The Evening Review - January 7, 1983
Ex-Resident Recalls East Liverpool
Editor's Note: The following is a letter received recently from John W. Harrison of Daytona Beach, Florida, former East Liverpool resident, who recalled earlier days in the "Pottery City." We thought readers would be interested in his memories.
By JOHN W. HARRISON
The reason I wrote a "Letter to the Editor" after I was in East Liverpool visiting my sister and nieces, I was surprised how little young people know about East Liverpool.
We talked a long time that night, and my nieces said, "Uncle John, you should write let some of the other young people know about East Liverpool."
I told them about how busy East Liverpool used to be. I remember when there were 35 potteries working in East Liverpool. Around 1920 we had a restaurant on River Road, and Homer Laughlin number 1, 2 and 3 were working full time, also the McClain tire company in the East End was working and Patterson Foundry and a couple other factories including the Sewer Pipe Works.
The crowds used to come in the restaurant and I used to help out. I remember pies were 10 cents for 1/4 pie or 40 cents for the whole pie if they wanted to take one with them.
I was a kid that took a basket of candy and gum through the pottery on my noon-hour.
One thing I remember, all candy and gum was 5 cents but Beach Nut gum was 7 cents for some reason. We also had a little restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, above Virginia Avenue, a little later, and I went to Garfield school. There were potteries all along the River Road. I used to run home at noon and eat, then run down the railroad tracks to the last pottery before you came to the old Chester bridge to take a lunch to my step-dad, then back school.
I remember the crowds that came down the old "Red Steps" from the top of the hill (main street) to the River road, people who worked in the potteries.
I remember when the city dump was where the West End school is now and Patterson field. I was a poor kid and I and other poor kids used to go to the city dump, and when trucks came in from the stores uptown and dump their boxes, we used to find toys, some minus a wheel but we might find an extra wheel.
I remember when the big circus came to town and the circus parade was such a big event, no one went to school and most never went to work. I remember when the big carnivals came to town and took up all of 2nd St.
I remember when Mulberry St. was pretty (look at it now) and I remember when it was 1st black topped and they had a dance on it. I think the 1st black topping job was W. 5th St. and they'll rollerskated on it.
I was quite small when the "old mill" in Rock Springs Park burnt down, but I remember sparks and chunks of wood falling East Liverpool.
I remember when Charles L. Lindberg flew over East Liverpool when he came back from Paris, and everyone went downtown to wave at him, and all the potteries blew the whistles and all the churches rang their bells. He circled a few times as he had just done up in Pittsburgh.
I remember the 1st false alarm when they got word in East Liverpool the 1st world war had ended and everyone got out and shot guns and sang and danced - then they found out it wasn't true. Then when it really ended, people didn't know for a short time whether to celebrate or not - in case it wasn't true again. But I can remember people going to Pittsburgh to help celebrate.
I can remember adults sled riding down Avondale St. on big bob-sleds - that was about 1917, I lived on bank St. My sister and I used to walk downtown from bank St. on Saturday nights to go to the Diamond Theater. We would pass the old K.T. and K. pottery or my grandfather was night watchman.
I remember as late as the 20s when you couldn't drive out of East Liverpool in a car after a long rainy spell, only to Lisbon up the old Lisbon Hill. The road back of Chester would be too deep with mud past Laughlins corners, on the road to Midland you would get stuck in the mud and the road to Wellsville went along streetcar line in mud and slide would hold you up.
I remember our old 1917 Overland 44 we used to shine up for the long trip to Rogers. We would pack a basket because we would be all day, always have at least 5 or 6 flat tires. Our Overland 44 was new then. The road was through Calcutta and out past where Beaver Creek State Park is now. There was some way by going through Fredricktown.
I remember when we used to go up the Fredricktown Hill backwards because the fuel pumps could not pump the gas from the rear in the car to the motor. I remember the Fredricktown Hill was a good place to get chestnuts and black walnuts.
I remember when salesman used to take their customers out to the Hill going into Calcutta were burger chef is now, to show how the car would go up the hill in high; years later they would all take you up St. Clair to show you could make it in high. All that land on the right side of St. Clair were Perkins restaurant and Value King store and all those homes and stores are was where we all picked blackberries.
I remember in the teen years (1916 - 1919) we used to go to East Liverpool wharf to meet the boats that came in from New Orleans to get fresh vegetables, chickens and molasses.
Bring your own bucket for molasses. I remember in the 20s as a young man we used to get on the interurban street-cars on a Sunday and take a ride to Salem and back. We thought it was a long way.
I remember Jim Thorpe came to East Liverpool with a basketball team to play East Liverpool's team. I used to go to all the games. The city was a good sports town. The old industrial baseball league had crowds of 6000 and 7000 at some of the games when the "Chester Superior Cord tires" and "Homer Laughlin" would play. It was a fast league, and they all imported players from other towns.
And the "Homestead Grays" and the "House of David" teams and other teams in Pittsburgh came to East Liverpool to play.
I remember when the Canton Bulldogs, and the Toronto Tigers and East Liverpool's Pro team would play, about 1925. I remember going to Toronto to see Toronto and Canton play. There were no bleachers.
