Journal-News, Monday, Dec. 2, 1991
Hamiltonians quick to aid needy war victims
By Jim Blount
As German bombs fell on London and other British targets in 1940, some Hamiltonians organized assistance for civilian victims and support for English hospitals and medical services. A "Bundles for Britain" chapter was formed in Hamilton in October 1940, just a few weeks after the start of the Battle of Britain.
"We'll knit and we'll raise funds to equip base and field hospitals rapidly being filled in England with victims of Nazi war machines," explained Mrs. Homer Card, the first president of the Hamilton chapter of Bundles For Britain.
The national leader of Bundles For Britain emphasized that the group wasn't involved in providing war materials. Instead, said Mrs. Natalie Wales Latham, "we buy only medicines, hospital equipment, clothing and similar articles which will help relieve physical suffering among women and children and the valiant men who are defending them."
The national organization had formed in December 1939. Ten months later, the newsreels and newspaper reports detailing the toll of German bombing on British civilians led to the founding of a Hamilton chapter of Bundles For Britain.
The sounds and descriptions of the Luftwaffe air raids came into local homes via radio. The most notable was the daily report by Edward R. Murrow, CBS Radio bureau chief in London.
"We are told today that the Germans believe Londoners, after a while, will rise up and demand a new government, one that will make peace with Germany," noted Murrow in his broadcast of Sept. 10, 1940.
"It's more probable that they'll rise up and murder a few German pilots who come down by parachute," Murrow told his radio audience in the United States. The daily German air campaign, called the Battle of Britain, had started a month earlier, on Aug. 11, 1940.
In September, British civilian casualties totaled 6,954 killed and 10,615 injured. During that month, bombs had also hit numerous landmarks, including Buckingham Palace and St. Paul Cathedral.
During the eight-month blitz against London more than 40,500 civilians were killed and 46,850 injured.
The Battle of Britain, said John Keegan, "was to be a truly revolutionary conflict." The British military historian said "for the first time since man had taken to the skies, aircraft were to be used as the instrument of a campaign designed to break the enemy's will and capacity to resist without the intervention or support of armies and navies."
During its formative months, the Hamilton chapter held a major fund-raising event, the "Bundles For Brit-am Ball." Held Saturday evening, Nov. 16, 1940, at the Anthony Wayne Hotel, it attracted more than 500 dancers and netted more than $600.
Less glamorous local activities included knitting sweaters, scarfs and other garments for British civilians and servicemen.
Early in October 1941, the BFB cause was helped by a display during Hamilton's sesquicentennial celebration at the Butler County Fairgrounds. It was a full-scale air raid shelter shown by the American Rolling Mill Co. (now Armco), Middletown.
The 20-person shelter — then in use in England — was "built of corrugated steel in an arched design," explained a news report. The article said the shelter included "chemical sanitary facilities, a built-in stove, cabinets for dishes and pans, a shovel, pick and other emergency equipment."
Proceeds from Hamilton's second annual "Bundles For Britain Ball," again held at the Anthony Wayne Hotel, were earmarked for the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London.
The dance, which raised more than $550 to help pay for bomb damage repairs, was one of Hamilton last festive events before direct U. S. involvement in World War II.
The second annual "Bundles For Britain Ball" concluded in the early minutes of Sunday, Dec. 7,1941.
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Journal-News, Saturday, Dec. 7, 1991
Tragedy's impact ignited big changes; at least 347 county residents died in war
(This column was published on the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.)
By Jim Blount
The Japanese bombs that fell on Pearl Harbor Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, ignited
massive changes in Hamilton and Butler County.
World War II's impact here would extend well beyond Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed the surrender agreement aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Harbor.
Butler County had 120,249 residents when the federal census was completed a year before Pearl Harbor. More than 16,000 men and an unknown number of women would leave the county to serve in the military. At least 347 would not return. They would be killed or die of various causes, or be listed as missing. Another 400 would be wounded in action.
According to the 1990 census, the county's population exceeded 291,400, an increase of more than 240 percent in 50 years.
Other population comparisons include: 50,592 Hamilton residents in 1940 and 61,368 now; Middletown 31,220 and 46,022; and Oxford 2,756 and 18,937. Fairfield, a city of 39,729 didn't exist in 1940.
Miami University's Oxford enrollment was less than 3,000 before the war, or less than a fifth of its recent totals. Its Hamilton and Middletown campuses were created in the 1960s.
