The Slow Decay of a Dying Town

Galion O

Galion, O
My hometown.

There’s not much left of the place.  Ol’ lady Industry packed up her bags and jumped the last train out of town years ago.  Caught in the draft of her abrupt departure were the jobs and people that energized this town for so many decades.  Galion was once an industry giant, her touch was felt all across this country, but this isn’t meant to be a history lesson about this once proud place,  rather a photo journey of the remnants of what used to be.

About a year ago, my 11 year old son and I set out on our bikes, with cameras slung over our shoulders and ventured across the landscapes that once bustled with people.  We discussed this the prior winter.  We also discussed how much fun it would be to buy a city map so we can drive every street.  We settled on the photos and eventually did it… in July and almost a year later, I’m posting them.  Now that I’ve had a chance to look over these images again, I see some composition errors.  I could have easily gone out and reshot them, but  I felt the magic would have been lost.  We waited out a downpour of rain under the shelter of trees, ate our lunch and shared stories.  That alone makes each of these images special to me.   Below is our story in words and images.

Our first stop was Neff’s Market, only because it was closest to our starting point and not due to any real significance.  I didn’t visit this store much as a child, my mother said it was too high priced for us working class folks.  However, during her couponing days we’d pop in for the sale items.

Neff's bw

Neff’s Grocery Store

The back of Neff's

The back of Neff’s

Right around the corner from Neff’s, sits the old Peabody building.  I knew very little about this joint as a kid.  I believe they manufactured truck bodies.  A little later in life I met a family whose husband worked there.  I could have asked what he or they did, but at the time I was more engrossed in the stories of company infighting and threats of shutting down for good.  Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think they would actually close!

West side of Peabody

West side of Peabody

Peabody 9

The east side of Peabody

Just up the street is the Galion Armory.  This is just one of many buildings that have become canvasses for Taggers.

The Galion Armory

The Galion Armory

Tagged

Tagged

This next building is an old abandoned church.  At one point, several years ago, someone was allowing local bands to play inside on weekends, but was eventually closed due to building code issues.  That’s what I heard anyway.

Abandoned Church

Abandoned Church

Tagged

Tagged

Sondra’s Original Art Store.  I walked past this place a hundred times after school and never stepped inside.  Probably, because I couldn’t find the door!!  The Galion Depot, the next image, is my favorite building in town.  I wasn’t alive for passenger rail service lol, but have walked through a couple times after it was converted into a mall.

Sondra's Art Store

Sondra’s Art Store

The Depot

The Depot

Chinni's

Chinni’s

These last couple of images are of the old Galion Dresser building.  This place was the king of the jungle and it’s roar was heard far and wide.  Inside those walls, road machinery was made.  I remember on trips to Florida, we would pass time by finding the Galion signs plastered on the sides of these beasts.  Nowadays those dens are homes to multiple businesses in town.  Unfortunately none of them have the roar their grandfather had.

Galion Dresser

Galion Dresser

Dressing Building 1

Dressing Building 1

Dresser building 2

Dresser building 2

Road machine

Road machine

Well, that’s our journey.  Thank you for visiting!!  Please hit the Like button if you so desire.

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81 thoughts on “The Slow Decay of a Dying Town

  1. I’m confused. Did Galion have more than one armory? I thought the old armory was where the Golden Age Center /Skate Place is now on the corner of Atwood and Market? Beautiful pictures, though

  2. I haven’t lived in Galion since 1979 when I left to go to college. I have a good friend that worked at Peabody. They made garbage trucks. My Dad was an engineer at The Iron Works until it was sold to Kamatso, which took the manufacturing to South America. He never really got that good of a job again and died in 1986. My Mom remained in Galion untill her death in1998. Both are buried at the cemetary on Fairview. My sister lives there to this day but I never went back.

