BASCOM - Born in Bascom, Wayne Hoover still resides in his hometown. A graduate of Hopewell-Loudon Schools and Heidelberg College, he was a biology major with education certification and taught for 15 years. Hoover and his first wife had been married 48 years before her death in 2003. Seven of their children are living and one is deceased. He also has 14 grandchildren.
"I had a great marriage. She was a wonderful woman," Hoover said.
In 2006, he and his second wife were married. She is from Fostoria and has eight children and 26 grandchildren. Hoover's current wife and her first husband were married on the same day as Hoover and his first wife.
Many local people know Hoover as a member of Sts. Patrick and Andrew Parish in Bascom, as the former fiscal officer for Hopewell Township, and for the tax service business he and his wife operated for more than 25 years. He also served four years on the Hopewell-Loudon Board of Education and 14 years on the Seneca County Board of Elections. He retired in 2005.
In addition, Hoover has strong connections to Meadowbrook Park.
Recently, he compiled a Power Point program about Meadowbrook, where he worked as a college student and later as park manager. Hoover gave the first presentation for a farm women's organization at St. Andrew Church. An antique club in Tiffin also invited him to address their group, and he gave it twice for the Appreciation Day festivities at the park in April. Deb Tiell and her business sponsor the annual free community event for more than 500 people.
Park carousel finds new life
By the 1970s, many of the manufacturing companies had been shuttered, and the number of picnics at Meadowbrook Park decreased. The rides were shut down and removed from the park.
The merry-go-round had operated at Meadowbrook from 1944-75. With only a canvas top, it had been exposed to the elements and neglected during the park's receivership. The chickens, horses, dogs and pigs from the ride were taken off the frame and sold at auction.
Wayne Hoover, former park manager, said the ride had been built in 1908 by the Hershell-Spillman Co. of North Tonawanda, N.Y.
Wayne Coffman of Tiffin, whose father Michael Coffman once had owned the merry-go-round, bought the mechanism from the ride and stored it for a number of years. In 1999, Coffman sold the works to Todd Goings of Marion.
Goings restored the motor and frame.
"He sold it to the city of North Bay, Ontario, which is north of Toronto. A gentleman in Missoula, Mont., hand-carved 26 horses for that carousel. Two years ago, I took a trip up to see it. I took my wife and three other people with me," Hoover said.
Other local artisans carved nine more horses for the merry-go-round. Hoover knew where the the ride had gone, but a chance meeting in southeast Texas with an Ontario resident revealed additional information about the carousel.
"One evening, we were at a local VFW and I saw a fellow with a jacket on that said on the back of it, 'North Bay, Ontario,'" Hoover said.
When Hoover spoke to him, the man said he lived about 20 miles away from the town, but his wife knew of the carousel and its location. Hoover gave the man his contact information and asked the couple, if they ever were in North Bay, to send him a few photographs. A few months later, they wrote him a note and sent a coloring book with drawings of the new horses and a bit of history about the ride.
"It is beautiful. I can remember it as a kid. I rode it as a kid, and I remember it very well," Hoover said.
In its new life, the merry-go-round has a roof to protect it from the elements.
Thirty-three hand-carved, hand-carved horses, two chariots, and a spinning tub now occupy the deck. Local artists have painted the band organ and the center panels of the ride with murals of Ontario scenes.
Owned by Heritage Railway and Carousel Co., the carousel opened in 2002.
"I was there. I've seen it. I know it's there and I know where it came from," Hoover said.
"I've been associated with Meadowbrook for many, many years. I worked there through school. ... That place put me through Heidelberg with employment. Then, I managed it a couple years in 1958 and '59 after I graduated from Heidelberg. I went back there in the very early '70s and spent 14 years there, from that point," Hoover said. "I enjoyed my time at the park. I enjoyed my time at the board of elections. The people I worked with, the other members of the board, were good people and good board members."
