Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It Started in Columbus: Lineup of Letters




James Romanis, a veteran of the 17th Infantry in Cuba, met with Francis Dubiel at Dubiel’s tailoring shop at 286 E. Main Street. The two, and eleven others started the American Veterans of Foreign Service here in Columbus in 1899.

In 1913 this organization and others united to form the VFW. They lobbied for benefits for veterans from the government. But the original idea came from Columbus, from Spanish American War and conflict in the Philippines veterans.

The VFW held a convention in Columbus about the same time, during a hot summer. Its delegates were so numerous they nearly overwhelmed the city.

Nine years earlier the United Mine Workers of America had held its launching session in a Main Street hall on the other side of Fifth Street. The impetus for the coal-miners’ union was hatched in New Straitsville. The UMW returned to Columbus in 1940 for their 50th anniversary convention. But the Balz Hall, its place of origin, no longer stood. Ceremonies were in the Columbus Auditorium, which later became Lazarus Annex.

The American Federation of Labor was invented here. Its first public meeting was held in another public hall in the Central Market area. It remains today as the front part of the AFL-CIO.

UCT and U-Drive-It began in Columbus. United Commercial Travelers have moved from their Park Street headquarters on Goodale Park, but they are still based here. U-Drive-It was a pioneer renter of autos and trucks.

Peruna had their headquarters here. The great tonic of Dr. Samuel B. Hartman put Columbus on the map. But he invented the world’s most famous patented medicine in his kettles in Fairborn, a Dayton suburb.

Another substance had its start here. Felix Jacobs, who had the Columbus Revolving Scraper Company, held many industrial patents. One of them was for Ready-Mix Concrete, though he named its inventor as Stephan Stepanian.

The soda fountain delight, the banana split, was invented in Columbus. We could call it the BS, for blood sugar, or the business it brought to Aunt Letty Lally at Foeller’s in 1904. At first the invention was called the “567” as that was the address of Foeller’s, 567 North High Street. She split a banana into a pickle dish and added the three requisite scoops of ice cream and then the syrups and whipped cream. No mention of when the cherry appeared.

At fairs in Franklin Park, the Shrum Ice Cream Company had men and boys peddling ice cream in individual portions. The Shrum family had its plant on Mt. Vernon Avenue east of Washington Avenue. The ice cream sellers were then calling the individual packages Hokey-Pokeys, but we know what they really were: the first “Yummy” men.

Christine Hayes

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