Journal-News, Wednesday, July 3, 1996
50th anniversary of Iron Curtain 'wakeup call' went unnoticed in 1996
By Jim Blount
Only meager attention was paid earlier this year to the 50th anniversary of an unexpected international wakeup call. It was Wednesday, March 6, 1946, that Winston Churchill warned of the "indefinite expansion" of Russian "power and doctrines." His eye-opening lecture was entitled "The Sinews of Peace," but it has been regarded since as his "Iron Curtain Speech." His strongest words were not part of his prepared speech.
"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent," declared the World War II British prime minister. "Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe . . . in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject," said Churchill," not only to Soviet influence, but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow."
Churchill's speech to about 3,000 people at Westminster College in Fulton, a town of about 8,000 in central Missouri -- was called "one of the major addresses of his long career" by the Associated Press. The story on page one of the Journal-News also described it as "his most pertinent utterance on world peace since he stepped down as Britain's prime minister last June."
Churchill -- who was introduced by President Harry Truman -- delivered the Iron Curtain declaration less than seven months after Japan had surrendered and 10 months after German capitulation
"A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory," Churchill said in alerting Americans to Soviet actions in Europe since the end of World War II. Most Americans had been concerned with "bringing the boys home" and converting business and industry from war production to domestic goods.
"I hope I have started some thinking here today that will make history," said Churchill in an aside to the college president. That he did.
As Churchill spoke, many Hamiltonians were talking about a report that commercial air service was scheduled to come to the city. The Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington, D. C., had recommended approval of plans of Trans-Ohio Airlines Inc.
The Bellefontaine-based company proposed a 1,400-mile network linking 26 Ohio cities, including two routes in and out of the Hamilton Airport. One would have connected Toledo, Findlay, Lima, Piqua, Springfield, Dayton, Middletown, Hamilton, Cincinnati, Portsmouth and Huntington, W. Va. The other would have connected Cleveland, Wooster, Mansfield, Mount Vernon, Columbus, Springfield, Dayton, Middletown, Hamilton and Cincinnati. The airline plan never materialized in Hamilton.
Hamilton Airport, managed by Joe Hogan in March 1946, advertised flying lessons. "Your opportunity to fly under GI Bill of Rights," the ad said. "Applications and information available at airport." News of veterans returning home and veteran programs and organization filled many columns in the Journal-News.
County Recorder Earl R. Hogan reported 812 military discharge papers processed by his office in February 1946. Hogan also noted 67 deeds filed Monday, March 4, believed a one-day record for real estate activity in his office.
U. S. military gas masks -- "lots of fun for the kiddies playing soldier" -- were available for 79 cents each at two Dow's Drugs locations, northwest corner of Second and High streets and northeast corner of Third and High Streets. Sears Roebuck and Co., at 210 South Second Street, promoted new U. S. Army cots at $5.95 each, "mighty convenient for extra beds" because of the housing shortage. Wilmurs, at the northeast corner of Second and High streets, advertised "regulation U. S. WAC slacks" at $3.95 as Churchill sounded his Cold War alert.
Churchill also called for British and American cooperation to foil Soviet aggression in his Fulton speech. Later, Westminster College built the Winston Churchill Memorial and Library to honor the British leader and his ideals. Nearby since 1990 is a relocated portion of the Berlin Wall, which for more than 28 years (1961-1989) symbolized the Soviet repression which Churchill correctly identified in March 1946.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 10, 1996
James Combs Park honors local hero of March 1961 accident in the river
By Jim Blount
A 65-acre Hamilton Municipal Park on the west side of the Great Miami River east of North B Street bears the name of the late James Combs, one of several heroes who responded to a river accident Wednesday afternoon, March 15, 1961.
The drama began when a boat operated by Donald Cornette, 25, of Ridgelawn Avenue, and containing his three-year-old son, Gregory; and David Van Oflen, also 3 and of Ridgelawn Avenue, stalled above the dam north of the Black Street Bridge.
The small craft drifted toward the dam. Cornette grabbed both boys as they were carried over the dam. The trio was momentarily caught in a whirlpool below the apron of the dam. With help, Cornette and his son quickly escaped from the swift, near-freezing water, but the Van Oflen boy was pulled downstream by the current.
