a member of Theta Phi Alpha sorority. Bliss denied the allegation, but he took the blame, and unwittingly embarked on a 50-year career in which he became a nationally respected figure in politics.
Bliss, a graduate of Akron South High School, majored in political science and sociology at UA. He was class vice president and fraternity leader, ran cross country and track, and served on the editorial staff of the Buchtelite newspaper and Tel-Buch yearbook.
He also led the Hilltop Party, a political combine of students whose chief rival was the Buktal Party. The two parties battled for political advantage on campus, competing for everything, including the race for May queen.
Tall, brown-eyed brunette Palmer won the backing of the Hilltop Party, and its members campaigned for her on the campus of 1,050 students.
Secret ballots were to be returned to the office of Professor H.E. Simmons at the chemistry department. The party realized that nearly 70 engineering students were away from campus on co-op projects, so the combine approached them and volunteered to deliver their sealed ballots to campus.
Some ballots apparently made a side trip to the Sigma Beta Nu house before continuing to Simmons’ office. The student council, purportedly led by the Buktal Party, accused the frat of tampering with the ballots so Palmer would win.
“Early in the investigation, Bliss denied handling of the ballots but did admit sponsoring the idea of gathering the engineering votes,” the Buchtelite reported. “Later he admitted looking at the ballots, but still denied his guilt in changing the markings or addressing the envelopes to Professor Simmons.”
Ousted from ballot
The issue exploded when the council voted to remove Palmer’s name from the queen’s ballot and hold a new election. The university expelled her along with sorority sister Agnes McGowan, who had dropped off ballots to the fraternity.
“There isn’t anything to all this; it’s a frame-up,” Bliss insisted. “There was no fraud that I know of. The girls certainly are innocent of any wrongdoing. I want them taken out of this picture. I’ll take it on the chin, if there is anything coming to me, but the girls ought to be exonerated.”
Many students believed Palmer was innocent and circulated a petition with nearly 600 signatures to put her back on the ballot. The student council refused, though, and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority member Helen McGrath was elected queen.
UA said Bliss was “indefinitely suspended.”
“I haven’t been able to find out yet what indefinitely suspended means,” Bliss told the Akron Times-Press. “Is it expulsion or is it just a name of a state that will be effective until they change their minds?”
He and his father, Emil, retained attorney James Hinton to argue the case.
“The faculty has certainly gone the limit,” Hinton said. “I seriously doubt propriety of their interference with a petty student political feud.”
Bliss went before the UA Supreme Court, which included President George Zook, Professor Simmons, Dean A.I. Spanton, Dean W.J. Bankes, Dean Fred Ayer, Professor O.E. Olin and Registrar Gladys P. Weeks. He took responsibility and asked the tribunal to spare the two girls and his frat.
“We must not permit the good name of the university to be sullied,” Zook said.
Booted off campus
Bliss was expelled with only a month to go before graduation. His fraternity was cleared and the two girls were reinstated.
“There is something deeper in this than has come out,” Bliss said. “It may never come out. My fraternity brothers know what it is; that is why they are standing behind me to a man.”
Bliss gave up the fight. As he moped around his frat house, a friend suggested that he enter city politics to keep busy. Bliss volunteered to be an errand boy for Republican mayoral candidate E.L. Marting, who lost the primary to C. Nelson Sparks.
Summit County Republican Chairman Jim Corey took Bliss under his wing, and he worked for Republican David Ingalls’ unsuccessful 1932 campaign for governor. Race by race, Bliss gathered knowledge, and evolved into an expert strategist and skilled statesman.
He was a rising star in the GOP when UA quietly gave him his bachelor of arts degree in 1935 after Professor Simmons became president. All was forgiven. Bliss even became a trustee of the UA alumni association.
In a 1940 profile, Beacon Journal reporter Keyes Beech noted that Bliss preferred not to discuss the May queen scandal, but was inclined to view it with “considerable amusement.”
“He swears he was not guilty of the charge for which he was expelled, but demurely admits sponsoring other activities along the same line,” Beech reported.
In 1959, Bliss married Ellen Palmer and made her his queen.
Bliss helped elect mayors, legislators, lawmakers, governors and presidents. He served as Republican chairman at the county and state levels before being named national chairman in 1965, leading to the resurgence of the GOP in 1968.
He also guided the school that expelled him, serving on the UA trustees board for nine years. He was chairman when he suffered a fatal heart attack in 1981 at age 73.
“He understood that the strength of our democracy and the responsiveness of our government were dependent of the vitality of the party system,” President Ronald Reagan eulogized. “He respected his party and those in his party respected him.”
Vice President George Bush added: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of my longtime friend Ray Bliss.”
In 1986, the University of Akron established the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, a bipartisan institute dedicated to increasing the understanding of the political process “with special emphasis on political parties, grass-roots activity and ethical behavior.”
It’s exactly the kind of institute that could have helped a novice politician avoid making a big blunder in the 1930s.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
What would you do if you had a dollar?
Teachers posed that question to Akron students for an assignment in May 1897, and the Beacon Journal published the answers all month.
The responses were whimsical, earnest, innocent, poignant and occasionally surprising, and they provided an unusual glimpse into the minds of young pupils from the late 19th century.
Adjusted for inflation, an 1897 dollar would be worth over $36 today.
Here are some of those answers from long ago. Would today’s kids want any of these things?
Theodore Turner, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a lamp for my bicycle so I could go riding nights.”
Fred Manthey, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy the book of Robinson Crusoe or a pair of pants.”
Alice Gohlke, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for flowers for sick people.”
Frederick Seiberling, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for shoes.”
