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WQED TV producer and PITTSBURGH Magazine back-page writer writes about his current work and assorted other things.

#11. Young Chicken in Van Wert

June 22nd, 2009 · 111 Comments

I know I’ve not yet arrived at the Conference, and here’s yet another pre-conference “highlight.”  So what?  Most true travelers know that the journey is often better and more delicious than the destination.

It’s almost 7 o’clock in the evening when I get to downtown Van Wert, Ohio.

I was here last year with my cameraman Bob Lubomski and sound man Glenn Syska (as we were heading west making A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY,) and we took pictures of the wonderful neon sign at the Balyeats Coffee Shop even though it wasn’t lit up.


It was a Monday, and Balyeats is closed Mondays.  But oh the sky was weird and intimidating that evening.


We hadn’t been listening to the radio and didn’t know about the tornado warnings.


We took refuge in the town’s famous Brumback County Library (the first county-wide public library library anywhere in America!) and sat out the storm.  I took this picture after the torrential rain was gone.


I’ll tell you:  Van Wert is a charming little town even when the weather’s lousy.  And the library is impressive.  Restored and expanded and substantial and classy.  It’s such a gem of a building, so solid and important, every town should have such a glorious structure as the public library.

But what I really remembered was that sign promoting YOUNG FRIED CHICKEN DAY AND NIGHT, and I had hoped I’d get there again sometime before I died.   Even before I left Pittsburgh on this journey to South Bend, dinner at Balyeats was a goal.  As I eased my way down Main Street, I saw the glowing red sign and knew I’d get in tonight.


Balyeat’s is a comfy small town cafe.  Tables and chairs.  A counter with stools along the one side.  Suspended ceiling.  Several customers, lots of lively talk.  A small room at the back.  A glowing pie case.  People scurrying back and forth behind the counter.


My waitress was enthusiastic and offered only a verbal menu, reciting really quickly a long list of items available tonight.  I didn’t hear “fried chicken.”

“What’s best?” I asked, as I often do.  “I thought you were famous for fried chicken.”

“Oh that’s really good, hon” she said.  She called me “hon” but she looked too young for such old timey endearments.  I overheard her telling some other customers she was 21, but she seemed to have the “hon” thing going full force.

“But I didn’t hear you say ‘fried chicken,'” I told her.

“I said ‘baked chicken,'” she explained.  “It’s fried, then it’s baked.  It’s good.”

“OK,” I said.  “I’ll do that.”

“Dark meat or white meat?” she asked, explaining, “A leg and a thigh or a breast and a wing?”

I went for the dark, getting a baked potato, beets and slaw as sides.  Corn bread too.


She started delivering plates and bowls of down home food.  She brought me a small monkey dish full of something I didn’t recognize, and she said, “You did want scalloped corn, right?”

“Well, I think I was expecting beets.”

“Oh, OK,” she said.  “Do you want to try the corn?  No charge, hon.  I’ll bring you some beets too.”

“Thanks.  I’d love to taste it.”   I ended up with a feast.scalloped-corn1

The chicken was juicy and sliding off the bones.  The scalloped corn sweet and dense.  The beets very simple.   The slaw crunchy and good.    I didn’t finish everything on my plate but she offered dessert, and I couldn’t resist the homemade whipped cream strawberry pie.

I had been seeing FRESH STRAWBERRIES signs all day.  It’s strawberry season in Ohio.  People on the interstate highway may not know that, but aren’t we all paying more attention to local seasonal food?  Strawberries!

Everything was good.


I talked for a minute with the man behind the counter who acted like he was the owner.  I asked how you say the name of this place, and he said “bal-yets,” not “bally-eats,” although he said he’d be happy with however I wanted to say it.  It’s almost the word “ballots” but with a slight “i” sound at the start of the second syllable.


There were some old pictures and postcards on the wall that I wanted to check out before I left.  There I learned that Van Wert is the “Peony Capital Of The World,” kirchenbauerpeonybut I was a few weeks late for the big bloom that happens in early June.  And later when I researched the place on the internet, I learned that it’s also the smallest town in the US to have both a YMCA and a YWCA. ben-roethlisberger And the Pittsburgh Steelers outstanding young quarterback Ben Roethlisberger grew up here, a Van Wert resident (some Van Wertians call themselves “cheesemakers”) till he was eight.

Van Wert was also for a while the only place where Bordens made Liederkranz cheese, America’s great contribution to the world of stinky cheeses.  There was a Borden’s plant here, but it burned in the early 80s, and now you can’t buy Liederkranz anymore!  I remember it in a small foil wrapper.  And pungent.


All of this neon and food and history is frustrating and exhilarating.  You come to realize every little town (not just on the Lincoln Highway) has distinctions and ties to unexpected claims of fame.  There’s not enough time to know them all and discover all their special traits!   And too often we don’t stop long enough to smell the Liederkranz.


Tags: Blog Along The Lincoln Highway

111 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Angie // Apr 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    My hometown! Lived there the first 18 years of my life. We eat at Balyeats every time we visit. Not as enchanted with the decor as you were. Each renovation gets worse. On the other hand, the library is wonderful. Classy is a good description. I took swimming lessons and roller skated at the YWCA in the 50’s. The town was a bustling city in the 19th century and into the 1950’s. Now the downtown is almost derelict. No vision from the city fathers.

  • 2 dave // Apr 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I enjoyed this as it brought back old times. BUT I thought Roethelsberger was from Findlay.
    Used to eat at Balyeats with my parents.

  • 3 Nancy Lindemeyer // Apr 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm


    My friend Suzy Taylor is from Van Wert and she and her gang–The Keplar Street Gang–when she was growing up feature in my new book on women and their first best friends–MY FIRST BEST FRIEND. I have been to Van Wert many times and as I noted in the book Balyeats in never missed. Dale dishes up great chow at good prices.

    Suzy now lives in Mexico–but Van Wert and her friends there and from there are close to her heart.

    Can’t believe Van Wert getting all this current press. Suzy’s story in the book is fun–and the pictures of the kids of Van Wert, hilarious.

  • 4 Kirk Sanderson // Apr 23, 2010 at 5:25 am

    I was born and raised in VW! Class of 1982!
    My mom told me stories of when she worked at Balyeats in her late teens or early twenties i think. She too is born and raised in VW.

    Some of you may remember a small family owned business known as VANCO on North Cherry St. My Grandmother started that business back in the 1960’s!

    Family reunions at the YWCA, many free swims, and lots of work outs with friends at the YMCA.

    Balyeats and VW, synonymous for more years than I can remember. Thank you for that trip down memory lane!

  • 5 Tom // Apr 23, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Very interesting . . .I live in about 40 miles away . . .have been to Van Wert many times. Never knew what a little gem the library was. I’ll have to stop next time through

  • 6 Jean Purdy Jerome // Apr 23, 2010 at 11:34 am

    What a great read! I was born and grew up in Van Wert, roller skated, swam, and attended school dances at the YWCA, watched the VWHS Cougars win countless football games, spent hours and hours at the library, and ate LOTS of beef ‘n noodles at Balyeat’s. My dad and one of the original owners, Don Balyeat, were golf buddies.

    Duane and I still have family and friends living in and near Van Wert, so we drive “back home” occasionally to visit, and also to attend high school reunions.

    Thanks for the memories of my home town!

  • 7 Seth Baker // Apr 23, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Loved the article. I have had the experience to work right across the street from Balyeats for the past year. I am the program manager for Main Street Van Wert, a non-profit organization composed of volunteers who are dedicated to stimulating growth and development in historic downtown Van Wert. We do this through historic preservation. There are so many interesting things in Ohio’s downtowns to preserve. I’m glad that you’ve had such a positive experience here. We are working to improve the experience for both visitors and locals!

  • 8 Sandra // Apr 23, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    A transplant, but have always felt like this has been home forever……Children raised and graduated from VW…..another addition to our little city is a beautiful Performing Arts Center and new middle and high school…..also wonderful concerts in the park during the summer months…come back through sometime and enjoy these venues also…

  • 9 Sandra // Apr 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Transplant, but feels like home….come back and see the new Performing Arts Center, middle and high school…it will amaze you!

  • 10 Travis // Apr 23, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Never will forget the late dinners at Balyeats. They stayed open to feed the football team.No charge! This was the 50’s of course.Best time to grow up, and in V W .

