Twinsburg National Bank Robbery

How many bank robberies need to be committed by the same team to constitute a crime spree? At least four, according to Summit County Sheriff Pat Hutchinson. Still, Hutchinson and his detectives had their hands full when four banks across the region, including the Sharon, Peninsula, Bedford, and Twinsburg banks, were held up over the course of several months in 1920.

On March 6, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Robbers made an unsuccessful attempt to blow the safe in the Sharon Center Banking Company.” The modus operandi was nitroglycerin, a smokeless yet highly volatile explosive. A neighbor of the bank was awakened around three a.m. by a noise he assumed came from his barn, but most likely was the detonation of the nitro next door.

On September 16, four men again attempted to blow open the safe maintained by Sharon Center Banking. The bandits escaped due to the late hour and the use of mattresses to muffle the explosion. Nearby residents, dressed in their bedtime attire, rushed to the scene, reporting the explosion as having occurred around four a.m. One of the would-be bank robbers took the idea of a clean getaway quite literally and washed up before making his exit. Detectives located the latent fingerprint in a bar of soap. Fingerprinting was still a relatively new science, having been introduced to the United States in New York late in 1905, just fifteen years prior to the robbery streak that gripped Northeast Ohio.

On October 13, 1920, the band of bandits struck closer to home. Nitroglycerine and basement walls seldom encounter one another, though this seemed to be a more common occurrence than one might suppose. The thieves were credited with taking $1,250 from the Twinsburg Banking Company. Adjusted for inflation, that 1920 figure would be worth close to $15,000 in 2016. Sheriff Hutchinson and a team of special detectives vowed to apprehend the culprits, claiming, as reported in the Plain Dealer, “to have evidence that the Twinsburg job was done by the same gang of highwaymen which robbed the Peninsula Bank several months ago, the Sharon Bank only a few weeks ago, and which also had been operating on Sherbondy Hill [Akron] in holding up pedestrians and motorists.”

Greed begets more greed, and too much greed almost always ends poorly for those involved. Such was the case for the band of bank bandits and their legendary lucky streak. A rain of bullets would end in bloodshed on October 22, 1920, following an attempt on the Bedford branch of the Cleveland Trust Company. The Plain Dealer reported: “One bandit was killed. Three other robbers, including George ‘Jiggs’ Losteiner, much wanted crook, were seriously wounded. A bank clerk was shot and is near death. This occurred in a battle in which more than 200 shots were exchanged between the bandits and citizens armed with revolvers and shotguns.”

Jiggs Losteiner’s legal problems only escalated, as charges of murder were brought against him a month later. According to the Sandusky Star-Journal, Jiggs was under the guard of one hundred Cleveland police and deputy sheriffs for the murder of Patrolman Patrick Gaffney, two years earlier. A plea of not guilty was entered for the murder, though his guilt in the armed bank robbery was affirmed.

The Plain Dealer published the following list of men shot in the final robbery:

Albert Joyce, alias Johnson,
Killed. Said by police to have a
long police record.

George (“Jiggs”) Losteiner,
wounded , not seriously. A noto-
rious crook and pal of John Gro-
gan, who is serving a life sentence
for the murder of an East Cleve-
land policeman.

Harry Stone, wounded, not se-
riously. Alleged by police to have
a long criminal record and only re-
cently released after a term of six
years in Leavenworth penitentiary.

Unidentified Man, wounded se-
verely. Police are comparing Ber-
tillon records in an effort to identify him.

Four Men, who escaped, all believed
to have been wounded. Bank em-
ployes furnish police with general
descriptions.

William Petre, bank clerk, 9011
Bucckeye road S.E. In serious con-
dition with buckshot wounds in
chest and abdomen.

C.H. Maxseiner, barber. Bedford,
wounded in hand by two of bandits
lookouts.

Rock the Park

One of the shining jewels in the crown of Twinsburg’s Director of Parks and Recreations is Rock the Park. The successful concert series has been delighting attendees of all ages since 2009. Local musical luminaries, the Cleveland Orchestra, and Michael Stanley (along with many others) have graced the Perici Amphitheater stage, one of Twinsburg’s hidden gems, tucked away in the far reaches of Glen Chamberlin Park. The amphitheater, which resembles a miniature Blossom Music Center, can accommodate 1,500 attendees and often is filled to capacity for these popular performances.

