BENJAMIN B. ARTHUR and POLLY ANN BURGESS

My paternal grandparents.

Benjamin was born in 1877 in Lawrence County, Ohio to John Riley ARTHUR and Amanda Jane GIBSON. He had two brothers, Joseph C., born 1880, and Luther A., born 1882. He married Polly Ann BURGESS on March 30, 1907 in Logan, West Virginia. Polly was born in 1888 in Logan, West Virginia to John BURGESS and Sarah E. WHITE. Ben and Polly had two sons, John Preston, born on Christmas day 1907 and my father, Luther Paul, born 1910. Polly died in April 1912 of consumption (TB). I believe that, based on some old postcards between Polly and her sister and aunt, she had been sick for probably about a year.

I have not been able to find Polly on any U.S. Census for 1910. Based on the postcards I have addressed to her, she was living in Ironton, Ohio in 1908, 1909 and possibly 1910. I have a Ben B. Arthur (unconfirmed as my grandfather, although all information of age and place of birth for him and parents is correct) living as a boarder on the 1910 census in McDowell County, West Virginia, over 3.5 hours away from Ironton, Ohio (by car per Mapquest today). I become skeptical about this being my Benjamin because I wonder why he would need to go so far away for work, especially since in 1910 she was expecting the birth of my father.

Polly Ann Burgess Arthur

Polly Ann Burgess Arthur

John Preston and Luther Paul

John Preston and Luther Paul

The little fragments of memories of conversations I had with Dad about his family seems to indicate that after his mother died, the boys spent a lot of time with their grandparents. At that time, it would have been with his grandfather’s second wife, Mary Samantha KORN Arthur. Dad also always talked fondly of his step-aunt, Jennie, who married a Wyatte COPELAND but never spoke to me of his father, Benjamin. On one of his postcards from Yellowstone he refers to Jennie Arthur COPELAND as “Mom”. For years I had the impression that Benjamin had also died young like Polly while Dad was just a young boy. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Dad was 29 years old when his father died and they were living in the same town.

My mother’s youngest sister once told me she remembered Benjamin as being tall, thin and very nice looking. She said he was a very quiet man and always seemed to be well dressed. She said whenever she was around him she was more like in awe of him. I still hope someday to locate a photo of him.

WWI draft registration card pg 1Kind of an odd side note here. My notes indicate that sometime back in the 70’s my mother told me that my grandfather’s name was Benjamin Baxter Arthur. And that is how I’ve always researched him. I went back through all of my notes and hard copies (census records, obituary, marriage, etc.), and it seems he rarely, if ever, used his full name of Benjamin. I have found him as Benjamin B., Bennie B., Ben B., and B.B. but never with a middle name spelled out on anything. When I began new searches this month on Ancestry and FamilySearch I located a WWI draft registration card for him. On it he listed his name as Benjamin Burns Arthur. This gave me pause for thought because Burns is his mother’s maiden name, which is not unusual for the child to have as their middle name. Maybe I’ll get lucky and someone out there might have some information to share! You just never know!

The 1930 Ashland City Directory lists Benjamin as a carpenter living on Crooks Street with Mary ARTHUR, widow. I believe this would have been his stepmother, Mary Samantha KORN ARTHUR.

Then in 1933, the Ashland City Directory lists Benjamin as a carpenter, still living on Crooks Street, but now living with John ARTHUR (this would be his eldest son, a radio repairman), Mary ARTHUR (his stepmother, widow), and Paul ARTHUR (his youngest son [my father], bellboy at Ventura Hotel).

Benjamin died in Ashland, Boyd County, Kentucky in 1939.

Page 1

Page 1

Page 2

Page 2

Luther A. Arthur wrote a letter to my father, Paul, in 1954. He is responding to a letter inquiry Dad made to him asking about the Arthur family. I wish I had a copy of his inquiry to Luther but wishing doesn’t make it so. Although a lot of the letter is information unrelated specifically to my grandparents, I still want to include it. I imagine in time I’ll be drawing more from this letter as I work on other members in the line.

The following is a transcription of the letter:

July 15, 1954

Mr. Paul Arthur
Hotel Jefferson
17 East Spring St.
Columbus 15, Ohio

Dear Nephew:

I certainly was glad to get your wonderful letter of July 11th  and the information it contained.

You did very well, even if it is a characteristic of the Arthur family not to write letters. I have noticed this myself. I do not mind writing since in a way I can use a typewriter, but if I had to do it in long hand it would (be) both difficult for me to write and for the one addressed to read it.

