Since February is Black History Month, I decided to print several stories from previous columns about the African-American presence in Wooster.
Virginia Blackwell — the first African-American teacher in Wooster City Schools — remembered that during the 1930s there was only one downtown restaurant that catered to African-Americans. It was on the north side of East Liberty Street.
Blackwell, who taught at Melrose, Walnut Street and Wayne Elementary schools, said her uncle, Major Price (a veteran of World War I), was a bellhop at the Ohio Hotel for many years.
She also remembered there was a taxi service run by Tom Howard who "hauled teacher Margaret Bear back and forth to Pittsburgh Avenue School."
Blackwell said her great-grandfather, William Dickerson, came to Wooster in the 1890s and was a custodian at Wooster Hospital for years. Her grandfather, Taylor Price, was a farmer and College of Wooster custodian who worked for a short time shoeing horses in a downtown Wooster stable. Her Grandmother Dora cooked for the president of the College of Wooster for years.
In 1914, her Grandfather Price bought property on Portage Road (near today's College Hills). Back then Portage was a dirt road and was "too steep to drive down."
Adventurous motorists who made the attempt often found themselves in trouble. Blackwell said her grandfather and his donkey were frequently called upon to pull the motorists back up the hill.
Lew Hodgett of Whittier, Calif., recalled popular barber Benny Mitchell whose barbershop was in the American Hotel back in the '50s and '60s.
"I remember when Benny came to Wooster and went to work for Charlie Morrison. This would have been the 1946-1950 time frame. It was a three-chair shop located on the north side of Liberty street just a few doors from The Daily Record.
"Benny had the middle chair, Charlie had the back chair, and I forgot who had the front chair nearest the street window, but the name 'Chet' comes to mind.
"I remember the 'junior' board that was placed across the arms of the adult size barber chair where you sat if you weren't yet big enough to sit in the adult chair. The radio was always on and on Saturday afternoons in the fall you could hear Tom 'Red' Manning broadcast the Ohio State football games on WTAM."
Richard Morrison Sr. and his family were the first documented African-Americans to settle in Wooster. Morrison opened his own barbershop on East Liberty (in part of what is now The Daily Record) in the 1880s.
Thought you should know.
Columnist Ann Gasbarre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-345-6419.