As is often the case, the series started on a much smaller scale: in the summer of 2009, a concert geared exclusively toward adults was scheduled at the community outdoor pool, but with the murder of Officer Josh Miktarian it quickly morphed into a benefit for the fallen hero. The outpouring of support from the community  was tremendous and the following year three concerts were planned at the amphitheater, a mere two hundred yards from its original locale. At present, the event offers not only musical acts, but a wide assortment of edibles and beverages, including some that are courtesy of food trucks. Arguably 2015 was the event’s most successful year to date as six concerts drew seven thousand attendees during the sultry summer months.

Reminderville PD Help Thwart Russian Mob

A massive marijuana pipeline (at an estimated worth of $27 million) run by a loosely linked network of Russian criminals (with possible, though unlikely, Russian mob ties) was thwarted, in part due to the hard work of the Reminderville PD. The pipeline ran from a St. Regis Mohawk Reservation on the New York/Canada border to Northeast Ohio. Both the Reminderville and Beachwood police departments worked closely with federal agents and police in New York to plug up the pipeline.

The cretinous crew’s crimes were not confined to simply cannabis running, they also stole from computer buyers and insurance companies, and were responsible for a lengthy list of scams and extortion schemes in Northeast Ohio over a number of years. According to numerous articles in the Plain Dealer, the investigations commenced in Beachwood and Reminderville, and it was police from these suburbs who identified a suspect from Stockholm, New York, early in the process. Not long after, the suspect, who made biweekly deliveries between New York and Ohio, was murdered. The investigation continued with the aid of wiretaps and surveillance, eventually leading to the arrests of three Cleveland-area residents for trafficking in 2008.

Congregational and Methodist Churches merged in 1920

In the fall of 1920 Twinsburg’s spiritual needs were met by two churches that had existed almost as long as the community itself.  At that time the two churches merged and most of the small community united under one church.   The spiritual leader of the First Congregational Church during the merger was Rev. William C. H. Moe, who published books during his lifetime on the history of The Congregational Churches, churches in the Western Reserve and church music.  In 1960 he wrote Seeing it Through, An Autobiography of Rev. William C. H. Moe, D.D.  On pages 76 through 81 Rev. Moe, who was also the Twinsburg correspondent to the Hudson newspaper that most Twinsburg residents used to obtain their news, tells the story of how the merger came about:

 

For nearly 100 years two church organizations–Congregational and Methodist–had

ministered to the spiritual interests of the Twinsburg people. The church buildings

stood about 150 feet apart. Before I arrived as pastor, there had been some discussion

about the possible union of the two churches into a Federated Church. The plan of a

Federated Church was finally abandoned and, since the Congregational Church was a

stronger organization than the Methodist, the members of the latter were quite willing

to become Congregationalists. The people arrived at this decision by themselves.

 

One thing which led to their final decision for a united work was the frequent change

of pastors in the Methodist Church, Too frequently, desirable young ministers were

transferred to larger churches, and older, less able men sent in their places.

 

In November, 1920, when I cams as pastor, the Methodist members decided to worship

with the Congregationalists, and Reverend Cobbledick, their minister, having no

congregation, came with them, He continued to occupy the Methodist parsonage and

did considerable visiting among Methodist members. At Easter in 1921 I received into

the Congregational Church all Methodist members and a large number of others by

letter and on confession of faith—102 in all. Dr. R. T. Cross, the pastor emeritus,

shared with me the joy or receiving them. They came forward in four groups, each

group extending from one side of the church to the other.

 

What was done with the Methodist property? Since it was legally held in the name of

the Conference, it was sold and the proceeds went to the Conference. The Congregational

Church auditorium and parlors were spacious and there was ample room for the enlarged

church membership. The new members were very generous and talented and no church

group in my 57 years was more harmonious.

 

Ironically, Rev. Moe only stayed in Twinsburg a few years before taking over a much larger church in Connecticut, where he remained for years. In his short time in Twinsburg Rev Moe took part in the newly formed Chamber of Commerce. serving as its treasurer.  He was also the president of the local library association and was news correspondent to the Hudson newspaper.

