Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Creating a new password provides unexpected fun

I may have misled you last week when I gave the impression that I know next to nothing about computers.
In point of fact, as the late Willoughby Councilman Don Prindle was so fond of saying, there is actually A LOT that I know about computers.
I shall attempt to summarize the vast storehouse of information I have on the subject. But first, I must share with you some knowledge on another topic which I find fascinating.
The subject is palindromes. I cited, as examples, Mom, Dad, Radar, and one I have always believed to be the mother of them all. Or the father, as the case may be.
That would be “Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba.”
I reprinted one that Bud Boylan of Lyndhurst sent me: “Go Hang a Salami; I’m a Lasagna Hog.”
But in the interregnum since that little exercise (I am still tired from it all), I received one in the mail from Joann Rogers of Waite Hill, and it is equally spectacular.
Get a load of this one: “A Man, A Plan, A Canal – Panama.” If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then perhaps nothing will.
And if you don’t know the backwards and forwards of palindromes, then this conversation is probably lost on you, so we will return to our assigned topic today, and that is computers.
Sorry about the lengthy digression, but sometimes I cannot help myself. I know it is probably a mental condition, but at least I am not homicidal. That I know of.
Anyway, there is one phase of the computer business (sickness?) that I probably know more about than anyone in the world. At least, in the world that we inhabit. I don’t know about the other places because I have never been there and I have no plans at the moment to visit there.
Janet Podolak is probably familiar with those places because she has been EVERYWHERE, and I have not.
I have been to Europe only once in my lifetime, and that was a trip to Germany which I took in her place because she was already booked for that week. But I digress.
What I know so much about in the World of Computers is passwords. Everywhere I go, if I use a computer, I keep getting instructions: “Change your password.”
For some users, and I use the term in its most innocuous sense, that is a terrible burden, because they are unable to come up with new passwords.
Not me. I can think of new passwords quicker than you can say Jackie Robinson. They literally roll off my tongue.
Well, not literally, but you know what I mean.
The trick to a good password is one that cannot be hacked into by someone in Bombay or Rangoon, you know, a thief in the night who wants to get access to your bank account, or your credit cards, or worse yet, the list of girls you dated in high school who attended the former Andrews School for Girls.
I don’t know what a thief would do with that list, because they are somewhat long in the tooth by now, but you get the idea.
The “experts” tell us that anyone who uses a birthday, mother’s maiden name or anything that can be learned at the drop of a hat is, in a word, stupid.
And believe me, if you have ever dropped your hat, you know how painful that can be. Especially if you are still wearing it.
I invent passwords no one could ever figure out. For example: 14159265358979323846. That is pi to 20 places. Who knows that, other than I?
Here is another one a hacker would have trouble with: RA15355077.
That was Don Slagle’s service number when he was in the Army. He was a high school classmate, and I haven’t
seen him since. Why would I remember it? I have no idea. That is just the way my mind works.
(I won’t tell you my Army serial number because I use it myself from time to time in passwords.)
Here is one you might like to use: Bob19Bernie19.
Here’s another one I like: JimmyCaseyDoak37.
I could go on all day making up passwords, but there is no profit in it unless clients start paying me for them.
By the way, there are missing names in the above passwords, and I will fill them in for you, in case you haven’t figured them out.
They are, Feller, Kosar, Piersall, Stengel and Walker.
Those are some of my favorite people in sports, mainly because I like their numbers.
I also liked Jim Otto’s number because it was 00. If you say that is not really a number, keep in mind, I am the person (a true story) who made up the phone number for The News-Herald when it was changed 40 or so years ago.
When I came up with 951-0000, the general manager told me, “That’s not a real number.”
“Sure it is,” I said. “Just call up Ohio Bell. They’ll tell you it is.”
He did, and they did. And I rested my case, which needed the relaxation because I was getting a little tired.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Remembering what it was like before computers were invented