Maudie Hiller, 12: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a dress.”
Carl Pettet, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a ball.”
Charles Piske, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for the poor.”
David Duncan, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a slate sponge.”
Ernest Ault, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a white shirt and a collar.”
Harry Houghton, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a present for papa of mamma.”
Mabel Cummins, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would buy my aunt a new dress to go to Cleveland to see my uncle Will who is sick in bed.”
Irena Mueller, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy meat, bread, potatoes, salt, sugar, celery, coffee, milk, butter, soap, cake, cookies.”
Albert Dirret, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would keep it.”
Ola Werden, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would make good use of it. I would not spend it for anything foolish.”
Harry Hoffman, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would pit it in the bank till I was a man.”
Herman Bartels, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would give half to my mother and I would have the rest and buy me a pair of skates.”
Fanny Loomis, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy some ice cream soda, some dolls and some candy. I would buy some popcorn and some ice cream.”
Kinyon Edgar, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a hat.”
Eddie Wach, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would ride out to Summit Lake and have a nice time.”
Pansey Williamson, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would give my sister half and keep the other half and when my sister’s birthday came, I would buy her a present.”
Grace Anderson, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy some cloth for a dress and give it to my mother and she would thank me for it. I would get a picture for her, too, and she would be pleased.”
Millie Edward, 12: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for a suit of clothes.”
Helen Foltz, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would get a nice doll and a pair of slippers and some baby ribbon for it.”
Carl Adams, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a pair of pigeons, a ball and a bat. I’d go downtown and buy me a hat. Then I would buy a bag of candy and a quart of ice cream. I would buy a book with the rest of the money.”
Willie Sadler, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a horse.”
Alma Lutz, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy some flowers for the soldiers’ graves to put on Decoration Day.”
George W. Green, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would go to the show and save the rest of it.”
Clara Bendina Benson, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy some flowers for my mother.”
Bert E. Davis, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would spend 25 cents and buy some candy and some bananas and save 75 cents.”
Maud Maxam, 11: “If I had a dollar, I would send it across the ocean to the heathen children to help build them a home, for their fathers and mothers sell them for 10 cents because they have no homes for them.”
Kurt Arnold, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would divide it with my brother and sisters.”
James Parker McDonald, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would put it in the bank downtown with my $50.”
Clarence Craig, 11: “If I had a dollar, I would get me a pair of pants.”
Ella Tibbs, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a bat.”
Olga Johnson, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy things that were needed.”
Ida Williams, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would save it till I get lots of money. Then I would buy my mamma a new dress.”
Grace Rice, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would go to Cleveland on the streetcar.”
Arthur Snead, 11: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a dog.”
Agnes Kempel, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a doll.”
Artie Schutz, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would save it to go to the circus.”
Harry Ferbstein, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would give it to my mother, and if I would need clothes, she would buy me some with the dollar.”
Carmie Zehnder, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for a tricycle.”
Edna Fleming, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would get a pair of slippers.”
Gladys Brownell, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would give it to the storekeeper for a picture.”
Abraham Squire, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for some candy.”
Earl Groesel, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would keep it for Christmas.”
Marta Habicht, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a pocketbook for my mother.”
Earl Beynon, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would see if there were any poor that needed food or clothes.”
Arthur Burgy, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a pound of sugar and 20 cents worth of tea.”
Jacob Hiefer, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a geography book.”
James Dorrance, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy an air gun.”
May Brown, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy two flags for Memorial Day and some flowers for my mother’s grave.”
Miles McCornnaughy, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a straw hat for me to keep the sun off my face.”
Willie Seidle, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would get me a ring or a pin with it”
Ida Howe, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a new dress.”
Oscar Olsen, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a new slate and a little wagon and a tin horse.”
Martha Kammel, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would save it.”
Logan Wolfsperger, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would give Mother it.”
Herman Endres, 7: “If I had a dollar, I would give it to the poor people.”
Emma Herthneck, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy something for me.”
Jesse Shook, 13: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a drum.”
Bessie Leopard, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy some good actions.”
Geoffrey Swain, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would keep it for a long time.”
Bertha Mellinger, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would save it until I got $2 and I would get a nice chair for Papa.”
Ellen Barber, 12: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a new dress.”
Mary Fish, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy some plants for Stella’s grave. She was my baby sister.”
Ina Reifsnyder, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would get a new pair of shoes.”
Ruby E. Gibbs, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a new hat.”
Muriel Heitzer, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would save it.”
Daisy Rex, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it.”
Raymond Waltz, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would put it in my bank.”
Garret Mason, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would save it and wait till I had $10 and then I would buy a bicycle to ride on.”
Marguerite Harris, 11: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a pair of doves and give them to my sister and she would put them in a cage.”
Rolland Patton, 12: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a goat, a wagon, 10 cents worth of candy, a 5 cent ball, a 2-cent kite, and I would put 1 cent in my bank.”
Harry Lamson, 7: “If I had a dollar, I would have somebody give me two half dollars and spend one for candy and save the other half.”
Helen Gertrude Harter, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it all for candy.”
Sidney H. Wright, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would get a gun and some shot.”
Adolph Harwig, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a bunch of bananas and a ball glove and ball. They all cost one dollar.”
Otto Schaefer, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a top and apples and a book and a wagon and cherries and a flag and I would save 30 cents and that is all I would buy.”
Harvey Myers, 12: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a bell, coasters and a brake for my bicycle.”
Bessie Ames, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would give it to my mamma or papa because I would not know what to do with it.”
Hazel Usner, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy my little sister Eva a rocking chair, and a dress.”
