to Toledo, OHIO
It takes a long time to make our way from Cleveland to
the point on the Ohio Turnpike where I-90 joins I-80. To get us there, the
program for this route begins with an introduction to Cleveland's
ethnic history and the story of a Cleveland native son: John D. Rockefeller.
Once we get on the Turnpike, the program takes us past the communities of
Vermillion, Milan, Sandusky, Bellevue, and Clyde on the way to Toledo.
If you start in downtown Cleveland and drive west on I-90, you'll see
clues to Cleveland's ethnic history–even from the interstate. Such as, the
varied designs of church steeples that preside over their neighborhoods. These
aren't classic New England steeples; many have a distinctly eastern European
feeling. New Englanders founded Cleveland, but immigrants created the city.
Someone once counted 48 nationalities in Cleveland and 40 different languages
The world's first billionaire got his start in Cleveland.
John D. Rockefeller–son of an itinerant
peddler–was a business college
dropout who just about left Cleveland when he couldn't find work. But the young
Rockefeller was finally hired by a produce company as a bookkeeper for $.50 a
week. From that beginning he established his own produce company but then
decided that the future was not in fruits and vegetables but in a new product
just coming to market: oil. (He was right.)
You might see signs along this route that refer to "the
firelands." It's a puzzling term suggesting that this region was once engulfed
in flames. But, no. The firelands were so named because much of this land west
of Cleveland was originally given to Connecticut residents whose homes and farms
had been torched by the British during the Revolutionary War. The fire
in Connecticut but the lands were in Ohio.
After entering the Ohio Turnpike, you'll see signs for the city
of Sandusky. Sandusky was once poised to become the largest city in Ohio. The
first man-made canal in Ohio was projected to open into Lake Erie at Sandusky, connecting
Columbus and Cincinnati to markets in the east by way of the Erie Canal. But
survey determined that there probably wasn't enough natural water in north central Ohio to feed a canal so Cleveland became the canal's port city instead
and, well, you know the rest.
You'll also see signs for Cedar Point, a vibrant survivor of an
era when most communities had amusement parks with rides and games and a beach
to entertain the populace. Cedar Point had its beginnings in 1870 but instead of
closing in the mid-1900s, when most American amusement parks were either going
or gone, Cedar Point reinvented itself. Today it claims
more roller coasters than any other establishment in the nation, including
several named as favorites among roller coaster aficionados.
This route passes the hometowns of Thomas Edison and
Sherwood Anderson, Milan and Clyde. Edison did most of his pioneering electrical
work in New Jersey. The story is that when he returned to his hometown as a
famous inventor, he discovered that the house in which he had been born still
wasn't even wired for electricity. The author, Sherwood Anderson, based his
novel about small-town America, Winesburg, Ohio, on his early years in
Clyde. The good citizens of Clyde weren't real happy with the work. When first
published, Winesburg, Ohio was banned in Clyde. Even the library wouldn't
When you pass Toledo, you'll see signs for the Toledo Mud Hens,
one of baseball's classic minor league franchises. You might wonder: what's a
mud hen? Well, the mud hen, also known as the North American coot, is a
large bird that lives by lakes, ponds, and swamplands. The bird isn't
graceful and requires a stretch of water to take off and land. In so doing, it
makes a racket. Back in the late 1800s, Toledo fielded a baseball
team called the Swamp Angels, so named because of the swamp surrounding the
stadium in which the team played. The same swamp served as a take-off and
landing field for the mud hens, and baseball fans couldn't help but notice them.
They began referring to the team as the hens. Pretty soon the Swamp Angels faded
away, and the Toledo Mud Hens came to be.
The land along this route becomes flatter as
you head west. You might also notice that the farms become bigger and look more
prosperous than in northeast Ohio. Northwest Ohio has some of the state's
richest farmland, but it's also the last region to be made habitable.
This region was once covered by a vast swamp–the Black Swamp–that was
thickly forested with wet bogs that bred mosquitoes and
snakes and lots of other nasty things. Even the Indians avoided it. When
the swamp was drained, incredibly rich soil was left behind. If you happen to spot a newly
plowed field, you'll see how dark it is. And if you drive by after a rain
or when snow is melting, you'll see some pretty big puddles. There is still a bit
of swamp left in the soul of northwest Ohio.
This program is available for purchase on CD or cassette tape.
The narration runs for about one hour in 3 segments that take you from Cleveland
west on the Ohio Turnpike (I-80/90) to Toledo. The CDs and cassettes sell for $9.95 each.