The Computer World is a place that is almost entirely foreign to me.
I can do a few of the basic things, for example, typing on a screen, which is what I am doing right now.
But that is the extent of my expertise. I can’t do much else, and that is a shame, because I cannot share in the joys of social media. It is all over my head.
Everything to do with electronics is over my head. It is not because of my IQ. I am quite satisfied with that. At least, I was happy with it at Fort Hood, Texas, because they told me at G-1 I was the smartest guy in the Army.
Or maybe it was in the barracks. I forget which.
Nevertheless, nothing goes right for me when I sit down at the computer. I am glad I am not a concert pianist. The wrong stuff would keep coming out.
If I tried to play a little Chopin, I would probably get something by Billy Strayhorn. And that’s not a bad idea, come to think of it. I can take a few bars of “Take the A Train” any time.
I have the use of a computer both places where I work, at Lakeland Community College and at The News-Herald. I am always having to ask people how to do things.
At the college, I ask the ladies who sit in the area outside my office for help. They are very nice ladies, but please, don’t ever call them “girls.” That is, in a word, offensive. Funny thing, they look like girls to me. But they are very patient with me. They explain things which I retain for a short time, but then it’s right back to the same old problems again.
It would be best if I would take notes, but real men don’t take notes. That is what I tell the lady of the house, but she believes I should relent a little bit in these matters, like in stores where I refuse to ask anyone where things are.
She is a great believer in asking for directions. My belief is, “I can find it myself.”
Oddly enough, when we are in a store looking for something, she always seems to find what we are looking for first.
She claims it is because she asks for directions and I don’t. I say it is just luck. Be that as it may, things work out for the best.
At the paper, I ask John Bertosa, the managing editor, for help. He not only understands the system, he is also within shouting distance, so when I holler, “Hey John, I need help,” he is one of the people who can hear me.
That is because newsrooms are so quiet nowadays. Carpeted and all that.
In the old days, the floors were wooden, reporters were hammering loudly on typewriters and a dozen or so teletype machines were bringing in news from all over the world.
They clacked away at a monotonous 88 words a minute, and when they were all clacking at the same time, it managed to drive a few people crazy.
I could name some of them, but their families might still be in the area, and would probably claim it was something other than the clacking that drove their loved ones nuts.
I have my own computer at home. It is a Dell. It never works right. I insist that my computer adviser/guru, Greg Patt, told me to buy it. He is equally as insistent that he told me to buy an Apple. I called him a couple months ago to come over and pick up my computer. Greg knows everything there is to know about computers.
I am glad he took it. It made room at the dinner table for one more person in case we had company.
He brought it back the other day. He said it was fixed. Hah! It may have been fixed when it was at his house, but now that it is home, it does not work so well any more.
He said he “cleaned it up.” I don’t recall getting it dirty. It is as slow, in the words of Grandma Sherman, as molasses in January.
Some of that may be Time Warner’s fault. Those folks brag about their speed. I did a little research on that matter, and found out they have five different speeds. The more you pay, the faster it gets.
I have the cheapest speed. They are not getting any more money out of me to speed up my computer. It’s just a shame they can’t increase the speed without jacking up the price.
Greg had a parting shot as he left. It is something he has told me many times in the past: Hang on to your computer only to copy CDs (which gives me an opportunity to share some straight ahead jazz with my friends) and get an ipad for emails and looking up stuff on Google, like college football scores.
Swell. Now I’ve got to learn to use another gadget.
Look, I do not have Facebook and I do not have Twitter and I do not do social networking on the computer.
Despite a hundred thousand people asking me to be their friend on the internet, I have never responded to any of them.
At heart I am a very friendly kind of a guy, but I do not believe in electronic friendship.
I respond to emails. Period. I understand that neither Thomas Edison nor Alexander Graham Bell ever owned a computer.
I respect their privacy – and their decisions to be left alone.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What is and is not politically correct?