Ezra Wright, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would save it and spend a little at a time and when it was gone, I would earn some more and I would save all that money.”
Etta Ruvinsky, 10: “If I had a dollar, I’d spend it on Christmas and buy a doll or dishes and I would play with those things and then I would take a table out and have a party with all my dishes.”
Rosie Roder, 11: “If I had a dollar, I would go downtown and spend it.”
Dennis Holcomb, 11: “If I had a dollar, I would save it till I had enough to buy a house.”
Jacob Shoup, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would buy four hens and I would build them a coop and make a nest for them and give them fresh water every day and get them some green grass, too.”
Cora Lutz, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would get a present for my teacher.”
Richard Hanson, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a pair of rabbits.”
Nellie Harvey, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy me a nice new dress to wear on Sunday.”
George Falor, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a brown hat for 75 cents and a straw hat for a quarter, and give the brown hat to my brother that has a brown suit and give the other hat to my brother that has a light suit.”
Margaret Flickinger, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would give it to my mother.”
Odessa Geary, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for a blackboard to play with at home. At night, I would play school with it when I had no school.”
Victor Montenyohl, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a necktie and give the change to the poor.”
Mary Addler, 10: “If I had a dollar, I would spend it for some shoes.”
Louise Dull, 9: “If I had a dollar, I should buy a statue of the Blessed Virgin.”
Eddie Seiller, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a prayer book and I would give the rest to our new church.”
Adolph Sattler, 9: “If I had a dollar, I could give half of it to the new church and the rest I would give for flowers for the altar.”
Ida Hock, 9, “If I had a dollar, I would buy a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
Louis Pfeil, 8: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a rosary and give the rest to the poor.”
Jeannette Kimphlin, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a nice statue of St. Joseph.”
Frances Fischer, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would buy a statue of St. Anthony.”
Eva Wyble, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would give 50 cents to the church and 50 cents to Sister for teaching us.”
Martin Gressing, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would give half of it to the new church and the other half for the heathen children in Africa.”
Katie Esper, 9: “If I had a dollar, I would put it in my bank.”
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
Soccer balls might not be the only things bumping around Akron’s Schneider Park.
There may be things that go bump in the night.
A group of University of Akron students have spent the last few months exploring whether stories or legends of strange or paranormal activity have popped up since another university-sponsored research effort last year uncovered evidence of mass graves in the park.
The earlier research found indications that as many as 380 burial spots might still exist in a section of the park, dating back to when it was part of a larger property home to a sanitarium in the 1800s. There is no evidence of what happened to the scores of patients and indigent residents who are believed to have been buried in the park.
The students were taking part in a for-credit experiential learning class that will share its findings at a presentation called Unearthing the Paranormal: Ghosts of Akron’s Past at 6 p.m. Friday in UA’s Folk Hall Auditorium at 150 E. Exchange St.
The spirited gathering is free and open to the public, hosted by UA’s EXL Center, which also goes by the moniker of the Experiential Learning Center for Entrepreneurship & Civic Engagement.
The 15-acre city park off Mull Avenue was once a swampy corner of a 230-acre farm that surrounded a poorhouse and sanitarium for the disabled, indigent and mentally ill. It is believed that the poor and hospitalized from the sanitarium were buried in mass graves on the property until it closed some 100 years ago.
The students found through their research that conditions were less than ideal in the facility, with evidence of physical and mental abuse and even accusations that one of its doctors sold dead bodies for profit.
Students fanned out in groups to interview those who live near the park, play there or simply live in Akron.
What they found was a pleasant narrative of it being a nice place to walk a dog, hold a T-ball practice or simply lounge rather than the “dark” reality of naked men and women kept in cages squatting in their own filth.
This led the students to believe that the lack of available records of the place or whatever became of its patients was part of a deliberate plan by city fathers to erase or remake the property’s history.
And the fact it changed its name in the early 1900s is further evidence of this, coupled with turning the property into a park as just one more way to shift from something sinister to something quite pleasant.
Instructor Mira Mohsini said 17 students participated in the class that gives anthropology students a taste of researching history and the in-the-field interviewing techniques.
“I was surprised how little is known about the place and its place in this community,” she said.
She too wonders if this cleansing of history, and the really bad things that befell those unfortunate enough to end up there, was deliberate.
“This could be an exercise of community reckoning of what happened on this location,” said the visiting professor and anthropologist.
Looking over historical documents, the students found that patients were demeaned as “idiots” and “things” and even “inmates” at best.
“We’ve constructed this poorhouse and sanitarium narrative to hide that these people were mistreated terribly,” said UA student Hannah Cuckler.
As part of Friday’s event, participants will be invited to participate in a Community Ghost Story Circle and share their own paranormal experiences. There will be ghost-themed activities for young and old. Free parking will be available in Lot 47.
As for whether spirits still haunt the park, some of the people the students interviewed indicated they have felt “uncomfortable,” or had “unsettling feelings” or even “chills” visiting the park. Some complained of mysterious “foggy conditions” there.
And roughly half of the residents interviewed who live nearby said they have experienced “unusual noises” inside their homes or have seen “odd formations” in their yards.
One group of students had their own personal ghostly encounter.
Makayla Enriques, a senior, said one resident invited them to come inside and look around his home. She said the man showed them the attic, where he claims items have mysteriously moved from one side to the other.
He also showed the bedroom where he found a dead raven, and the spots where he’s discovered wadded-up moldy old rock ’n’ roll shirts from the ’70s that did not belong to him.
But the clincher, Enriques said, came when they returned to the classroom to create a transcript of the recorded interview.
