Randy Weitzel, Vernon Walker, Lew Weitzel and Joe Grenus.
Here’s a column of mine that ran in the Cuyahoga Falls News-Press:
Reflections: Friends meet for breakfast since 1983
by Steve Wiandt, Reporter
I recently had the pleasure of breaking bread with a group of guys who have been meeting for breakfast once a month for nearly 30 years. Many of them have known each other since they were kids growing up on the east side of Cuyahoga Falls.
Known as the East Side Gang, this breakfast club began meeting in 1983 at the former Country Kitchen restaurant that was on Cuyahoga Falls Avenue, said Randy Weitzel, 88, between bites of egg and toast. “We were playing golf at Baker’s Acres and someone told us Ant Fredo was in town.” Weitzel said Antujch “Ant” Fredo had moved to Florida after being raised in the Falls.
After that first get-together with Fredo, the East Side Gang decided to meet the first Wednesday of every month. In those early days, the turnout was between 36 and 40 men, Weitzel said. The location moved to Eddie’s Deli on Oakwood Drive when Country Kitchen closed. Attendance now averages around eight. Weitzel noted he has photos from those early years when the East Side Gang filled the banquet room of Country Kitchen.
“Did you have dark hair in those pictures, or was it all white?” asked Richard Skoff, a local minister who joined the group about five years ago. His question was met with laughter from everyone around the table. In addition to Weitzel and Skoff, the group that morning included Weitzel’s brother, Lew; Vernon Walker; and Joe Grenus.
Lew Weitzel, 90, was a machinist and later the chief inspector for the former Gougler Industries in Kent. Walker, also 90, is a former community development director for the city of Cuyahoga Falls and once owned a building supply company on Front Street. Grenus is a retired high school math teacher living in Barberton.
Randy Weitzel is a retired Cuyahoga Falls police officer, starting as a patrolman and ending his career as a lieutenant. The Falls had 17 or 18 bars in 1954, he noted during a breakfast conversation that seemed to change subjects with every sip of coffee. In the early days, the city was home to 27 mills, according to Skoff.
Grenus spoke about his love for fishing on Lake Hodgson in Ravenna where he can be found at least once a week.
Randy said President William McKinley used to come to High Glens Park on South Front Street. The topic can change that quickly. Thoughts are flying left and right. When the caffeine starts to kick in, sidebar conversations start up while the primary speaker is still going strong.
Next we’re hearing about the way union demonstrators were said to have shown their disapproval of the construction of State Road Shopping Center with non-union workers. “Union demonstrators rigged the dynamite to blow outward,” Randy Weitzel said. “They really didn’t want to destroy the building. They just wanted to send a message. All it did was blow the glass in the front of the building out onto State Road.”
“It shook our house on Eighth Street,” said Skoff. “My dad ran down to see what happened.”
That was in the early 1950s, when Weitzel was a Falls cop. Going back another 100 years, he recalled “the crime of the century” in Cuyahoga Falls when James Parks decapitated William Beatson in 1853. “Two guys met on a train and became friends,” Weitzel said. “One guy wanted the other guy’s money. They got off the train at Bailey Road.” Parks was convicted and executed for his crime.
Returning to the 20th century, Weitzel remembered a fire at Hudson Hardware in the late 1950s where the heat was so intense paint cans were exploding.
Favorite topics include history, childhood memories and the declining value of the dollar. One East Sider pumped gas when it was 15 cents a gallon. Another delivered the Akron Times-Press. In the winter, he’d pour the gas that was still in the long hose on the pump onto the ground and light it. Peoples Drug Store sold cigarettes two packs for a quarter, a third member offered.
Lew Weitzel said he likes to remember “the enjoyment of playing together when we were kids. We played kick the can and capture the flag.”
Brother Randy agreed. “We were close. All East Side.”
Any advice for the younger set?
“Keep active, turn off the TV and follow the Lord,” Randy said.