    • Hi Keith, thank you for commenting! I grew up in Galion in the 70’s and remember all the traffic in town. Now you can get from one side to the other in about 5 minutes. That’s no exaggeration either. I’m glad you got out lol! My whole life I was planning my escape as soon as I graduated high school…and I’m still digging my way out. Perhaps when my children graduate 🙂

  3. I worked at the Neff Bros. Grocery Store, starting before they expanded. It was the best grocery store in Galion at the time, very clean and offered great product. When Bill and Bob Neff died, so did the store. The kids that took over, evidently didn’t know how to run the place and it declined rapidly.

    Peabody started out building dump truck bodies and eventually transformed into the garbage truck body line. This was a very strong employer in Galion over the years.

    I can’t place the building you have labeled as the Armory, but that is not correct. The Armory is where the skating rink is (was).

    Sandra’s Art Store started out as a car wash. You can still see where the two bay doors were. When it closed up, it sat vacant for several years before the art store took it over. I cannot remember is there was something else there between the two.

    Chinni’s restaurant was a popular place for the work force to grab a quick bite to eat at lunch time. I worked at Galion Dresser (Started out as Galion Iron Works, then changed to Galion Mfg. before Dresser bought it) for 10 years as a shop foreman. It was a thriving place to work. The picture you have labeled as “Galion Dresser” was the entrance for the office workers. Inside that door was “Mahogany Row” where the President and all the executives offices were. The picture labeled as “Dresser Building 1” was were all the road graders were built. This was the original plant. The “Dresser Building 2” was the test dept. This is where the graders were tested after rolling off the assembly line. Here they did checks to make sure everything was working properly before sending them off to the paint shop, then to shipping. The “road machine” is a road roller, probably built in the Bucyrus plant in the 40’s. It was one of my duties, unfortunately, to be one of the people that helped close the Bucyrus plant down when they closed it in the early mid-70’s.

    • I forgot to mention the “abandoned Church” photo was built by the St. Joseph Catholic Church for their youth ministry and activity center in the early 60’s. It, too, was a thriving place for a few years, but seemed to be used less and less even by the early 70’s.

      • Thank you, Bill for all the information! I appreciate it! I was just a little shaver in the 70’s when Galion was enjoying the last of her glory days. I grew up on the east side and remember how long the drive was to South Park for little league lol. I wasn’t aware of most of the information you posted. Thank you again for the comments.

      • I have heard that that building was a Catholic Church, but it was not built by St. Joseph’s. St. Joseph’s later acquired it and used it for the CYO (Catholic Yourh Organization) Hall. I attended St. Joseph’s School and had physical education there and baskeball games. Ed Wisler taught PE to us. Remember Ed??

      • I don’t remember this church ever being open. I grew up on the east side of town and rarely ventured that far north lol. I don’t remember Ed at all. The only person I knew at St Joe’s was Mrs. Hurlow, who taught there but wasn’t a nun. I couldn’t comprehend that in my youth.

      • I think this is the old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Payne? I graduated GHS in 1983 and moved out of state for college and life…but I don’t ever remember it being open for anything. I always wondered what it looked like inside.

      • I thought it was St.Patricks chuch back in the day. The building on East St. was the overcoat factory. It’s now used as a warehouse foer Nicholls furniture.

    • Bill, you are absolutely right about the art store starting out as a car wash. It was the old drive-thru type where you didn’t get out of your car. It was open for many years, and I believe (but not exactly sure) that the over pass going in literally right in front of it was a major reason it closed. (And remained empty for MANY years before becoming the art store)

  4. Sad my step- father Tom Hopkins was laid off from Peabody in late 70’s. we moved to Houston in the late 70’s and he never got another job and lived with me from then on after my mom died in 1980. I visited GAlion on and off since then and it is sad to see the decline.

    • Hi Mark, thank you for commenting! I appreciate it very much. I’ve lived here through most of the decline and I think it’s still declining. A lot of houses for sale and not much job growth. It really is sad.

    • Mark,
      Your step-father was my first boss at Peabody when I was hired in 1970. I still work for the same E-Z Pack brand of garbage truck body, now based in Kentucky. It was nice to run across his name. I remember him as being a very nice person.

