Kenmore at the Turn of the Century
(Excerpts from the memoirs of Leon Goodman as told to Lee McCutchan – Written in 1983)
Leon Goodman is the eldest of four children born to Samuel and Mattie Stuver Goodman. The Goodmans lived more than “half-way” up the Hill on Witner Lane” prior to, and for a time after, the turn of the century. The “Hill” is now known as Clearview Hill. Witner Lane, named for John Witner the largest landowner on the Hill, “curled” up from Manchester Rd. to serve the houses, farms and orchards above.
Leon, 93 years young, is currently a perky resident of a Doylestown nursing home. A sister, Mrs. Lida Schmidt, lives in Marshallville. A brother, Robert, (recently deceased) was a long-time member of Akron’s Police Dept.
Samuel Goodman served as Mayor of Kenmore for two non- consecutive terms and served as a Director on the Coventry Twp. School Board for a number of years.
In 1889, when Leon was born, our area was known as Wingerter’s Crossing. The Crossing being where Manchester Rd. crossed the three sets of railroad tracks that ran parallel through the area: The Cleveland, Akron & Columbus, The Erie and the Baltimore & Ohio.
Leon was about ten or eleven when a post-office was established and the area became officially named HALO. Just prior to this time, Henry Shook had built a brick building and opened up a store at the crossing on the edge of the big cow-pasture that bordered the tracks. (The cow-pasture is now the office area of Diamond Crystal Salt.)
Mr. Shook was named first postmaster of Halo, Ohio and the post- office opened in his store. There was no free delivery; every family had a post-office box and came to the post-office for their mail.
It was the job of a Mr. Beichler to get the mail to and from the post-office to the railroad and to hoist the mail sacks on and off the “mail-arms”. The outgoing mail was placed in a leather pouch, tied and hoisted up to an arm extending from a tall pole out along the railroad tracks. The trains slowed down for the crossing and the fireman snared the pouch; at the same time tossing the incoming mail destined for Halo onto a similar arm.
Several years later, Halo became the City of Kenmore. The first City offices and the Mayor’s Office was located upstairs over Smith’s Grocery on Manchester Rd. They were still there when Sam Goodman served as Mayor.
LIFE AT HOME
The Goodman family and home were typical of the time and of this area.
Most all of their food was grown in the family garden. Fruit orchards abounded in the area. Food was stored, canned, pickled and preserved to last through the winter. The A & P in Akron, down on Howard St. was the supplier of tea and coffee and all sorts of spices. “Mother preferred Arbuckle Brand coffee, which sold for nine cents a pound, and always saved the signatures off the labels to send away for special presents.” (Even then there were coupons and coupon savers.)
“Mother did all of the baking and we bought “Patent A” flour in 49 lb. sacks. Neighbors always exchanged “yeast starts” for bread dough.
“About that time Jake Zimmerly and his brother built a packing house on the edge of the big swamp on Manchester Rd. Here they butchered and salt-cured meat. I remember well, Mother giving me a dime once or twice a week and sending me to Jake’s for a soup-bone, impressing on me to be sure to tell him to ‘leave some meat on it’.”
Leon’s mother cooked and baked on a big coal-fired range. Just south of Wingerter’s Crossing, H. C. Ohl had opened a coal company, bringing in coal from mines in the Doylestown area. “In the fall everyone laid in a winter’s supply of coal. You had to. You couldn’t depend on the roads being passable any time.”
“Mother made most all of our clothes, buying yard goods in Akron at either O’Neils or Yeagers Dry Goods. There was a Kresge’s Dime Store downtown, too, that we got a lot of things from.”
Between South St. and Witner Lane on Manchester Rd. the Steiner family ran a big dairy farm. This was the souce of milk and butter. “Mother, and most everyone else, kept chickens for meat and eggs.”
When the devasting diptheria epidemic hit the area in the early 1900’s, the Goodman children all fell victims. Sam called in the family doctor, Dr. Norris from Akron. Dr. Norris told about a brand new toxin-anti-toxin that was available and asked Sam if he wanted to pay the price.
