Creating Columbus: 1939-1960

200 Arts and Cultural Moments that Shaped the City’s History

By Columbus Alive
From the February 2, 2012 edition

1939

Columbus introduces new roller-derby team

A new sports fad hits the nation, and a team known as the Columbus Rainbows debuts.

1940

Johnny Jones cries over an elephant

The insightful, talkative Jones gushes about Tandy, an elephant at Olentangy Park, in his first piece for The Columbus Evening Dispatch. Jones writes his “Now Let Me Tell You” column until his death in 1971.

1941

Ohio’s first FM radio station broadcasts from Columbus

To lure more listeners to FM, owners of W45CM host a regular program on an AM sister station about the benefits of the newer radio format.

1941

Columbus Philharmonic founded

Central Ohio had seen symphonies come and go since the 1800s. However, under the direction of Izler Solomon, the Columbus Philharmonic gains national acclaim before its demise in 1949.

1945

Zanetos family begins candy business

Greek immigrant Anthony Zanetos opened the Coop Dairy in Franklinton in 1932, but his dream is to own a father-son business. It comes true when his boy, Tom, returns from World War II and is able to get a 30,000-pound annual sugar allotment because of his veteran status. Their joint venture eventually becomes Anthony-Thomas Chocolates.

1947

The Clarmont serves its first steak

The German Village restaurant finds a recipe for success — serve steak, be classy, stay in the same location — and doesn’t change much.

1948

Metro Parks opens Blacklick Woods in Reynoldsburg

Established several years earlier, the county park district opens its first green space. The system eventually grows to protect more than 26,000 acres.

1949

First local TV station takes to the airwaves

WLWC signs on in Columbus on April 3. Two competitors, WBNS and WTVN, follow in September.

1951

New symphony orchestra tunes up

George Hardesty, former member of the failed Columbus Philharmonic, organizes 28 musicians for a sample concert on May 6. It’s a success, and the Columbus Little Symphony plays regular concerts during the next several years. The group becomes the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in 1955.

1951

Roy Lichtenstein denied tenure at Ohio State

The artist teaches in the OSU art department after graduation but in June is denied a permanent position. By 1962, the pop artist is selling out shows in New York City and being reviewed by Newsweek.

1952

Nancy Wilson stars on “Skyline Melodies”

Wilson is 15 and a student at West High School when she lands a spot on the show, which airs on local network WTVN. She eventually hosts the program, hones her craft at local jazz clubs and joins up with Rusty Bryant, a virtuoso Columbus sax player. Her first big hit, “Save Your Love for Me,” comes in 1962.

1952

Flippo the Clown makes TV debut

An ad agency asks WBNS to produce a children’s clown show, and station staffer Marvin Fishman steps in when a circus clown chickens out. Known as “the King of Clowns,” Flippo remains on the air until 1983.

Circa 1953

Rahsaan Roland Kirk finds his instruments

Already leading his own jazz groups, Kirk dreams that he’s playing three instruments at once. The next day, he goes to a music shop and finds a stritch and a manzello, two archaic saxophones that would define his image and sound through much of his career.

1954

First color TV installed in Columbus

On New Year’s Day, WCMH airs the city’s first color telecast of a network show. The year’s top program is “I Love Lucy.”

1955

Veterans Memorial opens

The building at 300 W. Broad St. is dedicated on Veterans Day and soon hosts concerts, trade shows, exhibits, competitions and more.

1956

Elvis Presley thrusts into Columbus

In the same year he records “Heartbreak Hotel,” Elvis the Pelvis performs at Veterans Memorial.

1956

Emerson Burkhart gets rejected

In addition to being a respected scene painter, Burkhart is one of the city’s most eccentric and intriguing characters. When denied a chance to show in the 1956 Columbus Art League exhibition, Burkhart hosts a show of his work at his own house. His annual house shows become legendary events in the arts community.

1956

Zoo welcomes world’s first captive-born gorilla

Colo is born Dec. 22 at the Columbus Zoo and weighs three pounds, five ounces. The name of the western lowland gorilla is short for Columbus.

Early 1960s

Freeways sever neighborhoods from Downtown

Construction of I-71 between State Route 161 and Downtown creates a wide, concrete barrier between the urban core and areas like Linden, King-Lincoln District and Olde Towne East. Much of the Near East Side falls into decline. Within the decade, a significant part of German Village is razed to make way for I-70.

1960

German Village hosts first house-and-garden tour

It costs $1 to tour 10 homes in a neighborhood that most in town view as sketchy and rundown. The tour highlights the first signs of revitalization and community-building work of people like Frank Fetch, Robert Corotis and Dorothy Fischer.

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