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Thinking about Yesterday by Sheila Painter

With the closing of the Sylvania Herald, Sheila Painter's column, "Thinking about Yesterday" has been discontinued. 
The following articles appeared in the Sylvania Herald and are reprinted here with the Herald's consent.  
Published 7-13-2011
Women in History and... Me!

by Sheila Painter

             At the risk of being accused of self-promotion, I want to tell you about an interesting event coming up. The Sylvania Area Historical Society’s next program is Wednesday, July 20 at 7 pm at the Sylvania Heritage Center, 5717 N. Main St. “Women In History” will be performed by local storyteller Sheila Painter.

Yes, that’s me. History will come alive in a fun and entertaining way as I, through Civil War-era costume and accessories will portray several fascinating women of the past with an Ohio or Michigan connection who continue to touch our lives today.  You’ll enjoy seeing first person accounts of Sylvania’s own murder mystery victim, those who pioneered women’s rights, early education models, the wild west, and more. Come prepared to laugh, learn and enjoy! This event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. For more info or questions: www.sylvaniahistory.org or 419-318-9632.

That’s the official press release version. Now, the rest of the story.

I have worked as a professional storyteller for about ten years now. It’s great fun, being paid to talk…I tell my husband he’s so lucky to hear me for free. And hear me, he does, whether he likes it or not….I love to talk. Always have. On my second grade report card, the teacher called me a “little chatterbox”. Over the years, I’ve been a narrator, an emcee, a speaker, an orator, just about every version there is. The local United Way Speakers Bureau had me go out to companies and talk about programs providing community help, and I could bring people to tears of compassion. The spoken word is indeed powerful.

Rather than telling fables to children, I perform more to adults and seniors. Retirement homes, church groups, special interest clubs, tea rooms, you name it. My friends always ask me what I talk about, as they know I don’t get up and tell fairytales. I share a lighthearted look at aging, true tales of embarrassments, mini book reviews, funny animal stories, just about anything. Storytellers are known to tell tall tales, but mine are usually true stories or actual events.

Which brings us to the event on July 20th. Some members of the Sylvania Area Historical Society had heard me around town, performing as women of local history. So they requested I speak to their group, and the great thing is, anyone can come to the event. You may have seen me at a Sylvania cemetery or downtown tour, acting my heart out in my historical dress.

There’s a whole story behind the dress, but I’ll spare you most of the details. A sewer all my life, I had always wanted to try making an elaborate costume. Well, I met my match when I took on a genuine historical Civil War era pattern and sixteen yards of fabric. I was victorious, and resolved to get some use out of the intricate dress. “Women In History” was created around the outfit, as I change accessories right before your eyes to portray different ladies who lived in that era.

I can’t give too much away, so you’re just gonna have to come see me. Wednesday, July 20th, 7 pm at the Sylvania Heritage Center. It’s free, there’s food, and the folks are friendly. What more could you want?!

Published 6-22-2011

Let’s Be Legal

by Sheila Painter

Every now and then, I read of some wacky old law still on the books in a bustling city. Like “It is illegal to walk your pig across a bridge on Sunday.” That got me thinking about whether our city has such ordinances still laying around in dusty old record books.

So I checked the archives at the Sylvania Area Historical Society, and was rewarded with quite a few creative old laws.

In 1919, Sylvania citizens presented a petition to the Mayor and Council to repeal the ban on parking of vehicles on both sides of the street between Blank (now Maplewood) and Monroe Streets. They were seeking “safety to person and property, to save innocent parties from arrest and expense, and to gain good will of the public and strangers.”

1936 shows an ordinance regulating the use of billiard and pool tables, 9 and 10 pin alleys. They couldn’t be played between 1 and 7 pm, or before 1 pm on Sunday. This did not affect those tables or alleys in people’s homes. Violators would pay a fine of $500.

An ordinance in 1920 created the office of Night Watchman for the Village of Sylvania. This person shall be on duty 10 pm to 6 am; the position paid $100 per month. Peddling in the streets and public places was banned in 1924, with no hawking or selling from place to place without a license. It cost $10 for a one day license. It was further ordained by Sylvania Village Council in 1930 that it was unlawful to maintain/operate an open air public dance floor or roller skating rink in Sylvania. .

And there’s more. In 1915, an ordinance was passed that all open air shows, tent shows, circuses, menageries and medicine shows cannot exhibit in Village of Sylvania until the Mayor has issued a license of $5 per day, and $2.50 for each additional day.

I was wondering if any of these old laws still existed. It wasn’t an easy quest, as anyone versed in legalities knows. The City of Sylvania has a splendid website: www.cityofsylvania.com/ with lots of great info. And sure enough, there is a tab at the top labeled Ordinances. You can click on the various Codified Ordinances, and even search. I found, for example, a chapter on “Circuses, Menageries, Carnivals, Etc.”, number 711, and it clearly states that any such exhibition shall give at least one week’s notice in writing to the Mayor. Upon consent, a fee of $50 for the first day, and $25 for each additional day must be paid, not to exceed $150 in one week. In addition, a bond of between $10 and $50 for cleanup must be made, returnable when the grounds were restored. So obviously, the old $5/$2.50 rate from 1915 has been updated.

The current city charter was updated in 1961, and our charming old ordinances were apparently relegated to dusty documents. With hundreds of pages of laws on the website, I didn’t relish the task of reading through them all. And anyway, they don’t show amendments replacing historic rulings. So we can assume we’re safe playing pool, parking on the street or dancing outside in Sylvania.

But just to be sure, you’d better obey the city night watchman, and don’t walk your pig across any bridges.

Published 6-15-2011

The Old Town Slammer

by Sheila Painter

If you watch old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, a few things probably stand out in your mind. The catchy whistled theme song, of course, and the town jail where much action took place. Well, Sylvania had an old jail, too. Barney Fife didn’t lock himself in OUR jail by mistake, but it still has a colorful past!

H. G. Randall was interviewed in the 1940s about Sylvania’s first jail. He said the original jail in town was under the back end of Howard’s stone building, about two lots down from Main Street, on the southeast corner of Main and Monroe. It was a basement room, and served as the local pokey. Mr Randall shared: “One character in town, who was blind and sawed wood for a living, frequently got drunk and was put in the jail to sober up. He usually sang ‘Hard Times in the Sylvania Jail’ there.” Imagine that, we had our own Otis Campbell!

I found a few tidbits about the old jail in the archives of the Sylvania Area Historical Society. There was a cancelled check drawn on Farmers & Merchants Bank of Sylvania dated October 19, 1928. The heading said Clerk’s Office Corporation of Sylvania, Lucas County, Ohio. It stated that the Treasurer of Sylvania Village would pay, out of the general fund, to E. E. Double, the sum of five dollars. It was for “closet seat in jail”, and was signed by Park Wagonlander, Village Clerk. With nothing more to go on, I’m going to assume that Mr. Double was building a bench of some sort for the prisoners. He owned Sylvania Plumbing, Heating and Tin Shop back then.

That could be a whole episode, if we use our imagination. Sheriff Andy Taylor hired the local handyman to build the seat. But Aunt Bea kept getting in his way hanging the new curtains she had made. Little Opie kept spilling the keg of nails, and Barney couldn’t find the keys to the cell. Well, you get the picture. Hopefully, such shenanigans didn’t go on in Sylvania’s jail….

There is a copy of an old undated newspaper article that talks about the old jail. The heading is “A Rickety Jail Blamed for the Death of a Young Man.” It stated that Sylvania was liable to have trouble of its own on account of the condition of its lockup. Ignace S. had brought suit against the village corporation for ten thousand dollars, for the death of his son, Peter S., caused by being confined in the city jail.

The petition stated that Peter was kept in the jail “for some misdemeanor for about two days, and the jail was so poorly constructed and ventilated and not sufficiently heated, and had become damp and unhealthful.” Peter contracted a cold which settled on his lungs and caused his death. It further stated “As he had previously been healthy and robust and was the sole support of his father, the old gentleman considers himself damaged to the extent of $10,000.” I couldn’t find any record of the lawsuit result, and I have removed the last name for family privacy.

Hmmm, there’s no Mayberry episode like that. The singing Darling family might have breezed through town, or Helen Crump may have tried to set a trap to get Andy to marry her, but they sure didn’t show a predicament like this.

It’s a good thing that Sylvania has come a long way since then. Our old hoosegow is long gone, and our city is definitely no Mayberry.

Published 6-8-2011

Sylvania Sobriety

by Sheila Painter


Lucas County held a public meeting on May 1, 1837, and resolutions were adopted, declaring "the most sure and effectual means for preventing drunkenness in the country, to be by imposing a heavy duty on the importation of all foreign spirits, and a like duty on the manufacture of domestic spirits." The Lucas Country Reform Association intended to abolish the means and abolish the crime of drunkenness, to save the country.

I found a copy of the publication The Temperance Cause in the Sylvania Area Historical Society archives. It seems that during the spring of 1881, the Lucas County Women’s Christian Temperance Union was organized in Sylvania. Their object was to disseminate and strengthen Temperance sentiment through lectures and literature. They were active in support of the Second Amendment to the State Constitution, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors within the state.

As well, this organization supported securing scientific temperance instruction in the public schools. In the promotion of these objectives, $1,100 was raised. They firmly believed that if the traffic of liquors was abolished, crime would diminish, good morals would be promoted, and the expenses of criminal prosecutions materially lessened.

One of the Vice Presidents of the Sylvania Chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was Mrs. Julia Lathrop. The same Mrs. Lathrop we all know and love from the now-famous Lathrop House. The house now famous for exemplifying tolerance and love for all mankind, as its occupants helped runaway slaves make their way to freedom. Apparently they could live free, but imbibing alcohol was not a good idea.

Ostensibly, Sylvania was a hotbed of prohibition-flaunting, even as the church ladies held their meetings decrying the use of evil spirits. Now, I’m no expert, and this article certainly is no scholarly thesis on the topic of prohibition and what went on during those times. But I find it interesting that Sylvania citizens seemed to be split on the topic.

Our historic society owns a genuine still, which was donated to the collection years ago. It has been stored in a back room, not part of public display. An elaborate contraption, it’s made up of a large wooden barrel, a couple feet of copper coil, and various jugs and containers. It had never been on display at the Sylvania Heritage Museum, and was only seen now and then by board members venturing into the dusty room with storage items.

But then, a few years ago, the Sylvania Area Historical Society took a table at the Sylvania Expo held at TamOShanter. They displayed information about the society, some interesting local historic items, old photos, a few old board games….and the still. It was quite a production to clean up the old apparatus and transport it to the site. They thought it a worthwhile endeavor, figuring that Sylvania citizens might find it fascinating to see.

A board member had a nagging thought, however. What if it were not legal to display a device for making moonshine? After all, its very existence was against the law at that time. They decided to call the Sylvania Police Department to make sure it would be legal to include such a controversial item in the display. It turned out to be quite an amusing conversation. Once the policeman understood the request, he assured them it would be okay to display the still….as long as it wasn’t in operation at the time. The Historical Society assured them it would not be producing free samples of hooch.

People enjoyed seeing the device at the Expo that year. In this day and age of micro-breweries, homemade wine, and even beer making kits being sold to anyone, nobody raised an eyebrow. A few people discussed the merits of the moonshine recipe. Apparently, you sprout corn, grind it into mash, and ferment it to convert into alcohol. Yeast and sugar are other ingredients, and filtering through a pillowcase was a favored method. It can yield liquor 150 to180 proof, and was mighty powerful white lightning.

Whether such drink was legal, allowable only for medicinal purposes by a licensed physician, or totally taboo, we still must accept this was a controversial part of Sylvania’s history.

Published 6-1-2011
Focus on Flicks
by Sheila Painter

It’s time for me to admit my deep, dark secret. I’ve been writing this column for over eight months now, and you know me well enough to handle this true confession.

I watch old movies on television. There, I’ve said it.

Try to understand. My husband has always enjoyed them, and I resisted for many years. In fact, I painted old movies with a broad brush, calling them “black and white, men in hats.” Whether a gangster conflict, tale of intrigue, love story, cowboys & indians, murder mystery, or classic, I sneered at them all. Set in the 30s, 40s, or 50s, all the men wore suits, the women wore dresses, and everyone wore hats.

But eventually, with a ‘if you can’t beat em, join em’ attitude, I started flopping down on the den sofa and watching. I’d grab some hand sewing and stitch away, only looking up now and then. I justified that I was only keeping my husband company, and hey, these quilt bindings wouldn’t attach themselves. Gradually, though, I began watching more intently, my sewing forgotten as I concentrated on the performances.

I began to recognize Jean Arthur, Olivia DeHavilland, Glenn Ford, Barbara Stanwyck, Errol Flynn, Loretta Young, Rock Hudson, and Gordon MacRae. Then I saw actors I knew from their later work, like Edgar Buchanan, who played Uncle Joe on Petticoat Junction, Howard Keel who I knew from Dallas on TV, and many others. I’d gleefully exclaim how young they looked. Well, duh…they WERE young then! And gradually, I began respecting their craft, when movie stars were really stars, worthy of respect. Many were under contract to a studio, appearing in movie after movie, playing a wide range of characters.

Fred MacMurray used to play bad guys before he portrayed the selfless father on My Three Sons. 21 year old Robert Wagner was marvelous in 1951 “Let’s Make it Legal.” Ernest Borgnine played a sensitive loner in Marty way before I met him in McHale’s Navy. Young Lee Marvin was amazing, as was Lucille Ball before we ever loved her on TV. Seeing Fred Astaire, Donald O’Connor, or Ginger Rogers dancing, was dazzling. And I hadn’t known the mastery of youthful Karl Malden, Walter Brennan or Buddy Ebsen until I saw their old movies of the 30s and 40s.