I will tell you all I know about the Arthur family and it is not much. I have a very hazy rememberance (sic) of your great-grandfather and mother on the Arthur/side. I do not recall her first name, but he went by the name of Press Arthur. Whether “Press” was a short way of pronouncing a longer name, or the real name, I do not know. He was a Baptist minister so I have been told. Her name was also Arthur before marriage, but it was said they were no relation.

Caleb and Willis Arthur, were my uncles. Your grandfather’s brothers. It seems that there was also a sister of my father’s who lived at one time in Unity Ky., but I am not clear on this, and it has been so long since I have back there that I don’t know what happened to her and her children. I do not know what happened to Caleb and Willis Arthur and cannot recall whether I saw them when I was back there in 1923 or not.

Your grandmother (my mother) was a Gibson. Daughter of Lewis Gibson, and I believe her mothers name was Ollie McCorkle. She was born on Leatherwook (sic) Creek (back of Ironton) Ohio. This great grandfather of yours died age 93 and is buried at Getaway Ohio. By his first and second wife he had 16 children. Two of them lived to be 93, but they are all dead now but Jesse B. Gibson, who lives some place in Florida.

This grandmother of yours had three boys. Your father, one they always called Joey (I suppose his name was Joseph) and myself. I do not recall ever seeing Joey. I do not know his age when he died and do not know where he was buried.

When I was less than a year old, your grandmother (my mother) died. I do not even have a picture of her, but those who knew her have always spoken very highly of her. I have been told your father resembled her more than Joey or myself.

When my mother died, I being the baby of the family, my father gave me to a childless aunt to raise.

After that I do not suppose I saw my father more than half a dozen times in my life.

There are a number of Arthurs left in Lawrence County Ohio. On Soliday Creek, which is near Southpoint Ohio.

Urania Neal, 627 South High St., Huntington, W. Va., is a daughter of Joe Arthur, and he was your grandfather’s cousin.

Bess W. Gibson, who lives at 1204(?) Charleston St. Huntington, is my cousin and your second cousin.

There is a tradition in the family that an Arthur was with General Washington when he crossed the Delaware, and our family has usually had a painting of this event in the family.

This is about all I can think of concerning our family and probably all I know.

Regarding your question:  “In your youth was there bad feelings in the family?” So far as I know, the answer is “no.” If there was it was even before my time and I havn’t (sic) heard of it.

It is true we did not visit each other very often, but that may have been due to the distance. While it would not be considered great with present means of transportation, in those days we had to walk.

I know your father and myself visited all branches of the family and seemed to be welcome everywhere. I do not recall my father visiting any of them, but remember again, that I did not see him more than half a dozen times in my life, so I do not know what he did.

I am glad to hear about your family and the news you gave me about the others.

My daughter lives in Long Beach which is about twenty minutes drive from here. She has two children and the newspaper clipping herewith will give her picture and also that of the oldest child. The other child is a boy. This daughter of mine, I gave her the best education money could buy and she can teach in any school in California, but she does not teach, preferring to take care of her family.

This is about all I can think of at this time, and again I thank you for your letter.

                                                                        Sincerely,

                                                                        LUTHER ARTHUR

P.O. Box 42
Huntington Beach, California

OVER … OVER … OVER

Near Chillicothe Ohio you will find the Logan Elm. There is a monument there and on this monument you will find the name of General John Gibson. It was at this place that peace was made with the Indians and the treaty was never borken (sic). The General was a relative of ours.

Luther’s letter has given me some more leads to pursue which is exciting. There is always more to learn about one’s family. The search is definitely a never-ending story! It’s not always easy but it’s definitely a roller coaster ride of adventure! Especially when you come upon a hidden treasure!

Advertisements

Three Brothers in the Civil War

1851 Virginia Map

Both Willis ARTHUR (1791-1856) and Emily “Millie” Jane FREEMEN (1796-1880) were born in Bedford County, Virginia and are my paternal 4th great-grandparents. Willis’ father, John ARTHUR, Sr. (abt. 1858-1850) was a veteran of the Revolutionary War and lived and died on his beloved land in Goose Creek, Bedford County, Virginia. Like his father before him, Willis followed his father’s example of patriotism and became a veteran of the War of 1812, having served in the 4th Regiment of the Virginia Militia.

Willis and Millie had seven children. There were four boys, James P., Caleb, Meredith and William, and three girls, Mary Ellen, Sarah Jane and Emily. Willis and Millie had moved around quite a bit early on living in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois at various times during their marriage. But by 1850, the family was all living back in Lawrence County, Ohio. Sometime after 1850 and before 1856, Willis and Millie moved to Clark County, Illinois where Willis passed away in 1856. After Willis died, Millie once again returned to Lawrence County where she resided with her youngest son, William.