From mid 1942 through mid 1945, more than 7,800 men and women would be brought to the Oxford campus to be trained as cooks, bakers and radio operators for the U. S. Navy.
A total of 15,267 Butler County men would be drafted. Hamilton's 8,161 draftees represented about one of every four male inhabitants in the city.
Before the war — as defense preparations began to erase the massive unemployment of the Great Depression — Hamilton's industrial employment topped 11,800, equivalent to nearly a fourth of its population.
After Dec. 7, 1941, women, and teen-agers soon joined the local work force as factories struggled to replace men called into the armed services and to fill new jobs created by the demand for war products.
By the middle of the war, Hamilton factory employment exceeded 15,000 and one-third of the work force was women.
The constant manpower shortages of local firms attracted new residents to Hamilton, but most of them had to be satisfied with makeshift housing. Some Hamilton families rented empty rooms; others converted garages to housing.
There also were shortages of farm workers. For example, in the spring of 1942, Butler County farmers were seeking 221 summer employees, but only 47 applicants were available. Junior high and high school students were recruited to fill the void.
There were plenty of jobs for men and women with strong backs, willing hands and some mechanical know-how. Then only 21.7 percent of Butler County adults had completed high school, according to the 1940 census.
During the first week of December 1941, the new 1942 model automobiles were in Hamilton showrooms, including Studebakers at Motzer Motor Sales, 425 High St.; Pontiacs at Hamilton Auto Sales, 437 High St.; Hudsons at Otto Proeschel Motor Sales, 618 Maple Ave.; and Oldsmobiles at Joseph H. Miller Co., 130 Main St.
The federal government on Dec. 17 announced a freeze on new car sales "for the duration of the war."
During the war years — with restrictions on tires and gasoline and a cessation of civilian auto sales — ridership on Hamilton's bus system would average more than 25,000 people a day, more than 12 times recent patronage.
Near the end of the war, Hamilton was serviced by 16 daily passenger trains — most with every seat and berth filled — on the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania railroads.
During the week preceding Pearl Harbor, Hamilton shoppers were in the midst of Christmas shopping. That week ladies' two-piece suits were on sale for $10 and winter pastel dresses were marked down to $4 95 at Wilmurs, North Second and High streets, while sheer silk hose, in a variety of shades, were $1.25 a pair at Robinson-Schwenn at High Street and Journal Square.
Seamless nylon hose were $1.69 a pair at Burg's, Main and North B streets, which also promoted its women's shoes, in suede, gabardines and leathers, at $3.98 and $4.95 a pair.
Ham ranged from 23 to 32 cents a pound, bacon 13.5 to 18 cents a pound, T-bone steak at 32 cents a pound and sugar five pounds for 30 cents at the Chicago Market Co., North Front and High streets.
Meanwhile, Atherton Market on Court Street had center-cut halibut and salmon at 35 cents a pound and catfish at 29 cents a pound.
The Elite at 212 High St. advertised pumpkin and mincemeat pies at 30 cents each, praline pecan layer cake at 49 cents and a variety of ice cream and sherbet flavors at 50 cents a quart.
A variety of Christmas cookies were available at 50 cents a pound from route salesmen of the Weik Bakery while the Milillo Baking Co., 802 Heaton St., featured fruit cakes starting at 35 cents each.
For entertainment the night of Saturday, Dec. 6, Larry Pachoud and his 12-piece band were featured at the Kitty Kat Nite Club off U .S. 27 in Millville. The 40-cent per-person admission included dancing from 9:30 until 2:30 and floor shows at 11:30 and 1:30.
Undoubtedly, the news of Pearl Harbor caused some families to cancel plans for dinner at the Elks Dining Room at South Second and Ludlow streets. On the dinner menu the evening of Dec. 7, 1941, were leg of lamb or fried chicken at $1 and club steak or fillet mignon at $1.25. Prices included appetizer, salad, potato, vegetable, biscuits or raisin muffins, beverage and dessert.
The war would soon lead to shortages and rationing of many of the necessities and luxuries that were readily available to Hamiltonians before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Local residents also would soon add new words and phrases to their everyday vocabulary.
The additions would include GI, war bonds, V-Mail, radar, Victory Gardens, Victory Canteen, Victory Flocks, victory coffee stretcher, air raid warden, Kitchen Commandos, Paper Troopers, ration books, gas coupons, rationing points, K rations, scrap drives, blackouts and dimouts, atomic bomb, Big Inch and Little Inch, liberty ships and, of course, an ever-present slogan, "Remember Pearl Harbor."
