Updated: Feb 3, 2022
Today we are talking about things that were born in Akron, things we took for granted as kids, and a different twist on how different people have viewed them. And the stories that make them memorable.
The Devil Strip
The Quaker Oats complex
The Goodyear Hangar
If you are from the Akron area, you probably took these things for granted so, relax, enjoy and please be patient while I try to educate everybody that wishes they too were from Akron.
The Devil Strip
The term devil strip refers to that narrow patch of grass between the curb and the sidewalk. You probably have them too in your cities, and you probably still talk about them incorrectly, but the correct name originated in Akron, Ohio. They were our own mini playgrounds,
the grass providing a backstop when we played marbles on the sidewalk, and we could rake giant piles of fallen leaves about 3 feet tall to jump in when the Oak and Sycamore’s giant leaves were perfectly crispy. I don’t know about you guys, but this was one of the chores I looked forward to. It was my job as the kid of the house to rake the leaves to the curb, where I could stand and dive into the piles on the devil strip, and later watch gleefully as we burned them. To this very day the smell of burning leaves “rakes” me back in time to that curb, ten years old again, all grown up with matches in my pocket, legally, Gee I could have puffed away on one of my ill-gotten little cigars that got me into so much trouble before.
Today we have powerful battery-operated leaf blowers, and even a lawn flame thrower. Wow big kids and their toys! More Power!
The trees on this patch had been there a long time in these old established neighborhoods, and the tree roots caused the opposite of potholes, that unforgivable root heave, which makes it even more difficult for snow shoveling.
God has a special place in heaven for those of us who lived on a corner and shoveled faithfully
This was my childhood house on a corner and as you can see I had twice as much devil strip to enjoy, and twice as much sidewalk for shoveling, but we always kept it clean, because that was what good neighbors do
Somehow, I always ended up playing in the snow only to come home just in time to find the snow shovel propped up in the drift by the side door.
Not a very subtle hint. So, I would shovel between the house next door, out to Howard St in the front, and begin the long march around the corner down Salome to the driveway. At least when the snow got over 6 inches my uncles would dig in too.
This is the same devil strip that held 1st and 3rd bases when we played street baseball.
Do you remember being the kid waiting to bat, and it was your job to keep an eye out for cars, and then call time out?
My Uncle Jerry insisted that my foot always touched the curb when cars passed. People drove better back then, and this was a courtesy so they could see I was aware of them too.
We even had black snow from the tire factories. I will link to that story at the end of this one.
Who thinks the blocks were much longer back then? I know that sounds silly but let me explain. I attended St. Martha grade school, and on most days the school bus picked me up in front of my house, and I would walk home after school, starting out with a group of my friends who would gradually drop out of the pack as they approached their own homes, while I continued to wander my way home. It was always enjoyable, even in rain or snow. Galoshes and raincoats were very fashionable back then. Some things are still around today even. Talk about traction! It was like snow tires for your feet. Those famous buckle galoshes, very easy to slip on and the buckles would provide for a snug, dry fit when you tucked your trouser legs inside. You can still get them today, and I’ll show you some in a link in the notes at the bottom.
I remember bragging to my wife about this 5-mile daily journey when we were comparing childhood memories. I finally got the chance to show her how I used to soldier on home, bravely. No matter what the weather.
First time back in a long time.
In 1998 we went back to Akron to visit my mom, and I drove Marie around, showing her the area I played in as a kid.
First thing we decided to try was drive to St. Martha’s, and follow my route home so I could prove my struggles growing up. We left St. Martha’s and headed two blocks down to Dayton Street, past Jennings middle school to Hillier, which was the longest block ever. On to Elma then down to Cuyahoga Falls Ave., go across Temple square to Berwin St. and start staggering my way to Dalton, then Chalker to Mildred and finally home on Howard Street on the corner at Salome. That’s a lot of walking in the wintertime with your galoshes and your trombone case.
