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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

More Lebanon Tidbits

Dallas Bogan on 10 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The Early History of the Harmon YMCA

The first Y.M.C.A. in Lebanon was organized by a group of interested citizens in August 1946. Its purpose "was to fulfill the need of the boys and girls in Lebanon for a workable and well-run center for their activities, and a place to go in their leisure time."
Harmon Hall had previously been the only youth center and by 1946 the facility was indeed considered too small for the children's need.
At the August meeting Mr. D.D. Donohoo was elected president of the new organization, with Orville Keever, vice-president; C.Dale Rosecrans, secretary; and Charles J. Wagoner, treasurer.
A general meeting was held to choose a Board of Directors, along with permanent plans for the Association, and to confirm an ongoing charter for the Harmon Y.M.C.A.
Board Members who were elected, seven for one year, seven for two years, and seven for three years, were:
William Talbott, Sr., George Sims, G.H. Townsley, J.C. Vian, W.J. Koch, Rev. M.G. Mittelstedt, J.A. Volkerding, Jack Decker, D.D. Donohoo, Cliff C. Beckett, Ted Lackey.
Paul W. Holthaus, Orville Keever, Kathleen Oakman, C. Dale Rosecrans, Chester Heery, Saul Hurwich, Charles C. Waggoner, Meryl B. Gray, Martha Miller, and Miron Keelor.
The subject matter of the meeting was in part the Civic Trust, which was outlined by Charters D. Maple, Alfred C. Brant, and Hewitt P. Mulford. The question was what part the charter would be willing to play in the new undertaking.
Keith Boys, the first General-secretary, undertook the responsibility of the association late in 1946. Mr. Boys, from Cincinnati, was well recommended and well qualified to take over the assignment. Among his credentials was that of serving as the director of the social program at the Y.M.C.A Hotel in Chicago.
While Boys was in charge at Harmon Hall, he outlined a program for the teenagers known as the Warriors' Wigwam. This organization offered the teens a place to hold a clubroom, a place for dances, and other activities. Additional projects included a focus on classes in tap-dancing, arts and crafts, and gymnastics for the younger boys and girls.
James Shedd, of Cincinnati, in January of 1950, assumed the duties of General-secretary of the Harmon Y.M.C.A., succeeding Keith Boys, who had accepted a similar position at Chicago's South Shore district.
Shedd acquired his training at the Park College in Kansas City, having worked with boys and girls from eight to eighteen. In this capacity he introduced an effective arts and crafts group and also started a program for the younger children who sought recreation at the Y.
Irving Peterson took over for Jim Shedd in October 1951. His full-time duties were not established until November because of his obligations to the Marietta Y.M.C.A.
Peterson inspired an intense interest in the Y.M.C.A. The Warriors' Wigwam program was revamped with its name being changed to Harmony Hangout.

Lebanon's Minstrel Shows

In 1902, on the stage of the old Opera House was the audition for the first minstrel show in Lebanon. It was the premier production of the Belles and Beaux.
The first directors of this fine production were Mrs. McBurney, and Mrs. J.P. Owens, and later on, Mr. Ray Law assumed the immense duties. Mike Burk, Bill Lewis, and Jim Burke were a few of the blackface clowns, but there were countless others who made the show a success.
The minstrel show's objective was to provide the cast with fun, and the town with good entertainment. After one night's run, there was no doubt that the participants should return. The antics of the end men and the end-women actors had the packed auditorium falling in the aisles.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that they should return. It became Lebanon's fastest growing activity, and for ten years the audience was captivated with the show, laughing and roaring to no end.
Ticket sales skyrocketed, each being grabbed up while still wet from the presses, each performance being sold out to the last seat.
The money seemed to be rolling in and out, show expenses no object. Costumes were brought from Cincinnati, long hours were spent toiling over flamboyant scenery, and clumsy hands soon became adept at applying the unwielding stage make-up.
The big orchestra performed for the audience in a minstrel type fashion, and from there on in, the end-men took over.
As time passed, people become restless and a change of pace was called for, and so, with this inference, the Belles and Beaux Minstrel show came to an end.
A new group was formed under the direction of Mr. Law, a body committed to dramatic works. This fellowship put on plays for a period of years from 1914 to 1934. Many of those who were originally cast in Belles and Beaux were in the new theater group, however, many new faces appeared.
The company finally phased out, with their final undertaking, "Take My Advice," being presented at the Town Hall. This was the first production of this type to be held in the new building.
Proceeds from the play went towards decorating the new auditorium. This last performance was a superb way of bowing out on the part of these folks. They unselfishly sacrificed so much to bring enjoyment to their fellow townsmen.