  • 11 Seth Baker // Apr 23, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    I really enjoyed your perspective on downtown Van Wert! I have had the privlidge of working directly accross the street from Balyeats for the past year. I am the program manager for Main Street Van Wert, a volunteer run non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating growth and development in historic downtown Van Wert. One of the tools that we use is historic preservation. There are so many neat communities all accross our nation with aspects that are solely unique to them. Van Wert is one of those classic examples. I am happy to hear your experience here was a positive one. We are steadily continuing to preserve our heritage for not only our residents, but for future encounters such as yours.

  • 12 Dick Atwood // Apr 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Dave: Roethelsberger did not attend high school in Van Wert but lived here at a younger age before moving to Findlay.
    Rick: Glad you enjoyed your visit, please come back. You still have a lot to see. For instance, top name entertainers appear in the park across from the library most Friday nights during the summer. Admission free! We also have a performing arts center that draws some top name entertainers. It is a great place to live.

  • 13 Marcia // Apr 23, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    I was born and raised until marriage on Balyeat Ave., last street south, next to the fairgrounds.
    My mother-in-law and her sister both worked as waitresses at the Balyeat’s restaurant back in the early 1900’s. One of the brothers that owned it was Stub. Can’t remember other name. I graduated with one of their kin–Charlie. Have known Dale Davies, owner, for many years. Don’t get to restaurant too often even though we only live 20 miles away…My mother-in law’s tales from waitressing there were quite entertaining….

  • 14 Duane Jerome // Apr 23, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I was born and raised in Van Wert, OH. I graduated from VWHS with the class of 1950.
    I’ve eaten at Balyeat’s Restaurant many times over the years.

    We are presently making plans to eat there with former graduates of VWHS during our trip back to Van Wert for in a few short months for our 60th class reunion the last weekend of August.

  • 15 Kylee from Our Little Acre // Apr 23, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    How fun to read this! I was born in the hospital on Central, which is no longer the hospital, but still a beautiful building. (To me anyway – after all, it is my birthplace.)

    I grew up in a little village about 10 miles north, but after church every Sunday, we went to Balyeat’s for dinner and ate in the back room. I always got the same thing – homemade chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes.

    My dad goes there for breakfast with his men friends several times a week and I get him a Balyeat’s gift card for Christmas every year.

    Yes, Ben Roethlisberger lived here and was in our younger daughter’s Sunday School class. She loves to tell people that.

    You need to come back through town again – in the summer – because you missed the fabulous children’s garden in Smiley Park. But you did see a lot of the great things Van Wert has to offer during your short visit!

  • 16 Mary Jerome Jordan // Apr 24, 2010 at 7:09 am

    I too love their chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes, but their bakes squash is also very good. I think the most unique item on their menu is their old fashioned cream pie.

    Travis, I did not know about the free meals for football players after games. They should have done that for the band too.

  • 17 Stephanie (Brown) Dietelbach // Apr 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Great review of Van Wert! I was born and raised there. We moved to NE Ohio when I was 11, but most of my family still lives there. I’ve come to appreciate VW more as an adult. The restorations that they’re doing to the downtown are wonderful. And the Van Wert County Fair is second to none. The Grandstand looks like something from a movie! And it sounds crazy, but if you want something really good to eat in VW, go to Pizza Hut! Seriously, it’s the best Pizza Hut in the world. As for good old Balyeats, I think the best thing is the sign! (But the wilted spinach salad is pretty good too!)
    Thanks so much for wonderful article!

  • 18 Patty "Cox" DeWitt // Apr 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    My neighbor from VW sent this great article and photos which brought back many great memories of walking to the library and checking out books with my best friend Debbie. VW was a great town to grow up in and I still have great friends that I see when I return for class “1971” reunions.
    Mr. Sebak should come back and check out the Van Wert County Fair. It is one of the best ones around and the farm exhibits are worth the trip.
    Thanks for the memories of Balyeat’s and the library!

  • 19 Jessica Markward Weiss // Apr 25, 2010 at 10:21 am

    What a nice article to read about Van Wert! Balyeats is definitely something that everyone should experience. Back in the day, when students had the option to leave the high school campus at lunch time, that was my daily lunch haunt. As soon as the lunch bell rang, we would hurry the few blocks down Main Street, grab a stool at the counter, and Dale would slide a bowl of potato soup or chili our way- depending upon the day and availability- along with a side of bread and butter. For some reason, this held far more appeal than driving out to the fast food strip and hitting up one of the various drive-thrus. Imagine that.

    Our library truly is a gem; I am so glad that you got to visit- and take refuge in- it. Next time you make your way through Van Wert, you can have lunch at Balyeats(I highly recommend the Chicken and Noodles or Beef and Noodles, T, Th, Sat only), head down Main Street and grab dessert at the Main Street Ice Cream parlor, a coffee from Perks(I recommend the Brumback- the drink is as delicous as the building is impressive), and stroll on over to the Brumback and cozy in one of the leather chairs with a good book. Don’t worry, they’ll wake you before they close. 😉

  • 20 Ruth Brickner // Apr 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    On your next visit to VW, contact Central Mutual Insurance (south end of town on I-127) and arrange to visit their Museum which is dedicated to Fire Fighting and the related Insurance industry. It is a gem.

  • 21 Lee // Apr 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Excellent article. The thing that makes Van Wert so good is the people. I had the opportunity to live and teach (in the county) and the people were and are great. Way back when WERT radio was broadcasting, they had a lot of local news and it was interesting. I would venture to say you could walk into any of the stores along and you would get the same friendly greeting like Balyeats. When I think of Van Wert and surrounding area, I think of the good ole country folks……

  • 22 Marcia J. Wise // Apr 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Sure hope you do come back to “our” Van Wert. I was born and raised here. Married my High School sweetheart almost 41 years ago here and we raised our son here. It is still home-sweet home to me. During his High School years my husband worked at Balyeats during his lunch hours as well as after school, and weekends. You can always count on the food being great and the ‘ambiance’ unique. I still lunch there often since I work downtown and when I walk in they’ll say, “Want your special, Marcia?” And my answer is always, “Yes!” Can’t beat their salisbury steak with mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans and homemade bread & jam. Their butterscotch or fresh raspberry pie often tempts me as well. It’s not only good home cook’n but a place where everybody knows your name. And that is indicative of the whole town.

    Ohio and Indiana has really been hit hard by this economic blow-out and Van Wert has suffered some significant blows BUT she is weathering the ‘storm’ with ingenuity and resolve. We are of people of great faith and integrity and we will pull through together better for what we have learned in the process. Our downtown project is coming along well and as mentioned by so many others in this blog we have so much to offer with our local businesses, our Library, Performing Arts Center, Churchs, Schools, Wassenberg Art Center, Civic Theater, Y’s, Summer Concerts in the Park, Vocational School, Hospital and Medical facilities… well, you can tell, I love ‘my’ Van Wert. Hope you come back again and perhaps enjoy the concert in the park or the Peony parade or the County Fair. Before long it will be the place where everybody knows YOUR name.

  • 23 Tom Lybarger // Apr 25, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Great story, I still remember Don Balyeat from when I worked at the golf course – he was always a great storyteller. Sorry to say that when I was back there last October it seemed that the city leaders have let much go, but grateful to still see the library and YMCA still there – many a Saturday afternoon at the ‘Y’, and simming lessons at the YWCA when I was little. From the class of ’82.

  • 24 Linda Sidle-White // Apr 25, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Van Wert is my hometown. I had many a left over cornstick or muffin from that kitchen as my Mother, the late Ann Sidle, cooked there. She’d bring home the left overs thanks to the Balyeat brothers.
    Van Wert Class of 1966 is the one I grew up with and graduated with. I miss my hometown. My first job was at B&K Root Beer which was also owned by a Balyeat. I also worked for Mac McAdow at his drive-in before it was the Corral. I see that is gone now.
    VW now has the grand performing arts center, state of the art high school, and many other great big city things. People like the Niswonger’s remember their roots. We all do or should.
    VW is a great place to grow up. I miss VW and I think I miss my childhood too.
    How does that song go…” I miss those dear hearts and gentle people who live in my hometown.”
    With this article it’s time for me to take a “Sentimental Journey.”
    See you soon,

  • 25 Kathie (Dull) Lewis // Apr 26, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for writing the article! We are so proud
    of where we are from!Great memories eating at
    Balyeat’s after church on Sundays.I still have
    reading certificates from that library, and have
    swam in both the Y pools.

  • 26 Karen Gardner // Apr 26, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I lived in Van Wert County all my live half of it in Van Wert City. It is a great community! All my family and our children lived in Van Wert county until a few years ago when my son got married and moved to Markle, Ind.

  • 27 sonja Ford- Knittle // Apr 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I have been a resident of VW for all but 8yrs of my life. we have eaten at
    Balyeats on sunday after Church. Moving back to VW was coming home. We raised our Children here and they are raising there children here too. Thanks for a great article.