Cornette believed he had been assisted by Combs, 25, also a resident of Ridgelawn Avenue. Combs, with Norman Anthony of Hamilton, had been in a parked car near the dam. When they saw Cornette and the boys needed help, Combs ran to the river while Anthony went to a nearby store to telephone for help.
Credited with the Cornette rescue were four members of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad yard crew, who had been working at the Champion Paper & Fibre Co. They were Robert Woolum, Ray Halcomb and Herbert Ely, all of Hamilton, and Alonzo Keith of West Middletown.
From the east bank of the river, an off-duty Champion employee tried to assist Van Oflen, who was wearing a life jacket. Arnold W. Parrett, 22, entered the cold water south of the Black Street Bridge, but became exhausted before he could reach the helpless youth, who was swept downstream.
Hamilton police and fire units, Butler County sheriff's deputies and other rescue crews reached the riverbanks in moments.
A 30-year-old fire truck, responding from the fire station in the nearby Hamilton Municipal Building, broke down on North Monument Avenue. Captain Elbert Davis and his crew carried ropes to the High-Main Street Bridge. Parrett -- who appeared to have gone under twice -- caught one of the ropes near the bridge. Fireman John Furnier, 37, was lowered into the river and held Parrett until help arrived.
It came in the form of a boat piloted by Fred Cupp, 29, a New Miami police officer and president of the Butler County sheriff's boat patrol, and Ben Stivers, a Fisher Body employee.
Meanwhile, Van Oflen passed under the bridge, still in his life jacket . According to dozens of spectators watching from the bridge and banks, he appeared lifeless. That didn't deter Malcolm Orr Cook Jr., 34, who jumped into the river in an attempt to save the three-year-old boy. Instead, Cook was washed onto a pile of driftwood under the Columbia Bridge.
Cupp -- with Stivers, Parrett and Furnier in the boat -- headed downstream and located the boy. About 100 yards south of the Columbia Bridge -- and nearly two miles from the accident scene -- the frightened three-year-old was pulled into the craft. Then the rescue boat collected Cook from the pile of debris.
It wasn't until the Cornettes, Van Oflen and Parrett were taken to Mercy Hospital that it was realized that Combs was missing. Rescue crews returned to the river and started a search. More than a month later, the body of James Glenn Combs was found in the Ohio River by a fisherman. It was recovered near Lawrenceburg, Ind., Tuesday afternoon, April 18, 1961.
"James Combs was a hero in the true sense of the word," said Ohio Gov. Michael V. DiSalle. "He forfeited his own life so that others might live."
The Armco employee, a 1954 graduate of Hamilton High School, left behind a wife and two sons, ages two years and seven months. Later, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission awarded him its bronze hero medal. Parrett and Cook also were honored for their heroic rescue attempts.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 17, 1996
Champion's Dr. Louis H. Frechtling pioneered industrial medicine
By Jim Blount
Dr. Louis H. Frechtling cared for more than aches and pains during his 41-year association with Champion's 102-year-old Hamilton paper mill.
He personified a company philosophy, which, as stated in 1936, said a "fundamental of Champion business is that the employer should use his utmost efforts to provide continual employment for all on its payroll; and that the employee, in return, should render the best service that he is physically and mentally capable of doing."
The Hamilton native was graduated from Hamilton High School in 1899, from the University of Illinois in 1903 and completed medical training in Chicago before opening private practice here in 1906.
Dr. Frechtling, who started as a part-time mill doctor in 1916, initiated education programs in safety, health and sanitation when he began full-time employment at Champion in July 1919. The pioneer in industrial medicine in Hamilton also developed a wide range of mill training programs, and helped start the industrial relations department.
"His word was law," explained Ed Bauer, a mill employee from 1928 until retirement in 1971. "He was practically the personnel man and he settled any personnel problems." Bauer said "anytime a big problem came up, Dr. Frechtling would settle it."
Hamilton's first industrial physician also supervised opening of a 300-seat cafeteria in January 1926, and wrote articles for company publications on diverse health and safety topics, ranging from safety shoes, the problems of aging and the urgency of diphtheria immunization for the children of employees to diet suggestions and cooking tips.
