The Samuel Bissell Memorial Library has frequently released reports on the Library activities over the years. This particular one, from 1929, allows a look into the community’s reading habits during that era, It includes names of those involved, as well as the fact the Library was up to four thousand books and had installed new curtains in the reading room.
In 1930 Twinsburg’s Homecoming was a Township wide event that celebrated all aspects of its history and culture. The program itself featured a history of the Township, Congregational Church, Samuel Bissell Memorial Library, schools, and many local business’. The thirty-two page program is sprinkled with names such as Bishop, Rylander, Herrick, Bissell, Dodge, Richner, Chamberlin and Doubrava.
The event, held on the August 8th and 9th in 1930, featured a play, races, fireworks, and performances.
A car chase that began in the Cleveland Metroparks in Solon quickly made its way into Twinsburg, as Metroparks and Solon police pursued a vehicle driven by Erwin Hawkins of Cleveland after he resisted arrest for an unspecified crime. When Hawkins entered the city, Twinsburg police, as well as officers from Boston Heights, Hudson, Macedonia, Oakwood, and Reminderville, joined in pursuit of the fleeing fugitive. Hawkins’s car careened dangerously through the streets of Twinsburg. He was desperately attempting to reach his sister’s residence at Whitewood Apartments off Ravenna Road. But in the parking lot of the apartment complex police cars surrounded him, thwarting his escape.
He may have been cornered, but he refused to cower. Hawkins took hold of a tire iron and proceeded to swing wildly at the officers. During the course of his onslaught, Hawkins caused considerable damage to the patrol car of Twinsburg officer Joe Jasany—beating out the windows and headlights. In the meantime, a crowd of onlookers had gathered, preventing the police from retaliating with gunfire. Officers were forced to hold fire lest innocent bystanders become accidental casualties.
Finally, Chief Donald Prange decided desperate measures were needed. Prange called the Twinsburg Fire Department, asking for assistance. Engine seven, equipped with five firefighters, swiftly arrived at the site of the standoff. The firefighters readied their hoses, aiming at their target, moments away from spraying a fierce flood of water at Hawkins. Seeing there was simply no defense against the inch-and-a-half hose, Hawkins dropped his tire iron and forfeited his freedom, though once placed in a police cruiser he proceeded to try kicking out the windows. Officers transported Hawkins to the Twinsburg jail, where he continued to violently resist arrest. During the ensuing struggle, a Macedonia police officer’s hand got jammed in the frame of the jail door, and four of his fingers were broken.
Jessie S. Dunacan heroically raced to the second floor of his burning house at 1888 Buchtel Street rescuing five small children (three of whom were his grandchildren, the other two his offspring), one-by-one, as he tossed them out a window to his wife below after which he leapt to safety. One child was left behind, his (Duncan’s) 14 month old granddaughter–Betty Butler. Duncan attempted to dash back into the now engulfed domicile, but Summit County sheriffs deputies prevented him from doing so due to the severity of the blaze. Flames were shooting out all windows and doorways.
Betty Butler tragically died in the accidental inferno, caused by a grease fire in the kitchen that occurred during dinner preparation. The two-story home was completely decimated, with an estimated $6,000 worth of damages.
No mere snow squall or winter gale, this storm was known to those who witnessed its icy wrath as “The Great Blizzard.” The front slammed the region, dropping the mercury to dangerous lows and pumping out snow to incredible heights. It began on January 23, as it moved west toward the Ohio Valley. On January 25, forecasts for the state began to paint a more severe picture of things to come and by nine p.m. a blizzard warning was issued for the entire state of Ohio. Scott and Sue Kollman of Kollman’s grocery store conveyed the frantic state of locals as the storm approached, saying, “Everyone was scared . . . there was a run on the store.” The next day, President Jimmy Carter declared a state of emergency for Ohio. This would mark the peak of the blizzard’s strength, with wind speeds topping eighty miles per hour in Cleveland. It would be another two days before the storm broke and an assessment of the damage could take place.