  • 28 Von Hilliard // Apr 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I have traveled all over the USA, several European countries, and the Caribbean. I have friends in Van Wert and get there regularly. I have to say that Balyeats is my favorite eating place in the world.

  • 29 Donna (McClure) Johns // Apr 27, 2010 at 10:21 am

    I grew up in Van Wert, graduated from Hoaglin Jackson school, and still have family living there. Whenever I get back to Van Wert I make it a habit of going to Balyeats. It is a piece of History and holds many memories for me. It is true that some things always remain the same and the atmosphere and food are as it was many years ago. It is a trip down memory lane.

  • 30 Deb // Apr 27, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Van Wert~ Balyeat’s and Lucy are one and the same~
    Lucy was a waitress when my parents brought me to the restaurant in a baby carrier and Lucy was still our waitress as I brought all of MY children and now grandchildren in a baby carrier. She became family!
    What is Balyeat’s noted for? In our family, it is REAL mash potatoes over beef and noodles and creme pies(butterscotch, lemon,coconut etc` with lots of meringue on the top). Stopping at Balyeat’s is just as important as seeing grandma!
    Van Wert was a wonderful town to raise children. I have many wonderful memories: YWCA (swimming, sock hops, camps), YMCA dances, swimming team), My husband, myself and all of our children are graduates of VWHS.
    The Community Theatre allowed myself and all of my children to have a creative ability to play make-believe.
    We now live out of state but Van Wert is always our home. Just like a country singer I know by the name of Joel Fry (who is from Van Wert) said in one of his songs: “I know where I am from”.

  • 31 Teresa Albright Sealscott // Apr 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I loved reading all the responses as well as the article on my hometown. My mom Hazel worked at Balyeats and met my grandpa Eli who then introduced her to my dad. Thanks to Balyeats. I remember going there whenever we traveled through after my parents settled in Celina. I loved the black and white decor and mom talked about being a hostess then waitress.
    Stub and Don were brothers and were great personalities. Very outgoing and lots of fun.
    Bob’s parents went to Balyeats after spending their first night after marrying for breakfast. I love returning to Van Wert for the Peony parade. We have 11 peony bushes in memory of those wonderfilled floats. Keep at it Main Street
    Project I can’t wait to see it return!!

  • 32 Susan Foust Teats // Apr 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Even though I no longer live in Van Wert County, it is my favorite place to eat when I come “home”. I have always commented the best thing about Balyeat’s is it is the one place in Van Wert that has always remained the same. I love that about it. I also love eating at the counter and watching Dale and those girls work their butts off. And what about the meatloaf – my personal fav. I now live in Florida and would you believe I have had numerous people ask where I’m from and when I say Van Wert, they always know about Balyeat’s. Thanks for the great article.

  • 33 Randy // Apr 27, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    I love your article and any article about Van Wert or the Lincoln Hwy. My Mom and her siblings grew up on a farm just 2 miles north of Van Wert and when we were kids we loved spending part of our summer vacation with Grandma and Grandpa at the farm. We also made our rounds to Aunts and Uncles homes to spend time with our cousins. My Grandma always had peonies in her garden and they were always beautiful. Van Wert will always hold a special place in my heart. In the last 10 years when I became interested in Lincoln Hwy history I was thrilled to know it passed right through Van Wert. I have eaten at Balyeat’s and it is a fun place to get a bite to eat and the food is Um Um Good! It’s fun to read all these comments about Van Wert. I still have Aunts and Uncles and cousins that live in the farm country just outside of town and it’s still a special place for me to go.

  • 34 Andrew Balyeat // Apr 28, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Balyeat’s coffee shop was owned by my grandfather, Louis Balyeat (Stubby) his his brother Don Balyeat. They sold it to Dale Davies many many years ago and he has continued the great tradition. I still return when I visit my father who still lives in nearby Lima, Ohio. Its real americana.

  • 35 Jim McCoy // Apr 28, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Great place to meet previous teachers, school principals, family and friends, and great strawberry pie. Hello from North Carolina.

  • 36 Kathleen Young Roby // Apr 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I thoroughly enjoy your article. I was in the VWHS class of ’69. Balyeats is indeed the greatest. “I’ll have the liver &onions dinner, please!” I worked at Bordens in every department & cooked and cured Leiderkrantz. I think it a wonderful hometown. My children & neighbors had our own “Keplar Gang” in the ’80s. Those 2 blocks saw a lot of honor students & musicians too. The area’s history is very fascinating!!
    Thank you very much!!!

  • 37 Chris Derry // Apr 29, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Stub Balyeat lived 4 doors down Elm St from my family. He mowed his lawn with a push mower wearing a perpetual smile, whether he was lathered up in sweat or greeting you with “Welcome back!” as you entered his restaurant.

    Stub was legendary for offering this greeting to EVERYONE who walked in. Weary travelers driving between New York and Chicago on Rt 30 (the shortest distance between two points prior to Eisenhower building the great interstate highways) looked forward to Stub’s recognition and consistently good food. “Welcome back!”

  • 38 Lydia Williman Bruns // Apr 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Everyone that I know of, has many fond memories of Balyeat’s. Those pies are out of this world. Talk about homemade taste…it’s in there. When you talk about Van Wert….. you eventually bring up the conversation of Balyeat’s restaurant!

  • 39 Ken Galloway // Apr 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    What a great blog! I too grew up in this fine town and left when I graduated in 1969. I have gone back 4 – 5 times a year since then to visit family, and have eaten in Balyeat’s on nearly every visit. I am pretty certain that I have never passed on the invitation to add a piece of homemade pie.

    When my mother passed away some years back, we had a number of visitors attend her funeral from Columbus, where we now live. I made sure they all enjoyed a meal at Balyeat’s before heading back to Central Ohio.

    Many fond memories of Van Wert. Those of you who still live there should not take this treasure for granted.

  • 40 Andrew Bailey // Apr 29, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Rick, if you decide to do a documentary about cities and towns, progressing from the 40’s through the 90’s, Van Wert would be your ideal subject…farming community becomes a post war industrial community with thriving Main Street (did you notice how wide it is), and hard working christians sometimes working in the early dawn and at twilight on their farms, plus putting in a full day at the factories. Aside from Borden’s (the largest cheese processing plant in the world at the time), we had American Pop Corn (also the largest in the world), and factories building hydraulics, gears, axle components for the auto, truck, and railroad industries. Friday Night Lights in northwest Ohio were dominant in the fall. Little and Pony League in the summer. We had the usual youths cruising through town (all 8 traffic lights or so) and crowding at the Happy Humpty drive in…or the A & W Root Beer…Listening to CKLW out of Detroit…And attending church at one of the 31 churches in our little community.

  • 41 Barbara Updegrove Whittenbarger // Apr 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    I was born and raised in Van Wert nd would not want to live anywhere else. It has changed over the years, but Balyeats has not. My mother worked there in the 1930s and 1940s until her marriage in 1946. We took her out to eat at Balyeats in the latter years of her life and she said the place still looked the same. And of course, she was surprised to see Lucy still working there. They had been young girls when they had worked there together.
    Mom had many stories to tell about Don and Stubby and I now have a Bible given to Mom by Madelynne Balyeat with her inscription inside.
    My first job was at the Brumback Library during high school. I have such memories of that place.It was beautiful then and they have managed to preserve that beauty even as they added on and remodeled. Thankfully, I believe the glass floor is now replaced in the loft.
    Later I worked at Williman’s IGA and Duane Jerome was one of my bosses. I always think that when talking about Van Wert, the name of Charles Williman should be mentioned. I wonder how many lives he touched..? He and Duane were a wonderful team.
    As for those free meals for the football team, my youngest son played basketball in the early to mid-nineties and Dale and his team from Balyeats were still feeding the boys. They would even deliver the food to the high school and include the parents.
    Van Wert is a truly great place to live and is filled with wonderful people. Other interesting places are the historical museum on North Washington St, and the Wassenberg Art Center on South Washington.
    The Marsh omestead at the Marsh Foundation is also fascinating if you ever get the chance to see it.
    I sure do miss Liederkrantz Cheese!

  • 42 Rhonda Boley Lowe // Apr 29, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    I grew up in Van Wert and my grandchildren are being raised there as well. I am a graduate of the class of 79. I have great memories of classmates, being a cheerleader, our sports teams, & working at Balyeat’s off & on from the time I was about 15 until I moved to Toledo at 21. I spent my time growing up at the pool in the summer & at the roller skating rink in the winter. I would always go to the libarary & then go over to Butler’s Bakery to see my Grandma who worked there for years & she’s send home some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had with me. It was a blast growing up in this small town without a care in the world . Loved your article.

