Trees transform farm into park: Seventy years ago, students helped plant Hedges-Boyer Park

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SENECA COUNTY MUSEUM

These photos labeled Arbor Day 1948 from the Seneca County Museum show a tree planting, speakers and high school band members 70 years ago.

Most Tiffin residents don’t remember a time when Hedges-Boyer Park wasn’t a beautiful, grassy area with shade trees, walking paths and ballfields.

But 70 years ago, when the city acquired the land, it didn’t look like it does today.

“We came to the realization that Hedges-Boyer Park was not a park with trees on it when they got that land,” said Bryce Kuhn, director of Tiffin Park & Recreation Department. “It was a big farm field.”

In 1948, Tiffin Kiwanis Club sponsored an essay contest for the city’s sixth-graders, and winners won the opportunity to plant a tree at the new park.

“Hedges-Boyer Park looks today like it does largely because of their foresight on the project,” said Mike Pinkston, chairman of the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission of Tiffin. “Seventy years later, we want to honor that activity and continue to plant trees, and help kids understand they are connected to their history.”

According to a 1998 website entry by Boroff Publications, Hedges-Boyer Park formerly was a 100-acre farm owned by the Haverstick family. The city’s purchase of the property made possible by a bequest of William Hedges, a grandson of Josiah Hedges. William Hedges and his wife, whose maiden name was Boyer, bequeathed their Mansfield home to the city of Tiffin. The house was sold and the money was used to buy the farm in 1940.

Before 1940, the area of Rock Creek reportedly was a favorite “swimming hole” for area children.

This year — 70 years later — the Shade Tree and Beautification Commission of Tiffin is planning an Arbor Day program at Hedges-Boyer Park at 1 p.m. April 27 at the park’s band shelter.

The program is to commemorate that tree-planting event and honor the 48 people who planted those trees.

Pinkston said the people who planted those trees are to be special guests, but contacting them has been challenging.

“You can’t really honor people who aren’t there,” he said. “These people are all 82 years old now.”

He requests the tree planters and their families to RSVP if possible.

“The tree planters themselves or the children or grandchildren who might want to be part of the program,” he said.

“I think that it was the sort of occasion that really made that park and set that park aside from any other park,” Pinkston said. “”We really want to recognize those people.”

In the city, it was a time of hope after World War II ended. The major employers were General Electric, American Standard, National Machinery and Tiffin Glass.

“The planting of trees symbolized a new beginning, including a grand layout for the new city park,” according to a letter written to schools in November inviting sixth-grade students to enter an essay contest similar to the one that took place 70 years ago.

Kuhn said the commission invited sixth-grade classes last fall to submit essays or poetry on “The Value of a Tree.” However, entries were received only from Calvert Catholic Schools students.

Winners who will help plant trees this year are sixth-graders Allee Ritzler, A.J. Bonnell and Gracin Hampshire. They also received a bike, a bike helmet and an outdoor pool pass for the coming summer season.

In 1948, eight winners from each of Tiffin’s six elementary schools were selected as winners. Each child planted a tree at the park, corresponding with an overall park landscape plan, so 48 trees were planted.

Although it’s unclear exactly when the students planted trees, they were dedicated during an Arbor Day program May 1, 1948.

According to The Advertiser-Tribune’s issue May 3, 1948, “Favored by fine spring weather, the first civic Arbor Day program conducted in Tiffin in many years attracted a good attendance to Hedges-Boyer Park Saturday.

“There ceremony started with a parade from the Court House Square at 9:30 a.m. led by the combined Columbian and Calvert high school bands under the direction of Prof. Russell Myers.

“This was followed by the program at Hedges-Boyer Park with D.R. McIntire, president of the Kiwanis Club, sponsoring organization for the Arbor Day observance, serving as master of ceremonies. He presented first Mayor Virgil Bennehoff, who expressed appreciation of the work of Tiffin’s service clubs.”

According to the report, the mayor introduced A.W. Short, of the Ohio Division of Conservation, who delivered an address about forest conservation.

“The 48 young trees of desirable native hardwood species which has been planted previously for the Kiwanis club in several groups in accordance with park landscaping plans were then formally presented by President McIntire to R.J. Smith, president of Tiffin Park Board,” The A-T report continued.

Smith then noted a previous gift of $500 from Kiwanis to aid in park development.

The A-T report included a list of essay contest winners.

College Hill School: James Linthicum, Jerry Beamer, Necia Britner, Gail Myers, Clayton Eferhart, Naney Ross, Janet Noble and Lois Prindle.

St. Joseph’s School: Nina Prater, Virginia Ranker, Thomas Tiell, Kathleen Kimmet, Michael Borer, Carolyn Weddell, Richard Sullivan and Louis Crist.

St. Mary’s School: Carol Saylor, Charlotte VanCurin, Catherine Lutz, Robert VanAman, Thomas Felter, Donna Kear, Martha Wise and James Brown.

Miaimi Street School: Gene Moody, Joseph Martin, Marlene Delaplane, Sherrill Stout, Kathryn deJonge, Charles Marx, Lynn Cutlip and Jack Barger (name might be incorrect; it’s not very legible on the copy).

Monroe Street School: Carolyn Bordner, Dorothy Danziger, Henry Fry, Donald Miller, Betty John, Janice Reynolds, Dorothy Stacy and Gloria Stewart.

Noble School: Diane Kay Bero, Mary Jane Peck, Kenneth E. Digby, Edwin Allen Babcock, Barbara Jean Cramer, James Barton Roberts, Richard A. Williams and Clifford Eugene Johnson.

Among the winners, who are now about 82 years old, was Jim Roberts, who attended Noble School and remains active in the Tiffin community.

Roberts said he stays in touch with several people from his class.

“There’s a lot of them still here in town and they still keep connections with us,” Roberts said.

He remembers what Hedges-Boyer Park looked in 1948.

“There was nothing out there,” he said. “It was just a big farm field.”

The tree planting was part of a landscape plan for the new park.

“We planted trees in clumps by school,” he said. All the Noble School students planted their trees in one bunch and each school planted theirs where they were directed.

“There was supposed to be a plaque on them, but we never got them,” he said. “I couldn’t really tell you which clump out there is Noble’s.”

Roberts said the students walked from their school to the new park, which is fair distance in some cases by today’s standards.

“Everybody walked back then,” he said. “Coming out of World War II, everybody walked. A lot of the kids’ families didn’t have cars. That was the accepted mode of transportation in those days — feet.

“For us kids back then, it was a just a hop, skip and a jump,” he said.

Roberts said he’s looking forward to the celebration because he hopes to see classmates he hasn’t see in a while.

“Old people like to reminisce,” he said. “It’s amazing what we’ll probably remember that we’ve forgotten.”

And he’s looking forward to the placing of a plaque.

“We’re finally going to get our just due,” he said, laughing.

During the years following the tree planting, the park grew.

The picnic shelters and ball fields and walking paths all came later.

“We’re on our second swimming pool,” Kuhn said. “So much has happened in those 70 years, and Hedges-Boyer Park is such an asset to our community.”

Pinkston said events such of this are part of the benefit of living in a small town. The Kiwanis Club again is donating money to plant this year’s trees.

“Honoring our legacy and people who came to this small town before us,” he said.

Original tree planters and their families are asked to RSVP for the April 27 Arbor Day program by calling Judy Ryder at (419) 448-5401.

COMMENTS