Lee McCutchan’s 1984 Interview with Walter Burton


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

Walter Burton came to Kenmore in 1910 when his father, David W. Burton, moved the family here from Ravenswood, W. VA. At that time the post office was still down in Shook’s general store on Manchester Road. If you wanted your mail, you went after it – there was no free delivery. The population of the town was 1,550.

One of the first impressions that stuck uppermost in his mind was the many water sources – all the wells, cisterns, and creeks that dotted the area, and the huge chestnut tree that stood in the middle of the field where Sparkle Market now stands. There were a number of small hills and embankments all along Kenmore Blvd., which kept being graded down as the business section grew. The last to go was the rise at 17th & the Blvd. where the Walker house was recently razed to make way for the new Gray Drugstore.

The intersection of Kenmore Blvd. & Wilbeth Road was a low spot that would become flooded and impassable with every big rain.

In 1913 they had a big area-wide flood and Summit Lake became a “Great Lake.” The car barns (now the Metro bus terminal site) were completely flooded, but the street car bridge remained above the water level. (The street-car bridge ran parallel to the road bridge on Kenmore blvd. crossing the canal, east of Manchester Rd.) Sightseers lining the bridge became a problem for travelers. Walter remembers watching a big rooster setting atop a roll of picket fencing riding out the crest of the flood on his personal raft.

Walter doesn’t remember so much about it, but his sister Louisa aften talked about the big snows we used to have here. One in particular caught a Kenmore trolley car in a big drift right at Shadyside Park. Between the snow and an ensuing power failure the trolley car was stuck there for almost three days. Coincidently, the conductor and motorman lived only a few houses down the road and could go home for meals. Otherwise, they stayed with the car. The cars were heated with coal stoves. Usually the big brooms used to sweep snow off the tracks were enough to keep the cars moving through, but not in this case.

It used to be great sport to wait until the street car topped the hill on Kenmore Blvd., and then pull the trolley mast off the power line. The car would coast all the way down, the mast clank-clanking at every cross-arm.

Walter started school here in 1910 in what was then known as the Central School (now Heminger). When the Lawndale Elementary School was built he transferred there (much closer to home). The original Lawndale school was a small, wooden one-room structure built on the South side of Wilbeth Rd. near now 27th St. The population of Kenmore was booming, and in a short time the number of students outgrew the school and a new brick school was built on 25th St. Walter moved with his class over there. When Kenmore High School was built in 1916 he was in the first class to enter there.

The original one-room Lawndale School still stands on Wilbeth Rd., looking almost new and occupied by the Yugoslavian Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Mr. Burton doesn’t remember too much about the Village’s police department – mainly, because there weren’t too many things that occurred requiring the Marshall’s intervention. He remembers that once the Marshall was called down on Florida Ave. to shoot a rabid dog.

Of the Fire Department, he remembers that housed at the west end of Shadyside Park was a little two-wheeled, hand-pushed tank cart, which may have held a hundred gallons of water. The Fire Department was all strictly volunteers who, when the fire alarm sounded, ran down to get the cart and try to get it pushed to the fire in time. He reasons there must have been a similar unit at the other end of town.

Standing at the entrance to 20th St. (originally Washington St., later changed to Kansas) off Kenmore Blvd., used to be two large cobblestone piers, each about 15 ft. high. They stood guard there for many years, until people started running into them with their automobiles.

The one on the N. E. corner became so badly damaged it became an eyesore and they tore them both down.

Another thing that used to be of beauty along the Blvd. were the many stately maples that lined the street. These were all taken out, leaving the sidewalks barren. Walter stated he was very happy to see the feeling come full circle and trees being planted on the Blvd. again.

For all of the early homes, buildings and businesses, the lots were graded off and the foundations or basements scooped out using a team of horses. One of the main contractors for this work was Mr. Gindlesberger who kept his team in a big barn just across the road from the Burton residence on 20th St.

Around 1924 a Mr. Makison and Frank Goetke started the Kenmore Herald Newspaper. They later purchased and published, all at the same time, along with the Kenmore Herald, the Barberton Herald, the South Akron Post, the East Akron Review (Mr. Burton worked on these papers for several years).

Mr. Burton is by profession a writer, now semi-retired. He has written numerous technical books and publications for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and several others. His father was an avid amateur photographer. Most of his pictures made on glass negatives are of historical value. A great many of his pictures were destroyed by water, but his son, also struck with the hobby, has saved many and with reprints has enriched various Library and Historical Society collections.

Jaron Barnes