Rats, mice, houseflies survive century despite predictions

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

If predictions about the future always came true, we would have spent 1999 refinancing our space pods.

We’d be complaining about battery prices for our personal jetpacks and hoping the Federation government can do something about cutting the Interstellar Travel Tariff.

For centuries, the year that debuts tomorrow has been a target for dreamy predictions, guesses at how the present day might change into something new and strange. Looking back, some seem visionary; most seem silly.

“The coasts of history are strewn with the wrecks of predictions,” the British historian James Bryce wrote in 1893. “All we can ever say of the future is that it will be unlike the present.”

Not surprisingly, when 1900 rolled around, people across America took a special interest in what the world would be like in the new century. And Toledoans were no exception.

Predictions were slow at the end of 1899 because people figured that the 20th century would not formally begin until Jan. 1, 1901. It is the same debate that persists today between advocates of 2000 and 2001.

But on Dec. 31, 1900, city leaders gathered downtown for a ceremony sponsored by the local American Red Cross to ring in the new century – and to offer their own guesses at what it might hold.

On that night, the main speaker was the mayor, Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones. An eternal optimist, his thoughts turned to the future, and a vision of happier days.

“Looking forward into the distant yonder, in my visions I see the people of Toledo of 100 years hence, assembled for a purpose similar to that which called us together tonight,” he said.

“In fancy I listen to their speeches and hear their songs. The white dove of peace spreads her beneficent wings over the nations of the earth, for they shall ‘learn war no more.’ I listen intently to the music of their voices and I find that they have learned the lesson of life. Its key note is harmony and the words of their song are ‘Peace on earth, good will towards men.'”

Of course, Mr. Jones had no way of knowing about two world wars, the atom bomb, or the myriad other horrors that have made the 20th century civilization’s bloodiest – but it was a noble prediction nonetheless.

After the mayor spoke (and a rousing rendition of his campaign song, “Industrial Progress”), Negley Cochran, editor of the Toledo Bee newspaper (later to become the News-Bee), said that the 20th century would bring “a universal language and the abolishment of competition.”

Nice ideas, but attempts to make Esperanto the universal language haven’t lived up to the hype, and the defeat of communism has put a serious dent in the anti-competition argument. Perhaps Mr. Cochran was saying that money might become a universal language, which, some would argue, it has.

Not far away on that night, at the First Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Dr. William A. Powell was making his own, more accurate, predictions about the future.

“The Pacific Ocean has taken the place held by the Mediterranean Sea in olden times, and of the Atlantic Ocean in modern times, as the gateway to the world’s future,” he said in his midnight sermon. The rise of the Pacific Rim in the world economy has been one of the century’s most important events.

He further predicted that “there will never be serious trouble again between the United States and England.” Britain has been America’s strongest ally throughout the century, and with the possible exception of nanny Louise Woodward, there hasn’t been a meaningful disagreement between the two countries in decades. But present-day Americans probably would not give Dr. Powell much credit for predicting “more government ownership” of industry.

Across town, at the First Congregationalist Church, the pastor, whose name is recorded only as “Dr. Hyde,” said the new century would bring “a higher standard of morality.” In a world of Jerry Springer and professional wrestling, that’s open to question.

Toledoans were not alone in thinking the 20th century would bring new wonders. In 1901, at the inauguration of Canton native William McKinley as President, the inaugural program included a half-joking prediction about America in 2000.

It predicted that the United States would have conquered the entire continent: 118 states across both North and South America. The president would be from the northern state of Ontario. This fictional president – middle name “McKinley” – would propose in his inaugural address a most urgent order of business: shifting the direction of the Arctic current off Labrador’s eastern coast “to allow the Gulf Stream to change the climate.”

Today, mysterious invocations of the Y2K bug and apocalyptic doom make the coming of 2000 more than a little frightening for some. But in 1899, few were filled with anything but optimism.

About as depressing as it got were the comments of New York Sen. Chauncey Depew, who feared that all the coming century’s new inventions would create a massive surplus of time and wealth “which endangers the health, happiness, and lives of the people of Europe and America.”

But most saw an idyllic future. “It is hardly necessary to inform you that life in those times will be as nearly a holiday as it is possible to make it,” wrote the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on Dec. 30, 1899. “Work will be reduced to a minimum by machinery. Nobody who is anybody 100 years hence but will have his automobile and his air yacht.”

As always, some prognosticators were closer to the zeitgeist than others. Some of the best guesses:

* “The two most powerful forces in the new century will be Russia and the North American republic,” guessed the Munich newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung in 1901. “Of these two colossal empires, the American republic occupies a favored position. In population, it indeed does not equal Russia, but it surpasses that country in energy and practical intelligence.”

* Systems of rapid transit will lead to the development of large suburbs, the Brooklyn Eagle predicted. It also guessed right about the end of the horse and buggy, the rise of vegetarianism, and the ubiquity of telephones.

* “Cold air will be turned on from spigots to regulate the temperature of a house,” according to Ladies Home Journal in December, 1900. Along with air conditioning, the article also nailed wireless phones, sending photos over the Internet, and home stereos.

* Writer Edward Bellamy successfully predicted the advent of credit cards – which would be as accepted “as gold used to be” – in his book about the year 2000, Looking Backwards.

* “A gymnasium in every school,” according to John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., a futurist before the word futurist was invented, in 1900. He was also right about the coming of direct dialing, live video broadcasts, and snowmobiles.

But more often than not, the view of the future was more fuzzy than clear. People predicted bigger impacts for the obsessions of the day – things such as electrical fields, moving sidewalks, and pneumatic tubes – than actually happened. Some of the worst predictions:

* Mr. Watkinswasn’t right about everything. He predicted that the letters C, X, and Q would be dropped from the English alphabet by 1999. “They will be abandoned because unnecessary,” he said.

Or perhaps he meant “be*ause unne*essary.”

* “Radio has no future,” British scientist William Thomson said in 1899. Indeed, he was a veritable font of bad guesses: “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.”

* “Liquid air” will “banish poverty from the earth,” the Brooklyn Eagle predicted. The Eagle was also wrong about mail being delivered via pneumatic tubes in every home, scientific reincarnation, the disappearance of the housefly, and a dramatic reduction in crime thanks to “artificial light.”

* “Rats and mice will have been exterminated,” the Ladies Home Journal predicted. “Cities will be free from all noise,” and – again – pneumatic tubes will be everywhere.

* “Books, as they are printed now, will not be in use,” predicted an unsigned 1900 editorial in the Knoxville Journal. “The wisest sayings of the wisest men of the preceding centuries will be preserved on metal tablets or plates.” Books are still around, but the writer might have been predicting the coming of CD-ROMs.

* The Knoxville editorial writer also had great hopes for this newfangled electricity, saying that in 2000, “fighting cats … disagreeable mothers-in-law, scolding wives, squalling babies are now kept quiet and pleasant by this wonderful agent known as electricity…. Drunken, wife-beating husbands who fail to provide for their families … in the same way are promptly drawn into submission.”

Outside death row, electrocution as discipline hasn’t caught on.

Toledoan helped feed Belgium; Mayor Brand Whitlock recalled as novelist, aide to ‘Golden Rule’ Jones

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Continuing over the next few days, The Blade is looking at significant events and people of the past 100 years. This is one of a series of profiles about influential Toledoans of the 20th century.

To get to the old American Embassy in Brussels, you head to the Square Montgomery, one of the city’s most dangerous intersections, and take a left.

The tree-lined boulevard you’re on is a little bit of Toledo history.

It’s called Boulevard Brand Whitlock, and it’s named for the former mayor of Toledo credited with saving Belgium from starvation in World War I.

Mr. Whitlock was as well-known around the world as any politician Toledo has ever produced. His predecessor, Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones, got national attention as a reformer, and Michael DiSalle became Ohio’s governor and toyed with a presidential run.

But only Mr. Whitlock became noted in so many circles: political, literary, diplomatic.

In Belgium, he is well remembered, with a street named after him and a bust of him enshrined in the Belgian parliament. But in Toledo, only one major reminder of him exists, the Brand Whitlock Homes, a public housing complex south of downtown.

He never figured out exactly what he wanted to do in life, shifting from one career to another. He knew how talented he was – it’s doubtful that Toledo politics has ever produced more of a Renaissance man – and he was always bitterly disappointed that he never became the best at anything he did.

He never wrote the Great American Novel, and he never became president, and he never seemed to have the will to do either.

But, despite his flaws and disappointments, he left behind a substantial record of accomplishment on two continents, and a small European nation grateful for his efforts.