I appreciate the clothing women wore in these old films. The cinched waists, peplums, cording trims, embellished necklines, and hats that could stand up by themselves. Often, you’d have to imagine the true colors, as only light, dark or shiny would come through on the old monochrome films. But oh, how lovely these outfits were, even in the old westerns!

And speaking of westerns, I began to notice their language, now long gone. Everyone was called ma’am, sir or young’un. Sentences began with “I reckon”, or “I’ll be doggone”. People performed monkeyshines or shenanigans. Women wore frocks and prepared viddles. People would mosey or skedaddle, and visit in the sitting room, parlor, front room, or drawing room. “Fetch my grip” meant “Get my suitcase.” Whatever happened to these juicy old words?!?

I even began to relish the old novelty movies, like “Cinderella’s Feller” with children playing adult roles. The charming yet horrifying MGM’s Dogville comedies with trained dogs who wore clothes and walked upright. The deadpan, expressionless Virginia O’Brien who entertained by singing in a monotone. Each new-to-me “black and white, men in hats” is a gem.

So now you know my secret, my penchant for timeworn flicks. I hope you still respect me!

Published 5-25-2011
Memorial Field, Past and Present
by Sheila Painter

I’ve been asked about the history behind Sylvania Memorial Field. We all know it’s there, but are we aware of the interesting story it holds?

The site was dedicated on May 30, 1950. I looked over the newspaper clippings and dedication program from the event, archived at the Sylvania Area Historical Society, and learned quite a lot.

Much planning went into this project, designed to be used by young and old. Trees and bronze plaques were planted and installed along Memorial Lane, a 16 foot path in circular form. It was intended to be a living memorial for each of the 45 young Sylvania men who gave their lives for their country in WWII.

The 20 acre site was purchased with the money from the sale of the old school site on Main St, plus an additional $600. Developing the site was financed by benefit shows, dances and donations.

Prior to the dedication ceremony, there was a parade of filled school buses stopping at various area cemeteries, with memorial services. Then at the high school, the parade reformed on foot to Memorial Field for the dedication. The event included invocations, American Legion rituals, flag salute, playing of taps, reading of the names, and a 21 gun salute. Many area troops, infantries and battalions participated that day.

The project was sponsored by the village of Sylvania, all sections of Sylvania Township, and various civic organizations.

The long range plans reported in 1950 included tennis and badminton courts, shuffle board, croquet, horseshoe courts, and two stadiums. They also envisioned a regulation size swimming pool with a shelter house. Besides major sporting events, there would be minor sports and activities year round, including roller skating in summer and ice skating in winter.

A long article was included in Student Prints, the Burnham High School newspaper in the May 30, 1950 issue. Superintendent of Schools Ira Baumgartner reported that this Memorial Field was a living and lasting memorial, and what these men would desire. He said “When you surrender your life for your country, you are giving the best you have to give. It would be an insult to our dead and to our community to build anything which isn’t the best.”

The vision foreseen by city leaders in the 50s has been altered over the years, as times have changed. Facilities have been developed in other areas, such as Plummer Pool. The property is still owned by Sylvania Schools, and is leased to the Sylvania Recreation District, who maintains it.

Memorial Field is still a bustling place. There are four baseball/softball fields and a multi-use playfield. Memorial Grove is still a tranquil setting created by Sylvania Parks & Forestry especially for commemorating special people and events. Designed for quiet reflection in beautiful surroundings, Memorial Grove is filled with flowering trees planted on 4 acres. You can create a tribute to a special person, event or memory that will live on in the community for generations through the Commemorative Tree Program. This program offers residents the opportunity to purchase a white or pink ornamental flowering crab tree to be planted in the quiet beauty there. You may also order a custom bronze plaque to accompany your commemorative tree. Call them at 419-885-8992 for more information.

By the way, Memorial Field is located north of Erie Street at the end of Garden Park Drive. Stop by and see it, especially if you’ve never been!

Published 5-18-2011

These Volunteers Hop To It

by Sheila Painter

They call themselves the Frog Ladies. Easily identifiable by the frog pins on their pink volunteer jackets, they devote two mornings a month bringing a bit of happiness to Flower Hospital’s smallest patients.

In existence since 1982, they originally met in members’ homes. Then a few years later, the Flower Hospital Auxiliary adopted the group, and they moved to the hospital, where they’ve met ever since. These dedicated volunteers sew adorable frog shaped pillow toys that are given to children when they have procedures done in the outpatient area of the hospital. Many a tear rolling down a little cheek has been halted by the cheerful stuffed frog laid into the crier’s arms.

Sherry Chesser of surgical services says “The children are thrilled to get the stuffed frogs, and parents are so surprised that this is a free service. We give them out as fast as we receive them!”

Working mostly from donated new double knit fabric and holiday-themed cottons, the women cut the fabric, stuff the bodies, close the openings, and sew on decorative eyes while they attend the in-hospital meetings. Some do the machine sewing at home to assemble the bodies. They joke that they play the role of proctologist or ophthalmologist, depending on the task while sewing the toys. They are grateful for the Auxiliary’s support in covering expenses such as thread and stuffing.

Many in the group are getting on in years and have health or ambulation issues, so their number is decreasing. Barely able to keep up with demand, the Frog Ladies are hoping to add some new members to the sewing group. Ironically, sewing skill is not required, as stuffers and cutters are always welcomed. Embroiderers who can sew a simple buttonhole stitch are much needed, notes Carol Spahlinger, Frog Ladies co-chair.

The group seems to be a well-kept secret, as many Flower Hospital staff are unaware of their existence. But the first and third Tuesday mornings of each month, these cheerful ladies are happily busy creating little washable masterpieces in the Flower Hospital atrium area. Ever optimistic, they muse that it would be great to increase production to include distribution to the hospital emergency room area.

So now the call is going out for volunteers to join the group. Shirley Bettinger, one of the original group members, admits “I don’t even live in Sylvania, but I’m involved because I enjoy the friendship and the opportunity to serve the children.” The women make the frogs from 9 am to around 11:30, then enjoy a free lunch in the hospital cafeteria. They quip that they work for food, and declare the cafeteria offerings are really quite delicious.

Flower Hospital Director of Volunteer Services Barbara Arnold says “It’s an easy process to become a volunteer at the hospital. We can always use more helpers, and this sewing group is such a valuable part of our hospital family.” She invites anyone interested in the Frog Ladies group, or many other volunteer opportunities, to call her at 419-824-1019.

I could close with a statement about the Frog Ladies being a ribbet-ing group, but I won’t!

Published 5-11-2011

The Mating Game

by Sheila Painter

A really interesting event is coming up, and I want to tell you about it.

On Wednesday, May 18th, Randy Brown, the Curator of Wood County Historical Center & Museum, will be presenting the program “Dating Through The Decades”. 7 pm is the time, Sylvania Heritage Center at 5717 N. Main Street is the place, and the Sylvania Area Historical Society is the host.

Now this is NOT about carbon dating old relics….this will be an enjoyable look at dating rituals and icons over the years.  Most of us have a totally modern view of how to meet prospective mates, and can’t even imagine the formality of calling cards (that DOESN’T mean phone cards!). We can’t even wrap our heads around the idea of chaperones and parental supervision of the Victorian-era. Even if we can identify with the increased freedom of women of the Depression, we women of today wouldn’t dream of throwing on our flapper dresses, using the secret signal of three knocks on the speak-easy door, and trying to meet men in the clandestine, smoky environment of the forbidden watering hole. Oh wait, maybe SOME of that still works….

We probably remember the 1950s sock-hops, and a handful of poodle skirts might still reside in a few Sylvania closets or attics. And the drive-ins with their mayhem of socializing at the snack bars are perhaps part of our personal history. But we can’t deny how social rituals have certainly changed over the years.  Those early days are a world away from modern-day speed dating and online dating sites.

I remember as a teenager attending a youth group dance that had a futuristic twist. We each filled out little questionnaires when we arrived, of personal characteristics and desirable traits in a potential partner. Things like sense of humor, patience, intelligence, good looks, etc. The answers were recorded on little cards that were fed into something called a computer. Halfway through the evening, each of us was presented with our ‘match’, and the potential of romance beckoned. We girls excitedly opened up our envelopes, nervously giggling as we looked around for the dream guy we now were supposed to dance with.

The name of my match was unfamiliar to me, and upon meeting him, I realized he had no desired characteristics. And I suppose mine were not on his list either. I don’t remember what happened after that. But now, looking back, I have a feeling the whole thing was a hoax, a gimmick, just something to make the evening a bit different. Come to think of it, back then, if there even was such a thing as a computer, it would have taken up the whole building we were in. And how could that dating service company have transported it to the event?!

Then again, maybe I had witnessed an early precursor to modern online dating services. Perhaps, as a gangly, awkward teenaged girl, I had been given a glimpse into the future. And the future is now!

So come learn more about dating through the decades, and have a giggle or two!  The meeting is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. For more info or questions:  www.sylvaniahistory.org or 419-318-9632.




Published 4-27-2011

The Help, Sylvania-style
by Sheila Painter

Sometimes I ask my friends for suggestions on article ideas. Recently, a group of us were discussing a wonderful book, “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s a description: “Limited and persecuted by racial divides in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, three women, including an African-American maid, her sassy and chronically unemployed friend, and a recently graduated white woman, team up for a clandestine project against a backdrop of the budding civil rights era.”

One pal suggested I should interview Sylvania maids, in the style of this book, and put their comments in an article. That didn’t seem to fit the nature of this column, but I like to honor people’s input, so I came up with a compromise.

Tying the topic of household help into an article on Sylvania history is actually quite easy. Did you know that our city once had TWO indentured servants? It’s true, and the Sylvania Area Historical Society has the original documents to prove it!

The legal paper titled “Indentures for binding out a poor boy” is dated October 29, 1862. It seems that Hannah Barrington had an eleven year old son named James. She was unable to support the child, and turned him over to the County Infirmary of Lucas County. Directors there signed over this boy as an apprentice to Calvin Hagerman of Sylvania. Young James was to be taught the trade of farmer and to live with and serve Mr. Hagerman as an apprentice, until he turned twenty-one years old.

The document noted that Mr. Hagerman agreed to instruct the poor boy, cause him to be well, and taught in the trade and occupation of farmer in the best manner that he could. Further he was to be taught to read, write and cypher, and be trained in habits of obedience, industry and morality. It also stated he should “…provide for meat, drink, washing, lodging and apparel for Summer and Winter; and all other necessaries proper for such an apprentice….and at the expiration thereof, shall give to said apprentice, a new bible, and at least two suits of common wearing apparel.”

The document was signed and witnessed, and filed with the township clerk for the fee of forty cents. No further paperwork exists in this matter.

The other case involved Minerva Charter, a six year old girl. She, too, was turned over from the Lucas County Infirmary. A Sylvania man named William Lenardson agreed to support and maintain her as an apprentice, teaching her the occupation of housekeeping, until her release at the age of 18 in 1868. The document specified she should be sent to the common school at least two months each year to acquire a knowledge of writing and arithmetic, if she proved “capable of learning”. She, too, was to receive “two suits of clothing and a testament”.

It is assumed that James Barrington, having turned twenty-one in 1872, was turned out, with his bible and extra suit in a twine-wrapped bundle. Or did Mr. Hagerman come to love the poor boy as a son, and keep him on like family? Perhaps little James ran away. We’ll never know. I prefer to imagine the scenario that James fell in love with Minerva Charter on the neighboring Sylvania farm, got married and lived happily ever after.

And by the way, I do recommend you read Kathryn Stockett’s book. The library has multiple copies in lots of formats, including large print, downloadable, and on CDs. Choosing the audiobook requires an investment of eighteen hours as you listen to 15 discs, but it’s worth it, as each character has her own voice.

Nothing like Sylvania’s indentured servants, but still worthwhile!

Published 4-20-2011
Miscellaneous Memories: Readers Speak
by Sheila Painter

I recently read a sign that said “In two days, tomorrow will be yesterday.” For some reason, that gave me a feeling of satisfaction, like we’re all living in the past. Here are some contributions from local citizens about the old days.

Sylvanian Douglas M. Roy thinks back: I remember going to Howards Gas and Oil on the corner of Main and Monroe where the park is now.  They were the last locally owned station, I recall and were gone by the late 70's. Also, the fire department used to flood what is now the parking lot at Memorial Field so that we could skate.  I remember putting on my skate guards and walking across the street with a shovel to make a hockey rink for impromptu games with neighborhood kids.  It was difficult to transition to Tam-O-Shanter, because we got used to skating on bumpy ice.  Frozen toes were a real issue in those days as we did not want to come in. Also, we used to have a community talent show at the Burnam Building. 

Overheard recently at the Sylvania Senior Center:

Elderly Man: My family had the old Hudson dealership in town.

Senior Woman: You mean, back when you could buy a new car for $1000?

Another Elderly Man: Yeah, I bought from him. He overcharged me….I paid $2000!

Sylvania Historian Trini Wenninger on social networking sites, and their role in historical interests: When the internet was still new to me, I sought out online communities of people like me, and was pleased to find other people throughout the country with the same historical interests. Now I use Facebook to keep up with others and organizations. Among my online contacts, I have some that portray various time periods, others that participate in Civil War reenactments, and yet others that focus on all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can also follow historical happenings, being connected with historical societies and groups. If I have a question, it's like having a panel of experts at my fingertips.