Reminderville Fire Dept. Unrest

William J. Delgado, Reminderville Fire Chief for 17 years, his assistant (Joseph W. Algeri Sr.), and another firefighter all quit the fire department in the same week in February 1972. They jointly alleged the burgeoning village had inadequate budget and equipment. The potential inability to continue to keep the village safe, as the population continued to grow, in particular with the addition of Aurora Shores, weighed heavy on the department. At the time of the unrest in the department, the three engines utilized by the department were a 1939 Ford, 1946 Dodge and a truck purchased (and subsequently remodeled) for $150 by the firefighters.

Another major contention voiced by the former chief and his assistant: the village was in violation of fire hydrant distance limitations as some fire hydrants, that should have been 300 feet apart, were instead 1,000 feet apart. They further alleged the village made these concessions in order to appease developers of Aurora Shores.

Two weeks after the resignations, Reminderville Mayor Louis Svette appointed Albert J. Sedlak as new fire chief (Sedlak, his wife and two children had recently migrated to Aurora Shores). Sedlak was a former Cleveland fire battalion chief.

Glenwood Acres

Few things can spur growth and development in a small town like the construction of a company in need of thousands of local employees. Taxes are generated, jobs created, and area infrastructure receives much needed improvements. The construction of the Glenwood Acres subdivision is an example of one such development. Preparations began shortly after the announcement that Chrysler was pulling its automotive plant out of nearby Macedonia and shifting its gaze to Twinsburg. When construction was complete, the development would boast more than four hundred low-cost houses. With the influx of new residents moving to the area in search of good jobs, few could overlook the housing opportunity afforded by Glenwood Acres. Resident began moving in the week of November 11, 1956, according to the Twinsburg Bulletin.

The Acres was not without its shortcomings. During a city council meeting just four months after occupancy began, vocal residents of the newly created subdivision brought their frustration to light, demanding something be done to improve upon the poor quality of the roads. However, their grievances went unaddressed. Records for 1958 indicate that voter turnout in Ward 1, which consisted of Glenwood Acres, was higher than that in the other four wards combined. The prolonged back-and-forth between City Council and the residents continued into the 1970s with issues of adequate sewage and sidewalks in need of attention. Sixty years have passed since the first residents arrived in Glenwood Acres, and in the intervening time these issues have been addressed one by one.

Automated Packaging Systems, Inc.

Automated Packaging Systems, Inc. was founded by brothers, Hershey and Bernie Lerner in a one car-garage in Queens, New York in 1962. Soon after its founding, the company was moved to Bedford, Ohio and a mere five years after its conception relocated to Twinsburg. The headquarters and plant were located at 8400 Darrow Road for many years, comprised of ten acres and employing in excess of five hundred people.

The company famously developed the idea of “bags-on-a-roll.” They saw that polyethylene bags, a new product at the time, were difficult to open and load product into. They solved the problem by perforating one side of the bag and leaving the other side open. The bags were then rolled onto a cardboard cylinder. This innovation spread to supermarkets across the nation, saving many a shopper endless headaches.

Suffragist Visit Twinsburg

It was 1912, and hundreds of spectators and participants gathered from far and near to watch the festivities. There was, however, more to the annual parade than the usual floats and figures. Two platoons of suffragists, numbering sixty-eight in total, led the parade through town, spreading their peaceful message of equality. Labeling themselves as suffragists rather than suffragettes meant they pursued a more legal, quiet approach than their more boisterous, action-oriented, and sometimes legally questionable counterparts. Photos of the event appeared in the Plain Dealer, showing the women on horseback. Additional festivities included dinner prepared by the Methodist church, discussions by village elders, live music, and dancing around the Maypole.

America’s entry into World War I and the mass exodus of men to the front necessitated an influx of women into the newly vacant workforce. Working women were proving their vigor and value one job at a time. After years of protest and perseverance, women won the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Educational Facilities

The pages of history record and recall stories and statistics of the earliest schoolhouses to dot the countryside, these antiquated institutes of learning were long vacant by the time the first truly modern school came into being. While the first centralized school brought all the students under one roof, it was the “Old School” that many remember so fondly.

