Wednesday, September 20, 2017

S.S. Medina Victory

Medina's World War II War Bond Headquarters
Medina County contributed so much to the war effort during World War II. The newspapers of the time are filled with information on tire drives, paper drives, metal drives. The War Bond building where Medinians donated more that their fair share, still stands, having been moved to a lot to the west of the Medina Hospital.

The young men and women of Medina enlisted to fight the country's enemies, whether it was behind a cannon, a rifle, a medical mask or a typewriter.

Everyone had a Victory Garden and the library had a Victory drive in order for Medina's citizens to donate books to be sent overseas.

And Medina had a United States Victory Class Ship named after it.


The S.S. Victory Medina was built toward the end of World War II and was launched on 10 February 1945.

What is a Victory Ship?

According to Wikipedia, Victory Ships were:

"The Victory ship was a class of cargo ship produced in large numbers by North American shipyards during World War II to replace losses caused by German submarines." They were larger and faster than the previously built Liberty ships.

A Victory Class Cargo ship

A cross section view showing the layout of the ship.

The first 33 of the Victory ships were named for members of the United Nations. The other 500 ships were named after U.S. towns and cities, and colleges and universities. Each state would only have two town names used. The towns had to represent the historic nature of the area. The S.S. Bucyrus Victory, the first Ohio ship to be named after an Ohio town, was launched in January 1945.

How did little ol' Medina get a ship named after it?

In early 1944, local businessman, Frank E. Judkins, was on a business trip out west and met up with Mr. John Carmody of the U.S. Maritime Commission. After chatting awhile and extolling the virtues of his hometown, Mr. Judkins asked how to get a ship named after "Medina". He was told to submit a petition. When he arrived back in Medina, he obtained the signatures of nearly 200 Medina Legion members, business men, and various civic club members. He submitted the request in April.

Weeks and months went by with no word. Judkins kept the pressure on with multiple letters inquiring the status of the request. Finally, in December of 1944, the Medina Chamber of Commerce received notification that a Victory Ship was being built at the Permante shipyards in Richmond California that would be named the "SS Medina Victory." It was to be launched on February 7, 1945. Frank was invited to the launch, but when it was delayed he was unable to attend.

Medina Gazette 22 Dec 1944, page 1
The Maritime Commission requested that the city send a woman the help launch the ship.

As the city would have to pay her expenses to travel to California, the Chamber decided to request that Mrs. Chaffee do the honors. Mrs. Chaffee's mother, Mrs. W.S. Thorpe, was still living in Medina. Mrs. Chaffee had accompanied her husband, Navy Lieutenant Almerin Chaffee when he was stationed to Oakland, California. So she was very near the Redmond shipyards.

Medina Gazette  26 December 1944, page 1.

On February 10, 1945, the S.S. Medina Victory was launched.

Mrs. Chaffee receiving a bouquet from flower girl,
Janet Eggleston
Scrapbook of Launch of S.S. Medina Victory

Mrs. Chaffee christening the S.S. Medina
Scrapbook of Launch of S.S. Medina Victory

The S.S. Medina going down the slipway
Scrapbook of Launch of S.S. Medina Victory

The S.S. Medina Victory is launched!
Scrapbook of Launch of S.S. Medina Victory

Her first voyage took her from San Pedro California, to Melbourne, Australia, to Calcutta, India, Ceylon, Mozambique, Durban and then to Philadelphia, PA. After this one voyage as a cargo ship, the War Shipping Administration decided to convert her to a troop transport ship.

Again from Wikipedia:

"Many Victory ships were converted to troopships to bring US soldiers home at the end of World War II. A total of 97 Victory ships were converted to carry up to 1,600 soldiers. To convert the ships the cargo hold were converted to bunk beds and hammocks stacked three high. Mess halls and exercise places were also added."

When this conversion was complete, the S.S. Medina Victory was loaned to the British. She sailed from New York in October 1945 for the Mediterranean where she ferried troops between  the Middle East and Toulon, France.

In 1948, the ship was purchased by the Donaldson Line and was turned into a passenger/freighter ship and was renamed the Laurentia. The ship was in operation until 1966 and was scrapped in '67.

S.S. Laurentia, previously named the S.S. Medina Victory

Do not confuse the S.S. Medina Victory with the S.S. Medina, a freighter built in 1914 and named for the river in Texas. That ship was once part of the U.S. Coast Guard, but spent most of her time as a cruise liner. At one time, she was a floating book shop and now is being converted into a luxury hotel.
S.S. Medina, built in 1914.


