A Personal History of Chagrin Falls
Robert E. Cathan, Class of 1933
March 15, 1997
Your interesting copy of the “Tiger Times” arrived some time ago and I decided to add a little history for a future copy- if interested. My father was fifty-seven years old when I was born- we had a generation gap in the family history. He could remember the soldiers coming home from the Civil War. Route 306 (Chillicothe Road) was put into use during the war. Soldiers were shipped by boat to the victory of Mentor, O. and sent to Chillicothe, O. – a distribution center for union troops. They seemed to know they could cut down Bainbridge Road to Chagrin Falls to the Saloons and back via Russell Road to resume their trip North on Chillicothe Road. Our great-great grandfather, Alanzo Carter, was the first settler in Cleveland. He came there with Moses Cleveland and his surveying crew. The rest of the team returned to Maine in 1779 but Manor Carter stayed and built a log cabin. Carter Road and the former Carter Hotel were named after him. After a few years, settlers were coming through so he built a log hotel to carter them.
The easiest source of meat to serve in the hotel was the elk. After a few years of hunting the elk disappeared from the vicinity. To supply the hotel with meat, our great grandmother (Betsy Carter) and great grandfather (Orrison Cathan) built a log cabin and barn in Chagrin Falls Township (approximately one third of a mile down river from the present Polo Field) as a headquarters to hunt elk and transport them to the Cleveland Hotel for a meat supply.
There is a “Cathan Street” on Whiskey Island at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River named after them. In his later years Orrison Cathan organized the Masonic Lodge in Chagrin Falls. He also built most of the gazebo in the triangle park from grapevines.
The farm was handed down to my father and I was born there in 1915. Cleveland’s wealthy families were settling in the valley in the 1920’s and in 1923 he sold the farm to Windsor White of the White Motor Co. We then moved to South Russell in 1921 and 1922 I spent my first and second grades in the same one-room school house at Shaker Blvd. and River Road that my father attended in 1863-1870. In 1923 it was annexed to the Orange school system. We spent two years at South Russell’s two-room schoolhouse. Mrs. Truman Hoxter taught the first four grades and Mr. Truman Hoxter taught fifth to eighth. In 1926, we were annexed into the Chagrin Falls school system. We were transported in a Model T Ford school bus driven by Harry Richardson who was also maintenance man for the school.
When we arrived, I was in the fifth grade at the Philomethian Street school. My teacher was Miss Cora Sanders. Our arrival was similar to putting a new chicken in the midst of an old flock- they all have to peck the new ones. We all huddled together at that big city school on Philomethian St. Miss Sanders, Miss Emily Collicott, Mrs. May Matthews, Miss Pugsley and the other teachers soon had us intermixed with the other children. Clarence Hunt, Davo Meilrath, Janet Shutts and Gordon Shutts were my classmates to come in from the country.
In our high school years at the Washington St. school, Mr. Michael and Mr. Sands were superintendents and Olga Hubay was secretary. Some of our teachers were: Miss Eleanor Nunvar, English, Mr. Paul Guiler, math and manual training, Dave Kearney, science, Miss Fena Lehti, French and Latin, Alice Neff, general science, Lum Schaal, chemistry and physics, Louis Sands, history, Ted Guerney, math and athletics, Miss Ames, English and Miss Keiser, home economics and girls gym.
Some of the outstanding memories to me- going to gym class in the Philomethian St. Auditorium- the locker room where some of the towels were there too long and became “over ripe.” Going back to class on a very cold winter day and having frozen hair when arriving at the high school building. The 1932 basketball game with Orange that wound up in a free-for-all. Players were fighting, spectators were on the floor fighting and Mr. Sands, Mr. Gurney and the Orange coach trying to quell the crowd. (I believe Chagrin won the championship that year.) A show was presented that year in the auditorium and Bill Murtaugh made a special ticket shelf. When one reached to pick up his ticket, the ticket seller spun a dynamo with his feet and sparks flew and you were shocked when you touched the shelf. It caused quite a stir., the HI-Y banquet and dance., the junior-senior banquet and dance. The mothers served the banquet in the cafeteria followed by a dance. I’ve always felt the junior-senior banquet wasn’t really fair. A girl who wasn’t asked to go by a boy was crushed and many of the boys couldn’t care less about going- many girls were left out. It was wonderful if you were asked but there should have been a better way.
We graduated in that auditorium to the tune of “The Spring Song.” Everyone happy to get his or her diploma and be on his way into life-only later to realize what a wonderful experience it was. I did the art work for the 1933 Zenith- that has lasted.
Many more memories are of the town itself. Mr. Robinson’s photo studio-smile, look at the camera, a flash and a puff of smoke and he came out from under the cover behind the camera. The silent movies at the Falls Theater with a girl playing the piano- writing on the bottom of the screen. At the intermission, Mr. Schleifingheimer (owner) getting a child from the audience to draw numbers to match the number on your ticket . Prizes included ham, bacon, sugar, live ducks and chickens and many other items- usually groceries. Later the Solether Family purchased the theater and Mrs. Solether was dear to us all with her candy shop.
On Bell Street was Greenaway’s grocery store lots of Penny Candy there.George Greenaway had the patience of a saint with school children. Another was John Short’s ice cream store at the bottom of Grove Hill where you were served a cone shaped piece of ice cream. The standard drug store at S.Main and Franklin St.- a popular student hang out. Joe Shoeman would spin the sodas down the wet marble counter and they would stop in the front of you. One Sunday I was farther down the counter and it was pieced with a joint in front of me. The chocolate soda hit the joint and tipped over on my new gray suit. There was also Smitty the cop, Dr. Steel, Dr. Cameron, Dr.Vernon Kenney, Dr. Curtis, Dr.Stem, Dr. Brown and Dr. Doty. Very few of us weren’t familiar with them. The years 1933, when forty-five of us graduated, has now disappeared into a misty past. The school has blossomed into grand proportions. We had a sixtieth class reunion in 1933 with eighteen present. We may attempt to have a sixty fifth.
Looking back it has been a marvelous experience. Both having attended and being an alumnus of Chagrin Falls Schools.
Robert E. Cathan
Class of 1933