The Week 1 theme of Amy Johnson Crow’s series “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” is “Beginnings” and all my beginnings lead to one place, Akron, Ohio.
Actually, if I wanted to be precise my beginnings would be linked to Falls Rec, the bowling alley where my parents first met. My dad was bowling one night on a league I believe for Ohio Edison and my mother tended bar. According to her, some guys wanted to introduce her to their friend, Bob, and she was excited as Bob was really good looking, but they brought my dad over instead (your laugh here to her funny tale).
I like to think it was a good thing, but then I’m a little biased.
But this meeting would never have happened had my grandparents, Leroy Blair and Anna Maria Morgart, not moved to Akron in the 1950s. The same can be said of my immigrant great-grandparents James Fairhurst and Phoebe Boone, who came to the United States from Leigh, England in 1913 (James) and 1915 (Phoebe). They originally resided in Amsterdam, Ohio but then moved to Akron by 1930. Lastly, if my great-great-grandmother, Mazie Lorenia Warner, hadn’t moved here in 1916 with her second husband, Samuel Randol with her 2 daughters, all of the pieces to my DNA make-up would not have come together.
Akron, Ohio was the happening place to be in the early 1900’s. “Between 1910 and 1920 the city’s population tripled to more than 200,000” (britannica.com). This was the time when Akron became known as the Rubber Capital of the World because all three big rubber companies had their headquarters here: Firestone, General Tire, and Goodyear (Goodyear still does).
Many of my Fairhurst relatives (my great-grandfather James, and 2 of his sons, Wilfred and Edwin) all worked for the rubber companies at various times. My grandfather, Harold, worked partly in construction and partly as a golf pro.
When Samuel Randol located to Akron with his family, he worked at the Swinehart Tire & Rubber Company. Here he met the last part of my family, my great-great-grandfather, Clyde Geer (and the Geers have been settled in Akron since Summit County was formed on March 3, 1840, with Clyde’s dad, William Harrison Geer being born on April 2, 1840, just 1 month later).
Leroy Blair originally moved from Pennsylvania to Indiana as he had an apprenticeship to learn the sheet metal trade. He moved from Gary, Indiana to Akron, Ohio in the early 1950s.
When I look at how all the pieces of the puzzle at one point lived all over the world, it’s amazing that my parents even met. The son of 2 English immigrants somehow met up with the daughter of an administrative professional/stenographer and a dad who we thought was one person, only to be another (the wonders of DNA) to have 5 kids, with the oldest meeting the only son of a sheet metal worker and his housekeeper wife.
Wow. Just wow. And in a bowling alley of all places.
Falls Rec was torn down in the mid-1990s and where it stood is now the parking lot of a Sheraton Hotel in downtown Cuyahoga Falls (the suburb of Akron where I was raised). I remember bowling there once when I was little. I believe my sister did join a kids league (I wasn’t much of a bowler).
My grandparents bowled there, my mom worked there, I believe most of her siblings bowled or worked there as well. It held quite the memories for my family.
More About Akron
I’m lucky that Akron had it’s hey day when it did because without it, I most likely wouldn’t be here. Akron isn’t just known for the rubber companies, it has been voted an All-American City four times (1980, 1981, 1995, and 2008) and has a nationally recognized library (the Akron-Summit County Library – which has lots of great genealogy information in their Special Collections department), it’s home to the Akron Art Museum, the Akron Rubberducks (the AA minor league baseball team to the still presently called Cleveland Indians), and the home of Purell (which has been super important during this Covid-19 filled year).
The University of Akron, which is widely known for its polymer research (which goes hand in hand with the rubber companies), and an outstanding Law School. On a related note, for years their football team played in the “Rubber Bowl” which was built as a Works Progress Administration project to put people to work in the late 1930s. The football team moved to their new stadium in Downtown Akron, in the heart of the University at Infocision Stadium in 2008. It was home to more than just football games, as countless concerts took place there as well. Demolition began in 2018, but only part of it has been razed as the other parts could cause structural issues with the roadways surrounding it and Derby Downs.
