James Proffitt

With World War I well underway, Fred Norton joined the Army after graduating from OSU in one of the earliest versions of what would become the U.S. Air Force.

The amazing Fred Norton

Two weeks before he graduated from Lakeside High School in May 1912, Fred William Norton competed in the inaugural Ottawa County track meet.

Most kids of the day ended schooling and began working full-time after eighth grade. But Norton took a different path. He entered Lakeside High School (now Danbury High) in 1908. Along with track, he also competed in football, baseball, and basketball, and he carried a 4.0 academic average all four years there. 

According to the Lakeside Heritage Society, he also worked for a local railroad, operating a locomotive and cleaning and repairing buildings and equipment. He often clocked 10-hour days, six days a week.

Experienced Klier crew members place long steel beams beneath a structure, then slowly raise it.

A mover (but not a shaker)

Jim Klier has been a mover for 39 years.

Klier has moved plenty of homes for lots of different reasons — some legal, like for zoning issues; others more sentimental. Klier’s moved a lot of older homes. Much older. Like an 1813 timber frame home on Lake Erie.

“Oh, heavens yes,” he says. “A home that’s been in the family for generations, for example. You really have to love the house to do something like that, to go through that process.”

Wildlife Officer Reid Van Cleve is a veteran of the survey.

Counting the dead

Mostly in life, possums, skunks, groundhogs, and racoons don’t get much respect. That’s especially so for the ones who spend their last earthly moments on Ohio roadways, just before they get hit. 

Katie Dennison is a research biologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife. At the Olentangy Research Station in Columbus, she oversees the annual Furbearer Roadkill Survey. And yes, that’s the official name.

LEAKOIL invites its members and other owners of classic Volkswagen buses to gather, gawk, and gush over the classic cultural icons often associated with road-tripping, hippies, and the peace movement.

Kombi nation

Love of kombi is an affliction that runs deep and can span decades — ask anyone who suffers. Specifically, ask those who assemble at the Kelleys Island 4-H campground each autumn for LEAKOIL’s annual weekend camping event, Kombis on Kelleys.

Esquivel said there are disadvantages to owning an old bus, including the “old rust-bucket” itself (as she describes her 1972 camper) and the constant attention it requires. 

“People are always saying, ‘I love your car!’ and ‘Can I look inside?’” she says. “Of course, I always let them. And people offer to buy it all the time, too, but I would never sell it.”

Funny cars are one of the crowd favorites at Dragway 42.

Wanna drag?

Jeff Gates, a tool and die maker from Republic, was hoping to introduce his 1965 Ford Ranchero to the world during Thursday Night Thunder on this fine evening at Dragway 42 in the Wayne County village of West Salem. The car, however, had other ideas.

When asked if he couldn’t just drop it off at a local garage and have them repair it, the veteran racer laughs. 

“No, this is the fun part,” he says. “At least most of the time, so long as you get to run them every now and then. I just enjoy building this stuff.”

This 1920s postcard showing the Castalia Blue Hole gives a sense of why it drew tourists from all around (photo courtesy of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums — Charles E. Frohman Collection).

Deep blue mysteries

At  one  time, the “blue hole” in Castalia was a big deal. Really big. From the 1920s until it closed in 1990, the quaint tourist destination drew as many as 165,000 visitors each year who traveled to gaze at the geologic curiosity.

Nancy Gurney remembers going to the Blue Hole on the occasional Sunday day trip to Castalia with her family in the 1950s, when she and her sister were young and her parents were farmers in Seneca County.

“It was so nice, all landscaped and beautiful, and it had flowers,” recalls Gurney, who now lives in Lakeside. “And there was this mystery of a deep hole with no bottom they can detect.”

Gurney, later a scientist, admits that, of course, there is a bottom — though to a child and tourist, the bottomless mystery thing was way neater. 

Warther Cutlery

A sharp business model

Ernest “Mooney” Warther began carving with his first pocketknife at age 5. A dozen years later, in 1902, he crafted his mother a kitchen knife as a gift. Her friends and neighbors liked it, so he made more. 

American steel, American hardware, American wood, Ohio labor, and blades with an amazingly attractive (trademarked since 1907) finish pattern create loyal customers who return regularly to add to their collections. If you visit the company’s new 15,000-square-foot showroom, factory, and office, you’ll find plenty of American-made kitchen products, including cookware and a small army of specialty foods, spices, and condiments. But you’ll quickly see that knives made by fourth-generation craftsmen are the star of the show.

In his signature bib overalls and white shirt, Lee Jones slices open an heirloom tomato for customer Mara Ghafari.

Tiny, tasty, healthy

The specialty crops on Lee Jones’ 350-acre farm are myriad: beets, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, tomatillos, honey, potatoes, corn, beans, squash, edible flower blossoms — the list numbers into the hundreds. 

The pandemic, however, completely changed his business model. “We made a lot of lemonade last year trying to swing for base hits,” Jones says. “We had to, because we were desperate to keep the farm going and, most importantly, keep our team safe, fed, and employed.”

Jones says he’s proud to have kept 136 families gainfully employed through the pandemic. His family already lost one farm in the 1980s after a devastating hailstorm finished off what the 1980s American farm crisis had already begun, and so he was determined to make it work. 

He did it in ingenious fashion.

Riding the Miller Ferry with Mitten Kitten was on Lindy Brown’s bucket list, as is evident in this ferry cool selfie.

Silver bullet

Wally Byam’s childhood was spent immersed in nature. He worked on a West Coast sheep farm, where he lived in a donkey-towed wagon that was outfitted with a stove, food, water, and just about everything else he could possibly need. 

Byam’s love of camping and the outdoors, combined with American ingenuity, resulted in a product that lasts for decades and is instantly recognizable around the world.

Perhaps best of all, it’s made in Ohio — Byam moved the production to Jackson Center in rural Shelby County right after World War II, and workers there build upward of 120 of the iconic silver bullets every week, all by hand.

Auto race at airport

Little island, big race

Years ago, Lake Erie’s South Bass Island was abuzz with fast, exotic imports once a year for a decade.

“I certainly hope it goes forward, because we’re planning for it,” says organizer Manley Ford (who drives a 1952 MG TD). “There’s always a lot of excitement, and we’ve already got quite a few registered.”