Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 1993
Virgil M. Schwarm's interest in Big Blue leads to generous stadium donation
By Jim Blount
When the Hamilton High School football team plays a home game next season, it won't have to ride a bus to reach the stadium. Thanks to a recent $500,000 contribution from Virgil M. Schwarm, plans are underway to return games to the field behind the school. Since 1986, the Big Blue has been playing its home games at Garfield Stadium on the other side of town.
Schwarm, a former Big Blue athlete, has been a Hamilton resident for most of the last 85 years and a successful local businessman for 40 years.
When the 89-year-old investment counselor is asked about his interests, his quick reply is "I've been interested in the Big Blue," which he has demonstrated by regular attendance at Hamilton High School football and basketball games.
His financial support for re-establishing a football stadium at Hamilton High School is not Schwarm's first contribution to the community. Recent examples include money he donated to complete a wrestling room at Hamilton High School, and $75,000 in assistance in 1992 to the Westover Foundation in Hamilton through the Myrna M. Schwarm Trust, which honors his sister.
In 1988 Schwarm provided a $500,000 endowment for the Virgil M. Schwarm Professorship in Finance and Investments at his college alma mater, the University of Cincinnati.
He was born Feb. 17, 1904, in Reily in western Butler County, the son of a teacher. At about the age of five years, he moved to Hamilton with his family when his father took a job with the post office in the city.
Schwarm, a 1922 Hamilton High School graduate, was a member of the Big Blue football and basketball teams, played clarinet in the band and violin in the orchestra and had the leading role in "Nathan Hale," the senior play. He also had a paper route (the Journal) while in high school. He was described in the yearbook as the football team's "handy man . . . playing everything from back to line."
"I was no star in football," Schwarm said, "but in my senior year, I had the distinction of playing every quarter. Everybody then played both ways (offense and defense). I was a guard on defense and played some quarterback and halfback on offense."
HHS home games then were played Saturday afternoons in the infield of the race track at the Butler County Fairgrounds. The team dressed at the school at North Sixth and Dayton streets and rode to the fairgrounds. "We played before what was considered pretty good crowds at the time," he said.
Schwarm recalls HHS teammates -- such as Mark Crawford, Al Stephan and the Redlin brothers, Dave and Ed -- but has "only faint memories of games," which included convincing wins over Richmond, Ind. (20-0), Springfield (41-21), Ada (75-0) and University of Dayton Prep (28-7) and close losses to Cincinnati Withrow (7-0), Dayton Stivers (7-0) and Middletown (14-13) in 1921, his senior season.
He also recalls his coach, Dana King, with fondness. "He was a great coach and a great man," said Schwarm of King, who coached the Big Blue during the 1920s and was successful at the University of Cincinnati from 1931 through 1934 before coaching the original professional Cincinnati Bengals. Later, King returned to Hamilton High as head football coach, continuing through the mid 1940s. In 16 seasons, his Big Blue football teams won 104 games, lost 26 and tied eight.
Schwarm -- whose high school nickname was "V" -- also was a member of the Big Blue basketball team as a six-foot senior, and the yearbook said his "size proved his greatest asset."
Schwarm was planning to go to Miami, but James McFall, a friend and then a senior at UC, talked him into going to Cincinnati. "I played football at UC, and I lettered, but I was never a star" as a halfback, said Schwarm.
He was graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1927 as a commercial engineer (a business course) after completing a five-year co-op program. While at UC, he also earned a commission as a reserve second lieutenant.
Next week's column will cover Schwarm's military and business careers.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 1993
Virgil Schwarm went from dress-making to war to career in investments in Hamilton
By Jim Blount
Virgil M. Schwarm said "I've always had a desire to leave this life a little better than I found it." That, and his intense interest in Big Blue athletics, prompted his $500,000 contribution this fall. His generosity will permit Hamilton High School to play its home football games on the field behind the school instead of making a cross-town bus trip to Garfield Stadium on Fair Avenue.
After graduation from Hamilton High School in 1922, he attended the University of Cincinnati, but his first co-op job brought him back to Hamilton at the Champion Coated Paper Company (now Champion International).
"I started right at the bottom, loading broke (paper to be recycled) for six to nine months as a freshman," he recalled. "When there would be a break on those big machines, the paper would pile up all the way to the ceiling."
His last UC co-op assignment was with Remington Rand Business Service (then known as Cardex Rand Visible Systems) in Cincinnati. He continued with the company after graduation in 1927, working in Cincinnati, Louisville and New York City.
"During the bottom of the Depression, the university (UC) recommended me to manage a business in New York City," said Schwarm, who spent 10 years there. "It was owned by two wealthy women from Pennsylvania. It was a dress-making business, which was not making money."