I fully intended to be writing about something entirely different from what you are about to read.
I had a different topic in mind as I left the house Monday morning (an aside to Wayne Beck, that would be May 4) and I had been mulling it over much of the morning as I thought about sitting down at Robin Palmer’s computer at The News-Herald to a little composing.
Hey, if Beethoven could do a little composing when the mood struck him, why can’t I?
But I digress.
Monday morning, and throughout the lunch hour, I got so much response to the final thoughts expressed in this space last week that I felt compelled to have a few more things to say about political correctness.
The first half of last week’s column, about Andrews Osborne Academy and about Dan and Carol Fishwick, also got a thumbs up from everyone who had something to say about it.
But so many readers made unsolicited comments about the other subject, political correctness (PC), that I feel I must say a little more about it.
It was used here in the context of the opera that was rescheduled at South High in Willoughby because of an anonymous complaint that it violated the so-called “separation clause” of the First Amendment.
But the often-abused amendment says only that Congress shall not enact any laws to establish a religion in the United States.
The word “separation” exists only in the minds of people who have nothing better to worry about at a time when the Indians have lost more games than they have won this season.
Which brings us to baseball and further onslaughts against common sense in the name of PC.
I must point out that I love the Indians, and I have since 1936, when Grandpa Sherman used to take me to League Park in his stately Buick and pay residents who lived near Lexington and E. 66th Street 50 cents to park in a front yard so we could go to the ball game.
The Tribe is near and dear to my heart, and nothing will ever change that. But there are three things about them that drive me batty.
Maybe it is deliberate on the part of the team. Driving me batty, that is.
The first thing I hate about the Indians is the Sunday uniforms that have no names on the back. This is an extreme disservice to fans watching the game because there are only a handful of players who can be recognized by their appearance. There are so many new relief pitchers marching in from the bullpen that there is no way of knowing who they are solely by the numbers on their backs.
I have complained to team Vice President Bobby DiBiasio about this situation more times than I can count. But he is a company man, and defends the practice.
I even complained once to the owner, Paul Dolan, when he spoke at a meeting I attended, but he shrugged it off.
So they will be happy to hear that I have now decided to stop worrying about it.
The second thing that bugs me, which I attribute solely to PC, is the mindless manner in which Chief Wahoo is being phased out on the telecasts and being replaced by the Block C.
Yes, I know. Chief Wahoo is still around. He is on some of the baseball caps and sleeves of the players. But have you noticed what representation of the team adorns the clothing of the vast majority of fans at the games?
It is not the Block C. There may be some of them in the grandstand, but by far most of the symbols in evidence are of Chief Wahoo.
The voice of the people is clear. No matter what the team, the protesters and the PC people think, average folks really like Chief Wahoo – and always will.
Here is something a little more subtle. When Rick Manning and Matt Underwood, two outstanding analysts, by the way, show a replay, the TV screen dissolves and a Block C appears.
It used to be Chief Wahoo that appeared in that space. Now it is the Block C. Pay attention next time. You will see it. Not that there is anything you – or I – can do about it. It is a corporate decision that reeks with PC.
Here is the third and final thing that makes my skin crawl. Figuratively, of  course. My skin has never actually crawled since I was in third grade and I was out in the rain and my corduroy knickers got soaked.
It is the name of the place where the Indians play. Progressive Field. I am fully aware that it is the name of an insurance company which paid a handsome sum for the privilege.
But to me it reeks of politics. And it is not my brand of politics.
If you disagree, it is your First Amendment right to do so. So don’t bother telling me about it. You have a right to your opinion and I have mine.
Please respect mine. But when you are in my company, keep yours to yourself. I say that with all appropriate kindness and understanding of our differences.
But if you don’t mind too much, my brother and I will continue to call the place where they play “The Jake.”
We are not politically correct.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Two schools, two completely different views

