Mentor marking a very special birthday
A really special birthday is worth celebrating all year, right?
Well, Mentor has such a birthday this year. It is No. 50. And while the city may not be setting off fireworks all year, it is doing a good job of getting a head start.
Frank Krupa, one of the ringmasters for the three-ring circus, scheduled about 15 people to come to the Wildwood Cultural Center for televised interviews the other day.
I was No. 9 on the list, so I reported for duty, sat in front of the city’s Channel 12 camera across from Kathie Pohl, the city’s director of marketing and community relations, and we chatted for 10 or 15 minutes.
She got me talking about 1963 and the news coverage of the merger of a huge land mass (Mentor Township) and a tiny municipal corporation (Mentor Village).
Overnight, Mentor City became the largest city in Lake County. And like Topsy, it has jes growed.
Today it is one of the fastest-growing, most forward-looking and best-governed cities in Ohio.
But the city, like the Mississippi River, had to start someplace, and it got its inception with a vote of the citizens in 1963 to authorize the merger that made Mentor what it is today.
I have a lot of memories of that news coverage 50 years ago, because it was a really big deal. Everyone involved knew it was a game-changer for the area.
If you are trying to recall the year 1963 and what you were doing then, think Kennedy assassination. If you can remember where you were on that fateful day in November (I was at the Willoughby Armory, talking to the staff of the West End YMCA and wishing we had a building of our own) then the other events of that time will begin coming into focus.
The times were different, the music was different, the movies were different, TV was different, and the clothes people wore were different.
Gasoline was 25 cents a gallon, anyone who made $5,600 a year was just about average, a first-class stamp was a nickel, as was a Hershey bar, a pay phone call was a dime and you could buy a nice house for $20,000.
The Dow closed at 762 that year, everybody watched Ed Sullivan on Sunday night and the Beatles were wanting to hold your hand.
But the Beatles didn’t have a lock on the singing industry. Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and The Drifters were also musical forces to be dealt with.
It was against that backdrop that Mentor lost its twin identities as small village and massive township and evolved into a city.
The News-Herald got a new owner that year, and he turned out to be the kind of person everyone who ever spent even a day in the news business wanted to work for.
His name was Harry Horvitz, and he was the smartest, most honest, most decent person I have ever encountered. He had no political agenda, no prejudices and no desire to do any of the nefarious things that pass for newsgathering today in America’s big cities.
He demanded fairness, telling both sides of the story (or three, if there were indeed three sides) and he hated it when news stories left unanswered questions.
And when that happened, he told us so.
Of course, as an owner, he had an eye on the bottom line. So he enjoyed going to store openings at the Great Lakes Mall and chatting about financial matters with the owners.
Harry had a degree from the Wharton School of Finance, so he knew whereof he spoke. But I digress.
Because we were coming and going so fast on Tuesday at Wildwood, I got to see only two or three of the other interviewees. I’m looking forward to seeing the entire program – when it’s put together.
Of course, I don’t know how I’m going to do that, because my Channel 12 is different from Mentor’s.
This I do know: There will be a 50th Anniversary free lecture series at Wildwood on April 4, 11, 25 and May 2, 9 and 23. Residents will be amply alerted about them.
And no, non-Mentor residents won’t be barred at the door. So anyone with a penchant for history of the area is invited.
But be forewarned: The April 11 panel will feature your humble scribe (me), Jim Hackenberg, the city’s longtime law director, and other officials who know a lot more about the topic than I do.
So I just may spend a lot more time listening than talking.