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Journal-News, Monday, Dec. 9, 1991
Tense days followed surprise bombing in Hawaii
By Jim Blount
"Probably never before has the radio audience in Hamilton been so large," observed the Journal-News as it reported the community's rapt attention to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Dec. 8, 1941, address to Congress.
The newspaper said, "the people of Hamilton paused in their daily routines at 12:30 o'clock," the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to hear FDR ask Congress for a quick declaration of war on Japan.
Dec. 7, 1941, is a "date which will live in infamy," said the president in condemning the assault which killed more than 2,400 and wounded more than 1,170 Americans.
"Hamilton stands today a unified city — united behind the great national effort to annihilate aggression launched against the United States by the government of Japan," declared the Journal-News in its Monday, Dec. 8,1941, edition.
About 350 Japanese aircraft started the attack on the main base of the U. S. Pacific fleet at 7:55 a.m., Hawaii time. The news was broadcast in Hamilton shortly before 2:30 p.m.
First reports of the bombing, said the Journal-News, "brought about a feeling of horror. There was no hysteria, there was no demonstration — but that the people of Hamilton are grimly determined to do their share in fighting aggression was indicated by the attitude of the hundreds who gathered on street corners to discuss the situation."
In an editorial, the newspaper said "it's not the kind of war people have fought in the past, it's not the kind of war that people now living can remember."
"The war today is on the Hitler pattern, the result of Japan's stab in the back," the editorial said. "It's the sneaking, deceitful, contemptible action of a group of maniacs who have started out to rule the world and who are sacrificing millions of lives in order that they can reduce all surviving people to slavery."
Hamilton industries — which already were involved in producing war materials -- increased security. On the advice of the FBI, city officials imposed increased protection against sabotage around Hamilton's electric-generating plant and its water reservoirs.
The families of more than 100 Hamilton men, former National Guardsmen, were informed Dec. 9 that the soldiers would not be coming home for a Christmas furlough.
That day all leaves had been canceled for members of the 37th Division at Camp Shelby, Miss.
Some of the local soldiers — who had left Hamilton in January 1941 — had expected to some home Dec. 15 on a special train. A few days later the army reconsidered and agreed to grant reduced furloughs to members of the Buckeye Division.
As area residents thirsted for newspaper and radio reports on the war, few details — including the extent of U. S. losses — were provided by military and government officials.
The first reported contact between Hamilton and Hawaii was at 9:20 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 9, when a cablegram arrived from Sara Morrison, wife of Lt. William F. Morrison, who was aboard the USS McCall, a destroyer operating out of Pearl Harbor.
For several days the newspaper listed the names of local people stationed or residing in Hawaii and other war zones.
It was Friday, Dec. 12, when Mrs. Lawrence Williams of W. Church St., Oxford, was notified that her son was one of the more than 1,100 soldiers and marines killed aboard the battleship USS Arizona.
Initial reports identified Ensign Lawrence "Junior" Williams as the pilot of a scout plane on a battleship and said he "died in action somewhere in the Pacific."
The 27-year-old pilot had graduated from McGuffey High School in 1932 and Miami University in 1936 and had enlisted in the U. S. Navy in May 1940. His last trip home had been in May 1941.
The first week of December — as 26 Hamilton draftees headed for processing at Fort Thomas, Ky. — the number of local young men inducted into the Army had reached 605.
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Journal-News, Monday, Dec. 16, 1991
Coliseum short-lived entertainment center
By Jim Blount
A legacy of Hamilton's 1991 bicentennial will be an arts center on the east bank of the Great Miami River, south of the High-Main Street Bridge and the Soldiers, Sailors and Pioneers Monument.
But it will not be the first riverside building to bring entertainment to Hamiltonians. For seven years and two months, on the opposite bank, north of the bridge, Hamilton's own Coliseum once stood, serving as the site of sports, music events and dances.
The Coliseum opened in 1906 as a private venture. Jacob Milders, F. M. Heck, Ray Wortendyke, Mike Kane and C. E. Heiser were the owners, according to the Hamilton Daily Democrat.
The frame building -- with exterior measurements of 115 feet by 85 feet -- was designed and built by J. Conrad Riegler, a Hamilton contractor. It was patterned after a similar structure in Richmond, Ind.
The newspaper said "the new hall will not only be the only place in the city for skating and polo, but will also be much the largest hall in the city and the finest place for dancing."