Lebanon's Laundry Businesses

William G. Thompson and Devere Gustin were co-owners of the first laundry in Lebanon, date unknown. It was known as the Lebanon Steam Laundry and was located directly behind the J.W. Lingo Hardware Company.
After several weeks into the operation the business ran out of its most precious source, water. Therefore, the laundry was moved to West Silver Street (in the vicinity of the present firehouse) where the water could be pumped from Turtle Creek.
The partnership of Thompson and Gustin was short-lived and the laundry was then sold to William Bennett. James L. Brown, at age 13, sole provider for his family, had to quit school and went to work for Bennett in the laundry, where he spent his life working for the many owners and himself.
John Oswald constructed for Pete Lewis, his son-in-law, a new 20 by 40 two-story building for a new laundry business. It was so constructed that it could be used for a residence in case Lewis' venture proved unsuccessful.
After Mr. Lewis' undertaking the laundry was operated by Elmer Smith, Ray Cline, and then by Spencer and Crawford. Somewhere along the line the name was changed to the Snow Flake Laundry.
The Centennial Atlas of 1902 reads: "August, 1902, Russell Spencer purchased the Snow Flake Laundry and in October following took charge of it. Although never successfully operated under numerous former managers, Mr. Spencer's management has been a pronounced success. The new pieces of machinery have been added to the outfit under Mr. Spencer's ownership, yet he now has in contemplation a plan again adding largely to the outfit."
A Mr. Mitchell, from Collinswood, N.J., then leased the equipment from Spencer with the latter retaining ownership of the building.
James L. Brown, mentioned previously, in 1909, purchased the lease from Mr. Mitchell and on June 16, 1914, Brown acquired both the equipment and building from Russell Spencer.
The north wing of the building, which extended to South Broadway Street, was then added. This section housed the press machines, shirt presses, curtain stretchers, the dry room, and elevator.
A west wing was later added to house the boiler and power equipment, and also the carpet cleaning equipment. A water softener was added at that time and the name was changed to the Soft Water Laundry. (These buildings were constructed next to the Turtle Creek Bridge where now several office buildings are standing.)
The laundry was closed during World War II because of a shortage of labor and materials. Most of the employees relocated to the defense plants where more money was available.
However, a few dedicated employees stayed and operated the dry cleaning plant until lightning struck it July 25, 1944, and as a result, the entire upper floor of the laundry was gutted by fire.
Both operations, the laundry and the dry cleaning, were closed for a year. During this shutdown, the laundry was rebuilt and a new dry cleaning facility was constructed. Each was housed in separate buildings.
A new name was created in December 1951, the Better Laundry and Dry Cleaning.
The late Dixon Maple remembers the old laundry and dry cleaning facilities. He said the buildings were destroyed by fire, possibly in the 1960's. He also remembered that the run-off from the plants ran directly into Turtle Creek. This was long before the E.P.A.

Lebanon Newspapers

As many of you know, "The Western Star" put out its first newspaper February 13, 1807, and is the oldest weekly publication in the State of Ohio. However, there have been several other papers established in Lebanon.
The names of these publications are: The Farmer, the Lebanon Gazette, which consolidated with the Star in 1822, the Argus, the American Democrat, the Spirit of Freedom, the Lebanon Spy, Young America, printed and published in 1858 by Hillborn C. Miller; the Buckeye Mercury, the Democratic Citizen, the People's Journal, and the Volunteer.
Possibly in the year 1846, a paper was established with a lone title, "The Sober Second Thought." In just a short time the name was changed to "Second Thought and Spread Eagle," and still afterwards another title change came, "Thought and Eagle."
All these businesses failed within a year with a monetary loss to the owners. The Argus was shipped to Franklin before its absolution, and the Volunteer was printed for a while in Morrow.
Seth Brown and C.S. Burnet sold The Western Star to Alfred L. Clements in September 1868, and then started their own local paper, the "Countryman." This was the first case in the history of the Star that a former proprietor sold his interest and afterward started his own paper in Lebanon. The "Countryman" failed and was then moved to Cincinnati.
W.H.P. Denny, in 1877, who had been editor of the Star for 24 years, returned to Lebanon and started the second Lebanon Gazette.
This paper merged with the Star February 16, 1893, while another paper, the Republican-Record, merged with the Star in 1905.
The Democratic Citizen was being printed at the start of the Civil War. (This paper was printed on the second floor of the building later occupied by Hatfield Floors on West Mulberry Street.) Republicanism was very strong in Warren County and the Miami Valley, in general. The county residents felt very secure in their political views, and perceived the term "Democrat" as leaning toward being a Southern sympathizer.
And so, in the early 1860's, the Democratic Citizen was destroyed, but no one knew what had happened to the type and press.
Years later, when the workers were cleaning out the millrace near Warren and Sycamore streets, the press and type were found, buried in the mud.
In 1868, three years after the Civil War, Gen. Durbin Ward, a highly honored leader of the Democratic Party, established the Lebanon Patriot. His first office was on the second floor of the Masonic building.
Gen. Ward was filled with patriotism, as he was the first to volunteer from Lebanon in the War. The people of the Miami Valley did not forget this fact, and many Republican patriots were on the first subscription list of the Patriot. Edward Warwick, in 1871, edited the paper and after him, A.A. Rowland.
Thomas Meigher Proctor was editor from 1883 to 1891, he being the most popular columnist in the area. His editorials, his opinions, of course, were political in structure, following both local and national politics. He had a political following of friend and foe alike. His many readers eagerly looked the Patriot forward to.
His wife continued in his footsteps until 1926, she also commanding a large Democratic following.
J.L. Richardson was the next editor. The Western Star purchased the Patriot in 1929 and operated it under the editorship of Mrs. Clara Schwartz until 1937, when it merged with the former.
Another Democratic paper was started in 1934, the Warren County Democrat. It was purchased by H.I. Dally in 1935 and was established as an independent newspaper with the name changed to Warren County News. It was then purchased in early 1941 by Herbert Langendorff and operated until 1946, when it ceased operation.

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