The Atlantic Liners 1925-70 by Frederick Emmons
Donaldson Line Laurentia
National Park Service
Scrapbook of the launch of the S.S. Medina, donated to the Medina Library by Franz Zrilich, 1994.
Western Ocean Passenger Lines and Liners 1934-1969 by Commander C.R. Vernon Gibbs.
Wikipedia S.S. Bucyrus
Wikipedia Medina/Doulos Phos
Wikipedia Victory Ships
2 page letter detailing the application process, authenticated by F.E. Judkins.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Genealogy Lock-In

On Friday, September 22, the Medina Library will be offering its 18th Genealogy Lock-In.

The fun begins at 6:30 and lasts until 10:30 p.m.

The evening features two learning opportunities.

First, John Sabol will be exposing all the mistakes that beginner genealogists make. He'll explain how to avoid these common errors!

John's session will run from 7-8 p.m.

Next, I will be covering all the strengths and weaknesses of U.S. censuses. Learn how to make the most of these incredible records!

The Census session will run from 9-10 p.m.
Fill up on your favorite caffeine beverage!

Light refreshments will be available so we can all keep our energy levels up!

The Library computers and databases will be available for anyone who wishes to search for their relatives with help from Library staff and members of the Medina County Genealogical Society.

Space is limited, so sign up HERE. to reserve your spot.

Did I mention  DOOR PRIZES?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Who was Sidney Fenn?

All Medina City residents know that there is a school named after Sidney M. Fenn on West Union street.

If you have walked the halls of the school, you may have noticed his portrait and the plaque that recognizes his contributions to education in Medina.

Any articles or paragraphs on Sidney Fenn always include a long, long list of all of his accomplishments:

  • World War I Veteran
  • Charter member/commander of the American Legion Post.
  • Chairman/teacher of Americanization classes for the American Legion Post.
  • Chairman of the Medina Memorial Day Parade for many years.
  • 32nd Degree Mason
  • Kiwanis Club member
  • Chairman of the Service Union for the Salvation Army.
  • Active in the United Church of Christ Congregational and was a Sunday school teacher.
  • Lifetime member of the Medina YMCA
  • Public Relations Director for United Fund
  • First president of the Medina county Retired Teacher's Association.
But any person is so much more than their accomplishments.

From the 1955 Medina High School Yearbook.
Courtesy of Rick Nowak.

Sidney Fenn was born in Medina County on 29 February 1892.  This is a portrait of him taken at a very young age. 

Yes. It was the custom to dress both boys and girls in long dresses and not cut their hair until they were old enough for the boys to graduate to pants.

In 1909, he attended the YMCA States Boys Conference.

After graduating from Medina High School in 1912, Sidney went to Ohio State University, graduating in 1916 with a degree in Agriculture. 

His first teaching job after graduation was at the Kingman Schools in Clinton County, Ohio.

21 February 1919, p. 7 Medina Sentinel

1918, Sidney joined the Army and served as a Corporal during World War I. This February 1919 Medina Sentinel article states that he had been assigned to Company L of the 329th and he had been training soldiers for the front of the war at the time of his discharge.

By 1920, Sidney is back living with his parents on North Court Street and he is listed as a salesman for a drug store.

In 1921, there is a Sidney M. Fenn listed in the Cleveland City Directory as a teller at the Garfield Savings Bank. While it is not certain that he is the same Sidney Fenn, no other Sidney Fenn appears in Ohio for the 1920 or 1930 censuses.

In 1922, he married Helen D. Miller in Wood County, Ohio. His occupation was "clothier" and hers was "musician".

In 1923 he was first hired as a teacher for the Medina Schools. By 1929, he had become a principal. He was principal of the High School for 18 years.

1927 Medina High School Yearbook
By 1937, Sidney is divorced from Helen, and he remarried. His second wife was Doris E. Camp.

In 1937, he earned his Master's Degree in Administration from Ohio State University. In 1947, the Superintendent's job became available suddenly and Sidney stepped into the void. He held that position until 1961, when he retired.

Sidney had three sons: Craig, Raymond and Robert. Tragically, Doris died in 1954. Sidney remarried to Mary Lou Strock, a music teacher at the high school.

