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


The big event in 1930 was another fire; this one at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus. It had local implications in that a Fostoria prisoner was among the victims.

Eventually, 322 were added to the death list with 150 injured persons who had a slight chance of recovery and 100 others who suffered minor injuries.

Among the dead was James Collins of Fostoria who was sentenced for automobile theft in Michigan after he had robbed the Hartline grocery store on East Jackson Street here.

Three other residents of Seneca County were killed in the blaze along with four men from Hancock County and four from Wood County.

All evidence indicated that some of the prisoners had started the blaze in an attempt to escape.



The Fostoria Municipal Court Bill passed the Ohio Senate at 2:50 a.m., April 11, 1931. It had already passed the House and was awaiting the signature of the governor which would make it effective Jan. 1, 1932.

The bill provided for the establishment of a municipal court in and for the city of Fostoria and included in its jurisdiction the townships of Loudon, Jackson, Washington and Perry.

In the November, 1931 general election, Attorney Charles A. Strauch swamped his opponent, George Jenny, to become Fostoria's first municipal court judge.



The final passing of electric interurban passenger and freight service in Fostoria was witnessed on Jan. 16, 1932.

At 11:40 p.m. the last half of the final run between Fostoria and Fremont got underway with I. C. McPherson at the controls marking the finale to a 34-year period of service.

R. C. Guernsey, general manager of the Fostoria and Fremont electric railway, said that work of removing the trolley wire would start the following morning and the removal of the tracks would begin in the spring.




Fostoria's new $130,000 post office, the city's first government-owned federal building, was formally dedicated and opened for public inspection on Sept. 22, 1933.

Mayor George Cameron presided over the opening ceremony attended by 3,500 to 4,000 people. Congressman W. L. Fiesinger of Sandusky delivered the dedicatory address, as a representative of the U.S. Treasury Department. The principal speaker, at a community dinner following the dedication, was Abram Garfield of Cleveland, son of former President James A. Garfield.


1934- (More about the year)

An incident, still talked about today, occurred on May 3, 1934 when a group of men, believed to be the Dillinger gang, and possibly led by John Dillinger himself, robbed the First National Bank and shot and seriously wounded Police Chief Frank Culp. The men escaped with $17,299. Several bullet holes inside the bank building are still visible today.

After the robbery, a quantity of roofing nails were found strewn along Route 23, from Fostoria to Stearns Corners, where the bandit car was known to have turned west in the direction of the Dixie Highway.

Patrolman L. L. Stagger later identified one of the robbers as Homer Van Meter, considered one of the most deadly machine-gunners of the Dillinger gang.

Van Meter was shot to death by police in St. Paul, Minnesota on Aug. 23. Dillinger was shot and killed by the FBI after leaving a Chicago theater on July 22.

Another big story in 1934 was an announcement that the Bersted Electrical Manufacturing Co. of Chicago, makers of the well-known and popular "Bersted" brand of household appliances, would be manufacturing their products in Fostoria early in April.

Company president Al Bersted and his secretary arrived in Fostoria on Jan. 24 to sign agreements between the firm and the Fostoria Industrial Corporation.

The new industry would be housed in the former Evans Lead Co. plant and an additional building was to be erected immediately. This was expected to lead to the employment of 150 to 200 Fostorians.



On Nov. 22, 1935 the father and young daughter of Toledo mobster Thomas "Yonnie" Licavoli were killed instantly on Route 23, north of Fostoria, when the car in which they were riding sideswiped a truck on a curve.

Licavoli's wife and mother were injured and another daughter, an infant, received a minor cut on the forehead. The driver of the car was not hurt.

The family was en route to Columbus to visit "Yonnie" at the Ohio Penitentiary.

The bodies of the victims were taken to the Harrold Funeral Home here while the injured were treated at Fostoria City Hospital.

Two days later, Licavoli came to Fostoria for a brief visit with his wife, mother and daughter at the hospital.


1936- (More about the year)

Weather was the big news in 1936.

In late January, all-time weather records were imperiled as Fostoria suffered one of the coldest waves ever experienced in this community. The temperature dipped to 15 below zero and drifting snow made many streets and rural highways impassable. Wreckers and service cars from all of Fostoria's repair shops, service stations and garages were kept on the run endeavoring to catch up on their calls from distressed drivers.

On July 13 of the same year the temperature in Fostoria reached 104 degrees, marking the seventh consecutive day that the mercury mounted above 100. Two Fostorians died as a result of the heat.

Mrs. Ruth Day died less than an hour after she was discovered in a state of convulsions caused by the heat. Luther Cochard died at the State Hospital in Toledo following heat prostration.



In 1937, Fostorians approved a $50,000 bond issue for a much-needed addition to City Hospital and a $30,000 bond issue for construction of a community swimming pool.

City officials and community leaders had mounted an aggressive campaign for passage of the two issues.


1938 (More about the year)

The following year, in June of 1938, the Public Works Administration in Washington approved a $450,000 expansion program for Fostoria City Schools including an out-right grant of $202,500. Local citizens would pay the rest via a bond issue which was approved by 75 percent of the voters in August.

The project included a new 15-room building on Elm Street (Lowell); eight-room building on Sandusky Street (Longfellow); six-room building on Columbus Avenue (Bryant) and Center Street (the old Center Street School - now the Knights of Columbus building), a three-room addition to the 6th Street building (Field), and an addition to Fostoria High School on West High Street.


1939 (More about the year)

Fostoria's new swimming pool, the one still used today, was officially dedicated on June 11, 1939.

The local newspaper led a crusade to get the pool built after a number of drownings in local quarries. The local Exchange Club led the fight for passage of the bond issue in 1937. An earlier try in 1935 had failed.

The $65,000 pool was the 37th built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in Ohio.

The 165-by-75-foot pool would accommodate 450 swimmers. There were two one-meter diving boards and a three-meter board with four 1,000-watt floodlights mounted on a pole above an island in the center of the pool.

Al Sawdy, physical director at Fostoria High School and a former tackle for the Michigan State Normal football team, was the pool manager. Al went on to become the trainer for the Bowling Green State University athletic department in the 1960's and 70's.

Information courtesy of William Cline



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