Vikki (Bonkowski) Marshall responded to a previous column on Bean Festivals: I was a Bean Queen contestant in fall ‘75. If I remember correctly, the contestants were required to be high school seniors.  I was among the seniors that graduated in 1976, the last year of Sylvania High School.  The next school year was the beginning of Northview and Southview. We rode in a parade that morning (in the back of convertible cars, no less) and the competition was in the evening. The contestants had to model casual and formal wear.  We also had to answer a question from the judges, like "if you could marry anyone in the world, who would it be?"  I was lucky enough to be first runner-up, beaten by Bean Queen Linda Ice, who was crowned by the previous year's winner.    Our picture was featured on the front page of the Sylvania Sentinel. The Bean Queen contest was the highlight of the festival, which was quite small, with a few rides, games and concession stands.  However, we had fun! Thanks for the memories!

Former Sylvanian David Miller used to work at the Allen V. Smith bean packing plant described in that column. He was 16, and would unload box cars, weigh the beans, sew storage bags together, and run the tow motor. He recalls it was hard work, especially going into the hopper to clean it out, but he had fun.

Sylvania Historian Gayleen Gindy reminisces about her youth: Downtown Sylvania was awesome when I was a kid. Western Auto, a pet shop, art gallery, Hale's Drug Store, bowling alley, bike shop, Lindau Drug with their soda fountain, the bakery, post office, and Sterling Milk Store, known for their shelves and shelves of penny candy. 

I often hear references to how nylon stockings were in short supply during wartime. I can’t help but think if that happened today, nobody would notice.

So, do YOU have old Sylvania memories?? Share them at SylvaniaHistory@gmail.com or 419-318-9632 and they could appear in a future column!

Published 4-13-2011

A Coat Tale

by Sheila Painter

It all started when I attended Sylvania’s Holiday Happenings last December. There was an antique coat on a mannequin displayed in the parlor of the Sylvania Heritage Center. It was beautiful, slightly regal, in a rich tan color with ornate embellishments and high slits. The sign said COAT OF MRS. ULYSSES GRANT (JULIA GRANT), 18th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

I was surprised that such a garment was here in Sylvania, Ohio. How could that be? I learned that someone had donated the coat to the Museum several years ago, and this was the first time it was on display.

The presence of this coat simmered in the back of my mind. I did some research. I learned that Julia Dent was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She married Ulysses S. Grant, was First Lady of the United States from 1869 to 1877, lived in Illinois and Washington DC and traveled extensively. She died in 1902 at age 77.

So how would her coat end up in Sylvania, Ohio?!? Photos of her are not exactly plentiful, and none showed her wearing this garment, so I contacted the donor.

Nancy Graumlich, a Sylvania resident, has lived in Indiana, Oklahoma and New York. But she was at a garage sale in Blissfield, Michigan when she saw this coat. The owner was a retired librarian, and Nancy thinks this lady was a relative of the Grant family. She purchased it, took it with her through several moves out of Ohio, and even wore it a few times. Did Nancy feel regal when wearing the coat? She admitted she thought she looked dumpy in it.

There was no other information on the coat’s background. Honestly, I didn’t feel this confirmed or denied the authenticity of Julia Grant actually owning it. It was time to get serious in this quest, so I turned to some experts.

A flurry of emails and photos made the rounds between Civil War buffs. Experts of the Civil War Roundtable, Wood County Historical Museum, and the Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal passed the email on. It made its way to the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site near St. Louis, where Curator Karen Maxville examined the coat photos. She acknowledged that Grant-related items turn up all over the country, and knows that Ulysses S. Grant’s father had siblings believed to have remained in Ohio.

But Ms. Maxville had serious doubt over its connection to Julia Grant. She said that Mrs. Grant wore mourning clothes after her husband died in 1885, so it is extremely unlikely she would have worn such a garment.

More telling, is the fact that Mrs. Grant died in 1902, and this garment seemed more recent. I turned to Trini Wenninger, local historian with an interest in period clothing. She polled her team of historical clothing experts, and the authenticity is indeed in question. The garment style and ribbon details are mid to late 1910s, with characteristics of Neo-Empire, but its asymmetry pushes it closer to the 1920s. The high slits and front closures seem more indicative of a lined duster or dressing gown, rather than a coat.

These are all educated guesses. Perhaps the garage saler created an interesting story to help the item sell, or maybe it had been worn by a later relative of the Grants. Or the family lore could have been skewed over the years. We’ll never know. But the Sylvania Area Historical Society owns a beautiful, unique article of period clothing, and are glad to have it in their possession. The story behind it and what it actually is, is still open for debate. 

You can see this garment and decide for yourself. The Sylvania Heritage Center Museum at 5717 N. Main is open Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. There’s a display of vintage wedding gowns and memorabilia there now, so it’ll be a fun visit.

I’ll close this story with the old riddle: Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb? Answer: Ulysses S. Grant, and his wife, Julia Dent Grant. And she’s not wearing this coat.

Published 4-6-2011

A Virtual Trip Down Memory Lane
by Sheila Painter

Don Milne of Saginaw, Michigan has a vision. As a boy in the 1960s, he fell in love with travel and freeways. His dad at the wheel, he relished the sights whizzing past his window. And now, fifty years later, Don is bringing his memories to all of us.

ROADTRIP-’62™ is a virtual trip on the internet. It’s a travelogue slightly different from other travel sites, in that

everybody else travels only in space, but he invites us along to travel also through time!

The first virtual road trip at http://www.roadtrip62.com/ will be down route US-23, from Mackinaw City, Michigan to Jacksonville, Florida. He’ll be posting a leg of this imaginary journey every other week, and he started in February. Now here’s the Sylvania connection….a few weeks from now, he’ll be ‘passing through’ our area! He’s looking for photos, advertisements, and events that went on or near US-23 in Sylvania for OUR leg of the trip!

As well, Don offers in-depth discussion of some of the differences between 1962 and today. You can expect politics, transportation, pop culture, people, historical events, and just about anything that pops into his head. And of course, he’ll be attempting to show the fun of cross-country driving. He remains a true fan of car trips to this day, having criss-crossed this country by car many times.

The site will show highways as they were in 1962, try to eat only at restaurants that existed in 1962, try to stay only at motels that existed in 1962, try to buy gas and sundries, play the music, see only the sites across America, and just generally live in America as it was in 1962. It won’t be easy, because a lot has changed in almost 50 years. So he needs our help!

Look through your old photo albums, and send local 1962 memories/photos to him at contact@roadtrip62.com, or mail copies to him at ROADTRIP-‘62™, 2292 Durham Dr, Saginaw MI 48609-9234. The Sylvania Area Historical Society has provided him with some local material they have collected.

He’ll be doing the driving on ROADTRIP-'62™, but if you see anything you like, he encourages us to get out on the road and enjoy it in person. A virtual road trip may be fun, but there's nothing like the real thing! To help, there will be plenty of links to places he discusses so you can plan your own REAL road trip.

I’ll admit that 1962 was cool! Although I didn’t grow up around Sylvania, I remember the carefree days of my youth in the 60s. US-23 is now a four lane highway on the east side of Sylvania, but it was a simpler road in ‘62. It doesn’t run through my hometown, but I wish it did. I’d love to experience the rush of wind through my hair as my family drives through Sylvania, the car windows open, my dad driving, my mom with her purse on her lap, and my sister pinching me in the back seat. Well, I don’t miss the pinching, but it’d sure be fun to be young again!

So visit http://www.roadtrip62.com/, buckle up, and keep checking back for the trip through OUR city! And if you see Don Milne tooling down 23 with his top down, be sure to wave!


Published 3-30-2011


Full of Beans

by Sheila Painter

The Sylvania history books state there was an annual Bean Festival, from the late 60s to the late 70s. Not having grown up here, I wondered what that was all about. Why beans? Amused, I imagined a bean queen. So I started researching this event, and discovered, among other things, there was indeed a bean queen each year!

The Allen V. Smith Inc. company was a bean packing and processing plant in Sylvania. It was built in 1951 adjacent to the railroad behind the Southbriar shopping center. It was located here because of its proximity to nearby farmers, and was Sylvania’s only local industry at the time. They packed beans under the label Smith Old York and others. 26 varieties of beans, barley and split peas were handled at the plant, over 1 ½ million pounds processed per month.

In a 1973 Sylvania Sentinel article, they paid homage to the bean, explained why there was a bean festival since 1969, and included this anecdote: “A recent incident at the plant brought about a temporary distaste for beans for one employee. He looked at the railroad car of loose beans, and thought it would be fun to jump in. It wasn’t. Buried to the neck, he had to be pulled out by a tow chain, and shivered for two hours afterwards, not realizing how cold a bean could get.”

Held on the grounds of the Democratic Club on Centennial Road in the early years, the festival was a nonpartisan affair and a true community event. In 1972, it was held at Whetstone Park behind Starlite Plaza. The programs were planned by the Sylvania Jaycees, St. Francis Guild, and Knights of Columbus.

In 1974, Sylvania’s mayor Warren Schuster had the great idea to have Orson Bean as master of ceremonies for the bean festival. The famous celebrity was duly invited. Alas, he couldn’t make it, as he was appearing on eighteen talk shows that week!

Each year boasted different menus, activities and entertainment. Served was, of course, bean soup, using an old farm recipe, and bean dinners. As well, there was cornbread, spaghetti, and other delectables. There were dunking booths, creative dried bean dish contests, parades, sky divers and more. The multi-day celebrations were quite fun, apparently, and Sylvania residents threw themselves into the festivities enthusiastically. [but not into the railroad car!]

Miss Bean was selected from thirteen candidates by “an impartial panel of mayor, grocer, beautician and editor.” I assume these were various young ladies from Sylvania schools, and they probably wore the title proudly, as well as lovely gowns, tiaras, and sashes.

Hey, I just had a thought. Were YOU or a member of your family ever a bean queen or runner-up? Share your memories by emailing to SylvaniaHistory@gmail.com or calling 419-318-9632 and it could appear in a future column!


Published 3-16-2011


A historian speaks

Here’s the scoop on another of Sylvania’s historians. Trini Wenninger grew up in the Southwest, where her love of history developed while doing living history programs. She moved to Sylvania, and has immersed herself in local history. She co-authored “Images of America: Sylvania” with Gaye Gindy, published by Arcardia Publishing in 2006, and also wrote two books related to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.

A historian by degree, Trini and her family live in a historic home in downtown Sylvania built in 1902. With numerous owners and boarders before her family, this house has a special appeal. Trini doesn't mind the quirks that come along with older homes - the squeaky floorboards, non-standard sized windows and doors, the lack of closet space, or the narrow stairs. She feels it just gives them character!

While much younger than many other history lovers, she admits it’s rare to find individuals of her generation who appreciate the past. In the last fifteen years that Trini has been involved in this area, she has seen a decrease of people of all ages interested in history. It saddens her, especially that students are graduating from American schools with an extremely loose grasp on American history. Is there a way to make it more interesting to younger people? She said that unfortunately, our system is set up for children to mindlessly memorize historical facts. Beyond school, many children get little exposure to history. And, much of what they are exposed to is sugar-coated. Children need to be able to place historical facts into context and they must be able to ask why things happened.

This fan of history enjoys dressing up in period costumes for reenactments, and has appeared in many Sylvania historical tours. She thinks that all of the women she has portrayed are interesting, but one of her favorite roles was that of a post-Civil War era military wife in the Southwest. Of the women who traveled west in the late 1800s, some found it a thrilling adventure, and others found it the most inhospitable place on earth.

When asked what famous people of history she would enjoy having over for dinner, Trini decided on two she would very much like to talk to. Louis Bromfield and Rose Wilder Lane were both authors with a deep passion for American freedom, and she assumes they'd get along quite well and have a lot to talk about over dinner. Trini also imagines they'd both rant and rave about the government. She would have lots of questions to ask Bromfield about his farm in Ohio.

A woman of many interests, Trini has taught genealogy workshops at the Sylvania Heritage Museum. She advises that the most important thing everyone should know about researching their ancestors, is to be ready for surprises - both good and bad. You may find out a family legend is not quite as legendary or a relative was not as perfect as everyone thought. This may also not sit well with older family members who may still be living. So, you may want to be discreet with what you discover, she notes.

This talented author is currently researching the history of the Toledo Farmers' Market, and plans to write a book that combines its history, along with photos, recipes, and shopping tips. She is excited about the project, as it combines two of her interests - history and local food. If you have anything to share about Toledo's Farmers' Market, she welcomes contact through the historical society at SylvaniaHistory@gmail.com or 419-318-9632.



Published 3-9-2011


Beyond the Bench

By now, you’ve probably read the publicity on next week’s Sylvania Area Historical Society (SAHS) meeting. It’s on Wednesday, March 16 at 7 pm at the Sylvania Heritage Center, 5717 N. Main St. Judge Scott Ramey will share the interactive presentation: "Ben Franklin: The Early Years". As well, the SAHS 20th anniversary will be celebrated that night that I told you about last week. [if you missed looking back at the group’s formation, go to www.TheSylvaniaHerald.com and click on Columnists to find my last column]

So you know something about SAHS and Ben Franklin. But what about our esteemed lecturer for the evening? What do you really know about Sylvania Municipal Court Judge Scott Ramey?

