Each time I’m headed east on Market and caught by the light at Central, my eyes are drawn to the faded paint on the bricks of the building that now houses Carpenters Local Union 372. The painted letters speak from a Lima so very long ago. Still clearly visible, the letters say, “Weixelbahm Bros. Co., The Holiday House, Post Cards, Novelties, Specialty Advertising.”
At one time, when postcards were so very important, the company once occupying that building produced cards that became a part of the historical fabric of many other communities. Take the postcard of the Washington County Courthouse in Salem, Indiana, one of a series of postcards of Salem’s sites, with each postcard carrying the Weixelbaum Bothers Co. of Lima, Ohio, designation. The postcard can be viewed on the website for Knadle Family Postcards.
Another Weixelbaum-produced card viewable on the website bears a post mark of April 25, 1912, at 8:00 am, to put it in perspective, ten days after the RMS Titanic sank. It was a postcard someone sent as a greeting from Hillsboro, Wisconsin, with the verse, “Well, well, Yell like Well/This town is some swell/Come right over and yell, yell, yell.”
And, as quaint as that postcard’s language is, the fact that the sign on the bricks for Weixelbaum in downtown Lima is still visible, for me, matches that quaintness and embodies our city’s yesteryears. I think such a large part of the character of any city depends on the efforts to preserve its buildings.
I think about that also when I drive past the Ohio Theatre on North Street. While now a nightclub, one that owners Michael and Kelly Saddler hope will provide entertainment for all ages, I don’t think about its current use as much as the fact that I’m thankful the building is still functional, thanks to the Saddlers, and still there for me to see and remember childhood Saturday afternoon visits to the movies that the Ohio once showed.
My, didn’t I yearn in 1959 as an 8-year-old to command a chariot the way Charlton Heston did in “Ben-Hur.” And, my, in 1962, did I ever jump while watching “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” when Jane served her sister, Blanche, that rat under a serving dish lid for lunch!
Of course, our buildings here in our country can’t match the antiquitous structures throughout Europe. As an inveterate traveler, I’ve been so fortunate to be able to see several.
Given its 2,600 years of history, Rome has preserved so many, such as the Pantheon, which has stood since 25 BC, with its tallest un-reinforced dome in the world which culminates with an opening called an oculus, and the Colosseum, erected in 69 AD and still hosting tourists, which just boggles my mind!
In Prague, the Cathedral of St. Vitas, noted for its being the final resting place of that really good king, Wenceslas, still stands, much as it has since the 10th century. And, in London, Westminster Abbey, which I saw a month before the royal nuptials of Prince William and Kate, remains not far from the River Thames, as it has since its completion in 1090. Further down the Thames, not far from its banks, still stands the Tower of London, which, since the 11th century, has been at different times a castle, a palace, a prison and, what I saw 2011, a museum.
Yes, the old buildings have always fascinated me, and I thought about that again not long ago when I was talking to Kent Fultz, the owner of a first-rate bicycle shop, Crankers. Kent recently relocated his shop from Lima’s north end to the downtown area when he purchased the old building on the corner of Wayne and Main.
While working on his “new” building, Kent told me he found several items that spoke of the building’s antiquity, such as some old-time medicine bottles in the sub-floor, whispers of a time back when the building housed a pharmacy. Also on the upper floor while checking out some venting issues, he found a stack of old programs, ones carrying the dates, Thursday and Friday, April 17 and 18, 1890, with the title, “Seventh Meeting of the Undertakers and Funeral Directors of the Northwestern District of Ohio.” On the program’s cover, it also identified the building’s upper floor use as the German Society Hall, which gladly hosted all those undertakers as they discussed such serious topics as the art of embalming.
While many have heard that age-old wish, “If these walls could talk,” they often do, at least to those who listen closely enough to what they have to say. And, for Kent Fultz, who hears those whispering walls each day he’s in his shop, and for me, whenever I drive by the Ohio Theatre or am stopped by that traffic light on Market and Central, or stop in to shout a spell with Kent, I can hear those whispers as well.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.