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Our violent past chronicled in new book by local author

When you compress 200 years of Toledo area history into 258 pages, you get a feel for our violent past.

Consider these two items:

September 17, 1930: Mrs. Edward Lamb of Perrysburg confronts city workers in her town with a rifle as they try to tear down her new white picket fence. They return with a machine gun and proceed to remove what they say is an illegal fence.

November 30, 1932: Rival bootleggers make an attempt on the life of bootlegger and night club owner Jack Kennedy in downtown Toledo. He survives the attack but his girlfriend, Louise Bell, is killed in the crossfire.

LouHebert1a
Lou Hebert, author of "Day by Day in Toledo." (Press photo by
Ken Grosjean)

These and hundreds of other snips of interesting, important and unusual stories of Toledo’s past fill up the 258 pages of Lou Hebert’s book Day by Day in Toledo.

The emphasis is on the unusual and interesting, not the important. Hebert admits that. “I tried to find stories that were forgotten in the dust of time, stories sort of lost or stories people didn’t know about.” In the book’s forward, he writes, “Often, I found, it was the smaller news items, or footnotes of the past that reflected the larger social picture of the times and the daily lifestyles of how our grandparents lived and worked and played.”

Here are two more:

February 25, 1904: It’s reported that a giant bald eagle attacks man in Fremont. He and three others subdue and kill the large bird.

May 9, 1922: A band of armed men attack former Walbridge school principal Otto Tracy for alleged crimes against boys at the school. Tracy is wounded by gunfire in attack by 17 men at a home in Bowling Green.
Hebert is a 1967 graduate of Genoa High School. Early in his career he wrote for the Suburban Press, so it’s not surprising there are many blurbs from our Eastern Maumee Bay communities.

Here are a few: 

April 5, 1924: Rachel “Mother” Jones, famous national labor leader, is attacked in her home on Front Street in East Toledo. She says the man was trying to murder her, but she managed to escape by biting the assailant.

April 15, 1936: Bomb explodes at home of East Toledo attorney Mark Winchester. It is believed to be a warning from mobsters. No one is injured. 

September 28, 1933: A bank robber is killed in Luckey, Ohio during a shoot out with the village Marshal, Ben Stone. Stone is wounded in the attack but survives to become a local legend. It is believed he is the first black man to become the top lawman in an Ohio village, Herbert writes.

December 23, 1954: Leonard Gladieux and family of Oregon impress ice skaters as they try out a new motor-driven “ice-mobile” on the pond at Pearson Park.

Hebert also shows that modern day ills are modern only in that our past ills have also been obscured in the dust of time. Consider these two items:

April 28, 1911: State pharmacy board claims that Toledo is the “cocaine capital of Ohio.” Rampant abuse of the drug is reported and numerous “coke” parties being held by teens.

November 2, 1937: Marijuana farm is raided in Adrian, Michigan. Thirty bushels of marijuana seized and two men arrested.

The above snippets reflect the style Hebert employs. There are more than 2,500 two to three line items that make the book easy and fun to read. Nearly all took place prior to 1990. That was by design. “I tried to keep everything at least 20 years in the rear-view mirror.”

The style is also in keeping with Hebert’s 40 year career in the short-attention-span industries of television and radio news. He broke into radio in the early 1970s at WOHO and moved on to WXYZ in Detroit where he won a Peabody Award for his coverage of the Oakland County child killer. Then he was off to Colorado for a stint in both television and radio in which he covered the Gary Hart scandal and the Falklands War.

Hebert returned home in 1988 and was paired with musician Steve Athanas at WIOT. They called their partnership “The Dawn Busters.” Hebert morphed from serious news to humorous take-offs on small-town news, which he read from the fictional West Genoa News. The top story could be a meeting of the Happy Hippie Garden Club, brought to us by such advertisers as Betty’s Bang Bang Boutique in Bono, a store that specializes in selling guns and lingerie.

Hebert retired from WNWO in 2011.

During those 40 years on the air, Hebert collected interesting news items he’d run across while doing his job. He stored these in boxes and when he retired he wanted to share them with others who also have a passion for local history. This book is one avenue. Another is his blog Toledo Gazette.wordpress.com. There he continues to ply his craft as a serious journalist. He peruses archival newspapers, reads local history books, conducts research at the Toledo Police Museum, where he serves as a board member, and interviews descendents of those involved.

Recent stories include one about The Purple Lady, the elderly black woman who roamed the streets of downtown Toledo clad in all purple and carrying a purple staff and one about Ruby Starr (Constance Mierzwiak), a Sylvania native, who went on to a singing career that included a brush with fame when she sang with Black Oak Arkansas on its rendition of “Jim Dandy.”

Lou Hebert will have a book signing Sunday, March 9, 2:00 p.m. at the Way Public Library in Perrysburg.  The book is available at the Toledo Police Museum, the Toledo Library Book Store and at amazon.com

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