Remember when you used to walk along 6th St. on Saturday nights, pass the picture studio and watch the photographer take photos and the big splash and smoke the camera made? Now you only see that old Western movies. Remember the popcorn wagon that was parked on market and 6th streets for years?
Remember the big shows the RKO Keith theater chain that came to the state theater on St. Clair? And the hit show "Red Mack," that was such a hit in East Liverpool. And the city's own Don Lanning joined vaudeville and became a star and married the world-famous Roberta Sherwood. No one sang "Up a Lazy River" like Roberta. I went to the State Theater every Saturday night.
In the 20s, on Saturday night East Liverpool was so crowded you could hardly walk on the street. And the Ceramic Theatre was known from coast-to-coast. Why was it ever to worn down? It could've been declared a historical building and have gotten funds to restore it.
I remember all those long special trains with many coaches coming up the West Virginia side, coming in from Steubenville headed for Rocks Springs Park. Trains were loaded with people from Pittsburgh, like the H. J. Heinz picnic and many others.
Rock Springs Park
I worked at Rock Springs Park in the mid-20s and I sometimes worked at the swimming pool. Only one in 100 owned their own swimsuit in those days, and the rented suits were cotton and when you saw girl coming to the window, you would say she looks like a 34 or such . And sometimes they would come back and say, "This suit is too long - it's below my knees."
We would say "It's all right, just so it isn't above the knees." Those cotton suits when they were wet would just cling to your body. I wish I had some pictures of those people in the long suits. One Sunday two men from Pittsburgh went in the pool with just the suit with no top on them-bare chested. They were thrown out
Some of the young people do not remember when the steel mill in Chester and the Superior Cord Tires in Chester were working full; also the steel mill in Wellsville was working good. The steel mill in Chester was moved from Irondale.
Old Mill Fire
I remember the old racetrack in Columbiana Park in East End beside the Street-Car Barn. We used to run around it all the time, but I do not remember any races on it. Now it has stores and a shopping center on it.
I remember how kids and grown-ups would sled ride all night long down Parkway from Thompson Park to the bottom along Boyd St. through the Sewer Pipe Works. Someone would be posted at Pennsylvania Avenue to stop any car that might come along.
They used to put ashes on the last 500 feet or so of Parkway to slowdown the sleds. There were very few cars (around 1920-21). The thing to look for were streetcars until 12:30 o'clock.
I remember always, the milk-man and his horses and wagon that knew every stop. As he delivered his milk the horses would follow, they never stopped at a house that wasn't a customer.
And remember the crowd of kids that followed the ice man in the summer to get pieces of broken ice? His horses knew every stop. We used to follow the ice wagon up St. George St. to get pieces of ice. St. George was one of the nice streets in town. (Now look at it).
The Review ran a picture of a train wreck in East End a couple years ago. The wreck was around 1920 or 1919 or maybe 1921. There was a kid in the picture - the kid was me.
I remember the wreck well; a boxcar packed with dishes got loose and drifted on the main line and was hit by a fast train.
For a while we were not allowed to pick up the dishes; then they said, "Help yourself," and all of us kids carried stacks of dishes home. (Many adults too).
I remember in more recent times when the excitement in East Liverpool was that Pretty Boy Floyd was in town and there was a big shootout in Wellsville and his companion was captured, and they were after Pretty Boy north of East Liverpool.
Then when he was shot and killed, the long lines of people that went to the undertakers on 5th St., to see him. I, of course, went to see him too. East Liverpool was then known from coast-to-coast. I was down in Wellsville when the other outlaw was captured was brought into the Wellsville police station. There were cops everywhere. That was in the early 30s.
Some people may not know that all the big bands in the land came to play at Virginia Gardens in Rocks Springs Park in the 20s. (I worked in the check room). "The Mason Dixie Band" seemed to draw the biggest crowds.
I remember the big watering trough on St. Clair Avenue where all the horses had to stop and get a drink after pulling loads of coal up the long hill.
I remember the big flood of 1936 and standing on the riverbank and watching the houses float by, even chicken coops with chickens in them, anything you could think of went by. Most of the story of flood would be in the Evening Review.
A little about myself.. Some may remember in 1929 my sister and I took the train to Columbus, Ohio, to enter a dance marathon. To everyone's surprise we danced 1612 hours and won the dance.
Then came Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1954 hours, Kerry, Indiana, 3066 hours. We were breaking world records right and left.
My sister started dancing with her husband, and I danced with girls in Chicago, New York and most everywhere after the New York City dance. In 1934 I got married and had ended the dancing career. We were living in Wellsville in 1930 when we won the Columbus dance, and the Wellsville News headline read "Local couple wins the dance marathon." That was around March 6, 1930
Years passed and I worked for two tea companies and at Crucible Steel and I had my own business in East Liverpool, known as the "Harrison distributing Co." selling Kings' Nuts and all confections up until 1954 I sold out moved to Florida.
I like Florida, but I still have a warm place in my heart for East Liverpool as it's my old hometown.
I have a sister and 2 nieces and a nephew in East Liverpool, and one niece in Cleveland. I do think is important for young people know little bit about East Liverpool, and to know what a great town used to be and it may come back to be great again. But for thousands of people it's a great town because it is home.
There are many older and wiser and better educated people in East Liverpool that know much more than I do about the city - but then I guess a lot of them do not care.