  • 43 Roger Shimp // Apr 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    I spent the first 18 years of my life growing up in Van Wert. Many meals at Balyeats. My father worked for the train depot and could eat there for 25 cents for a bowl of stew. I have seen or been to all the places others commented on. Brings back a lot of memories. Thinking about maybe retiring and moving back to what I call home. Not sure about the winter weather though as I have gotten used to not living in snow. Time will tell though as I do still have family there. Everytime I visit home, I always eat at Balyeats at least once. Beef and Noodles every Tues, Thurs and Sat. Will never forget it. It is always real good and Dale always has a warm greeting for you. Many of the waitresses use Hon in their conversation. Love and and my mouth is watering just thinking of Balyeats.

  • 44 Federalist45 // Apr 30, 2010 at 6:05 am

    VW was America at its best in 1965. Small town. Lots of small industry (Aeroquip, National Seal, Kennedy Kit, Continental Can, Bordens). Great farming community. Wonderful school system where teachers taught well and succeeded without federal government oversight. Church a core institution. Places like Balyeats, Bar 30 and Yours and Mine, and Mac’s Pizza. It was a community–it took care of its own, was clean, had little crime, and people were downright friendly.

    This article reminded me of those wonderful days in VW. Truly “the good ol’ days.” Sure, there were problems–there were, after all, people involved. But life was never better, before or after, those pre-60s Revolution days.

    Balyeat’s, the Brumback Library, the County Courthouse (by the way, the article missed the boat on the Courthouse–it is a monumentally beautiful work of architecture)–all are institutions I hope never fade away. But the industry and jobs are largely gone. VW has a state-of-the-art school complex but the town seems unable to attract job-producing factories to the area. So many graduates go off to college or the military and never come back. VW must somehow bring in core small industry once again, put people back to work, bring thriving businesses back to downtown (leaving Walmart behind), and rejuvenate its spirit.

    Next time you go through VW, please take close look at the Courthouse, then go next door to Balyeat’s and this time, order either the Beef and Noodles or Chicken and Noodles, roast turkey, and swiss steak. You don’t need to eat it all yourself. Share it with your companions. But taste it all. And get the mashed potatoes and dressing. If you go at 1100 or 1115, you will beat the rush (except on Sundays, when you should be at your table by 1055 to beat the post-Church rush) and get the buttermilk biscuits at their freshest. In 1965, a whole lot of mothers made exactly these meals right at home in VW, and most of us grew up eating this food, whether at home or at Balyeat’s. And talk to Dale Davies–he is a great man and a legend.

    And talk to some old-timers about Gil Smith and the Cougar football teams of the 50s. The best there was in Ohio in those days. And that says alot.

  • 45 Jean // Apr 30, 2010 at 10:06 am

    My father, Charles Brake, graduated from Van Wert High School in 1929. He lettered in four sports when he was a senior: Football (tackle) Basketball (Center) Baseball and Track. No one has mentioned a famous football coach from Van Wert…Wilbur “Weeb” Eubanks. He graduated from Miami University, Ohio, and was my father’s High School coach in all sports. Eubanks went on to coach the Baltimore Colts and the New York Jets in the first Super Bowl game.

  • 46 Linda // Apr 30, 2010 at 11:00 am

    There are many stories you will come across in this little farming community. We are quite fortunate to have such a wealth of old money behind us. The first County Library in the USA, a YMCA and a YWCA, Marsh Foundation for children, Starr Commonwealth, now a new High School/Junior High and the beautiful Niswonger Performing Arts Center which is comlipmented by such stars as Marie Osmond and most recently NCPD the Singing Cop. We are also remembered as the Peony Capital of the World. An older friend of mine lived in Niles, Michigan, traveled old route 30, which ran directly down the Main Street of Van Wert. He would always stop at Balyeats for buck wheat pancakes. My husband and I both grew up in Van Wert County. Enjoying the many pleasures 4-H, Girl Scouts, FAA, Church and the list could go on. He was also elected to Ohio’s first All State High School Football team. Balyeats to me was a free ice cream cone from Stub when a child and now my favoriate place in Van Wert to eat. Try the liver and onions some time, they are great….

  • 47 Federalist45 // Apr 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Jean–I did mention Coach Weeb Ewbank because every time I have done so in the past, on other websites, people attacked my post. No one wants to believe that. But it is true.

    I should have mentioned the Van Wert County Fair. If the author goes back to VW, he should go over Labor Day weekend, take in a football game at the downtown stadium, smell fall in the air, and go to the Fair and grab some french fries (the best in the entire world) and a lemon shakeup.

    Linda–The Marsh Foundation and the Starr Commonwealth are other VW institutions that you mention. Unfortunately, the Starr Commonwealth is closing its doors before next school year. Very sad.

    All a VWHS alum has to do, if he wants to “come home,” is sing in his mind the Alma Mater.

  • 48 Federalist45 // Apr 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Jean–Sorry, meant to say I did NOT mention Coach Ewbank in my first post.

    Final comment–rumor is that a cheesemaker has bought the surviving culture and recipe for Liederkranz cheese and is going to begin producing it soon. Interesting that a culture could survive in storage for what, 30 years, but that is the rumor. But, unfortunately, I don’t think the plans include making it in V-dub.

  • 49 Joe Axe // Apr 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    What a wonderful article – bringing back so many memories. I grew up in Van Wert – went to St. Mary’s Catholic School and even went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church when it was located on Vine and Central(?). Lived right behind the church.

    I think back to those wonderful times and the great friends and remember so many wonderful memories – when life was so much more simple – without the worries and stress.

    Golf at Edgecreek – Lee Bushong – all of the times I used to sneak out there at 1AM to swim in the pond and get golf balls – and then sell them to Lee for .10 each to buy lunch.

    Liederkranz cheese could survive anyplace forever…..it was that bad……

    Thanks VW – for everything!

    Need to get back to town – see my daughter Amy – and have a great meal at Balyeats with her.

  • 50 Laura Hitchcock Williams // Apr 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Balyeat’s coffee shop article and comments bring back many memories for me also. Some of the best were eating lunch there with my friends. Most often Nicolette Victor. We concurred that our favorites were chicken and noodles; mashed potatoes; assortment of breads and biscuits; assortment of jams and apple butter. Then of course pie or pudding for dessert. Which left me enough change from the money my parents gave me for lunch to save up to add to my wardrobe. Thank you Balyeat’s.
    I always felt sorry for my children having to take lunch to school everyday in a bag. They were not allowed to leave school grounds or interact with anyone not in their grade. So isolating. .They do not have the sense of community with all age groups we had in small towns like VW predating school cafeterias.
    I’m sorry the food was much better at Balyeat’s
    This tradition did not start with me. My grandfather R.C. Hitchcock who was clerk of courts, after a lifetime as teacher and farmer in Lincolnview area, would wander over to Balyeat’s for lunch also.

  • 51 Laura Hitchcock Williams // Apr 30, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    I was born and raised in Van Wert. Graduated with class of 1970. At 18 I left for college at The Ohio State University. So many of my friends over the years have complained about growing up in their small home towns. I think I always felt privileged to grow up in VW with all it had to offer. Starting in first grade and continuing through high school I remember spending a lot of time at the Brumback Co Library. A truly magical castle for children. The basement children area, a cool refuge in the summer to read. I am also a recipient of the Wassenburg Art Scholarship. Another culturally nurturing place in VW. I will never forget the show I attended there of Gary Taylor’s glass and porcelain collection. It rival’s anything I have seen in much larger cities and galleries. An encore might be called for? The city offers many other scholarships also. Very supportive of it’s youth.
    The Y’s were another institution you just didn’t see in a every small town in the 50’s and 60’s. The swim lessons; teen dances; roller skating; tennis; basketball and again the huge front portico on the north side a cool place to hang with your friends in the summer time and play jacks or pickup stix.

