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Willoughby Hills Historical Society, Inc.

Historical IndianThe Mission of the Willoughby Hills Historical Society is to discover and preserve the historic resources of Willoughby Hills and Willoughby Township, and to encourage a preservation ethic in our community.

The Willoughby Hills Historical Society was founded in March of 1988 and was certified as a Not-For-Profit Corporation on May 23, 1988.

It collects, preserves and displays or otherwise provides for study as far as may be feasible of printed material, photographs, and material objects illustrative of life, conditions, events and activities of the past.

The Society meets on the fourth Wednesday of the odd numbered months in the lower level of the Community Building in the "Historical Society Room" and our newsletter, REFLECTIONS, listing our program for the meeting, is sent to our members the week before the meeting.

Individual memberships are $5/yr. or $100 for life membership.  Family memberships are $7.50/yr. or $150 for life membership.  Click here for membership application.

For more information or a membership application, contact Frank or Mary Cihula at (440) 946-5557 or e‑mail at whhs-oh@att.net.

Meeting/Program Schedule for 2016:

January 27, 2016, 7:00 PM            Barb Widden; Chim Chimney Cher-ee.

March 23, 2016, 7:00 PM               Carolyn Patton Portraying Betsy Ross.

May 25, 2016, 7:00 PM                   Dr. Ron Taddeo presents: 
                                                     "Lake County's Japanese Connection".

September 28, 2016, 7:00 PM        Rebecca McFarland & Tom Pappas present:
                                                    Cleveland's Union Terminal.  A look at the early
                                                    days of the Terminal Tower on Public Square. 
                                                    They will show some never-seen-before
                                                    of the Terminal!

DID YOU KNOW?  (posted 9-3-2016 )

          Our January 1996 newsletter contained a picture of the Sorter fruit stand located at the NE corner of Chardon Road and Bishop Road.  The picture was provided by Bruce D. Sorter, son of Wilbur Sorter, the owner of the fruit stand and farm behind it.  Below is an abridged version of the hand written history of the Sorter family and farm provided to us by Bruce W. Sorter.

Sorter Family & Fruit Stand History

Written by Bruce W. Sorter, 4-3-96

          Some of my earliest recollections of Sorter’s Fruit Farm consist of memory fragments from the late 1930’s and the 1940’s.  My grandfather, William C. Sorter, had a beautiful white house on Bishop Road, south of White Road.  (Mayfield Township, now Highland Heights)  Behind the house, were several acres of fruit trees, currants and gooseberries that needed a lot of work.  For recreation, we would sometimes go to Emerald Lake on White Road with a bamboo pole to fish.

          The other part of Sorter’s Fruit Farm was where I lived for the first 18 years of my life, at the corner of Chardon and Bishop Roads.  We had 3 ½ acres of lawn, which I knew intimately, as I had to keep it mowed with a push mower.  During the week, I would work with other kids hired from the neighborhood as well as a few retirees trying to supplement their meager retirements.

          Springtime meant one of the most beautiful sights I have seen.  The huge Japanese Cherry tree and the Magnolia tree in the backyard would bloom.  Looking out beyond the backyard to the orchard would be a sea of blooming fruit trees.  In the Spring we would cut unwanted growth out of the trees.  Later, we would thin out the apples where there were too many.  We would pick cherries, pears, prunes, plums, peaches, and apples as they came into season during Summer and Fall.  In order to sell apples as long as possible, we would store some apples in the storage cellars of the McKinney Estate on Bishop Road near Euclid Avenue.  The produce was hauled in an ancient Buddy Stewart truck.  It was so old the windshield wipers were moved by hand to clear off the rain on the window.

          On a very hot Summer day, when we had worked hard, my dad, Wilbur D. Sorter, would take us kids in the old truck to the Chagrin River for a swim.  Sometimes my dad would take the truck to the East Cleveland Market to buy produce to supplement the fruit grown on the farm.  Going to market with my dad was an exotic adventure, as I would get up about 4:00 a.m. to get to the market. . . . .things and sights.  There were ripe figs, which I had never seen before, and an old woman carrying two bags of potatoes, weighing one hundred pounds each, one on each hip, to her truck.  She seemed to be doing it effortlessly to my amazement as I tried later to lift one 100-pound bag with considerable effort.

          My grandfather usually sold produce from the fruit stand on the corner of Chardon and Bishop Roads during the week.  When we weren’t busy, he would roast chestnuts for us on the kerosene stove in the back room.  There was a radio to hear the baseball games and a dartboard where my dad and I and other kids had numerous competitions.  When we weren’t working, we would play baseball on the lawn between the stand and the house.  Sometimes my grandfather would join in with us.

          On the weekend, both the stand and the lawn in front of the house would be used for selling fruit.  Many people would come out from Cleveland to buy fruit for canning.  This was the big moment of the week, as many sales would be made from gasoline and oil, honey, maple syrup, candy, ice cream and baskets of fruit at the stand to more fruit, bittersweet bouquets and cider on the lawn.  Fireworks were sold from a small green building on the edge of the lawn. . . . . the pole which caused the roof to collapse on the building, he decided along with my dad’s urging to cut back considerably on his driving.

          As late Fall arrived on the farm, there would be many dead branches to cut out of the fruit trees.  We would pile up the branches in a big pile, pour kerosene over it, and burn the branches.  When I went back to the house, my mother would usually say, “How did you manage to singe off most of your eyebrows and eye lashes?”

          As far as the farm was concerned, Winter was the time to catch up on reading and rest for the coming work of Spring.

          It could be a lonely life on a rural farm, but it was also an exciting life that nurtured many of the habits I would need later in life.  These are my youthful memories of life on Sorter’s Fruit Farm, about a half century ago.

January 2001 Reflections Newsletter.  All rights reserved