Tag Archives: Lima Ohio.

Walks With Dad

Cold winter walks through the park with Dad were warmed with tales and stories from the past.

During the time as a boy before my teens we lived on East Market Street in Lima. Dad spent a lot of time at the Avenue Café on Bellefontaine Avenue. It was a walk down the alley behind our house, through Lincoln Park, across Elm Street, down another alley that ran along side a coal yard, and across Bellefontaine Avenue where the Avenue Café stood.

It occupied the first floor of a large a two story wooden building painted grey. On the weekends the place was packed with blue collar workers who worked at Lima’s eastside factories.

On payday weekends I went with Dad. He’d give me a couple of dollars to get rid of me for a while.

During the fall I walked over to Lima Stadium to watch football games. When the game was over I walked back to get Dad.

At other times of the year I walked down to Davis’ Drug Store that was on the same block as the cafe. They had a small lunch counter where they served burgers, sundaes, sodas, and flavored Cokes.

My routine was to buy a Sporting News and read it at the lunch counter. I alternated my Cokes from plain, to cherry, to vanilla, and to chocolate. When the place was about to close I’d walk back to the Avenue Café and get Dad.

I recall those walks home with a special fondness. Especially the walk down a brick sidewalk that led through Lincoln Park. It was lined with trees and dimly lit with a street light.

Each season of those walks are fresh in my mind. There were hot Summer evenings when the bugs buzzed in tight formation around the street light. The damp Spring walks were fresh with the sound of tree frogs and the odor of the moist earth. I recall the Winter walks huddled deep in our coats as blowing snow drifted across the sidewalk. It seems that most of all I recall crisp fall evenings kicking through the leaves that collected along our pathway.

Dad and I talked about sports nearly all the way. He told me about the old days. I hung on every word. Even when hearing the story several times they were never tiring.

There was one night I’ll never forget. I’ll relate that next week.

(Continued)

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A Life Lesson From Dad

The state champion volleyball team my Dad played for during the early 30s. Dad is the one seated second from the left and in the box. One time a guy at a bar said to my Dad, “I heard you was a heckuva football player in your day.” My dad replied, “You never heard about our state championship team in volleyball?”

From the time my Dad left Onarga Military School until he met my Mom little is known by me about his life, and maybe it is best that way.

Dad spoke about a number of different jobs he had. He was active in Lima’s baseball, softball, and volleyball industrial and business leagues.

One day at the library I looked through some microfilms of old newspapers from that era. In those days sports pages reported on a lot of local sporting events, even the business and industrial leagues. It seemed Dad not only changed jobs often, but jumped from team to team also; several baseball teams in a season.

He became interested in volleyball during this time and the team he played for won the state championship in Ohio. My best guess is that it was 1933 or 1934, because in a team picture he is wearing Mom’s class ring on his pinky finger. For some reason I recall Dad saying it was the state YMCA tournament. Other than my Dad telling me about it and a team picture nothing else is known.

Dad sat in bars and when it came time to do some bragging he made certain it was known he was on a state champ volleyball team. There was something about his telling the story that struck me; he bragged not about himself, but the team. He talked about how volleyball was the ultimate team sport. The first guy to hit the ball was likely the one who saved it from a score. The second guy to hit the ball set-up the player who was going to try to score. (I know little about the game. I’m sure there are more technical or descriptive terms.) One could not function without the other.

Dad didn’t provide many life lessons. In all honesty he was not a good husband nor father. He had serious character flaws. Through those flaws I see now a man who struggled within himself. I think there might have been times when he was about to tell me things of great importance, but stopped short. Perhaps he was telling me things all along and yet I did not recognize them.

If I were to pick a life lesson it would be that volleyball team; everybody must know their place and do the job that comes their way and not the job to your liking. Sometimes you are the guy that saves the ball, sometimes you are the guy who sets up the score, and least likely you are the guy who scores and glory or credit should be equally shared.

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My Dad, Known As a Fighter

Garfieled School in Lima, Ohio, one of the elementary schools my Dad attended and learned to fight.

When we tell stories about ourselves it is normal to put ourselves in the best possible light, giving us the most noble of reasons and motives for our actions. I tend to think that with my Dad’s stories unless I come across untainted corroboration.

One of the elementary schools Dad attended was Garfield in Lima.

He related that they (his family) were so poor that the heels were removed from the shoes of his older sisters and handed down to him to wear as boy‘s shoes. He said his clothes were always used and well-worn.