Brand Whitlock was born in Urbana, O., a small town midway between Dayton and Columbus, in 1869.

His family was staunchly Republican, as was nearly all of Ohio at the time, and young Brand was expected to follow the mold.

As he later wrote, the Republican Party in Ohio “was elemental, like gravity, the sun, the stars, the ocean. One became, in Urbana and in Ohio for many years, a Republican just as the Eskimo dons fur clothes. It was inevitable. It was not a matter of intellectual choice, it was a process of biological selection.”

His father was a Methodist minister, and he moved from post to post around Ohio, including stops in Findlay, Defiance, and Toledo, where he went to high school.

By the time he graduated, he had fallen in love with writing. He went to work for several newspapers in Toledo, including the News-Bee, before finding a semi-permanent home for his writing with The Blade.

After a few years, Mr. Whitlock went to Chicago and – in a break with his Republican family – went to work for the Chicago Herald, then one of America’s leading Democratic newspapers. Chicago was a radical town, full of socialist and anarchist ferment, and Mr. Whitlock breathed it all in.

He joined the Whitechapel Club, an enclave of artists, writers, musicians, and other thinkers that introduced him to odd ideas and gave him an appreciation of the underbelly of a city. The Whitechapelers were bohemian, a Midwest equivalent of Greenwich Village, and what Mr. Whitlock learned would become apparent when he entered Toledo politics. His writing also improved, and he began to dabble in fiction.

The struggle that haunted him throughout his life had begun. He believed himself a great writer, and wanted to spend all of his time penning great novels. But his skills appeared to be more in governing and diplomacy.

“It seemed to be my fate, or my weakness, which we too often confuse with fate, to vacillate between an interest in literature and an interest in politics,” he wrote in his journal.

After a brief stint in Springfield, Ill., covering the state legislature, he soured on newspapering and began working for politicians. He soon turned against that as well, and decided that law was the career for him.

Part of the problem was that Mr. Whitlock sought a career that would not be so pressing as to take time away from his literary aspirations. After a little training, he opened a small law office in Springfield, but didn’t bother to advertise his services; he was lazy.

He moved back to Toledo in 1897. He set up shop downtown and started taking small cases that didn’t occupy much time, minor disputes for which he would generally earn $5. He was happy; he had time to work on his fiction.

As fate would have it, he began to be noticed as a talented lawyer, winning many more cases than he lost. His writing time was being threatened. But, according to his memoirs, it took only one case to turn him away from the law.

A young German emigrant named Maria Rusch claimed her husband Reinhold was neglecting her and drinking too much. Mr. Whitlock, full of righteous indignation, had him arrested immediately and put on trial.

The trial was a mockery.

Reinhold, fresh off the boat from Germany, seemed to have no idea what was going on. He spoke no English, and his wife refused to translate for him at trial.

He yelled out angry protests in German at the wrong times, particularly toward the one witness against him, a tall, young German shoemaker who lived nearby.

Mr. Whitlock was an impassioned prosecutor.

One newspaper account showed the talent he had when he put his mind to it: “After Brand Whitlock, appearing for the prosecution, had drawn a heart-wrenching picture of the pitiable condition in the Rusch homestead, all the jurymen save Charlie Stevens were in tears.”

Mr. Whitlock won and Reinhold was sent to the workhouse for nine months. The young lawyer’s sense of justice was affirmed, and he was proud.

Not long after, Maria decided she wanted a divorce, and Mr. Whitlock had it arranged.

The day after her divorce, Maria married the German shoemaker. The two had been carrying on a torrid affair and the charges of neglect were invented by the couple. Mr. Whitlock realized what Reinhold had been yelling about at the trial. In an instant, he came to see the legal system as a sham.

“I discovered that whatever other men might do, I could never again prosecute anyone for anything,” he wrote in his memoirs. “And I never did.”

He had poor Reinhold paroled from the workhouse and never heard from him again.

But mistrust of the legal system would track Mr. Whitlock throughout the rest of his career. From that moment on, he was on the criminal’s side.

Toledo politics in the late 1800s were nothing to be proud of.

The new American cities were mostly made up immigrants easily exposed to graft and fraud, and Tammany Hall-style corruption in government was the norm. Defended by an entrenched system of those above and below the law, there seemed to be little anyone could do to oppose the way things were.

There was hope from the emerging social Christianity movement, which attempted to bring an ethical set of standards to governance. In Toledo, that hope came from Samuel Milton Jones, a Welsh immigrant who believed in living by the “Golden Rule,” treating others as you would like to be treated.

In 1897, Mr. Jones, a successful businessman running as a Republican, was elected mayor and began instituting his brand of social reform.

Mr. Jones’s morality didn’t favor harsh punishments for those who broke the rules.

He believed that criminals were often the product of bad circumstances, a relativistic argument that appealed to Mr. Whitlock. He decided not to enforce city liquor or prostitution laws.

Vice flourished.

Mr. Jones preferred orations about ethics than their enforcement.

Mr. Whitlock liked the mayor’s concerns for society’s lowest, and he went to work for him as counsel. When the local judge was on vacation or sick, Mr. Whitlock would sit in as his replacement, and he pursued the Jones philosophy on criminals: namely, let them all go.

He gave the most lenient sentences possible for gamblers, prostitutes, and petty thieves who had to be prosecuted. The press and the businessmen hated it; the Toledo Times once angrily denounced him for letting off a few Polish boys who had stolen 60 cents of coal from the railroad.

He became known as “The Great Suspender” for all the suspended sentences he gave.

Mr. Whitlock angered so many people with his free passes that the General Assembly passed a special bill to prevent a city’s mayor from naming a replacement judge – a law aimed solely at stopping the efforts of Mr. Whitlock.

With all the attention, he was becoming a public figure. His law career, based on defending troubled people who had done horrible things, was booming.

He was also enjoying the tussle of Toledo politics. Mr. Jones was enormously popular with the people (after the Republicans abandoned him, he won three more elections as an Independent), but few in power supported his cause. It was an odd mix, the gregarious mayor, uneducated but pure-hearted, and the more reserved and calculating Mr. Whitlock, a self-appointed intellectual. But they needed each other.

Mr. Whitlock’s devotion was such that when he received a job offer from an old friend in Chicago, the famed attorney Clarence Darrow, he turned him down.

When “Golden Rule” Jones died of pneumonia in July, 1904, Mr. Whitlock was the obvious successor. But in city council elections that fall, he refused to be nominated for any position, fearing (yet again) that a pressing job would take away time from his fiction. The Republicans moved back into power.

But eventually the pressure being applied to him worked. He began making more speeches, calling for woman suffrage and fair treatment of the indigent. In 1905, he was finally convinced to run, and won.

He now had a hands-on job to do, but he still convinced himself that he was an artist. “Even if I am in politics,” he wrote confusingly, “I am still in art – and … they may indeed very much mean one and the same thing – and mean religion, too.”

Mr. Whitlock served four terms as mayor, with the ardent opposition of the clergy, the wealthy, and most of the middle-class. Toledo was the fastest growing city in Ohio, and it was a mostly foreign brew. According to the 1900 census, 60 per cent of the city was either foreign-born or the child of immigrants. Mr. Whitlock’s election success came almost completely from the poor, the criminals, and those immigrants.

His actions did not make him a particularly distinguished mayor, just as “Golden Rule” Jones tended more toward talk than action. Mr. Whitlock talked a lot less than his predecessor – he said he didn’t want to give his opponents anything to throw back in his face later – and his actions mostly continued the progress his predecessor had made.

He supported organized labor and created some reforms in public franchises, notably in a battle over the streetcar companies. He helped individuals with sad stories, sometimes with his own money, sometimes with the city’s help. But his major accomplishment seems to be keeping the forces of corruption out of power for eight years.

As always, he spent his time writing. He was writing novels by now, including his most successful financially, an anti-death penalty story titled The Turn of the Balance. Mr. Whitlock was a social realist who, taking the humanist ideology of men like Tolstoy, tried to tell a keenly observed story without much artifice. That style, and topics like capital punishment, fit in well with his political career.

By 1913, Mr. Whitlock was depressed again. He wanted to spend more time writing, and became dedicated to doing as little work as mayor as possible

He helped New Jersey Gov. Woodrow Wilson get elected president in 1912 – despite personal pleas from Bull Moose candidate Theodore Roosevelt for Mr. Whitlock’s support – and he hoped for some gratitude in return. He pulled every string he could in Washington to get a diplomatic appointment to some small, safe, cultured place where he could have time to write, talk to intellectuals, and relax. His good friend Newton Baker was in President Wilson’s inner circle and pushed hard for an appointment.