Some headlines excite me, some depress me. Let me give you an example of each.
Saturday a week ago I brought in the paper and, as I sat down to breakfast, scanned the headlines. We don’t read at the breakfast table because the lady of the house and I have other things to talk about – things which have a higher order of importance in our world than local, state, national or international affairs.
But two headlines resounded in my brain, and I spent a couple minutes looking into each story because I couldn’t wait to know what they were all about.
The first one said, “South High event halted.” The second said, “School celebrates world’s cultures.”
I shall deal with them in reverse order, because the second one was positive, uplifting and gave a happy outlook on a fine tradition I have observed for many years.
It was the celebration of International Day at Andrews Osborne Academy in Willoughby. It celebrates the many backgrounds (may I say “cultures?”) at a school that is the pride of everyone who knows anything at all about it. The event features dishes prepared by students from all around the globe.
I have never seen such an unending array of gourmet dishes in my life, and I have been attending these events for decades.
We circled the cafeteria and helped ourselves to small plastic cups that contained greater varieties of foods, desserts and soups that you could imagine.
I think the lady and I ended up with three or four dozen different samples on our plates. We did our best to devour them all.
We ended up seated across from two of Willoughby’s finest citizens, Dan and Carol Fishwick. Both made their mark in education – Dan at University School, and Carol at South High, where she was a winner of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award.
In addition, Dan and I were trustees at the former Andrews School for Girls at the time it merged with Phillips Osborne School in Painesville to form a single school to educate students in all grades and from all international backgrounds at a very high level of academic achievement.
Dan remained on the combined board for two years after the merger as I departed. I plead guilty to having something to do with that situation, but it is a story for another occasion.
The four of us had a lot to talk about. And we did – for more than an hour before we adjourned to the auditorium for a program displaying the talents of dozens of AOA students. It was a splendid program, one that enraptured the audience that filled the room.
Much of the success of AOA, and it is indeed a heart-warming tale, is due to the efforts of Chuck Roman and Larry Goodman. Chuck became the head of school at the merger, and upon his retirement Larry became the new school head.
It is the quality and abilities of these two men and their associates that make AOA a success.
The program on stage following lunch gave a look into the abilities and strengths of the students at the school, which is now co-ed following the merger. It is a marked improvement over the previous all-girls institution. Its leaders understand the mission and it is an important member of the county’s educational community.
We were fortunate to sit next to Larry during the program. His enthusiasm for the production was apparent, and it was nicely covered in Saturday’s News-Herald.
The other headline, about the event that was canceled at South High, was depressing.
According to the story, a student opera was “postponed” because a national civil rights organization protested that it had religious overtones.
It was postponed because the group claimed it violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
That has always been a bogus claim, because the Constitution says only that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” And that is all the Constitution says on the subject.
I will wager that I have read the First Amendment 50 more times than the person who filed the complaint. I know it, backwards and forwards.
But here is the killer statement from the story: The person who filed the complaint said “the opera was brought to his group’s attention by a member of the school community who wished to remain anonymous.”
Isn’t that always the way? I thought, by law, we have a right to know who our accusers are.
Here is my thought: When I have an opinion, my name is attached to it. Those of us who are proud of our opinions refer to the others who cringe at the thought of being associated with a point of view as “gutless wonders.”
But as you are probably aware, this rapidly emerging political correctness nonsense is just another product of Far Left (“progressive”) thinking that is leading the country downhill at the speed of light.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Word games provide never-ending challenges

I have always liked word games.
As I mentioned when I recalled remembrances of Downtown Willoughby from around 1934, the word game I played with my mother and brother as we sat in the car while my dad’s band was playing downstairs at the smoke-filled Waldorf Cafe beneath Harry Simon’s store, was rearranging the names of the Cleveland Indians players to spell other words.
These are called anagrams. For example, Roy Weatherly became ... oh, I forget.
But there are other combinations of letters that are not anagrams. If they spell the same word backward or forward, they are called palindromes.
The two easiest ones are mom and dad. There is also radar, as well as the former third baseman of the Indians, Toby Harrah.
The most famous palindrome of all time, as far as I know, is “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”
Isn’t that terrific? I don’t know who made it up, but he or she must have had a lot of time on his or her hands.
But Bud Boylan, one of my most loyal readers, and whom I have never met, sent me one the other day which is a doozie.
I wish doozie were a palindrome, but unfortunately it is not, because spelled backward it is “eizood,” which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you stop to think about it.
In fact, if you stop to think about Downtown Willoughby in 1934, that does make a lot of sense. At least, it does to my friend Tim Wright of Concord Township because he said he enjoyed very much reading those columns.
Do you know why? Because where he grew up, in Parma, there was no downtown. They had a bunch of people and a lot of stores, but they had no downtown. And that is sad to say.
Believe me, I know, because I lived there for 15 months in 1959 and 1960, and Tim is right – or Wright, as the case may be.
I spent a lot of time looking for Downtown Parma, and there was no such place. Tim says there was a Downtown Parma Heights, and that makes sense, because Paul Cassidy was mayor of Parma Heights, and he was such a persuasive guy that if he was going to be mayor of a city, it would have a downtown or he would see to it that it did.
This I do know: Somebody there knew how to spell Parma backward, because there is an Amrap Drive, which I think is hilarious.
But I digress. This has little or nothing to do with palindromes, and I’ll bet you are sitting on the edge of your rocking chair waiting to find out the one that Bud Boylan sent to me.
Here, in a word, it is:
“Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.”
If you spell that backward, you will realize it is the same as it is frontward.
Creating that brief sentence is quite a literary accomplishment. If you can come up with anything nearly as complicated, please send it to me – with this warning.
If you send it by email, I may get it and I may not. To me, email is not a dependable means of communication, because sometimes I receive them and sometimes I do not.
It all has to do with a number of factors over which I have no control. So if you have been waiting for two or three months to receive an email from me, it is because it has not arrived at this end yet.
But please be patient, because it will probably get here someday. Or someyear.
I would rather you would write to me in boustrophedon, which is really difficult because at first glance it doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense.
It means plow wise. Think of it as a farmer plowing his field. When he plows a row, he doesn’t go back to where he started and plow again in the same direction. No. He turns around and plows in the opposite direction.
In summertime in Bredon,
Nodehportsuob ni etorw I,
Now nobody in Britain,
Nettirw evah I tahw daer nac.
If you can read that little couplet, then you are able to read in boustrophedon.
Which in itself is quite an accomplishment.
Now, let’s brush up on our palindromes and we’ll call it a day.
Or a week.
One or the other.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trip down Memory Lane continues