  • 52 Laura Hitchcock Williams // May 1, 2010 at 1:18 am

    Thanks again Rick for taking your trip on the Lincoln Highway and coming back to take the time to appreciate what makes Van Wert, Van Wert. I also agree with Barbara Updegrove Whittenbarger that the Marsh Foundation is a fascinating story. Something about a fortune from the stave and barrel business associated with transporting goods on the Erie and Ohio canals.The story and mission behind the foundation’s home for children of broken homes. The Star Commonwealth giving second chances to trouble youths. One of them actually becoming the director.
    I can’t forget to mention C. Dan Pennell the mayor of VW for most of my years there. I worked for Mr & Mrs Pennell for an organiztion called International Peony Society. We shipped rare varieties of peonies all over the world to collectors. I remember riding on floats in Peony Parade. Glad to see VW is carring on the tradition. Also the Community theater. Lots of talent. Rivaled the theater classes I took at OSU. Bless the founders for all their hard work and the fun they created
    I agree with Linda Sidle-White about the performing arts center. It really carries on a strong musical tradition which includes Jay Hall and Larry Schaffleberger. The “ones” at State and albums recorded in the cafeteria with Fort Wayne radio station sound truck outside. I hope VW will find a way to not only keep these institutions alive but to let them thrive. I agree with Ken Galloway those who still live there should not take VW for granted.

  • 53 Susan B // May 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks for the blog and perspective on the town I call home. It is still a great place to raise a family and a wonderful caring community. We appreciate the Y’s , the library, the fair, the community concerts, the performing arts center, and our churches. We are grateful for our community – thank-you for your words of appreciation.

  • 54 janet fauble // May 2, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Well, Congratulations to Rick Sebak from WQED for discovering Van Wert and writing such an interesting article that sounds like it should make its way to FoodChannel. There were many great restaurants in VW, my birthplace and home for the first twenty years of my life, and I really enjoyed reading how much Rick liked Balyeat’s Restaurant, and especially the famed VW Brumback Library…He even mentioned the peony festival but missed a few other famous landmarks that I can recall readily, which are always worth a trip to VW to visit. When I lived in VW, Dolly’s restaurant was the then most popular hangout in town next to the Equity, another great place for teens to gather and enjoy such feasts as “pig’s dinners”, an overblown version of a banana split.

    Great article and thanks so much for giving VW a turn in the spotlight…Much needed boost for one of the nicest spots on the planet!

  • 55 Dave Marshall // May 2, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Like Laura, I graduated from VW HS in 1970. I feel lucky to have grown up there while in HS. I loved the Brumback libray and spent many afternoons there preparing school papers and reading the newspapers and magazines. I am sure my time in VW laid a solid foundation for my professional life and am thankful for it. Lets not forget the Tom and Jerry dances at the Jr. Fair building – what fun. I also loved the VW Civic Theater and being able to volunteer to help as part of the crew when it was in the Jr. Fair building!

  • 56 Andrew Bailey // May 2, 2010 at 7:12 am

    We wouldn’t have all these without the transplanted residents from all over country who came in to manage all those manufacturing plants…Many of Borden’s plant managers were brought in from NY state to set up the plant, and ran it until the early ’80s … could name a few of them, but then we’d have to add the names of great people at Central Mutual, National Seal, Continental Can, Aeroquip (now Eaton), Teleflex, National Steel, Chrysler Amplex, Lear Siegler, on and on…and we knew them through church, local community activities, the ‘Y’s and summer baseball leagues …. as players, parish leaders, boy scouts leaders, umpires, coaches…as leaders of the fundraising efforts for the ‘Y’s and the United Way, March of Dimes…on and on…

  • 57 Robt Van Ausdall // May 2, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    I was Van Wert’s Chamber of Commerce Exec Mgr and loved Balyeats and the community. Now live in Oak Brook, IL and turned 90 last week on 4/22. We had the first Chamber in Ohio accredited by the United States Chamber of Commerce. We acquired 8 new industries during my time, including Chrysler. Great city for industry.

  • 58 Marilyn Van Ausdall // May 2, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I have many fond memories of Van Wert. We moved there with our four children when my husband retired from the USAF and took a job as Chamber of Commerce manager. Our oldest son graduated from high school there and after college married his high school sweetheart and worked for Aeoroquip (now part of Eaton). It was a wonderful place to rear children and all three of our grandchildren were launched from there. When we lived there, Mr Balyeat was well known for calling out the name of everyone who entered. There were many active business men who started an industrial park and persuaded new industries to come for all its other attributes. We have always enjoyed returning to visit and while most of our old friends are gone and Balyeats is under new ownership, the food has not changed. We were born and reared 80miles south and that is home cooking, still the way to our hearts.

  • 59 Nelson Eagle // May 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    My grandmother lived on E. Crawford St. I spent many happy summer weeks there with grandma, aunts & uncles and many cousins.

    Van Wert is a wonderful place.

  • 60 Carol Wilkin Penhorwood // May 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Great blog on my hometown! I graduated from VWHS in 1966 and still have family living there. Love eating at Balyeats and you absolutely can’t miss out on their wide variety of pies! Delicious!

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned how awesome the Van Wert County fair used to be there…I don’t know if it still is. It seemed for that week around Labor Day you could meet everyone you knew there at the fairgrounds.

    I’ve spent many hours at the beautiful library. It’s an absolute treasure! And worked for Central Mutual Insurance Company. There again is some beautiful architecture!

    Thanks for the piece of my history!

  • 61 Linda Van Ausdall // May 2, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    I spent some years living in Van Wert as a child and teenager. After we moved away my junior year of high school I was so homesick I thought I would die. While that was a long time ago, my heart still holds a special place for Van Wert, Ohio. I still dream about moving back. I enjoyed a very special time there.

  • 62 Dick // May 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Class of 1945 – Jack Lininger played football for The Ohio State University and was the first VW to play profession football for the Detroit Lions and Dr. Dillon Rhodenbaugh’s daughter Kim made the Wheaties box for swimming. I miss the Town Creek smell and on Labor Day no betting because a “woman jockey” Lillian Jenkins rode. Tooterville trolley went to Fort Wayne from Cherry & Main St.

  • 63 LaRita Whitcraft Jones // May 3, 2010 at 8:13 am

    What a wonderful article highlighting the wonders of good old VW! I was born in VW and graduated in 1957, but moved out of state a few years later, but still have family there. I loved VW and still visit as often as I can. No one mentioned the White Hall Inn, torn down and replaced by a fire station I believe. I worked there while in high school. What a great experience that was! People say the town is dying, but when I visit, it still seems to be thriving. Those of you who still live there should be proud of your heritage! Some things should never change, and that is VW’s charm!

  • 64 Nancy Goedde Riggenbach // May 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Great article and great comments about VW! My husband Stan and I now live near Toledo, Ohio but he was born in Van Wert and I moved there when I was 12 yrs. old from the U.P. of Mich. We were high school sweethearts and lived there for 22 wonderful years after we got married until being transferred here. Our four sons were born there and we have many wonderful memories of their years growing up in Van Wert. Stan’s mother and brother continue to live there as well as our son Tom and his family. We visit there often, so often in fact that one could say we have had one foot there and one foot here for almost 17 years now. The sense of family, friends, and community in Van Wert is wonderful. Some things are the same, others have changed. I have to say my favorite thing there is the newer part of the old high school building, now named after my late father, S. F. Goedde, who was the superintendent of schools there for 27 years.
    Our whole family was touched and honored by this designation. Van Wert, don’t ever under estimate how special you are!

  • 65 doc haynes // May 3, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    We are glad you enjoyed your stay.
    Come on back any time.
    Our Public Library is pretty awesome.
    Thanks for the good words.

  • 66 Federalist45 // May 4, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Nancy–Stretch was a fine gentleman and superb Superintendent. I remember him well and to this day, when I smell pipe tobacco burning, I think of Stretch. I know your brother Ed and know that he, too, is a fine gentleman. And you and your sister were always very kind and good. Donna was a saint. The Goedde name should live long in VW and at VWHS–you all made your mark on both the schools and community.

    Yes, I agree with the above poster that the Food Network needs to come to VW. Do a Guy Fieri show at Balyeat’s, then have the Food Detectives do a show on Liederkranz cheese, and finally, have someone go in search of Mac;s Pizza to resurrect the best pizza anyone has ever had the pleasure to eat.

    Dale Davies is a legend and the story of Balyeat’s and VW must be told!

  • 67 Carolyn Sanderson Craine // May 4, 2010 at 10:40 am

    I grew up on a farm in Van Wert Co. and graduated from Hoaglin-Jackson in 1948.
    Remember how the teenage boys would cruise up and down main street? I used to roller skate at the Y on Saturady night and then we would walk to the Spot restaurant on East Main Street. Yes, I ate at Balyeats and still do when I am in Van Wert. It is not only good food, it is an experience to go there. Reminicing makes me want to move back.

