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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.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A talk on Mentor’s history needs some experts

This column appeared in the March 18 edition.

As birthdays and anniversaries go, the 50th is a good one. It is a nice round number, it can be difficult to reach and it is easy to compute by counting decades on your fingers.

The City of Mentor has a 50th birthday coming up next year, and I look forward to taking a small part in it.

The 50th birthday of what? you may ask. Of Mentor becoming Mentor? 

No, of course not. Mentor became Mentor when a guy named Charlie Parker (not the legendary alto saxophone player) built a hutch down near the Headlands.

But in 1963 Mentor became a city when an historic thing happened: The voters of Mentor Village (a dot on the map at the time) voted to merge with massive Mentor Township and a full-fledged city was formed.

Ohio law defines a city as a municipal corporation with at least 5,000 population. The new city of Mentor, overnight, went far beyond that number. And so a city was born, and it has grown into a mecca of commerce — one of the largest in Ohio — a place where you will never go hungry if you are looking for a restaurant of any size or description, or are intent on buying a car, for that matter.

And so it was not surprising that I got a call the other day from Frank Krupa, a very nice person who books parties at the Wildwood mansion on Little Mountain Road and from time to time does a song-and-dance act with my old pal Johnny Fontaine, a singer of note back when there was a night club in virtually every block on Route 20 from Wickliffe to Painesville.

Actually, Johnny was a singer of many notes, most of them at Intorcio’s or LaVelle’s, whichever it was at the time, next door to The News-Herald. I can’t get him to sing “Don’t Misunderstand” any more, but that’s another story. 

But I digress.

Frank asked if I would do an interview, a panel discussion, at Wildwood as part of a series of three or four programs in April or May of 2013. Before I could stop and think I blurted out, “Sure.”

By the time I did stop and think, I began to realize what I had gotten myself into.

The interviews are easy. It’s getting the right people involved that is difficult.

Frank has seen many of the interviews I’ve done at the Mooreland Mansion on the campus of Lakeland Community College. They are shown repeatedly on Lakeland cable, which is Channel 95 in Willoughby where I live. I don’t know what it is where you live.

But Kathie Pohl has been kind enough to air the shows involving Mentor people on the city’s Channel 12. That gave those interviews a lot of added air time.

They included Bill Sanford, Mike Keresman and Ray Kralovic, the three main players who started STERIS Corp., Roger Sustar of Fredon Corp., Ed and Nancy Brown of Ladies and Gentlemen Salon and Spa, the Harry Allen Family of Great Lakes Power, the Dick Muny family of Chemsultants and the Crockett family of real estate fame.

Just the other day, Ed and Nancy Brown told me that yet another person mentioned seeing their interview on TV. And we did that one years ago!

I vividly remember the huge Mentor merger as if it were yesterday. The newspaper was up to its figurative ears in coverage. It was a landmark event, and we covered every phase of it.

That was four years before I became editor of the paper. I don’t recall what my exact title was at the time, but since I started here in 1950, they must have called me something or other.

So after I gave Frank Krupa that resounding “sure” to his request to do an interview, I began to think about whom we could have sit on the panel.

A flood of names came to mind. Harry Waterman, Bill Boyd, Joe Atzberger, Jim Creedon, Jack Daniels, Don Krueger. Guess what? They’re not around any more. If Bill Boyd is still alive, he lives in Florida. The others are all deceased.

So whom will we get for a panel? I thought of Barbara Snell Davis. She knows a ton of Mentor history and wrote a terrific little book called, “Roses to Retail,” which I read a couple years ago.

Who else has institutional knowledge? Maybe John Krueger. He’s on city council now, and his dad, Don, may have told him merger stories 50 years ago.

I called Councilman Ray Kirchner, and he suggested George Maier, who is conversant with the merger and all the players.

Any others? If you think of any, call Frank Krupa at 255-7782. He will be glad to take names. I’m sure we can get this job done.


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