Dr. Norris telephoned the prescription to a drug store in Cleveland, personally met the trolley that brought the medicine from Cleveland, brought it to the house and administered the new “miracle cure”. All of the Goodman children survived. A great many were not so lucky.
When Sam Goodman ran for Mayor of Kenmore for the third time, Leon had left the area and was living in Dayton. However, on this particular election day, Leon was visiting back home.
When the polls closed and the votes counted, Sam had been defeated. He had lost by seven votes. Sam took it very hard.
A family by the name of Baughman controlled seven votes. For some reason Sam blamed this family for his defeat, paid a visit that very night and vented his feelings.
Sam felt repudiated. Returning home he immediately began making plans to leave the area. Shortly thereafter he moved his family to Marshallville. However, he did not cut all ties to Kenmore. He retained his home and property on Witner Lane and it was there he died.
Leon got his elementary education attending School No. 12, Mud Lake District, Coventry Twp. School No. 12 was a brick school, larger than most, located near Summit Lake, close to the railroad switch house.
Leon returned to No. 12 as the teacher at age 18.
THINGS A YOUNG BOY DID
A favorite pastime was to take the trolley to Akron to the Robinson-Merrill Pottery Co., just south of the Goodrich plant on Main St. Big plate glass windows lined the sidewalk and Leon could stand for hours watching the potters throw the soft mass of clay onto their wheels, set them spinning and turn out all shapes and sizes of jars, jugs and vases.
Published at that time in Akron, in a one-story building across from Yeager’s, was the TIMES-DEMOCRAT. Sam Goodman worked on this newspaper. He was in charge of distribution.
When the trolley-line was extended South on Manchester Rd. to Kenmore, Leon became the first newspaper carrier in the area. He delivered house to house and had about 18 customers. The papers sold for one-cent; except for the “big” edition that was printed on the occasion of Pres. McKindley’s assassination. It was not a “Special Edition”, just a lot of extra pages devoted to the tragedy. These papers sold like “hot-cakes” for 25 cents each.
Bringing in drillers and derrickmen from the oil-fields of Penna., the Akron Salt Co. began drilling two wells in the big field on the east side of Manchester Rd. This was a fascinating operation, too, and Leon spent many an hour at the drill sites, observing all that was going on. (The Akron Salt Co. later became The Colonial Salt Co.)
Down Manchester Rd., just before you got to Elder’s place, (before Elder built the bookstore), was Grady’s Park and Summer Casino. Here traveling shows, itinerant entertainers and vaudeville acts performed in the summer time. The performance Leon best remembers was a trapeze act, “The Flying Laurentz’s”. The Laurentzs consisted of two boys and two girls who had trained and “practiced their flip-flops” in a haymow on a farm out on Copley Rd.
(Perhaps the reason this sticks so vividly in Leon’s mind is the fact that this was “the first time he had ever seen anybody in tights.”)
Leon also remembers spending time watching the boats on the Canal and the horses that plod the towpaths at a mandated speed of “not more than five miles per hour”. Movement along the Canal was usually uneventful, except when two boats met, going in opposite directions. This created quite a problem, for in most cases the Canal was not wide enough to allow them to pass.
Some of the boats were pulled by a team of horses, others used only one.
To shorten the distance around a large swampy area on the south end of Summit Lake, a floating bridge had been built to serve as the towpath. All the horses were leery of walking this bridge no matter how many times they had been across it, and it took a very good and alert driver to keep them moving and from bolting.
THE BIG PARTY
One evening when Leon was about thirteen, his father came home from work as excited as Leon had ever seen him. There was going to be a big party held in downtown Akron that night. He talked constantly all through supper about all the “fun” there was going to be and finally persuaded his wife to let Leon go back down with him to join in. Downtown they went.
It was only later that Mattie learned the “party” was to be a “lynching party”.
Leon said he had never before, or after, seen his mother so upset. “She flew into a rage – mad as a wet hen – and didn’t speak to Sam for almost a week after that”.
But, the lynching didn’t take place.
The Akron police had in their custody a young negro lad, accused of assaulting a young white girl, Twila Mass. Some of the townspeople decided to assure “justice would be done”, and planned a charge on the police station. The Akron Police stood their ground, the prisoner was spirited out of the area and the mission failed.
