You’re sitting at the dinner table.
Your significant other says, “So, what interesting thing did you learn today?”
You struggle for something to say. “Uh, how about those Browns?” is all you can manage.
Dinner ends in silence.
It doesn’t have to happen that way. Just read this column and learn many facts about our dear state of Ohio. Then you can say, “I learned this interesting fact about Ohio pornography today...”
I could say I spent endless hours researching interesting facts, just to entertain you, the reader.
And that’s just what I did. Well, either that or I flipped through “Bathroom Book of Ohio Trivia, Weird, Wacky and Wild” by Alicia Adams and Lisa Wojna.
A little disclaimer. I didn’t read it in the bathroom. My employers prefer that I sit in the newsroom with the masses. Plus, nobody would install cable in the men’s room so I could network my computer. I didn’t try the ladies’ room.
Anyway, did you know no Republican has ever become president without Ohio and the state has chosen the losing candidate only twice in history?
The book is short on trivia about Ashtabula County, I must warn you.
The book tells us, “Ohio’s largest county is Ashtabula County. With 16 covered bridges and 15 wineries, the county calls itself the ‘covered bridge and winery capital of Ohio.’”
We also learn, “Lake County was named for the fact it borders the southeastern corner of Lake Erie. Covering an area of only 232 square miles, it is the state’s smallest county.”
Under a section called “Climate,” the book states, “On Friday, July 28, 2006, after six days of heavy rain throughout Lake County, then Governor Bob Taft declared a state of emergency. During a 12-hour period on July 22 alone, more than 9 inches of rain fell, flooding nearby Ashtabula County and soaking Geauga and Lake Counties. In the end, most of the damage — 113 buildings destroyed, more than 300 additional buildings damaged to a less degree — occurred in Lake County.”
Like I said, it’s not a book filled with trivia about our neck of the woods.
While Ohio has a number of notable sports figures, you won’t find any from Ashtabula County, according to the book.
How about bad guys?
Charles Manson was born in Cincinnati in 1934. He’s the one who formed the cult that murdered actress Sharon Tate and many others in 1969.
The book details how James Ruppert shot 11 members of his family on Easter 1975 at his mother’s home. He lived in Hamilton.
Who can forget Dr. Sam Sheppard, a Bay Village physician accused of murdering his wife? His story was the basis for the TV show and movie “The Fugitive.” (The book only mentions the movie. I added the TV show.)
Jeffrey Dahmer may have been called the “Milwaukee Cannibal,” but the serial killer was originally from Summit County. We Ohioans can be so proud.
The closest nutcase to us mentioned was surprisingly Jeffrey Lundgren. He created his own Mormon sect in Lake County and members killed Dennis and Cheryl Avery and their three daughters in 1984. Lundgren was executed Oct. 24, 2006.
But couldn’t they mention Mildred Gillars? Mildred wasn’t a serial killer but she was definitely infamous. She couldn’t get work as an actress and ended up as a radio announcer in Berlin in the 1930s. Her sultry voice was used to try to convince American soldiers to give up and go home during World War II. Gillars was called Axis Sally. She is probably the most famous, or infamous, member of the Conneaut High School class of 1917.
The book dutifully mentions artists born or raised in Ohio, like Sarah Jessica Parker, Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Halle Berry, Clark Gable, Dean Martin and Drew Carey.
But there’s no mention of Don Novello who created the Father Guido Sarducci character for “Saturday Night Live.” He dressed in the Sarducci garb and visited the Vatican, taking photographs where it wasn’t permitted and was arrested. Charges were later dropped.
Sarducci, er, Novello, happens to be the first baby born in 1943 at what was then Ashtabula General Hospital.
Ernest Pflueger wasn’t born in Ashtabula County, although we sure wish we could claim him. Ernie was born in Akron in 1883 and created the first artificial fish bait.
John Leon Bennett was born in Newark in 1937. He invented the beer can.
Victor Mills is from Ohio. He invented Pampers disposable diapers in 1962. At least one astronaut is happy about that.
No jokes. Preparation H was invented by Cincinnati’s own Dr. Geroge (that’s how they spelled it) Sperti in the 1950s. His first name is really spelled “George.”
Some inventions didn’t become too popular. Two Canton men in 1969 invented the motorized spaghetti fork while a guy from Connor invented the self-lowering toilet. Apparently nobody had refrigerators with door shelves until Powel Crosley Jr. of Cincinnati came up with it in 1932
Ever been to Ai? It’s got the shortest name of any community in the state. It’s near Toledo.
Parts of two pages are devoted to Ohio’s fine wines, but there is nary a mention of Ashtabula County.
We are shortchanged once again in “Pioneering Pornography.” The book focuses on Larry Flynt of Dayton, who opened his first strip club in 1970 in Dayton and expanded into Columbus, Toledo, Akron and Cleveland. Then he started Hustler magazine in 1974.
“The rest, as they say, is eyebrow-raising history,” the book states.
Not even a passing mention of our own adult novelty store at I-90 and Route 193 in Kingsville.
Clevelanders in 1926 loved a spaghetti sauce made at the Il Giardino d’Italia. Patrons would ask for extra helpings of the sauce. The owner would fill up old milk bottles for people. He eventually built a tiny factory to keep up with orders. He died at 87, his company worth $500 million.
His name was Chef Boyardee.
Well, at least he didn’t live too far from Ashtabula County.
Watch this space and I’ll give you more Ohio trivia. It beats coming up with original column material. The next installment will include Ohio’s top 10 employers.
By the way, while the book is about all things Ohio, it is published by Lone Pine Publishing in Auburn, Wash. That isn’t in Ohio.
Lebzelter is special sections editor. E-mail him at email@example.com..
A Robert Lebzelter column
You’re sitting at the dinner table.
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