Who’s up for a Harbor View Orgy?

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The headline from March 8, 1924, was enough to stop me in my tracks. Orgies? Harbor View?

Go see the story!

Unfortunately, in this case, the story turned out to not be as good as the headline.

It begins with J.A. McKelvey, who owned a cottage in Harbor View, the little microscopic village just north of the BP Oil refinery on the east side. His cottage, and others, had been repeatedly broken into: furniture broken, items stolen, liquor bottles and gold-tipped cigarette butts left behind.

It had been going on for several seasons, but the News-Bee said police in Harbor View took little interest. “Some of the villagers ventured to say that ‘liquor raids took up too much of their time.’ ” Thanks to Harbor View’s strategic position on Maumee Bay, the statement wasn’t that much of a venture.

So residents there sought a higher power – Lucas County Probate Court Judge O’Brien O’Donnell, who brought thirty young men and women, some as young as 15, before him to explain goings-on in Harbor View (and yes, in the days before Ohio counties had separate juvenile courts, probate courts handled juvenile matters and to this day, in many of Ohio’s smaller counties, the probate judge is often also the juvenile court judge).

“It was the old story of the dance hall and liquor,” The News-Bee wrote (isn’t it always?). “Both shared equally in the blame.”

Girls who are barely old enough to leave school were among those questioned. There were boys from some [of] the best families of Toledo and girls about to make their debut at coming-out parties in the younger set next year. All told the same story.

They would meet in dance halls. The early part of the evening was spent on the polished floors. The dance hall closed at midnight to comply with the law. But this is too early to go home. So the party adjourned long enough to purchase liquor and then out to Harbor View they went. A deserted cottage was broken into and after making themselves “at home” the party proceeded.

The youths faced many charges, the paper said: gambling, drinking, smoking, nude dancing, petting and robbery. Rumors which spoke of love orgies and a “love cult” had been circulating for some time. When the revelers left on Sunday morning (afternoon sometimes), the whole village knew it: speeding cars with kids screaming farewell to the villagers. This was especially galling to some, since the procession out of town went past the mayor’s house.

No word on what eventually happened to the kids in court, but all the adults promised action: Harbor View Mayor Levi Shover promised a marshal on watchman’s duty every night. Toledo dance halls issued a statement that said they were not responsible for their patrons after closing time (OK, that’s not exactly “action”). Judge O’Donnell urged parents to be more interested in the goings-on of their children.

And while this is only my opinion, this story was undoubtedly puffed up quite a bit by the News-Bee staff because let’s face it, a big orgy story is going to sell a few papers.

Information about modern Harbor View is tough to come by. It doesn’t have its own website. A directory of elected officials published by the League of Women Voters of Toledo and Lucas County flatly states about Harbor View, “At the time of publication the mayor and other council members were not known” but in my opinion they should have tried a little harder.

Orgies today are probably a thing of the past in Harbor View, but if you cruise around today using Street View for Google Maps, you’ll find that it is much as the News-Bee described it in 1923: “a one street village, formed in the shape of a horseshoe, with small and large, cheap and elaborate, well-furnished and shabbily outfitted cottages vieing with each other on each side of the road.”

Its population was 99 according to the 2010 census, the smallest incorporated municipality in Lucas County (when Berkey, population 265, dwarfs you, you know you’re small).

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