Volunteers gone but not forgotten cared for Main Street Beach

By Rich Tarrant

Methinks they’re all gone now. But their smiles along with their varied personalities still abide in the memories of many current townsfolk. This Richard “Dick” Koontz photograph was taken at Main Street Beach c.1951 when some Vermilion guys got together to clean the shoreline after a long winter. Pictured are:

Standing L-R: Norman “Red” Duperow, F.E. “Frank” Baker, Harold Moats, Dave Nieding, Al Figdor, A. Bachman, Fred Fischer, Harley Berk, Lloyd Kyle, Verdes B. “Doc” White and Mel Thayer.

Sitting or Squatting L-R: Paul Naegele, Ray “Scud” Miller, Larry “Sonny” Naegele, Romeo “Romie” Menapace, Burt Hollosy, Harvey Krapp and K. Kuhl.

Laying on the Beach L-R: Sidney “Ding” Jeffery and Elmer Brushaber.

First (although he’s not pictured) is the photographer, Dick Koontz. Like most professional photographers (at least all that I’ve ever known) Mr. Koontz was an extremely amiable person. But unlike most of the town’s premier photographers, Mr. Koontz was a hometown boy. He grew up at Beulah Beach and attended and graduated from the Vermilion schools. His father was a local contractor. Among the things his dad built was Frank Baker’s Ford garage on the southeast corner of Liberty and Sandusky streets. Today that building houses the Edward Jones Investments firm and the Vermilion Deli. Koontz’s photographs are what Vermilion aficionados consider as being “keepers”. And this is certainly one of them.

Now – if you lived in Vermilion at the time this photograph was taken you would have known most, if not all, of these gentlemen. Fred Fischer, for instance, was the village mayor. It is altogether likely that he was responsible for forming the beach cleanup crew. The activity that brought all these diverse personalities together was evidently a predecessor of the annual “Pride Days” currently held in our town. But diverse as they may have been they more than likely knew one another quite well.

In this photo we have at least one doctor, a plumber, auto dealer, a baker, several butchers, mechanics, a farmer, a cook, a city worker, a fisherman, a hardware man and a grocery store owner. (We might also note that the “hardware guy”, Scud Miller, was also the “liquor store guy”.)

Doc White was an osteopath and avid sportsman. It’s rather difficult to see in this photo but Mr. White bore a startling resemblance to the 34th President of these United States – Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower.

Harvey Krapp was also a sportsman. He regularly appeared in several old pictures of Vermilion fox hunting and fishing events. He was a short fellow with a lofty personality. His grandparents migrated from Germany / Hessen in the mid 19th century. Like both his grandfather and father Harvey was a butcher by profession. In fact he worked for Harold Moats when Moats had a little store next to (west of) the Leidheiser Restaurant (currently Route 6 Pub). Harvey knew a great deal about the early years of Vermilion. Shortly before his death in 1979 the late Betty Reffner, fortunately, made an audio record of them for local historians.

Many of the men in the photo lived in what some would refer to as “the north section of town”. Ding Jeffery and the Naegele brothers lived on Washington Street across from the area now occupied by Vermilion’s Ritter Library. Larry married Jeffery’s mother after her husband was killed (VPJ 01/26/18). All three men were meat-cutters, storeowners and grocers. Paul was also a doctor – a podiatrist  – who had suspended his practice to work with his brother until his brother died in 1960.

Burt Hollosy lived directly across the street from the Naegele boys and Jeffery on the southeast corner of Washington and Ferry streets – again, where the library is today. His house was sold to Melba Knott-Gorbach-Walker to make way for the library and moved to the lakefront behind the former Great Lakes Museum. Burt was an invaluable village / city employee. He did everything and knew everything about the infrastructure of the town. He never really had an official title. When asked about it he said, “Personally, I don’t care what I’m called so long as I don’t get hell.”

Well, all these fellas are deserving of a story by themselves. I’ve not really touched on “Red” Duperow (my dad’s buddy), Frank Baker, whom I admired greatly, Dave Nieding, Al Figdor, Messrs. Bachman, Berk, Kyle, Thayer, Menapace, Kuhl and Brushaber; Perhaps, another time. But these were the guys who made our community a community. Who could forget them? Who would want to?

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