1948 Medina High School Yearbook

Sidney's son, Robert Fenn, who also served as Superintendent of Medina Schools from 1980-1990, remembers this about his father (from The Story of Medina's Schools 1817-2017 by Gloria Brown):
      "I remember playing in front of the fireplace in his office. He sang a lot and he had a great sense of humor." After his mother died, Robert recalls, "He'd come home, put on an apron and make me supper. And he made oatmeal for my breakfast every morning."

About Sidney's dedication to the community and his leadership of the Salvation Army in Medina, Bob Fenn remembers, "People would come to the door, needing a place to stay or a meal. The man at the nearby filling station would send people to our house, telling them 'If you need help, go see Sid Fenn.' My father would always help them out."  

Bob Hyde, creator of the web site also remembers "Sid" Fenn. Bob remembers the principal as being "straight forward, no-nonsense administrator and always, very fair. After a "talking to" Mr. Fenn would always say, "Don't do it again. Now go next door and see Mr. Claggett." Mr. Claggett doled out the punishment.

Local resident, Macy Hallock, was a student at the Medina High School, while Sidney was principal. He remembers Sidney fondly and with a smile in his voice recalls, "He was very likable, affable, with a good sense of humor. He was upright. Everyone liked him and he took an interest in everyone."  Macy also shared this incident:
     "One day I was called into the principal's office, and I had no idea why. Sidney set me down and said, "We have no more to teach you here. We want to send you to college early. The paperwork is all signed and ready for you to go."  Unknown to young Macy, Sidney Fenn and his father had discussed his future and didn't want him getting drafted into the war. So they had arranged for Macy to skip his final year of high school and go straight into college. And between them, they had decided that Sidney Fenn would be the one to tell him. Macy Hallock wasn't even 16 years old at the time.

So, who was Sidney Fenn? A pillar of the community? Yes. A good father? Yes. An all-around really nice guy? YES!

And an good sport?

Sidney Fenn commiserating with fellow birthday sharer about
only having a birthday every four years, because they were
born on 29 February. Medina County Gazette, 28 Feb 1956, p.1

I'd say so, wouldn't you?

History of Medina County (1948)
Historical Highlights of Medina (1966)
The Story of Medina's Schools 1817-2017
Medina High School Yearbooks, 1927, 1948, 1955
Medina County Gazette
     21 Feb 1919, p. 7
     28 Feb 1956, p. 1

For Enquiring Minds:

Craig Fenn, Sidney's oldest son, did serve in the Army during World War II. In April of 1945, his parents received news that he was Missing In Action (MIA). Later that month, they learned that he had been taken a prisoner of war. And just a week after that, he was released from the POW camp and was reunited with his troops. 

Medina Gazette 1 May 1945, page 1.
Medina Gazette  8 May 1945

But better than that was the story he told when he got home...

Medina Gazette  22 May 1945, page 1

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


The Medina Library will be hosting 3 separate genealogy and local history events this fall.

First will be the Genealogy Lock-in on Friday, September 22. For those who have never been to a Lock-In, it is an after-hours event where we explore methods of genealogical research. Members of the Medina County Genealogical Society and Library staff members are also on hand to help you with your research. Light refreshments and DOOR PRIZES are provided. The Lock-In runs from 6:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.

John Sabol 

John Sabol, author and  a North East Ohio expert on eastern European genealogy, will be discussing how to Untangle Your Family Roots.

Learn about the 1940 and other U.S. Census
records at the Genealogy Lock-In on 22 September.
Later that evening,  I will be offering a session on how to get the most out of searching U.S. Census Records.

You can sign up for the Lock-In at this link.  Remember, the Lock-in is on 22 September.

Then on 21 October, I will be teaching a class on Ancestry Library Edition in the Library's Computer Lab. Seating for this class is limited so sign up early. Learn how to optimize your searches on the library subscription version of the most popular genealogy database ANCESTRY.

On 31 October, join Lisa Rienerth to learn how to research your home's history and previous owners and find out Who is Haunting Your House? Local author, Michelle Belanger, will be on hand to discuss paranormal activity in your home.

Sign up for these events at this link.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Main Street U.S.A.

Last week, the Gazette ran an article on the upcoming Medina Bicentennial that talks about a movie made in Medina during World War II.  Bicentennial Article

Every couple of years, the Medina Library receives a request for "Hometown U.S.A., you know, the movie that was made back in the 40's."