Events Leading to the Civil War

In the first half of the 19th Century, there was a lot of discord among the States. Prior to the Civil War, the country was becoming increasingly divided between the north and the south. There had been talk for years by the southern states of cessation from the Union. Willis had been greatly influenced by his father, his grandfather and his grand-uncle Barnabus ARTHUR.

The-coming-Civil-War

Barnabus ARTHUR (1735-1815), was living in Goose Creek, Bedford County, Virginia, and had granted freedom to his slaves in his Will upon his death in 1815.

An excerpt to his Will reads:

* *  *

Item: In consequence of long and faithful service of my negro man George and my negro Betty, it is my desire that they be emancipated, whenever the laws of this state will allow it and they have the tract of land I purchased of Benjamin Williamson for and during the term of their natural lives; to live upon and maintain their idiot daughter Amy and until they can be so emancipated it is my will that they shall live upon said land and maintain their said daughter and have all the profits of their labor, under the direction of my son Lewis and moreover that they be furnished with one year provision out of my estate whenever they leave it in consequence of this article and the said negroes are not to be considered or appraised as part of my estate.

Item: The residue of my estate both real and personal, after executing the above bequests together with the part left my wife, after her decease and that left to  my negroes George and Betty, after their decease, I give and bequeath in equal shares to my children . . . .

So, according to his Will, Barnabus made sure that certain of his faithful slaves were to be provided land and sustenance for the remainder of their lives. Barnabus’ then controversial actions drew both anger and affirmations among his neighbors. Willis would have been witness to this and would have shared these ideals with his own children. Eventually they could not escape involvement of the national debate over State’s rights and slavery.

http://www.mikelynaugh.com/VirtualCivilWar/

Lincoln’s First Inauguration

One of the primary reasons the southern states were considering cessation was over the issue of slavery. Slavery was prominent in the south but was becoming increasingly banned by the northern states. When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he had run his campaign on a message of anti-slavery. After his election, the South felt it was just a matter of time before slavery was completely outlawed which led to cessation. Click here for some further discussion of events leading up to the Civil War.

In 1859 the abolitionist, John Brown, unsuccessfully attacked the Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, where he was captured. Brown’s trial ended with a conviction and a sentence of hanging for treason. Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that, a year later, led to secession and the American Civil War.

President Lincoln Issues a Call to Arms

It couldn’t have been easy for Millie to send three of her four boys to serve for the Union in the Civil War. Their oldest son, James P. ARTHUR (1823-1897), was pushing 40 years and already had five children and another one on the way. There is some evidence that James served as a Pastor of the Solida Creek Missionary Baptist Church but confirmation of this is now impossible as all of the records of the church were destroyed in a fire in 1972. But the timing and location indicate it as a strong possibility. That may be another reason why he chose to stay home.

His three younger brothers heeded the call and left families and loved ones behind to fight for the cause.

CALEB ARTHUR

Caleb ARTHUR (1829-1903). At the time of the 1860 Census, Caleb was married to Sarah HICKS (1830-1875) and they were living in Lawrence County, Ohio with their three young children, Willis, Joseph and Urania. A fourth child, Lynn, would be born in 1861, the same year Caleb was mustered into service 8 November1861). Caleb served in the Civil War with Company G, 2nd West Virginia Calvary. His rank in was Corporal and rank out was Quartermaster Sgt. (29 November 1864).WV2dCalvary

To All Whom It May Concern:

Know Ye that Caleb Arthur a Quartermaster Sergeant of Captain Joseph Ankrom’s Company G, 2nd Regiment of WV Calvary Volunteers who was enrolled on the twenty-eighth day of August, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty One, to serve three years or during the war, is hereby discharged from the service of the United States, this twenty-ninth day of November 1864 at Wheeling, WV by reason of expiration of term of service. (No objection to his being re-enlisted is known to exist.)

Said Caleb Arthur was born in Wayne County in the State of Tennessee, is 31 years of age, 5 feet 11 1/2″ high.  Rudd Complexion, Blue Eyes, dark hair and by occupation when enrolled, a laborer.

By the 1870 Census, Caleb and Sarah were living in Fayette, Lawrence County, Ohio with their now five children, Willis, Joseph, Lynn, Urania and Jesse. Caleb is now a lawyer and has also been serving as a Justice of the Peace.