“We were interviewing him and as soon as I said, ‘ghost stories’ there’s the voice of a little girl in the background mocking us saying ‘stories, stories,’ ” she said.
There was no girl in the house that they could see at the time, Enriques said.
And while there was a TV on in another room, it was tuned to a sports channel with chatter about an auto race.
“It gave us goosebumps,” she said. “It was chilling to hear.”
Craig Webb, who believes he had a ghostly encounter in Lake Hall at Kent State in the ’80s, can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.
Dale Carnegie won friends and influenced people during a gracious visit to Akron.
The noted author, lecturer and self-help expert came to town in April 1937 for a series of public appearances to promote his new book.
The 291-page How to Win Friends and Influence People, published six months earlier by Simon and Schuster, was already a phenomenal success, flying off the shelves during the Great Depression.
No one was more surprised than Carnegie.
“Surprised? It has knocked me breathless,” the Missouri native told the Beacon Journal during an interview in his room at the Mayflower Hotel. “Why, I had no idea — I expected it to sell maybe 10,000 to 15,000 and already it’s gone to a third of a million.
“It sort of puts me on the spot, though, to be author of a best-seller. It’s very hard to ever relax. So much is expected of me.”
Carnegie, 48, a former actor, salesman, speech instructor and PR man who lived in New York, taught readers “the fine art of getting along with people” by presenting common-sense ideas for everyday life.
“I made so many asinine mistakes myself, so many blundering missteps, that I decided to find out what was wrong,” he said.
After conducting years of research on psychology and philosophy, Carnegie crafted these easy-to-follow principles to make people like you:
1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
3. Remember that a man’s name to him is the sweetest and most important sound in the English language.
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
6. Make the other person feel important — and do it sincerely.
“I don’t call myself a philosopher,” Carnegie said in Akron. “Everything I wrote in that book was really old, familiar stuff — truths which everyone knows. Why, many of them are right in the Bible. I gave the book to a rabbi the other day and after reading it, he said rather disgustedly, ‘Why, there’s nothing new in this, Carnegie.’ ”
Carnegie signed copies of his book at O’Neil’s, Polsky’s and Yeager’s department stores. Shoppers paid $1.96 (about $34 in today’s dollars) to meet the silver-haired, bespectacled author.
He gave a public talk at 8:15 p.m. Friday, April 23, in the auditorium of West High School with the admission cost $1. He also delivered a private lecture at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at the Mayflower Hotel before the Akron Life Underwriters’ Association.
According to the Akron Times-Press, Carnegie offered these pearls of wisdom to Akron audiences:
• “Never criticize a person, for in the first place, he many not believe you and, second, you may be wrong yourself.”
• “If you are wrong, admit it readily and say everything about yourself that the other person is thinking.”
• “Be lavish in your praise. Give people encouragement, sincere, honest appreciation.”
• “Try honestly to see the other fellow’s point of view.”
And when in doubt, follow the example of an affectionate household pet, Carnegie advised.
“The first puppy you meet is the greatest psychologist in the world when it comes to getting along with people,” Carnegie said. “First, he wags his tail and acts as if he is going to jump all over you with his affection. He doesn’t want to sell you real estate or try to marry you.
“The dog is the only animal I know except a woman who makes a living out of love.
“Get interested in other people rather than yourself. Do things for others. Smile — this does the same thing as the puppy’s tail.”
Before returning to New York, Carnegie acknowledged to an Akron reporter that, try as he might, he didn’t always live up to the standards that he suggested.
“As to whether I live up to the teachings in my book, I’ll just answer that by telling you that the men who write books on correct diets are usually the biggest dyspeptics and that the man who runs a famous reducing school in New York weighs 250 pounds,” Carnegie smiled.
Carnegie never returned to Akron, but in a way, he never left. In the years to come, Summit County residents took classes from the Dale Carnegie Institute of Effective Speaking, joined the Dale Carnegie Alumni Association, formed Dale Carnegie speaking groups and read Dale Carnegie columns in the Beacon Journal.
When Carnegie died in 1955 at age 66, his legend only grew.
How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies in 80 years, spawning sequels, revised editions and even parodies.
There’s a waiting list to borrow it from Akron-Summit County Public Library.
In closing, we present Carnegie’s fundamental techniques for handling people:
Principle 1: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Principle 2: Give honest and sincere appreciation.
Principle 3: Arouse in the other person an eager want.
Although the book has sold more than 15 million copies, it still seems like a lot of people could use the advice in today’s world.
To learn more about the movement, visit dalecarnegie.com. Mark J. Price is the author of 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].
The Mustill Store is well stocked with local history.
Dating back to 1847, the Akron grocery and butcher shop catered to customers from near and far as more than 50 canalboats passed daily through Lock 15 along the Ohio & Erie Canal.
English immigrants Joseph and Sarah Mustill lived in a Greek Revival house at Lock 15 and operated the one-stop shop.
They were succeeded by their son Fred and his wife, Emma, and grandchildren Maria, Frederick, Edwin and Franklin Mustill.
As the Cascade Locks Parks Association prepares to reopen the landmark for the season Saturday at 248 Ferndale St. (off North Street), we decided to dig up some 19th century anecdotes about the store from the Summit County Beacon, Akron Beacon Journal and Akron Daily Democrat.
Be sure to visit the Mustill Store — it’s free to the public — to create anecdotes of your own.
Local authorities impounded the canalboat May Queen at Lock 15 in October 1857 because its captain owed money to Fred Mustill.