The greatest irony of Mr. Whitlock’s life is the quiet, little place to which he was sent was Belgium on the cusp of World War I.

When he was named minister to Belgium on Oct. 15, 1913, he didn’t know the Germans had designs on the little country that was to be his home. He loved his new environment. Despite his democratic urges, he was an aristocrat at heart and was thrilled at life in the court of a king. And no matter the difficulties between Germany and its other neighbors, Belgium was officially neutral, and invading a neutral country was illegal under international law.

On Aug. 2, 1914, the Germans invaded Belgium.

For them, it was a quick shortcut to France, but much of the war – by far the nastiest in human history to that point – ended up being fought on Belgian soil, in the hundreds of miles of trenches dug by both sides.

The Belgians put up a fight, but it was futile; most of the country was occupied in a few weeks. The German army began seizing local food to feed its soldiers, and the Belgians were at one point only two weeks away from starving.

Most foreign legations in the Belgian capital fled to France when the invasion occurred, but Mr. Whitlock stayed. The need for food was clear, and Mr. Whitlock, along with other diplomats in Brussels and elsewhere, organized the Commission for Relief in Belgium, the world’s first large-scale international relief effort.

He was named the group’s chairman. His main partner was Herbert Hoover, an engineer just entering public service, who coordinated the effort from London. Mr. Hoover’s efforts set him in the public spotlight and put him on the road to the presidency in 1928.

The two men coordinated the purchase of thousands of tons of food in England and its transportation into Belgium. It was a bureaucratic minefield; the Germans did not consider the nourishment of enemy civilians a top priority and sometimes intercepted the shipments for their own men.

But the effort worked. Belgium never experienced widespread famine, and much of the country’s population, particularly in the cities, survived the occupation relatively unharmed.

Mr. Whitlock, according to reports, was “the second most popular man in Belgium, behind King Albert.” He, almost as much as the king, became the man troubled Belgians went to for help, whether for safe passage to the United States, extra food, or other assistance.

Fluent in French, he could speak to most of them in their own language. Just as the poor of Toledo had come to him as mayor a decade earlier, the downtrodden of Brussels did the same.

In 1916, as a sign of the respect the Toledoan had earned in Washington, President Wilson offered Mr. Whitlock the job of ambassador to Russia. It was an enormous compliment, but one Mr. Whitlock would not accept. “I must finish my work here and not desert my poor Belgians,” he replied.

For him, it was likely a good decision. A year later the Russian Revolution occurred, another crisis that would have distracted Mr. Whitlock from his writing.

In April, 1917, the United States severed diplomatic relations with Germany, a prelude to entering the war. As a result, Mr. Whitlock left for Switzerland, but thousands of Belgians met the train all along its path out of the country, yelling, “Au revoir et bientot” – “Goodbye, and may we meet again soon.” Many were in tears.

Mr. Whitlock didn’t return to Brussels until the end of the war, in November, 1918. He received a hero’s welcome.

Brand Whitlock had always had the tendencies of an intellectual and an aristocrat, but his time in the Independent movement protected him from accusations of elitism. His politics were borderline socialist, but he always had the bearing of a man of wealth. With his increasing fame, his books began to sell and Mr. Whitlock made a small fortune off the royalties, giving him the wealth to live among the aristocracy of Europe after his diplomatic career was over.

He grew disdainful of the United States in general, and Toledo in particular, which he considered a dirty place without culture. During his time on the Continent, he had seen the worst elements of European civilization, but he also was charmed by the small pleasures of life in Brussels.

During the rest of his life, he returned to America for only a brief visits, such as when his mother died. He fell in with the expatriate community, floating from hotel to hotel and city to city across western Europe.

P.J. O’Rourke, the Toledo-born humorist who is working on a project involving the city’s history, told The Blade in September, “One of the few really good things about [World War I] was that it put an end to Brand Whitlock’s fiction career.”

Not quite true: With his diplomatic duties completed, Mr. Whitlock finally had time to write, and he took advantage of it. Most of his literary output occurred in his final years, including the book he had been writing on and off for a decade, J. Hardin & Son, a scathing novel about hypocrisy in a small town in Ohio.

It’s one of his most successful works, filled with solid writing and keen observations. But it was not a sensation, and in this case, Mr. Whitlock could rightfully blame the war on stunting his writing career. Had the book come out before the war, when he began writing it, the reception would likely have been outstanding.

But by the time it was published in 1923, the idea had already been done.

Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street (1920) covered much of the same ground in a tale about small-town Minnesota; it earned its author a Nobel Prize. Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919) remains on college literary curricula today as a symbol of the era as much as anything else.

During the next decade, Mr. Whitlock continued to write, and received small, polite praise from the critics. He was offered a few positions in diplomacy, but he always turned them down to keep at his writing.

When he died in 1934, in Cannes, France, he had lived a life most people would find remarkable. But it clearly was not the life he wanted.

“He died overwhelmed by a sense of failure,” wrote Robert Crunden, in the conclusion to his biography of Mr. Whitlock, A Hero In Spite Of Himself.

“His great novel that he wished so much to write remained unwritten. The great deeds in which, as mayor and diplomat, he deserved to play a leading role, remained undone. Whatever the world might think of his actual successes, he was haunted by his own knowledge of the little he had actually accomplished.”

Kobacker’s gifts wrapped with care; Philanthropist left rich legacy for Northwest Ohio

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

For years, he was associated with downtown’s biggest icon.

But by the time he died in 1993, Marvin Kobacker had spread his influence and philanthropy across northwest Ohio.

Mr. Kobacker, who led Tiedtke’s Department Store downtown for years, dedicated the latter part of his life to community service, at various times heading the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and what would become the United Way of Greater Toledo.

Mr. Kobacker, described as a kind-hearted, generous man, was one of the leading lights of philanthropy in Toledo this century.

“He had an enormous amount of compassion for other people,” said Lois Churchill, chairman of the advisory committee of the Kobacker Center, the child psychoeducational center at the Medical College of Ohio. “He always had the most pleasant smile for everyone.”

A native of Mount Pleasant, Pa., Mr. Kobacker started out in the family business founded by his father, Jerome, and uncle, Alfred. The elder Kobackers had started a chain of department stores in Ohio and New York. In 1925, the Kobackers bought Tiedtke’s from the Tiedtke brothers and made it the centerpiece of their 13-store chain.

Mr. Kobacker received an economics degree from the University of Michigan and went on to get a master’s in business administration at Harvard. He fought in the Navy during World War II, then returned to Toledo to take over Tiedtke’s. He became vice president in 1946, then president in 1952.

To Toledoans over age 30, memories of Tiedtke’s are invariably sweet; those under 30 have to settle for the legends. As the biggest downtown department store at a time when downtown was the city’s shopping center, Tiedtke’s is usually recalled through a series of smells: Freshly roasted coffee, sweet-smelling candy, cheese, rolls.

“It was the center of a popular culture, and it represented something in the community,” said Rabbi Alan Sokobin, rabbi emeritus of the Temple Shomer Emunium, who worked with Mr. Kobacker on many projects in the Jewish community.

Forever bustling, Tiedtke’s was for many the symbol of downtown and a meeting place. Mr. Kobacker contributed to the store’s atmosphere: On many days, you could find him behind the counter assisting a customer or helping out on the floor during busy parts of the day.

“He never sat in his office,” his son John said. “He worked hard on the floor, and that rubbed off on the employees.”

In 1961, Mr. Kobacker sold the family’s department stores to Federal’s, a Detroit-based chain. Seven years later, he moved up from president to chairman of the board, in part so that he could have more time to spend on community work. Tiedtke’s closed in 1972.

He had been involved in civic work throughout his adult life, his son recalled. “I remember one time my dad took me down to the store one Saturday in the middle of December,” he said. “There were all these kids eating there. I knew something was different because normally there would have been a lot of parents there, too. He said, ‘These are all the kids from all the orphanages in Toledo.’ Every year, he brought them down to Tiedtke’s, gave them lunch, and gave them all $10 so they could do their Christmas shopping.

“He was very clear: When you’re very fortunate, you have a responsibility to those around you to share it,” he said.

The cause closest to his heart was the Toledo Museum of Art, his son said. He was associated with the museum for decades, serving as its president for four years in the 1970s. In 1970, he and his wife paid for a furnished 17th-century room from a French chateau to be installed at the museum.