      • Thanks for your kind words about Tom . He was distraught about losing his job and at his age no one was hiring in Houston so he never worked again. We could not sell our house in Galion and eventually he gave it back to the bank. When I visit friends in Galion I am shocked at how the town seems lifeless. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem like I grew up there. Here’s hoping it will come back someday. Take care (Jerral Hopkins) Mark Pickford I go by for over 35 years now but when I go to Galion some still call me Jerral which sounds funny to me.

    • Hi Eric. East School is just up the street a little from the unknown building. Unless it’s the original school and they built the new one across the street? I’ll drive by it tomorrow and see if there are any signs of what it used to be.

      • Mike, I grew up in a house directly across the street from East school and Porky’sDiner (the house is gone now, just an empty lot) and the building you showed as the Armory has been closed up as long as I can remember. I was never sure what it was, but I was always amazed at how solid it was, and how well it had withstood the test of time with very little decay.

      • John, I agree. That building still looks pretty good for laying dormant all these years. I don’t think I ever saw it used for anything. With the exception of the tagging it’s still a nice building.

  5. I thought I remembered my dad telling me that the one across and up the street was the old middleschool before they turned the one that was tore down on union into the middleschool…. Maybe I got them backwards, but I am farley certain it was a school nonetheless.

    • It may have been the Middle School at one time. I only remember it as the elementary school and it closed while I was in middle school. It was some sort of factory for awhile after that. The unknown building does look like a school though.

  6. I think the building you have noted as the armory was last used as a storage building for Nicholls Furniture probably since the late sixties or seventies . Art had some special interest cars stored in the lowest level which ended up getting flooded. Before that my understanding is that it was a uniform/coat factory, a competitor to the stratbury?? coat factory a few doors down on Church Street. David.

    • I think you’re right, David. I recall my dad mentioning the same thing about Nichols. I only remember the building around the corner on Church St as Caleb V Smith and made uniforms I believe. I know they sponsored a little sox team for awhile.

    • I remember my mom telling me that she worked in that building and they sewed made shoulder pads. That would have been a very long time ago.

  7. The old Caleb and Smith, was one of the North Electric buildings. I think it still says that on the east wall. ( by Porkys) . I think Dave is right. I remember it being refered to as the overcoat company. Maybe they moved over after North Electric quit using it. I think they quit using it in the late 50’s.

    • Thank you for commenting, Bill! I appreciate it. That building by Porky’s has been renovated and I think a contractor is holed up there now. My first memories of it are as Caleb Smith, I’m not sure what it was before. I was a 70’s preteen product and it’s funny how you think, at the time, those places always existed just as you first saw them through a 7 year old’s eyes. I’m learning a lot about this town though, so I’m glad you guys are replying.

    • I think when dad first got to Galion in the 50’s he went to work at Peco down on Parson St. Then it eventually went out on Portland, where it stayed till it shut down. Also had that building across from the Moose. I used to work there and out on Portland St. Dad spent a lot of years there and met a lot of great people.My husband worked at Ironworks for many years and his Dad Virgil Smith worked there till he retired. You used to think that when you went to work in a factory you stayed there till you retired, not the case any more. It is so sad. Galion was a great town to grow up in. My husband, Dana came to Houston to find work when he got laid off from Ironworks. He never went back except to visit family.

  8. The building on East St. behind the old Porky’s was the old Ohio Over Coat Factory in the 50’s. My father worked there for over 30 years.

    • Thank you, Mike, for your comment! I appreciate it. One common string I’m noticing is, not only the job market Galion had, but how dedicated people were to their jobs. Your dad worked 30 years at the coat factory and others have posted about generations of family members working for the same company. That is definitely a lost byproduct of Galion’s job boom.

  9. Part of the decline happened when North Electric sent most of the work to Johnson City , Tn. My father in law got transferred and me and husband came with them. It was August of 69. We still live here.