MEREDITH “MED” ARTHUR

Meredith “Med” ARTHUR (abt 1835-1900) was married to Roxey BALLARD (1841-1926) and they were living in Fayette, Lawrence County, Ohio on the 1860 Census. At that time they had one son, William H. Arthur. He was a farmer by trade.188th ohio vol inf

Meredith served in the Civil War with Company A, 188th Ohio Voluntary Infantry. He was 32 when he joined on Feb. 15, 1865 to serve 1 year. He was promoted from 1st Sgt.  to 2nd Lieutenant on July 10, 1865.  He mustered out with Company A at Nashville, Tennessee on September 21, 1865.

By the 1870 Census, Meredith and Roxey were living in Lemoine, McDonough, Illinois with their son William, now age 11. Meredith is back to farming with the help of his son.

WILLIAM HARVEY ARTHUR

William Harvey ARTHUR (1838-1895). William was still single when he decided to join the Union soldiers. He enlisted in November 1861 in the Ohio 6th Cavalry and served through Gettysburg in July 1863. In December of 1863 he was discharged at Warrenton, Virginia. He then enlisted as a volunteer in the 14th KY Infantry. He served until January 1865. The 14th KY Infantry saw service from 1862 through Sherman’s March to the Sea and garrison duty recalled home by the Kentucky Governor. It was mustered out January 31, 1865.

There were several times during his service that he was absent from duty due to illness. Twice he was hospitalized and once recuperated at home. The same year he returned from the

Meredith Arthur/Roxey Ballard Marriage Record
Meredith Arthur/Roxey Ballard Marriage Record

War, he married Margaret Elizabeth Hanna FULLERTON on September 3, 1865 in Lawrence County, Ohio. The wedding took place in her parents’ home and was officiated by William’s older brother, Caleb, a Justice of the Peace. William was listed as a laborer on the 1870 Census of Lawrence County, Ohio.

The photograph below is from the Reunion of the 14th and 22nd Kentucky Regiments held September 23 and 24, 1884 in Ashland, Kentucky. For whatever reason, William is not listed as one of the attendees.

14th KY Infantry Reunion-Ashland, KY

14th KY Infantry Reunion-Ashland, KY

Conclusion

This family was so lucky. All of Millie’s sons returned home safely from War. Although I don’t have copies of their records, I have not found any reports of injuries other than William’s recorded sickness and hospitalizations. They were all able to come home and resume their lives.

I know there are other men from my different family lines who also served in the Civil War. As I progress with my research, I hope to determine that they were all fighting on the same side and not family against family as in many instances.

The Civil War remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Historians estimate the death toll at ten percent of all Northern males 20–45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40.

MARY HARTLINE

Hartline 001

DOES anyone else remember Mary Hartline from the 1950’s television show Super Circus? Well, I do. Except that when I was a kid, I always thought it was called The Mary Hartline Show! If you want more information about her and/or her show, just Google “Mary Hartline”. I liked everything about her – her beautiful long blonde hair, her costume, her boots, and her baton. As a child, I was the proud owner of a Mary Hartline doll, a Mary HartlineDoll dress and her paper dolls. I do still have my doll.

In the early 1950’s, I modeled children’s clothing for a number of the major department stores in Columbus (Lazarus, The Union, etc.). It was loads of fun. In 1952, Mary Hartline came to town to introduce her new line of girls’ clothing. I was lucky enough to be a part of it. Now if I could just actually remember the whole thing! If it wasn’t for having the pictures, it would have been a missing memory.

Hartline paper

Hartline paper2

Well, if Mary Hartline had any influence on me it would have to be the following:

1.  White majorette boots with tassels (came later in my junior and senior years!);

2.  Baton (ditto!);

3.  Long, wavy blonde hair; and

4.  Loving elephants!

My Downtown Playground – Part 3

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Growing up in a small town in the 50’s really did have that Mayberry feel to it. Most of the kids knew each other and hung out together at one point or another. It’s true when they say that everybody knows everybody else in a small town. That’s pretty good for the kids. I won’t speak for the adults – I didn’t live there as an adult!

School Days

School days were pretty regimented. Girls had to wear skirts and boys had to wear long pants. There were rules and regulations and the adults were treated with respect. By golly, it actually gave the teachers an opportunity to teach instead of constantly worrying about discipline and lawsuits. Okay, this isn’t intended to be a soapbox entry so I’ll get back to the story.