The arts always had a particular appeal for Mr. Kobacker, who was president of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra. His wife Lenore, nicknamed “Noni,” had been a pianist who majored in music in college, which may have influenced Mr. Kobacker’s appreciation of the arts.

When Bowling Green State University was wanted to build a performing arts center in the late 1970s, Mr. Kobacker stepped forward with a $300,000 donation. The 850-seat concert hall in the arts center is named Kobacker Hall.

But just as important to Mr. Kobacker was his involvement in treating mental and emotional problems. In 1964, he led a citizens committee for 20 northwest Ohio counties that lobbied the state to form county mental health boards across Ohio. He served as the second president of the Lucas County board of mental health and mental retardation.

He gave $1.2 million for the foundation of a special center at the Medical College of Ohio to treat children with emotional troubles. Now the Kobacker Center, it provides schooling and inpatient care for dozens of troubled children in the Toledo area.

“He had a tremendous sense of compassion for youngsters who had some emotional concerns that, addressed correctly, could help them lead very productive and normal lives,” said Larry Burns, MCO’s vice president for institutional advancement.

His involvement in the community seemed to know few bounds. He was president of the Community Chest, which became the United Way of Greater Toledo, and several other groups.

His faith was very important to him. At various points, he served as president of every Jewish group in Toledo, Rabbi Sokobin said. In 1981, he founded the Toledo Jewish Community Foundation, an endowment organization for Jewish organizations in the Toledo area.

One of his most remarkable projects was the Kobacker Institute, which for more than 30 years assembled Toledo clergy from all faiths for meetings and open discussions. “It was the premier opportunity for clergy of different faiths to exchange ideas,” Rabbi Sokobin said.

Many Toledoans have given large sums of money to worthy causes, but Mr. Kobacker always made sure the relationship was not just financial. “His philanthropy wasn’t just writing a check,” Rabbi Sokobin said. “He was a conveyer of ideas and deep idealism.”

Officials won’t have to testify about trucker’s crash charges

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

Lucas County prosecutors will not be forced to testify about why they decided to charge a Toledo truck driver with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in an accident in August that killed a mother and her daughter.

Judge Ruth Ann Franks made that ruling during a hearing in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday.

Attorneys for L. James Kohler, 25, of West Alexis Road, have accused prosecutors of treating their client more harshly than others accused of similar offenses.

Mr. Kohler’s tractor-trailer collided with a minivan driven by Katherine Zakrzewski on Aug. 31 at Manhattan Boulevard and Lagrange Street.

Mrs. Zakrzewski, 42, and her 10-year-old daughter, Calista, were killed in the accident.

On Dec. 14, attorneys for Mr. Kohler asked that the charges be dismissed, citing three similar cases in which prosecutors chose not to file manslaughter charges.

To support their motion, the attorneys subpoenaed three prosecutor’s office employees, asking them to provide information and testify why the charges were not filed in those cases but were against Mr. Kohler. Judge Franks’s ruling quashed those subpoenas.

The larger defense motion seeks dismissal of the charges. Judge Franks said she will rule on that issue this week.

Dean Mandross, criminal division chief of the prosecutor’s office, said requiring prosecutors to testify about their actions could be detrimental to the justice system.

“We have nothing to hide, but it’s just a horrible precedent to allow to be set,” he said.

If the defense motion to dismiss the charges is denied, Mr. Kohler’s trial would begin Jan. 10.

Leipsic native was a prolific writer

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A19

OTTAWA, O. — Eileen Kelley, 1926 – 1999, a Leipsic native who ran an insurance agency and had a flourishing writing career on the side, died Thursday at the Putnam Acres Nursing Home here. She was 73.

The cause of death was cancer, her friend Norma Meyer said.

Ms. Kelley was born in 1926 to Thomas and Nellie Kelley and lived in Leipsic all her life. After graduating from Leipsic High School, she went to work for the family business.

The Kelley Insurance Agency had been founded by her grandfather and been passed to her aunt, Ms. Meyer said. After a few years, Ms. Kelley bought the business from her aunt.

She sold home, auto, and liability insurance, said Ms. Meyer, who worked at the agency for about 25 years. About 10 years ago, Ms. Kelley sold the business, which was merged into the Fawcett-Lammon-Recker Insurance Agency.

But throughout her years in the insurance business, Ms. Kelley spent her nights and weekends following her hobby, writing. Over nearly three decades, she wrote more than 70 articles for The Blade as a freelance writer, as well as many poems, short stories, and an unpublished novel.

She wrote in a variety of styles, but her Blade articles were mostly folksy humor about small-town life. In one 1975 article, she wrote about getting her house painted an ungainly shade of pink and how she went about convincing neighbors that the color really wasn’t that offensive.

To the neighborhood’s best cook, she calls the color “Creole Coral” and says it resembles her Shrimp Surprise. To the local rock guitarist, she sells the color as “Electric Carnation,” to which the young man replies: “Cool, man.”

To the fisherman, it’s “Spawning Salmon,” to the druggist, “Calamine Carmine,” and to an elderly man, it’s “Victorian Rose.”

Finally, after convincing the entire neighborhood, and “with two flaming sunsets visible, the sun in the west, and my house in the east,” she retires indoors. “The nicest thing about living in a pink house is that usually you’re inside it.”

Ms. Meyer said that Ms. Kelley used her writing talents to create “cute little advertisements for the agency to put in the local papers. I don’t know if they ever got us customers, but they got talked about.”

Before she died, Ms. Kelley compiled some of her favorite poems into a booklet, which Ms. Meyer put together. The booklet will be distributed at her funeral, Ms. Meyer said.

She was active in local writing groups, including the Lima Area Writers’ Club, of which she was vice president and in whose contests she won several awards.

Ms. Kelley never married, was an only child, and had no immediate survivors.

Visitation will be today from 2 to 9 p.m. at Love Funeral Home, Leipsic. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow, at St. Mary Catholic Church.

Tributes may be made to the church school or Putnam County Hospice.

Blade editor built Toledo arts, left superb theater memorabilia

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Continuing over two weeks, The Blade is looking at significant events and people of the past 100 years. This is one of a series of profiles about influential Toledoans of the 20th century.

On March 13, 1912, a traveling play from Chicago, entitled Louisiana Lou, debuted at the Valentine Theatre.

With characters such as “Lansing Bright, an adventurer,” “The Duke De Lune, a fortune-seeking imposter,” and “Nixon Holme, an enemy of slumber,” theatergoers likely expected an exciting, fulfilling night on the town.

According to Robinson Locke – nationally known theater critic and one of Toledo’s most influential men at the turn of the century – they didn’t get it.

“Louisiana Lou had its first performance in Toledo last night at the Valentine,” Mr. Locke, then The Blade’s theater critic, wrote. “It is hoped that the first will be the last.”

His acid pen continues, jab after jab: “There is a chorus, but oh ye gods, what an aggregation! The women are fat and ungainly, with voices like buzz saws; the men are gawky and awkward and can neither sing nor dance. The costumes look as though they had been rented at a second-hand masquerade costumers. Altogether, the show is a pitiful display of the gentle art of bunk.”

Mr. Locke finishes his review with a flourish: “With such a troupe of third-raters as that seen here, it should go into cold storage instantly.”

Robinson Locke had much more flattering words about most plays that came to Toledo, but it was his honest language that made him a nationally known figure.

He was well known in New York, home of Broadway; when he died in 1920, The New York Times ran his obituary.

But the best evidence of Mr. Locke’s accomplishments are in his hometown of Toledo. He played crucial roles in founding the Toledo Museum of Art, the Toledo Symphony, and the Maumee Valley Historical Society.

He spent most of his adult life as owner and editor of The Blade, but most of his energies went into the arts, not journalism.

And his collection of theater memorabilia, now enshrined at Lincoln Center in New York, is the greatest the world has ever seen.

“He’s my hero,” said Bob Taylor, curator of the theater collections of the New York Public Library and overseer of the Robinson Locke collection.

“It’s just amazing what he did.”

Robinson Locke was born to be in newspapers. His father was David Ross Locke, the famed 19th-century satirist whose anti-slavery writings under the pen name Petroleum V. Nasby gained him national attention. Not long after Robinson was born, in 1856 in Plymouth, O., President Abraham Lincoln became a fan of “the Nasby letters”; he reportedly read some of the elder Mr. Locke’s writings to his cabinet members just before signing the Emancipation Proclamation.

David Ross Locke came to Toledo in October, 1865, to be editor of The Blade; a few years later, he bought the newspaper.

