Before the road was straightened there in the 1930s, that curve was just as dangerous as the improved road is now. One story I encountered in my research took place in 1927. A Fremont attorney with his wife and daughter and a client, were returning from Cleveland one night and as they reached Ohio 601 they met head on with an out of state driver who wasn’t at all familiar with the road. In the resulting collision the attorney’s client was thrown from the auto and killed.
The attorney’s auto was serviceable, so they put the victim’s body in the back seat and continued west toward home. He had called the sheriff and coroner and they were to meet in Norwalk, but the attorney didn’t spot them when he reached the courthouse and continued onward. No stop was made at the old hospital on West Main, and the body was left at a funeral home in Clyde, the victim’s home town. The funeral director detected some signs of life, but the man could not then be revived and was pronounced dead. A Grand Jury considered the facts, but no indictment was issued.
Two years before the 1928 tragedy, a really unusual crime was perpetrated at the 20/601 intersection. Howard Ordway of East Norwalk was driving east at night when he saw two trucks parked on the wrong side of the road with their lights dimmed. He was unable to avoid them and drove into the ditch, striking a fence. He was conscious but badly stunned and bruised.
Three or four men from the trucks crossed the road, but instead of helping Ordway they proceeded to rob the injured man. They took his watch and money, some blankets from the car, as well as all four tires and the spare. He begged them to take him to a doctor, but they just laughed at his plight and drove away.
Ordway managed to crawl to the roadside and an hour later an auto came by and stopped to help him. They took him home and medical treatment was called for, but there was no indication in the newspapers that the Bad Samaritans were located soon after, if ever.
The Gulf Inn is a most prominent landmark at Scram’s Corner. Land records corroborate that the original building was built or placed there in 1927 as a “gas station” to sell Gulf brand gasoline. In those days one was seldom out of sight of a gas station, especially on the main highways. These weren’t always the facilities we recall from 30 and more years ago with a bay or two for car servicing and repair. Instead, they sold gasoline and oil and perhaps had sandwiches and hot coffee for sale.
When the Gulf Inn was opened about 1927 it was not a bar, because Prohibition was the law in the United States until December of 1933. In August of 1932 the Gulf Inn was robbed by two bandits. They got away with about $30, which was a good haul for an afternoon’s work in 1932 at the start of the Great Depression. The newspaper report calls the facility the Gulf Refining Station.
Traffic problems continue at this intersection of U.S. 20 and Ohio 601, but we’ll hope for an early solution to abate the safety situation there.
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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.