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Celebrations galore as communities celebrate birthdays

By Henry Timman • Jul 5, 2019 at 12:00 PM

Two years ago at this time, the city of Norwalk was busy celebrating its 200th birthday. The original village of Norwalk was settled in 1917 by Platt and Sally de Forest Benedict and their children. There always has been indecision concerning what year to celebrate what. The township of Norwalk, a 25-square-mile tract of land surrounding the city of Norwalk, was first settled in 1809 and a huge celebration in 1909 honored both the township and the city.

Many of us recall the 1959 sesquicentennial of Norwalk Township put on in the city. Then in 1967 a homemade party marked the 150th birthday of just the city. What I’m headed for are the stories of at least two other community birthday parties held in our community.

The year of 1930 held a double attraction. It was the 100th birthday of the paper you’re reading, known in 1930 as the Norwalk Reflector-Herald. It had been founded in 1830 as the Huron (County) Reflector and was first issued on Feb. 2 of that year. The name was changed to Norwalk Reflector in 1853 to end ongoing confusion with Huron, Ohio.

For reasons not clear to me, it was decided to mark the newspaper centennial in November instead of February, and to add to that celebration the 121st birthday of the settlement of Norwalk Township. I have a theory that this was held in early November of 1930 to draw people uptown to check out the retail stores since Christmas was not far away.

Celebrating took place on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a banquet Friday night. A major display was in the Eri Keeler house at 15 Whittlesey Ave. This house was built in 1828, and to honor the 1930 occasion, the local chapter of the Daughters of American Colonists refurbished the house and furnished it with a wonderful collection of American antiques and fabrics. The accompanying photo was take during the “birthday party.”

The Reflector-Herald published a special edition, of course, totaling 56 pages. It was the largest paper ever issued in Norwalk and all of the composition and printing was done in the local office.

Everyone had such a good time in 1930 that it was decided to do it all again in 1934 to mark the 125th birthday of Norwalk Township. This was an eight-day party starting on Oct. 6 with a return of the popular Main Street Museum in the store windows. There were the usual special programs, a grand parade and a banquet. Ohio’s Governor, George White, even made a visit one day.

The Norwalk Garden Club sponsored the headquarters in the former Armory on West Monroe Street, and all of the merchants participated in the party. We must remember that 1934 was one of the years of the Great Depression, and every retailer wanted people uptown looking in their store windows. It was estimated that 50,000 people were in Norwalk over those eight days. Eight of the outstanding yards and gardens in the city also were opened to the public, and according to the Reflector-Herald, the celebration was greatly enjoyed by everyone.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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