Submitted by Nute Chapman
From Onaway Outlook June 14, 2013
CAPTION: HOMES ON THE HILL. Photo courtesy of Bill Ellenberger
Many of our readers probably don’t know about the term “China Walls.” As a young lad growing up on the hill, I along with others found many ways to entertain ourselves for the most part without getting into any serious trouble.
Besides spending endless hours in Hayner’s Woods, building forts along Baker’s Creek, digging in Ernie Mills junk yard, sliding and climbing the hills at Dead Horse Canyon, we spent a lot of time walking the stone ledges that once were the settings for three of the biggest homes in Onaway. Most of the walls are still in place today. My children and all the hill kids played army in these ruins called the China Walls.
These three homes were built early in the life of the American Wood Rim Co. E.J. Lobdell Jr. was president of the company, J.B. Lobdell and O.K. Snyder were key members of the board at the Onaway plant. They had a branch plant in Mery-Sur-Oise, France.
Charles Kendrick was sent to France to run this plant. Charles raised his family there and returned to Onaway and patented the “All Wood Steering Wheel,” which will be the topic of some later articles.
After the fire at the plant, the American Wood Rim Company moved to Alma. Sometime later Albert Ellenberger moved his family into the J.B. Lobdell home and raised his family there. Today this house is still standing and is the home of William (Bill) Ellenberger. Today Bill has a beautiful lawn on E.J. Lobdell’s home site.
E.J. Lobdell Jr’s house was being vandalized and finally torn down. We have heard stories of O.K. Snyder dismantling his home and moving it to Alma, but we do not have proof of this.
As one studies this week’s picture, it appears to have been taken from the front steps of the “Company Store,” later the garment factory. The stone wall in the middle of the picture is where Fardon Street comes up the hill from Washington Avenue. Euclid Street goes to the right and joins Fairview Street. At this time Fairview Street ended where it joined Euclid.
The house directly below the J.B. Lobdell house (now Ellenberger’s) is the Larson house. The house on the corner of Fardon and Euclid is owned by Sue (Greenwood) Caster.
Below the wooden tower on the bottom right is the end of the old Onaway Water Works. Take note of the two children pulling a wooden sled up Fardon Street. Looking between the E.J. Lobdell Jr. home and O.K. Snyder’s home one can see the long roof of one of the old water tanks. Directly behind this is the top of the old watchtower, where the Civil Air Patrol volunteered their time to sit and watch from enemy aircraft.
My Grandfather, Wes Chapman, was a Civil Air Patrol volunteer and spent time in this watchtower.
The following poem was penned by my Granddad while sitting in the watchtower.
At the Watchtower Two long hours yet to go My bones are getting sore. And these old chairs are awfully Hard and I won’t lie on the floor. I won’t lie down upon my back, You see it’s just in case The enemy might happen o’er And bomb my naval base. W.C. -From The Onaway Outlook, June 14, 2013, p. 3. Retyped by J. Anderson.