The doctor’s office in the back of the Cottage Grocery Store is a replica of one that belonged to Walter Corey in Charon as it looked around 1945. Born in 1890, Corey worked as a doctor for forty-six years and during that time was the first person to fill position of health commissioner for Geauga County. Despite the fact Chardon is in the snowbelt, he made house calls in winter. In the days before snow tires, he equipped his car with oversized tires to get through and, if that failed, he traveled using a tractor with a snowplow attached to its front.During his many years of practice, he delivered about 4,000 of Geauga County’s babies and removed the tonsils of many of its children. This he only did in the summer so they wouldn’t miss school. He was quite a character and had a good sense of humor. In the 1940s he started the Corey Hospital in Chardon. He died in his own hospital at the age of 81 on January 30, 1972.
Next door to Corey’s office is the Crossroads Store, one of two general stores on the premises. This one contains a giftshop and is where you purchase a ticket and begin your tour. The other one, the Old Bainbridge Store, was built around 1846 by William Smith. Frank Jaros bought it in 1924, running it until 1941 at which time his family rented the property to other proprietors. The store finally closed its doors in 1971 when the new Route 422 prompted the family’s executor, Lawrence Jaros, to sell the land on which it stood. The building itself was then donated to GCHS, which moved it to its present location.
A number of interesting items can be found within including a Zeno chewing gum machine that dispensed sticks of gum. The concept of chewing gum goes back at least 9,000 years. The oldest piece of honey-flavored gum is 9,000 years and was unearthed by archeologists in Sweden. Made from birchbark tar, it was chewed by Neolithic people of German stock. The ancient Greeks chewed the resin of the mastic tree. Americans—both Native and those whose origins lie elsewhere—used to chew spruce tree resin despite its horrid flavor. Indeed, one of the first successful American chewing gums was made of this. Introduced by Jacob Bacon Curtis of Maine in 1841, it sold as State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.
In the 1850s, Thomas Adams of New York City worked for Antonio López Santa Anna, the former president of Mexico (on multiple occasions) and the man who ordered the slaughter of all the Alamo’s defenders. At this time he was in exile and living on Long Island of all places. He asked Adams to see if he could make chicle, a sap produced by the sapodilla tree found mainly in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula as well as in Central America, into a rubber substitute. Santa Anna hoped it would generate the revenue he needed to return to Mexico and seize power once more, but the venture went no where because chicle doesn’t bounce.
One day Adams saw a young girl walking out of a drugstore chewing paraffin gum and it occurred to him the otherwise useless chicle might work better than a wax for this purpose. (It wasn’t an original idea. The ancient Mayans chewed chicle.) Adams’ gum flavors included tutti-frutti and licorice. He first marketed his gum as Adams New York No. 1. The licorice flavored gum he made was mass marketed as Black Jack, which you can still purchase today.
But back to Zeno gum. William N. Brewer, who worked at a Chicago subsidiary of the Cleveland-based Rubber Paint Company, had the idea of making chewing gum made of rubber, which was one of the ingredients in the company’s paint. In 1890 the Rubber Paint Company created the Zeno Manufacturing Company to make chewing gum in a variety flavors including vanilla cream, peppermint, orange, and licorice. Stores that ordered 1,200 sticks got with it a free vending machine.
At the same time that production of Zeno gum began in Chicago, a salesman originally from Philadelphia named William Wrigley, Jr. was selling soap and baking powder. As a gimmick to increase sales, Wrigley gave two sticks of Zeno gum with his baking powder. Seeing that the gum was the more popular of the two, he started selling it exclusively with Zeno providing his supply. In 1910 Wrigley’s distribution company merged with Zeno to become the William Wrigley, Jr. Company, at which point the Zeno brand ended.
Wrigley introduced the flavors juicy fruit and spearmint and advertised mercilessly. He gave millions of sticks away free. His gum appeared on billboards, placards, and electric signs across America. It made him a fortune, and with this he began buying major and minor league baseball teams. He also purchased Santa Clara Island off of Los Angeles’ coast on which he built a vacation resort complete with a wildlife sanctuary that those from the middle class could afford.
More about Century Village can be found in my book Hidden History of Northeast Ohio in the Geauga County chapter.