  • 68 paul a. hitchcock // May 4, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Cool article, Rick!
    … it spaced me out for ’bout half an hour just going through the fond and fun files stored in “the attic”.
    I had a GRRRREAT time growing up in the flatlands of northwestern Ohio. So many wild and crazy friends to have so much wild and crazy fun with! I remember y’all and think of you often.
    My HOME TOWN is me … the place of both my “births”. The first; physical, at the old hospital on Central, and the second; spiritual, under a moon lit sky on Walnut when I was reconciled to YHWH by His grace through “the” faith of, from, and in Yeshua HaMashiach – I was “born again”!
    My hope and prayer for you all is that you be blessed with the knowledge and acknowleging of the TRUTH, that we may have all of eternity to celebrate together with our Lord, and share the cup of the “BEST WINE” which He is saving ’til last!

    love all you Van Wartians … er, Wertians! (spell check would have come in handy back in the day of telegraph)
    see y’all sooner or later, I hope!

  • 69 Don Hangartner // May 4, 2010 at 11:52 am

    1st visit to Balyeats was winter of 1953. we were on our way from Purdue to Pittsburgh. Walked into the restaurant about 8 PM and Don Balyeat yelled out–“hide the beer, here comes the college kids”. Later moved here and ran a business for 40 years. Last visit to Balyeats was 4 hours ago –Dale makes a great breakfast!!

  • 70 Federalist45 // May 5, 2010 at 7:37 am

    How about Dolly’s down the street. Cherry and Vanilla Cokes back in the day before they ruined it all by trying to can the concept. The bicycling monkey on the high wire. The french fries! Wow.

    And how about Geppie’s–did anyone else spend VWHS lunch hours at Gep’s eating his hand mashed burgers?

    Colonial Restaurant. A&W and B&K. DQ. And the old Burger Chef and Penguin Point. Van Cougar Pizza. Tom & Mom’s Pizza.

    Can’t someone make me a Mac’s Pizza with pepperoni? Put it in the white bag, with the top raised up over the cheese and let me smell that special crust and cheese.

  • 71 paul a. hitchcock // May 5, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I remember when Dan Quail was in town to speak at the third ward park, and him coming up to me, offerring his hand and asking, “Where’s a good place to eat?”, to which I responded,” Balyeats!”
    ( I wonder if he tried the “tatErs”?)

    hey Fed45,
    I believe the answer is “NO!” Everytime I order a pizza, I wish for the same – a large pizza from Mac’s for Snacks ( I preferred the deluxe).

    Did you ever get your card punched at “Meal Time”?

    Best steak burger was at “the Dump”.

    How about the fish sandwich and green river at Harden’s?

    Night or day at Conrad’s truck stop, especially after the “Drive-In”.

    Parties at the “QUARRY”!

  • 72 paul a. hitchcock // May 5, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I admit, my spelling is as wiley (YLE) as Dan’s!

  • 73 Ken McCoy // May 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks for the nice article on my hometown. Van Wert was a great place to grow up. I’m still a huge fan of Balyeat’s and never miss a chance to eat their homemade beef and noodles served over top of mashed potatoes (it’s called a “noodle over”) whenever I am back visiting from Philadelphia.

    It saddens me to see the once thriving Main Street essentially out of business compliments of Walmart but I’m thankful Balyeats is still in business.

  • 74 Ed B. // May 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Before Burger Shef and The Dump came to VW, Balyeats would feed my dad’s basketball team burgers and fries after a game.
    I remember Scott Niswonger with his first model plane (it attached to a string and flew in circles). His mother, Sharon, was our babysitter, and I went with him to Franklin to fly it.
    Did you ever leave the cruising path to go “bunny hunting ” on Collins road? Gas was only about 25 cents per gal then.
    Mac’s ground up pepperoni on pizza was the best.
    Federalist 45 – I ate at Gep’s before golf tournaments with my dad and watched him ball up sausage and throw it on the grill.
    Remember the jail shoot out when the deputies were sneaking down the side of Balyeats towards the jail? DA! I was behind a trash can. What a polak of me! That’s right, I am one.

  • 75 Ilona Stautmeister-Hensel // May 6, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Having been a former foreign exchange student in the early sixties at Van Wert High School, I enjoyed reading the various articles. Very nice memories came back to my mind!

  • 76 David Longwell // May 6, 2010 at 8:28 am

    It was nice to see names that I haven’t heard since I graduated from V.W. Jim McCoy,Nancy Goedde,Joe Axe & Linda Sidle. Got Married right out of H.S. to a Delphos girl & still married to her after 41 great years. We live in Lima,Oh. Have 2 children,a daughter that lives in Bluffton S.C. she has 3 children,her oldest is married,not a great grandpa yet. Have a son that lives in Celina Oh. he has a daughter & a son. I didn’t know Ben Roethlisberger lived in V.W. either. He played in some tennis tournaments (Bob Stevens Memorial) there but never knew he lived there at the time. We still go to Balyeats to eat their home made noodles. But the biggest attraction there is watching Dale sprinting behind the counter to fill orders. At the time I graduated we had the largest graduating class to date,but don’t know if that still holds today. The nice thing is I still get back to V.W. quiet a bit. Looking forward to our next class reunion,the great class of “1968”.

  • 77 Federalist45 // May 6, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    “Whataya have today Marsha?”

    “Chicken and Noodles, Roast Beef, Roast Port, Swiss Steak, Salisbury Steak, Meat Loaf, Turkey, and Dried Beef.”

    “I’ll take the Chicken and Noodles with mashed potatoes, dressing, and green beans.”

    “Need one Noodles regular with green beans.”

    “Orders up girls, orders up!”

  • 78 paul a. hitchcock // May 6, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    how about:
    pheasant and rabbit hunting; ice skating at woodland cemetery – trying to hang on to the rope that Dr. Barr was cracking; hockey on the ponds at the golf course; fishing and sledding at the “rezzy”; lots of straight roads with good “quarter-miles”!; baseball at lewis’; basketball at the “Y”; football everywhere; the old swimmin’ hole at the fair grounds; scooterin’ round the horse track; camping out in sleeping bags – waking up covered with dew; unscrewing Christmas bulbs; smashin’ a pumkin or two;
    racing at the roller rink, and at the drag strip too!; wright’s truck stop; hilly’s open-air market; the old ice plant; the casino; felger’s; browny’s; old “rabbit butt’s” yours and mine; 5 &10’s; rail road station; freight trains and coal cars; the armory; the equity; wards; the old post office; the old police station; the triangle; maggie’s; the wonder bar; martz’s; the cigar factory which became a tomato processing plant (flatbed trailers stacked high with bushels of vine ripened fruit, or were they vegetables ( look out everyone, we’re going to have some fun!); the “IN”….Duhhhhhh!

  • 79 Michael Copper // May 7, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    What memories all your comments bring to my mind about Van Wert, Ohio. And, the family names I’m still familiar with, WOW! What hsitory is combined herein, written about a town, or at least the atmosphere of the town we grew up in. A town that I and a friend named Mike Jones once said, “We grew up in the best of times.” and “Probably may never be duplicated again.” Spent many a day up and down Main Street, both riding my bicycle and cruising Main in my dad’s 48 Plymouth then the 67 orange Camaro Z28. 48 Plymouth was my high school car, and the Z28 was a homing gift to myself, after Vietnam. Thanks Rick Sebak for the archive.

  • 80 Ed Miller // May 8, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    My cousin, Beverly Miller, sent the article to me on Balyeat’s, and as I moved to Michigan in 1958, I didn’t have the wonderful memories that she and my other cousin Mike Copper had, but I still remember a lot of the events that have been mentioned. Balyeats is one of those memories that comes to mind, and I remember quite a few Sundays after church, going there for Sunday dinner. Last year, I took my daughter to Van Wert to research ancestry records, and we met Bev at Balyeats for lunch, and even though I couldn’t eat much, everything I had, and everything that everyone around me had, looked — and I’m sure was — delicious!! When my family lived in the area prior to 1958, we lived south west of Convoy and went to what-was-at-that-time Convoy-Union School, where my aunt, Ruby Knerr, taught 5th grade at Union for 25-plus years, and her husband Carl drove school bus for many, many years. I remember the Van Wert County Fair with many different things every year, and try as hard as I can every Labor Day to get back for the first day of the week long fair. Thanks for the memories, and if any of my younger years classmates remember me, I'd love to hear from you!

  • 81 connie featheroff dewitt // May 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Remember McKEDDIE APPLIANCES where my dad Earl Featheroff worked as TV man and was the best in the area and went in peoples homes to fix their TVs. Now you throw them away when they break and get a new one, And spend a lot more money.

