The older I get, the more I am interested in “old” Delaware County. I am fortunate to have a copy of the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce booklet, dated 1907 – 2007, and have enjoyed leafing through the pages and having a lot of good memories come back to me. Most of the dates and costs of items in this article are taken from said booklet. Maybe you, too, would be interested in how things used to be, when it comes to the what, when, where, and why of Old Delaware County.
When I was 8 years old, our dad moved our family to Delaware. As we drove through town, on our way to find the house we were moving into, we passed the Strand Theater. It was a welcoming sight! Some of the facts I just learned about the Strand were that it opened in 1914 at the same place, 28 E. Winter St., as it is today. It was considered an opera house at first, and then two years later, became a theater. Interesting to think about the prices back then being 15 cents for main floor seats and 10 cents for balcony.
Ever since we discovered the one-room schoolhouse of George’s past, we have been interested in anything we can find out about them. I would never have guessed that in 1915, there were 111 one-room schoolhouses still operating in Delaware County. (The last two closed in 1938.) And, that same year, Delaware County had 2,263 farms in operation by their owners. (With a total number of farms at 3,073.) Their crops were wheat, corn and oats. Moving forward to 1916, the Winter Street Bridge was built (with it later being dedicated as the “Veterans Memorial Bridge.”) It’s always interesting to be reminded that back in 1921, gasoline was costing all of 29 cents a gallon.
Then in 1923, Delaware began drawing water from the Olentangy River and started building a water tower in the city park along Park Ave. What a difference that made in the running of a household! So, Delaware city had its first water filter and treatment plant, and opened the 250,000-gallon Park Avenue water tower. Happy are the homemakers who then got to have running water in their kitchens and bathrooms!
In 1926, Delaware city had something we don’t have now. It had streetcars! What would it be like to have them on the main streets of downtown today? Something I had forgotten was that Frank B. Willis died while waiting to make a presidential campaign speech in OWU’s Gray Chapel in 1928. Having spent six years in Willis Jr. High and High School, I must have said his name 1,000 times during all these past years.
In 1935, the Hamburger Inn opened a 12 seat restaurant at the same place it is today. Glenn Hudson Sr. bought it, and the prices were 12 cents for a hamburger, 5 cents for a sweet roll, and 5 cents for a cup of coffee. (Later, it became the size it is today with the 34 seats.) Then in 1937, Kintz Bros. opened their grill at 77 Lake St., where it still stands today. Those of you who may remember George Dix and his percheron horses might be interested to know that during that same year, the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus purchased 12 percherons from him, to be used to pull the steam-powered calliope.
All the years of knowing about the Little Brown Jug, I never knew that the very first Jug race in 1946 was won by Ensign Hanover and was driven by Delaware’s own Wayne “Curly” Smart. Or, that the race was named for a famous pacer, and the first race had a purse of $35,000. Right after the first Brown Jug race, the Brown Jug Restaurant was established on North Sandusky Street in the old Deposit Bank building. (Then in 1970, the restaurant moved to 13 W. William St., where it was very well known for over the next 30 years.)
Some newer residents may not realize that we used to have a drive-in theater, called the Kingman, just south of town. It opened in 1948 at the U.S. Route 23 and Cheshire Road location. It was opened by a former manager of the Strand Theater, along with two owners of the Central Restaurant. At the same time as the Kingman’s opening came the first television set in the City of Delaware at the home of Robert Scott on West William Street. (In just three short years later, most everyone I knew had television in their homes.) Near that same time, the L&K Restaurant opened on the corner of East William and Sandusky streets. That new two-story building was one of the most modern L&K’s in Ohio. That brings us up to 1950 when the Delaware County Bank and Trust Co. was founded in downtown Delaware. So many places came into existence at the beginning of the ’50s, just when I was growing up and becoming aware of them.
This article has taken us from the very early existence in Delaware city of the Strand Theater in 1914, up until the L&K coming in 1950. As I sit here typing the above history of Delaware County, I am amazed at how recent so many things happened that were a part of my life. One of my main means of entertainment was going to double features at the Strand. And of course, I grew up going to the Delaware County Fair, as well as having toasted pecan rolls at the L&K after a basketball game at Willis. And, I had lots of lunches at the Brown Jug Restaurant for many years of my life. My mom, dad, and siblings benefitted from having running water in all three of the different houses we lived in while growing up in Delaware city. And I do remember the opening of the Delaware County Bank on the corner of North Sandusky and West Winter streets.
I have written enough about old Delaware County history for this article. In my next article, I will pick up with memories from 1950 and forward. This is the first time I have written about something that takes two different articles to complete, and I have been enjoying every minute of it.
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.