Mitch Woodbury

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I’ve mentioned Mitch Woodbury more than once here without going into great detail about who he was, or what he did.

So let’s clear it up once and for all: there wasn’t anybody ever who wrote for The Blade like Mitch Woodbury, nor is there ever likely to be ever again.

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Born in Toledo, George Mitchell Woodbury lived on Collingwood Blvd., across the street from the future site of Scott High School. When it opened in 1913, Mitch was part of its freshman class. He became the school correspondent for the Toledo Times, but when a full-time position in the sports department of the News-Bee opened up, Mitch dropped out of Scott early in his senior year.

That started a 48-year career for Mitch at the News-Bee, the Times, and then The Blade. According to his obituary, in addition to covering sports at the News-Bee, Mitch got tossed the occasional live theater story, and grew to like it more than sports, so he joined The Times as a theater editor and columnist (in 1923 or 1924, approximately). In 1939, he joined the staff of The Blade.

What did he do? In general, he covered the Toledo entertainment scene, which included movie and theater reviews, but a lot of his beat was the endless parade of celebrities who came through Toledo or came from Toledo. He made frequent trips to Hollywood and New York and many times wrote about former Toledoans made good: Danny Thomas, Theresa Brewer, Joe E. Brown. A typical profile was like this 1943 column about radio actress Shirley Mitchell.

It could be a Sunday feature story, too. Did you know a Toledoan had an innovative idea (a portable ice rink) that led to the Holiday on Ice franchise? Neither did I until I found this 1953 Woodbury story about it. It was at the Ice House on Berdan Ave.

If a Broadway advance man came to town, a visit to Mitch’s desk was a necessary stop (and, for example, resulted in a good writeup about The Seven Year Itch coming to town).

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It could just be cheesecake. Reporting from Hollywood, this 1949 column details his watching thirty women in bathing suits.

Now matter what the subject, however, the man was prolific. Pick a day at random from the Blade’s microfilm and more likely than not there’s a Mitch Woodbury column in it: either “Mitch Woodbury Reports,” or an “I’ve Heard” column, a sort of round-up column of little tidbits, cute happenings, or funny quips from all over town. It was eventually taken over by Don Wolfe and Seymour Rothman (September 16, 1969: “Richard Curley reports an unusual traffic jam on Harroun Road, near Sylvania Saturday afternoon. Cars were halted when the road was blocked, by all things, a swan.”).

I don’t know when “I’ve Heard” actually went away from The Blade’s pages, but eventually, it did.

When celebrities came through town, however, Mitch was apparently a required stop. He got around, according to his farewell column and March, 1981 obituary: he sat next to Gentlemen Jim Corbett at the July 4, 1919 fight in Toledo when Jack Dempsey beat Jess Willard. He dined with Gertrude Lawrence at the Toledo Club (he was a member), interviewed Ethel Barrymore in her suite at the Commodore Perry (though she was too interested in a World Series game on the radio), dined with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh at the Hillcrest, played tennis with Rudy Vallee at the Toledo Tennis Club, played badminton with Dick Powell, and took Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin golfing at Inverness (where he was also a member). He met Bob Hope when the comic’s brother, Fred, was selling meat to the Commodore Perry Hotel. John Boles would wire Mitch when he was coming through Toledo on the Twentieth Century, and Mitch would be at the train station with a jug of screwdrivers for the two of them (yeah, I had to go look, I didn’t know who John Boles was).

(Couldn’t help but notice on his retirement page a story by Edson Whipple, who went on to be named managing editor of The Blade in 1983)

But on the other hand, Mitch did not exactly retire. When he retired, he continued to write a column of the comings and goings of Toledoans in Florida, especially in the city he retired to, Boca Raton. And, it looks like while he was down in Florida, he wrote a weekly column for the Boca Raton News.

But Toledo beckoned, like it always does, and in 1979 he moved back to Toledo (spending only the colder months down in Florida). He lived the last two years of his life at the Secor Hotel, which had been converted to residential use in the early 1970s. He was 83 years old.

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