Mr. Locke set about making the paper into a national force. When he arrived in Toledo, The Weekly Blade had a circulation of about 2,000; while he was editor, subscriptions were sent to 200,000 across the country, with readers in every county of every state.

The elder Mr. Locke spent considerable time training his favorite son, Robinson, to take over the family business.

He wanted to make sure that Robinson had opportunities he had not had as a young man, and sent Robinson for schooling in Paris and Zurich, Switzerland, where he studied German, French, and music.

Father and son traveled around Europe together extensively; Robinson wrote sections of his father’s book on their travels, Nasby in Exile.

When in Toledo, Robinson Locke worked as a reporter at The Blade, focusing on the coverage of the arts. His father had been one of Toledo’s first art patrons, founding the Toledo Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1880s.

Robinson followed his father’s lead, becoming the paper’s theater and music critic.

“Without knowledge, life becomes mere existence, no matter how magnificent the surroundings,” he said in a 1915 speech.

“And in this scheme of universal knowledge the fine arts play a most important part. Take away music, painting, drama, sculpture, and architecture, and all the material glory of the world would not be compensation.”

The son also followed the father’s lead in taking a pen name; Robinson’s was “Rodney Lee.”

In 1883, President Chester A. Arthur named Robinson Locke the United States’s consul at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. Mr. Locke served for two unmemorable years, and was pulled back when Democrat Grover Cleveland was elected president.

When David Ross Locke died in 1888, 29-year-old Robinson took over the business. He decided to shift the focus of the company’s energies from the Weekly Blade, which had always been known as “Nasby’s Paper” to its national audience, to the daily paper, then called the Toledo Blade, which usually had only four pages.

In the 32 years before his own death, the daily’s circulation leapt from 10,000 to 90,000.

The book History of Northwest Ohio, published during Mr. Locke’s time as the newspapers’ owner, calls him “one of the best known newspaper men in the United States …for fully half a century the name Locke has been closely identified with the fortunes and with the development of the Toledo Blade, which in many ways stands second to none as an influential paper in the United States.”

As would be expected of a newspaper editor at the turn of the century, Mr. Locke was active in local politics. In those days, the Toledo Blade was Toledo’s Republican newspaper, and its major rival, the Bee (later the News-Bee), was the Democratic paper. Mr. Locke was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1900 and promoted the party in his editorials.

But politics were never foremost in Mr. Locke’s mind. His years in Europe had given him an eye and ear for the arts, and he spent much of his time as a civic organizer of the arts.

His most notable contribution is the Toledo Museum of Art, the city’s cultural jewel.

Mr. Locke was one of the museum’s seven co-founders, and some accounts say it was a conversation between him and Edward Drummond Libbey that sparked the idea for a museum.

Not much is known about the museum’s formation, according to Julie McMasters, the museum’s archivist, so it is unclear exactly what role Mr. Locke played in the founding.

“But he certainly played a very significant part,” Ms. McMasters said.

Mr. Locke was one of the seven men who formally incorporated the museum in 1901, and he was elected the organization’s vice president at the museum board’s first meeting. While it is impossible to know if it was really a discussion between Mr. Locke and Mr. Libbey, the founder of Toledo’s glass industry and the museum’s first president, that led to the museum’s founding, it would make sense: Mr. Locke was the city’s leading arts patron.

He had his hands in nearly every cultural and artistic creation of the century’s first two decades:

* He was president of the first Toledo Symphony Orchestra League, founded in 1897. Mr. Locke so wanted it to succeed that he personally paid for most of the players’ instruments. That orchestra eventually failed financially, but at the time of his death, Mr. Locke had just organized another orchestra and was about to be named its president.

* He was one of the founders in 1918 of the Northwest Ohio Historical Society, which in 1963 became the Maumee Valley Historical Society. At the time of his death, he was vice president of the Ohio Historical Society and an active member of the Museum of Natural History in New York.

* Mr. Locke was a rare-book collector (he owned every edition of every Shakespeare play ever published), and he was one of the largest early contributors to the Toledo public library, which eventually would become today’s Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. In 1899, he was named president of the Ohio Library Association, and he was a member of Cleveland’s Rowfant Club, an organization for book collectors.

* He founded the Civic Music League, a group dedicated to spreading music appreciation; the Toledo Insitute of Musical Art, a music school, and the Toledo Art Loan Association, a group that put on what may have been Toledo’s first art exhibition in 1898.

Today, it’s easy for Toledoans to look around their city and see many of Mr. Locke’s accomplishments.

Mr. Locke was an active, 33rd-degree Mason, holding several national offices in the organization; the Robinson Locke Lodge in West Toledo is named for him.

(He once edited a book on the Masons burdened with the verbose title The Jubilee Year of the Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General of the Thirty-Third and Last Degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America. At the time the book came out in 1918, he was the national Masons’ “marshal of the camp.”)

But theater lovers around the world can flock to a room at Lincoln Center in New York City to see his greatest gift, his collection of theater memorabilia.

Throughout his life, Mr. Locke was fascinated by the theater and all the work that went into creating a show.

“The theater today is one of the world’s great institutions,” he said at a speech in 1913. “In all the realms of art, there is nothing to compare with the effort that is being put forth in the theater, and, much as the fact is to be deplored, there are but few commercial enterprises enlisting more capital, energy, and aggressiveness.”

He even married into a theater family. His second wife, Mabel Dixey, was the sister of Henry Dixey, one of the first heartthrobs of the stage, who created a national stir by appearing in Adonis wearing white tights.

Mr. Locke’s first marriage, of eight years to Kate King, ended with her death in 1894. His second wife outlived him by nearly 50 years and was a regular visitor to Toledo, even though she lived most of her life in New York. Neither marriage produced children.

Through his travels to New York and elsewhere, Mr. Locke befriended many people in show business. At the time, the Weekly Blade was distributed nationally, and Mr. Locke’s writings on theater and music became nationally known.

As one national music publication wrote in 1910:

“Thanks to Mr. Locke, the dramatic and musical departments of The Blade have long since been looked upon as the very finest in that section of the country, and those artists are few who do not ardently aspire to its good graces. Mr. Locke is a critic who has no fear of attacking the unworthy in music or drama in a most scathing manner.

“Being asked once whether he was as severe in his musical as in his dramatic criticism, he replied: ‘There is not as much bad music as there is bad drama.'”

His reputation helped to bring the finest traveling shows to Toledo, in particular, to the Valentine Theatre downtown. Actresses such as Ethel Barrymore and Lillian Russell played the Toledo stage.

And while he could be bitter in his reviews, Mr. Locke was an unabashed fan of theater, and it shows in his memorabilia collection. For decades, Mr. Locke subscribed to every newspaper and magazine he could find across the country and had members of his staff scan through them to find any articles about the theater.

They were cut out and glued into scrapbooks, alongside old playbills, autographed photographs, and other items of interest. Over the years, the collection grew until it filled an entire room in The Blade Building.

Mr. Locke, known to the theater world as Rodney Lee, would become the arbiter of theater disputes far and wide; when shows would come to town, actors would often go into the newspaper and ask the critic who starred in some obscure 1878 production to settle a bet.

At his death – he is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery – his will gave the collection to the New York Public Library, which now maintains it as the Robinson Locke Collection. (At least one published report after his death said that he offered the collection to the Toledo public library first, which refused to accept it. But New York, with its Broadway tradition, is a natural home for it.)

“He was one of the first groupies,” said Mr. Taylor, the curator. “He was one of the few, if not the only person who attached any kind of value to fan magazines, movie magazines, articles in newspapers about theater people, and so forth. So he saved it when other people just thought it was ephemeral. Now, there’s no other resource like it in the world.”

To this day, theater researchers go to the Locke collection to learn about stars from the big names like Sarah Bernhardt to minor players like Victor Morley (who played Nixon Holme in that awful Louisiana Lou).

“He somehow managed to find even the smallest, seemingly most insignificant gossip items buried in the back of some small-town newspaper,” he said.

“The phrase obsessive-compulsive comes to mind.”

A few years after the Locke collection reached New York, the New York Morning Telegraph wrote about it: “It is the foundation of drama in America … It is the greatest contribution that has ever been made to the American theater.”

In 1995, New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley called it “an extraordinary testament to one fan’s fanaticism … There is nothing else quite like it in the world.”

Mr. Taylor said the library often gets calls from people curious about a bit player from theater’s past. “A lot of the queries we get here are ‘my great-great grandmother appeared on the stage for 15 minutes back in 1889, and we don’t know anything about it.’ And very often, the Robinson Locke Collection is the only place with any information.”