He is serving his fourth term as Judge, having been elected four times since 1987. Very active in professional activities and community service, Judge Ramey keeps very busy.

When I think of historical judges, I recall powdered wigs, and riding their circuit on a mule. The bench has greatly changed over the years, however. Judge Ramey notes that the powdered wigs stayed in England. The mules are long gone and some prisoners are now coming to him by video conference. The biggest difference he sees, is that like our society, the law is much more complex than it used to be.

What would be different if he served as judge when Sylvania was founded in the 1830s? He admits that he would be riding a circuit covering a very large area. There would be few laws for him to apply so he would have had more discretion in making a decision. He would have had little if any training, as there were no law schools in the Midwest.

He has enjoyed history since he was very young. When he has time, he reads history in a somewhat chronological order. He has studied King Richard the Lion-Hearted and Daniel Boone extensively, and, finding them fascinating, has given presentations on their lives.

Asked what era he would most like to experience if rewinding the years were possible, Judge Ramey gave it some thought. He admits there are so many intriguing periods he would like to experience, but the period he is currently concentrating on, is the American Revolution. That would be his first choice, because there are so many interesting people of that era he’d like to meet. Since he hasn’t yet completed studying the American Revolution, he asks that we not tell him who wins, as he is enjoying the suspense!

Reading a variety of books is how this lover of history soaks up the facts. He notes that

today’s information on the web has provided access to much more material than ever existed before, but not all of it is accurate. The internet and Wikipedia can give a taste for a topic, but for in depth understanding, more extensive research written by experts is necessary.

Besides reading for pleasure, his hobbies are gardening, golf, and salt water fish. Just to be clear, I asked Judge Ramey if I were to run into him at the grocery store, what should I call him? His answer: Judge, Your Honor or Scott.

So come hear Scott enlighten us on “Ben Franklin: The Early Years” next Wednesday, March 16th at 7 pm. Benjamin Franklin was a writer, inventor, diplomat, businessman, musician, scientist, humorist, civic leader, and international celebrity. Did he really write “Poor Richard's Almanack”, fly that kite in the storm, and invent bifocals? Learn what made him such a genius in this interactive, entertaining presentation. The meeting is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. For more info or questions: www.sylvaniahistory.org or 419-318-9632.

I’ll see you there!

Published 3-2-2011

Fond Memories and a Party

With snow piled so high in my Sylvania neighborhood, I had been throwing stale bread outside on the driveway for the squirrels. It always disappeared, and I never knew who found it. But one day last month, I had proof: I saw a flurry of tiny footprints in the dusting of snow, and the bread gone. It was a squirrel party!!

Speaking of parties, this month marks the twentieth anniversary of the Sylvania Area Historical Society (SAHS). A group of interested people got together on March 20, 1991 at the Sylvania library for their very first meeting. I looked in SAHS records, and found the minutes from their May meeting, and it is quite interesting. They had organized and gotten busy so quickly!

The Genealogy Committee was researching important “first families” in Sylvania. The Historic Survey Committee had given a slide presentation on the various styles of architecture in the area, and was busy researching Sylvania’s historic buildings. The Inventory Committee was working on cataloguing boxes in the basement of the Toledo Memorial Park building. The Constitution Committee announced the constitution was being finalized, and members could run for various positions. It was reported that members, the mayor, school superintendent, and various lawyers were working on acquisition of a permanent building for SAHS.

The program for the evening was Marge Fitkin, whose family came to Sylvania in 1927, and she told fascinating tales of local history. For example, she remembered when the king of the gypsies died. He was shown at Reeb’s Mortuary, and a Sylvania band was hired to play. She also shared that when she worked at the Red & White grocery store in Sylvania, customers would call in their requests. Employees would assemble the orders and deliver for free.

As well, she reminisced about attending the old school on Main Street. In the classroom was the teacher’s and children’s desks, a flag, one light and a picture of George Washington. And nothing else. She also remembered there was an old iron fire escape they used for safety drills, and it was so scary to her as a youngster.

Anyway, I promised you a party. The SAHS’s next meeting is Wednesday, March 16 at 7 pm at the Sylvania Heritage Center, 5717 N. Main St.  Judge Scott Ramey presents "Ben Franklin: The Early Years". The meeting is free and open to the public, and they really hope you’ll come. After the program, there will be an old-fashioned anniversary party with refreshments. I’ll tell you more about the program and Judge Ramey next week, and you won’t want to miss it!

Meanwhile, during this twentieth anniversary month of our local historical society, this is the perfect time to join! One year membership fee is $25 for Family, $18 for Individual, and $5 for Student. You can make checks payable to Sylvania Area Historical Society and mail to them at 5717 N Main St, Sylvania, OH 43560, or pay in person during your visit to the Heritage Museum. Dues help fund their work toward the preservation of the past so that present and future generations of Sylvania might have evidence of their great heritage, thus making the present more meaningful to all. What a wonderful way to show your support for Sylvania’s precious past!

For more info or questions:  www.sylvaniahistory.org or 419-318-9632.


Published 2-23-2011


Historic Picture Books

Have you read a child’s book lately?

I’ve read over 300 of them, and they’re all winners!

The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association since 1938. It is presented to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children during the preceding year. Honor Books are the runners up, usually two to five titles that deserve recognition as well. There are many different awards out there, but this one is for picture books.

The distinguished gold seals on the winning books are a perk to those authors. Besides increasing sales, they assure parents that between those covers, a quality children’s story and inviting illustrations are contained.

Our library system holds their own judging each year at the downtown branch, inviting those interested to peruse the over 100 eligible books. Local voting determines local winners, and it’s interesting that very little overlap occurs with the actual Caldecott awards.

Just out of curiosity, some years ago, I went back and read every winner and runner up book since the Caldecott Medal’s inception in 1938. Sounds odd, I know. But I didn’t have to buy them; our library had them all…at least they did then. Now I continue to read the official and local winning books each year when they are announced.

And no, I have no little children to read them to. But trust me, it was and is an interesting experience. I respect the Association for Library Service to Children selection committee who has the daunting task of selecting the winners.

I’m no expert, but I have observed how children’s literature has changed over the years. Winners in the 1930s and 40s were mostly bible stories, poems, nursery rhymes, folk tales, or stories with animal characters. Simple, childlike. The 1950s, 60s and 70s winners also included lots of Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak and stories that were songs or singsong verse. More creative, clever. 1980s and beyond winners began to offer stories that reflect the time. Edgier, funky illustrations, alternative lifestyle stories, drawings that look like photos, or made up of torn paper, found objects, etc. Minorities, historical figures and classic tales revisited all were represented. Many winning books in the 2000s have me quizzically shaking my head, not sure if I even understand them.

I asked Heidi Yeager, Children’s Librarian II at our Sylvania library branch, for her take on the subject. She said, "If we are to instruct, guide, and promote Early Literacy in our children, we have to appeal to ourselves when choosing books.  If we aren't enthused about a subject, how will we generate excitement in our children? Subsequently, we create, produce, and publish works that reflect what we hope will be connections for our children. I don't think this has changed over time, merely accelerated in the very competitive children's literature marketplace of today."

 You may have grown up with the poky little puppy, a curious monkey, or making way for ducklings, and the hotel-dwelling Madeline may still be your favorite. The emotions evoked by certain story books are closely tied to feelings of love, relationships, and our carefree youth. But prepare yourself for a true learning experience, and dive in to this reading project of evolving sensibilities. Go ahead, try this captivating reading project. Lists of Caldecott Medal winners are easily found online, all the way back to 1938. Or ask your librarian for help.

And if you have a child or grandchild to read the books to, so much the better!


Published 2-16-2011

Elusive Memories

I write wonderful columns in my sleep. Deeply philosophical, great topics, Pulitzer-Prize-winning works to stir the soul. But by morning’s light, I can’t even remember what they were about.

Dreams are difficult to recall. But memories of our past are a different story.

I can remember how customers had to parallel park at the old Sylvania Post Office on Main Street, and that if I couldn’t find a spot I could just pull into, I would drive around and around until I found one. That site is now an office building, and I don’t know if clients have to parallel park.

Getting a pedicure at the beauty salon on the northeast corner of Sylvania at McCord is vivid in my memory, because it was in a building that once housed the Church of the Nazarene (before that, it was a school). It’s now a RiteAid at that corner.

Looking back at ancient yearbook photos, the seniors always look so funny looking and old. Old-fashioned hairstyles, dated eyeglass frames and clothing always made them appear to be about 30 years old. I righteously felt that didn’t apply to MY generation. Yet, if I happen to see a bevy of prom goers at a restaurant in the spring, I always think, “Gosh…look at those dresses, and their hair, and their makeup! I can’t believe they’re in high school!” So logically, I guess my senior photo is just as dated.

I just read the new book written by Marlo Thomas. You know her, she’s married to Phil Donahue, the old talk show host. She was the star of “That Girl”. And she was the real-life daughter of Danny Thomas of “Make Room For Daddy”, one of my favorite old shows. Read this paragraph to anyone under thirty, and they’ll say “Who???”

Remember when if someone received annoying crank phone calls, they’d have to file a police report? Then a tap would be installed on their phone line to find out who was making the calls. There was no such thing as caller ID then; it would have made the process so much simpler. And long distance calls were so expensive, it was a special occasion to call someone far away!

There are many more Sylvania memories I can recall, like when Sylvania branch library moved into the Major Magic plaza while they were renovating their building. I took my kids for storytime there, and it looked so weird, seeing the books crammed into such a tiny storefront space. Many items were in storage for that year and not even available. I’m sure glad it happened, though, because our current Sylvania library branch is so beautiful and a true joy to visit.

I recall the brief time when the Burger King on Monroe Street, now gone, had a giant inflatable jumping thing set up for a while. We had never seen such a thing at a hamburger place before. Now inside playgrounds are common.

My favorite discount shopping was done at Basix or the Pharm. Just memories now. But every now and then, I come across an old package in my cupboard with one of their price stickers on it. Nowadays, there aren’t even price stickers!

I may not recall what I had for lunch yesterday, but old memories are vivid. What are YOUR old fond Sylvania memories? Share them at SylvaniaHistory@gmail.com or 419-318-9632 and they could appear in a future column!



Published 2-9-2011

Virtual Time Travel

Maybe it’s fate that I should write about this topic. First a Facebook friend posted the question: “If you could say one thing to yourself 20 years ago, what would you say?” Then, a few days later, I read my cousin in Florida’s online musings of what she would say if she could travel back in time and talk to her teenaged self.
This introspection isn’t anything new. People have considered their regrets, thought of second chances, and mused about getting do-overs since time immemorial. Books have been written, songs recorded, movies produced, and articles have covered this topic well. What else can be said?
But until you actually ponder this topic yourself, it all means nothing. I mean, what if you actually had the chance to travel back in time, visit yourself as a teen, and deliver a heartfelt message of redemption? Let’s not fuss over the likelihood that your sixteen year old self would freak out at the incarnation, run screaming from you and call the police. Assume, if you will, that the teenager in bobby socks (or tie-dyed shirt, leather jacket, peter pan collared blouse, whatever) will really listen. And consider your advice. What would you say?
Fifteen people posted answers on my Facebook friend’s post, myself included. “Listen to your mother.” “Be true to yourself.” “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” “Don’t worry, it will get better.” and “Be adventurous.” were a few. We could always throw in “Wear sunscreen.” “Buy Microsoft stock.” or “Don’t smoke.” But would we really say those things? Are those the most important messages we could deliver?
So let’s assume you deeply consider the message you’d like to convey. You’ve given this a great deal of thought, even jotted down some notes. Of course, there are no time travel devices, so we need to be practical.
Now picture sitting down tomorrow with your teenaged son, daughter, grandchild or great grandchild. Imagine explaining that you have this truly important information to convey, and that they need to listen and heed your words.
We’ll further assume they put down their iPod/cell phone/homework/laptop or turn off the television, and give you their full attention. Now here it comes. You present your words of wisdom, those you really wish you had heard when you were young. You impress upon your young offspring this crucial advice. Your heartfelt, important message. You might get smirks, laughs, impatience, or outright indignation. Possibly worse. Or that know-it-all attitude child might smile sweetly and agree, insisting they will remember what you said, even though you know they’re telling you what you want to hear.
You might feel afterwards that it was all a waste of time, or maybe you think it went well. Probably you have a few regrets that you sounded preachy. Then again, consider this. It’s too late to help yourself as a youngster. But for those few minutes, you had the attention of that teenager. Deep in their malleable personality, absorbed within their internal sponge or however you think of their youthful psyche….they heard you. Your words are now part of their personal history. Who knows? Maybe at some point later on in their young lives, your advice will surface in their minds. And perhaps those words will guide them to making better choices.
Wouldn’t you feel proud to know that it helped?


Published 2-2-2011 
 Kaleidoscope of Colors

As a dedicated sewer and quilter, I couldn’t let another week go by without writing about my favorite topic: quilts. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than cutting up fabric, sewing it back together into creative designs, and making a cuddly quilt. But, how do I tie this topic into Sylvania history?!?

Well, I could mention how, a few years ago, the Sylvania Area Historical Society (SAHS) featured a meeting with a quilt historian showing her collection of antique quilts. Members and guests were very impressed with the visual evidence of sewing through the years.

I can also reminisce about how the Sylvania Heritage Museum two years ago, featured quilts in the second floor bedroom during the holiday displays. Historic quilts covered the bed, draped several mannequins, were thrown over chairs and hung on walls. Quilt blocks, both old and new, filled the display case.