To satisfy the debt, Akron Constable J.J. Wright listed the following property for sale on Oct. 24: One canalboat, one bay horse, one bay mare, two poles, one table, three stools, one boat lamp, one cook stove, two jugs, one oil can, one tow line, one ax and one shovel.
The Mustill home was the scene of a grand party Dec. 29, 1875, following the marriage of Maria Mustill and Charles Marquardt at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
“The entertainment got up at the residence of the bride’s father, for the benefit of the guests, was all in appearance that a person of taste could wish, and in substance and variety that a gourmand could desire, English dishes predominating and in great profusion,” one reporter noted.
“It was at a late hour that the friends and relations left Mr. Mustill’s hospital roof, with many blessings upon its inmates and especially upon the young married couple just starting out on the journey of life.”
Quite a mishap
North Howard Street resident Sarah Cramer suffered “quite a mishap” late Nov. 24, 1877, while returning home from a friend’s house on the west side of the canal.
As she crossed at Lock 15, the shimmering reflection of a light from the Mustill residence caused her to lose her bearings and she stepped off into the lock.
“Her cries for help soon brought one of the neighbors to her assistance and she was quickly rescued from her perilous situation,” the Summit Beacon reported.
A right royal time
Nearly 200 people attended “a gay party of friends and neighbors” as Frederick Mustill celebrated his 57th birthday Dec. 9, 1879, on the same day that his daughter Maria turned 27. Mustill’s children presented him with an easy chair and overcoat while he gave his daughter a $20 gold piece.
“The evening passed most pleasantly and the guests expressed themselves as having a right royal time,” a columnist noted.
Look out below! The foot bridge at Lock 15 fell into the canal May 18, 1883, carrying portions of the abutments of the lock along with it.
“Navigation is stopped, and some damage done to the canal,” the Beacon reported. “No one was hurt, although a man had just crossed over before the bridge fell.”
What a hooligan
Fred Cooney, “an incorrigible small boy,” was arrested Sept. 7, 1886, after he pried open a cellar window at the Mustill store and stole two boxes of cigars, some plug tobacco, pocketknives, eyeglasses and 35 cents.
An Akron officer followed the boy to his North Street home where he was smoking a stolen cigar. Authorities recalled that the last time the boy was charged with theft, he ended up picking the pockets of all inmates in the city jail. For the latest offense, he was sentenced to the Ohio Reform School in Lancaster.
Partners in crime
Frederick Mustill notified authorities in October 1886 that merchandise was missing after a “frowsy-looking couple” named Albert and Hattie Coulter had been seen lurking around Lock 15.
Authorities tracked the couple to New Portage.
“They were living in a tent made in part from 20 yards of muslin stolen from Mustill,” the Beacon Journal reported. “The other articles, a coat, a pair of pantaloons, a lamp and an oil can were found in the tent, and the couple were put under arrest.” They pleaded guilty to larceny and were sentenced to 30 days in the Cleveland Workhouse and were fined $10.
Watch the birdie
Polly want a newspaper? “Frederick Mustill, who resides at Lock 15, has a parrot which, when the Beacon is thrown on the porch by the carrier, cries out in a loud voice, ‘Beacon,’ ” the weekly edition reported Nov. 26, 1890.
The body of Hickory Street resident John N. Evans, 64, was found floating just below Lock 15 on April 30, 1892.
He had gone missing three nights earlier, apparently falling into the canal at Lock 11. The case was ruled an accidental drowning.
“The following property was found on the body of the deceased,” the Daily Democrat reported. “About $9 in cash; two promissory notes, one for $25 and one for $113, a pair of gold spectacles and a pocketknife.”
Frank R. Mustill, who operated a cigar box factory near Lock 15, made the mistake of telling his buddies that he was afraid of ghosts.
As a result, a figure in white startled him several times during nighttime strolls on North Howard Street in August 1892.
“The performance has been kept up regularly since Monday night, and the ghost, if it reads the Daily Democrat, should take notice that the sheet used it getting soiled trailing through the wet weeds and grass, and a clean one will make its appearance more presentable,” a reported noted.
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].
The car weaved erratically before halting near the Ohio Highway Patrol post on Route 3 in Medina. A young male driver stumbled out, collapsed to the ground and mumbled as troopers rushed to help.
He seemed drunk.
Or maybe it was something else.
Troopers looked inside the 1939 Chevrolet and found a girl slumped in the passenger’s seat April 10, 1948. They tried to wake her, but she would not stir. The poor girl was dead, the victim of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Driver Clark Hill, 19, a tall lad with brown hair, glasses and a wispy mustache, was taken to Medina Community Hospital.
“He didn’t appear to be unconscious, although he did look a little dazed and confused,” Dr. Frederick Kornfeld later recalled. “His speech was indistinct and slow, but there was no discoloration of the skin to indicate he was suffering from carbon monoxide.”
His passenger, Jeanette Weimer, 18, of Lakemore, however, had a 70 percent concentration of carbon monoxide in her blood, a test discovered.
A hazy story emerged as investigators questioned Hill at the hospital. The boy complained of leg paralysis and pain from a red, swollen ear.
The foundry worker said he had met Weimer at the Huddle, a Lafayette Road hamburger stand where she worked as a carhop. They had gone on a date the night before to see a movie in Lodi, and then stopped at a soda fountain to get milkshakes and play pinball.
Afterward, they went for a ride in the country, and “everything went black until the sun was high in the sky,” he said. Hill told authorities he woke up 15 hours later in the parked car on a country lane off Bagdad Road about 4 miles northeast of Medina. When he couldn’t revive his date, he groggily drove to get help about 4:30 p.m.