His varied duties didn't limit his attention to employee illness and injuries, said Ed Bauer. "If you were home and got a sore throat, you'd just run down to the mill and see him. The reason they had a doctor, was because they didn't want you taking off for any reason," explained Bauer, who observed two examples of Frechtling fulfilling that policy.
Bauer recalled having two fingers caught between two rollers. "Dr. Frechtling put dressings on them and said go back to work. I said 'wait a minute, I can't work with this hand.' He said 'tell them to give you something you can do, even if it's with a broom.' For about four weeks, I pushed a broom with one hand," Bauer said.
He also recalled a Depression incident when the doctor told a young employee he had appendicitis and needed an operation.
"The kid said I don't have any money, not a penny until payday tomorrow. The doctor said if you don't get the operation, you're going to die. Dr. Frechtling said you get paid tomorrow, that's Thursday. I want you to meet me Friday morning at Mercy Hospital, and bring $10 out of that pay check. That morning, he had the man pay the $3 or $3.50 a day hospital room charge, and then operated on the man. Three days later he dismissed him. He didn't charge him anything for his services," said Bauer.
Sept. 1, 1949, Dr. Frechtling was appointed Champion's coordinator of medical services. He continued to work until his death Dec. 10, 1957, when the Journal-News described him as "one of the most active individuals from the standpoint of civic, professional and fraternal endeavors in the City of Hamilton."
He was on the YMCA board of trustees for 51 years and also contributed his leadership skills to the Hamilton Community Chest (now United Way); the Hamilton Bureau of Social Work; the Workmen's Compensation Committee of the Ohio Manufacturer's Association; Family Service of Hamilton; the Hamilton Area Chamber of Commerce; the Butler County Health and Tuberculosis Association; the Farm Bureau; the Farm Service Cooperative; the Citizens Unemployment Committee; the Butler County Historical Society; the Butler County Republican party; and Masonic organizations.
He also was an examining physician for the draft board during World War I, helped open the first tuberculosis clinic in Butler County, served on the school board in Hanover Township, and was a member of Hamilton's first planning commission.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 24, 1996
Locally-built 1909 automobile, product of Columbia Carriage Co., peaked at 25 mph
By Jim Blount
Would you buy a car that had a top speed of 25 miles an hour? Not in 1996. But when the Columbia Carriage Company built the Hamilton in 1909, motorists seldom had the chance to drive that fast. Thanks to primitive road conditions, 10 mph was swift in that early motoring era.
The 1909 Hamilton was a two-cylinder, air-cooled vehicle with solid tires and an open-sided touring-car body. It sold for $750, including a horn. A windshield cost extra for the locally-built vehicle, which had a top speed of 25 mph.
The Hamilton had "right-hand drive, as did many of the early horseless carriages," noted Tad Burness, whose "Auto Album" column is distributed by North America Syndicate Inc. Within a few years, Burness said, most American manufacturers switched to left-hand drive.
"The large wooden wheels and solid rubber tires made this car adaptable for back-country use on small farms," Burness explained. "However, the Hamilton wasn't a very reliable machine. Ford's soon-to-become-famous Model T was also on the market in 1909; it was a much better engineered car for only a few dollars more."
Ford built 18,664 Model Ts in 1909, about 8 percent of the U. S. output. Four years later, 250,000 Model Ts were built, about 40 percent of the 1912 domestic total.
The Hamilton didn't offer much competition to the Model T or other competitors. Columbia produced only 25 cars in 1909. There was no 1910 model.
For almost 20 years, the company's business had been building horse-drawn carriages. Its factory was on the east side of Central Avenue, opposite the present eastern end of Knightsbridge Drive. Before it was leased by Columbia, the building at 1316 Central Avenue had been the Hamilton Distilling Company. Later, the complex housed a can company and in recent decades the Leshner Corporation.
A city directory, published the year before Columbia began building carriages, verifies it was the era of the horse. The 1889 Hamilton directory listed 15 blacksmiths, 11 livery stables, 10 wagon makers, five carriage manufacturers and one horse dealer, but only one veterinary surgeon.
In addition to Columbia, the recently formed Hamilton Buggy Company reported it was producing about 8,000 buggies, surreys and phaetons a year.