The source of countless lessons learned and friendships forged, the old schoolhouse located just off the town square served the area’s children for nearly seventy-five years. Welcoming its first students in the fall of 1921, the two-story red brick schoolhouse was a replacement for the older, whitewashed building that once stood behind it. Games were won and lost, field trips were taken, and countless bells rang, signaling the end of one period and the beginning of another. For more than thirty years, the school served all grades from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The edifice, now vacant, evolved in numerous ways after closing its doors in 1992, including its utilization by Kent State University. Congressman Steven LaTourette used the space while campaigning, it was the first location of the Twinsburg Senior Center, and at one point a proposal to transform it into a perambulator museum was bounced around.

Exterior of vacant school building taken April 26, 2016.

Exterior of vacant school building taken April 26, 2016.

All of Twinsburg’s current educational facilities except the new high school and the Kent State University Regional Academic Center were constructed in the mid-twentieth century, a time rampant with civil unrest and racial tensions. For those who attended area schools during this time, race relations were present, though subdued in comparison to other areas of the country. As is the case with most things though, time’s passage washed away much of the tension, as new students, new initiatives, and new administration came and went. As our world grows increasing diverse, so too does the student body. Individuals from all corners of the world converge amid the lockers and lunch tables, mirroring the melding of ethnicities, nationalities, ideologies, and opinions that occurs on the web on a daily basis. Today, most school-age students from the three communities attend school in one of five facilities:

  • Wilcox Primary (kindergarten through first grade)
  • Samuel Bissell (second and third grade)
  • George G. Dodge (fourth through sixth grade)
  • R. B. Chamberlin (seventh and eighth grade)
  • Twinsburg High (ninth through twelfth grade)

The newest addition to Twinsburg’s educational landscape is Kent State’s Regional Academic Center. It offers a less expensive alternative for college students from both Twinsburg and neighboring cities such as Oakwood and Bedford. The building is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified as a “green” building. Kent State University has had a presence in Twinsburg since 1991, when it began offering training and education to employees at the Chrysler stamping plant.

Chrysler Stamping Plant Opens, 1957

 

Chrysler had long sought a spot in Northeast Ohio to build a stamping plant. Brooklyn, Copley, and Macedonia had been front-runners for the plant at one time or another, but Twinsburg was projected as the most profitable. The site previously considered the favorite in Macedonia turned out to be quite problematic; the soil conditions were considered unstable and not fit for construction of a massive stamping plant. In November of 1955, it was decided Chrysler would build a two hundred-acre plant in Twinsburg at an estimated cost of $85 million dollars. The plant was built on land purchased from the family of future Twinsburg mayor, James Karabec.

Exterior of the Chrysler Stamping Plant, not long after it opened

Exterior of the Chrysler Stamping Plant, not long after it opened

According to an article appearing in the Plain Dealer on February 17, 1957, nineteen Ohio cities and thirty firms shared in building the Chrysler plant, accounting for the bulk of materials used. Thousands of workers across the state contributed to the plant’s construction with contracts awarded to companies ranging from a few thousand to millions of dollars. Three orchards and four houses came down to let bulldozers dig the plant foundation. Bedrock was fourteen feet below ground, close enough to brace presses that would reach 600 tons in weight with a stamping force of 1,800 tons.

This massive structure was located on Township soil, but the recently seceded city of Twinsburg annexed the land and property. The greatest catalyst for growth within the City of Twinsburg was the arrival of Chrysler. “The city built up because of Chrysler…that economic impact and the freeway 480 coming through here is what drove Twinsburg to develop. It provided jobs. It provided economic income for the city,” according to Mayor Procop. The opening of the stamping plant was cause for celebration. Nearly 1,000 of the 3,600 Twinsburg inhabitants braved blustery, winter weather to greet the great new employer of the masses at their groundbreaking ceremony.

Chrysler was the employer and generator of tax revenue for Twinsburg, at one point accounting for 75 percent of tax revenue. At its peak it employed around five thousand people (more than the population of Twinsburg when Chrysler first arrived). The plant employed people from as far away as Pennsylvania and Michigan. Glenwood Acres, a neighborhood comprised of 431 affordable houses, was constructed to house the influx of new arrivals to the area.