The movie depicts a fictional lawyer writing a letter to a nephew serving overseas in World War II. The lawyer describes a typical day in Medina and manages to cover all the local industries, shops and some well-known Medina characters, all to encourage the unnamed nephew to settle in Medina when he returns from the war. Pathfinder Magazine  sponsored the movie and it was produced by Pathe Studios.

And yes, the Medina Library has that movie. But the DVD case, and the movie title, as seen below, is Main St. U.S.A.

Main St. U.S.A.  or is it Hometown, U.S.A.

It premiered in Medina on April 10-11, 1945 at the old Medina Theater that was just recently demolished.

And here is were the confusion comes in.

Because the newspaper ads printed at that time and even the actor/lawyer in the film refers to "Hometown, U.S.A."

This promo appeared in the April 6, 1945 Medina Gazette.
This article appeared in the April 10th Medina Gazette, 
the day of the opening. It also refers to the movie as
"Hometown, U.S.A."

Even the marque at the theater entrance calls it "Hometown, U.S.A."

Photo taken from Bob Hyde's web site:
BUT, the opening credits from the movie itself, as shown in the first image above, was "Main St. U.S.A."

Did the movie going public of Medina feel confused or deceived by the title switch? Certainly such a momentous event would be chronicled in the local papers!  Except....

President Roosevelt died the very next day. The Gazette has always been a newspaper with
strong Republican leanings, so this graphic was all that appeared in their pages.
The very next day, President Roosevelt died.

So a big follow up to the premiere did not show up in either The Gazette or The Sentinel.

Bob Hyde, a Medina native, avid historian, and creator of the Medina History web site Medina Square, was just a youngster and remembers everyone was very excited by the movie. And he remembers it was called "Hometown, U.S.A.".

But why the confusion? Why did everyone call it, and remember it as "Hometown, U.S.A" when it is titled and labeled, "Main Street USA"?

World War II, though winding down in Europe, was still very much in the local papers.

The Army was still recruiting women for the
Women's Army Corps

So there wasn't a lot of local coverage after the movie premiered.

A June 5th Medina Gazette article reported that 500 booklets of "familiar" Medina scenes titled "Hometown, U.S.A."  were printed and available from the Medina Chamber of Commerce. Has anyone ever seen a copy of that brochure?

To confuse matters even further, in 1990, the Medina Area Chamber of Commerce produced an 11 minute video that contained a lot of boosterisms for Medina. If you want a laugh, view it just to see the fluffy hairstyles and fashions of the time. And it was called "America's Home Town, Medina, Ohio".

1990's "America's Home Town" movie produced by the Medina Area Chamber of Commerce

If anyone has any answers to this puzzle, please share your information, because ---



Tom Hilberg of the Medina County Historical Society brought in a copy of the brochure that was released after the movie. And look what it is titled!!

Also, on Facebook, Jay Summers had this comment to add:
Jay Summers I'd surmise the confusion comes from the Marketing Campaign and Editorial Choices didn't match up. Which is fairly typical in Film Production. The Marketing and Advertising folks don't talk w/ the Producers & Editors. Quite often titles are changed prior to release. I'd guess, the Producers in California and Marketers in Ohio, didn't talk. Had planned on "Hometown USA", marketed it as such, then the Producers changed the title to utilize it elsewhere. Most films go through several title changes before release.

LikeShow more reactions · Reply · 2 · August 23 at 11:47am

Thanks for the insight into film marketing, Jay!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

School Days

School is starting up again in Medina in just a few short weeks. Now is a good time for a look back at some of the old school buildings of Medina County...

These post cards were given to the Medina Library by Jean Cooper, a long-time teacher in the Medina City Schools.

The Lincoln High School, built in 1872. It used to sit where Broadway and Smith Roads meet in Medina.
The building was torn down circa 1950 to make way for an expansion of the Garfield school.

This post card is also identified as the High School, but the door and windows do not match.
This is most likely the Disciple Church. Perhaps it is the High School in the background?
The first "primary" school in Medina City. It stood where the County Administration Building now stands.

The Garfield School was built in 1912. . It is now an elementary school. The old High School Building can be seen in the background.

Built in 1924 to replace the old high school, this building now serves as the Medina County Administration Building.