For some reason one of his grade school teachers thought he smelled badly. He was separated from the class to be certain where the odor was emanating. It was not him. It was another boy. Of course I can’t be certain of the validity of the story. None of my Dad’s other brothers or sisters mentioned extreme poverty. Although in those days many were considered poor. The excesses were not available to them that are to us today. It was unlikely a family had a car, telephone, or even a radio. Those were luxuries beyond the reach of even the middle class.

Dad said that he and a boy from another class would go under a fence in the school yard just to fight each other. And after school they slung their arms around each other as if best of buddies.

This seems strange. My father-in-law, George, who was just a few years younger related a story to me about my Dad.

George said he and his Dad lived in an upstairs apartment with a view of an alley. The first time he recalled seeing my Dad was when he was one of two boys going at it in the alley. It seemed like none was getting the better of the other. The fight went on for several minutes. Finally a mutual truce was called probably because of sheer exhaustion and the boys put their arms around each other and walked away together.

That was my Dad’s world as a kid. As strange as it may seem fighting bonded boys together rather than separate them.

Oil fields near Lima where a man was judged not by the content of his character, but by the speed of his fists.

The Lima area once sat on a rich oil field. Old pictures show that oil derricks were as thick as trees. I heard a taped interview with an old man who worked the fields as a young man. He said it was common for two men just to look at each other and decide who was the better of the two by fighting. When it was all over they were friends. That must have been the environment my Dad was exposed to away from home and pervasive in the Lima area when my Dad was a lad.

Some where able to shake that mentality and civilize themselves, but Dad never did. Anger, fists, and barroom brawls became my Dad’s persona and reputation for years.

I recall years after my Dad’s death talking to an old-timer who knew my Dad. He said, “He was a helluva fighter. Ya didn’t mess with him.”

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My Dad’s Days at Lima South; When He Was Somebody

Byron Jackson Lehman, my dad, as captain of the 1928 Lima South High School football team.

One of my Dad’s proudest accomplishments was being captain of the 1928 Lima South High School football team. Dad loved football. He was a center on offense and an end on defense.

He played without wearing a helmet. Yeah, that was my Dad.

My Dad spoke in almost reverential terms of his coaches and teammates.

Marion Seitz was the football and baseball coach. Dad had a real personal attachment to him.

Dad had a really ugly pinky finger. Dad was a catcher and first baseman in baseball. As catcher he caught a foul tip on his pinky finger and it was deformed-looking from that point on. Dad said one day somebody ask what happened to his finger. Coach Seitz interrupted and said, “I slapped his hands. I caught him picking his nose.”

Charles Gaskin was the basketball coach and assisted in football.

Dad looked up to both men and considered them coaching geniuses.

The faculty manager or athletic director was C. F. Sinclair. Dad had a special fondness for him. Dad called him ‘Pop’ Sinclair. It was my impression ‘Pop’ was Dad’s confidant and mentor. He took a special interest in Dad.

Welby Widner, Ralph Waggoner, Walt Davis, Paul Hargrove, Chuck Bowers, Ron Dotson and many others were guys he played ball and went to school with. He thought those guys were the greatest. He spoke of them as legends. Dad introduced a couple of them to me over the years. It was as if being introduced to Red Grange or Joe DiMaggio.

Early in the 1928 season he sustained a fractured skull. Severe headaches plagued him the rest of his life.

Dad had a fractured skull six weeks before the South/Central football game held on Thanksgiving Day 1928. Here he is before the game. He’s the player without the helmet.

Dad was determined to play in the final game of the 1928 season. It was against cross town rival Lima Central High School. He was told they would not let him play unless he wore a helmet. The coach was afraid he’d rip it off during the game so it was taped on him. Years later I talked to a man at a local barbershop who was at that game. He said it was funny watching my Dad get angry during the game and try to remove the helmet.

That final game was played on Thanksgiving Day 1928.

The year before South surprised Central with a 6 – 0 win. In Dad’s final game Central won 12 – 6.

The man I talked to in the barbershop said he was in junior high at the time, but remembered the game. He said they had a game film and showed it for weeks at the State Theater during intermissions.

There are parts of my Dad’s life that get fuzzy beyond that point. My Dad’s picture as captain of the 1928 football team is in the school annual. He didn’t play basketball that year, but did play baseball (1929). His picture isn’t with the graduating seniors.

A little investigating turned up that scholastically he was listed as a junior in 1929. That meant Dad, if he graduated it would have been in 1930 making him twenty. It looks as though Dad had trouble scholastically as did I.

Sometimes you hear some family stories and not sure of the context. Stories I heard about my Dad when I was ten would be viewed differently if heard when thirty. There was a story that Dad was undisciplined. Some of his teachers and coaches thought he had potential, but needed discipline.