I walked to and from school each day, just under a mile each way. No, really! If I didn’t walk, I was riding my bike. At least it wasn’t uphill both ways although it did feel like it most of the time. Especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I had to take my violin. Those were the days I was always sick but couldn’t get my mother to believe me for some strange reason. But I walked to and fro through some of the coldest, snowiest days. This was Northwest Ohio after all. I will never forget the one afternoon I was walking home through the very deep snow. Try to picture this. I was always very small. I was probably not even four feet tall yet at ten years old. Here I am walking through the park on my way home after school. Suddenly I disappear into a snow bank. I’m not buried but I’m deep enough that no one can see me and I’m having a heck of a time trying to climb out. So, as panic began to set in and I didn’t want my body to be found in the spring thaw, I finally managed to claw my way out and make it home. Not one person I told my story to seemed the least concerned. I still remember that and I still remember the reality of my fear of the possibility of not being able to get out.

I thought so highly of my third grade teacher, Miss Spridgeon. Gosh, she was so pretty. I suppose I was called the teacher’s pet because I was always volunteering to clean the blackboards for her. She really set me on Cloud 9 when she told me one day that I reminded her of Grace Kelly. Everyone, even kids, knew who Princess Grace was. I look at my pictures and I just don’t see it. But I keep telling myself it must be in there somewhere! HA! No wonder she made the top of my favorite teachers list! And all the while I’m sure it was a ploy to build my confidence. It worked!

4th Grade

Mrs. Weck’s Fourth Grade Class – Franklin Elementary School

Naturally, recess was our favorite time of day and it came once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Since that time all of the playground equipment we played on has long been destroyed as being unsafe for children —

The Swings

The Swings

Maypole

The Maypole

merry-go-round

The Merry-Go-Round

monkey-bars

The Monkey Bars

A lot of the time was spent playing girls after boys. Yes, you read that right. Girls after boys. We would chase the boys around the playground. What would we do when we caught up with the ones we were chasing? Why, we’d hit them on the arm, of course. What else would you do to the boys you liked? Silly!

Since my best friend, Mary Beth, lived across the street from the school, a lot of our afternoons were spent participating in the national pastime:

Americanbandstand1957

I don’t know about the rest of the nation but watching Dick Clark and his American Bandstand is how I learned to jitterbug! Of course when you’re 8-12 years old there’s really not much call for the jitterbug. Truth be told, it was years later before I discovered that I had learned it backwards from the TV! It turns out it didn’t matter anyway. By the time I was ready to rock and roll we were experiencing the British invasion and we were twisting the night away or doing the Bristol Stomp among other dances!

Summer Fun

School’s out, school’s out, teacher let the monkeys out. Now who on earth made that one up? And to think we used to chant that when we were kids. We didn’t even know we were insulting ourselves. Kids sure were naïve then.

We had about three months of what we called freedom. And one thing is for sure, we didn’t spend it lying around indoors in front of a TV screen. Almost every day, we’d be out the door early morning, meeting up with friends either at somebody’s house, at the YWCA or at the school playground for a day of play. Our days consisted of roller skating or swimming at the Y. We would play ping pong or checkers at the Y or badminton at someone’s house. We would go to the school playground and play on the swings or the jungle gym or the merry-go-round. Or we would just walk around town and visit friends. We were always on the go. The rest of the time we were off riding our bikes.

Riding Bikes

Schwinn

There was lots of bike riding around town. I don’t remember which Schwinn model I had. I just remember it was turquoise and chrome and had the carrier on the front like the one in the picture. I sure loved that bike! A bunch of us used to gather over on Race Street. What an appropriate name. It had a sort of incline. I don’t think I’d go so far as to even call it a hill! Man, was I crazy. I used to get my bike going as fast as I could and then do crazy things like let go of the handlebars or take my feet off the pedals or both! Sometimes I would hold the handlebars and stand on the seat. I think back now and my poor Guardian Angels were working overtime. One little rock in the road and I would have been a grease spot on the road. But all went well. I still marvel at our bravery (stupidity!). Ah, the foibles of youth. Youth knows no limits. There’s no such thing as mortality when you’re a kid. I suppose that’s why we can usually get away with so much more.

There was the time Mary Beth and I took off on our bikes one day. She wanted to show me where she used to live in a little town called Middle Point about 7.5 miles from Van Wert. So, sure, why not! Did we give any thought to the traffic? No. Did we give any thought to the time away? No. Did we give any thought to food? No. Did we give any thought to water? No. Did we give any thought? NO! So off we go. Two 10-year-old girls alone on their bikes on the highway. I don’t know what we were thinking. Oh, that’s right, we weren’t thinking. We pedaled for what seemed like hours. We were hot, tired, thirsty and hungry. So, we decided to turn back around and go home. We learned a hard lesson that day. It’s a miracle neither one of us ended up sick or hospitalized. We were literally on the point of exhaustion. But we survived and lived to tell the tale! And we never tried another stunt like that again!