Hoover's program reviews historical highlights of Meadowbrook, which can be traced to 1898. That year, Tiffin banker Samuel Sneath opened the Tiffin, Fostoria and Eastern Railway, or the Interurban. His wife, an active conservationist, encouraged him to create a park adjacent to the streetcar station. This was a common practice to attract weekend riders.
Sneath built a pavilion, picnic area and baseball diamond on the north side of Wolf Creek. The pavilion served food and offered stage shows, dancing and other entertainment.
In 1925, the pavilion burned.
In 1929, James Garfield Haugh, who owned Gem Manufacturing, purchased the property and established the park on the opposite side of the creek. The 180- by 60-foot pool was constructed at an estimated cost of $40,000. Instead of rebuilding Sneath's pavilion on the same spot, Haugh replaced it with a dance hall on the site of the current ballroom.
A raised wooden walkway led across the creek to the dance hall, which featured an enclosed promenade around the perimeter of the building. The ballroom had a low ceiling and a fence that stretched beneath the arches to separate the dance floor from the promenade.
A fire destroyed that structure in 1932, and Haugh died in 1933.
"The ballroom that's there was completed in 1934. they were in the process of rebuilding it when Mr. Haugh passed away," Hoover said.
Haugh had incorporated the park and issued 50 shares of stock. Of those, he had kept 47 and placed the others with three individuals. They took charge of the park until 1948. Haugh's will designated his shares in the park be given to "the Bascom community."
"Bascom is unincorporated. It has no mayor. It's just a part of the township," Hoover said. "When he willed those shares to Bascom, he set up a charitable trust that was administered by Seneca County Probate Court."
The owners continued to collect a 25-cent park admission at a small ticket booth near the entrance. They also kept improving the area with a wading pool, picnic shelters and other additions.
Hoover said the existing Maple Shelter, near the swimming pool, is the only original structure still standing. All the others have been replaced with more modern shelters with electricity and paved floors.
Starting in 1936, drive-in movies were shown twice a week, just south of the pool. Admission was 25 cents a carload. Hoover remembered going to the movies with his grandparents. "Ed's Movie Cruiser" provided the films into the 1960s.
"There was a fellow by the name of Ed Ramsey. He came from Plymouth, Ohio. He had a van truck with two projectors in there. The park had a screen, right up there by the roadway. He used to come in there on Monday and Thursday night and he would show a double feature. Of course, he always had a serial in between them," Hoover said.
The park went through many phases to reflect the popular entertainment trends. In 1940, a beauty pageant took place at the ballroom, which also offered roller skating for a number of years. Big bands were brought in for Saturday night dances.
Early on, the dance hall had no tables and chairs. Hoover said patrons had to sit on benches in the promenade when they needed a rest or refreshments.
Also during that period, Clayton Decker and the Red Shirts played every Sunday night. No alcohol was permitted, and round and square dancing took place. Hoover said the band was paid $65 for their services. Decker received $15 and the other six musicians each got $10.
"In 1963, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of them playing there. They started in 1938. The last member of that band just passed away this summer - Glen Croy. He was 94 years old," Hoover said.
The Red Shirts played at Meadowbrook for 33 years. Hoover said Decker lived in Tiffin and worked at American Standard. The band leader called the square dances and played the bass fiddle. Whenever the band performed at other venues, Decker would always remind the crowd his group played 8:30-11:30 Sunday nights at Meadowbrook.
"When I was in high school, he used to bring his band over for two or three dances a year. He would play, and he taught us how to square dance. Anyway, he tried," Hoover said. "If we screwed up, he would just stop the music and come out there and show us what to do."
During the 1940s and '50s, the park hosted numerous company picnics, so the owners added a boat ride on the creek and amusement rides, such as the Lindy Loop, giant slide, The Whip, a merry-go-round and others.
"There's a little train that ran in the west woods, where we now have camping. There was a ferris wheel.