Columbia in its first year (1890) turned out 1,683 carriages. Eight years later, annual output reached 13,000. Sales were still increasing in 1905 when Columbia employed 355 people at its Hamilton plant. In addition, it had eight traveling salesmen, plus more than 50 jobbers in the U. S. and Europe.
While Columbia's business was booming, the "horseless carriage" was still a novelty. In 1900, only 4,192 cars were built in the U. S., but the number increased dramatically during the decade. Columbia tried to join the trend in 1909 with the introduction of its Hamilton. The next year, American auto production reached 187,000. A total of 469,000 cars and trucks were in use in the U. S. in 1910.
In May 1911 -- with the demand for horse-drawn vehicles in rapid decline -- Columbia entered receivership. The plant closed by the end of the year.
The 1912 city directory -- probably compiled at least a year earlier -- still listed the Columbia Carriage Company and the Curleright Carriage Company at the same location.
Thomas L. Curley, president of Columbia, also was vice president and treasurer of the Carriage Woodwork Company, which operated in a West Side factory built in 1890 by the McNeale & Urban Safe Company, H°€milton's first safe manufacturer. From its plant at Millville and Edgewood avenues, the Carriage Woodwork Company produced wooden bodies for other carriage and auto manufacturers.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 31, 1996
Republic autos built in Hamilton; sturdy vehicles resembled Packard
By Jim Blount
"Hamilton to have $500,000 automobile factory," proclaimed a local newspaper July 20, 1909. The announcement said the company, incorporated that day, "will manufacture a high-grade, medium-priced automobile of standard design."
It was the birth of the Republic Motor Car Company, founded by George Adam Rentschler, a well-established Hamilton industrialist. From 1909 until about 1914, the company turned out cars comparable to the more enduring Packard.
There is no known documentation of its production. Records are believed to have been destroyed. Estimates range from 400 to 1,200 Hamilton-built Republics in about five years.
The new corporation bought eight acres from Peter Schwab and converted the former Fair Grove Paper Mill into a car factory. In 1911 it erected a new plant on the site. That building -- which has been occupied for several decades by the W. H. Kiefaber Company -- remains at 1900 Fairgrove Avenue (Ohio 4), opposite the Butler County Fairgrounds.
The 1909 article identified George A. Rentschler, Charles U. Carpenter and George H. Helvey as "the promoters of the enterprise," which also involved Frederick B. Renstchler and Stanley Helvey. A 1911 report listed officers as George A. Rentschler, president; C. U. Carpenter (formerly the president of the Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company), vice president; Gordon S. Rentschler, general manager; Frederick B. Rentschler, secretary and treasurer; C. F. Cousins, superintendent; and C. H. Knowles, engineer.
The cars sold for $2,000 to about $2,400 at the Hamilton factory, which included a showroom.
The "Republic was a rather sturdy powerful touring car with an attractive hood line somewhat resembling the Packard of its day," wrote the late John Slade. "To many admirers, it was somewhat better looking than the Packard," recalled Slade, a founder of the Antique and Classic Car Club of Butler County and an organizer of the annual Hamilton Antique and Classic Car Parade. Most Republics were painted a gray-blue or green, and a few black.
Slade said it "was a partially assembled automobile -- the engine, body panels, fenders, radiator and ignition system were supplied by leading manufacturers, such as Wisconsin Engine Company and Harrison Radiator Company."
Slade said "the Republic plant manufactured and assembled all the chassis and iron work, installed the upholstery and painted and tested the automobiles."
The car, Slade explained, "was at first powered by a four cylinder engine, hand cranked, but with a compressed air starter offered as an extra. The Republic was among the first to be equipped with doors for both front and back seats which gave the automobile a very neat appearance. Headlights were powered by a carbide gas tank located on the running board.
"The Republic adopted a powerful six cylinder Wisconsin engine about 1911 and shortly thereafter came equipped with a Delco starting and lighting system," Slade said.
Why the company closed is a mystery. Some speculate the impact of the March 1913 flood on the local economy may have been a factor. The Fairgrove plant escaped devastation. The nearby levee of the Miami-Erie Canal protected it from the rampaging Great Miami River.
Problems in obtaining critical parts and increasing competition possibly were other factors which ended production of the Republic.
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