The sheer size of the collection is daunting: about 500 bound volumes of clippings and photos; several thousand clippings mounted on acid-free boards; and hundreds of thousands of loose clippings organized by artist in envelopes.

“It’s colossal,” Mr. Taylor said. “It’s one of the few collections we have that is used on a daily basis.”

The collection is housed outside Lincoln Center while its permanent home undergoes renovations. But it faces a continuing threat from the passage of time. The hundreds of thousands of loose clippings rapidly are deteriorating, and unless the library receives money to preserve and digitize the collection, it might not last much longer.

Mr. Taylor said it might take up to $500,000 to preserve the collection. “If we had that much money, it’d be the first thing I’d do,” he said.

But whatever happens to the New York collection, Mr. Locke’s contributions to Toledo, through the museum, library, symphony, and historical society, will survive well into the 21st century. He was Toledo’s pre-eminent man of arts and letters at the turn of the century.

His legacy survives at The Blade, as well.

Six years after his death, his estate sold the newspaper to Paul Block, who had been the paper’s national advertising representative. When Mr. Block’s son, Paul Block, Jr., had twin sons in 1954, he asked Mr. Locke’s widow, then living in New York, if he could name one of them after Mr. Locke. She approved, and that son, John Robinson Block, is now the paper’s co-publisher and editor-in-chief.

Panel considers hiring firm to evaluate port; Staff performance reviews unlikely

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 21

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is preparing to hire a consulting firm to help the agency examine how it does business.

“I do believe we will need an outsider to help us through the process,” said James F. White, Jr., chairman of the port board’s strategic planning committee.

The committee is charged with rethinking the port’s operations and its goals. Yesterday, at the panel’s first meeting, board members said they want to start interviewing representatives from national consulting firms to see what they have to offer the port.

Several members said that the complexity of the agency’s operations make it difficult for the unpaid board members to perform a proper evaluation alone.

“There’s no way for us to really understand how the port is doing unless we have other situations and other experiences to compare it against,” said board member Bruce Baumhower.

The port authority oversees a variety of operations in Lucas County, including the Port of Toledo, Toledo Express Airport, and Central Union Plaza. It is designated by law as the county’s lead economic development agency, although it has transferred that responsibility to the Regional Growth Partnership.

The committee decided that the major focus of the strategic planning be the port board’s standing committees, such as the airport, seaport, and surface transportation panels. Mr. White said that each committee will be asked to evaluate the goals and objectives in its area of focus.

After discussion with consultants and other people who work with the agency, board members will unite the committee’s goals into a single document charting the port authority’s course over the next few years.

Mr. White said he will make a list of between five and seven national consulting firms qualified to do the work for the authority. From that list, he will choose three finalists and ask them to make presentations to the committee.

He mentioned McKinsey & Co. and Booz, Allen & Hamilton as possible candidates.

The group did not commit to hiring a consultant; Mr. White said that if “no acceptable candidates” can be found, or if the cost is too high, the full board could forgo the idea..

Board member George Ballas initially said he was unsure about a consultant. “I’m not sure someone from New York or New Orleans or Chicago or Miami can tell us how to run our business,” he said.

But other board members, led by Mr. White, argued for a consultant, and by the end of the meeting the group agreed unanimously to begin interviewing candidates.

“We know the Toledo scene better than anyone else, but a consultant would know what’s been tried elsewhere that we’re missing,” Mr. White said. “We don’t know the best practices. All we know are our practices.”

Board members did not say how much the agency would be willing to pay a consultant. They said private industry and the Regional Growth Partnership may be asked to contribute toward a consultant’s fee.

In 1992, the authority paid Mercer, a consultant firm, more than $200,000 to prepare the port’s strategic plan.

Mr. White said the committee’s work is unrestricted and could include anything from how the port board operates to how the airport is run.

“We want a complete evaluation of how the port works, starting at the top – and that’s the board,” he said. “We don’t want anything easy. We want the strategic plan to be a stretch for the entire agency.”

If hired, the consultant could be involved in much of that work, but it appears unlikely any hired firm would conduct performance evaluations on senior port staff.

Committee member Jerry Chabler has pushed for an outside evaluation for several months. Mr. Chabler has questioned the pay of some senior staff members and suggested some are under-performing.

“If everyone who works here is as good as [port President James Hartung] says, then let’s have an outsider come in and validate that,” he said.

But when Mr. Chabler broached the issue yesterday, he found little support from the other committee members.

“At my business, I wouldn’t hire a consultant to come in and tell me if my sales manager is doing a good job,” said J. Patrick Nicholson, port board vice chairman and chief executive officer of N-Viro International Corp. “That’s the job of the people in the company.”

“I would like to see an evaluation of the staff, not from a performance standpoint, but from a structure standpoint,” Mr. White said. “We may be able to better structure the staff. But it is up to us to evaluate our own people.”

Mr. Chabler, who had been one of the port authority’s most vocal critics before being appointed to the board this year, said he thinks the meeting went well. “I was impressed by what I heard,” he said. “Everyone is on the same page.”

Port board keeps Medlin, Nicholson as its leaders

By Joshua Benton and David Patch
Blade Staff Writers

Page 15

G. Ray Medlin was unanimously re-elected chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority yesterday, with support coming from a surprising source.

Board member Jerry Chabler, who has been a vocal critic of Mr. Medlin in the past, made the motion to keep him in the post.

“I have a total respect for Ray Medlin,” Mr. Chabler said. “I’ve had a diversity of opinions with the chairman, but I think it’s all been very healthy. I think this is what the board needs.”

The two men have had less-than-cheerful things to say about one another over the last few months, with Mr. Medlin calling Mr. Chabler “needlessly divisive” and Mr. Chabler saying Mr. Medlin was “too tied to the old ways” at the port authority.

But at yesterday’s meeting, the last of 1999, the entire board seemed to put old grudges behind to relish what members consider to have been a successful year, despite declining traffic at the Port of Toledo and Toledo Express Airport.

In November, Lucas County voters renewed a 0.4-mill port authority levy that provides funding for regional economic development. Voters had rejected a similar levy in 1998 amid questions about the authority’s spending practices and accountability to Lucas County taxpayers.

“I appreciate the confidence of this board,” said Mr. Medlin, who was first elected board chairman in December, 1998. “If you don’t look at the way you do things, as they say, ‘You’ll always get what you always got.'”

J. Patrick Nicholson, who was re-elected by the board as vice chairman, agreed.

“We’ve got to think new ways,” he said. “We need a vision, more than anything else, to make the Great Lakes the economic heartland of the world.”

No other names were entered into nomination for the top two board posts.

Board member Thomas Palmer, who chaired the board’s nominating committee, said his committee had sought legal counsel to determine whether Mr. Medlin’s re-election would cause any legal or ethical problems.

On Nov. 24, Mr. Medlin was named economic development director of the city of Toledo. The port authority is charged with economic development for all of Lucas County, although it contracts that duty to the Regional Growth Partnership, and some government officials had questioned whether Mr. Medlin should hold both jobs at once.

Mr. Palmer said attorneys from the Cleveland firm Squire, Sanders, & Dempsey and the Toledo firm Spengler Nathanson reported that there was no legal conflict in Mr. Medlin holding the two positions.

“We looked very closely at this issue, because the public needs to see that we’re addressing these legitimate questions,” said Mr. Palmer, a lawyer. “All of us feel Ray has shown great leadership over the last year, and we need a continuation of that strong leadership.”

Mr. Palmer said the port authority, the city, and the county will request an opinion from the Ohio Ethics Commission to further examine the ethical issue. In the meantime, Mr. Medlin said he would abstain from discussing or voting on issues involving the city of Toledo. As an example, he cited issues involving Toledo Express, which is owned by the city but operated by the port authority.

Earlier in the meeting, the port board unanimously approved an $11.9 million operating budget for the upcoming year. The $500,000 increase over 1999 spending includes a $64,000 hike in the marketing budget for Toledo Express and a $300,000 allocation for dredging at the Port of Toledo and for buying land for a proposed U.S. 20A interchange on I-475/U.S. 23.

The board voted 12-1 to renew the port’s economic-development contract with the Regional Growth Partnership for five years for a fee of $1.35 million next year. Board member David Boston dissented on the grounds that the fee should be reduced because the RGP has amassed more than $600,000 in reserve funds.

“At a time when the port is scraping for capital dollars to meet federal matching funds for projects, we shouldn’t be giving the RGP money they don’t need,” Mr. Boston said.