"The merry-go-round, when it was at Meadowbrook, just had a canvas top on it at that time," Hoover said.
While Hoover managed the park in the late 1950s, he had the fence removed from the ballroom to make room for tables and chairs for receptions. He remembered the Fostoria VFW had a band that used to play three or four times a year at Meadowbrook for a few years. Their 14-piece big band could draw a crowd of 600 people. The proceeds were used for a scholarship fund.
Maintaining the park gradually became a financial burden to the three men who owned it. They went bankrupt, and Meadowbrook was placed in receivership for 10 years.
One of the three park trustees knew of Hoover's history with Meadowbrook and approached him in 1970 to suggest Hopewell Township take charge of the park. Attracted to the 60 acres of farmland that came with it, the township trustees approved of the transaction.
"I was the fiscal officer of the township for 24 years, and it was during that time the township was able to take over Meadowbrook," Hoover said. "I'm very pleased to say that I had a lot to do with getting that done."
The township worked with Seneca County Probate Court Judge George Forrest to transfer the 47 shares of stock, along with the farm acreage, to Hopewell Township. At that point, Hoover was named park manager, a title he held for 14 years. He always tried to pay it forward by employing young people trying to finance a college education, as he once had done.
One of Hoover's early projects was to remove the ticket booth and do away with the entrance fee. The township wanted the park to be free and open to the public.
The amusement rides were removed in the 1970s. Along with the park, the township received equipment for township use. Even better, Meadowbrook became eligible to obtain government grant money, which had not been an option for the private owners. Many of the grants came through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
"We did take advantage of that, and we are still taking advantage of that. I wrote the first grant in 1979 and, in 1980, we renovated that swimming pool with a 50-percent federal grant. It cost us a lot of money," Hoover said. "We took out part of the bottom and deepened it and put new stainless steel sides all the way around. It was all concrete originally. ... The project, when we renovated it, was estimated at $245,000. We had to supply half of that money."
Hoover was able to get the job done under budget at $214,000, and local residents were able to match the grant amount. Hoover said Meadowbrook has been awarded other grants since then to maintain and update the grounds and buildings.
"Since I retired, they've kept on and done a wonderful job. I'm really proud of those guys. ... They put all new windows in that ballroom. Those were all wooden windows, and they put all new vinyl windows in there- double pane. They put a new heating system in there with air conditioning and new handicapped restrooms," Hoover said.
Starting in the 1970s, the demand for campsites increased. Cyclists who were biking across the country often stopped at the park. Hoover said he would let them camp there at no charge and take showers in the bath house.
"Of course, we'd sit and talk with them a lot of times. We would give those bike riders a card and tell them, 'When you get to where you're going, send us the card to tell us you made it,'" Hoover said.
In 1980, a cyclist wanted to buy a Meadowbrook T-shirt, but Hoover didn't have the right size. When the shirts came in, Hoover notified him with a picture postcard of the park. In 2011, that same postcard, with Hoover's signature on it, appeared on e-Bay for sale. One of Hoover's grandsons bought it for $12 and gave it to his grandfather for Christmas.
The park only had 36 campsites in 1970. By the time Hoover left the manager's position, Meadowbrook had 250 campsites. Camping continues to be the park's main source of income.
"Now we've gone more to seasonals, where we rent them for the whole season. I think we've got 180 of those now that we fill," Hoover said.
Meadowbrook Park has begun a campaign to make the swimming pool more handicapped-accessible. Proceeds from the Woody Hayes show Nov. 1 are to be used for this project.
In addition to the weddings, receptions and parties, the park is open for people going there to walk, swim, have picnics or use the playground. The Meadowbrook memorabilia Hoover collected over the years now decorates his home and appears in his historical program.
"It was my life for a period of time. That's why I kept all these things. Now, I enjoy giving this little program to people. They just need to call me," he said.
Wayne Hoover can be reached at (419) 937-2384.