By Elaine Lillback, FHM staff reporter
Greetings from our two hundred year old village of Fairport! To learn about the town, we ask questions of former residents, or their children, who lived and carried on businesses in the early days.
Our first story, presented by Elaine Holson Kangas, is an exciting one concerning the 40-year history of John’s Service Station, and Elaine Holson Kangas’ father, proprietor John O. Holson. He was born March 9, 1913 in Conneaut, Ohio to the John Holso family. John married Sylvia Mononen from Isokyro, Finland in Sept. 30, 1939. They had one daughter, Elaine, and two granddaughters, and four great grandchildren.
The picture below shows Elaine with a portrait of her parents, wherein "her father was shown with a full head of hair; after that it was always a butch haircut," relates Elaine.
Her father, John had contracted polio at the age of two, leaving him crippled with an abnormal left foot. This required serious medical attention. He was made a special brace for the normal right foot and then a fitted left boot for a foot whose toes were pushed back into the arch making it half normal sized.
The picture below shows the special shoe or boot constructed by the Cleveland Clinic to accomodate John's polio-crippled foot.
John’s Service station was known as FULL SERVICE; it was 24/7, towing, gas, and all the fluids, windshields washed and tire pressure checked. Mechanical work including front wheel alignment was highlighted.
John started working in 1927, pumping gas for the Fairport Service Station, now Harvey’s Farm Market. He bought his first car, a 1924 Chevy Touring Car for $50. He learned from the start how to vulcanize rubber and repaired tires at the old Fairport Tire Shop across from the old Fairport Post Office on lower High Street.
September 30, 1976 brought an end to 40 years of family business. Joe Arcaro of Arcaro’s Service Station bought out the station. John’s had survived the war, depression, the rise and fall of the hippie era, and the coming of the space age, and competition from new and large businesses.
John enjoyed fishing trips to North Bay, Ontario, Canada. He enjoyed his Peterborough speedboat, but after tipping it over five times, trying to simultaneously save his constant companion Airedale dog, Friskie and his boat, he gave up his water sport. His wife Sylvia said, “What good was a watch dog, when Friskie came home every night?” But there had been no more robberies at the station after Friskie came into their lives.
Her dad enjoyed woodworking and made items to give as gifts and to sell at the Zion Lutheran Bazaars. His humor is seen in this question, “When is a car not a car?” The answer: “When it turns into a driveway.” He passed away on January 9, 1992, at the age of 79, and Sylvia passed away October 28, 2009 at age 93.
The Rev. Pentti Maki delivered the second story. He is the son of Johan Makitalo, born in Finland in 1891, and who came as a photographer to America in 1923. Johan was listed as a Lutheran preacher in Finland. He also held services in his home in Fairport, and was a professional photographer who took all kinds of photographs. He used a five by seven view camera. It was a 1902 R B Cycle Graphic camera built by Eastman Kodak. Its unique ability was to do a 180-degree sweep to take a panoramic view and was fully adjustable.
The picture on the left shows the back of the book Valon Lapset and a photograph of Rev. Makitalo.
Johan signed his panoramic photographs of Zion Lutheran’s Suomi Church 1924 photograph on the lower right side of the picture as “Hannes” from his nickname, Johannes. Both the camera and two examples of panoramic photos are on display in the main gallery of the museum.
Johan had also written a book “Valon Lapset”that explained his life, faith, and his visit to Finland. While in Finland he visited President Paasikivi. One day as he was visiting in Turnava, he rode on the bus with a lady who lived there. As their ride came to an end, she invited him to come to her home to visit. He accepted, and that was the beginning of Pentti’s family history. He has two sisters, Viola, and Kaisa.
Our third guest, Viola Maki Pohto, sister of Pentti Maki, was a former hairdresser and owner/operator of Viola’s Beauty Salon on Fairport’s High Street. Viola was ripe with many strange and funny tales regarding her beautician degree.
She started out as a housewife of Robbie Pohto. While he was working at the Industrial Rayon, she and their son Freddie would go out and do their shopping and on one occasion, went to neighboring Painesville, Ohio. That day, her son Freddie, said, “I can get a coke if we go into that place.” So they went in, and Viola said she came out a broken woman, she had paid her fee to enroll in the cosmetology school. She didn’t know her English too well, but she would learn it through the schooling.
Through the course at the school, she related, she had to learn skin, muscles, nerves, chemistry, electricity, and diseases. Viola said these diseases were all named in Latin, which she credited her husband Robbie help her learn them all. As she was quizzed later in Columbus for her license, the examiner said, “even if you have the right disease, but misspelled, it’s wrong!” But she passed. Sisu, she related. After that, Viola’s mother said, “Never lie, you don’t have the memory for it!”
Viola kept the audience spellbound with beauty tales, including a lady who went into labor under the hair-dryer bonnet.
Viola is a great storyteller.
Linda Penttila, and Suzanne Jokela served refreshments, consisting of homemade Finnish nisu baked by Jane Hiltunen.
©FHM Text by Elaine Lillback, ©Photos by Lasse Hiltunen