SAHS has a wonderful collection of antique quilts, donated by generous Sylvania citizens over the years. Several are circa 1880s that are bed-sized, pieced in traditional designs like ocean wave, Sunbonnet Sue, and split rail designs. Some are hand pieced and hand quilted, and all are lovely. Several baby quilts are in their collection, as well. A charming trip-around-the-world design seems to be from the 1930s, and possibly could have been sewn from feed sacks. One charming cutie is made of hand embroidered blocks and features homemade pompoms! SAHS’s collection also includes a 1976 Bicentennial quilt and a small framed 1893 commemorative crazy quilt. Unfortunately, no quilts they own contain sewn labels, only anecdotal info from donors. A lesson to us today: if we want our handiwork to speak to future generations, be sure to include a label with name, location and year made!

With Sylvania’s own link to the Underground Railroad, the Lathrop House, I can bring up the controversy over using quilts as messages to fleeing slaves. There are those who believe that quilts, depending on the blocks depicted, were flung over fences to send directions, such as bears paw pattern meaning head north, or bow tie design, to wear a disguise. But the quilt-code theory has been hotly debated, with no substantiation. Quilt historians and Underground Railroad experts generally consider this questionable due to the lack of evidence.

The SAHS website, www.sylvaniahistory.org , has an actual quilt pattern. Click Online Exhibits along the left side, and you can print out instructions for sewing your own historic-type quilt block to match a pillow in the Museum exhibit. Make multiples of this square-in-a-square block, embellish with the herringbone stitch (directions link included), and you can sew a very historic-looking warm quilt!

In the old days, quilts were functional, often made from fabric scraps and old clothing. Quilting has indeed evolved into an art form, with wall hangings and quilted objects as important as bed quilts. It is a widely embraced hobby today, and Sylvania has many venues to purchase quality fabric, have your handiwork machine or hand quilted, see a quilt show, and where you can learn sewing skills. Several active quilt guilds meet in Sylvania, as well. Feel free to call the SAHS hotline at 419-318-9632 for further info on quilting in Sylvania, and I’ll be glad to answer any questions and share my enthusiasm with you!

Published 1-26-2011
An Ancient Pastime

         There’s a game taking Sylvania by storm, and probably, you haven’t heard of it.

Mah jongg was first played by the ruling class of China, and dates back to the time of Confucius. In 1911 when China became a republic, the game was no longer restricted, and mah jongg became the most popular game of the Orient. Ma Cheuck, or Game of the Sparrows as the Chinese called it, evolved into an Occidental version and was enthusiastically received by the American public in 1920. It was confusing, though, as different rules and hands were used. So, in 1937, mah jongg enthusiasts in New York City standardized the game, and founded the National Mah Jongg League. Each year, the League changes the hands and rules to keep the game fresh.

Mah jongg (also spelled mahjong) is played with tiles and racks by three or four players. A bit like Rummy with runs and three- or four-of-a-kind, it can be learned quickly. But the offensive and defensive strategies will continue to delight for a lifetime.

During the early years of popularity, the game was sometimes called the game of thousand intelligences. Game sets were in great demand. Several hit songs were recorded during the fad’s onset, including "Since Ma is Playing Mah Jong" by Eddie Cantor.

My mother played maj (pronounced “maahj” as a nickname) with her friends, just as my grandma did. I remember, as a young girl, falling asleep on maj nights, with the clacking tiles and calls of “three bam”, “eight crack”, and ‘does this set have any jokers?!?” I finally learned how to play as a young-married, and can now admit I am completely addicted to the game. I began teaching others the game, and am proud to have shown dozens of women how to play over the years.

There are many groups in the area playing the game regularly at each other’s homes. The ‘maj snacks’ on tray tables and the gossip shared during the game are as welcome as the game itself. Like many bridge, euchre, canasta or bunco groups, members see each other through the good times and bad, with the clattering tiles as soothing background noise. I’m amused when I play with different groups, to learn the specific ‘house rules’ they follow, adaptations to suit their specific needs. Frustrations over missed tiles, bad luck or lost games are met with “It’s only a game!” Maybe this phrase is useful in other aspects of our lives as well.

Sylvania has lots and lots of maj players, and one active group meets weekly at the Sylvania Senior Center. Someone had learned the game in Florida, then came back and taught the Sylvania ladies how to play. Since 1999, this dedicated group of gamers hone their mah jongg skills, and are warm and welcoming to newbies. Occasionally, seniors who know the oriental game come wandering in. The women warn them that the American version is completely different.

If you’re interested in learning mah jongg, or already know how and want to find a game, or are just curious, feel free to call me for more details. Just call the Sylvania Area Historical Society hotline at 419-318-9632.

And by the way, if you’ve played mah jongg online, it is most likely not the Sylvania version. Those games are a tile matching game, testing your memory and spatial relationship skills. They’re fun, but you won’t be declaring “Maj!” in those games.

Published 1-19-2011 

 A Hot Time in the Old Town

Did you know that Sylvania has been a hotbed of entertainment over the years?

There were quite a few theaters. Speedway Theatre was a thriving movie house in1927. They were located on N. Main Street on the west side. Fox Theatre in 1932 advertised Adults 20¢, Children 10¢.

The Princess Theatre was under new management in 1939 when it reopened at 5681 Main St. and boasted “We give you the best in pictures and service that money can buy. Double features on every program. A good place to meet your friends in the lobby of the Princess.” If you clipped the Sylvania Sentinel coupon, that and ten cents would admit one adult any Monday or Tuesday evening. Then in 1940, this location became the Town Theater.

The Sylvan Theatre was built in 1938 and run by Paul Pontuis (first cousin of Ernie Pyle, WWII journalist). It could seat 428 people. They advertised in 1939 a wonderful new movie. “Gaiety, Glory, Glamour—It’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Technicolor Triumph!” Hmmmm….1939, Technicolor, MGM….can you guess the movie?! “Wizard of Oz”, of course! Playing right here in Sylvania as a new movie! Hale Drugs eventually took over the building and remodeled it into a store.

Sylvania had outdoor theaters as well. There was the Star-Lite Drive-In Theatre at 5702 Monroe Street, opposite Sylvania Country Club. In 1955, they publicized the Technicolor movie starring John Wayne “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.” The Toledo Drive-In Theatre at 5225 Monroe Street advertised: Two Shows Nightly, Rain or Clear. Single Ramp Parking, In-A-Car Speakers.

There were live shows, too. When Ginnivan's Dramatic Company first brought their performances to Sylvania, they used the Ray West pasture at Monroe and Summit, on the south side. In 1938, they performed in Fred Myers used car lot on the east side of Main St. The Ginnivan show also used the old school grounds where the historical village is now. They featured plays such as Rip Van Winkle, Girl of the Golden West, and Oliver Twist in the 1940s. Chautauqua traveled from town to town, also, including Sylvania.

We had many other forms of entertainment, now long gone. Lee Brothers All-American Three Ring Circus came here, and the Catacombs was a place for teenagers to "hang out" in the 1970s. There was the annual Bean Festival, late 60s to late 70s, held on the property of the Democratic Club on Centennial Road. Volunteer firemen held annual carnivals at Crandall Field at Monroe and Alexis in the 30s to early 50s.

Maybe you remember Legion Field, ten acres off Ravine Drive where all outside events were held in Sylvania, 1924 to 1940. Or Sylvania Bowling Alley, Imperial Lanes and Showcase Lanes for bowling fun. Country neighbors got together at Sylvania Grange No. 1188 (1870s to 1890s) to share friendships, and Sylvania had a Teen Center in the 1980s.

  At the ballroom over the bank in downtown Sylvania, the Sylvania Volunteer Firemen held fundraising dances every weekend, with the Sylvan Serenaders band playing.  During the depression years, the firemen held indoor baseball games, with leagues, too. 

Eley's skating rink was on the second floor of a building on the east side of South Main Street in the 1910s.  And even though Franklin Airport and Franklin Ice Cream weren’t technically in Sylvania, they were a big part of old-time Sylvanians’ lives. 

Yes, we sure have fun in Sylvania, then and now! 


Published 1-12-2011

Sylvania Facts and Urban Myths

There are those who would haggle over the official date of Sylvania’s founding. A plat document was found dated 1833. Other historical items are found dated 1832 and 1835. But in 1933, Maynard Giles Cosgrove, descendent of three generations of Sylvania physicians, felt that the depressing times, horrid economy, and disheartened citizens needed a happy celebration. Popular opinion set 1833 as Sylvania’s birthday. So the Sylvania Centennial was set for Sept 2, 3, and 4, 1933.

And what a celebration it was! The long weekend was jam-packed with a parade, historical exhibit and pageant, carnival, band concert, baseball game, wrestling and boxing exhibition, street dance, potluck lunches, model aeroplane contest, fire department exhibition drill, fireworks display and more. Wish I could have been there! I would have enjoyed seeing the Shoe Lacing Contest, Fat Men’s Race, Necktie Tying Contest and Pop Drinking Contest!

A wonderful booklet was printed to commemorate the Centennial: “A History of Sylvania for the first Hundred Years and Centennial Celebration Program 1833-1933”. Maynard Cosgrove was known as the Sylvania historian of his time, and he compiled the info for this booklet. The following tidbits are from this source.

The name Sylvania is derived from the Latin, meaning “the woods.” The founders of Sylvania, General David White and Judge William Wilson, disagreed over the name. White had wanted it named Whiteford, and part of the early land area had this name. But Wilson went ahead and recorded the plat as the town of Sylvania. Their partnership went downhill from there.

One of the first Sylvania streets was named Blank because the founders had forgotten to name it. The earliest Sylvania hotel was probably the Washingtonian House, on the west side of Summit St about 200 feet north of Monroe St. The Bidwell Hotel was one of the early landmarks of Sylvania, located on the northwest corner of Main and Maplewood.

There was a tale that an old time citizen who, having been nominated for mayor as a joke, won the election. He “promised in very sizzling language to uphold the anti-profanity ordinance.”

Sylvania’s alleged claim to literary fame was the fact that Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” was held up and robbed in front of the stone carriage shop of J.J.Ritchie in 1850. The building in 1933 was Cooper Tire Shop, on the east side of Main St, where an office building sits today. Local historian Trini Wenninger admits this nugget makes for an interesting story, but there is no proof it really happened. As well, no one has made any connections as to why Harriet Beecher Stowe would have been in Sylvania in 1850. She did move from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Maine that year because her husband got a job in Brunswick. However, Wenninger says there was no direct passenger rail-line from Cincinnati to Toledo at the time and Sylvania would have been out of the way unless Stowe was intentionally visiting friends and/or relatives. Seems she would have been an unlikely target anyway, as she was pregnant in 1850 (having another child in September of that year), and she would have had her other children in tow. Our own Sylvania urban myth! 

This booklet and many other interesting historical items are part of the Sylvania Area Historical Society’s collection. The Heritage Center Museum is closed January and February, but I’ll continue giving you your weekly dose of fun Sylvania history!

Published 1-5-2011

The jewels on Centennial Road

You may have noticed the row of quaint houses on Centennial Road north of Brint Road in Sylvania. There are sixteen homes. They are unique as they’re made mostly of concrete, and are a historical oddity in our area.

The Medusa Cement Company built them for executives who managed the silica plant one mile south of the houses. Actually, eleven were built in 1923 when the plant opened, and five were built later. The subdivision was called Medusa Gardens, or Medusa Row. The original rent was $16 a month, a fringe benefit for employees. The company maintained the concrete homes and later added second floors. Even the light posts at the street were made of concrete!

There were picnics and neighborhood gatherings, and holiday lights were strung collectively between the houses. The company reduced its obligations in later years, and the plant was closed in 1980. The Crane Co. based in New York City, acquired the entire Medusa holdings at that time. The sixteen homes were put up for sale as a group because they shared a common septic system.

But Crane wanted to divest itself of the homes, as real estate was not a primary interest of the firm. So a local home builder bought Medusa Gardens, renovated the interiors, and rented them out. It was determined that these houses with stucco-like exteriors and concrete basements were built to last, and last they have. Cement or cement block was used in the foundation, and a wire structure sprayed with cement formed the walls, similar to methods used in swimming pool construction. So these precious gems still stand today.

Yes, these proud houses stand alone along that stretch of Centennial Road, and are truly of historical significance. Not just because they remind us of the days of company-built housing, concrete construction, and an era gone by. But also, because of a simpler time, when neighbors all got together to play cards and where children played together as one collective group.

With today’s families and Sylvania’s large subdivisions, we have sacrificed the personal attention of our neighbors. Not to wax poetically on the days of Andy Taylor and the town of Mayberry, necessarily. But with our work and activity schedules, busily rushing to carpools, soccer games, grocery shopping and errands, it’s sad that we have lost the camaraderie that used to exist.

So the next time you drive down Centennial and see that strip of concrete homes, think of their history. And appreciate today, while you’re at it! More memories await you at the Sylvania Area Historical Society website at www.sylvaniahistory.org and feel free to call them at 419-318-9632 or visit them on Facebook.



Published 12-29-2010

Message in a “bottle”

There is a 1200 pound vault buried in Sylvania, awaiting discovery.

In 1977, the Sylvania Bicentennial Committee and the Sylvania History Buffs (the predecessor to the Sylvania Area Historical Society) prepared a time capsule for burial, to be opened July 4, 2026. Prior to burial, the vault and some of the items were displayed at the Sylvania Branch library. The time capsule was 51” long, 20” wide, and 18” deep.

