WESTERHOLD: Look at the past to see what future could be

By MATT WESTERHOLD We were Americans first but we cherished our root
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

By MATT WESTERHOLD

We were Americans first but we cherished our roots and tended to stay within the neighborhoods, the churches and the social clubs our German, Italian, Irish or African-American ancestors established. By the 1970s, however, the ethnic boundaries faded and our social circles were more diverse.

But some common threads always united us during the years from 1940 to 1975. We were always ready to fight for America, and the Greatest Generation secured victory in Europe and victory over Japan before returning home to establish a prosperity that carried the nation and Erie County through the entire period.

Subsequent generations answered the call to service in Vietnam and Korean conflicts.

Downtown Sandusky was another common thread; a bustling retail and social center. We shopped at the Sears and the J.C. Penney stores, the five and dimes, Smith Hardware, Joseph's, Spector's, LaSalle's and dozens of locally owned boutiques and jewelry stores.

We dined at Whitehouse and marveled at the Gar fish through the windows at Pelican Restaurant.

We went to movies at the State Theatre, the Plaza or the Ohio Theatre.

We gathered downtown to share the joys and disappointments of life. We celebrated V-E Day and V-J Day in downtown Sandusky, and it's where many marched in civil rights demonstrations.

We came downtown to hop a Cedar Point ferry for a quick dash across the Sandusky Bay to the amusement park we've always loved, or a Neuman Boat Line trip to Kelleys Island.

The Industrial Age brought a new General Motors plant to Perkins Avenue and a Ford plant on Tiffin Avenue. Industrial innovations were a staple of the waterfront paper district, where Hinde & Dauche was located. Our industries were intertwined and manufacturing was king.

Many of us chose factory work straight out of high school, where we were all but guaranteed a decent living and what we thought would be a job that could carry us through life and into a comfortable retirement.

Others chose higher education. College campuses from Bowling Green to the University of Cincinnati, and everywhere in between, were a destination for many. In the mid-1960s, the community raised enough money to convince Bowling Green State University to build a branch campus in Huron.

We worked hard and we played hard. We loved our high school sports teams, relishing the victories and bucking up our players when they fell short.

We were also passionate about the pros and shared in the glory when the Indians won the 1948 World Series and the Browns captured the 1964 national crown.

"Erie County & The Erie Isles, A Pictorial History 1940-1975," will be published in November. It's a follow-up to a previous edition released last year covering the early years up to 1939.

It's an opportunity to see who we were then, and we hope it will offer readers some insight as to where we go from here.

The promises of the past might not be measuring up to hopes we had, and perhaps this book will offer a glimpse of the path we might take to a more prosperous future.

Readers can reserve a copy now for $29.95 by filling out the form in today's paper. The order form will appear in the paper regularly and reserving a copy will save you 25 percent off the cost if you wait until the books arrive in November. There will be a limited number of copies available for those who do not pre-order, but the cost then will be $39.95.