Pay Him Money…

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Joe E. Brown admits to astonishment, he says in his autobio, when he first discovered he might be able to get “paid for flying through the air”. For acrobatics, he was certain, was the life for him.

His best school buddy, Alec Reuben, had declared for the trapeze, and together, the boys learned that 12-year-old George Jones, a boy also of their Toledo neighborhood (referred to as “The Hill”) had been hired by professional acrobat William J. (Billy) Ashe.

Joe E. relates that he endlessly practiced cartwheels, handsprings, and walking on their hands in George’s presence, hoping to win him over to put in a good word with Ashe on their behalf.

At nine-years-old, Joe E. convinced his father to let him speak with Ashe about employment, and he was successful in getting an audition, to practice with George at Ashe’s headquarters at the old Valentine Athletic Club gym. “That was a conversation I’ll never forget,” he says.

On a humorous note, Joe E. says George didn’t know what a “kinker” was at the time, and it was another six weeks before Joe E. himself discovered the term was a description for an acrobat.

While most of the acrobats in the United States were foreign born and trained in Joe E.’s time, Ashe was born in Toledo to a performing circus clown.

By the time Joe E. was 10, his father signed a contract with Ashe, who had agreed to take Joe E. on and pay him “the princely sum of $1.50 a week”. Joe E.’s statement was sincere. Payment of $1.50 a week was very good in 1902.

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My parents’ home farm, 2013

 

At the age of 10, in 1956, living on a farm just East of Joe E.’s birthplace in Holgate, I was writing little short stories for school assignments, as well as for my own pleasure on weekends when school wasn’t even close to a thought in my head.

I wasn’t close to earning any money from my writing endeavors, either. My time was far removed from Joe E.’s, during which helping with the family income was dear to the hearts of many young boys and girls.

I didn’t see my first writing job until I was 18. But I did know writing was my passion.

Ironically, my second passion, which sometimes overrode my first, was athletics, particularly baseball, for that also was Joe E.’s second ambition.

It made perfect sense, then, that Joe E., an entertainer, would later make several baseball-related movies, while I would write stories of baseball heroes.

+++++Credit:
Top Photo (dollar bills) courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com
Second Photo (farmhouse) from the personal and copyrighted collection of Barbara Anne Helberg

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Locating Joe E. Brown’s Birthplace

 

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OH-IO !

Comedian and Hollywood star Joe E. Brown was born in 1892 in the small town of Holgate, (Henry County), Ohio. And where is Holgate, Ohio? Small towns aren’t well known across the United States, so I thought it would be fun and informative to use some location maps to find Joe E.’s exact birthplace.

At the top left, Defiance County, Ohio, which borders at its left with the state of Indiana, and Henry County, Ohio, where Joe E. Brown was born, are marked in red and blue, respectively. The big city of Toledo, Ohio, is located in Lucas County (red “L”) at Lake Erie in the left corner of the northern, dipping border line with the lake.

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Here, you can see Defiance (the city), capital of Defiance County; Napoleon, capital of Henry County; the little burg of New Bavaria, where Joe E.’s Grandpa Brown’s family were farmers; Pleasant Bend, which is essentially a grain elevator and carry out grocer’s village; and Holgate, where, eventually, kids from New Bavaria and Pleasant Bend attended school. Places like Hamler, Malinta, Jewel, and Florida all established their own school districts until consolidation took place in the 1960s.

Independence Dam State Park was part of the old Maumee and Erie Canal system of the 1800s, running from Cincinnati to Toledo along the Maumee River. At the park’s entry way, a portion of an old canal lock still sits as part of Ohio’s historic past.

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A larger view of Northwest Ohio, above, shows Toledo (right, top, yellow), the state of Michigan border line (top, green), and Toledo’s corner of Lake Erie (right, top, blue). You can see the Maumee River trailing from Lake Erie through Toledo and angling down to Defiance.

Joe E.’s immediate family moved to Toledo “in the spring before I was seven,” he says. If you locate State Route 18 leaving Holgate and going through Hamler, Deshler, and Hoytville, you’ll see the highway comes to North Baltimore, where Joe E.’s family lived a short time between his birth in Holgate and their move to Toledo. It is Toledo, Joe E. says in his autobiography, which he most remembers as being his boyhood residence.

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Holgate, Ohio,  has changed a lot from the main mud thoroughfare it was when Joe E. lived there. It’s grown and modernized, and its loyal citizenry has maintained the town’s school system, razing the old buildings at the corner of Wilhelm Street and Frazier Avenue to construct new facilities at the opposite end of town.

The tracks of the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, for whom Joe E.’s Grandpa Evans worked as car inspector and water tank supervisor, pass West-East through town. His Grandpa Evans also worked for the old Clover Leaf (Nickel Plate) railroads, which tracked North-South through Holgate’s Eastern edge, but were pulled out decades ago.

The new school buildings, housing grades K-12, were built, appropriately enough, along the south side of Joe E. Brown Avenue. That avenue is also State Route 18, Holgate’s northern most street that travels out to North Baltimore.

Most of Holgate’s main businesses today are found at the north side of the old B & O tracks, along Wilhelm Street and Railway Avenue. A grain elevator and a lumber business that serve the entire county are located on Lee Avenue, the first street past the tracks.

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This Holgate map blowup shows Joe E. Brown Avenue and Randolph Street. Joe E. was born in the Brown family home on Randolph Street. The house stood on the west side of Randolph Street between Pittsburgh Avenue and Chicago Avenue.