Here is my take on matters. Dad was probably made captain of the football team by a popular vote of the players. Dad not wearing a helmet while playing football must have inspired other players. His coaches recognized that and suggested that something else was needed in his life to tap into his potential.

That will come next week.

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A Musical Memory from The Avenue Cafe in Lima, Ohio

My childhood was unusual; one might even say corrupted. My Dad drank heavily and often visited bars. He took me with him much of the time. From an early age I got to see what many might call the dregs of society.

When we lived on Lima’s eastside we walked through Lincoln Park and to a bar on Bellefontaine Avenue called The Avenue Café. It wasn’t a very respectable place; it was a place where men went to get drunk, talk loud, laugh loud, and listen to loud music. Dad knew everyone there and they knew him. I remember mindlessly sitting at the bar with him listening to music from the juke box.

I played a game; I’d look around the bar and try to figure-out who played the song. I wondered what it was about the song they liked or of what or whom it was a reminder. There was always someone who didn’t fit in; that was the guy. Some times that guy was my Dad.

Of all the songs heard this was the one I remember the most.

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My Music: Memories From The Lincoln Park Dances (Lima, Ohio)

Fifties music and dances were all about the feet.

At the Lincoln Park Dances there were songs played over and over, again and again. Get it; they got boring? Last week I mentioned the Carl Dobbins hit, My Heart is an Open Book.

I never heard an Elvis Presley song at the Lincoln Park Dances. My theory is because the park dances were sponsored and controlled by the City Parks and Recreation Director. Elvis music, look, and attitude was not what the city wanted to encourage in the youth. You may recall Presley’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show Elvis, (The Pelvis) could not be seen from the waist down (no gyrating hips). Thus, Elvis songs and music by black artists that were considered sensual were avoided.

Songs were typically about first loves, brake-ups, heart aches, and songs that were funny and cute.

At the Lincoln Park Dances you could go up to the song list that was written on a sheet of paper near the juke box. This allowed you to see which order the songs were going to be played. There was about a thirty-second interlude between songs so everyone could get to the dance floor in time to dance to the entire song. If you listen very closely you can hear the sound of grit beneath the shoes of teenagers against concrete floors as they shuffle across the dance floor to occupy their favorite spot for dancing.

Here are four songs from that era that seem to capture those acceptable themes; Puppy Love (Paul Anka), Lipstick on Your Collar (Connie Francis) Lonely Teardrops (Jackie Wilson) and Charley Brown (The Coasters).

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Music Memories: Lincoln Park Dances

This is not the shelter house in Lincoln Park. I was unable to find a photo of it, but this is actually the shelter house in Furot Park in Lima, Ohio. They are very similar.

From the mid to late 50’s I lived on the eastside of Lima, Ohio. Our home was on the same block as the Lincoln Park shelter house. If you were a kid on the eastside of Lima during that time, it meant only one thing; the Lincoln Park dances. Every Friday and Saturday night during the Summer the shelter house was packed with kids.

The shelter house had a cement floor. Bleacher seats lined the outer perimeter. On the east end was a stage. Behind the stage were padlocked folding doors and behind the doors was the magic; the juke box.

Mr. Crites (Critesy) was the school janitor at Longfellow just a block away. He was an old pudgy friendly man that everybody loved to help. He was the gatekeeper, so to speak. At eight o’clock he opened the folding doors and plugged the juke box in. One of the summertime park workers took requests and the music and dancing began.

To the south/west corner of the shelter house was a concession stand. A couple of middle-aged ladies worked there. They weren’t particularly friendly, but could they do miracles with popcorn. When that popcorn started popping it was like a carnival. They had the best fountain Dr. Pepper I’ve ever had. And you talk about hotdogs! You could chip a tooth on the buns and the mustard had little chunky bits in it. Not everything was idyllic in the 50’s.

Just a few yards west of the shelter house was a ticket booth. If memory serves me it was a nickel a dance, six for a quarter, and fifty cents for unlimited dancing. A lady stood at the entrance to the dance floor and collected tickets. If someone tried to sneak on to the floor without paying they were ratted-out by everybody and that was a sure way of being blackballed.

It was a place where we had our first cigarette, first fight, first dance, first love, first kiss, and first broken heart.

For the next few weeks I’ll share some memories of Lincoln Park and some songs that reminds me of pretty girls, poodle skirts, pedal pushers, pegged jeans, bobby socks, penny loafers, and a boy too shy to dance.

Here is a song that comes to my mind first when I think of the Lincoln Park dances.

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