In other business, the port board:

* Agreed to add 1,600 square feet to the 2,500 square feet of office space that Manitowoc Marine Group, Inc., leases from the port authority at the Toledo shipyard. Manitowoc plans to expand its Toledo Ship Repair Co. operations.

* Approved reimbursing FirstEnergy $29,373 for the port authority’s share of a recent environmental survey of land that the port authority and utility own in East Toledo.

* Appropriated $64,450 from federally transferred drug-forfeiture funds to pay for a new four-wheel-drive truck, portable radios, drug-awareness pamphlets for children, police-station improvements, and training and supplies. Alluding to a past controversy over a former airport director’s personal use of a similarly funded truck, Mr. Boston, the airport committee’s chairman, promised that the new vehicle “will be used for law-enforcement purposes.”

Port authority president James Hartung said the expenditures had been approved by representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Port board may boost marketing expenses

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority will nearly double the amount it spends to market Toledo Express Airport in 2000, if the port board adopts next year’s proposed operating budget.

The spending plan, debated at a meeting of the port board’s finance committee yesterday, raises the airport’s marketing budget to $170,000 from $100,000.

“We’ve got an uphill battle, and we need to stay in the public mind to keep competitive,” airport director Gary Quill said.

Toledo Express has experienced a substantial drop in traffic in 1999, with the number of departing passengers dropping 23.5 per cent from last year’s levels, according to statistics through October.

The biggest culprits were Delta Air Lines and AirTran Airways, which canceled their Toledo service last year. Delta ended its direct flights to Atlanta in October, 1998. AirTran canceled its Toledo-Orlando route eight months earlier.

But the last few months have seen several positive developments that have port leaders thinking the trend could be reversed.

Service to Atlanta returned to Toledo Express on Oct. 1 with the arrival of Atlantic Southeast Airlines. This month, American Eagle is introducing the use of 50-seat regional jets on its five daily flights to Chicago, replacing less comfortable turbo-prop planes.

“It makes sense to sell the airport when you’ve got good things like regional jets to sell,” port board member George Ballas said.

The airport has been running a marketing campaign since July, with print, radio, and TV advertisements. The extra money will allow the campaign to run year-round, Mr. Quill said.

“So many people fly through Detroit that you have to keep reminding people there’s an alternative here,” he said.

The marketing money is one of the relatively few changes in the 2000 budget. The full port board will consider the budget at its monthly meeting Friday morning.

The budget projects revenues of $12.02 million, against expenditures of $11.87 million. If those numbers hold, 2000 would be the sixth straight year the port finishes in the black. If it has to, the balance would be made up with port authority reserves.

Revenue and expenditure projections are up slightly less than 4 per cent over 1999’s budget. Contract services are projected to drop 17 per cent, mostly because legal costs should drop if the airport-noise lawsuit is resolved.

The budget includes the $1.35 million the port authority will pay to the Regional Growth Partnership to fund northwest Ohio’s lead economic development body.

That funding, along with $890,000 used for maintenance and operations at the airport and seaport, comes from the property tax levy Lucas County voters approved in November.

According to the document’s projections, the seaport is the port authority’s cash cow. It stands to take in $801,000 more than it spends in 2000. In contrast, the port’s airport and surface transportation divisions could lose nearly $284,000.

The budget includes a 3.9 per cent rise in personnel costs over 1999’s budgeted amount. That increase will allow an overall 3.5 per cent raise in the salaries of non-union personnel at the port.

James Hartung, port president, will determine how to allocate that money to individual employees.

The port uses a complex set of calculations, including performance evaluations and average salary ranges for similar positions nationwide, to determine the size of raises. Mr. Hartung said he doesn’t believe any of the increases will be higher than 4 or 5 per cent.

The calculation process does not cover Mr. Hartung’s salary. His salary, now $129,960, is reviewed by the port board every May.

Paul Block, Jr.,: Love of Toledo drove his desire to improve city

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A1

Continuing over the next few weeks, The Blade will look at the significant events of the last 100 years and earlier and consider what the future might hold. Included will be a series of profiles about influential Toledoans of the 20th century. Today’s story is another of these profiles.

In hindsight, it seemed so easy, a simple request.

At an August ceremony, former Gov. James Rhodes described how it came to pass that the Medical College of Ohio was built in Toledo.

“Paul Block asked me to make this school,” Mr. Rhodes, 89, said. “He called me and said, ‘Do you want to do something for this city?’ I said yes.”

The former governor was speaking at the unveiling of a portrait of the late Mr. Block, the longtime Blade co-publisher, on the campus of the medical school he helped create.

It actually wasn’t that easy to get MCO built – it took more than a decade of Mr. Block’s editorials and lobbying to actually get the first permanent buildings under construction – but Mr. Rhodes gave the shy publisher all the credit for thinking up the project and getting it done.

“Paul Block was a different editor,” he said. “He was concerned about what went on in the community. He wanted to help build it and construct it and cultivate the best of it. That was his whole work. He loved Toledo.”

For four decades, Paul Block, Jr., controlled the newspapers that hit Toledo’s doorsteps every day. Considering the power of the position, it’s no surprise that he made a few enemies along the way; more than a few Toledoans have joked that the city has a “strong publisher” form of government.

But his track record of accomplishments is as worthy as any local mayor’s or congressman’s this century. Through the power of his editorial page, Mr. Block led the efforts to create MCO, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Government Center, and a host of other Toledo landmarks.

“He seemed to be 10 years ahead of everybody else,” said Harry Kessler, Toledo’s mayor from 1971 to 1977. “His vision was remarkable. I had the greatest respect for him. I can’t begin to say how much I liked him.”

Since the turn of the century, Mr. Block’s father, Paul Block, Sr., had been an advertising representative for dozens of newspapers around the country, and when he saw a newspaper for sale at a reasonable price, he tried to gather together the money to buy it. At various points, he owned or had control over 13 major newspapers. In 1926, he bought The Blade.

The elder Mr. Block ran his newspapers from his New York offices, but when he wanted to train his two sons to take over the business, he sent them to Toledo to work at The Blade, one of his prized properties.

Born in New York City and raised in suburban Connecticut, Paul Block, Jr., attended Yale University. After graduating in 1933, he trained in nearly every department of The Blade, living here from 1935 to 1939.

But years later he said his favorite experiences were in the back shop, using hot lead to make the printing plates that produced the day’s paper. “It involved some principles of chemistry,” he said, revealing the shadow career he kept up throughout his decades at The Blade: an organic chemist.

Chemistry was his first love, not newspapering. Throughout his years at the newspaper, Mr. Block maintained a second life as a scientist, doing research and publishing his results in respected scientific journals. He became perhaps the world’s foremost authority on a subset of chemical compounds produced by the thyroid gland.

Even though he was named co-publisher of The Blade soon after his father’s death in 1941 and made the paper’s major decisions, Mr. Block did not take day-to-day control of the paper for three more years, after he had completed his PhD in organic chemistry at Columbia University and served two years as a research fellow at the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh.

While he held a faculty position at the University of Toledo, he did most of his work in a small lab next to his South Toledo home. Mr. Block had a special phone connection laid between The Blade’s downtown offices and the lab so he could do research as he directed newspaper policy.

“He had his lab at home, but he was no amateur,” his son, Blade co-publisher and editor-in-chief John Robinson Block said. “He could be watching a melting point or doing whatever he needed to while talking about political skulduggery and what the next editorial would be.”

“When he had a research project, sometimes he’d be in his lab seven days out of the week,” said John Willey, who spent 35 years at The Blade and retired in 1981 as president of The Toledo Blade Co. and associate publisher of The Blade.

In 1944, Mr. Block moved to Toledo and took over as active publisher of The Blade. (For the next 43 years, until his death in 1987, he was listed on the masthead as the paper’s co-publisher, alongside his younger brother, William. In reality, William Block was in charge of the company’s other newspaper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Blade was controlled by Paul Block, Jr. On major issues affecting either paper, though, the brothers usually made a joint decision.)

It took only a year for Toledoans to see evidence of Paul Block’s vision for their city.

Mr. Block conceived of a plan that would inspire Toledoans to look ahead to what the second half of the 20th century might hold. He contacted Norman Bel Geddes, an internationally known designer, and asked him to create a 61-foot model of the “beautiful, efficient city” Toledo would become by 1995.

He called the project Toledo Tomorrow, and it went on exhibit at the Toledo Zoo on July 4, 1945. Half a century later, some of the project’s predictions – express highways, manicured business parks like Arrowhead Park, and relocation of heavy industry away from downtown – have come true. But others were still sci-fi fantasy, like the network of small airports used for traveling around town.

