Who would ever argue against the characterization of Ottawa in Putnam County as a stable community, established, historic, filled with hard-working, predominantly blue-collar inhabitants?
Though the “mighty” Blanchard River runs through this humble homestead, it has a deep sense of being rock-solid. Experts in the study of demographics would probably determine a population that hasn’t fluctuated all that much. After all, somebody had to have coined the phrase, “Some things never change,” right?
Case in point, the likes of Gustwiller’s Clothing, Beckman Jewelry, Heringhaus Furniture, Warren Printing and the Schnipke Inn, indispensable downtown businesses dotting Main Street. They don’t appear to be going anywhere, and with them, the VFW, Legion, the Eagles and Optimists!
Mind you, I’m no historian by any means, even though Ottawa has been my place of residence for nearly three decades, having arrived the summer of 1991. Rest assured however, at times to my dismay, I will never be a native to this territory, especially since I was born in Chicago and my wife of almost 39 years, Linda Rae, was born in St. Louis.
This is further evidenced by one listing of “Pollitz” in the ever-dwindling Ottawa and Putnam County phone book. Coupled with the knowledge that our four children live scattered about Ohio, nobody would protest the accusation, “You ain’t from here originally, are you?”
Still the same, surpassing 25 years on Parklane Drive in Ottawa qualifies me to take notice of a few alterations to this humble “stomping ground” slowly approaching her 200-year anniversary. I may not be privy to many of the details of all the days gone by, but it doesn’t take an expert to notice some of the distinct changes in the landscape.
Most assuredly the departure of the major employer in the county, LG Philips Displays Company, in 2002 and the arrival of the “perfect storm” and the 100-year-flood of the Blanchard River in 2007 would both give traction to a multitude of modifications. Our proximity to both, living across the street from the factory and having a few feet of water in our walkout basement, is to be duly noted.
It’s no given that our children will all move away, even as many who do, in due time, find their way back home. Certainly many have had to say goodbye to the passing of a beloved family member as days and years are put behind.
And so it was that some early retirements were forced upon a number of dedicated workers. For others, it meant searching for new employment wherever possible in town but mostly out of town and a longer commute. More than a few homes and even businesses were renovated, raised up or razed, abandoned, sold, vacated and even replaced with some additional grass seed, fertilizer and maybe a community garden, playground or swing-set.
The two score and five years have witnessed the immovables of a courthouse, post office, parks and village and police department offices. Countless residents, businesses, organizations and more find little or no cause to change their address.
Yet a brief drive in and around town would reveal an astounding metamorphosis. The fine nursing care of Calvary Manor and Putnam Acres have merged into the grand Meadows of Ottawa along the newly constructed northern “beltway.” A collection of agencies now occupy the old manor house.
Rite Aid and the Union Bank have “risen” to the occasion, while Burger King laid so low it can’t be found anymore.
Videos are not to be rented from a store but rather a small Red Box in the entrance of Walmart. Pizza joints are like a checkers game, moving all over the board. A few downtown storefronts continue to be an almost revolving door of varying business opportunities.
You can’t get into the county courthouse from the main entrance any longer, but the now-monitored side entrance works just as well in locating the halls of justice. Out with the old jail house and even further out with the new one.
A gas station has morphed into a drive-through Party Mart and Taco Bell. Tony’s is always busy most of the year and whenever the doors are unlocked. They’re a lock!
A car dealership is now The Council on Aging, a Family Dollar Store is just an empty building. The local McDonald’s is expanded and playful.
Ottawa-Glandorf High School has been wonderfully renovated, and the elementary schools are brand spanking new! Croy’s Mowing stayed in town and moved further into town, taking over the old county library building. All that remains of the Fourth Street Ottawa Elementary School is the long-standing Fourth Street Gym.
We could go on and on indefinitely, or simply stay put! They’re nearly infinite in scope, but we all have limitations, especially me. One final note: The years have made way for one more new thing: A new Lutheran Church building just east of town.
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org