The “avengers” determined to get some satisfaction, set fire to the City Hall and dumped Akron’s Police Wagon into the Canal at the lock site behind Quaker Oats.
The “wagon” was the pride of the Akron Police Dept. It was an electric- powered vehicle, the first in the Country made especially for police work.
JOINING THE WORK FORCE
Soon after Leon graduated from high school, the School Board was notified that Mud Lake District School No. 12 would be in need for a new teacher in the Fall. Leon had no interest in becoming a teacher, but he had a cousin who did.
Sam Goodman invited his nephew to accompany him to the next Board meeting and Sam placed his name in nomination. Leon went along for the want of something better to do.
Sam assured his nephew that with his influence behind him, he would be sure to get the job.
Sam had not reckoned with Mr. Terwilliger.
Mr. Terwilliger stood up, his voice booming, nominated “LEON GOODMAN”.
Before Leon could gather his senses and object, the Board had voted and Leon was the new teacher.
Leon convinced his father, he really did not want the job. Sam advised to wait a while, then go to the Superintendent and resign.
Leon waited two days and then made the trip to North Hill, where the Supt. lived. From the litter of papers and handbills on the porch, it was evident the Supt. was not home and hadn’t been for a while. A neighbor informed Leon the man he wanted to see was in Mexico on vacation.
The day before school was to start, Leon again made the trip to North Hill. He met with the Supt., but was told it was too late to resign and that he would be expected to start classes at the school the next morning.
When Leon arrived to start his first day, the Supt. was there ahead of him, his horse tied out in back. The Supt. unlocked the door, gave him the keys and then stayed the morning to help him get started.
So “a green, inexperienced, eighteen year old” became the reluctant teacher of grades one through eight in a one-room school house, charged with the education of forty pupils.
He stayed three years. Then,
O. C. Barber originally founded his Diamond Match Company in Akron, locating in a building at the corner of Falor Avenue and the Canal.
Shortly thereafter Mr. Barber and Akron’s tax department had a difference of opinion; an altercation followed and Mr. Barber moved his match factory to Barberton.
When Mr. Barber vacated the building on the Canal, a new company moved into the premises, The Diamond Rubber Company, and Leon was offered a job.
Leon, “young, strong and ambitious and still not in love with teaching,” resigned his school and went with the new challenge.
“Besides, it paid more!”
In conjunction with his new job, among other things, Leon learned to splice inner-tubes.
“Pneumatic tires, at that time, were not all that reliable.
After Leon had been with Diamond Rubber for a couple of years, the plant Supt. M. A. Flinn asked if he would be interested in moving with him to Boston. A job was open in a plant that made “carriage rubber” and it paid $5.00 more a week.
Leon was willing to go most anywhere for that almost unheard of salary.
And so, Leon Goodman left the Kenmore area. Various jobs with various rubber plants carried him to numerous cities, covering most of the eastern half of the United States.
Before Leon left, Kenmore Blvd. had been laid out and opened up and Huffman’s store had been built on the N. E. corner of the Blvd. and Manchester Rd…….there were still no paved streets in Kenmnore……Kenmore High School had been built in the heart of a big wooded area, his brother Robert, graduating from there several years later……Bill Sour’s girls were all grown-up and married. (In Leon’s words, Bill Sours was the “vulgarly rich” land-owner in the area. Bill owned all the land along Manchester Rd. from Witner Lane down to and all along in back of the railroad tracks, half-way to Portage Trail. (Portage Trail being the original Indian Path that led into Barberton, as marked by “The Indian” at Wooster Rd. & Norton Ave.)……as the Sours girls married, their father gave each of them a piece of land along Manchester Rd., building a house for them on it. These were the homes of the Wagners, the Bissells, the Bachtels, the Falors and the Waters. (All names still prevalent in Kenmore.)
Writer’s Note: All names, dates and locations may not be entirely correct. The above is as was related to me direct from the memories of Mr. Leon Goodman and have not been researched for exact accuracy. I apologize for any errors this article may contain.