Recent essays in this space on Downtown Willoughby circa 1934 caught the attention of a lot of readers, so
I will continue with one more in that happy vein until it’s all used up. I promise. And then I will move on.

Unless, of course, something else comes along to arrest my attention. I must tell you sooner or later about palindromes. If you don’t know what they are, ask Leo “Bud”  Boylan of Lyndhurst, who called my attention the other day to the longest one I have ever encountered.

If you are not familiar with palindromes, here’s a hint: Remember Radar on the “MASH” TV show? Or former Indians third baseman Toby Harrah? But I have already said too much.

Let’s get back to Downtown Willoughby, and the 1934 stories written in The News-Herald by Art Hommel and sent to me by his widow, Margaret, who lives in Kirtland.

If you are a serious student of local lore, it would be useful if you were to become familiar with a series of three stories called “Echoes of the Past.”

They are far too lengthy to reprint here, but the headlines tell a lot.

1. “Early History of the Penfield Plant.” The subhead said, “Beginning a Series of Stories on Important Local Industry.”

2. “Invention of First Tile Machine.” The subhead was, “J.W. Penfield First Man to Make Tile by Machinery.”

3. “Golden Era of American Tile Co.” Subhead, “Growth from $500,000 to $6,000,000 Concern: British Interests.”

4. “War Brings Profits -- And Ruin.” Subhead, “Over-Expansion During War Spells Doom of American Clay Co.”

I told you more last week than anyone probably cares to know about Fritz Reuter’s Delicatessen, so let’s continue our stroll through town and look at some of the other topics that Art brought to the attention of News-Herald readers.

“Do You Know Your Commissioners?” a headline asked. There were lengthy profiles of the three men, all named Charlie, who headed our county government.

The only one I really knew was Charlie Clark, who lived in Willoughby and was already a bit long-in-the-tooth when I started here as a reporter fresh out of college in 1950.

The other two Charlies were Manchester, who lived in Perry Township, and Alexander of Mentor.

Art pointed out in his story about the three civic leaders, “they form a triangle of composite unity which is of the greatest benefit to the people of the county they serve.”

Mighty fine writing by a man who later became head of the local credit bureau.

A story about aviation was headed, “Where Are the Flyers of Future?” It told of four young men, Eric Guenther, John Franz, Budd Babcock and Kenneth Swain, who took their model-making seriously and flew their precise miniatures in a field that served as their airport at the end of Park Avenue.

“62 Years a Dry Goods Merchant” told of William Meil Sr., who eventually turned his store over to his son, William Jr., “who had the same sparkling eyes of his father.”

Many times I saw the younger Bill Meil, a stately and handsome gentleman, walking along Euclid Avenue from his home on Maple Street to his Downtown store.

To everyone who greeted him with, “how are you today, Mr. Meil?” he would unfailingly respond, “pretty synosperous.”

He never explained what that meant. The store was later operated by his son, Bob Meil. I attended Bob’s 90th birthday party where he and Sue Ellen now live at Grace
Woods, a new section at Breckenridge Village in Willoughby.

My aunt, Mildred Sherman, worked at Meil’s for what seemed like an eternity, but it was probably only 30 or 40 years.

A story about father-son combinations in Downtown Willoughby stores told of the “Fairleys and the Cothrells in the Same Store.”

Other stories of that era told of “Cowboy movie star Hoot Gibson to appear and ride in the Mardi Gras Parade in Willoughby,” and “History of 1832 house on Worrell Road first owned by John Presley, grandfather of Mert Presley, Willoughby’s well-known newspaper vendor.”

That would be in Willloughby Hills, which was then Willoughby Township.

Other topics: “Willoughby Players had no piano; Mrs. Daniels donated a place.” And, “Mayor Todd finds place in Willoughby for bronze bell formerly (at) Vine Street School Building.”

