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Published: Wednesday, 7/26/2006

Authors recall charms of the lively Toledo community

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bonnie and Ken Dickson have writtenand self-published <i>Point Place and Its Many Yesterdays</i>, a tribute to their community. Bonnie and Ken Dickson have writtenand self-published <i>Point Place and Its Many Yesterdays</i>, a tribute to their community.
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With tales of bootlegged hootch and nights full of gambling, the history of Point Place in northern Toledo could easily be confused with another famous city that made headlines during the years of Prohibition.

But tell local writer Ken Dickson that the sights and sounds of his hometown are just like those you'd expect in Chicago and he'll excitedly tell you that "it's better!"

So much better, in fact, that Mr. Dickson and his wife, Bonnie, have written two books on the small community - one to share the lives of the infamous gangsters who once ruled the area, the other to tell the story of the average resident.

Self-published with the help of many friends, Point Place and Its Many Yesterdays (175 pages, $20) is a retrospective of the small peninsular community bordered by the Ottawa River and Lake Erie.

"The book was written to tell everybody what the Point was like or what it could be," said Mr. Dickson, 59, a retired Bowsher High School math teacher.

"We wanted to focus on the change," he added. "How it started as a recreation community and drifted towards a bedroom community. Now it's starting to come back."

Filled with black-and-white pictures, maps, and newspaper clippings, the books starts with a note from Mr. Dickson, who shared memories of growing up in the Point and how it offered a young boy a lifetime's worth of adventures.

The book is available through the Point Place Historical Society and several local Point Place retailers.

And although he collected 175 pages of historical material, Mr. Dickson admitted there is so much more - enough for a second volume, perhaps.

Interspersed between photos of famous Point Place landmarks - including Billy Gertz's Restaurant, located in the far reaches of Point Place, and Dynamite Dock, which was destroyed during the 1907 spring flood - are tales that prove the Point's significance for Toledo's elite.

Begun as a resort getaway for the wealthy, the Point is still home to many of the lakeside cottages built years ago. And with money came lavishness and greed.

And, said Mr. Dickson, a history worth sharing.

Chosen for its location along several major rails, Toledo - and more importantly, the south end of Point Place - became the site of the July 4, 1919 championship boxing match between Jesse Willard and Jack Dempsey.

Although expected to bring in $1 million in ticket sales and thousands more for area vendors and hotels, only about 20,000 fans showed up at the newly built arena in the 100-degree heat.

"The fight finally ended in the third round when the badly beaten Willard ordered his corner to throw in the towel," Mr. Dickson wrote in the book.

Mr. Dickson also points out the story of gangsters in Toledo and Point Place, which is the subject of the couple's first book, yet to be published, entitled Nothing Personal, Just Business.

The book includes the 1933 murder of Jack Kennedy, Sr., a Toledo bootlegger and popular racketeer who came to the Point to relax in a lakeside cottage. The story of his shooting death outside the former Gibb's Hardware, and the Detroit gangster accused of killing him, also comes to life in Point Place and Its Many Yesterdays.

The bullet holes can still be felt in the brick walls of what is now Edgewater Canvas Co., 5902 Edgewater Dr., a rite of passage for every Point Place youth, he said.

Starting at Riverside Park along Summit Street and continuing past the lighthouse that welcomes people to Point Place, the book's story travels north geographically and through history.

Past the Willard-Dempsey fight through thwarted plans to bring the Ohio Centennial Celebration to Toledo in 1902, and into the now torn down Willow Beach Amusement Park, the book shares a history that most have forgotten and many more have never known.

"It was fun researching it. It was fun putting it together," said Mrs. Dickson. "It was fun getting it out into the community."

Although officially joining the city of Toledo in 1937, Point Place remains a community unto its own, Mr. Dickson said. It's a place where residents shop in the small "downtown" and neighbors know neighbors.

An area with only a few thousand residents, the Point retains much of its feel as a separate city.

"It's a little community wrapped up in a big city and they like it that way," said Greg Holewinski, director of the Friendship Park Senior Center in Point Place.

He said most of the patrons to the senior center remember the days chronicled in the Dicksons' book.

"They have a lot of pride for their community," Mr. Holewinski continued. "What do they call it? 'Point Place is the best place anyplace.'‚óŹ"

It's a saying that greets visitors as they drive north on Summit Street to the small peninsula. And it's a saying the Dicksons still firmly believe.

But times have changed since he was a child, Mr. Dickson admitted. Many of the landmarks are gone, and the days of everybody knowing everybody are disappearing.

Although, that doesn't mean his book can't bring it back.

"History is much more than dates and events," he said. "It was the people."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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