Of the storm’s aftermath, local Andrew Miller nostalgically remembered it as only a small boy could have: “I remember the snow being up to my knees, which at the time probably would’ve been two feet . . . No plows had been through yet, nobody had shoveled after, it was still storming and you just couldn’t tell the difference between the road and someone’s front yard. It was just an even plain.” His mother Sandy told how theirs was the only home in their neighborhood with a wood-burning fireplace, presenting a warm and inviting refuge for nearby neighbors without heat . . . providing they were capable of braving the storm. And for some, that bravery came from the insatiable need to eat, drink, and be inebriated. “Nobody could go to work, but Babka’s was packed,” according to the Kollmans. The following is taken from a bulletin by the National Weather Service:
Still images and film footage were combined, documenting many of the familiar sights around Twinsburg as they appeared during the now infamous blizzard. Public Square, shops and storefronts, Corbett’s Farm, and rural byways are shown coated in snow, reflecting the true ferocity of the storm in its immediate aftermath. Film footage of the 1978 blizzard was captured by Twinsburg resident James Kizak.
The following content are the actual press releases from the National Weather Service illustrating the evolution of the storm from January 24-26:
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AKRON OHIO
100 PM EST FEB 1 1978
…THE BLIZZARD OF 78…
TUESDAY JAN 24…TWO SEEMINGLY UNRELATED LOW PRESSURE AREAS SEPARATED
BY VAST DISTANCES…ONE IN THE WESTERN GULF OF MEXICO THE OTHER IN
NORTHERN NORTH DAKOTA…BEGAN TO BECOME ORGANIZED. THE NORTH DAKOTA
LOW WAS EXPECTED TO PASS NORTH OF OHIO POSING NO GREAT WEATHER THREAT
TO THE STATE OTHER THAN TO BRING IN COLDER AIR. THE GULF LOW WAS
FORECASTED TO MOVE GRADUALLY NORTHEAST UP THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY TO
THE OHIO VALLEY AND THEN NORTHEAST OF OHIO. RAIN WAS EXPECTED TO
SPREAD INTO THE STATE FROM THIS LOW…CHANGING TO SNOW AS THE COLDER
AIR MOVED IN BEHIND.
WEDNESDAY JAN 25…ALL THINGS SEEMED TO BE OCCURRING AS FORECASTED AS
THE GULF LOW MOVED INTO NORTHERN LOUISIANA DURING THE MORNING. THEN
THE FIRST SIGNS OF SOMETHING MORE OMINOUS BEGAN TO APPEAR. THE NORTH
DAKOTA LOW STARTED TRACKING MORE SOUTHEAST AND PRESSURES NORTH OF THE
GULF LOW BEGAN TO FALL RAPIDLY. IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THE TWO LOWS
WERE ON A VIRTUAL COLLISION COURSE AND THAT COLLISION WOULD TAKE
PLACE IN OR VERY NEAR THE STATE OF OHIO. PRESSURES CONTINUED TO FALL
RAPIDLY AHEAD OF THE GULF LOW AS WARM MOIST AIR WAS BROUGHT NORTH. BY
AFTERNOON HEAVY SNOW WARNINGS WERE ISSUED FOR NORTHWESTERN COUNTIES
OF OHIO AND A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE STATE. BY
EARLY EVENING THE PRESSURES HAD DROPPED TO RECORD LOWS THROUGHOUT THE
BUCKEYE STATE AND THE COLD LOW FROM THE NORTH WAS TRACKING DIRECTLY
TOWARD OHIO. IT NOW BECAME VERY OBVIOUS THAT A VERY DANGEROUS WEATHER
SITUATION FACED OHIOANS AND BLIZZARD WARNINGS WERE ISSUED FOR THE
ENTIRE STATE AT 9 PM. TEMPERATURES ROSE INTO THE 40S AND RAIN
CONTINUED AS THE DAY NEARED ITS END. THE WIND INCREASED GREATLY TOWARD
MIDNIGHT AND THE PRESSURE CONTINUED ITS DOWNWARD SLIDE.
THURSDAY JAN 26…BY EARLY THURSDAY HERE AT THE AKRON CANTON WEATHER
SERVICE OFFICE THE WIND HAD RISEN TO SUSTAINED SPEEDS BETWEEN 25 AND
30 MPH GUSTING TO OVER 40 MPH. THE PRESSURE WAS STILL DROPPING AND IT
WAS EVIDENT THAT A STORM OF UNPRECEDENTED MAGNITUDE WAS IMMINENT. AT
347 AM THE BAROMETER REGISTERED 28.33 INCHES…A FULL HALF OF AN INCH
LOWER THAN THE PREVIOUS RECORD LOW OF 28.83 INCHES SET ON FEB 25 1961.
