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April 3, 1980


PIX #1 The Sprout home at 430 W. Center St. where Paul and his dad watched lightning strike the Center St. School across the street. The house is the same as then except now aluminum sided. The Gregory N. Miller family reside there now.

Pix #2 Here's the old Center St. School as it looked then, where Miss Overhold taught so many Fostoria boys and girls. It is now the K of C Lodge.

Editor's Note: Since publishing excerps from Paul Sprout's book in this column, many readers have contacted me to ask if the author, was the same Mr. Sprout who operated a bicycle shop in Fostoria many years ago. Other readers knew he was the son of "Sprout the bicycvle man" and remembered about both.

Paul Sprout, the author, devoted parts of his book to his father, L.O. Sprout and family. Since many readers remember him but may not know some of the interesting things about his family, life and work, today's column will include that story.


"Out house on W. North St. had no basement and it was heated by coal in the cook stove, and another soft coal stove in the living room. At this time natural gas was piped in to Fostoria and I can still recall the small open heater with abestos back that was set up in the living room. When it was first lit we all sat and watched it burn without smoke or ashes.

My dad had a very high IQ, and could do almost anything with his hands. When he was a freshman in High School he decided he wanted to be a telegram messenger boy because they wore a uniform and were furnished a bicycle. That was the end of his formal education.

He was driving a delivery truck for Hale's Laundry (on W. Center St. where other laundries were later, Frank Kirian's being the last one) and mother was working there when they met. Before they were married, dad did some bicycle racing, which was a favorite sport then. He then started his first bike shop on W. North St., across from the fire station, but that business failed.


Dad had two was for a railroad torpedo that snapped on the rails by springwire claws. It could be fastened to the rails in nothing flat, ahead of an oncoming train as a warning to stop. The ones in use had soft lead strips which required the trainman to bend down and fasten them... taking longer time. For some reason the railroads didn't buy the idea.

Cememt was coming into use at that time and dad's other invention was a cement block machine that made blocks designed to give ventilation and prevent dampness. He made blocks for M.A. Thomas and built a cottage for him on Catawba Island. In later years he made all the foundation blocks for our home on W. Center St., when he remodeled it. But, he could never get anyone to promote his block-making machine.


When dad's first bicycle business failed he went to work for M.A. Thomas, who owned many rental properties in Fostoria, and it was dad's job to do the maintenance work on them. Thomas had a farm at North Baltimore and when the tenant moved off in the fall, dad was asked to move out there to care for the farm and livestock. That was 1903. In the spring we moved back to Fostoria. Mr. Thomas sold us the house he owned at 430 W. Center St. for 1,200. That house became my parents home for the rest of their lives, almost 50 years, and I loved there longerr than any other house during my life.

Dad left Thomas' employee and worked as a machinist for several years. Finally he walked home one evening carrying his tool chest on his shoulder and said he had been "fired". Mother was sick about it but knew dad's temper was his biggest enemy. He said he was going back into the bike business, which he did. He rented a basement location downtown for $10.00 per month, and although there were many months until he got going, he stuck with it.

When I was about 14, dad got the agency for the Smith Mototr Wheel. It was a small engine built in a steel disc which was attached to the left rear side of the bike and ran on its own rubber tire. It could take you about 20 miles an hour. After riding it for some time I decided to put the engine in a little automobile, which I built and ran it all over town for a year or so.

Finally, when I was about 14, dad started remodeling our house on W. Center. He did much of the work himself. Dug the basement, and made the cement blocks with his machine. The furnace and all the large timbers he bought from the School Board, since they had just torn down the old Central High School and built a new one.

Dad worked on the remodeling evenings during the summer, and on holidays, but never on Sunday. It took him four years to complete the job. He only weighed 110 pounds, and I don't know how he did all that work, and made a respectable living at his shop too.


At about that same time dad moved his bike business from the basement location on E. Center to W. Center next to the new YMCA. He had adopted the slogan "Sprout can fix it". In addition to bike repair he did welding, made keys, and opened safes by toucn ano souno if the combination was lost. He was recommended all over the area by The Mosler Safe Co. to open their customers safes.

Many older readers will remember L.O. Sprout's basement location on E. Center St. was in The First National Bank building, where Kresge store is now.

His W. Center St. bicycle shop was a two story frame building just east of the YMCA. A canopy the width of the building was across the front.

Older readers will also remember M.A. Thomas for whom "Sprouty" worked, resided in the house on W. Crocker St. where The Mennel Milling Co. general offices are now. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas were active in the Presbyterian Church and were prominent citizens.

The automobile Paul Sprout built was remembered by some readers and called to my attention even before this was written.


One hot summer evening when I was about 10, dad and I were lying on the floor in the living room in front of the screen door, watching the lightening play during a violent thunder storm. The school across the street (old Center school, where K of C is now) had a cupalo, on top with a large flag pole. We saw a ball of lightning strike the pole, roll down it, strip a path of slate shingles off the roof on it's way to a downspout, finally following it to the ground. We were scared. Miraculously, the building did not catch fire. The next morning we found charred pieces of the pole on Countyline street, a half block away.

Not long after that Glen FRanklin (next door neighbor) was sitting on the running board of their Reo with his bare feet on the cement floor of the garage. A bolt of lightning struck the garage and car, and as the tire insulated the car it went through Glen. He was knocked senseless, but fortunately was not killed or even burned.

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