  • 82 Tom B. // May 9, 2010 at 10:32 am

    To all of you craving a Mac’s pizza there is a chain of Pizza restaurants in Indiana called Pizza King. That is the same as Mac’s. Closest Pizza Kings to Van Wert are Ft Wayne, Decatur, and Blufton, Indiana.
    Also Leiderkranz cheese is back in production. The cheese is being made in Monroe Wisconsin at the Chalet Cheese Co-op. My order is already in. The distributor below will mail order, but they said it is flying off the shelf and they are having trouble keeping up due to some production delays.

  • 83 Linda (Medaugh) Smith Dunno // May 10, 2010 at 7:41 am

    What a great blog. I too was Chamber of Commerce Director in Van Wert and could have used a lot of these comments to promote Van Wert during those years. Funny how we don’t appreciate what we have when we lived there. I too moved away for 10 years and find (as I reflect) that what attracted me to my 6 years in Maine was its resemblance to the ’50’s in Van Wert. The neighborhood markets, the safety of walking downtown after dark. And it wasn’t just the boys who “cruised” Main Street…lol….my little Corvair made its rounds and always turned through “The Dump”. Good memories were stirred reading through the comments….I worked at Williman’s during high school…another great place to eat. How the place ever survived with the group we had working there is another wonder….but we had a great time. The Williman family and Jerome family all hold special places in my heart. Grew up with best friend Marlene Turner next door….Turner’s music…..I was a country girl and miss seeing Pleasant School when I drive through. I too stop in to say Hi to Dale…used to supply him with the rhubarb for his pies when married and living out on 116…(too bad the new owners tore out the huge rhubarb patch). Keep these memories coming. I for one will be back to review the new entries.

  • 84 Mike // May 10, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Connie, I do remember your dad Earl fixing our family TV. After many years of black & white TV, and finally the picture tube blew out my folks bought a color set from McKeddie.

  • 85 Rosie Boehlke // May 10, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    Wonderful article…..Wonderful Town….My husband, Kim and I lived in Van Wert from 1982-1987. He was the Golf Pro at Willow Bend Golf Club at that time. Don Balyeat was a member there. What a fantastic gentleman he was. I remember he loved to wear plaid sportcoats and bright bow ties. He would spend time visiting with us and even our 4 year old son, Andy, telling us about Van Wert’s GOOD OLD DAYS, when his “Chicken Dinners” were advertized at $.35 per meal way back when!!!! We loved the warmth we felt from the community. We grew to love them all like family…..We still call it home and still go to visit our friends from VW. It’s a beautiful town, rich with cultural interests. I love the Wassenberg Art Center, the Museum, the Oldest County Library, the two Y’s, Smiley Park and its new Children’s Garden, built by some of Van Wert’s amazing Master Gardeners and members of the community. My favorite point of interest was the Community Theatre. I really enjoyed performing and directing, especially the Children’s production, of the “Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” I worked with some really awesome performers and directed some really awesome children…..We will always remember fondly our years in Van Wert and the wonderful friendships we continue to share.

  • 86 Andrew Bailey // May 11, 2010 at 8:42 am

    All you guys need to join facebook, become friends with thousands (well, at least more than a thousand) of others from VW…then join the Group…”You’re from Van Wert if…”, another big blog with similar stuff…and tons of pics… Maybe Rick Sebak will visit that site, and garner a few fb comments to use….

  • 87 Federalist45 // May 12, 2010 at 7:48 am

    Tom B.–Thanks for the link to Liederkranz! But I have to disagree about Mac’s. Pizza King is great, as is Donato’s and other pizzas that are SIMILAR to Mac’s, but I have yet to find a pizza that matches Mac’s. It was unique and it was the best. There is no substitute for me.

  • 88 Tom Brown // May 17, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Made my annual birthday trip to Balyeats yesterday — had the prime rib, medium-rare & melt-in-your-mouth good! Followed it with “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at the VW Civic Theatre . . . went to kindergarten there in 1948 when it was St. Mary’s and still half expect to see Sr. Francis Eleanor when I go down into the basement. After Continental Can transferred my dad to Michigan in 1958, I worked summers and Christmases at E. J. Evans for my granddad, Tom Maxson, when I was in college. Anyone remember Harry Harden’s breaded veal sandwich? Dale & Don have a great one . . . after you order it, you can hear them pounding it out in back! Harry’s breading was a lot different, and I’d love to have one again!

  • 89 Herb Kephart // May 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Have lived in Van Wert County the best part of 79 years. Many interesting stories to tell and fondly remember about the area. Surprised that no one has explained to Rick how Van Wert got it’s name. That is really unique.

  • 90 Mary Alice Sanders // May 19, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    This is super to remember the old-times of our home town. I have lived here all my life and remember roller skating in the YWCA then stopping off for treats in the Equity. My husband, Charles and I were married in VW and our rehearsal dinner was held in the back room of Balyeats. We shared Tom N Mom’s Pizza on our wedding night. This among many other blessings from our small town.

  • 91 Stuart Jewett // May 21, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Van Wert has weathered the economic crunch of this past 10 years with head held high. Very few people have been doing cartwheels and handstands. But everyone keeps moving forward regardless. With one of only two mega sites in the state, US 30 connecting a major north-south interstate 30 miles to the east, and 30 miles to the west, local support for new schools everywhere in our county, and economic development that has been working tirelessly, Van Wert is poised and ready for explosive growth. There are a few entities around town that still don’t play well with others, and everyone knows who those are. But as for those who have been supporting each other, van wert will soon be reaping rewards for all the work that continues. Kudos to those of you who do play well with others, and support each other’s growth right here in our little home town of Van Wert, Ohio. Van Wert is ready to become Boomtown.

  • 92 former vw girl // May 21, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Great article! I loved the “hon” story, I’m also from Van Wert, work and live somewhere else but often I call people “hon” or “dear.” I get a lot of ??HON?? I always say Sorry I am from Van Wert, and that’s how we talk.

  • 93 Stan Smith // May 28, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Wonderful stories about VW and Balyeat’s. I can remember when Dale Davies used to work there when he was in high school. We had many Smith (Smith’s Garage) family Thanksgiving dinners in the back room. Don Balyeat used to go across the street to the VW Hotel to get the guest’s names so he could greet the by name at breakfast! Also, one of them would sharpen their carving knives across the street in the Gunsett Hardware basement. He would hide them up his sleeve when he made the trip so no one would “know.”

  • 94 Barb (Ladd) Shufeldt // Jun 2, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    I just read all of the articles on Van Wert & Balyeats. Loved them, but missed seeing anyone from class of “49”. Dale from Balyeat’s always made our Class Reunion dinners which were great. He also was from our Class of “49”.
    I have many happy memories of Van Wert and have always said “those were the good ol’ days”.

  • 95 Cyndi (Miller) Lorton // Jun 7, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    My grandmother used to be a cook at Balyeats. I learned how to make my apple pie from her. This was a great article.

  • 96 Lyn Feigert Warren // Jun 14, 2010 at 10:45 am

    What wonderful memories posted here! I too grew up in Van Wert–Class of ’60. Married in ’65 and we lived away–last 30 years in Washington, D.C. area. Always said I’d never move back! Ha! We somehow came back and love it. Free summer concerts in the park, wonderful entertainment at the PAC center, great ice cream places, Fantastic county fair, return to our old church family at 1st Presby, but most of all–the people–what a friendly place! “They” always say everyone knows your business, but I find it comforting to know how we look out for each other. Lots of good things here!

  • 97 Cynthia Henney Whittenburg // Jun 15, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    I came home the fri. before Memorial Day. On sun. I went up to Balyeats to eat with my great aunt. Dale and Don are my uncles. Marica showed me this article and it was fun reading it. I was born in VW and moved to Columbus when i was 7. I still call it home even though both of my parents are living anymore. They both worked up to Bayleats when Stub had it. Dale has worked there off and on since he was 13. My son worked there for 3 years while he was living with my parents. He said this is sure a family restaurant as so many people who work here are family. You missed a great concert in the park on June 4th as Papa Do Run Run played. Then on June 5th the Peony Parade was really great as it was so long. I can remember going back to VW and the peony parade going down Main st. Well thank you for a great blog about Van Wert

  • 98 Cynthia Henney Whittenburg // Jun 15, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    I have been reading all of the comments and i thought of something. Dale owned the B & K root beer stand on Main St. My grandma ran it for him and i remembering getting a swamp water drink. half root beer half orange. when i was home i went to the B & K and ask for one and the kid didnt know what i was talking about

  • 99 Bill F // Jun 28, 2010 at 7:51 am

    I enjoy reading about “Old Tmes” in Van Wert.
    I remember when the Fire Works Factory on John Brown Road blew up. We lived on North Vine St and could hear the blast and thought it was the Gas Plant between Market and Washington Streets. I think that Homer Bowen owned the Fire Works.

