1950-1960: Findlay booming again
By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
The decade of the 1950s may well have been the boom years of the 20th century in Findlay.
The discovery of gas and oil some 60 years earlier had transformed the small county seat into a thriving metropolis.
But progress in the 1950s did not depend on mineral resources and luck. This time, the community made a conscious effort to create its own success.
Toward the end of World War II, an organization called the Post-War Planning Committee was developed in conjunction with the chamber of commerce to examine the possibilities for economic recovery. The group assembled facts and figures and made recommendations for a course of action.
The resulting plan enabled Findlay to make great strides.
The city’s population rose to 23,845 during the decade, and the construction of new homes continued.
New industry that came to town contributed to the community’s prosperity.
Ashland Oil and Refining Co. began operations in 1950 after purchasing the facilities of the National Refinery.
Radio Corporation of America opened a few years afterwards. As part of the RCA Tube Division, the company manufactured electronic components for televisions.
In 1955, the Findlay Kodak Processing Laboratory was completed to provide processing facilities for movie and still film.
Findlay Industries and the Hyway Concrete Pipe Co. were also founded.
National Automotive Fibers, the first industry to locate in Findlay after World War II, moved its business out of the city in 1958. The plant was sold to the Dobeckmun Division of Dow Chemical.
The Hancock County AFL-CIO Council was formed, to organize and coordinate the efforts of local labor unions.
Meanwhile, many of Findlay’s long-established firms continued to thrive.
Ohio Oil Co. again enlarged its office facilities. The old part of the Donnell building on East Hardin Street was torn down and an eight-story addition was constructed. A few years later, a nine-story building was erected nearby.
Likewise, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. was engaged in a two-year, $5 million expansion by the end of the decade.
Midway through the decade, Findlay’s school enrollment skyrocketed to more than 5,700 students. School buildings were soon filled to capacity.
Voters responded by approving a $2 million bond issue. Funds were used to build Jacobs Elementary School off Crystal Avenue, and to erect additions at Whittier, Northview, Washington, Lincoln and Adams schools. The two junior high schools were also expanded.
The number of students attending St. Michael School was increasing, as well. Three expansion projects during the decade provided the school with a gymnasium, a cafeteria and 21 classrooms. A junior high school system was inaugurated in 1957. Two years later, the parish purchased 12 acres on U.S. 224 east of Findlay for future development.
The Hancock School for Retarded Children was started in 1952 by a small group of parents of developmentally disabled children. Classes were held at Howard Methodist Church.
By the end of the decade, Findlay College announced plans for a $2.9 million, eight-year development program that would add eight new buildings to the campus.
Municipal improvements were also being made.
Findlay Council approved a zoning ordinance that placed all areas within the city in different categories, such as residential, mercantile and industrial.
In 1951, voters approved a $1.2 million bond issue to expand the city’s sewer system. The capacity of the waterworks plant also was doubled, and land was acquired in Marion Township for the construction of a reservoir.
A significant milestone was achieved when a highway bypass was constructed on the city’s west side at a cost of $10 million. Old U.S. 25 — Lima Avenue — was rerouted to the west to help ease traffic congestion on Main Street.
Federal funds, local gifts and a bond issue were used to build a new hospital in the community. The 175-bed facility opened in 1958 at the site of the old hospital south of town. Ownership was transferred from the city to the county. The Blanchard Valley Hospital Association continued to direct operations, and the name Blanchard Valley Hospital was adopted.
The old north wing of the hospital was later remodeled. One floor became the Civilian Defense headquarters. Another area housed the local Red Cross chapter.
Early in the decade, the Judson Palmer Home was built on North Main Street to provide a place for indigent older women. Money for the facility was provided in the wills of Judson and Katherine Palmer. Palmer had been involved in the grocery business and a flour mill operation. He also served as president of the Farmers’ Bank for a time.
The Salvation Army citadel opened on Center Street during the period, and the Anchor Teen Center was established. The Fort Findlay Playhouse marked its first season in 1954-55.
Meanwhile, the United Community Fund was formed to unite the various causes that had been conducting individual fundraising campaigns in Hancock County. The fund initially benefited eight agencies.
Several disastrous fires occurred during the decade.
Hancock Brick & Tile was forced to rebuild after a blaze damaged the Findlay plant in 1951. The new facility was modernized and equipped with the latest machinery and clay processing procedures.
A year later, First Presbyterian Church at the corner of West Sandusky and West streets was destroyed by fire. The structure dated back to 1901. A new church was built at the extreme southern edge of the city.
In 1955, fire gutted the Fenstermaker Block on South Main Street. Damage was estimated at $750,000.
That same year, voters approved a special levy to modernize the Fire Department. Personnel and equipment were added and a two-way communication system was installed with the help of the Hancock County Civil Defense program. The Fire Department also opened two new stations, one at the corner of Tiffin and McManness avenues, and the other on South Main Street to replace the old central station on Crawford Street.
The Hancock County commissioners bought the former Page Dairy Co. on Broadway in 1956. The Welfare Department took over part of the building. The commissioners considered moving the county jail into the structure, too. The jail that was in use, just south of the dairy building, had become dilapidated.
When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, Findlay and Hancock County again responded to the country’s call.
A new selective service system had been established in 1948 as part of the national defense program. Under this program, Hancock County was directed to create a new three-member draft board to serve the entire county.
The Ohio National Guard, including the Findlay company, was called into service during the war.
Meanwhile, Hancock County was one of the first counties in the state to install automatic voting machines.
Direct distance dialing also was introduced to the area.