Toledo Tomorrow was featured in Life magazine and The New Republic, and Eleanor Roosevelt wrote in her syndicated column that “the kind of foresight shown in Toledo Tomorrow” would inspire other cities to sponsor similar projects.

After showing his vision for Toledo, Mr. Block started moving into specific projects. There was no uniting ideology to the projects Mr. Block pushed; he did not favor either Democrats or Republicans exclusively, and his ideas were neither particularly conservative nor liberal.

“He got involved in projects that were hard to accomplish, that involved complicated ideas, and that other people could not see the value of,” said his son, Allan Block, now vice chairman of Blade Communications, Inc., The Blade’s parent company. “There were always a large number of people who didn’t get what Father was doing.”

In the early 1950s, the editorial page began featuring calls for the creation of a port authority to control the city’s seaport. He believed that having a separate agency would give the port the attention it needed to succeed. Eventually, after pressure from Mr. Block in Columbus, the General Assembly passed a bill allowing the creation of port authorities.

When the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority was founded in 1955, it was the first in Ohio, and Mr. Block served as its first chairman. With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, bringing Atlantic shipping traffic into the Great Lakes, Mr. Block’s efforts paid off, as Toledo became one of the most active ports in America.

His next major project began even before the port authority fight was concluded. After reading stories about a national shortage of doctors, Mr. Block began to believe it was unfair that northwest Ohio was the only major region of the state not to be served by a medical school.

“He read an article by [then Blade writer] Tom Reynders quoting a visiting doctor saying Toledo would be a good place for a medical school,” Mr. Willey remembered. “He brought the article in to me and said, ‘Would you like to get a medical school in Toledo?’ I said sure.”

To bring such a school to Toledo, Mr. Block used The Blade’s power in state politics. In a state dominated by neither of the two major parties, winning northwest Ohio was often the key to winning statewide office. And an endorsement from The Blade could bring tens of thousands of votes to a statewide candidate.

State politicians, like Mr. Rhodes, valued The Blade’s endorsement, and when Mr. Block asked Mr. Rhodes to give Toledo a medical school, he agreed.

(Some, including Mr. Kessler, say the publisher hinged the paper’s endorsement in the 1962 governor’s race on the deal. Others, including Mr. Willey, insist there was no quid pro quo and that “Paul was going to endorse him anyway.” In any event, The Blade felt strongly enough about Mr. Rhodes, who ended up being Ohio’s longest serving executive, to endorse him over the only governor Toledo has ever produced, the incumbent Michael DiSalle.)

Again, Mr. Block was the first leader of an institution he helped found, becoming the first chairman of MCO’s board. In this case, it was an excellent match for a chemist like Mr. Block, and he was the dominant force in MCO’s early years. He selected the college’s first president, chose its location, and advised on the campus’s architectural design.

In the 1970s, Mr. Block shifted his attention to downtown development. At a time when many Toledo business leaders were happy to abandon downtown for the suburbs, Mr. Block focused on rebuilding the city’s core. Mr. Kessler persuaded Mr. Block to head the Toledo Development Committee for four years, during which the 22-floor Government Center was constructed.

“I had to convince him to take the job, which he didn’t want,” Mr. Kessler said. “But I knew that if we wanted to get something done, we had to get Mr. Block involved.”

Mr. Kessler said before he made a critical decision at city hall, he asked Mr. Block his opinion.

“More often than not, I already knew what I was going to do, but he often had very valuable things to say,” Mr. Kessler said. “If he trusted in you and believed you had the courage to make a decision that might not be popular, there wouldn’t be a problem no matter how much he disagreed with what I did.”

His sons said Mr. Block had a keen eye for judging the abilities of others. “He was exceptionally astute with people,” John Block said. “He often befriended people who were initially his enemies,” such as local union leader Richard Gosser and current Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas.

Throughout his decades as publisher, Mr. Block was committed to a progressive policy on race – The Blade routinely refused to identify the race of criminal suspects long before other newspapers around the country did the same – and an unstinting stance against civic corruption.

“He was honest, and he made sure that the politicians were the same,” Allan Block said. “They knew that if they did anything wrong, The Blade would be on top of it, no matter who they were.”

Despite his attention to Toledo, Mr. Block’s interests were always much broader than just newspapering. Along with his chemical research, he was a regular traveler to Europe, spending part of most years there. He was a particular admirer of French culture, and he spoke the language fluently.

In part because he spent so much of his time on chemistry out of the public eye, Mr. Block was almost unknown to most Toledoans. They knew the name, from his occasional mention in the newspaper, but they rarely knew the man.

“There was a certain mystery about him,” John Block said. “I imagine he reveled a bit in the mystery.”

Despite his privacy, his position made him a lifelong target of criticism from those who opposed his goals for the city. Whenever anyone disagreed with some bit of news coming from city hall or the state legislature, it was easy to point to Mr. Block as the force behind it. For some, he seemed to be the “man behind the curtain” who pulled the strings of Toledo.

A 1959 article about The Blade, published in the Midwest Journal of Political Science, detailed the power the paper held.

“The Blade is by all odds the most potent political force in Toledo,” author Reo Christenson said. “It certainly does not run the city in arbitrary, single-handed fashion. No newspaper could. But it wields immense influence. It has made, broken, and chastened many a politician. It has pushed through or blocked many a public policy. When it gives the word and applies the heat, council is normally quick to respond.”

He explained that Toledo’s weak political parties, unimpressive government leaders, and politically disinterested unions and business community leave a political power void in the city, which The Blade is left to fill.

Mr. Christenson lists many of the paper’s accomplishments in achieving reform and civic progress, then asks: “Why, then, is Block regarded with something short of affection in Toledo, at least in political, professional, and business circles?”

His answer is that Mr. Block “doesn’t appear to care whether he is liked or not. Rather, he seems to prefer being respected and, perhaps, feared.”

Mr. Block was never far from the center of public discussion. In 1975, he even became the centerpiece of the city’s mayoral race. Pamela Daoust, a council member, ran against Mr. Kessler, the incumbent, on the strength of a single issue: Paul Block, Jr.

“There is no question The Blade has the power to make or break politicians,” Mrs. Daoust said, in one of many attacks against Mr. Block. “I think the time has come for people to take the decision out of the hands of party bosses and publishers.”

Mrs. Daoust lost by 17,000 votes, of 103,000 cast.

Some of the most potent criticism Mr. Block faced was from those who believed a newspaper publisher should not get involved in civic matters such as the port authority or MCO. The newspaper’s job, they argued, is to be a neutral referee, not an active participant.

During his lifetime, Mr. Block agreed that he would have much rather stayed on the sidelines. But he said he entered the fray only when it seemed that the city’s leaders seemed unwilling or incapable of fulfilling an important goal.

“A resident publisher who lives where his newspaper is will be much more active in community affairs than an absentee publisher,” Mr. Willey said. “Paul, as a newspaper publisher, was exceptionally interested and devoted to his community, and I think that made him fairly unusual.”

When he believed his involvement was necessary, he made it as brief as possible. He was the first chairman of the board of both the port authority and MCO. But in each case, he served for only a few years and then left the board, even though he could have stayed on and run both organizations for years if he so chose.

“He wanted to get the ball rolling and then get out,” Allan Block said. “He knew it was a conflict of interest, and he got involved in things only reluctantly.”

Mr. Block was married three times. His first marriage, to Eleana Barnes Conley in 1940, ended in divorce seven years later. The marriage produced a son, Cyrus, a cinematographer who splits his time between Santa Barbara, Calif., and Pender Island, British Columbia.

In 1948, Mr. Block married Marjorie McNab Main, a Blade reporter. John Robinson and Allan Block are the children of that marriage. Mrs. Block, who used the first name Marge in her byline, was on The Blade Co. board of directors before her death in September, 1960.

In 1965, he married Mary Gall Petok, with whom he remained until his death in 1987. She lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Mr. Block was unable to accomplish some of the objectives he set in his lifetime. For example, for decades, he pushed for Toledo to change from a city manager to a strong mayor form of government. He believed that having an unelected city manager running the city led to the lack of civic leadership he saw as one of Toledo’s biggest problems.

But voters rejected the strong mayor form every time they were asked during Mr. Block’s lifetime. It wasn’t until 1992, five years after his death, that Toledoans supported the change.

As Mr. Block himself said in 1979: “It’s The Blade. I don’t do things as an individual. The Blade has been doing things around here for 120 years.”