"Someone there really helped me out in that business. And, when I realized how good she was, I proposed to her. Then we started a business of our own (DeSalle Gowns) on East 53rd Street in New York City. She was Zoe DeSalle," who became Mrs. Schwarm in 1936. "She was acclaimed at the time as one of New York's leading designers," he said.
Early in World War II, Schwarm was called to active duty as a first lieutenant. It was to be a 12-year stint which included service in Italy as an intelligence officer in the U. S. Army Air Corps, attached to MAAF (Mediterranean Allied Air Forces).
At the end of the war, he was sent to the Isle of Capri to command a rest-and-relaxation center there, duty which earned him honorary Capri citizenship in 1947. His extended service also ended his marriage. His wife divorced him when he didn't return when the war ended in 1945.
His active duty ended in 1953 as a major. "I realized then that you don't get very far in the air force without those wings, and I was a ground officer."
In October 1953 he returned to Hamilton to start Schwarm & Company, an investment firm, and joined the Cincinnati Stock Exchange. "I concentrated on mutual funds at that time," said Schwarm, who traces that emphasis to his college days.
"When I was planning on writing a thesis, I realized that the ordinary citizen in those days (1920s) wasn't buying bonds. It was only for the investors with a lot of dough." Schwarm said " I conceived the idea, in writing the thesis, that small investors could buy bonds on the installment plan. I liked the idea of everyone being able to buy, investing a minimum amount every month."
Mutual funds were just becoming popular in the 1950s when he started his business. "Now the funds are an important part of the market," noted Schwarm, who also was a vice president of the National Securities and Research Corp., a mutual fund marketing company, until 1965.
June 30, 1987, he sold his brokerage business, including nine registered representatives, to Queen City Securities Corp., Cincinnati. But he didn't retire.
"I'm still active," said the 89-year-old Schwarm, "and have sales agreements with leading funds. I'm a great believer in professional management of investments, and I know I'm still helping people." Schwarm said "more people are investing now for retirement. They're realizing how much more money they'll need, and more people are considering the impact of inflation on the future."
He has maintained several interests, including golf. He was a founder of Brown's Run Country Club and in 1988 was the oldest participant in a tournament at the course near Middletown.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1993
Coal and rail strikes in 1946 threatened to darken Hamilton and idle workers
By Jim Blount
John L. Lewis had no local connections, but he influenced Hamilton's economy during his 40-year reign (1920-1960) as president of the United Mine Workers. An example was a 59-day coal strike by about 400,000 miners, starting April 1, 1946.
Four weeks later, its impact was evident in Hamilton, which then required a daily average of 150 tons of coal (three rail carloads) at its municipal electric generating plant on North Third Street.
Monday, April 28, Acting City Manager C. N. Teaff imposed a brownout, reducing street lighting in the city and asking that advertising signs and window lights be eliminated or cut back.
Teaff acted as the federal Office of Defense Transportation ordered railroad freight service, except shipments of fuel and food, be curtailed May 10, and that a 50 percent cut in passenger service by coal-burning locomotives start May 15. About 75 percent of U. S. trains then were coal-fueled.
The rail situation was complicated Friday, May 3, when railroad union leaders -- seeking a $1.20 a day pay increase on top of a $1.28 hike ordered in April by an arbitration board -- called a strike for May 18.
Also May 3 Teaff renewed his appeal for voluntarily electric cuts in Hamilton because of the limited coal supply at the city generating plant and the city's frustration in getting a coal allocation from the Federal Fuel Administration. Teaff also asked for reduction in water use because Hamilton's waterworks depended on electricity.
By Monday, May 6, city leaders turned from asking voluntary compliance to ordering Hamilton businesses to eliminate display and decorative lighting. "Failure to comply ," said Teaff, "will result in a business establishment being deprived of electric service." He said the city coal supply was down to 16 days.
The first industrial shutdown came Thursday, May 9, when the Hamilton plant of the Ford Motor Co. closed, idling 750 employees. It wasn't because of a brownout violation. It was part of a nationwide Ford cutback involving 110,000 workers.
Friday, May 10, restrictions began on railroad shipments and the Hamilton post office imposed limits on packages. They were not to exceed 11 pounds and 100 inches combined length and girth.
The Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania railroads temporary discontinued four trains through Hamilton -- two passenger trains on the PRR and two mail-express trains on the B&O. The Cole Brothers Circus -- which traveled by rail -- canceled its annual shows at the Butler County Fairgrounds.
Relief seemed apparent when Lewis called a 12-day truce in the coal strike, starting Monday, May 13. City officials ended the Hamilton brownout Wednesday, May 15, after 14 carloads of coal arrived, giving the city electric plant a three-week supply.
But 10 days later -- Thursday, May 23 -- the economy suffered another setback when a nationwide railroad strike began, stopping the 16 passenger trains and from 20 to 40 freights which passed through Hamilton daily.