Many local citizens worked on the committee, preparing the container and choosing the location and contents. Historians catalogued, researched, wrapped and sealed all the items for protection from dampness. The capsule is well past its halfway mark now, so I thought it would be fun to review what is buried.

I won’t mention everything, as the contents are numerous, because many groups donated items pertinent to their interests. But here are some of them:

Antiques, ballpoint pens, greeting cards, glass pieces, 1976 Montgomery Ward catalog, Amway products, flags, calling cards, candles, dental instruments, the charter and history of Sylvania, dolls, envelopes, ice hockey outfit, local business directory, Lourdes College catalog, maps, magazines, newspapers, panty hose, photos, physicians desk reference, frames, postage stamps, Sylvania restaurant menus and telephone directory, slides, bumper sticker, thermometer, tote bag, wine list, liquor prices, and Sylvania High School 1976 yearbook.

Oh, and there’s a Timex watch. And a pair of booties for the first baby born in Sylvania in 2027 A.D.!

While we’re waiting for sixteen years until the big reveal, I started thinking. If I were preparing a time capsule today for fifty years from now, what would I put in it? It should, by definition, contain a historic cache of goods and information to communicate with future citizens, and should help future archaeologists, anthropologists, and historians. So I’m thinking mostly items that are leading edge technology today... so they could be laughed at tomorrow. That would include things like a flash drive, latest cell phone, music CDs, DVDs, VCR tapes and other electronic doodads (surely none will be readable by then.) I asked a few friends and relatives for suggestions, and they came up with a gel pen, fabric softener sheets, a jar of pricey anti-wrinkle cream, microwave popcorn, and a wallet complete with currency, credit cards, photos and IDs.

What else would Sylvania citizens in 2061 find interesting? Video games, car keys, remote controls, a GPS, mouse pad, printouts from Facebook and Twitter, some graphic novels, a few trendy garments….the list could go on and on.

But meanwhile, I am anxiously awaiting the big day of July 4, 2026. Hope I make it. Sylvanians will gather around and watch excitedly for the time capsule to be unsealed. I’m sure the big question on everyone’s lips will be “Is the Timex still ticking?!?”



Published 12-22-2010

Shopping in (old) Sylvania through the years

            Time is running out for holiday shopping, so let’s sprint through the decades in Sylvania gift choices.

In 1923, Chandler Hardware Co offered the new Hoover. Adjusts from above, has strong suction, ball bearing brush and converter attachments. Only $6.25 down and 30 days between each of the few small payments.

H. E. Winans advertised in 1928: Why pay rent, when $2800 will build you a 22 x 34 five room bungalow, with full front porch and basement, all ready to move in. They were located at Monroe St & Whiteford Rd.

The Muntz Dry Good Store, corner of Main & Maplewood, specialized in Louisa Alcott dresses. They offered specially reduced prices on dresses in silk, voiles, rayons, Felards, prints and broadcloth. Sylvania Tanning Co on Summit St made fur pieces to your order, using only the better grades of genuine fur: coats, scarves, chokers, collar and cuff sets.

“Cooper treats you right.” You could have bought an RCA Radiola 18 from Cooper Tire and Battery Shop. It has sharper tuning in a solid mahogany case in walnut finish, tuning knob, volume control, and on/off switch. A small electric light illuminates the station selector, and has all the refinements that newest developments have contributed to the radio art.

Hotchkiss Motor Sales offered used cars “with an OK that counts.” They suggested a 1926 Whippet Coach, 1925 Hupmobile Club Sedan, 1927 Buick 2-door Sedan or 1927 Pontiac Coach.

Ohio Tailor, J. Marmar (Main & Monroe) was selling Scotch Woolen Mills coats and pants. The year was 1931, and the price was $19.75, no more, no less.

Chandler Hardware Co said “Where Service Counts, We Win”, and boasted they stocked all leading shotguns. An Iver Johnson 12 gauge single barrel was $7.25 in 1939, and you could also buy Winchester, Remington and Mossberg.

Piano lessons in that year were available from Margaret Weber on Monroe St. She was an Accredited Teacher of the Ohio Music Teachers Association.

In 1944, you could have bought your new Gibson Freez’r Shelf Refrigerator from B. H. Elden Coal Co. And Wagonlander’s Federated Stores offered ladies white oxfords, size 4 ½ to 7 ½ for $1.85 a pair.

Chandler Hardware celebrated Sunbeam Saturday in 1951. A factory rep demonstrated the sensational new Sunbeam products: Ironmaster, Mixmaster, radiant control toaster, Coffeemaster and Shavemaster.

Here are some classy gift ideas from 1954. Bob Patneau Chevrolet Co on Monroe Street advertised the motoramic Chevrolet for ’55: It’s got a V in its bonnet! And Dailey’s Jewelry and Gift Store on Main Street was featuring Elgin watches with unbreakable Durapower mainspring. The Deb model was $37.50, Oceanside was $49.75, and Lady Elgin Carousel 21 jewels was $71.50.

In 1973, you could have bought these items. Lindau Drug on Main Street had the Devilbiss Vaporizer on sale for $4.19, a $7.95 value. Andersons Garden Center offered bird feed, 25 pound bag for $1.95.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the reminiscing about Sylvania’s old stores. It was sure fun for me browsing through the crackly old newspapers in the Sylvania Area Historical Society’s collection. Visit their website at www.sylvaniahistory.com for more times past. The Sylvania Heritage Museum is closed in January and February, but I’ll continue to bring you your weekly dose of fun local history!



Published 12-15-2010

 Holiday Shopping Fun in the 40s

            Let’s continue our holiday shopping trip down memory lane in Sylvania. We’ll relive the 1940s for those on our gift list this week.

Wagonlander’s Federated Stores offered seersucker or chambray dresses for $4.98, for the “cotton lovin’ lassie who lives happily through cool April showers and hot August hours….always in practical, low priced cottons.”

Gordon Hathaway’s Sohio Service Station on Monroe Street suggested Victory Garden Fertilizer, a 25 lb bag for $1.09. Sylvan Rabbitry, at Convent and Allen, had several nice New Zealand breeder rabbits for sale at $4 and up.

New Process Cleaning Co on Main St would scrub and shampoo your rugs or carpets without injuring the sizing, with no shrinkage. A 9 x 12’ area cost $3. B. H. Elden Coal Co suggested cabinet heaters, one filling a day keeps the cold away. Their newspaper ad had no price, but you can call them at Phone 12.

For the ladies on your list, Lentz & Sturn (formerly Boyd’s) was selling Old South Cotton Blossom toiletries, with equal parts sunshine and enchanted moonlight. Cologne $1.25, dusting powder $1.25, perfume $4, and Sun Dial Gift Box $3.50. Or consider a new Spirella Supporting Garment from Mrs. Lucille Goodwin, Corsetiere, on Monroe St.

Lentz & Sturn Drugs also offered these gift suggestions: Zippo windproof lighter from $3, heating pad with washable cover $4.49, or Penway note size stationery for $1.

Day’s Drug Store had lots of ideas for your family camera buff. Brownie Reflex miniature camera was $5.25. The Kodak Duex for $5.75 makes 16 album-size 1 5/8 x 2 ¼ inch pix per roll of film. Or go all out with the Kodak Vigilant Junior Model Six-20 with Kodet lens and precise Dak shutter, featured at only $8.50. Day’s also suggested these items for gifts: Perfume Atomizers for her dresser or Frank Medico Pipe $1, Bourjois Evening in Paris Perfume $1.25, Leather Bill Folds or Cutex Manicure Sets 59¢, and Stagg Shaving Sets 99¢ and up.

C. J. Hess store in the Sylvania Savings Bank Building recommended these items for the holidays: Cambridge and Duncan Miller Glass, Social Supper Trays, Samson Card Tables, Eaton’s Fine Letter Papers and Dolls.

Go ahead and splurge….buy a new 1946 Chevrolet, the Stylemaster Sport Sedan, from the Community Chevrolet Company on Monroe Street. Drive THAT home and park it in your driveway for a holiday gift, and see if the neighbors notice!

On an old undated Magic Lantern slide from the Sylvania Area Historical Society’s collection, Chandler Hardware declared, Let us cushion you against rough travel, and dress your car with distinction by equipping it with Goodrich Silvertown Balloons.

And finally…..make it a real American Christmas: a U.S. War Bond is the perfect Christmas gift---Buy one today!



Published 12-8-2010

Decades of Fun in Sylvania

It wouldn’t be a holiday shopping season without the pursuit of children’s toys, so this week, we’ll reminisce about those.

The first few decades of the 20th century saw the introduction of Crayola Crayons, the Teddy Bear and the Raggedy Ann Doll. Then yoyos made their first appearance, and Madame Alexander dolls were quite the thing in 1929.

The Depression in the 30s affected the economy, but children still found fun things under their Christmas trees. The 3-D View Master was amazing, and the golden age of comic books had arrived. Kids wanted x-ray glasses, hand held radios, and the newest board games: Monopoly, Sorry, and Scrabble.

More new toys entered the market for the children of the 1940s. Other board games were unwrapped, such as Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Clue. Tonka Trucks and Silly Putty were coveted toys.

Children in the 1950s wanted a skateboard, Ginny doll, Hula Hoop, Yahtzee, and Mr. Potato Head for Christmas or Chanukah. Also new and popular were Matchbox cars, Play Doh, Frisbees and ant farms. Pez dispensers were marketed to youngsters in this decade.

The 1960s and 70s holiday shopping seasons included Barbie dolls, the Evel Knievel Crash Car, G. I. Joe and Easy Bake Oven. The Micronauts line of toys were futuristic robots and vehicles with interchangeable parts that pre-dated Transformers. Etch a Sketch, Operation and Twister were coveted as well. And the Suzy Homemaker doll from Topper Toys was a hot holiday item. To this day, you still might hear someone referred to as a "Suzy Homemaker."

During this time period, every impressionable kid could sing the jingle "What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkity sound? A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing. Everyone knows it’s Slinky…"

Then the skateboard had a huge resurgence in the 70s, as a novelty predecessor to today’s popular sport. And along came the Rubiks Cube to frustrate children of all ages.

If you grew up in the 80s, you lusted after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Koosh balls, and Transformers. The whole family could enjoy your new Chia pet and games of Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, and Jenga. Home video game consoles were creating their market in this decade, as well.

It’s hard to talk about what children wanted in the 1990s, as marketing, cross campaigning and new technologies had exploded by then. But I’ll briefly mention roller blades, Nintendo’s Gameboy, Tickle Me Elmo and Beanie Babies.

In these past decades, you would have had many choices for your holiday toy shopping in Sylvania. These hot new toys and more, were for sale in many local retailers long gone. You might have strolled the aisles of C.J. Hess, Day’s Drug Store, Lentz & Sturm, or Lindau Drug. Perhaps Muntz Dry Good Store, Chandler’s Hardware or Wagonlander’s would have tempted you. Or you may have shopped for the most coveted toys at Fun City USA, the toy store in the plaza on Alexis where Rite Aid is now.

It’s interesting that many of the above mentioned toys have stood the test of time, are still produced and will be happily unwrapped for Christmas this year. Don’t forget that the Sylvania Heritage Museum, beautifully decorated for the holidays, will be open in December Thursdays 5 to 7 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays 1 to 4 pm.

Next week, look for more holiday gift giving suggestions for shopping at Sylvania’s emporiums long gone…..



Published 12-1-2010

Holiday shopping in (old) Sylvania

            With gift giving on everyone’s mind these days, I thought that providing a shopping guide would be a nice gesture. Of course, you’d have to be living in Sylvania’s past to go shopping at these stores. But maybe it will bring back some fond memories, and just possibly, provide you with some gift ideas.

If it were 1955, you could stop in at Mollie Greens at Main and Maplewood. Bathing suits cost between $5.95 and $10.95, for fun under the sun. They boasted a full run of sizes at popular prices for vacationers. Pedal pushers started at $2.98, and Venida nylon stretch foot socks were 49¢. Layaway and alterations were available, and this store was even open all day Wednesday, while most Sylvania businesses at that time were closed Wednesday afternoons.

You could buy an attractive pair of shoes in 1857 from Nelson Leonardson in Sylvania. Just don’t ask for sneakers!

If you time it just right, you could attend the Leader Store’s grand opening, on Main Street. Free souvenirs were offered to everyone shopping on that day: cigars for the men, handkerchiefs for the ladies, and a dandy school tablet for the children. This store boasted a complete and up-to-date line of men’s and boy’s furnishings, clothing and shoes. How about a nice all wool overcoat for the man in your life? Regularly $25, it was on sale for $19.50. And Leader Store would press it free of charge for three times, guaranteed to satisfy you. Also consider boys blouses from 79¢, boys knee pants a bargain at 95¢, national brand men’s overalls for $1.45. U.S. Army shoes were priced at $3.50. And remember, just come in and look over their store; you will be under no obligation to purchase.

You’ll definitely want to do your Christmas or Chanukah shopping at Holliday's 5¢ to $1 store.  It was in business from 1934 to 1964, and moved and expanded several times over the years. Historian Gayleen Gindy remembers it being an awesome store in downtown Sylvania. She has fond memories of the wood floors, big candy counter at the front of the store, and shelves and shelves of interesting toys and items to purchase.  As a kid, she loved to look at everything they had, and then save her money to go back to Holliday's to buy.

By the way, you won’t have to wait in long lines there while shopping. Don Holliday had lengthy debates with his wife in the 1930s deciding whether they could afford to hire a girl for three hours on Saturday at a cost of 50¢. By 1959, they employed 15 people full-time.