Roller skating Thursday, Jan. 18, 1906, was the first activity staged at the building which was located between and the Great Miami River and North B Street, "almost at the junction with Wayne Ave." The coliseum's main entrance was on B Street.
The official opening was less than a week later, Tuesday evening, Jan. 23, 1906. The Hamilton polo team made its debut that evening, defeating the Princess Reds of Cincinnati, 7-0, before a crowd of more than 2,000 people. Fred A. Elmore led the scoring tallying six of the seven goals.
The preliminary event was a basketball game, pitting the Coliseum team against the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad team from Cincinnati. Webb Cullen powered the Hamilton team to a 39-6 victory.
A future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame served as the celebrity attraction that night. Miller Huggins, then the Cincinnati Reds second baseman, and who later managed the New York Yankees during the Babe Ruth era, was the timer for the polo match,.
The polo players were on roller skates, not on horseback. "The game is played with five men on each side," explained the Democrat. "Each man has fastened to his wrist a strap 10 inches long, to which is attached a stick, curved at the end, much like those used in the game of hockey."
"A bright red ball is placed in the center of the playing surface, and at the blast of the referee's whistle, the battle is on," the newspaper said.
A game included three 15-minute periods with five-minute intermissions. If the score was tied after 45 minutes, "another period is begun and played until a score is made."
"The playing or skating floor is 50 feet by 100 feet and all out this space, running from floor up almost to the roof, are the seats, arranged in amphitheater style and in aisles, the seats themselves being the regular coliseum chair, very comfortable and convenient." There were no posts or pillars to obstruct a spectator's view.
"There is an abundance of windows in the hall for ventilation and light by day, and at night the place will be lighted with 10 big, incandescent arc lights and about 500 small lights," the newspaper said.
"At the east end of the hall is the balcony for the band or orchestra. . . and beneath this balcony are two large and well-equipped dressings room. Over the front entrance, and directly opposite the east balcony, is another stand for band or orchestra."
The Democrat said "on the roof will be a big electric sign, spelling the word 'Coliseum' and which will be plainly visible from the High-Main Street Bridge.
That large sign and the entire Coliseum washed down the Great Miami River during the March 1913 flood.
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Monday, December 23, 1991
Assembly line produced shoes at local factory
By Jim Blount
The "rattle and roar" of machinery along an assembly line could be heard on High Street in Hamilton in 1874 as shoes were mass produced in John Weidenborner's shop.
'Those who have sat beside the patient cripin and watched his slow progress, as one by one he drove home the yielding peg, and slowly shod the heels with its armor of iron tacks, will find a new experience in witnessing this operation as performed at Weidenborner's,'' said a newspaper reporter.
Weidenborner, a 46-year-old German immigrant, employed 69 people who operated 35 machines, in "a large and constantly increasing wholesale trade in shoes."
They produced a daily average of 250 pairs of shoes in the three-story factory on High Street, opposite the Butler County Courthouse.
Weidenborner had learned the shoemaker's craft in German before coming to Hamilton and opening a small retail shop on High Street. That shop was later demolished to make room for the three-story factory.
Mass production of shoes had been made possible before the Civil War by a pair of Massachusetts inventors, Lyman R. Blake and Gordan McKay. Mass production became necessary during the Civil War (1861-65).
In 1858 Blake invented a machine that sewed soles to the upper parts of shoes. McKay, after buying Blake's patents in 1862, improved the machine, enabling him to produce more than 150,000 pairs of shoes for the Union Army.
The McKay machine was in wide use until the 1870s, and was the type operating in Weidenborner's Hamilton shop in January 1874 when the Hamilton Telegraph visited the operation.
"Hand labor is at a discount, and everything that can be done by machinery is done by machinery more neatly and infinitely more rapidly than the cunningest hand could do it," observed the reporter.
"Twenty-eight sewing machines, one wax thread sewing machine, one McCoy bottom sewing machine, one leveling machine, one McKay heeler, one breaking machine for punching holes in heels, one sandpapering machine — all rattle and roar until one unaccustomed to the din would think that in such apparent confusion and noise, methodical work would be an impossibility," the reporter marveled.
The newspaper said "from the moment the Greaves cutter bites out the sole of the shoe from the leather, to the moment the finished shoe passes to the hand of the packer, each division has its special duty.
"The work comes to each of them as the 'all's well' is passed along the sentry line.'' said the Telegraph. "Where the labor of the one is finished, the labor of the ether begins."