Sleepovers

sleepover

There’s nothing more fun for young girls than getting together and spending the night together to giggle and talk about growing up, watching TV and driving their parents crazy. Something inevitable is always bound to happen. Not anything drastic but usually just enough to get into some kind of “trouble”!

I remember one night Mary Beth was spending the night with me. My mother had this beautiful black ceramic cat that curled around a glass fish bowl. Instead of keeping fish in the bowl, she had several colored glass balls in the bowl. I loved that statue and knew better than to mess with it. But I had company and, of course, wanted to show it off. Well, wouldn’t you know, instead of just pointing out the piece, I just had to pick up the bowl. CRASH it went and shattered at our feet. Of course, it just had to be one of Mom’s favorite pieces. Once she determined that neither one of us was hurt, she made us go to bed – lights out for the rest of the night. Bummer! Poor Mary Beth. She had nothing to do with it. Ah, but we survived!

And then there was one time when I was sleeping over at my friend Carrol’s house. It was a Friday night and guess what was on TV? Here’s your first clue!

FridayNightFrights

Picture this. Here are two little girls all decked out in their pajamas huddled on the sofa in a pitch dark living room in front of the old black and white TV. Shadows bouncing on the wall from the TV. Godzilla We are so intently watching Godzilla. Yes, I said Godzilla. Everyone else has gone to bed. It’s just the two of us – or so we thought. We’re getting to a really scary part of the movie and BAM! Up from behind the couch roaring his head off comes Carrol’s older brother. Picture two little girls screaming their heads off and waking up the entire house. I don’t remember how long it took him to stop laughing. And, if I remember correctly, Carrol and I were the only ones not laughing when it was all said and done. Yes, folks, that stuff really happened in the 50’s. Kids were gullible. I’m here to testify to it.

Conclusion

There are so many thoughts and stories to be written down and shared about living in and growing up in a small town in the 1950’s. It was a wonderful time. It was a different kind of time. I feel very blessed and fortunate to have been a part of that time. There are so many more things I could write and as time goes along I’m sure I will. I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief little trip down memory lane. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated. God bless.

My Downtown Playground – Part 2

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

This picture doesn’t do downtown 1950’s Van Wert justice! Of course, this particular picture is not from the 50’s but it’s the best I can do for now! But this was a big part of my playground. Growing up in a hotel without having other kids around to get into trouble with, you learn to find your own trouble!

Mary BethMy best friend (then and now!), Mary Beth, and I spent a lot of time walking Main Street, stopping after school for French fries and Green Rivers. We would occasionally switch out the Green Rivers for Cherry or Vanilla Cokes!

Directly across the street from the Hotel is the historic County courthouse. Click here for a brief history of the courthouse.

Van Wert County Courthouse

Van Wert County Courthouse

Cannons in front of Courthouse

Cannons in front of Courthouse

Mary Beth, and I used to hang out a lot at the courthouse. No, we weren’t in court. We were in and around the courthouse. We were just kids and we weren’t juvies. To continue. We’d roam the halls sometimes but mostly we spent time climbing around on the cannons. It’s amazing how fast those “horses” could go.

Memorial Hall at Courthouse

Memorial Hall at Courthouse

See that little white building with the green roof in the lower left hand corner of the picture? That’s a War Memorial building that houses a collection of photos of soldiers from Van Wert. Mary Beth and I used to wander through there looking at the pictures of the men and women who served this great country. We didn’t know any of them but it was fascinating. I know some of the photos went back to WWI.

William Edwin Carter

William Edwin Carter

Viet Nam Memorial

Vietnam Memorial

Of course, at the time, neither of us ever suspected that one of our dear elementary school friends would end up on the Vietnam Memorial Wall and have his picture placed in the Memorial Building (I don’t have a copy of it or I would post that). Dead at the age of 20. So sad for so many. But I digress. William Edwin Carter, R.I.P.

Across from the Hotel is a restaurant called “Balyeat’s Coffee Shop” that has been there what seems forever.

Balyeat's Coffee Shop

Balyeat’s Coffee Shop

Well, okay, forever to me is from 1922! That red neon sign can be spotted a mile away. The sign and the coffee shop are still there and they’re still serving excellent down-home cooking. Their pies are to die for. In fact, I wish I had one now. My family and I used to eat in there quite often. In fact, that’s one of the locations I was chatting with Cisco and Pancho.

