By: Rich Tarrant
I was actually searching through my files for a photograph on quite another subject when I came across those accompanying this week’s essay. In the yesteryear the scenes portrayed in these snaps would have been commonplace. And that is most likely the reason they caught my eye. These pix portray Vermilion as it appeared some 80 years ago – back in the 1930s. They are both very quiet and informative historical records of our town.
I am sorry that younger generations of Vermilionites will never get to see nor experience, first-hand, what it was like when commercial fishing was one of the town’s premier industries. (Bottom photo) The snap of the tugs lining the riverbank is a jewel. The photo was taken sometime after an era that some considered to be “The Golden Age of Commercial Fishing”; a time when the technology was less sophisticated; when the water was cleaner; fish more abundant; and government restrictions were not [abundant]. Years earlier Cisco (i.e. lake Herring) had been the top catch. But by the time the men on these tugs fished their main catch consisted of Blue Pike and Yellow Perch.
This particular photo shows four tugs at rest along the riverbank at the Kishman Company that occupied the area now (2017) the site of the Fishermen’s Bend Condominiums. While it’s impossible to see clearly, it is very likely that tugs like them lined the banks of the river nearly all the way to the highway bridge. Although some semblance of the industry managed to survive another thirty years or so after these shadows were captured, those days are now confined to history books and the memories of folks with last names like the Nieding and Parsons and a few others who farmed the watery fields of Lake Erie.
The other snap (Upper photo) was probably taken near the same time as the riverscape. It is a townscape taken from the south side of Liberty Avenue facing to the north and a tad west. If this photo was taken today it would be taken in front of the old Vermilion Banking building that is currently (2017) known as the Wine Vault.
The home in the upper left side of the photo was at one time John A. Englebry’s Funeral Home. Mr. Englebry died in 1914. Consequently, it is likely that the home was simply being used as a private residence when this photo was taken. Currently (2017) it is the site of Ednamae’s (tasty) Ice Cream and Café store.
The building to the right (east) of the former Englebry home was George H. Blattner’s Hardware Store. Mr. Blattner had a rather interesting life. Born in Cleveland in 1856. He came to Vermilion with his mother at the age of 7 while his father was serving in the Civil War. He would later tell of his mother carrying him in her arms to see the body of President Lincoln as he lay in state in Cleveland’s Public Square in April of 1865. He also remembered attending Sunday school when the late oil mogul John D. Rockefeller was superintendent at the old Rockefeller Church in East Cleveland.
On April 22, 1882 he married a lady named Martha Leimbach and they had two daughters, Alma (b.1892-d.1965) and Clara (b.1899-d.1901). In 1891 he opened his first hardware store in Vermilion and while locating in several different sites over the years he remained in the business serving the people of Vermilion for over 66 years. The building in the photo was his last and best-known location. It should also be of interest to many folks to know that his daughter, Alma, married a Vermilion fella named Cliff Parsons on 27 December 1911. George died in 1951 at the tender age of 95 years.
The old hardware building was eventually razed and a new store constructed on site that was leased to the Ohio Edison Electric Company. Today (2017) Papa Joe’s Pizza and yummy pie bakery occupies the building. The structure, however, is still owned by Blattner / Parsons descendants.
The little shop next (east) of the old hardware store was occupied by The Ohio Public Service Company a predecessor of Ohio Edison. Sometime after they left the old store for the new one next-door Vermilionite Tony Mroski kept a nice shoe store in the space. Eventually the Old Prague Restaurant acquired the property to expand their business. [Historical Note: Long, long before any of this the little store served as the town’s post office for a time.]
In truth these snapshots are not really that old. What should be very evident is the fact that our little town is constantly changing – on the move. But to be honest I often find myself in agreement with late American novelist Ellen Glasgow when it comes to some of those changes. She wrote, “All change is not growth, as not all movement is forward.” Nonetheless, the experience is exhilarating.
Ref: Special Thanks to Judy Shaw-Williams for the photographs; U.S. Census data 1880 – 1930; Sandusky Star-Register 04/20/1951.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org