May 1, 2008 by J. Johnson
by Meredith Southard
While poking around online for some truly unique Ohio special collections to highlight in this issue of The Specialist, I kept bumping up against an incontrovertible fact: Ohio has a lot of Halls of Fame. And not just the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Try the Veterans Hall of Fame, the Accounting Hall of Fame, the Harness Racing Hall of Fame, the Classical Music Hall of Fame, and the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.
I’d like to say that Ohio has more Halls of Fame than any other state, but my research has not yet verified this claim (admittedly, my research has not been extensive).
Regardless, Ohio has numerous Halls of Fame that are well worth visiting. In this newsletter I’ll look at three: The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, The Ed Jeffers Barber Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.
The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum
To people who don’t ride them, the world of motorcycles can seem as technical, baffling or dangerous as that of, say, spaceships. Mike Mederski, Executive Director of the
Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, would like to change that.
“Motorcyclists are the man or the woman next door,” Mederski explains. “They’re regular people.” And while there are numerous museums throughout the world that collect motorcycles and motorcycle memorabilia, the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum is the only one that also focuses on the people who have made motorcycling what it is.
“We profess to tell stories,” Mederski says, “we’re not just about the hardware.”
Founded in 1990 by the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation, the Hall of Fame pays respect to those who have made a significant contribution to the field of motorcycling, whether through business, design, engineering, racing, or simply by raising the profile of motorcycling.
The Museum consists of two levels, with the upper level devoted to changing exhibitions and the lower level showcasing the Hall of Famers, their bikes and memorabilia. It also houses a library of books, magazines, photos and repair manuals, which is open to the public by appointment.
Upcoming exhibitions include MotoStars: Celebrities + Motorcycles, opening June 28, which will spotlight over a hundred of the world’s most recognizable enthusiasts, including Rush drummer Neal Peart and his BMW, as well as famous movie bikes such as the 2004 MV Agusta F4-SPR driven by Will Smith in I, Robot.
On July 24, the museum will open its “Awesome-Ness” exhibit, showcasing the work of master designer and builder Arlen Ness.
And what about those Motorcycle Hall of Famers?
Consider Bessie Stringfield, “The Motorcycle Queen of Miami.” In the 1940s this African-American motorcycling prodigy and true free spirit made numerous long-distance trips through the Deep South, at a time when segregation meant she wouldn’t always be able to get a hotel room.
“If you had black skin you couldn’t get a place to stay,” she once said. “I’d sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle.”
Then there’s Hazel Kolb, “the Motorcyclin’ Grandma,” who in 1979 rode the perimeter of the United States alone on her Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. She conceived of the trip as a way to honor her late husband Jim, who had been an avid motorcyclist, and before long this 53-year-old motorcyclist attracted the attention of the national media. Kolb made numerous TV appearances and eventually coauthored a book about her ride, and in the process broke down stereotypical notions about motorcyclists (or, for that matter, grandmas).
Many of the inductees are competition racers, such as Chris Carr, who in 2006 broke the land speed record for motorcycling at the AMA/IFM International Motorcycle Speed Trials, reaching speeds of 354 mph.
(Yes, you read that correctly. 354 miles per hour. On a motorcycle.)
And of course, the Hall of Fame honors Evel Knievel. And Steve McQueen. And Peter Fonda. Jay Leno received his Hall of Fame medallion on-air during The Tonight Show. Celebrities, racers, free spirits, grandmas—all brought together by their love of motorcycles. The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum has something, it seems, for everyone.
The Ed Jeffers Barber Museum and Barber Hall of Fame
Canal Winchester, Ohio
A little historical detail about barbering quickly becomes apparent when touring the Ed Jeffers Barber Museum: until the last century, barbers were the surgeons of their communities as well as the haircutters. Oh, and they were
also the dentists.
“You’d go to the barber to have your appendix out, your teeth pulled and your hair cut,” explained Mike Ippoliti, Curator of the museum, as he showed me yet another
wicked-looking pair of pliers used to pull teeth. In my tour I saw bloodletting tools, hair singeing devices and razors galore, and now this. It was almost enough to make one grateful for the modern healthcare system.
