In 1911, Helen Morris was born in Peninsula, Ohio in the second-story apartment above the Leander Beers General Store, now called the Yellow Creek Trading Company. She grew up in the nearby Morris House, also on Main Street. Later she married Robert Conger, and, in time, they built their own house in the village. Her ancestors Hiram and Ruth Ranney Bronson lived in the community during the canal era. Helen Morris and Clark Morris, who is also profiled for this project, were cousins.
In Her Own Words
The following quotes recall her childhood in the Cuyahoga Valley in the 1910s and 1920s. She states in the preface of her work, “I’ve lived in Peninsula all my life and I am sure it’s the only place to live.”
“I started school in first grade in 1916. My teacher was Josephine Steele…We did not have pre-school or kindergarten in those days so my father taught me to read before I went to school. We had two grades in a room and I was more interested in what the second grade was doing so I watched and learned from them. This was all well and good the first year but when I went back the second year, I was bored with what the second graders were doing and I’m sure I was causing a lot of trouble for Miss Steele but she knew how to handle it. One day she said to me, ‘Helen, get your tablet and pencils and come with me.’ She took me next door to the third and fourth grade room. She said to their teacher who was Margaret Jolly, ‘Helen is going to be in the third grade.’ I’m sure Margaret Jolly didn’t know anything about it and my parents didn’t know about it until I got home and told them. Wouldn’t teachers today just love to be able to get rid of a problem child by giving them to some other teachers without consulting anyone. She did it all on her own. It was the worst day of my life. From there on I had to study.”
“The grocers took orders at your home, Perry Harrington on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Andy Stuart on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You could order your meat by telephone and your grocer would pick the meat up at Bergdorf’s Meat Market and deliver it with your groceries, those were the good old days.”
“Before they had radios, Tv’s and movies, we had dances which were held on the second floor of the building on Riverview that faces Everett Road…This was a regular thing on Saturday nights. A very nice widow lady lived on the first floor operated the dances; her name was Tweed Chamberlain, a nickname, of course; I don’t know her given name. She baked pies and sold them at intermission, mostly to the young men. There was a bedroom off the living room where coats were laid and even small babies who came to the dance with their parents. I’ve been told that I spent many Saturday evenings there.”
“The Peninsula Band was started by George Boodey. He was the village blacksmith. The band practiced every Tuesday evening and in the winter they practiced on the second floor of the Town Hall. In the summer, they practiced in the bandstand which was located on the lawn of the Town Hall. This gave plenty of room for kids to run and play, different groups to have socials like strawberry and ice cream socials. The band always played at Memorial Day and Home Days. They played as far away as Valley City. Once when Scotty Ingerton was running for Summit County Sheriff, the band rented a bus and drove around the streets of Akron with banners telling people to vote for Scotty and playing their best musical pieces. Unfortunately, Scotty did not win.”
Homecoming in Peninsula
“Home Days attracted really big crowds. The people on Main Street had a pot luck dinner; the Peninsula Band played and there were lots of contests with very good prizes. Vendors came from everywhere to sell souvenirs and a photographer would take pictures of the group. A dance was held in the G.A.R. Hall.”
First Airplane Comes to Town
“During the Summer of 1916, someone passed fliers around town advertising the coming of an airplane. It was going to land on the Pinnacle on a Sunday afternoon and some lucky person would get a free ride…On this particular Sunday, I believe everyone in Peninsula was there. The plane had already landed when we arrived. As I think back I remember it was a one engine propeller plane. Someone was selling tickets for $1 apiece to those lucky ones interested in taking a ride on the plane. After the drawing, the winner was Anton (Tony) Pfaus…I was concerned for his safety but when he got into the plane and took off, I fainted. When I came to, I was lying on the running board of a car. Tony got back, safe and sound and all was well.”
Helen Morris Conger. Only in Peninsula: A Collection of Fond Memories About an Ohio Village.Peninsula, Ohio: self-published, 2002.