WIND WAS NOW BLOWING AT 30 TO 40 MPH AND GUSTING TO OVER 50 MPH. BY
430 AM THE COLD AIR MOVED INTO THE LOCAL AREA. TEMPERATURES DROPPED
RAPIDLY AND THE RAIN CHANGED TO SNOW. THE WIND WAS NOW GUSTING TO
OVER 60 MPH AND AT 512 AM A PEAK GUST OF 76 MPH WAS RECORDED. BETWEEN
5 AND 6 AM THE TEMPERATURE FELL 21 DEGREES FROM 34 TO 13 AND
EVERYTHING THAT WAS WET FROM THE RAIN BECAME ICE. THE TEMPERATURE
LEVELED OFF AROUND THE 10 DEGREE MARK BUT THE WIND REMAINED HIGH…
SUSTAINED AT 25 TO 35 MPH AND GUSTING TO 40 AND 50 MPH DURING THE
ENTIRE DAY. REPORTS OF DAMAGE BEGAN TO POUR IN OF POWER LINES DOWN…
TELEVISION ANTENNAS BROKEN OFF…TREE LIMBS AND WHOLE TREES DOWN…
AND BROKEN WINDOWS. ROADS HAD BECOME VAST SKATING RINKS AND DRIVING
WAS ALL BUT IMPOSSIBLE. THE SNOW WAS BLOWING AND DRIFTING REDUCING THE
VISIBILITY TO NEAR ZERO. WIND CHILL FACTORS DURING THE DAY FELL FAR
BELOW THE MINUS 60 DEGREE MARK MAKING VENTURING OUTSIDE EXTREMELY
BLIZZARD WARNINGS WERE CONTINUED THROUGHOUT THE DAY AS OHIO REELED
UNDER WINTERS WORST STORM IN MANY YEARS. WINDS REMAINED HIGH…SNOW
BLEW AND DRIFTED…AND ALL TRAVEL AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITY CAME TO A
VIRTUAL HALT. THIS SITUATION CONTINUED INTO FRIDAY WITH THE BLIZZARD
WARNINGS BEING REPLACED BY TRAVELERS ADVISORIES AT 440 AM FRIDAY
MORNING. THESE ADVISORIES REMAINED IN EFFECT THROUGHOUT FRIDAY AS THE
WINDS DIMINISHED BUT WERE STILL STRONG ENOUGH TO CAUSE CONSIDERABLE
BLOWING AND DRIFTING…AND RESTRICTING VISIBILITY ON THOSE ROADS THAT
WERE OPEN. WIND CHILL FACTORS OF MINUS 40 TO 60 DEGREES CONTINUED AS
WINDS BLEW FROM 25 TO 40 MPH AND TEMPERATURES HOVERED IN THE TEENS.
FOR SHEER MAGNITUDE…THIS MUST RANK AS THE WORST STORM TO HIT THE
GREAT LAKES REGION IN MANY YEARS. ON THE WEATHER SIDE…RECORD LOW
PRESSURE READINGS…HIGH WINDS…DRAMATIC TEMPERATURE DROPS AND
CONSIDERABLE BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW WERE ALL BUT UNPRECEDENTED. ON
THE HUMAN SIDE…THE SUFFERING…DISCOMFORT AND DANGER CAUSED BY
DISRUPTED POWER…WIND DAMAGE…STRANDED AUTOMOBILES AND OTHER STORM
RELATED EVENTS WERE PROBABLY MORE WIDESPREAD THAN IN ANY OTHER STORM
IN MOST PEOPLES MEMORIES. MANY WEATHER RECORDS WERE BROKEN BUT THAT
IS WHAT RECORDS ARE FOR AND THOSE ARE JUST COLD STATISTICS.
UNFORTUNATELY THERE ARE NO RECORDS OR COLD STATISTICS TO MEASURE THE
HUMAN FACTOR IN A STORM OF THIS VAST SCALE.
In March of 1983 Bishop William B. Smith, Sr. joined the Apostolic Church on Stanford Street. Over the next decade the church’s congregation, which was very small upon Smith’s arrival, constantly worked at renovating the small facility for it’s quickly growing membership.
In April 1994 they choose to break ground on a new facility still within the Heights neighborhood. The new facility, renamed The Sanctuary of Praise, relocated just a few blocks onto Haden Rd.
