EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.
It was just 40 years ago (from Jan. 29, 1972) on next Monday night that Findlay’s last city street car traveled the rails on its final run on Main Street.
As the anniversary of the discontinuance of the community’s street cars nears, western Ohio’s street car history is now being “written up,” forming the third volume of a series dealing with Ohio’s electric railways of other days.
The work will include the three street car lines which were part of the local transportation system, as well as the Findlay city street car history.
Harry Christiansen, chief of special projects for the Cleveland Transit System, has written two volumes on Ohio street car history and his third is now in preparation. This third work will deal with western Ohio trolleys.
Mr. Christiansen this past summer wrote to the writer of this column making inquiry with regard to the Findlay city street car system, wanting to know the exact date when the city street cars stopped, as well as other information touching on the local street car history.
The date he sought was Jan. 31, 1932.
Among the possessions of the new Hancock County Museum is a ticket of the old city street car system on the back of which is written the date the last street car ran. The ticket was given to the museum by Mrs. Mary Ravlin, 1205 Washington Ave., a former member of the Republican Courier’s classified advertising staff.
The Cleveland inquiry aroused interest in just what was said in the Morning Republican when the Findlay street cars quit their daily runs up and down Main Street. Since it was 39 years ago, or actually nearly 40, memory had dimmed some of the facts about the “death” of the local trolleys.
The final run was on a Sunday night in temperature that was not far from zero. The last car left the North Main Street barn at 11:30 p.m. proceeding south. Ed Ickes, for 18 years an employee of the street car company and its night watchman, took control of the last car’s mechanism as it left the barn.
There was a touch of sentimentality in the last run. From the start of the Toledo, Bowling Green and Southern Traction Co.’s long existence in Findlay, Charles F. Smith was its general manager. He had retired in connection with a change of ownership of the firm, which not only operated the street car system but also provided the local community electricity and also a city heating system. Mr. Smith had driven the mules which pulled the first street car in Findlay’s history back in 1887, and he also was at the controls when the first electric street car began operation in 1892 and also when the first interurban car left Findlay for Trombley in Wood County early in the 1900s. Trombley was the northern terminus of the interurban car for a time until the tracks were laid on to Bowling Green and Toledo.
In view of all this, Mr. Smith was afforded the opportunity to take the controls on part of the last run that Sunday night on the last day of January. When the street car reached the area between Lima and Lincoln streets, it stopped in front of the Smith home and Mr. Smith, together with Dr. William J. Fishell, boarded the car. At the southern end of the city street car line, Mr. Smith took the controls for the return run until Lima Street was reached, when he and Dr. Fishell got off. The car continued on north to the city limits and then returned to the car barns, winding up Findlay’s street car history. Mr. Smith died later in the same year — 1932.
A good many automobiles followed the last car on its run through Main Street. There also was a police car escort. The last car carried a large number of passengers who wanted to have the privilege of a ride on the final run. As listed in the Morning Republican, they included: Earl Eckstrom, Mrs. Daniel Reidel, Miss Margaret Reidel, Misses Janice Browne, Janette Browne, Katherine Headsworth, Betty Davis, Henrietta Tinsman, Loren Fry, Ed Price, W.S. McAdam, Dr. George B. Reddin, Max Fenberg, officers John McCosh and Lester McCleary, night watchman Cloyce Swisher, Delmar White, Clyde Tyner, Charles Wisely, Merlin Correll, Herbert Coates, Everitt Eakin, William Butler, Miss Anna Bella Smith, Floyd Struble, Joe Porter and Joe Enck.
A bus service took over Main Street transportation the day after the street cars quit. It was operated by the Findlay Transit Co. and provided two 20-passenger vehicles, which traveled up and down South and North Main Street.