Focus on Fostoria - May_12_04

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Fostoria Focus - May 12, 2004

Nelson Poe: Fostoria Singer, Volunteer,
Business Leader, Humanitarian, ... Pickpocket?

By Leonard Skonecki

The name of Nelson Poe will still bring a nod of recognition from some of the more maturely-aged heads around town.

Mr. Poe was a businessman, civic volunteer, baseball fan, singer and — most importantly — the man for whom my grandmother kept house for several years in the 1950s.

What's more, he was once accused of being a pickpocket.

I still refer to him as "Mr. Poe."

My grandmother, Mary Killian, lived in a couple of rooms on the second floor of his house at Fremont and Main.

When we went there to visit Grandma, Mom and Dad always told my sister and me to be on our best behavior because we were going to Mr. Poe's house.

Mr. Poe took his first job when he was 9 years old. He had a paper route.

H was born in 1884 in Fostoria. He's best remembered as the general manager of the Black Swamp Credit Association, a financial institution, which operated from 1933 to 1950.

Mr. Poe was a co9mmunity leader. For instance, in 1947, he was appointed to the committee pushing for railroad grade separations in the city (some things never change).

He took an active part in promoting the bond issue that raised Fostoria's share of the project. He volunteered for the speaker's bureau and pushed the project to everyone from the Senior Hospital Guild, to veterans organizations, to service organizations and anyone else willing to listen.

He was quite a singer. When the Fostoria Mausoleum was dedicated May 27, 1917, Mr. Poe, Clyde Hull, Charlie Gribble and Nelson Hicks were the "Male Quartet" that performed two vocals.

In 1915, when he was 30, Mr. Poe went to see the West Coast. While in San Diego, he looked up Rev. Hollington of the Methodist Episcopal Church there.

Rev. Hollington was formerly pastor of the M..E. Church in Fostoria. He asked if Mr. Poe could still carry a tune. When Mr. Poe said he could, the good reverend asked him to perform a solo at that Sunday's service.

On March 7, 1020, the M.E. Church had a program of special music for its service. One selection was a duet by Mr. Poe and Miss Lou Kinnaman.

During World War I, Mr. Poe served overseas in Europe and Asia, but not with the military. He aided the relief efforts of the YMCA and the Red Cross.

In fact, he spent 20 months overseas during and after the war. He returned to Fostoria Dec. 23, 1919.

He spent the next three months resting and getting reacquainted with his family. He gave talks on his experience such as the one he presented to the senior department of the Presbyterian Sunday School on March 14, 1920/

Around March 20, 1920, Mr. Poe left the United States to go overseas again. His work during the war caught the eye of the executive committee of the International YMCA. He was slated for a tour of duty in Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Beginning in the 1880s, the Y began a program of Christian missionary work around the world.
Foreign work secretaries went to other countries, organized YMCAs and then placed them under local control. Mr. Poe spent several years working on behalf of the Y overseas.

So after all that community service, why did Mr. Poe become a pickpocket? Well, he didn't but he was accused of it.

Back in the winter of 1914-15, when he was touring the Pacific Coast, he made a stop in San Francisco. The city was having an exposition at the time and 44 states had pavilions.

Mr. Poe rode the cable cars and jitney busses. All in all, he was having a swell time.

That is, until he decided to browse a department store. According to the Fostoria Daily Review, two women approached him and tried to shake him down.

Being a well-to-do looking chap, they chose him as their mark. They demanded money. If he turned them down, they said they would accuse him of pickpocketing.

Mr. Poe refused flatly to give them any money and the women were as good as their word.

The store detective was called. Then the San Francisco Police arrived. Mr. Poe was handcuffed, pitched into a paddy wagon, and hauled off to jail.

From 1 to 4 pm, he cooled his heels in the clink while the police investigated. After all was said and done (and more was said then done). The police realized their attention was better aimed at the two women.

So Mr. Poe was released to continue his travels, his tenure as a pickpocketing accusee now no more than a singular sidelight in an already colorful and absorbing trip.

Nelson Poe died in November 1970 at the age of 86. I have one clear recollection of him.

He was a baseball fan. On Saturday afternoons, he did something that used to drive my grandmother to distraction.

Mr. Poe would watch one game on TV and listen to another on the radio at the same time.

Grandma would always say, "How does he know what's going on?"

Mr. Poe was a good ball fan so it was easy.