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Fostoria's Past: A Century of history in the making
By Gene Kinn
Staff writer (The Review Times)


In April of 1920, a front page story announced that the Willys Corp. of Toledo would take over the old Peabody Buggy Co. plant and would erect and operate a branch factory of the Toledo Auto-Light Co. here.

The story indicated the Willys firm would install at once an ignition plant employing, "just as many men as there are housing accommodations for them; to also have an auto parts plant and later a body plant; and to fill the 55 acres purchased with factories of different sorts just as fast as Fostoria can care for the increased population.



The big story in 1921 was, "The Big Four is going to stop in Fostoria."

For several years the Big Four did not stop here, although their trains passed through the city. Every possible effort was made during the years to get them to stop. Finally, an ordinance was passed establishing a four-mile per hour speed limit for Big Four trains passing through town.

The railroad obtained a federal injunction restraining Mayor F. M. Hopkins from enforcing the ordinance. Negotiations were then opened up between city officials and attorneys and officers of the railroad resulting in an agreement to stop and to pick up and discharge passengers here.



Three new factories high-lighted the news in 1922.

An announcement was made on Jan. 11, indicating that the Fostoria-Bellevue Rubber Co. had purchased the upper glass factory and would start operations as soon as the building could be put into shape and the machinery secured.

The new concern was expected to give employment to nearly 100 men and women and to double their output and payroll within a year.

H. B. Skinner, president and general manager of the company, said they would manufacture commercial rubber articles such as hose, jar rings, foot pads, balloons, nipples, gaskets, etc. They also had a large order on hand for rubber heels.

The company previously had a small operation in Bellevue.

On Jan. 13, it was announced that Pierce Body Co., a newly organized manufacturing concern would start production Feb. 1 hiring 12-15 men at the outset. A big feature of their production was to be a four-door sedan body for the Ford automobile.

On Jan. 16, another front page story revealed that Ohio Alloys Co. had purchased the Loudon Glass plant on Hissong Avenue and would begin remodeling the building at once. There was said to be, "every assurance that employees will have steady work and that it will not be long before a considerable force will be engaged."



Fostoria High School band, under the baton of Jack Wainwright, won the national high school band contest in Chicago on June 7, 1923, carrying with it a $1,000 prize. When Jack and the band returned to Fostoria on June 11, thousands of Fostorians and people from the rural districts crowded the platform and all available space in the vicinity of the Nickel Plate station a half hour or more before their train was scheduled to arrive.

According to the newspaper account, "never has there been such a homecoming for a school-boy organization. Never were returning victors greeted with a more whole-hearted tribute of welcome than given the Fostoria High School band boys.


1924 (More about the year)

On June 5, 6 and 7 of 1924, Fostoria hosted the state high school band contest. Nine of the finest school boy musical organizations in the state gathered here for this first annual tournament. The local band won the title.

Also in early May of 1924, property damage running into thousands of dollars was suffered by farmers living south of Fostoria when a tornado swept through the area.

Roofs were torn off houses, barns were blown down, trees were uprooted or snapped off at the base and early garden crops were cut to shreds. Incredibly, there were no injuries to persons or livestock reported.



Tragedy and the New Year arrived almost simultaneously when two local young men were killed and a third was seriously injured in an auto accident in Tiffin.

The accident occurred at 2 a.m. on Jan. 1 at Market and Monroe streets when their car crashed into the Tiffin City Hall.

The dead were Ruhel Freese, 18, son of W. A. Freese of West High Street and a senior at Fostoria High School; Abraham Abowd, 22, son of George Abowd of 581 Maple Street, a clerk in his father's confectionery store here. The injured man was William Kovaschitz, 26, son of Stephen Kovaschitz of Columbus Avenue, a real estate dealer in Cleveland. Kovaschitz was the driver.

Two other occupants of the car escaped without injury. One was C. E. Morris, an employee of the Nickel Plate Railroad. The other man had been at a party with the others and had joined them, but neither Morris or Kovaschitz knew the man who disappeared after the crash.



Ground was broken early in September, 1926 for the erection of the first of 12 large modern factory buildings which were to constitute a gigantic expansion and development program of the National Carbon Co., Inc. in Fostoria.

The expansion, to be completed in the spring of 1928, meant an expenditure of several millions of dollars (somewhere between 4 and 5-million). When completed, the Fostoria plant would be one of the most modern plants in the world for the manufacture of carbon products.

Earlier in the year, the Electric Auto Lite Co. acquired the Bosch Ignition Co. According to Dwight Sampson, superintendent of the local plant, between 250 and 400 more employees would be taken on to care for the increased production of the combined plants.

Also, in 1926 Fostoria hosted the national high school band contest, featuring eight hundred boys and girls from every section of the nation.

The dozen bands competing came from Ohio, Michigan, Utah, Iowa, Indiana, Texas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois.

The band from Joliet, Ill. won the contest. Fostoria High was graded six-tenths of a point below Joliet and was awarded second honors.

As part of that national contest, the National School Band Association was formed here with Hy Lammers of Ogden, Utah as president. J. W. Wainwright of Fostoria was elected second vice president.



An unidentified man was burned to death and another man was reported in critical condition after a $100,000 fire totally destroyed the Union Stock Yards here on Sept. 2, 1927. Approximately 500 head of livestock were killed.

The unidentified man was thought to be a transient who was in town repairing awnings for several local businessmen. His body was charred beyond recognition, but a small packet of needles and tools, used in awning repairs, was found nearby.

The fire was discovered at about 1:30 a.m. by E. Stahl, the night man employed by the stock yards.



Another fire, on Feb. 2, 1928, destroyed the millwork department and storage yards of the Fostoria Lumber and Supply Co. on West North Street. It was said to be, "one of the most spectacular fires Fostoria has ever experienced."

The loss was conservatively estimated at $80,000.

The north end residential section of the city was thrown into total darkness for several hours when it was found necessary to sever a number of power lines for the protection of firemen fighting the blaze. Telephone cables serving several hundred residents of the west section of the city were melted and burned through by the intense heat.

Another big story in 1928 was news, on Dec. 10, that Fostoria would have an airport. The site was already selected, the James Cullen farm of 100 acres on McDougal Road, just over a mile east of Main Street.


1929 (More about the year)

A hangar was to be erected within a month or so and three Swallow airplanes had been purchased, with delivery of the first one set for early March of 1929. The new facility was to be operated by Earl Emrtson, proprietor of the Emerson Garage here.

Three downtown business blocks were gutted and the post office building was seriously threatened in a spectacular fir on Dec. 4, 1929.

The entire stock of the Franklin Store was demolished, 19 used cars and one new one stored on the second floor of the Brandeberry-Dodge Garage were destroyed, and the Park Bowling Alley, owned by Harry Aldrich, where the fire is believed to have started, was completely gutted.

Equipment in offices and studios above the Franklin Store and the bowling alley were also destroyed, including a piano and a valuable collection of relics and antiques owned by H. J. Adams. Fireman Charles Wise was severely burned, but remained on the job.

The total loss was estimated at $100,000.

Another big story in 1929 was the opening of Fostoria's new filtration and softening plant on Jan. 27. The plant was said to be one of the most modern in the country, featuring the very latest ideas and most modern methods in water purification.

Information courtesy of William Cline



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