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


On July 7, 1970, Chief U.S. District Judge Ralph M. Freeman "Put the torch" to Fostoria's future with his decision that Ford Motor Company's punishment for violation of the Clayton Anti-trust Act must be complete divestiture of its spark plug plant in Fostoria.

Ford Motor Company, Freeman said, must sell its Fostoria complex and the Autolite trade-name by Dec. 31, 1971.

At the time, 1,550 employees were turning out 1,550,000,000 spark plugs per year here.



The November 1971 general election surprised a lot of people in Fostoria. Dale Mills, who had no previous experience in politics or government upset incumbent Mayor George Peeler by nearly 250 votes.

In that same election, local voters approved a 5.8-mill school levy by more than 500 votes. The margin seemed whopping since a similar levy had been voted down three times in the preceeding year.

A 16-foot boat used by two missing Fostoria men, who left for a fishing trip on Oct. 29, was found Nov. 2, 1971 beached on the northwest side of Pelee Island.

Several days later, the bodies of Woodrow Zender, 51 and Charles Thiry Jr., 36, were found.



A multitude of Fostoria and area residents packed the grounds on Oct. 8, 1972 for the dedication of the new Fostoria Metropolitan Airport.

Gene Kinn served as master of ceremonies for the event, introducing Mayor Dale Mills; City Auditor, Clarence Jacob; former Governor James A. Rhodes (who was largely responsible for the facility here); State Sen. Paul Gillmore (also very active in securing airport funds for Fostoria); Dr. John Bauer, chairman of the local airport committee and James Kinn of Astro Aviation, Inc. (which would operate the airport).

The visitors thrilled to a breathtaking display of aerial daring featuring Harold Johnson of Dayton in his 1934 Waco biplane.



The sale of Fostoria's spark plug plant, by Ford Motor Co. to Bendix Corp., was approved by the U.S. Justice Dept. in October of 1973.

Under the sale agreement, Ford would buy all of its spark plugs from the Bendix plant for the next five years. In the sixth year, Ford would be allowed to go elsewhere for 10 percent of its plugs and in the seventh year, 20 percent.



The Fostoria Board of Education, by a 3-2 margin, approved the sale of the Whitier School property to the city of Fostoria in January of 1974.

Joan Keckler and Nathan Vance cast the opposition votes with Vance asking to hold out for $100,000 rather than the agreed-upon $75,000.

The city purchased the old school to make way for a new central fire station.



Once again in 1975, Fostorians were involved in a tragedy on Lake Erie.

The U.S. Coast Guard ended its search for two men missing following a boating accident on July 26 near Kelly's Island.

Missing and presumed drowned were Michael Doncyson of Fostoria and David Phillips of Vanlue.

The accident, which occurred about 3 a.m., claimed the lives of Doncyson's wife, Sandra and Janet Dye, a Kelly's Island resident.

Tom and Sandra Wade of Fostoria were rescued following the accident.

The 25-foot cruiser, carrying the six people, was split apart by a towline connecting the tugboat Sachem to a barge it was towing.

Later, the bodies of Doncyson and Phillips were recovered.



Rickie Crawford, 22, rural Fostoria, was formally charged with aggravated murder on Sept. 20, 1976 following the stabbing death of Lindsay Murray-Hancock, 20, at her Stuart Road home the previous day.

Dale Wonders of Alvada was also stabbed when he tried to prevent the abduction of Ms. Murray-Hancock.

Her body was found along Ecker Road by members of the Wood and Seneca county sheriff's departments.

Another big story in 1976 was the Fostoria Bi-Centennial Festival August 14-21. A nightly pageant, "A Sound of Patriots" was presented Aug. 17-21 at Fostoria Memorial Stadium.



On Jan. 28, 1977, the bodies of five men were found in the snow-covered auto on Jackson Township Road 63, just north of Podach Mobile Estates.

The men, stranded by a blinding blizzard, apparently were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes, then froze in sub-zero temperatures.

The victims were from Springfield and Mechanicsburg. They had been working in Bowling Green and were apparently trying to get back to their homes when they became stranded. They were within walking distance of a farm house, but could not see it due to the blowing snow.

Fire gutted the broadcasting studios of WFOB AM & FM, on U.S. 23 South, during the early morning hours of Sept. 10, 1977. Damage was estimated at $200,000.

The fire was reported to Fostoria Police Department about 3 a.m. on that Saturday morning by a passing motorist using a citizen's band radio. The police department then contacted Bascom Volunteer Fire Department which tried valiantly but unsuccessfully, to save the structure.

The cause of the fire was never learned, but suspicion centered on an air conditioning unit in the attic.



In January of 1978, another blizzard struck the Fostoria area paralyzing the city for several days.

After eight local businesses were looted on Jan. 16 and 27, Fostoria police began patrolling the downtown area with shotguns. Mayor George Peeler authorized the police to arrest anyone in the business district not carrying a pass issued by the police department.

At least nine area deaths were reported; six in Wood county and one each in Hancock, Seneca and Sandusky counties.

An event of equal or greater magnitude occurred on June 10 when damage from fires and explosions at the Standard Railway Fusee Corp. injured at least 31 persons and caused millions of dollars in damages.

The first call came in at 9:53 a.m. and two fire trucks with four men were immediately dispatched to the scene. They were held up for about a minute by a switching train which was probably fortunate because a second and larger explosion rained fiery debris for hundreds of yards.

The larger of the two fire trucks was lifted up by the shock wave.

There were three or four additional explosions, most of which could be heard throughout the community.



Ken Beier, a native of Sandusky who moved to Fostoria in 1973 to open a convenience store (Open Pantry), won the mayor's race in November.

Beier ran for council in 1975 and lost. Two years later he was elected to council and in another two years, captured the top spot in the city.

He served as mayor until 1990 when he resigned to become director of the Fostoria Economic Development Corporation.

Information courtesy of William Cline



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