Off the Record May 3, 1950
May 3, 1950
The change in the name of the Wooster Board of Trade to the Wooster Chamber of Commerce brings back many memories to citizens who have been residents of the community over a long term of years. One time before this change, there was a movement on to change the name. An expert in civic problems spent some time here, but there was such a roar that the matter of a change in name was dropped like a hot potato. At that time, it was also advocated changing the membership fee from the old one dollar fee to five. This also caused a commotion. As I recollect it, Guy Richard was president of the Board of Trade at the time. As usual, everybody wanted to do the best he could for Wooster, but it was difficult to agree on what was best. One Sunday evening, there was a long meeting at the home of the late Ad Metz. Mr. Metz was one of the leaders of the faction who did not want such change. Finally, it was decided to have a sustaining fund, which could be used to secure land and factories of any other use for which such funds are used in securing industries. The membership fee was changed to five dollars, whether just at that time I am not too certain. There were many some well remembered citizens who were the directors of the first Board of Trade. For a long term of years Walter D. Foss, when the head of the Wooster Brush Company, The was president, Charles M. Gray was vice president, and Albert Dix was secretary. Other names prominent in the early organization were the older John McSweeney, John M. Crilley, George J. Swartz, D. C. Curry, John C. Schultz, M. M. Van Nest, Albert Schupe, Charles A. Weiser and I believe W. J. Mullins and L. P. Ohliger. I am not quite certain of the status of Herman Freedlander and Nick Amster at the beginning, but I do know they were very valuable members. In fact, Herman later on, was one of the board’s most active presidents and there was something going all the time while he was at the helm. I also recollect that he did not dip very deeply into the treasury, but spent his own money very freely for various enterprises in which the board was interested. E. S. Landes and Dr. R. A. Bieehele were among earlier officers of the board. Wooster was running along with a population around six thousand when the board was organized and was having hard work to get ahead. As John McSweeney, father of the congressman, used to say at the meetings of the Board where he made frequent addresses, “We are good breeders but poor feeders.” With the organization of the Board of Trade, things began to change. There was a new lift in the air and a real enthusiasm all over town. Several small industries were brought to Wooster, which the first of any size was the Gerstenslager Buggy Company, making honest to goodness good rubber tired buggies. This concern was brought here from Marshallville and located in the present Reed building at the corner of Liberty and Spink Streets. This building was constructed especially for Gerstenslager. And this concern did not pass away with the horse and buggy days, but took up other things and has maintained itself as one of Wooster’s good industries. The Canton Hughes Pump Co. and the Buckeye Aluminum Company were both secured with funds derived from the sale of lots in a big campaign. Some of us still have our lots today. The Canton Hughes Co. took most of the funds and did not do so well and passed into the hands of the Woodard Machine Company. Later, this has become the United Abricators, one of our very best industries.
The Akron Brass Co was secured by officials of the Board of Trade, most of them putting their own money into the company. The Harris Paint Co., now the Interchemical Co., was brought here by the Board and the Ohio Fuel Co. plant. The Wooster Rubber Company now grown far and away beyond all original hopes, was another good investment and later on, the Wooster Brass Co. was induced to locate in the plant originally built for a china company that made beautiful ware, but did not succeed financially. The Soya Preserving Company came here when the board interested the Holmes Construction Co. to sell one of its buildings. The Bauer Ladder Company came here through the instruction of the Board. There were two tire companies where the Soya and Holmes companies are located. The International Paper Company plant, Wooster’s latest sizable acquisition, was secured by the Board of Trade. The Apple Creek Institution was secured by the work of the Board because Wesley H. Zaugg called in this writer, then chairman of the new industry committee and told him the project was his baby. This took a lot of time and a lot of politics on the part of the late Mayor Limb and the late Eli Brenner, cashing in on the preliminary work of S. H. Bell. There have probably been several other industries whose names I do not now recall. The Timken plant at the south end of the city, was originally the Weldless Tube Co. when many members of the Board of Trade took a financial ride and heavy losses. John C. Schultz, the receiver interested in the Timken Co., when that concern wanted another plant quickly and the plant was developed into one of the city’s real industries. One can realize that if the industries mentioned above were taken away, Wooster industriously would be poor indeed. It has been the policy of the Board to build up the city so that Wooster could really be a city of homes where people could live, educate their children, and find employment for them right here at home. It has also prevailed a help for many farm boys in this county who would otherwise have gone to the larger cities. I have always visualized a nice size for Wooster as from 20 to 25 thousand population.
The officials of the Wooster Chamber of Commerce are a young and hearty and husky group. And they have a challenge from the Wooster Board of Trade. If they do as well as proportion as the Board of Trade has done during the past half of the century, a population of fifty thousand will not be out of the realm of possibilities. There is still a lot of Wayne County labor going to other counties. And there is a future labor force yet unborn.