    • I wonder if North Electric was the beginning of the decline? I remember most of the places mentioned or pieces of them, but I have no recollection of NE being here, other than stories I heard growing up.

      Thank you for commenting, Betsy!

      • North Electric started out as Peco. And then it went to North Electric I think then ITT and then Peco 11.

      • Hi Susan. I don’t remember what was in either of the buildings on the corners of 598 and Brandt. I know them as Lifetouch and PECO II now, but growing up, I just don’t remember them. I’m getting old lol.

      • Mike, I truly do believe that North Electric was a huge factor in the decline of Galion’s industry. My dad worked and mom both worked there in the offices when I was young, and they both really seemed to love the place.

      • I remember all the other factories packing up and leaving town except NE! It must have happened just before I had any understanding of the economy in town. It had to be one of the first big businesses to leave town.

        Thank you for your comments! I appreciate it!

      • My father worked at North Electric when I was very young, early 70″s. It was where Life Touch on 598 is now. I remember we had one car and when Mom needed to use it get groceries, were would pick him up from work and try to guess what work shirt he had on that day! The “drum” shirt was my favorite. Unfortunately, this town will never come back to the life it once had. I have encouraged all 5 of our children to move elsewhere and prosper.

  10. I spent so many hours of my childhood in this little town. My family is all from this area. Dad graduated from Springfield school which doesn’t exist any longer and some of my family still lives in the area. It saddens me every time I drive through Galion because I don’t remember it being so dreary and dying when I was a kid. My grandparents lived across from the elementary school on Dawsett that has now been bulldozed and the school bells ringing and the heat of the giant slide on my shorts-clad legs are wonderful summer memories from my childhood. Hate to see what has become of this little town.

  11. On a different location—-I have been trying to find out —about the current utilities office, I know it was the Buckeye Bank before the utilities office, but what was it before the bank was built???? Anyone know???

  12. This has been very interesting for me to read. Although I live in Kansas City now, I still have family in the area and return every so often. The last time that I drove all over Galion was in 2008, when I returned for a high school reunion. I was so sad to see it, especially the missing schools and the downtown area.

  13. How very sad!! My dad was a pilot for Galion Iron Works in the 50s and 60s. They had a DC3 and a Beechcraft Bonanza. Very great memories there!! The planes were ‘stationed’ in Marion and when dad would be coming in he would ‘buzz’ our house on Portland Way S. so mom would know to get dinner ready. That is until the hospital thought it was too loud! Thanks for sharing all this Mike.

  14. I’ve lived here most of my life and raised 3 children in Galion. Things are definitely not like the good ole days. What is?? Think of the positive things in Galion. We have all new schools. We still have industry that is growing and holding their own. Just need employees that are drug free and willing to work. No way can stores compete with the big box stores but look at the specialty stores that are in Galion.
    These will not stay if Gaion does not support them. That’s exactly what happned to Pamida. Did you know that most of the items that were carried in the Pamida stores were American Made? Wow!!! In order to keep and support a decaying town, everyone living in it need to support the businesses. Try Galion first before looking outside the community. Thanks!
    Judy Dyer

  15. North Elec. was truly a big story when they started to relocate. It was like the beginning of a long sad nightmare as one after another factory began to close or reduce production over the next 10 years or so. The labor union troubles played a part in North Electric’s decision to relocate. My dad also worked at the Galion Iron Works….as a kid in the 50’s and 60″s, I was so proud of where my dad worked. Galion was a remarkable place in those days….so many memories!

    • I agree, very violent strike in I believe 1972 and the local Mayor and PD did nothing to stop it, windows smashed out and utter destruction needlessly, the end of North Electric in Galion began and the downfall started.

  16. My Mother and then the rest of our family grew up across the street from the church, it was an old Catholic Church….my Dad thinks it was named St.Patricks but he is not positive.It has housed many organizations over the years.

    • I think it was just Charles street bowling alley. I remember when it burned. The lower part is still there. It is a garage. Charlie Gordon had a body shop there years ago.