Local food dealers initiated voluntary rationing, including limits of one loaf of bread and a quarter pound of butter. Stores had only enough fruits and vegetables to last through the weekend.
The industrial outlook varied. Champion Papers expected to be able to operate at least two weeks; Beckett Paper from 10 days to two weeks; and Estate Stove Company and Black-Clawson about 10 days. Other factories faced indefinite terms.
Saturday, May 25, President Harry Truman issued an ultimatum. Strikers were to return to work by 4 p.m. or the army would take over the trains. Rail workers complied. The first passenger train (Indianapolis to Cincinnati on the B&O) arrived at 9:45 Saturday night, and more than 400 freight cars were dispatched from the South Hamilton yard Sunday.
More good news came Wednesday, May 29, when the coal crisis ended with a contract signing at the White House. Miners won a wage boost and benefit improvements, adding 35 to 50 cents to the cost of a ton of coal.
But John L. Lewis wasn't happy with the pact, and Hamiltonians hadn't experienced the last coal shortage of 1946.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 1993
Second 1946 coal strike darkened Hamilton as winter approached
By Jim Blount
For the second time in seven months, Hamiltonians faced the prospect of dark, cold homes and the suspension of their jobs because of a national coal strike which started Monday, Nov. 18, 1946.
The strike started three days before the deadline set by the United Mine Workers, led by John L. Lewis. The 400,000 coal miners wanted a new contract to replace a pact signed just six months earlier (May 29), ending a 59-day coal strike.
Three days after the second strike began, Hamilton retail coal dealers reported their stock either exhausted or extremely low. Most Hamilton residences were heated with coal, and -- unlike the April-May walkout -- the strike came as winter approached.
The municipal electric plant -- which used about three carloads or 150 tons a day -- had about a two-week supply. Local industries had enough coal to operate from two weeks to a month. Schools expected their reserves to last as much as six weeks.
But the long-term outlook was grim and, as a precaution, the government ordered railroads to suspend 25 percent of the coal-burning passenger mileage.
Friday, Nov. 22, Hamilton became the first Ohio city to react to the crisis as City Manager Frank R. Buechner ordered a brownout in Hamilton. Effective that night, display and commercial lighting was banned and street lighting in business areas was reduced 50 percent.
The next day, Saturday, Nov. 23, the federal government mandated a dim-out in 21 states, including Ohio.
As expected, the situation worsened as the coal strike entered its third week and winter weather arrived. Sunday, Dec. 1, brought the first snow, and Monday, Dec. 2, the temperature dropped to 13 degrees.
With less than a week's supply of coal at city electric plant, a blackout was ordered in Hamilton Tuesday, Dec. 3, as the city manager exercised emergency powers, cutting electric service to industry and business by 70 percent.
Buechner also ordered all street lights turned off, effective Wednesday night. Even the courthouse clock was dark as the Hamilton police department was assisted in patrolling the city by 60 local members of the National Guard, 23 Hamilton auxiliary policemen and 10 officers from the Ohio liquor department.
No burglaries, robberies or assaults were reported, and only one traffic accident was investigated, although vehicle traffic was normal, according to police.
The blackout was to have been tougher the next night, Thursday, Dec. 5, when the city manager ordered cancellation of night-time social functions and meetings by churches, schools and civic groups, including high school basketball games.
Instead, the street lights were on again in Hamilton that night, made possible "by the Champion Paper and Fibre Company in the interest of public safety for the people of this community," explained the Journal-News. The 250 tons of coal was offered to Mayor William Beckett and City Manager Buechner in a meeting with Reuben B. Robertson and Herbert T. Randall, Champion executives.
City officials also were trying to get federal release of coal offered by Armco. The steel company's coal was on barges on the Ohio River at Cincinnati.
"The action by these industries, in the hour of Hamilton's need," said a Journal-News editorial, "brings a thrill to the hearts and minds of the deeply appreciative men, women and children of this community."
Despite the donation, business and industry limitations continued, and Friday, Dec. 6, the Ford Motor Co. sent home 800 workers at its Hamilton plant because the coal strike had disrupted Ford production elsewhere.
Saturday, Dec. 7, all local electric restrictions were lifted when Lewis ordered miners back to work. That weekend 13 rail cars of coal arrived at the city electric plant, and about 21 carloads were expected the next week.
About 2,800 persons -- 18 percent of the 15,700 working in Hamilton factories -- had been laid off during the strike. Most went back to work Monday, Dec. 9.
During the crisis, the government acted to convert the Big Inch and Little Inch pipelines -- built during World War II to carry oil -- to transport natural gas. The lines -- which pass through Butler County on the way from Texas to the New York area -- could carry 50 million cubic feet of gas a day, equal to about 2,000 tons of coal.
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