But gruesome medical implements are far from the only thing collected in the Barber Museum, located in Canal Winchester. The collection features over 500 shaving mugs, 61 barber poles, more than 600 razors, razor strops, clippers, blood letting tools, shoeshine chairs, spittoons, historic barber chairs, and a library with over 400 volumes.
The Wall Street Journal and Smithsonian have run in-depth articles on the museum, and it’s been featured on the Discovery Channel, the Family Channel, and Tokyo TV. That was an interesting hour,” says Ippoliti of Tokyo TV’s visit.
What’s particularly astounding about the museum is that it began as a collection in Ed Jeffers’ basement. Affectionately known as the “Godfather of Barbering,” Jeffers was a professional barber from 1959 to 1972, and curator of the barber museum from its opening in 1988 until he passed away in 2006.
In 2007 the Canal Winchester Historical Society assumed ownership of the Museum, which is currently housed in several large rooms over Zeke’s Barber Shop (where they don’t pull teeth—only shaves and haircuts). It’s an impressive sight: a long row of antique barber chairs in impeccable condition is lined up beneath a wall of lit-up barber poles, which clatter softly as they turn. The poles were formerly crank-operated, but as their springs have worn out the museum has had them motorized, as the broken parts are no longer in manufacture. “Do you know the story behind barber poles?” Ippoliti asks. He explains that their colors—red, white and blue—“have nothing to do with being patriotic.” It turns out that barbers, as the surgeons of their day, would use white towels to sop up the blood, which they’d then throw over a pole. The color blue was added in as a nod to the practice of “veining.” “They called it ‘breathing the veins’,” Ippoliti explains. I didn’t inquire further about the details of this procedure, as I was busy considering how someone should make a slasher film about barbering.
“Here’s another Sweeney Todd knife,” he says, hefting an oversized straight razor off of the counter. (Though I suppose the Broadway musical and Johnny Depp film have already been done.) Despite the occasionally gruesome turn the visit takes, my overall impression of the Barbering Museum is one of awe. Awe at the collection, and at the fact that one person could, over the course of 20 years or so, amass such an immensity and variety of objects.
“Barbering was his passion,” Ippoliti explains of Ed Jeffers. This much is evident.
The Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame
Quick: what do Maya Lin, Halle Berry and Judith Resnick have in common? How about Nikki Giovanni, Janet Voinovich and Lillian Gish? Tami Longaberger, Harriet
Beecher Stowe, Phyllis Diller, Annie Oakley?
Sure, they’re all carbon-based life forms, but beyond that they’re all honorees in the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame. A joint project of the Ohioana Library and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Hall of Fame honors women who have made outstanding contributions to Ohio, the nation or the world. Honorees must have been born in Ohio, or resided here for at least five years. The Hall of Fame does not occupy a physical space, but is represented by a large display outside the gates of the Ohioana Library. Since its inception in 1978, the Hall of Fame has honored over 350 women including the aforementioned inductees, as well as women who are not household names but who nonetheless made notable
achievements in their fields.
Alvina Costilla, for instance, served for 33 years as a bilingual employment officer in Toledo, helping thousands of migrant workers find jobs. Even in her retirement, Costilla remains an active advocate for migrant workers throughout the state.
Mary Jobe Akeley (1886-1966), a native of Tappan, Ohio, was a renowned explorer, educator, author and lecturer. In an era when women explorers were rare, Akeley made expeditions to remote areas of the Canadian northwest,
prompting the Geographical Board of Canada to name a high peak in the Canadian Rockies Mt. Jobe in her honor. In 1926 she undertook extensive mapping and photographic studies of Africa including Kenya, Tanganyika and the Congo.
And then, of course, are those names that you may have heard before, but rarely in connection with their native Ohio: Tracy Chapman, Doris Day, Erma Bombeck, Halle Berry. (I, for one, had no idea that Halle Berry was from Ohio —though a friend in Cleveland assures me that it’s common knowledge there.)
The Hall of Fame display was formerly housed at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in downtown Columbus, but went into storage in 2003. In 2007 it was resurrected and relocated to its current home, with a ceremony honoring nine inductees in fields ranging from law to sports to healthcare to activism.
Nominations for the 2008 induction are due by May 15. Forms and guidelines for nominations are available on the Women’s Hall of Fame Web site, as are biographies of selected inductees.