Over the next decade the Church’s activities continued to grow, requiring the Church to add 7,500 square feet to the original complex. The expansion including a larger chapel, classrooms, office space and a hall. Now known as the Main Campus, to differentiate from the Southern Campus located in Akron, the new facility has served as the focal point of a number of international ministries, while still being led by Bishop Smith.
Their original facility is now home of the Seventh-Day Adventists and still serves as a Church for the Heights neighborhood.
In the early summer of 1947 everyone in Twinsburg had marbles on their mind, especially marbles as played by Twinsburg resident Johnny Florek,
Sponsored by VFW 4929, Florek finished second to David Glenny of Cuyahoga Falls at the District Marble Shooting Tournament held on June 14 . However, a second place finish entitled Florek a spot in the State Tournament where he again faced his rival Glenny. This time though, Florek prevailed in what was described as even a closer match than their initial clash by local media.
The State Tournament, held in Glenny’s own Cuyahoga Falls, included a parade through the town. The highlights of the procession were two motorcycle policeman with sirens, a white police cruiser driven by their Police Chief, various State VFW Officials, as well as the Mayor of Cuyahoga Falls, Joseph Harding. Florek and Glenny rode in a convertible with what was described as a beaming Harding, obviously proud of the Marble Tournament his town had hosted.
Florek’s successful run ended at the National Tournament held at Father Flanagan’s Boy’s Town in Nebraska. The VFW paid for all expenses for Florek and his mother to attend the National Tournament.
Tinkers Creek, named after Captain Joseph Tinker—the chief boatsman in Moses Cleveland’s survey crew, is the largest tributary of the Cuyahoga River, gathering water from 13 sub-watersheds in 4 counties. The creek flows through Summit (including the Township and City), Portage, Geauga, and Cuyahoga counties.
In June 2006, trace amounts of antibiotics, prescription and nonprescription pharmaceuticals, personal-care products and household and industrial chemicals were found all along Tinkers Creek, but luckily in the years proceeding there has been a concerted effort to remedy this environmental crime. According to Twinsburg Naturalist, Stanley Stine: “Tinkers Creek…we’re doing our best (everybody’s doing their best) to clean it up. And someday I’m hoping it’s the Creek that the ancestors of Twinsburg enjoyed, being clean. It’s showing signs of improvement. We have a river otter in it, too many beaver in it, water ducks, the eagles hunt over it when the rivers are frozen over with ice because the creek coming out of seven different waste water treatment plants along its length tends not to freeze because of the warmth of the water being in a building and being cleaned and deposited outside.”
One of the three communities’ greatest natural assets is Liberty Park. The park contains a moss-capped landscape of slump rocks, vertical crevices and sedimentary layers, rock cliffs, colossal boulders, and a cave that is more spacious than some of the homes townspeople grew up in.
Initially Liberty Park was privately owned. It was the ever progressive-minded Mayor Karabec who realized the potential of procuring the park. During Karabec’s administration he composed a letter of intent (including price) to purchase Liberty Park from its previous owner, but the procurement of the park wasn’t finalized until Mayor Procop was in office. The formal dedication took place on April 22, 2001. Prior to the purchase, Twinsburg only owned three hundred acres of open-spaced parkland; now there are over two thousand acres. The process of negotiating with the owner was arduous, as he vacillated over whether to sell to the city or a land developer, the latter being considerably more profitable.
Ultimately the city purchased the property for $11 million. It was the catalyst for Summit County to continue purchasing land in the area, creating a link between Twinsburg and Tinker Creek State Park. Twinsburg owns the land, but the Metro Parks manage Liberty Park, helping to preserve the Ledges and the wetlands.
Over the years, the park’s three thousand acres had been the site of an amusement park, a hotel, a railroad, and farms. Some of the owners had toppled trees and straightened a brook. In 2011 Summit County Metro Parks added sixty-six acres to the park using funds obtained through the Trust for Public Land amounting to $1.22 million, which went toward completing access to the park from Ravenna Road. One of the newest additions is Liberty Park Nature Center, a $3 million facility constructed by the Summit County Metro Parks. Visitors are greeted by an inanimate and presumably affable life-sized black bear upon arriving at the center.
The Ledges are part of the nine-hundred-acre land deal Mayor Katherine Procop brokered with a local landowner. There may be no more beloved natural phenomena in the three communities than the Ledges. It seems as if almost everyone who grew up in the area has a fond childhood memory connected with the natural marvel. It was a popular hangout for kids, teenagers, and families alike. More than just a source of natural beauty and a recreation destination, the Ledges have played a huge part in the history of Twinsburg, and in the determination of its geographical boundaries. For a time all of Twinsburg’s water (village and Township) was obtained from wells located in the Ledges.