In this old postcard, you can see the old movie theatre across the street from the Hotel at the end of the block.

Cinema

I used to spend time in there. I suppose you could say there were some perks living in the Hotel. I’m guessing now but I’m pretty sure my Dad had made some arrangement with the theatre owner to let me in for free. Otherwise, how could you explain all the times I just walked in? I know there were a few times I would take a friend or two with me. I loved that old movie house. Some Saturday mornings they would have games and contests for the kids followed by cartoons. It was a few hours of Saturday morning freedom for lots of parents! I still remember one of the contests I entered. We were supposed to fill our mouths full of saltine crackers and then whistle. For some reason, I didn’t win. Could it be that I have trouble just whistling even without anything in my mouth? Nobody would do that today because they’d be so terrified of a kid choking and the parents suing. People didn’t think that way then. Kids actually were allowed to have fun. I can still hear the roar of the laughter from probably a hundred or more kids. Boy, it got loud in there. But fun.

When you walk a couple blocks or so the other direction from the Hotel, there was Fountain Park.

Fountain Park

Fountain Park

Two acres right in downtown. It was a pretty park with swings and paths. I don’t think I spent a lot of time actually in the park because there was just so much other stuff to do. I did cut through it a lot, though, on my way to friends’ houses!

YWCA

YWCA

Last time I was home the YWCA was still there. I think Van Wert is one of the few towns that had separate YWCA and YMCA facilities. Now, this is one place where I did spend a lot of time. Nearly every Saturday morning when I wasn’t at the movie house, I was in there roller skating. Yep. I loved it. I was never a fancy skater or anything but I had fun doing it. I remember one time, a bunch of kids formed a chain and put me on the end of it. I think it was because I was small. Boy, I never let them do that to me again! I was flying. It’s a miracle I didn’t crash through a wall or something! Of course, it might not have been as bad as my memory serves!

My Mom was such a fashionista. I remember I had a special roller skating outfit. It consisted of a red satin blouse and a short black velvet skirt with red satin trim and matching red satin pants. I had a rhinestone roller skate pin that I would always wear.

Rhinestone Pin

Rhinestone Pin

I still have the pin and, as you can see, it’s missing a few of the rhinestones so I don’t wear it anymore.

I used to go swimming a lot at the Y. It was an indoor pool and the smell of chlorine was so strong I can still conjure it up. And, of course, after all that exercise of roller skating or swimming or ping pong or checkers, etc., I always had enough money in my pocket to buy a snack. It was always the same thing no matter what.

6 oz. Coca-Cola

6 oz. Coca-Cola

MoonPie

MoonPie

But my absolute favorite downtown playground activity has to be The Brumback Library! There is no way I can do justice to the beauty of this library. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since. Click here for a brief history of the Library. The Brumback Library stands as the first county library formed in the United States. The building was dedicated on January 1st, 1901. It’s been renovated a couple of times and expanded but they’ve done a magnificent job of maintaining the integrity of the building. I saw it a number of years ago after the expansion.  They did a fabulous job of making everything match.  It’s such a beautiful place.

The Brumback Library

The Brumback Library

I have such wonderful memories of this library. It has been likened to a CASTLE! That’s how I always thought of it. I spent more hours in this library when I was in elementary school. Maybe that’s why I love reading so much. Not only was it a treasure trove of books, it was a fabulous place to explore! I don’t know if they still have them, but some of the upstairs walkways were made of heavy frosted glass. They were so cool! I think they may have been removed or replaced when they remodeled. There were so many stairways and alcoves to explore. I doubt the kids today would have the run of the library like we did back then. Migosh, I miss it!

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

Library Interior

I could go on and get really detailed about all the stores and alleyways and things to explore downtown. But I’m sure you’ve read enough for now. Besides, I’ve got to save some for the third and final installment on Van Wert in the 50’s.

My Downtown Playground – Part 1

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Downtown Van Wert, Ohio

Around 1956 my family moved to a little town called Van Wert, Ohio. Apparently Dad took it upon himself to buy an old hotel smack dab in the middle of town. It was called the Marsh Hotel or the Hotel Marsh, depending upon individual preference. This became my new stomping ground. We occupied the Manager’s Suite on the top floor.

But what–you say–did a kid do in the middle of downtown for entertainment? Well, there were lots of things to occupy my days and my mind.

????????????????????

For starters, there’s the Hotel itself. How many kids get the run of the house, especially if that “house” is a hotel? Being Nancy Drew incarnate, I could run up and down those hallways and into empty rooms looking for “clues” and building cases.