Weimer, the daughter of Arthur and Provia Weimer, was one of nine siblings. Her devastated family didn’t know Clark and couldn’t understand why the girl was dead. Services were conducted at Hopkins Funeral Home with burial at Glendale Cemetery in Akron.
By then, authorities were suspicious. Tests had found no carbon monoxide in Hill’s blood. If the car’s engine had run all night, why was there enough fuel to drive?
A group of girls came forward to say they had seen Hill on Saturday afternoon in a parked Chevrolet on Bagdad Road, and he was very much alert.
“We girls were walking to a fishing place,” recalled Mary Lou Ferguson, 14. “We passed the car and saw Hill sitting at the wheel. He looked troubled and strained, like he had just awakened from a sleep. I said hello to him and he said hello. His eyes followed us as we walked past.”
Cuyahoga County Coroner Sam Gerber conducted an autopsy and found a dark liquid in Weimer’s system. What was it?
Confronted with inconsistencies in his story, Hill broke down during questioning from Medina County deputies and signed a 23-page confession April 16.
“I was attracted to Jeanette but there was nothing more than friendship between us,” he said. “She was engaged to another boy and I planned to marry another girl in two years. I knew Jeanette wasn’t in love with me, but she was lonely and I thought I could comfort her.”
Hill said he had slipped an aphrodisiac into Weimer’s milkshake while she played pinball. She passed out in the car and he drove to the country lane, where he parked and accosted her.
Scared that Weimer might tell authorities, Hill said he attached a rubber hose to the exhaust system and directed it into the car, flooding the vehicle with carbon monoxide. According to the confession, he stepped out of the Chevy and let the engine run for an hour. Then he let the gas dissipate and climbed back inside.
Authorities recovered a hose near the scene and theorized that Hill had burned his ear on the hot tailpipe while trying to connect the tube.
Hill staged the girl’s death to look like a tragedy on lovers’ lane, deputies said. He wanted to be found but the few passers-by who came along didn’t notice Weimer’s body.
After waiting 15 hours, he drove to the Highway Patrol post and pretended to be poisoned.
“I was scared she’d tell on me,” Hill told Beacon Journal reporter Alicia G. Hopkins at the Medina jail. “I sure didn’t mean to do it. I don’t know what happened.”
When Hill was charged with first-degree murder April 17, articles about “the love potion killer” appeared in newspapers across the nation. A week later, he recanted his confession, calling it an “untrue story.”
No, it was just a horrible accident with a faulty exhaust system, he said.
Hill pleaded not guilty to a three-count indictment, waived his right to a jury trial and let a three-judge panel hear the case.
He shaved off his mustache and looked clean cut at the Oct. 18 trial before Judges Windsor E. Kellogg of Medina County, E.H. Savord of Erie County and Lynn B. Griffith of Trumbull County.
Prosecutor William G. Batchelder called Weimer’s death “a cold, calculated crime.”
“Hill attacked her, then became scared,” he said. “He lost no time attaching a hose to the exhaust and running it into the car where the unconscious girl was left to die. He was not concerned about saving her life. He wanted to be sure she was dead.”
Defense attorney Raymond B. Bennett insisted that the death was a tragic accident. “If Hill is as vicious as they claim, why didn’t he get rid of the girl’s body?” he asked.
The lawyer wanted the 23-page confession to be thrown out as evidence.
“This confession was the result of a desire on the part of law enforcement officials to dramatize the sorry predicament in which Hill found himself,” Bennett said.
But the judges allowed it and heard testimony from hospital workers, law enforcement officials and other witnesses.
After deliberating four hours, the judges found Hill guilty of murder but recommended mercy.
“When he heard the verdict, Hill was shaken and near collapse,” the Beacon Journal reported. “He covered his face with his hands. The strength seemed to leave his legs and deputies had to help him from the courtroom.”
At sentencing Nov. 6, Judge Kellogg asked Hill if he had anything to say.
“I’m not guilty,” Hill replied before being taken to the Ohio Penitentiary.
The so-called love potion killer was transferred to the Marion prison in 1955. After serving nearly 25 years behind bars, he was released in 1973. He was 81 when he died in a Columbus nursing home in 2010.
He was survived by a wife, a stepson and a dark secret down a lonely road in Medina County.
Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or [email protected].
In Northeast Ohio, residents reacted with shock, horror, anger and profound grief after learning about the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
Culled from prepared statements, speeches, sermons and letters, here are some of those raw reactions from 50 years ago.
• • •
We mourn the untimely death of Dr. Martin Luther King. And we ask ourselves if it is possible for any group to compensate for the loss of one who combined the rare qualities of poet, statesman and philosopher in such a unique and influential manner.
It is our hope that his death will not be in vain. It is our hope that the supreme sacrifice on the part of Martin Luther King will serve as a rallying point for the conscience of the American public.
Our purpose is that of preparing the youth of the community to some day fill responsible roles as leaders in Akron and elsewhere. But the implications of such a tragedy serve to underscore our observation — that little, except for lip service — is being done by the establishment to honestly — and as swiftly as possible — bring about change.
As a group, we suggest that the first faltering steps be taken in Akron to candidly examine and correct the existing patterns in housing, education, employment and other sensitive areas. These are areas where communication has been diplomatically staged, but extremely unfruitful in coming to grips with the harsh and uncompromising realities of existing discrepancies.
In our opinion, the expression “We shall overcome” was not intended to apply expressly to the Negro. It is a comprehensive statement which includes all Americans who are imbued with the desire to achieve true equality.
— Terrance Evans, Akron Youth Council president, NAACP
My deepest sympathy goes to his family and to those persons of all places who knew him as a great and good leader in the cause of equal rights.