  • 100 Bill F // Jul 8, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Does anybody remember the Deer Park at the Marsh Foundation? George Marsh who lived on East Lincoln Highway had several deer in a field next to his house. I wasa very young but I can vaguelyremember them

  • 101 Gene Hartmier // Sep 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for sending this to me it was nice to read about my home town I left in 74 for FL been here in Clearwater for 36 years don’t miss the snow I was in Van Wert in Aug 10/10 I was going to eat at balyeats but ran out of time sorry i miss it I will the next time

  • 102 Robert // Sep 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for bringing back some great memories of Van Wert. I only lived there for a few years in the early 80’s, but I’ve considered it my home town since then. The YMCA, Main Street, the schools and the library are excellent. I agree with the comment about VW having the best Pizza Hut in the world. Does Casino Pizza still exist? It was across from the YMCA and we would grab a slice at lunch in junior high and play their Track and Field and Mario Brothers video games. There was a great hot dog joint a couple blocks up Main Street, too, where they had a pool table. I also have fond memories of volunteering at the Haunted Forest in the park adjacent to the reservoir. What a great town where kids can still roam free and experience life.

  • 103 gasgangrene // Oct 20, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    The thing about Balyeat’s is that it’s a unique and underappreciated entity; an accidental, yet totally authentic period restaurant. There are a thousand other less impressive poseurs in every corner of the US; whether they be 50’s diners, 40’s country stores, 60’s coffee shops, or colonial taverns. All are the same—faux representations of an idealized past that never really was. Did any diner in the 1950’s actually look and feel like the polished chrome, memorabilia-stocked “50’s diners” of today? I doubt it. But at Balyeat’s? It’s like time stopped moving forward in 1974. From the ancient, vaguely grungy linoleum pattern on the floor, to the formica counters, to the slightly stained acoustical tile ceiling, to the cheap paneling on the walls in the back room. It’s got the gritty, unpolished, unsentimental aura of true authenticity.

    The difference between a trip to Balyeats and a trip to Ed Debevics in Chicago (high-end 50’s diner) is the difference between a pristine ’57 Chevy that you see in a museum, and that ’76 Gran Torino that you found in your grandpa’s barn out on John Brown Road. The former is fun to look at; polished and impressive, yet sterile and inaccessible. But sitting behind the wheel of that Gran Torino on those avocado green textured naugahyde seats (or at the Balyeat’s counter on one of the stools) …that, my friend, is a time warp.

  • 104 Craig Humphries // Feb 27, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Need a favor !! Does anyone remember where the Corral was located? I am from Indiana and we used to come over and drink 3-2 beer – .

    but that was 40+ years ago


  • 105 Bowersock // Nov 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Stumbled across this site purely by accident and to my pleasant surprise discovered all these great posts by those connected , (in one form or another), to Van Wert, certainly brought back many memories from the 50′ & 60’s!

    Now living in Washington State, I was born and raised on a farm in Van Wert. (Smile). No Wal Marts back then, mostly food and produce of our own.

    Pretty much born with a football from day one, played varsity foot ball in 59 thru 61 and have so many cherished memories from my “small town” upbringing.

    I submit the following;

    The Friday evening free meals at Balyeats (hamburgers) for the football team. (smile), Being a poor simple farm kid I thought I was eating in a five star luxury restaurant back then!

    Coach Weeb Ubank, then coach of the Baltimore Colts, speaking at our football banquet , my senior year…. I was in awe!

    Captain of the team my final year, this extremely shy teen got to kiss the homecoming queen!

    The pride that came with wearing a varsity letter sweater & coat. (sports kept me out of trouble!)

    Perhaps a scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting at the old Van Wert train station, me at the age of 15 anxiously awaiting the arrival of the purebred Brittany puppy that I purchased in Kansas with my own savings. (The dog was even more excited to see me than I him!)

    The day (late 50’s?) a famous female “movie star” came to town and I rode my bicycle up next to her convertible and was blown a kiss! (Cannot remember her name but she did have brownish colored hair….still wonder about that name.)

    The Van Wert Drive In

    Brookside: best milkshakes!

    Last but certainly not least, The Van Wert County Fair… Stunt car drivers, horse races, pie eating contests, every fall, a young boy’s playground!

    Final note; So pleased to see the addition of a new Van Wert performing arts center, such a plus for a small community, the quality of life. .

  • 106 Kent McMillen // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Having lived all but 7 years of my life in Van Wert, I have some wonderful mamories of good times, not the least of which is attending football games at Eggerss stadium. Unfortunately it is not being maintained adequately, and is in need of some repairs. It appears that there is a movement afoot to build a new metal stadium out by our beautiful high/middle school. The estimate to fix Eggerss stadium is $331,000. The figure being tossed around for a steel stadium is $1.3 million+. seems like a no-brainer to me. Is anyone else interested in saving this Van Wert landmark, built in the bottom of the depression, and paid for with ticket sales, in just a few years? email me at: kentmmillen@embarqmail.com

  • 107 Terry Williamson // Dec 13, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Craig, the Corral was on South Washington Street. If you drive South on Washington just past Ervin Road you will see where it used to be on the left side of the road (now a vacant lot) but before you get to the Fairgrounds entrance. Our Senior year in VW, they would let us in even if we weren’t yet “technically” 18 for that 3.2 beer. They kept an eye on us and tried to make sure we didn’t do anything too stupid, but it was a fun time and those days are over, for better or worse.

  • 108 Gordon (Scott) Van Metre // Apr 5, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I left VW in 1980 for college, returned home for three summers, and since then only for holidays. I remember the first time I took my wife to Balyeat’s to meet my father and grandmother for lunch. We are armchair foodies and have had amazing meals in fancy nouvelle cuisine places and at truck stops, but we make a point of going to Balyeat’s any time we’re in town. My eldest sister, Karen Bridgman, worked there in her teens in the 70s and another sister, Deb, and I would often go for cherry cokes after school and usually end up eating something Karen supposedly made by mistake. I think it was just her way of taking care of us as she always did. (Writing this is making me tear up a little as we lost Karen to lung cancer almost 3 years ago now.)
    I remember that she worked with one of the Gutierrez girls who managed to persuade Dale to include tacos on the menu, and having learned to make them, Karen brought the recipe home, and we had our first taste of SoCal in Van Wert. They became a staple at our house.
    Karen also worked for a time at the Corral. Maybe more than once. She worked in a number of restaurants, bars, and nursing homes over the years.
    One of my favorite memories of the Corral was going there with Scott Clay when we were in Cub Scouts. His parents owned it and it was right across the street from there house, and we had been trudging all over town selling Christmas decorations for Cub Scouts, and we were exhausted. I can still hear and feel the peanut shells crunching underfoot, and the smell of roasting peanuts to this day takes me back to that time.
    Last observation: only those of us who are from the flattest of the flatlands of Northwest Ohio can appreciate how truly flat it is. When I went to Kent as a high school senior to take a scholarship exam, my mother let me drive around the town. Cresting the hill near the water tower, I saw that there was a light at the bottom of a fairly steep slope and it was red. I began to panic. My only experience on a hill at that point has been riding a sled down the side of the reservoir! I turned to my mother. “What do I do?” I gasped. She looked at me like I was crazy.
    “What do you mean, what do you do?” she puzzled.
    “How do I stop?!” My heart was pounding. I could only imagine sailing through the red light, squealing brakes and screaming metal, the crash of breaking glass. I remembered careening down the side of the reservoir, sailing halfway across the hospital lawn, stopping only because it was so damn flat.
    “Step on the brake?” she advised.
    Needless to say, I stopped with no problem. And I learned that there was a wide world out there beyond my experience, and it was not all quite as scary as it seemed.

  • 109 Sharon // Jan 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Looking for Mile Sloan. He graduated from Van Wert around 1960. Does anyone know what happened to him? If you do e-mail me and let me know. Thank You. This is the first time I have been to this site.

  • 110 Gerry Schwartz // Apr 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Balyeat’s is a blessing to mankind. My wife and I stop there at least once a year when enroute to or from her homeplace in Steuben County, Indiana.
    A Van Wert boy, Cubby Baer, married into my mother’s family right after WW II.

  • 111 Mark Welker // Aug 25, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    I grew up on a farm near Elgin. Of course all the girls were in Van Wert where I met my wife of 53 years. She worked at both the “swimming hole” at the fair grounds and “The Brumback County Library” while she was in high school.

    I would like to have a photo of the swimming hole concession stand since that is where I first met “The Love Of My Life”.

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