Over the course of the plant’s fifty-three year history there were numerous alterations in the methods of automotive assembly. As described by long-time employee Dale Franks, the plant in the mid-1980s was “rough…smoky, dirty, nasty.” By the time he left in 2006 it was “very clean”. When the plant was first built most of the labor was manual. Little-by-little robots became commonplace. The first A.I. employee was a small welding robot. After the introduction of the first robot there was more automation every year and less employees. “They [the robots] did displace people on the lines,” said Randy Addison, a thirty-eight year employee at the plant. “When I was there, door line would take eighty people. When I retired door line would take eight people.” Addison and many other employees were sent to Detroit to take classes on how robots worked.

The plant’s production was thoroughly concentrated on constructing car doors. For the vast majority of the plant’s lifespan production was phenomenal, as was the interpersonal relationships between employees. Dale Franks has described his former fellow Chrysler workmates as “family.” But all was not rosy at the stamping plant. Excruciatingly long hours (often eighty hour weeks and very few days off) lead to employee discontent.

There were a number of shootings and drug busts at the plant through the years, but possibly the most heinous act occurred in 1967 when a wooden cross was burned at the union hall. A lynch rope and a KKK sign also appeared in the plant. Racial tensions were running high amid concerns about poverty and problems in Twinsburg Heights, which was adjacent to the plant.

Strikes at the Twinsburg stamping plant and in Michigan greatly affected employees across the country. A strike at one plant would ripple through the company, causing layoffs at various other plants as production slowed. In November of 1983, 3200 United Auto Workers Local 122 members employed at the Twinsburg plant went on strike for a mere five days. The effect of the strike was widespread and considerable costly—half dozen assembly plants closed and twenty thousand workers were cut loose. Losses for the automotive superpower were estimated at $75 million. In 1967 a strike at Chrysler Auto Plants in Michigan “forced” the corporation to lay off five hundred Local 122 employees.

On the brighter side, if not for Chrysler Kent State University (KSU) would not have a presence in Twinsburg that it has today. In 1991, KSU opened a training center at the plant, to offer classes in business management, industrial trades, computers, quality certification and general education.

It was the largest stamping plant for any automotive corporation in the world, right up to the time of its demise. Talks of closing Chrysler plants were rampant in early 2009, even though Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. An announcement was made that no more plants would be permanently closed. It looked as if the Twinsburg plant was safe. Instead Chrysler broke their promise, closing five more plants, including Twinsburg, on the same day their empty promise had been made. Union employees, state legislators, and local government officials were caught off-guard by the abrupt decision to shut down the plant.

President Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection on Thursday so it could pursue a life saving alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat, in yet another extraordinary intervention into private industry by the federal government. Flanked by his automobile task force of cabinet secretaries and business advisers in the White House’s grand entranceway, Mr. Obama announced a plan that would allow the United Automobile Workers, through their retirement plan, to take control of Chrysler, with Fiat and the United States as junior partners. The government would lend about $8 billion more to the company, on top of the $4 billion it had already provided,” according to a New York Times article published on April 30, 2009. It seems the federal government saw fit to bail out a billion dollar corporation, but not the city of Twinsburg.

 

Mayor Katherine Procop mentioned the company’s chief executive and several administration officials talked about bright futures for Chrysler cities, during conference calls the week prior to the permanent closings. “I feel so disheartened because I had been meeting with the UAW and with the management of the plant” discussing Twinsburgs future, Procop said, “To find out that we were on the chopping block from the very beginning, that goes beyond disbelief”. In fact, she was not even alerted by Chrysler brass about their decision to close, instead an early morning call from an AP reporter informed her of the decision.

There was a great fear the closed Chrysler plant would remain vacant for a substantial duration of time, creating an eyesore and continue to detrimentally affect the local economy; however in July 2011, the Plain Dealer reported two companies, “The DiGeronimo Cos. of Independence and Scannell Properties, based in Indianapolis, purchased the automotive complex for an undisclosed price.” Plans were set from the new owners to tear down sixty-five percent of the 2.2 million square foot plant.