“Significance of ledges around Twinsburg is that Twinsburg sits in a pocket surrounded by ledges. South to where the Cleveland Clinic is located, there are ledges running behind it. When you go west towards Macedonia there are ledges right at the 271-82 intersection. And then east are the Liberty Park Ledges,” according to Twinsburg naturalist Stanley Stine.
Possibly the most important aspect of the park is the unusual plant and wildlife that inhabits the acreage. The unique flora include immensely colorful lichen species that are a cross between fungi and algae, and one of a kind in the state of Ohio. A four-toed salamander found in 2003 was considered extremely rare, the only salamander in the state that has four toes on its hind legs instead of the usual five.
The park is home to endangered reddish brown Indiana bats, which almost assuredly will not bite the necks of unsuspecting visitors. Due to the presence of these bats in Liberty Park’s caves, construction in the nearby vacated Chrysler complex was postponed as it was believed some members of the endangered species might inhabit that area as well. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to officially determine and declare that none of these bats were in an area before trees could be cleared and the area developed. It was discovered that a number of bats suffered from white-nose syndrome, leading to their untimely demise. (As of 2012, 5.7 million North American bats have relinquished their mortal coil due to this incurable disease.)
Other rare creatures, including a minuscule, shrimp-like crustacean, have been discovered residing in the caves of Liberty Park. There are dozens of endangered species, plus an assortment of other wildlife: beavers, otters, red-backed salamanders, wood frogs, gray rat snakes, and numerous dragonflies and butterflies.
The park also serves as one of the most popular destinations for birders in Northeast Ohio; in fact it was designated as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society.
Liberty Park continues to be one of the most popular destinations in the three communities and a local treasure. Former Mayor Procop considers its purchase to be “the legacy project of our community.”
A mainstay of the community, a day trip for generations of school kids, and a remnant of a bygone era—Corbett’s Farm was all these things and more to the people of Twinsburg. The origins of the old home along Darrow Road date all the way back to 1826, just nine years after the area’s founding. The barn would be built in 1911, with the Corbett Family purchasing the eighty-two-acre farmstead in 1939. So it was to the chagrin of many that in 2007, the family-owned and -operated business was sold to developers, setting the wheels in motion for its eventual demise.
According to former Twinsburg mayor Katherine Procop, “The thing with Corbett’s Farm was a lot of the residents felt that the city should purchase that property, and if it had a connection to the rest of our parkland, if it had a purpose, if we didn’t already own two thousand acres of parkland, we probably would’ve considered it. The owners of the property, the Corbetts, had a certain price that they wanted to get out of the property . . . so there wasn’t a lot of negotiation room with the city.”
Once all options had been explored, the last remaining dairy farm in the county, having outlived its usefulness, was cleared acre by acre, structure by structure, until the home, barn, and silos stood alone and silent. Like many people, Marti Franks, an Aurora Shores resident and member of the Twinsburg Historical Society, “prayed for a miracle,” but with time, these structures too would fall, and the last physical traces of the farm would be gone. The nutrient-rich farmland began sprouting homes in place of the crops it once grew. In all, ninety-five single-family homes were constructed over the course of three phases, concluding in the fall of 2016. Franks perhaps put it best when she indicated that paying homage to the historic Corbett’s Farm by giving the housing development the same name was a slap in the face. “It was a sad thing for the town . . . there were a lot of plans and dreams.”
While many area residents fondly recalled the earlier, more rural iteration of Twinsburg, the passage of time is an indomitable force, and progress is inevitable. Decisions once made cannot be undone. Katherine Procop said, “I think it turned out the way it was supposed to turn out.”
The members of the 1959 Volunteer Fire Department training on a pumper fire truck.
Home Movie Courtesy of Ret. Fire Chief Daniel Simecek
The Twinsburg volunteer Fire Department held annual events every June called “Firemen’s Day.” Its purpose was to raise funds to purchase fire equipment. They also held a raffle, one of the items raffled was to win the services of 10 firemen for a day. In 1959, Evelyn Diersing won and this video was taken that day.
