"Living in Massillon" by Agnes M. Hewitt
Shared in the “Looking Back: Black Community Reunion” 1988, Massillon, Ohio
I was born in the area known as the "Bottoms." I understand that my father had wagered a fifth of whiskey that I would be a boy. Well, as you can see, he lost the bet because, on August 3, 1937 Agnes Marie Hewitt arrived.
My early years are rather vague, due to my mother being sick and unable to care for me. This care was placed on my father and other people that he entrusted my care to, so that he could work. My mother passed and later my father remarried.
I remember living at 320 Lincoln Way West. We lived across the street from the Red Head gas station, which is still located there today (1988). I attended Horace Mann School, as did the other kids in that neighborhood, until third grade. During this time there were no viaducts, only houses on both sides of the street. Some of the families that I remember are the Thompsons, Petersons, Robinsons, Herndons, and the Longshores. There were more families living on Lincoln Way at that time, but I can’t remember them.
Massillon was beginning to change. One of the biggest changes was the rerouting of the Tuscarawas River and the building of the viaducts. Since houses had to be razed for these projects, my family had to relocate. My father could not find a house big enough for our family, and we therefore moved to Dover, Ohio.
When I was in the ninth grade, my father found a house (or, maybe I should say, an apartment) located at 1216 4th Street SW in Massillon, and I attended Jones Jr. High School. At this time the “Heights” was jumping, and I do mean jumping, with the “Loop D Loop” and “Big Mike’s.” My main buddies were Hattie Stephens, Mozell Dixon, Ethel Sheegog, and Bertha McPherson. I had a lot of other friends too numerous to name, but you know who you are.
During my time, the V&O, run by Mr. Owen Humphrey was a place that I spent a lot of time at dancing and meeting old friends (and new friends). Joshua’s was another fun place, as was the Vahepa Hotel. I had a job working for Henry Powell as bookkeeper and secretary. I saw and heard a lot of things that might best be kept to myself (smile).
I had a lot of fun on Friday nights especially during football season. I never learned anything about football, but you really didn’t have to be at the game because whenever the Tigers made a touchdown, the cannon went off. I do remember that the other teams had some cute guys. Going to Washington High School from the “Heights” in the winter and in the rain could really be a trip. It seemed as if we never got to school. Joe Jones had a car but it seemed like he never saw us when we were waiting on the bus. I graduated from high school in 1956 and was able to start going to the Elks club. What I like best about the Elks was dancing. My favorite drink was vodka and orange juice. One drink and I was ok; two drinks weren’t too bad; but three drinks would have me sliding off the bar stool. (I still can’t drink.)