Which brings me to one of the most famous events in Akron is the annual Soap Box Derby , with motorless go-carts that of specific requirements and has been held yearly since 1933. Youths compete in their hometowns and move along until they come to Akron for the national championship. Competitors and their families come from all over to participate. I remember one year when I took summer courses for my degree while attending the University of Akron, as the dorms were used for their overnight accommodations, and it blew me away when I saw just how many children and teens participated in this event in my hometown.
I remember my mom telling me when she was a teenager going to a Soap Box Derby parade and in 1963 Rock Hudson was a celebrity attending, and she was able to touch his hand as he drove by in a car and that was one of the highlights of her life, as he was one of the few actors my mother thought to be dreamy.
Going hand in hand with Akron and Goodyear, I would be remissed if I didn’t discuss the Goodyear Blimp. The blimps were originally created at the blimp hangar in the middle of Akron. I remember my mom telling me that the hanger was so big it actually would rain inside.
Well, it’s been a while since they’ve built blimps at the original hangar, as they now are built at the Wingfoot Lake hangar in Suffield. In 2006, my parents, sister and brother-in-law attended the launch of the Spirit of Innovation in 2006.
Goodyear has always been a huge supporter of a variety of hobbies in our area, the Lighter Than Air Society being one of them. And it’s funny, I’ve grown up with blimps roaming the skies all my life and to this day when I hear that engine I run to see it. Though the new blimps, Wingfoot 1, 2, and 3 are all very quiet so you don’t hear them from within my house anymore.
Other Popular Places
I’m sure there is a lot of Akron I have missed, but before I forget here are 2 of my favorite places: the Akron Zoo and where I use to work, Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, which is the 65-room Tudor Revival home that F.A. Seiberling (co-founder of Goodyear with his brother, C.W.) and his wife Gertrude began building in 1912 and moved into in 1915. I think my favorite part of the house is how they had an architect (Charles Schneider) that designed the house and a landscape architect (Warren Manning) that made the gardens be extensions of the rooms. For example the Breakfast Room is designed in the colors of blue and yellow (Goodyear’s colors) and the garden that was around it was made up of blue and yellow flowers. It is now a historic estate that people can tour the house and grounds, along with various special events they have throughout the year.
As for the Akron Zoo, my daughter can not get enough of it, even as a teenager and more often than not we have a membership.
I can’t believe I almost forgot one of my favorite features of where I live – the Summit Metroparks. I’ve been told by many fellow classmates that this is the one feature of our area that is so often overlooked and the most missed once people move onto other areas of the country.
The Summit MetroParks is a non-profit organization that cares for a 16 parks compiled of 14,000 acres with a variety of things to do in them like hiking, ice skating, soccer, baseball, archery, biking, paddling, kayaking, fishing, swimming and more.
For 57 years the MetroParks has hosted the Fall Hiking Spree. It’s funny as I originally tried to complete this when I was in 10th grade. I was in Enriched Biology and the main thing that separated us from the regular class were projects that were due each grading period. The first was easy, participate in the Fall Hiking Spree. 6 Hikes was an A, 5 a B, and so on. I did 6 with my dad. We found group hikes that were led by Naturalists and advertised each week in the Akron Beacon Journal and that’s where we went, so we not only learned about the natural surroundings but any history tidbits that were involved as well. To earn your hiking stick and shield, you complete 8 hikes, and my dad and I had every intention to do them, but it’s Ohio, and the weather turned cold and wet and we never did. Fast forward 24 years and I’m 39 years old and I put earning said shield and stick on my bucket list of things to do before turning 40. I was so happy the day I earned it with my friend, Pam. I’ve continued to do the hiking spree each year since having earned 9 total shields (but there are people who have hiked every year).
The below photo is the 2020 Shield on the left and a photo of my stick from 2019. Normally they have volunteers who will put the shield on for you but with Covid this year, they did not have this service. Bets on how long it takes my husband to get the shield on? It’s already January and it’s not done.
Writing this has been very therapeutic since being a girl who has wanted to move to New York City for over half her life, I realize just how lucky I am to be born and more or less raised in this wonderful area. It is the place where I have to begin my genealogical journey as it’s where I was born, my husband and children were born here, my mom, and her mom (my dad was born in Indiana). From there I spread to Pennsylvania on every front but the Fairhurst’s, which is England.
If you are interested in taking part in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge please click here for more information. Come back next week as I tackle week #2!