Once the new high school was built in 1924, the old Lincoln High School then housed the primary grades and the Garfield School held the "upper grades" perhaps what we would call the middle school grades?

Another view of the school that is now the Administration Building. 

The next new high school built for Medina students was the current Claggett Middle School Building. It opened in 1956.

Now Claggett Middle School, this building opened in 1956 as the new Medina High School.

An early Wadsworth High School

Hopefully you have enjoyed this tour of old Medina school buildings.

If you would like more information, please consult these resources:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sophia Huntington Parker - Pythian Sisters Home

Last month the Pythian Sisters home was demolished. 

Demolition of the former Pythian Sisters Home on North Huntington.
Medina County Gazette 6 July 2017.

The building existed for over 100 years. Below is a history.

Sophia Huntington Parker

As you can see from her photo, Sophia Huntington Parker was a formidable woman.

She was born around 1840, daughter of Peter HUNTINGTON (1808-1889) and Jane (SIMMONS) HUNTINGTON (1809-1878). She was one of five siblings:
  • Jane 1836-1869
  • Levi 1838-1838
  • Sophia 1840-1903
  • Lucretia 1844-1872
  • Eliza M. 1847-1874

Otis Thompson 1867-1898
Medina Gazette 8 Sep. 1898 p. 4.
You will notice from the above list, that by the time Sophia's mother died in 1878, Sophia was the only survivor of her parent's children. Not only did Sophia take over the care of the house and her father, she became the mother to her sister Jane's two boys, Edward Thompson (1863-1886) and Otis Thompson (1867-1898).                                                                                          Jane had married P.H. Thompson, who was an itinerant optometrist. Edward died at the ate of 24 in the Newburg Hospital outside of Cleveland. Otis volunteered to serve in the Army during the Spanish American War. He survived Cuba, only to die of malaria and dysentery upon his return at Long Island, New York.

Sophia's father, Peter,  had bought 96 acres of farmland on the northwest edge of the city of Medina in 1834. Huntington Street is undoubtedly named after the family and the farm.

Sophia married William Parker when she was 44 years old, a spinster according to the times. I wonder if it was a contentious marriage because in her father's will, he gave her the use and income of his estate, "as long as she remained the wife of William Parker or lives with him as his wife, but if she should cease to live with him as his wife or he should decease before she does then I give her said estate absolutely and unconditionally."

Medina County Ohio Wills, Court of Common Pleas, Vol G, 1887-1890, page 408.

Or perhaps Peter just didn't want William Parker to profit from his marriage to Sophia. In any case, William Parker died in 1899.

When Sophia died in December of 1903, it was discovered that her own will was quite long and detailed, covering 17 pages of "closely written pages." The newspaper claimed that she would have made a fine lawyer. It's recap of her will covered six full columns! Item 8 provided for the organization of an "Old Ladies' Home" which would be names "The Sophia Huntington Parker Home."

Medina Sentinel 25 December 1903,page 1.
The time limit almost ran out on the proviso of the will, but eventually the Pythian Sisters stepped in and organized the home.

In 1914, the cornerstone was laid.

And in 1918, they held the grand opening with over 2000 people coming for the festivities and to gawk.

It was quite the show place and citizens of Medina would bring out-of-town visitors by just to look at the grand building.

Here, the home is featured on a post card

   The Pythian Sisters  held their annual meetings at the home for years.

Around 30 women made the home their home in their final years. As it was a Pythian Sisters home, the women were members of the group and would have to turn over all their worldly possessions to gain entrance. 

Originally, the surrounding farmland and cows made the home self-sustaining. Eventually, that stopped. Over the years, additions and improvements were made.

In 1978, the home was the first stop on Medina's Fall Foliage Tour.

Medina County Gazette 10 October 1978.

Eventually, the home also accepted elderly men within its walls.

I remember when library staff would offer programs at the home. 

The doors of the home closed permanently in 2000. 

In 2008, the building was auctioned off for $715,000. There was talk of offices going into the space but that never happened.  A church used the building for a few years. In 2011, Medina City Council debated buying it.  And in 2013 it was used in the filming of the horror movie Fear Clinic.

But that all came to an end this month when the walls came tumbling down.

      Lindsay Smith, Eric Rapenchuk, “Pythian Sisters,” Discover Medina, accessed July 20, 2017,
Historical Highlights of Medina
History of Medina County and Ohio
Medina County Gazette
Medina County Sentinel