Many of these details came from advertisements and newspaper clippings, in their words, in the Sylvania Area Historical Society archives. I’ll have more shopping ideas for you next week….start working on your time travel device so you can go back and patronize these stores!


Published 11-23-2010

Sylvania’s ambassador

        A town crier (or bellman) is one who makes public announcements, and dresses elaborately by tradition dating to the 18th century. They carry a hand bell to attract attention, and used to be the means for bringing the news to the people. When technology replaced the need for a town crier, the position was doomed to remain only in folklore.

        But the tradition was reborn, and town criers continue to ring their hand bells and shout “Oyez Oyez Oyez” all over Europe. (It’s pronounced oh-yay, by the way, and means “hear ye” to get people’s attention.) There are only about a dozen in the United States, however, and Sylvania is fortunate to have our very own.

        Michael Lieber was appointed to the position created by a City Council ordinance in 1995, and he’s been crying ever since! As town crier, he cuts ribbons, opens festivals, leads parades, delivers proclamations and kicks off conventions. He helps the community greet visiting dignitaries, opens sports seasons, and acts as ambassador for Sylvania. He also regularly appears at naturalization ceremonies in Federal Court, a special honor.

        His elaborate costume is authentic garb, chosen by the Sylvania Area Historical Society, representing what would have been worn by a gentleman in the 1830s, which is when Sylvania was founded.

        He writes his own cries, which usually includes ceremonial elements of the time period he represents. He belongs to town crier guilds and associations, and has participated in crying competitions, which he finds quite fun. As Michael begins his sixteenth year as Sylvania’s town crier, he fondly recalls the times his position has brought him “fame and fortune.”

        He appeared in a short interview on Good Morning America, from when the show was in our area. But even more fun, was when he was flown out to Los Angeles to appear on the television show “To Tell The Truth”. Provided with a rental car, he and a few family members had a full day sightseeing, and the next day, he attended the show taping.

        It was quite interesting, he says. It was in December, 2000, and two other men appeared with him, trying to fool the celebrity panel. Michael and the others all claimed to be a town crier, and they all wore official garb. He wore his own costume, another was attired in his extra outfit, and the third wore something the producers got from the wardrobe department. The other contestants were not supposed to be professional actors, but they did such a good job portraying him, Michael had his doubts!

        The celebrity panel Michael had to face included Richard Kind, Brooke Burns, Meshach Taylor and Paula Poundstone, with host John O’Hurley.

        The contestants were asked questions, like how many time had they cried, what was their most recent cry (our town crier said, the Santa Claus parade in Woodstock, Ontario), and miscellaneous details. He was advised that the less info provided in answering, the better. The object of the game is to fool the celebrity panel and win. And our esteemed town crier indeed won! The three men split the $5000 prize, and he has never forgotten the excitement.

        So was this professional crier nervous in front of the cameras, celebrities, and audience? You bet!



Published 11-17-2010

Frolicking through time

My latest reminiscence started with a dream. It was the carefree days of my youth, and I was romping around the playground behind my old elementary school. In my dream, I jumped onto that round metal thing, hung on tight, and my friend ran around in a circle, pushing. As it picked up speed, she hopped on next to me, and we whirled around, our ponytails whipping in the air, as we got deliciously dizzy.

When I awoke, I absolutely could not recall the name of that old round spinning apparatus. And no youngster can help me, because we probably can’t find one of those today.

Communities across our country are dealing with their old, antiquated playground equipment. And by ‘dealing with’, I mean they’re tearing them down. Concerned parents are demanding that parks and schools rip out their old metal dinosaurs and replace them with safe, colorful, plastic behemoths.

Much research has been done on the dangers of these vintage play pieces. But as it turns out, for the most part, the old playground equipment was not very bad at all. Out of the millions of children who had played on them, research found that death and serious injuries were a rarity. In fact, more children are injured on the paved areas of the playground and the yard than on the playground equipment. And we didn’t have padding under our jungle gyms; we had rocks.

But this is a new century. Old metal playground equipment is disappearing quickly. It’s being removed because of safety concerns due to government regulations. Federal safety organizations have sent out safety violations to towns and schools around the country. This has changed the landscape of most playgrounds and has turned them into “soft” playgrounds with plastic equipment replacing the old metal stuff.

Gone are the old splintered seesaws (teeter-totters?), metal climbing gyms, and the old works of art shaped like spirals, rockets, and insects. You watch your kids or grandchildren playing on today’s park playground, and it bears absolutely no resemblance to what you used to play on. Remember the old swing, a wooden slat on a chain attached to a metal bar on spindly legs? Gone. How about the metal slide at your old school playground? It was burning hot to the touch, a stovetop set to high all day under the summer sun, just waiting to greet your bare legs with first-degree burns as you enjoyed the ride. Heck, we were happy just to swing lazily on an old knotted rope hung from a tree or a bald tire on a chain. Have you seen any of THOSE lately?!?

Maybe the old stuff really does have so much character to it. The sculptural aspects of the old playground equipment-- curves, colors, shadows, reflections—prove them to be not just hunks of metal, but beautiful in themselves. There are actually people out there who look for old playgrounds, photographing them for posterity. They have their work cut out for them, as they hunt for increasingly elusive quarry.

In my research, I never did find the name of those old round spinning things. Merry go rounds? Whirl-a-gigs? I may never know. But I enjoyed reminiscing about the playgrounds of my youth, and will remember them fondly someday when I take my grandchildren for a spin on the current day equipment. Sylvania has many wonderful, safe, colorful playgrounds, and we’re lucky to have them.

Reminisce about YOUR favorite topic at sylvaniahistory.org, and enjoy the ride!

Published 11-10-2010

Today is Tomorrow’s History

            The Sylvania Area Historical Society (SAHS) was just given a wonderful bit of Sylvania history. Vicki Smith Stebel has transcribed the diary that her grandfather, Dr. Victor Browne Halbert (1885-1982), had kept in 1945 and 1946. Dr. Halbert was a Sylvania physician who lived in the house on the corner of Main & Erie. [It burned last year, was since demolished, and is now a vacant lot.]  He ran his medical practice out of that house back in the 20's through the early 60's.

SAHS has the text of this diary on their website, available for you to read. Although the details of day-to-day life is not necessarily exciting, the fact that this was written at the close of WWII makes it quite interesting.

This physician used to make house calls by horse and buggy before the automobile. He kept meticulous records of the babies he delivered, food prices, and snippets of family life. It’s fun to read of the partial eclipse of the sun visible to Sylvanians in that time period, how coveted dotted swiss fabric was hard to find, and that his family ate scalloped corn with dinner. His journal entries also include reports of the country’s wartime events, as well as local weather, restaurants he visited, and school happenings.

Here’s an excerpt: “Thursday, May 17, 1945: 11 p.m. temp 43. Has rained hard all day.  Creek is nearly up to bridge on Harroun Rd.  Office hours from 7 p.m. finished 11 p.m.  Saw twenty patients in that time (twice too many for their good and mine).”

Go to www.SylvaniaHistory.org and click on “Dr. Victor Halbert Diary” on the left side to read this precious find in its entirety. And thank you, Vicki Smith Stebel, for sharing your precious family memento!

SAHS hopes to continue adding to their collection of photographs, family histories, and historical objects. If you have something to share, feel free to email them at sylvaniahistory@gmail.com or call 419-318-9632 with the details. These dedicated volunteers continue to work toward the preservation of the past so that present and future generations might have evidence of their great heritage, thus making the present more meaningful to all.

Do YOU keep a journal of your daily life? These days, if someone does, it is most likely only in a blog format, or as journaling in a modern-day scrapbook. We like to think that our musings will be of interest to our great-great-grandchildren, and that such documentation will survive for them to see.

When I look back at old family photos, I feel lucky if the old grainy black-and-white snapshots are labeled on the back with people’s names. A date would be a bonus. And never does it include how my relative felt about the picture being taken, or where they were, or what was important to them at that exact moment in time.

I try to think of my future descendants when I tuck away a family photo, jotting the info I wish I had on my old family pix. Sometimes it feels hard to believe that what is happening today, is the interesting history of tomorrow.

Are you interested in local history? Consider joining SAHS, using their resources for research, and/or visiting the Museum to take a peek into Sylvania’s past.



Published 11-3-2010

History of Our Historian

          You’ve read her articles on Sylvania history in the past, and might remember her weekly columns on these pages for five years called "Sylvania As It Was". Now here’s some insight on the person behind the Gayleen Gindy byline!

Having lived in Sylvania since her infancy, she fondly remembers growing up on Main Street in downtown Sylvania. She had front row seats for every parade, watched ambulances tearing out of Reeb’s parking lot with lights and sirens roaring, and weddings across the street at the old Methodist Church. With the post office, Sterling Milk Store, Dr. Tallman's offices, and a hair salon located by her home, there was lots of traffic and pedestrians.  She and her siblings ran a lemonade stand so popular, they had to hire other children as employees!

As a teen, Gayleen was working at the Sylvania Township Fire Department during the bicentennial celebration when she found old damaged Sylvania scrapbooks stored away. Told she could salvage them, she did. Gradually, all history questions were directed to her, and Gayleen became the unofficial Sylvania historian. She learned everything about Sylvania’s history that she could. Prior to this, history was not her favorite subject!

For 34 years, at each department where she worked , she would always gather up all the historical documents and make copies.  Some old city/township records dated back to 1838! Working in the various positions of Sylvania government has been very helpful in her constant search for Sylvania history.  

Where would she get all these interesting old facts? Newspapers, real estate records, obituary notices, interviews of old-timers, old census and school records , minutes from council/trustee meetings, old documents/books, family histories, minutes books of the Sylvania Masonic Lodge (1856 to 2008), school yearbooks, old advertisements and much, much more.  Gayleen even admits she has rescued framed historic photos and significant old blueprints from dumpsters during spring-cleaning season! Widespread use of computers and the internet has greatly expanded the boundaries of her research.

She retired this year, and now happily devotes all her spare time to Sylvania history. She and her family now live in a historic downtown Sylvania home built in 1917 once owned by John and Martha Iffland. (He was the head clerk at the bank when it was robbed by Pretty Boy Floyd and gang, and he’s the one who slammed the vault door shut, protecting thousands of dollars.) She would love to have met him, but HAS met the Iffland’s son, who remembers when his dad was brought home after that bloody incident.

This talented historian has written three local history books, co-authored another, and wrote a booklet for this newspaper. Gayleen has an ultimate history book of Sylvania city and township in the works, due out in the coming months, for which she has been gathering data for over thirty years! You may purchase her books at various locations around town…..call the Sylvania Area Historical Society at 419-318-9632 for more information.

Our precious gem of a historian, Gayleen Gindy, is certain that history indeed repeats itself, so we can learn much by studying the past. She also believes that history belongs to everyone. Her main interest is historical research, not reenacting, so don’t look for this dedicated historian to dress up as a notable Sylvania figure anytime soon!


Published 10-27-2010

Defunct Dining

Going out to eat has certainly changed over the years. Many restaurants have come and gone from Sylvania. See if you remember or have heard of any of these.

Holland House autoteria on Holland-Sylvania Road north of Central served Moron Sandwiches and Moron Sundaes. The Fuhrer Gardens on Monroe at Summit advertised in the 1920s that while patrons were eating, they could enjoy the musical marvel of the age: ELECTROMUSE. It was an early version of the jukebox.

Miller’s Lunch Room, William Miller proprietor, served ice cream, and confectionery. That was located next to T & W Station. Jimmy’s Restaurant on Main Street served fifteen cent hamburgers and five cent pop in 1947. Also in the 40s, on the northwest corner of Sylvania & Holland-Sylvania, there was the Kozy Korner. Franklin Ice Cream was open evenings until 10 pm at 5015 Monroe Street, where Westfield Mall is now. Many fond memories of this gathering place are shared by today’s Sylvanians.

Do you remember the Rainbow (where the bowling alley was) on Central? Also on Central, there was Pink Parrot, Godfather Pizza, and Burger Queen.

Say you were driving around Sylvania in 1968 looking for a place to eat. You had lots of choices. You could have eaten at Burger Chef or Angelo’s West on Central Avenue. Or if you were cruising down Monroe Street, you could have chosen Lums, Chalet Village Inn, Our Place or Jade Garden.

In the 1980s, you could have scanned the menu at Yankee Doodle on Sylvania (they had fantastic cocktails!) or the restaurant at Plantation Motel; it was called Hamways at one time.

One cherished dining spot was Alfie's Supper Club on Sylvania Avenue, the first restaurant locally to feature tableside cooking. Their house special, Steak Diane, would be set ablaze from wheeled carts next to the table.

Here are some more. Do you remember Sylvania Restaurant on Central? Balkan Inn and Frisch’s Family Restaurant on Holland- Sylvania? Surely you remember Someplace Else on S. Main and Garden Inn on Monroe. We even used to have a fast-food Italian restaurant, Fazoli’s, which was on Alexis.

One of my favorite restaurants when I moved to Sylvania was Porch of the Maidens on Central at Holland-Sylvania. Years later, I especially enjoyed Salad Galley at Starlite Plaza. And recently, Boston Market on Alexis was my eatery of choice. All gone. Maybe I should stop choosing favorite restaurants!