Home Movie courtesy of Ret. Fire Chief Daniel Simecek
The volunteer Fire Department Christmas party was held for both children and adults. The Gant, Richner, Watson, Davet, Bissell, Maulis, Hedgedish, Jewell were in attendance and many of them can be seen in this home movie.
Home Movie Courtesy of Ret. Fire Chief Daniel Simecek
This home movie was taken during the 1959 Fireman’s Day, which was held for years every June to raise funds for the volunteer Fire Department. It shows what Twinsburg Square looked like in 1959.
Home Move Courtesy of Ret. Fire Chief Daniel Simecek
A collection of home movies taken by the Chamberlin family, who took care of the medical needs of Twinsburg for decades. The home movies were shot between 1938 and 1949.
Courtesy of Dale Diersing
Courtesy of Dale Diersing
An advertisement of sorts occupies the north-facing side of the old red barn sitting along Darrow Road just south of the town square: chew mail pouch tobacco; treat yourself to the best. The three-story barn next to the Twinsburg Historical Society has stood on that lot since 1870, when it was built for Dr. Seth Freeman, as a home for the horses and wagon he used when making house calls.
The sign, a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era, was painted in the fall of 1987 by Harley Warrick. According to Marge Percy, one-time president of the Twinsburg Historical society:
“Here is how the project began. At the meeting of the society, I shared a column by Frances Murphy of [the] Akron Beacon [Journal], where she described Mr. Warrick and his work and how to reach him. I received a unanimous OK to proceed with the project. I called Mr. Warrick, who lived in West Virginia. He agreed to the project, but before he presented the idea to his boss, the society had to fulfill a list of criteria which was…
1. Written consent for such a project had to be given by the mayor and council of the town and township.
2. The sign had to be visible from a major highway.
3. The sign had to be a reasonable distance from any bar or liquor store.
Though he was never a household name, Mr. Warrick’s artistry and advertisements have been seen by countless drivers and passengers along America’s highways and byways. Twinsburg’s very own mural was a labor of love that took the better part of twelve hours to complete. The craft honed by Warrick and the career he was devoted to spanned more than fifty years and more than twenty thousand barns. His initials, a humble “H.W.,” are painted at the lower left corner of the mural.
Sergeant Patrick C. Mortus succumbed to the injuries he sustained on January 14, 1968, while serving his country in Vietnam. At the time of his passing, Patrick was a decorated member of the 196th Infantry, Company B. He received the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for heroism, the Purple Heart, and the Good Conduct Medal posthumously.
While in the United States Army, Sergeant Mortus was awarded the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Combat Infantryman badge, and the Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar. The final campaign of his military career took place in the Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. He was twenty years old at the time of his passing, having entered the service in 1966. His name and his service are commemorated on the Vietnam Wall in Washington: panel 34E, line 49. Both Mortus Drive and Park were named in his honor. He was survived by his wife Ginny.
There were two other brave soldiers who hailed from Twinsburg that selflessly gave their lives while fiercely fighting the Vietnam War: Alvin Robertson and Donald Malicek. Robertson and Malicek are honored on panel 36W, line 87 and panel 24w, line 45 of the Vietnam Wall, respectively.
The City of Twinsburg, though relatively young, is a wellspring of history that also offers comfort and familiarity—an area that has blossomed and evolved to include new housing developments, beautiful parks, and hubs of commerce while maintaining picturesque views worthy of a postcard. These views did not spring up overnight via the whims of mayors and city planners, but evolved with the natural passage of time to shape the cityscape we know today. Though it shares nearly 140 years of history with the Township, the city’s own unique history dates back just over sixty years. Unlike other, older villages and towns that were carved from the woods and fields of an untamed wilderness, the City of Twinsburg was created in the twentieth century by an act of political secession. The need to collect taxes from the recently announced Chrysler plant sped things along, prompting the separation of township and city and bringing jobs, other businesses, and a torrent of taxpayers to the area.
Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the square: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family owned businesses, farms, school houses, and church after church sprang up within view. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s took root one-by-one, providing locals with some of the amenities larger cities had to offer, with the comforts of small town familiarity.
When new housing was needed, Glenwood Acres was created to provide it. Lowcost homes, numbering more than four hundred, began springing up in 1956 following the announcement of the new Chrysler plant. Homes would be needed to accommodate the countless new employees looking to minimize their commute to work and keep their families close. Production at the plant would begin in earnest the following year.