So, it turns out I was remembering with little kids' eyes. As luck would have it, I was not abused at all, because my journey was only 3/4 of a mile. TOTAL. So, with my credibility shot, and Marie’s walk to the bus stop at a little over a mile each way, she definitely beats my story.
But how could she have walked uphill both ways??
No more sympathy for poor ole Jeff, it was quite a jolt to my memory vault, and yet tremendous fun being proved wrong.
In addition to being the origination of the Devil Strip, we are also proud to be home to the original Quaker Oats breakfast cereal
The Oatmeal King, Ferdinand Schumacher introduced oatmeal, first to Akron and then to the whole United States. Remembering that back in Germany, he used to grind oats and sell the meal as a breakfast food, he decided to try the same here.
His product was so popular that, in 1856, he bought an old wooden factory along the canal and installed machinery so that he could grind 20 barrels of oats a day. The company name was German Mills American Oatmeal Company.
With the start of the Civil War, he sold quantities of his oatmeal to the Army, and in 1863 he moved his entire production to Mill Street, the current site of the present-day Quaker Square
In 1901, three companies joined forces to form the Quaker Oats Company.
Quaker Square in Akron is where breakfast began. Here is their amazing original ad.
How could you not eat this every day?
The facility was repurposed in March 1973 and reopened 1 April 1975 with four shops and an ice cream parlor. A Barnhill’s! Not as big as the Fairlawn operation but it was closer for us who worked in town. The silos were later converted into a Hilton Hotel which opened in 1980 when it became the Crowne Plaza hotel. The hotel is built into the suite of silos and is famed for its 196 completely round rooms which I believe is currently student dorms for The University of Akron.
Happy Hour anyone?
There was an upscale restaurant and the bar, in the lower level, that my wife and I frequented in 1975. A night of drinking was quite the production, and it required some fruit stripe gum, copious quantities of Bloody Mary’s, and charcoal filtered Taryton 100 cigarettes for my wife to settle in. I on the other hand was drinking Jim Beams and club soda, smoking whatever was in the nearest machine, and thought gum would only spoil the taste of finely crafted booze. The phrase Happy wife, happy life, is very true when alcohol is involved, and I can’t count the times I would make a run to the nearest
convenience store if the Fruit Stripe gum or Taryton’s ran out. When you are young and impulsive you might just stop in for a drink without checking provisions. Oh yeah, the food and sauerkraut balls were really good too!
So that brings us to our next Akron landmark, The Goodyear hangar.
The Goodyear Airdock is a construction and storage airship hangar in Akron, Ohio. At its completion in 1929, it was the largest building in the world without interior supports.
Here is a view not many people have seen!
My drinking buddy, and starter wife Kathy and I each got our Private Pilot's license from the Cessna flight school, located behind the big Blimp hangar. This is the perspective that we saw after every lesson returning home triumphantly from each hourly session. Akron looks different from up in the air, and all the obvious landmarks stick out, the blimp hangar, the First National tower, the Rubber Bowl, Derby Downs, and further out the Portage lakes. What is even more interesting is when you are flying at night, the outline of the city looks exactly like the shape on the old fold up maps. Mostly because the city’s populated areas all had streetlights and their glow formed this same shape. This truly was an adventure of a lifetime and unbelievably cheap back then. My wife got her pilots license before I did all because of a few clouds on my scheduled flight day, and what was so ironic is, I had to drive her to get her pilots license because she could not drive a car yet. Maybe that’s why we spent every moment together, not from affection or desire, more like desperation. We did divorce 4 years later, and we only took one short flight together, and I will include a link to the Pilots $100 hamburger blog for your amusement.
No memory trip to Akron is complete without remembering a few famous Galley Boy hamburgers from Swenson's, they always had me at the olive! However, since I made a trip home last September and I got to try a Bob’s Hamburger, I now have a new favorite burger and another reason to go back again. You lucky guys still in Akron, enjoy a Bob’s and tell them Jeff sent you.
And as advertised Here is the link that has the Black Snow