Once again, some noteworthy connections regarding our heritage to report...
THE SWIRLY TOP IS NOW HISTORY - A small piece of Jackson history disappeared from the landscape last Thursday morning, Sept. 27 when the former Swirly Top building was demolished at the corner of South and Broadway streets.
Although the building had been vacant and unused for approximately 10 years, it had been a small but popular local takeout eatery for several decades starting in approximately 1960, selling mainly ice cream products, sandwiches and sides. Its demolition definitely stirred some nostalgic memories for the over-50 set.
A spokesman for the owner of the property, the Arthur Alan Corporation of Jackson, stated that the building was demolished as it "was beyond reasonable repair." The spokesman added the company plans to make additional repairs to the property, including minor renovations to the adjacent Mid City Cleaning Center laundromat, which is part of the business property.
The local person who probably knows as much as anyone or more about The Swirly Top is Jackson resident Johnny Ellenberger, who currently manages the Mid City Cleaning Center property for the Arthur Alan Corporation. Johnny is the son of the late Merle Ellenberger, a prominent Jackson businessman who purchased the property on the Broadway-South streets corner as an investment opportunity. Johnny later acquired the property from his father and sold them in 1999 to the Arthur Alan Corporation, but remained active as a manager.
At the time Merle Ellenberger purchased the property, there was a house sitting right on the corner. Soon after the purchase, Ellenberger was approached by an entrepreneur - Johnny thinks his last name was Mullins - with the proposal to build an "ice cream stand" at that spot as a leased business with Ellenberger maintaining ownership of the real estate. The house was demolished and The Swirly Top was born. Johnny can't remember the exact year it was built, but said it was no later than 1960 and may have even been in the late 1950s.
There were different operators throughout the years, but one of the best-known was the husband/wife duo of Mac and Maxine Robbins who made The Swirly Top one of the go-to eateries in Jackson in an era before all the fast-food chains claimed a share of the market. Maxine's daughter, Nancy Robbins Jolly, is the owner/operator of Gas N/ Stuff convenience store in Hamden.
The popularity of The Swirly Top eventually declined as more and more quick-service eateries came to town and pizza became a top-selling item. The Swirly Top was also dealt a major blow when nearby Kinnison School closed and closed-lunch policies were established at the nearby high school and middle school buildings.
PRESERVING OUR WELSH HERITAGE - An impressive new Ohio History Connection marker was formally dedicated this past Saturday afternoon in front of the Welsh-American Heritage Museum on East Main Street in Oak Hill. The two-sided brass marker will provide enduring recognition to the historic building as the longtime site of the old Welsh Congregational Church and its current function as a museum dedicating to preserving the local Welsh heritage and connections.
The historical marker was made possible through the efforts of the Welsh-American Heritage Museum Board of Trustees and the Madog Center for Welsh Studies at the University of Rio Grande, whose leaders wanted to find some way of celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Welsh immigration to Gallia and Jackson counties. Funding was provided by a grant from the Community Foundation in Wales-Global Giving Campaign, and the Ohio History Connection.
If you have any doubt about the strong Welsh influence in a large part of Jackson County, consider the prevalence of these Welsh surnames (placed in order of frequency): Jones, Williams, Davis, Evans, Thomas, Roberts, Lewis, Hughes, Morgan, and Griffiths.
One of the speakers at Saturday's dedication program, Oak Hill Historical Society Treasurer Brian Moore, credited the local people who worked for many years to preserve and promote the Oak Hill area's strong Welsh roots and ties and he recognized the historical importance of their efforts.
"Forty-six years ago, a core group consisting of Rev. James Hanna, Mildred Bangert, D. Paul Morgan, Ben R. Evans, and Evan E. Davis had the good sense to establish the Welsh-American Heritage Museum in order to preserve the rich Welsh history of the area," Moore stated. "Through tireless efforts, whether it was Mildred's four-decade, selfless dedication as the museum's only curator, the generosity of the Davis family, or the current work of Jeanne Jindra and the Madog Center at the University of Rio Grande, we are ensured that this beautiful Welsh Congregational Church that has stood sentry over East Main Street for a century and a half will continue to tell and preserve the history of those early Welsh pioneers and their descendants."
And there is no doubt that as Saturday's events unfolded, our beloved Mildred was smiling down on the proceedings and her Jeremiah the Mule had an extra spring in his step.
ANOTHER LANDMARK ANNIVERSARY NEARS - Another significant anniversary will be observed on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 27, when the Sylvester Wellston Memorial Public Library celebrates the 50th anniversary of being in its current location at 135 E. Second St. in Wellston with an Open House. The event will have a dual purpose as it will also honor Vickie Stephenson (Miss Vickie), as she plans to retire after 30 years of service. Congratulations, Vickie.