Vignette from interviews with Foster Bows, conducted by Mrs. Marvyl Fields in 1978 and 1980. (Edited by Martha Stacy in June 1994.)

Foster Bows was born April 13, 1906 -- actually, he was born and always lived in the house at 8 Edison St. in Oberlin. His early memories were that the house had no electricity or gas; of course, it had lamplights, and there was a heating stove in each room. The neighborhood was not segregated, and the children played together and visited in the others homes often. Foster's grandfather (who came from Kentucky and was a slave at one time) helped build the first structure of the Mr. Zion Church in 1904. Foster was a bricklayer as was his father, and a Trustee member of Mt. Zion Church.

Mr. Bows's remembrances of early 20th century commerce in Oberlin are particularly interesting.

"In my early days there were Wright's Grocery Store, Waites Grocery Store, Locke's Grocery Store, and E.E. Sperry's down south of town. There was delivery service by horse and wagon twice a day for groceries, sometimes by lantern at night. I worked at the ice house and deliveries were made to homes in a Model T Ford truck. Of course, we made artificial ice! There were Morgan's Ice Co. and the Oberlin Ice Co. There were five to six barbershops in Oberlin. I remember that the barbershops and pool halls were segregated until I was about 20 years old [about 1925].

Where the PremierBank is located today on South Main Street was the Post Office, and where the Oberlin Laundry is now was Gable's Business College. The site of the current public library plus the new city hall, was then Wade's Hardware store. The blacksmith shop was across from today's [Watson's] hardware store. The site of the current Post Office was where they made monuments for the cemetery in the early twentieth century.

There was a trolley in Oberlin. The Green Rail Line went from Oberlin to Wellington to Norwalk, Elyria, Cleveland, and Lorain. Local draymen hauled freight from the train freight house to the stores in Oberlin. There were local taxi cabs called "hacks". All the trains were met, and college students would ride by hack to the dormitories, while businessmen and other travelers were transported uptown.

The railroads passed in front of our house on Edison Street, and there were as many as six or seven trains a day. My sad memory was that when the nine o'clock evening train pulled out of the station, it also announced a curfew for the kids on the street."

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