There was a big formal restaurant dining room in the back of the Hotel. In that dining area sat an old piano. Gosh, I loved that old piano. I didn’t know how to play but that didn’t stop me. I learned all the easy stuff kids learn on pianos without lessons. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; you get the idea. Little tunes kids can pick out on their own. Of course, that was only allowed during times the restaurant was closed. We wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s appetite!

The check-in desk was full of surprises with its cubbyholes and glass display cabinet. There were boxes of cigars in the display that were for sale. I don’t like the smell of cigar smoke but I did like the smell of those cigar boxes! I had quite a collection of the old empty boxes. Most were used to store my crayons and other trinkets.

Marsh Desk

Yep, that’s me, my Mom and my faithful companion, Happy, right there at the check-in desk. It’s a pretty beat-up picture but if you look real close over my Mom’s right shoulder, you can just barely make out an old PBX switchboard. I’m guessing it was installed maybe in the 1930s or 1940s.

Antique PBX

Antique PBX

This picture is just an example of the PBX with those cords and buttons and I knew how to use it. I was able to take and place calls on occasion to help out! It was fun.

elevator handle

The hotel was four stories and had an old Otis elevator that was manually operated. It had one of those gates across the door that was shut manually. And then there was the apparatus that moved the elevator up and down. It was pushed to the right to go up and left to go down. The trick was when you stopped at each floor you had to bob up and down until you got it lined up. Otherwise, there would have been a big step up or down when exiting the elevator. I did operate the elevator on occasion. There were times when I just wanted to go upstairs and grab something out of the apartment without having to run up and down the flights of stairs so I would take the elevator. Sometimes I would even get to take the guests to their floor. Then you always said “Watch your step, please.” Of course, I  only got to do that when Shorty was busy! We had a regular bellhop named Shorty who was also the elevator operator. Such a nice man he was, too. Heck, he tolerated me, didn’t he?! Hey, I just realized. Could this be like a forerunner to video games? You don’t see the connection? Well, I had to synchronize the handle up and down to get it lined up just right with the landing.

The Cisco Kid and Diablo

The Cisco Kid and Diablo

There were definitely some perks being the young daughter of the Hotel owner. Every now and again someone famous or sort of famous would stay at the Hotel. One such individual I remember so well was Duncan Renaldo. Who is that some of you younger readers might be asking. Why, it’s the Cisco Kid! Oh, Pancho! Oh, Cisco! Leo Carrillo, who played Pancho in the TV series was traveling with him. Of course, he also brought with him his trusted horse, Diablo, but Diablo, much to my chagrin, did not stay at the Hotel. They were in town for the Van Wert County Fair. Even as a child, I knew that the Cisco Kid was a VERY handsome man! He and Pancho were talking with me and asking me if I watched their TV show. Of course I told them I did – and I did. When they asked me which day it was on TV, I couldn’t tell them. I was so embarrassed at the time. But, he was so gracious. He had such a wonderful laugh and he said I was so cute. Well, that was all I needed. I was smitten. Of course, my poor mother was just sure that I would be “discovered” and asked to go to Hollywood and become famous and rich. Ha!

From Google Images - not the actual dance troupe

From Google Images – not the actual dance troupe

One other example was a troupe of Irish dancers touring the country. If memory serves, they probably ranged in age from about 10 or 12 to about 15 or 16. Having Irish blood myself flowing through my veins, I felt as one with them! They were teaching me how to do the Irish jig and a sword dance. My, but they were a fun bunch. I was able to ride on the tour bus with them to one of their stage performances. Naturally, I fell in love with a couple of the Irish boys. They weren’t just cute – they had the neatest accents ever! They paved the way for Michael Flatley and Lord of the Dance!!

Yes, there was a lot of mischief for a young girl to get into at that old Hotel. In Part 2 I’ll move my activities to the great outdoors. Look out world, here I come!

Only Wrong Once!

scan0001

 It just goes to show that sometimes you can be too close to something to actually see it.

I believe this article about my parents came out in the Toledo Blade sometime late in 1958. Reporters for the the Blade were always passing through Van Wert, Ohio and, for some inexplicable reason, often found our family newsworthy.

I still have the bracelet and earrings that match the necklace Mom is wearing. Oh, what I wouldn’t give! Even as a child, I loved playing with her jewelry. But that’s another story!

When I reread this article, I just noticed for the first time that there is a misprint. Guess it got past the reporter, editor, typesetter, etc.! See what happens when one of your jobs has been as a proof reader? I’d better not say too much, though. I’m sure I would run across my own misprints if I were to review my entries.