  17. Mike

    North Electric was the first to leave as half went to Johnson City and half went to the Melbourne Florida area in the mid 1970’s …. Perfection – Cobey was a huge employer in the community as well and should not be left out of this picture … they employed nearly 1000 at their peak. Went back two years ago, I do not recognize the place and wonder how the local officials could have destroyed it all.

  18. Wow the memories of growing up in Galion,on the east end! The old east end grocery store was T&A supermarket,then Charlies Mkt. There was an IGA on HWE between the old Clark gast station and the current Moto-mart,which the also housed the JA(junior achievment) back in the later 70`s. I went to Dawsett when they decided to become the “grizzlies”,as each grade school got their own mascot. Just down the road on Dawsett,there used to be a trucking company( Dallas-Mavis) that hauled the “Galion” equipment to all points in the USA and seabord ports for export.Manufacturing was always Galion`s bread and butter,the technology was too much for the city to handle,so the employers went elsewhere,in my opinion.

  19. I remember growing up in Galion. My dad was a police officer under Chief Bower along with Bill Sickmiller, Kenny Lewis, my uncle, Heidi Perdue’s dad and others. We always stayed out and played until the street lights came on. The front door was open 24 hours a day in the summer because of the heat or for whoever came over before bedtime. We used to go over to the armory and play on the jeeps or whatever else they kept in the parking lot. I remember when the old JC Penny burned to the ground. For a small town I think everybody was on the square to see the aftermath. Got some good memories growing up in Galion.

  20. I wish someone would research and write the extent to which the departure of industry from Galion was due to the companies’ strategy to move to a non-union workforce. When I was growing up there, North Electric started to move a lot of its activity to Tennessee, a non-union state. I wonder if that was a common pattern.

    • That would be an interesting study. I’m sure it played a role in companies’ decisions to relocate. It was obviously cheaper for them pull up their tent takes and rollout of town than it was to stay.

  21. Graduated from GHS in 1974.Good times but short lived.I love the town and still have family there.I had to bail in ’76.A man’s gotta eat.Greedy companies killed the economy of Galion.I love to visit but I couldn’t live there.

  22. Perfection and the Eagle Crusher Company were Ralph Cobey companies. I believe that Cobey once manufactured manure spreaders, prompting the old joke “Ralph Cobey won’t stand behind his product!”

    • That’s a good question. She’ll never regain her former self. There’s space via several empty buildings for a resurgence, but America isn’t an industry driven society any longer. My guess, my hope, is she’ll remain a nice bedroom town for commuters. We’re roughly 90 minutes from both Cleveland and Columbus. While Mansfield is about a 30 minute drive.

  23. I enjoyed archiving Galion History, & have a full house to prove it. Seeing the school’s come down struck a fatal blow, & my briefcase has remained closed in the car since .I wrote many historical blogs about Galion, & posted them on the Galion site years ago–but I can’t find them now. It seems that Galion history is only important if it generates $$$$. The proud Galion of my youth remains in my heart,& it’s hard to ignore the considerable mis-information that clouds reality, but why get agitated when nobody cares anymore.

  24. Pingback: Oh, The Places You Should Go, In Galion O – #1 Big Plate Diner | One Mundane Life

  25. My grandfather told when I was about 10 years that some day Galion would go down hill if things did not change. I was born in 1943 and live in Galion until 1969. Boy was he right he was President of U.S. Steel Grave Vault Company and said left the Company would go to hell in a hand bag.

  26. Life and its’ changes are strange. On a similar note some towns are starting to come back after decades of similar cahnge. There is hope and you never know what time will bring.

  27. I didn’t see any pictures of the North Electirc Company. I grew up in Crestline and worked for North Electric Co starting in 1963. My mom worked there for years until they closed the company. I worked at PECO too. Galion was always a thriving town. I shopped at Neff’s in Galion and JC Penny company. Now Crestline doesn’t even have a grocery store and Crestline and Galion seem like ghost towns.

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