With each development and each alteration another farm, wooded area, and orchard would fall beneath the wheels of progress. The growing village reached the critical five thousand head count by the end of 1969, allowing it to acquire cityhood. City managers begat mayors, volunteer firemen begat paid firefighters, and mainstays of business gave way to corporations.
The 1970s would see two unique milestones come to pass: 1976 would mark the nation’s bicentennial as well as the start of Twins Days, a celebration paying homage to the Wilcox brothers, who laid the foundation for what Twinsburg would come to be. Though it began as a community-centered festival with a parade, food, contests, and a parachuting clown named Thunder Chicken, interest in the event would spread.
The new Twinsburg High School opened in January 1999, providing students with a new learning environment when they returned from their winter break. (The “Old School” still stands, though it’s been closed for years.) The park system also received some attention, with Mayor James Karabec securing a letter of intent for the property that would eventually become the three-thousand-acre Liberty Park. The dawning of a new century brought with it many changes: some wanted, some unavoidable. Longtime mainstays like Richner Hardware shuttered their stores in response to big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart eating away at their customer base. Chrysler, the financial backbone of Twinsburg and employer of many, closed during the summer of 2010. Economic ripples from its closure were inevitable, though the blow to the city’s tax revenues was mitigated in no small part by the foresight of former mayor Karabec, who had set in motion a plan to diversify the city’s income stream, knowing it relied too heavily on Chrysler. Mayor Katherine Procop would continue the work begun by Karabec, helping to secure new tenants and diversify city revenues. Among the new tenants operating out of the Cornerstone Business Park (site of the old Chrysler plant) are an Amazon fulfillment center and FedEx.
To say Aurora Shores had a love-hate relationship with its Canadian geese population would be something of an understatement. From its inception, the community was touted as a nature lover’s paradise where the amenities of the city and the beauty of the countryside met. A series of advertisements from the 1980s even enlisted the lowly goose as a means of drawing potential homeowners. By the 1990s, however, things had taken a turn and the residents retaliated against the honking harbingers of aggravation.
Semiannual goose roundups were inaugurated to curb the population of geese that naturally flock to the area, and the tradition continues today. In the spring, volunteers fueled with a hatred for flying fowl chase off nesting adults and violently shake the eggs, causing their contents to scramble. In the summer, “the young birds are too young to fly . . . and the adults are molting, which renders them incapable of flight,” said John Vieland, president of Aurora Shores when he was interviewed by the Plain Dealer. Vieland went on to explain, “The goal . . . is to get rid of as many of these dang geese and their dang geese dung as possible. And it is some job . . . These things, they defecate every three to four minutes. It’s everywhere.” (Plain Dealer)
While Canadian geese are protected under state wildlife laws as well as the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, this does not prevent the use of “non-lethal scare and hazing tactics,” according to the Ohio Division of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.
The most terrifying establishment in Twinsburg is the Taco Bell located at 8906 Darrow Road, and not just because of the addictive qualities of its delicious dietary feasts: at least three ghosts have allegedly been sighted at this fast-food eatery—a woodsman, a military veteran, and a young girl in a white gown. There is also a fourth ghost, a teenage boy decked out in a vintage Taco Bell uniform, that has allegedly been witnessed helping living employees with their daily duties. Most of the reported sightings have been by employees, who claimed the apparitions appeared in the hallways and back area. The restaurant has been featured in an article published by the Huffington Post about the ten weirdest places that are haunted by ghostly specters.
Why do these poor, wretched poltergeists haunt the local chapter of the fast-food franchise? No one may ever know. We were unable to interview any current employees for this article due to corporate regulations, but we did visit the locale on several occasions in hopes of catching a glimpse of the purported ghosts, sadly to no avail.
An outdoor oasis free from the hustle and bustle of city life, Aurora Shores was developed by builder Philip H. English. The press was abuzz with plans for the Shores, marketed as a playground for the middle class, with the Aurora Planning and Zoning Commission approving the construction of a boating marina, boathouse, and multistory observation tower that would provide an elevated view of the lake. Home construction in Aurora Shores began near the end of 1971; the lake’s 580 acres would be open to sunbathers, boaters, and bass fishing. After a day in the sun and sand, residents could retire to their abodes, which fell into four unique styles: the Bahamian, the Captain’s House, the Sunship, and the Commodore. Pricing in 1971 ranged from $22,500 to $52,000—which, in 2016, would be nearly $134,000 to $309,000.
