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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good sources help friend get some needed information

In the not too distant past, I received an email from long-time friend Ed Murray, a fellow matriculant at Willoughby Union High School. He raised a question.

“I was talking with a ‘stranger’ Tuesday evening,” he wrote, “and the name Hum Rogant came up. I remember the name, but that’s about it. He may have been a friend of my old boss Byron Herman of Herman Dry Cleaners.

“Can you refresh my memory?”

I had all but forgotten that email when I ran into the Murrays the other day at lunch. I was sitting with Jim Hackenberg and Bob Cahen at the newly revitalized Matchworks restaurant on Station Street in Mentor.

Mentor may have a bunch of restaurants, but, boy oh boy, this is a good one. The food is everything you would expect from owner/chef Tom Quick, who once ran Epiq Bistro in Concord Township before leaving for a brief hiatus in Downtown Cleveland.

Tom is now back in Lake County and doing the same fabulous job of purveying food and beverages as he did at Epiq – and that was plenty good indeed.

If you haven’t stopped in at the new Matchworks since Tom made his re-entry into Lake County, I would highly recommend you give it a try. But I digress.

Ed and Betty were at a nearby table, and stood up to leave. I waved, and he approached. “I haven’t forgotten your question about Hum Rogant,” I said. I told him I would get around to it soon. As in today.

Now, I knew the name very well. There once was a department store in Downtown Willoughby called Rogant and Coyne. It was there in 1947, at the corner of Erie Street and Glenn Avenue, where Hough Bakery once stood. If that doesn’t help, the site is now a restaurant called Ballentine’s.

Ted Coyne, ages ago, owned a night club in Cleveland called the Cabin Club, or something akin to that. At that time he lived in the house at the top of the hill on Ridge Road in Willoughby that I lived in for 33 years. I bought it in 1973, from Ralph and Jane Anderson, who also lived there many years.

So I can only imagine how many years ago Ted Coyne lived there.

I knew, even as a lad, of Hum Rogant’s brilliant reputation as an inventor. He devised one of the first golf carts, called the “Caddylac,” which in itself is a stroke of genius.

As I often do, I called upon Bob Meil and Don Lewis for assistance.

Bob told me that Hum was using the James Campbell Smith building, behind the dry goods store operated by Bill Meil and his son, Bob, to build golf carts.

That spacious building is now the Willoughby Brewing Co., one of many fine restaurants so close together that they use the same parking lot.

All that Bob recalled of Hum was that he had an attractive wife and they lived off Eddy Road across from Manakiki Country Club.

Don Lewis, an avid researcher, came up with a plethora of addition information, including obituaries of Humbert, his wife, Florence, and their son, Dennis, who died in 2006. Don also came up with the deed in which Rogant and Coyne transferred their store, on Aug. 28, 1948, to Ivan and Eleanor Kenyon of Wickliffe, and it became Kenyon Furniture.

Hum was born in 1913 in Franklin, Pa. He was a retired mechanical engineer, living in Willoughby Hills for more than 50 years. He was an engineer for Feedall Inc. in Willoughby and Reighart Steel Products in Willoughby, and before that owned the former Thermomatic Inc. in Willoughby, the former Willoughby Machine and Tool Co. in Willoughby, and the former Caddylac Co. in Willoughby, where, according to his obit, he was an originator of gas and electric golf carts.

His wife, Florence, was born in Cleveland, was an avid golfer and was the manager of Manakiki Golf Course for more than 20 years before retiring in 1981.

Their son, Dennis, was a handsome lad in high school (it says “wittiest” next to his picture in his high school annual), and served in the U.S. Navy before founding Phase III Communications in Willoughby. Dennis was survived by his son David (Laura) and grandson Jimmy of Chester Township.

How’s that, Ed? Did I do OK? I could go on and on about James Campbell Smith, Meil’s store or the ads that Rogant and Coyne ran in The News-Herald for “complete home furnishings, sporting goods & saddle shop, records, radios, recorders and electrical appliances.”

But it’s getting late.


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