I fervently pray that Dr. King’s sacrifice will not be dishonored by acts of violence taken in his name, but that his memory will inspire quicker achievement of equal opportunity for all.
— Ohio Gov. James Rhodes
What made King great and unique was the awesome job he tackled and the manner in which he did it. Many have launched out in enthusiasm and idealism — only to become bitter when the going got rough.
King, who sought economic opportunity for poor Americans, black or white, was arrested, jailed, derided and hated.
But [he] was a man of peace, a gentle man who knew you cannot use violence to achieve justice, quality and brotherhood.
Love envieth not, suffereth long and is kind … and rejoiceth not in iniquity.
— Akron Mayor John Ballard
What has happened tonight must be taken in the same spirit and with the same fortitude with which this nation has suffered through the loss of our beloved President John F. Kennedy five years ago.
Now is the time to accept the gift of life and use it as a stone on which to build a better America.
— Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes
Once again another great American has felt the wrath of unchecked bigotry. How many more men like Dr. Martin Luther King must die before something is done to remove the weapons of death from the hands of depraved men?
Congress must pass some form of gun control law. We can no longer depend on sanity to prevent people from taking up arms to eradicate anyone who does not believe in the same things that they believe in.
Dr. King shall not die in vain. Someone will continue to fight for the right of the oppressed.
I believe that nonviolence is the right way to achieve our freedom. If we must take to the streets we will. If we must die we will, but we will fight until Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream becomes a reality.
— D.E. Martin, Akron
Black Akronites have reached the point beyond which they will not be moved.
We intend to establish the fact that there exists in the black community an heretofore unrealized solidarity of cause. We state the cause simply; the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., our leader, has served only to bolster our effort to obtain racial justice and equality in our community.
At this time, revenge is not our prime purpose; violent reaction is not our goal. We are saddened and we wish only that those goals of our fallen leader be made factual and not be lost from sight. And we will watch, and watch closely, to catch sight of that movement expected of the white community.
We are convinced the violent death of Dr. King signaled a period for reflection and reassessment by black Akronites. We are more deeply convinced this tragedy demands an eruption of more personal and more energetic action by white Akronites.
— Akron chapter of the NAACP
Let us make Akron a model city.
Let the fathers and leaders of Akron raise the banner and the sons and daughters of Akron will walk thereunder.
Let them throw a highway of real social progress, and the sons and daughters will come from every street, alley and back road to walk thereon.
Let them lift the torch of complete freedom and we will light our candles and dispel every trace of social darkness.
Let us burn down the walls of hate, distrust, misunderstanding and fear.
Let us not burn buildings, but put fire to bigotry and every social evil that would stop the progress of democracy.
[Do this] and Dr. King is not dead.
— The Rev. K.L Brazil, pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church
When will it ever cease? When will man stop hating his fellow man?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is dead. Who killed him?
Many of us are guilty. Everyone who has some prejudice, some hatred, some bigotry in his heart shares the guilt.
Tolerance is not enough. We must have acceptance and understanding among all toward all.
— Patricia Hunt, Silver Lake
Last Thursday, the people of the world and particularly the people of America lost through violence a man who devoted his life to nonviolence — Dr. Martin Luther King. A man of God, a great spiritual and moral leader, a man with a dream.
For him, the dream is over. For the living, the dreams and hope of Dr. King continue.
During this trying time, while the emotions of the Negro people are overflowing, let us remember Dr. King’s rallying song, “We Shall Overcome.” Let us NOT put his memory in shame with violence. Rather, let us put violence to shame in the example of Dr. King.
This killer of Dr. King has millions of co-defendants, for each of us, in our own way contributed to what America is today.
Each of us should resolve that life, liberty, equality, justice, peace and the pursuit of happiness are not just words but actions and as necessary to free men as food is to the body.
Again, I ask each one of us not to put the memory of Dr. King to shame.
We have been traveling a road filled with obstacles and we have overcome some. We still have a long way to go, but if in our hearts we do not yield, we shall overcome.
— Charles F. Howell, Akron
Once more, with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the white man must feel shame because he is white.
Once more we must turn to our Negro brothers and ask that they behave as saints and forgive us, for we know not what we do.
— Evelyn Neri, Akron
The sudden and tragic death of yet another great American again turns our sights to the continuing problems at home, too often overshadowed by war and politics. The time has come for answers. The questions have been asked too long.
Is it no longer enough to recount past accomplishments. Now we must look forward and make plans for that which has yet to be done.
The man largely responsible for many such past accomplishments has been taken and his loss will be felt. His philosophy of nonviolent resistance remains, and it is the duty of all people to realize that it must be continued, not only as a working, living memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, but of and for all me.
It is time that Dr. King’s dream be fully realized, without hesitation or further delay. This is certainly the most important issue yet to be resolved.
— Pegge Kerr, Akron
Last Thursday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. died in Memphis, Tenn. He met a vicious, unnatural death at the hands of a killer whose mind I cannot begin to understand.
Does this killer and others like him call themselves Americans? Can they, in all honesty, call themselves humans? It causes me to wonder.
America is under a dark cloud of shame. One of her finest sons is not here to bear this shame. He was one who was used to the burden of abuse and shameful treatment.
He would have been able to help this country in its our of need. But he is gone.
Today, the world is closer to global peace, because of nonviolence. Yet in America, the land of peace, a champion of nonviolence is dead by the act of a savage. It causes me to wonder.
Do we pass this death off as another act of fate? Will Dr. King be remembered tomorrow? Will what he stood for be forgotten or washed away in a tide of hatred? Will his death cause Americans to search their souls for answers?