There is much more, of course, but I have a question: If I asked a Smart Phone about any of these things, would it have all the answers, or is it just another passing fancy that doesn’t replace real research.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Old newspaper clippings tell the tale of a simpler time

Last week we learned, from a 1934 News-Herald clipping, that popular Willoughby delicatessen owner Fritz Reuter was shot down in a German zeppelin during the World War. (That was before it was called World War I.)
The lengthy account, written by Fritz and partially narrated by Art Hommel, described the hair-raising adventure of how Fritz, an officer in the German Imperial Navy, was shot down and then rescued by a submarine that managed to save only seven members of his crew. Eleven crew members were lost, along with their pet dog, “Schnaps.”
It was, in the words of Fritz, “very sad.”
There are far more details than I can go into here, but the important matter is that Fritz survived the ordeal, came to the United States, became an American citizen and adopted Willoughby as his home.
He and his wife, Lou, tried to live in peace and quiet at their modest home at 34 River St., but according to Art’s account, “Mr. Reuter has had too many hair-raising experiences to entirely escape the natural curiosities of his fellow men, and they have pried into his past life and brought forth a story of a remarkable adventure which, for the sake of accuracy, is penned by Mr. Reuter himself to in some way appease the inquisitiveness of his many Willoughby friends.”
Thus Fritz told the tale of his being shot down, rescued and his subsequent return to the peace and quiet he sought to find in his adopted country.
I told you a bit last week about his deli, where the “elites” of Willoughby, if I may use that term, gathered five days a week for lunch.
All of the sandwiches he served were cold cuts and cheese. Only the soup was cooked. So when one of the regulars brought in a friend for the first time to introduce him to the unique atmosphere, it was a common prank to tell the visitor to order a hamburger.
There was no such thing at Fritz’s. The order would elicit Fritz’s patented glare, which he was very good at, along with a response such as, “Quit wasting my time. What do you want?”
So someone would calm down the unhappy customer with a few soothing words, such as, “Why don’t you try the Wisconsin brick cheese on rye? It’s really good.”
By the way, I mentioned that the guest (the victim of the so-called humor involved in ordering a hamburger) was of the male gender because I don’t recall ever seeing a lady in the place other than Fritz’s wife, Lou, who served as soup-cooker and waitress, now known as a “server.”
Don Prindle, a city councilman at the time and one of the regulars, insisted the soup was so hot that it took at least two days to cook it to make it so hot.
Lou Reuter, who doubled at times as a house mother at what was at the time Andrews School for Girls and is now Andrews Osborne Academy, had an iron-clad rule against accepting tips for her service, dispensed in an aura of cheerfulness which eluded her husband.
Don’t get me wrong. Everybody loved Fritz. But to term his normal expression as dour would be to do him a kindness.
Anyway, if a stranger had the temerity to leave so much as a quarter on the table before leaving, Lou would run out the door and chase him halfway down the block to return it.
Fritz sold ice cream suckers, but they were the kind that were dispensed on an assembly line.
Fran Koster, across Erie Street at Koster’s Sweet Shop, made home-made ice cream suckers. He stamped the word “free” in green letters on about every ninth sucker stick.
Many of us liked to sit at the counter, watch him slice the ice cream and dip it into liquid chocolate.
It’s hard to describe how incredibly good they were.
Every so often, Fran would stamp “free” on a stick in red letters and make a single sucker from an entire pint of ice cream.
Here’s where Fritz Reuter came into the act. A few of us would get a hold of one of Fran’s ice cream sucker sticks, write the word “free” on it and take it across the street and present it to Fritz in the hope of obtaining one his manufactured ice cream suckers, free of charge.
Did I tell you that Fritz had no sense of humor? Well, he didn’t. So handing him a phony “free” sucker stick elicited nothing but outrage.
Margaret Hommel, Art’s widow, who still lives in Kirtland, sent me the lengthy News-Herald article about Fritz’s harrowing World War adventure.
She had a great many other News-Herald clippings, mostly from 1934, and they are fascinating.
At least, to me they are, as I am sure they would be to Don Lewis, whose knowledge of Downtown Willoughby is encyclopedic. It ranks right up there with Bob Meil’s knowledge of Downtown lore.
They both came by their store of information honestly. Don’s father ran the Wright Department Store across the street from Fritz’s, and Bob’s father owned Meil’s Department Store (or maybe it was called Meil’s Dry Goods) down the street.
One of these days we’ll talk about the rest of those old newspaper clippings which, fortunately, Margaret Hommel, saved for posterity.