Lee McCutchan’s 1984 Interview with Mrs. Ida Gerstenslager Christy

 

The dates and places noted are as they were remembered and may not be strictly factual. They were not researched for accuracy.

Mrs. Ida Gerstenslager Christy, 91 years young, came to Kenmore from Marshallville, Ohio, as a new bride in 1909. Soon after the Shadyside Allotment was opened, in 1916, they purchased a lot from the Akron Realty Company for $100. Theirs was one of the first homes built on Alabama Ave. (now 24th St.) between Florida and Maine (now Harpster). Ida still lives in this home.

The allotment was parceled out of a big wheatfield, owned by the Switzer family. The original farmhouse stood just about where the Acme Store stands now on East Ave. and Chandler.

The deed specifies that no dwelling shall be built in this allotment for a sum of less than $1,200.00; none shall be built to house any merchantile, manufacturing or retail establishments or for the making, sale, or distribution of any alcoholic beverages.

There were five lots set aside on 23rd St. between Florida and Carey for non-residential building. This is where the Park United Methodist Church first built. The church later moved to 24th St., and Flynn’s Grocery opened in the vacated building.

There were also deed restrictions governing fences and the keeping of horses or cows, but everyone had chickens and most kept geese. The Barnetts, who built behind Christy’s had a big Leghorn Rooster that felt he was the “cock-of-the-walk”, who “ruled his roost” and patrolled the neighbors yards as well, chasing all those he didn’t feel should be trespassing.

The allotment wasn’t entirely flatland. Florida Avenue was low in some areas and the homes built along it stood on a rather high embankment. One house between 24th & 25th had 10 steps leading up to its front porch. Before Florida was paved, a lot of fill was brought in, bringing the road up closer to the houselines.

Houses began to be put up in the allotment rather rapidly by the real estate company and by individuals, but there were no stores. An enterprising grocer from North Hill began coming down once a week taking grocery orders and delivering them back the same afternoon. The residents were very much dependent on this arangement, and the North Hill grocer had virtually a monopoly for a long time.

Finally Lewis Smith saw the opportunity and opened a grocery at Stop 96. He used to come every morning, pick up your order and have it back to you in a matter of hours. He did this for several years.

Shadyside Park, laid out in a grove of trees, contained a bandstand, where local musicians gave a concert every Sunday afternoon. It also contained a small building that could be used as a concession stand. On occasions such as family reunions (and it hosted a lot of those) one could use the facility to make coffee and hot cocoa.

Someone had dug a deep well in the park and people used to come from miles to get this “good” water. It was the best tasting around. The area, they say, sits on top of an underground river. There were a lot of wells and springs; everybody had easy access to all the water they could want or use.

On the Blvd. at 8th Street there was posted a big warning sign “This Village is Police Patrolled.” The police force consisted of a patrolman who walked the Blvd. checking the stores (and keeping an eye on strangers). If any one (off the Blvd.) needed a policeman, there was one cruiser they could send out. There weren’t many calls for a policeman; other than now and then to take a drunk home.

One of the early churches in Kenmore was the Goss Memorial Reformed Church. Their original church, moved here by the congregation, was the Presbyterian Church from Marshallville, Ohio. Not too many years later, the membership had outgrown these facilities and the big, new stone church was built at Florida and 11th.

Their first church, still standing at the corner of Florida and 9th, is still being used as a church, housing the Akron United Wesleyan Church.

Ida’s husband, Vern Christy, served as a member of the Kenmore Village Council for several years. He was, in fact, instrumental in collecting signatures of the 15,000 residents of Kenmore required to have Kenmore declared a City. It was just about this time that Akron came forth with their decision to annex the village. Kenmore’s Mayor Hollinger and several on the Village Council were much opposed to the “take-over” and determined not to concede. The evening of the Village Council meeting at which the annexation papers were to be signed, Akron came prepared with subpeonas.

When the first subpeona was served on Mayor Hollinger, Council members Christy, Goetke and Jones and a fourth member ran from the meeting to forestall the signing of the annexation papers. The four were cited in contempt of court and the Sheriff was sent to “track them down.” Verne Christy did not go home that night, but at 3:00 A.M. the Sheriff was there banging on his front door, demanding he come out. Christy’s son-in-law, Walter Edwards, answered the door and asked what Mr. Christy had done, “murdered somebody?” The answer was “No”, but “they were out to get him, and would, dead or alive.” The four were located, and still refusing to sign, taken to the County Jail. Elmer Prentice went down to bail them out, willing to go to almost any figure to post bond for them. The judge refused to set a bond, sentencing them each to a week in jail. The four did sign the annexation papers, but they still served their full time.

Mrs. Christy’s father was a farmer at Marshallville, but her uncle and brother ran the Gerstenslager Buggy Works in Wooster, renown for their “rubber-tired” buggies for the elite. If one owned a Gerstenslager, one was “somebody.” They later turned to manufacturing bodies for the postal trucks and every one built prominently carried their name plate.

 
Jaron Barnes