The 1874 newspaper said, "an expert cobbler will sew on a sole in 30 minutes. Weidenborner has a machine that will do the work in 30 seconds, and the finishing and polishing, that by hand is so tedious, is here done by machinery as deftly as expeditiously."
Outside the plant, the reporter found ''a large pile of boxes on the pavement, and Weidenborner standing by, pencil in hand, checking numbers for a 2,000-pair order for a Dayton store.
The writer said "an inspection of the order book showed orders ahead for about 10,000 pairs of shoes."
Other sources report Weidenborner built his business by sending agents into western and southern states.
Later, a national financial panic led to the demise of the High Street shoe factory, forcing Weidenborner to scale down to a retail operation.
In 1876, Weidenborner was elected to the first of two terms as a Butler County commissioner. At the end of this service, he moved to St. Paul, Minn., where he died April 21,1892.
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Monday, December 30, 1991
Seven Mile commemorates its 1841 founding
By Jim Blount
The 150th anniversary of a Butler County village has passed with little notice in 1991. Seven Mile — first known as Utica — was laid out in 1841 by John Walters.
Today, the village straddles St. Clair and Wayne townships in the Edgewood School District, astride U. S. 127 and east of the Norfolk Southern Railway.
There had been an attempt to establish a community in 1806 in Section 32 of Wayne Township, an area that now includes the northwest half of Seven Mile. Jefferson was platted in Section 32 April 15, 1806, by John Patterson, but didn't materialize.
Later, transportation improvements had much to do with Seven Mile's establishment and growth. A turnpike opened in the early 1830s and a railroad reached the town in the early 1850s.
The Hamilton, Rossville, Summerville (Somerville), Newcome (Camden) and Eaton turnpike was built under the leadership of John Woods, a Hamilton businessman, politician and civic leader. Seven Mile was an overnight stop for some traders and travelers who used the turnpike.
The Eaton and Hamilton Railroad was chartered in 1847 and its route was laid out in the winter of 1849 by John W. Erwin and Henry S. Earhart of Hamilton. It opened in May 1852.
The village had its start with the arrival of John Walters in 1838. He bought 40 acres from Robert Brand, who owned 500 acres in Wayne Township and had built a sawmill and a distillery.
Walters built a house and a wagon shop and in 1841 laid out the village of Utica. One of Walters' first real estate customers was Samuel Landis, who is reported to have bought a full block. Soon Stephen Emerick was the town's first merchant and John Boliard (or Bolyard) opened a blacksmith shop. Boliard also was the postmaster when a Seven Mile post office was established in 1838.
The first church is believed to have been the United Brethren, built in 1844. Eight years later the Bethel Church was constructed with the German Reformed and Lutheran congregations sharing the building.
The village's first physician, Dr. Joseph Hippart, arrived in 1849 and died a year later during a cholera epidemic.
John L. Ritter platted the village Oct. 20, 1851, but incorporation did not occur until 1857. The name was changed to Seven Mile because there was another Utica in Ohio.
(Ohio presently has two communities by that name. There is the village of Utica on U. S. 62 at Ohio 13 at the northern edge of Licking County between Newark and Mount Vernon; and a second at a crossroads in Warren County on Ohio 122 west of U. S. 42 north of Lebanon.)
The new name was taken from Seven Mile Creek which is a few yards west of the community.
The first village officials were W. E. Kumler, mayor; John C. Richardon, clerk; Ezekiel Samuels, treasurer; and David Edwards, W. F. Dransfield, John Walter II, J. A. Yeager and Dr. R. E. Pryor, council members.
The Seven Mile Academy opened in 1857, and two years later hired Benjamin R. Hanby as its principal. Hanby is better known as a song writer, including "Darling Nelly Gray" and other Civil War-era tunes and "Up On The Housetop," a seasonal favorite.
A student at the academy — that operated until 1870 — was Dr. John Withrow for whom Withrow High School in Cincinnati and Withrow Court on Miami University's Oxford campus were named.
Another famous Seven Mile resident was the first commissioner of professional baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who moved there with his family after his birth in 1866 in Millville.
According to the first federal census to include Seven Mile the village had 94 residents in 1850. The population grew steadily to 351 at the turn of the century, and had reached 455 people m 1930 at the start of the Great Depression.
Recent population totals have been 549 in 1940 on the eve of World War II, 569 in 1950, 690 in 1960, 699 in 1970, and a 20 percent increase in the next decade to 841 in 1980.
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