The hard work of Mayors Karabec and Procop assured that Twinsburg’s financial loss would not be nearly as devastating as it could have been. Long before the plant’s closure, Karabec realized no city should so heavily rely on income from one company as Twinsburg had, for far too many years. He used tax abatement to bring additional industry to the area. Mayor Procop worked tirelessly to pass Issue 32 that would increase city income taxes a quarter percent for four years to offset the losses in tax revenue felt by the loss of Chrysler. It did pass, tax revenue loss was nullified, and city income tax was reset at its previous mark, two percent. An article that appeared in the July 18, 2010 edition of the Plain Dealer aptly describes how Twinsburg offset the plant closure: “The Twinsburg that Chrysler leaves behind used the automaker as a springboard to build an industrial corridor that includes Goodrich, Rockwell Automation and GE Energy plants. Along with those came medical, communications and technology businesses. Edgepark Surgical, a seven hundred-employee supplier of home health equipment, this summer eclipsed the waning Chrysler in writing the most paychecks in town.”

Twinsburg Heights Community Center

The Community Center was the social epicenter of Twinsburg Heights. Many longtime residents, when asked to name their earliest memories of the area, spoke of its dirt roads and the Community Center. John Curry, an elder statesman of the Heights, has said: “My fondest memory is the Community Center.”

It was home to the Mothers Club, a social group of older women from the community with similar interests. According to Carlton Powers: “The Community Center evolved from the Mothers Club, as far as I can remember.” Once it became the Community Center it benefited not only the woman in the neighborhood, but all residents. The first building was just a very small brick building, constructed completely by the men in the neighborhood.

Every June through August, there was a summer youth program at the center. For almost all the children in the Heights, this was the highlight of the sweltering summer months. As they grew older, many of the former attendees of the summer program became volunteers, donating their time to the youngsters that followed in their footsteps. The center offered hot meals, sports activities, swimming, educational programs, and numerous other activities for the children.

Adults benefited greatly from the community center as well; WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) programs were offered, and a local doctor gave free examinations there. The greatest contribution it made to the community was as a gathering place. It truly provided a sense of community to so many residents. Sadly, the center closed down earlier this decade due to a lack of support and funding (many of the residents who previously frequented the institution had moved away).

First Twins Day Festival, 1976

Twinsburg’s annual Twins Day Festival was created to commemorate the legacy of the city’s founding twins, Moses and Aaron Wilcox, and was kicked off with a flag raising and dedication of the Wilcox Monument. A comparatively inauspicious beginning (to the current incarnation), it launched in August of 1976 on a rather humble scale, as only 37 sets of twins participated in the inaugural event. It was an byproduct of the local bicentennial celebration, intended initially as a one-off event. In the years that followed, expansion was steady, so much so that today’s version bears little resemblance to the first iteration.

The first festival, held on the square, was “very rural, very Mayberry/ RFD type of event.” (Andrew Miller). Attractions ranged from sack races to a firefighter battle of the barrels. A children’s parade was held, with the wee little ones riding their colorfully decorated bicycles in a pint-sized procession. There were a few food and arts and crafts vendors peddling goods. Most notable may have the appearance of the world’s only skydiving clown, Thunder Chicken. After he landed, a magic show was performed for the children and then he was whisked away in a Wizard of Oz themed hot air balloon.

The festival may have been diminutive in scale, but proved a huge success leading to plans for a second festival the following year. By the second installation of the event, the locale was moved to the park.

Ladies VFW Auxiliary

In 1946, the women of Twinsburg formed the Ladies Auxiliary to VFW 4929.  Since then they have had a long history of serving the community and supporting VFW 4929 in its many charitable activities.  Well run and efficient from it’s beginning their history of the first year of the organization foreshadows what it would become.

VFW Auxiliary First Year History

Sesquicentennial School Play

In 1967, to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of Twinsburg, the schools put on a production to commemorate the region’s anniversary.  The production, coordinated by Richard T. Sunderland who was the Director of Music for Twinsburg Schools, featured children from virtually every grade.

Twinsburg Sesquicentennial Booklet