Interest in Aurora Shores continued, and four years after construction began, a new subdivision was ready to welcome potential home buyers. The expansion, known as Pebble Beach Cove, included sixty-three additional units and two miles of pedestrian walkways, with plans for a second community beach. A great deal of effort and energy was expended to maintain the appearance of being a quaint community. Historically, commerce has been absent from Aurora Shores, with residents traveling a few miles to purchase even the most trivial of items.
The little community on the lake experienced some legal trouble in 1997, when confusion over ownership of the Aurora Lake came into question. In 1982, the Broadview Savings Bank of Independence, Ohio, agreed to transfer ownership of the lake to the Aurora Shores Homeowners Association at the end of December 2000. During the intervening years, the bank fell into bankruptcy, and its assets were sold off. It would take some legal wrangling to clear up the tangled web left behind.
Today, the lakeside locale straddles the borders of Aurora and Reminderville and has blossomed to include 887 homes, as well as pools, tennis courts, and a lake that, on more than one occasion, has yielded trophy-winning fishing.
One of the most endearing characters in the history of the three communities is the beloved safety clown Jocko. For years, Police Officer Joe Jasany reprised the role of Jocko every spring, teaching schoolchildren and toddlers all the intricacies of bicycle safety.
Jasany first decided to don the clown outfit while his son was recuperating in the Lorain Community Hospital’s intensive care unit in 1971. Dressed in clown regalia he entertained and cheered all the sick children in the intensive care unit. Initially, the moniker for Jasany’s alter ego was “Jo Jo,” but it was former Twinsburg police chief Donald Prange who finally dubbed him “Jocko.”
Over the years, Jocko performed on numerous occasions at the WKYC Blue CrossBlue Shield Health Fair and won a statewide Governor’s Award for Juvenile Programs in 1978.
One of the staples for summer fun in Northeast Ohio near the midpoint of the twentieth century was Lake Plata. Located off Chamberlin Road, not far from the Chrysler plant, the water park was the ideal and idyllic setting for a tranquil summer day’s swim or simply to sunbathe. Lake Plata was utilized for activities as diverse as a fish fry held by the Fraternal Order of Police to swimming lessons for little tykes.
Lake Plata was a source of fun and frivolity for most, but a number people met their demise while swimming in the seemingly safe waters, briefly overshadowing the festivity on innumerable occasions.
One of the most interesting and harrowing events that took place at Lake Plata was the murder of Cleveland financial promoter Mervin Gold. Mr. Gold’s bullet-riddled body was found in the trunk of a car five miles from where Twinsburg residents had heard gunfire at Lake Plata. He had been shot, strangled, and wrapped in a blanket. This was possibly a mob hit, as Gold had purportedly engaged in a heated phone conversation with notorious Cleveland mobster Shondor Birns shortly before his death.
The property was initially owned by Oscar and Helen Cisar, who in turn deeded it to the Plata family. The popular recreational destination stayed in the possession of the Plata family until 1980, when Sylvester Plata was unable to make his mortgage payments and the sixty-five-acre property fell into receivership. Summit County judge Daniel Quillin handled the sale and advertised a minimum bid of $500,000.
As early as 1972 the City of Twinsburg paid $4,000 for an appraisal of Lake Plata in hopes of purchasing the property for the Parks and Recreation Department. When the recreational resource fell into receivership in 1980 the majority of Twinsburg City Council wanted to purchase the land, but Mayor Perici was against acquisition due to numerous unanswered questions. Twinsburg bid $515,000 ($250,000 immediately and $265,000 before January 31, 1981), but Miklos Janosi of Cleveland, part owner of Lake Plata, outbid them by $5,000.
Today Lake Plata remains, but it is no longer a recreational destination. The surrounding land has been redeveloped into a residential neighborhood.
One of the nearly forgotten events of Twinsburg’s past is the annual Horse Show. First staged in 1957, the show was conceived as a means for the Twinsburg High School Boosters to raise $2000 needed to purchase new uniforms for the football team. Co-sponsored by the Boosters and the local Saddle Club, the show was held at Curry Farm on Route 82, west of the Chrysler Plant. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the first show featured over one hundred and fifty horses from three states and “scores” of riders.
Ultimately, the venture proved unprofitable and was short-lived, with the final show being held on September 5, 1960 (Labor Day) at the Curry farm location. There were twenty classes in the final Central Ohio Saddle Club Association event. Ann Stueber served as the judge and Shirley Nowak was the steward.