Is the death of this man of peace a foreshadowing of America’s future or the beginning of the end of the violent sickness that often afflicts this land? It causes me to wonder.
— David Hervey Jr., Stow
The world has lost a champion of peace. The church has lost a prophet and servant of the first order.
Can we afford this loss in our day? How many more young men of vision, statesmanship and moral leadership will we assassinate before we return to sanity as a nation?
Shall we arm our society with guns and bombs and commit fratricide in our streets, or shall we arm ourselves with justice and truth in pursuit of genuine brotherhood no matter what the cost?
There isn’t much time left to make up our minds. If we can be shocked into action by this senseless murder, perhaps America can yet atone for this sin and erect a timeless memorial to this apostle of nonviolence in the building of a nation in which there is liberty and justice for all.
— E. Stanley Smith, pastor of Eastwood Church of the Brethren
The world has suffered a tremendous loss in the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He takes his place among the great men of history.
I sincerely hope and pray that some day, in some way, we will be able to love our neighbors as ourselves and really be concerned about one another. With God, all things are possible.
— Allene Hammonds, Akron
News of the remarkable find spread quickly in Summit County. The Gorge, the rocky chasm separating Akron from Cuyahoga Falls, had reluctantly given up a secret.
The Beacon Journal published a fascinating article March 31, 1900, about the accidental discovery of a magnificent cave on a ledge overlooking the Cuyahoga River.
According to the story, Cuyahoga Falls boys Robert Whelan, 12, and Cecil McCoy, 11, were walking a hunting dog that Saturday morning along the northern edge of the Gorge — about 200 yards northeast of the street railway bridge — when the animal chased a rabbit to a gap under a large rock. The dog dug through a pile of dead leaves and dislodged a flat stone, causing a dark hole to appear.
McCoy ran home to retrieve a lantern and returned with his uncle Martin Quigg, who widened the opening, crawled inside and found a passage about 10 feet tall with multiple chambers. Learning of the discovery, an unidentified Beacon Journal reporter rushed to the scene to join Quigg on a rugged adventure by gaslight.
“The walls and roof glisten and scintillate with a thousand reflections in the light from minute crystals of some substance that has formed over the whole surface,” the newspaper noted. “Passageways lead off to the right and left but none of them have as yet been explored.”
In one corridor, the explorers reported hearing a small waterfall far below in the darkness.
Was this “the remarkable cavern” that Gen. Lucius V. Bierce had reported finding in 1826?
“It is on the very brink of the chasm cut by the river; and the small opening but just large enough to admit a person’s body was on a level with the ground,” Bierce wrote in his 1856 history Reminiscences of Summit County. “A few leaves, or a rotten log, will easily conceal it.”
Bierce had heard the flow of an underground river in the cave.
“It being totally dark in the cavern, I could make but few examinations; and, fearing some chasm in the bottom, I did not let my curiosity tempt me far in my explorations,” he wrote.
A flood destroyed the entrance and Bierce never was able to find it again, thereby creating the legend of the lost cave in the Gorge.
The 1900 Beacon Journal reporter estimated that he and Quigg traveled nearly a quarter-mile on smooth stone floors through the cavern. He doubted that any white man had ever explored the labyrinth, noting that American Indian pottery, arrowheads, stone implements and other artifacts were found undisturbed.
Most significantly, Quigg reported finding the ancient bones of Indians in an alcove-like section about 20 yards from the entrance.
“In the niche in the wall, the guide showed the reporter the bones … seven complete skeletons, some parts, however have crumbled to dust,” the Beacon Journal noted.
Truly, it was an extraordinary find.
“Arrangements are already being made to show visitors through the quarter of a mile or more of cave already explored and it is fully expected by those in charge that more remain and other strange things may yet to be found,” the newspaper said.
“… The entrance which was naturally quite small is being enlarged and arranged for the crowd that will visit the place tomorrow especially if it is a pleasant day.”
Sure enough, thousands of curious residents ventured to the Gorge the following day, a Sunday. They arrived by railway, buggy and bicycle from Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Barberton and Kent. Some carried lanterns and cameras to document their visit.
“It is a well-assured fact that the Gorge was never so thoroughly explored as it was Sunday,” the Beacon Journal reported. “Crowds of men and boys, young men with sweethearts, and husbands and wives strolled over the hills and along the river exploring every crevice in the rocks that gave the slightest possible evidence of being a cavern in hopes of discovering the abiding place of some prehistoric race.”
They looked … and they looked … and they looked.
But they could not find the entrance to the magnificent cavern.
After a long, fruitless search, the confused explorers finally remembered something.
The date was April 1. It was April Fools’ Day. Apparently in cahoots with the two boys and uncle, the Beacon Journal had played the granddaddy of all jokes on its readers.
“When the visitors discovered that they had been sold they did not get angry but roamed over the hills enjoying the refreshing air and bright sunshine, and everybody was appointed a committee of one to escort the newcomers to the spot where the wonderful cave was to be found,” the Beacon Journal reported April 2.
Yes, that’s right. After learning it was a big hoax, some Gorge visitors went along with the charade and tried to “help” others find the lost cave. Then those people got wise and did the same thing to the next group. The lost cave never was found, but it wasn’t for a lack of looking.
The reporter seemed pleased that he had talked so many people into abandoning “the smoke and dust of the city” to enjoy a beautiful spring day in the country.
“The large number of persons that visited the Gorge and enjoyed the harmless joke shows conclusively that the Beacon Journal is widely read,” the newspaper concluded.
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].