In the archives of the Sylvania Area Historical Society, there’s an old Sylvania Herald clipping from 1969 that talked about the new Dutch Pantry, a family type restaurant with a Dutch theme. It was on Monroe Street by the expressway. You could get the cabbage roll entrée with sauerkraut, peas and apple fritters, complete with soup, salad, bread and butter, all for only $2.35! Mmmmm…..

Yes, the old days of white tablecloths, attentive waiters whisking away the crumbs, no one talking on their cell phones at the next table, and polite gentlemen removing their hats before dining. The genteel times of sharing a fine meal with your family in a Sylvania restaurant long gone, but not forgotten. Aah, those past repasts have passed!


Published 10-20-2010

Looking For White Gloves

Last spring, I had an afternoon tea at a Flower Hospital Guild meeting.  Trying on a costume I was assembling for a future historical event, I decided to attend the tea attired as a woman in the 1950s.  I had my old-fashioned dress, string of pearls, handbag and shoes from days gone by, and even the perky hat with netting, worthy of Jackie O.  All I needed was a pair of little white gloves.

Couldn’t find any.  Antique stores referred me to local department stores, assuming they still sold such things for current-day communions or such.  But nope, nobody sells white gloves any more.  It was nowhere near Halloween, so costume shops weren’t an option. (Luckily, I had my embroidered hankie, because even those are hard to find today….)

In the olden days, no self-respecting woman would go out without her pair of proper white gloves.  To church, temple, school event, theater, or traveling, you name it…..she wasn’t properly attired until her hands were gloved.

I remember wearing long, elegant gloves at my senior prom, but those were long gone.  I had to find some authentic hand covering, fast.  Asking around, hoping friends had some I could borrow, was fruitless.  (Gloveless, actually)  My outfit just wouldn’t be authentic if I showed up bare handed.

Finally decided to look at garage sales.  A sure sign of spring in Sylvania, besides birds and budding trees, is open garage doors and card tables full of castoffs for sale.  It required persistence, a tankful of gas and about twenty garage sales, but I finally found an elderly lady who was a real saver.  She had three old pairs of ladies gloves, in several colors, unworn.  I bought them all!

When I appeared at the tea in full regalia, the ladies there were polite, curious and wondering why I looked the way I did.  No, I wasn’t the afternoon program, I explained.  Wasn’t this how every proper woman of the 1950s dressed to attend an afternoon tea?  It was a lovely event, everyone was gracious, but I had a real challenge figuring out how to eat finger food with gloves on!

I also realized that old pocketbooks were too small for a wallet, credit cards, car keys, cell phone, pen, checkbook, handkerchief, lipstick and all the other sundries we women carry around.  I understand that the cell phone wouldn’t have been included back then, but it’s still hard to fathom how women handled it!

Well anyway, now I’m all ready for my part in a future Sylvania Area Historical Society event.  I might play a local citizen in a cemetery tour, standing by the grave of a woman who died in the 50s.  I’ll tell her story of how she contributed to Sylvania’s history, paying respect for her contribution.  Or I might show up at Sylvania’s museum one day, acting as docent, showing visitors around the historic home.  [The Sylvania Heritage Center Museum on 5717 N. Main is open Wednesdays 3-7 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 pm]  Who knows, maybe I’ll just go grocery shopping in Sylvania next week wearing my costume.  If you see me, wave your gloveless hand and say hello!



Published 10-13-2010

 Nourishing Sylvanians
        Food, glorious food! We love it, we need it, and we spend lots of time buying,
preparing and consuming it.
        It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the years. Many menu items over
the past decades are foreign to many of us today: sardines, mashed rutabaga and turnips,
scalloped parsnips, green tomato pie and jellied tongue, to name a few. True foodies may
indeed still serve these foods, but I sure don’t!
        Conversely, think about the food items we know and love nowadays that were
unheard of in generations past: yogurt, lettuce that didn’t grow in a head, sushi, enchiladas,
bottled water, curry, tofu, and multi-syllable coffee drinks come to mind.
        Let’s reminisce now about where we Sylvanians used to buy our groceries.
        Maybe you shopped at Fenders Red & White Market in downtown Sylvania.
Burnettes Grocery and Meat Market was on Main Street in the 1940s. I remember
Joseph’s supermarket on Central next to where K Mart used to be. There used to be lots
more grocers in our city: A & P on Main St, Reed’s, H & H Market on Holland Sylvania,
Yeager’s, and Joe & Irene’s Supermarket, to name a few.
        It was exciting in 1971 when Churchill’s opened their doors in their Monroe St
complex, including a hardware store, sporting goods shop and so much more, as well as
food! In 1976, Doug’s Frontier Carry-Out on Holland Sylvania advertised their grand
opening specials: “bacon $1.49 lb, bologna 99¢ lb, large eggs 79¢ doz.”
        Can you recall that before it was Sautter’s, that building housed the Food King on S.
Main? Even today’s youngsters can remember FoodTown at Sylvania near McCord, and on
Monroe Street where Hobby Lobby is now.
        Ah, yes. Fond memories. There used to be a time when tomatoes and strawberries
were sweet and juicy, locally grown. Nowadays, they’re bred to be hardy enough to survive
shipping and be uniform in size, and we have sacrificed taste. Did you know that despite
there being 5,000 varieties of potatoes, more than half the world's potato acreage is now
planted with one potato: the Russet Burbank used by McDonalds. (Have we learned nothing
from the Irish potato famine?)
        You can learn more about food and how we have gone from the traditional farmstead
to monocultures by joining the Sylvania Area Historical Society at their next meeting.
Local historian Trini Wenninger presents "Losing Grandpa's Farm: The History of Food
Production in the U.S." Discover how subsidies, science, and sustainability compete within
food production. From farmland to subdivisions, learn how Grandpa's farm has evolved
through time. Wednesday, October 20th at 7 pm at the Sylvania Heritage Center Museum,
5717 N. Main St. Sylvania, Ohio. The program is free, and refreshments will be served.
Everyone is welcome. Go to sylvaniahistory.org, find them on Facebook, or call 419-318-
9632 for more info.
        Old Sylvania restaurants, long gone, is an upcoming topic. Feel free to call in to
share a memory of a bygone eatery, or to suggest a topic from Sylvania’s history for
future columns. Just leave a message at 419-318-9632....I’d love to hear your input!


Published 10-6-2010

A Play and an Opportunity

 There’s a little bit of drama in all of us.  Even stuffy old historians can shake loose and be creative!  So when members of Sylvania Area Historical Society (SAHS) put on a costume, they absolutely become the character they portray.


SAHS has performed five historical reenactments in the past, and another is fast approaching.  The costumed interpreters bring history to life by sharing the stories of fascinating people who made colorful contributions to Sylvania’s olden times.  Guests in attendance always comment how interesting it is to actually ‘meet’ the person from the past, as if they were whisked back in time.


Well, now YOU can see how fun history can be!  Flower Hospital is hosting a community celebration “A Century of Changing Lives” as they reach their 100th year. Come to the barn on the grounds of the hospital on Harroun Road, on Sunday October 10th from 2 to 4 pm.  They offer walking tours, refreshments, health screenings and more. 


Members of SAHS will perform the historical reenactments, portraying key people from the hospital’s 100 years.  A 1920s nurse in her old fashioned dress, with cape, sensible shoes and cap, will remind us of what nursing was like back then.  Clarissa Dodge Harroun, who had lived with her family in the house and barn on the grounds where Flower built their hospital, will share her story.  Travel back to the days when women wore full fabric dresses, complete with boning, tiny buttons and prim lace collars.  Even Mr. Stevens Warren Flower will be in attendance!  He is the namesake who willed the first funds to build the hospital. 


These characters and more will tell their story that afternoon. Whether they put on their waistcoat and spats, netting hat and peplum, or cotton stockings with garters, for those few hours, these actors become the people of Flower Hospital’s past.  Come share in the fun!


Now here’s something different:  You can help raise money for SAHS when you search or shop online. It’s a search engine and online shopping mall where a portion of each purchase is donated to the cause.  It is totally free with no hidden fees, and you won’t get spammed.  Go to www.igive.com/SAHS to register.  Then bookmark the site, and every search you perform will raise a penny for your city’s historical society…a painless way to contribute!


Plus, over 700 online stores participate, and up to 26% of each purchase you make is donated.  Your first purchase through this site will automatically donate $5.00 to SAHS, at no cost to you.  An amazingly easy way to support Sylvania!


So go register at www.igive.com/SAHS to let the easy fundraising begin, and then I’ll see you at Flower Hospital on 10-10-10!

Published 9-29-2010

The Good Old Days

It was a simpler time in the old days. Not only in what we did, things we saw, and the state of the world around us….but even the way we spoke.


If you tell your child or grandchild today to put your pocketbook on the davenport or divan, they probably won’t understand you want your purse on the sofa.  If you offer them a soda cracker, chances are they won’t know what that is, either.  At my son’s wedding a few months ago, I thanked him for the pretty nosegay that I carried down the aisle.  He laughed, puzzled, until I explained I meant the small bouquet of flowers.


We in Sylvania can share plenty of other nostalgic words, phrases and experiences.  The milkman, rotary dial phones, metal bottle caps with cork inside, pull-chain toilets, or shoveling coal in the winter.  Today’s youth can’t fathom an iceman nor metal ice cube trays with levers!   We’re considered old if we remember wringer washing machines, doctors who made house calls, licking Green Stamps, or using mimeograph machines.


Even we old folks, however, probably don’t remember the old street names in Sylvania.  Woodrow Drive was Printup Street.  Ravine Drive was Cemetery Lane.  Main Street of today had several names: Division Street, Ohio Street south of Ten Mile Creek and Maumee Street south of Convent.  Maplewood was Indiana Street.  Monroe was Ottawa Street, and Convent was Clark Street.  See “Kathryn Keller articles” on sylvaniahistory.org and see if YOUR street history is mentioned!


And here’s some nostalgia for you.  Imagine driving on Monroe Street west of Alexis to Main Street in 1962.  Here are some of the businesses you would have passed:  Bill’s Big Burger, Don’s Drive In, Uhl’s Sylvania Food Locker, Suburban and Campbell body shops, Dunbar Shell and Stan’s Sunoco, Howard Motor Sales, and Highlanders Club. Remember any of these?  Can you believe 1962 was almost fifty years ago?!?


And see if you recall these shops that once did business at Starlite Plaza in 1982.  The Magic Forest was a children’s shop, Lilac Tree sold cards and gifts, and everyone shopped at B Landis, Shoebiz.  Damschroders was there, as was H Q Hair Quarters and Chapter & Verse bookstore.  That was ONLY 28 years ago….


I have fond memories of visiting the pet store on Main Street in downtown Sylvania in that time period with my young sons, and they would look at the exotic animals while I picked out parakeet seed.  Once there was even a tiger cub, and they still remember that!  But I was surprised to learn that even before this building was the Sylvania Herald and the pet shop, it was a Kroger grocery store.  Waaay before my time!


Ah, the good old days.  Yes, it was a simpler, gentler era back then.  But I wouldn’t give up my cell phone or laptop to return to those times, no way!  Would YOU??


For more fun historical tidbits, visit www.sylvaniahistory.org and plan on attending the next Sylvania Area Historical Society meeting on Wednesday, October 20 at 7 pm.  You can call 419-318-9632 or visit them on Facebook for more info. 




Published 9-22-2010
Gangsters Come to Sylvania

Here’s an exciting story for you directly from Sylvania’s history. 


In February 1930, Pretty Boy Floyd and his gang chose the Farmers & Merchants Bank of Sylvania for their latest robbery.  They got about $2000, but they missed out on negotiable Liberty Bonds, about $20,000 in cash, and jewelry when they were outwitted by their Sylvania victims.


Here’s what happened.  Floyd and his accomplices entered the bank (now Key Bank on the corner of Main & Monroe).  After announcing the holdup, they herded the eleven customers and employees together.  One woman removed several valuable rings from her hands, hiding them in her mouth so the robbers couldn’t get them. The bank cashier had immediately set the time lock on the bank vault, protecting the bulk of the bank holdings.  The gang beat up the cashier, but were unable to gain entry to the vault due to the time lock.


Meanwhile, at the filling station across the street, the owner (who was also the vice president of the bank) saw the victims with their hands in the air.  Realizing a robbery was in progress, he phoned the operator, who arranged for Sylvania’s electric fire alarm to be sounded.


The robbers fled. The bank V.P. fired at them, but missed.  The top of a nearby vehicle was shot up, but no bystanders were injured.  A constable and his deputy chased them in the village fire truck, but Pretty Boy Floyd and his men got away.  Can you just imagine that chase scene, with the fire hose uncoiling and waving madly as the Sylvania fire truck sped down the street?!  Actually, they robbed three more places in the Toledo area in the next month….the Midwest was a fertile target for these gangsters, apparently.


Floyd was arrested in May for an unrelated shooting and murder of a policeman, and was later connected to the bank robbery.  He was booked and sentenced in November, 1930 to 12 to14 years at state prison in Columbus, Ohio.  But en route to the prison, he escaped by breaking his handcuffs and jumping out the window of the moving train.


But do not think his life of crime paid off for Pretty Boy Floyd!  In 1934, after more sprees of thievery and murders, Floyd was chased down by the police.  He was shot and killed on the spot, at age 30. 


You may have heard of his involvement in the Kansas City Massacre in 1933, but now you know about Charles Arthur Floyd’s Sylvania caper!  Lots more fun history awaits you at the Sylvania Heritage Museum at 5717 N. Main.  Open Wednesdays from 3-7 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 pm.  Learn more at www.sylvaniahistory.org.