Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Sep 02

Local Urban Legend or Not?

Posted on September 2, 2016 at 9:50 AM by Elise Kelly

Growing up, we've all heard at least one urban legend before. I remember as a kid, some friends and I would go into the school's bathroom and chant "Bloody Mary" three times in front of the bathroom mirror. An eerie ghost was supposed to appear but I never saw one since I was too scared to look.

"Mystery Airship Sacramento 1896" via Wikimedia Commons
Urban legends are mostly based on hearsay. It seemed that I might have come upon an urban legend this week at the archives.

Combing through a short history book (Women of Greene County) that was compiled by the Women's History Project of Greene County, Inc. I found an intriguing story that involved determination and social justice.

"Caramel Milkshake in Stillwater" via Wikimedia Commons
Two Wilberforce women named Mary Frances Valentine and Louise Algee (Garcia) were enjoying the day in downtown Xenia. The two friends were in the mood for milkshakes so they headed to the Velvet Tea Room. There they ordered the two shakes. The clerk made the shakes and put them in a bag.

The two women who were African American, wanted to enjoy their ice cream treat inside. 

They were about to sit down when the owner of the store told them that they could not stay and that they would have to leave. In defiance, "Algee shouted, "You watch me!" and they began to sip their shakes." (117).

When Algee and Valentine paid for their shakes and waited for their change, the clerk pointed to a sign that read "We reserve the right to change prices at anytime without notice." (117) Standing firm, Algee and Valentine began selecting items in the store in lieu of their change. The Xenia police were called to settle the dispute.

What Happened Next?
At the County Archives, we have Civil Appearance Dockets and Criminal Appearance Dockets. This incident supposedly took place either during the 1930s or 1940s. I combed through each record book between these two decades and found nothing.
Greene County Appearance Docket Record Books

Through the Xenia Library's website, I checked an online newspaper database. Trying all sorts of different search terms and dates between the '30s and the '40s, I could not find anything.

I checked our Xenia City Directories and found no listing for the "Velvet Tea Room." I even phoned an acquaintance who works at the Xenia Library to check their business files. Nothing came up except.... there was an ice cream shop (P.D. Cosmos Dairy Co.) located at 105 E. Main Street.

Examining the Xenia City 1931 Sanborn maps, I found an ice cream shop and factory that sat along E. Main Street.

                                        1931 Xenia City Sanborn Map

I did a newspaper search using the ice cream parlor's name and low and behold, I found this 1986 Xenia Daily Gazette article.

Louise Algee (Garcia is her married name) filed charges in municipal court (we do not hold Xenia City Municipal Court Records). So many people wanted to sit in on the court case, that it had to be moved to the Common Pleas courtroom in the courthouse for more space. The trial lasted three days. During the second day, Louise took the stand. She adamantly stated that she did not take any cookies in lieu of the change she was not given. On the third day, the clerk sat in the witness box and stated that she was "acting under the orders of her superior."

The Verdict

                                 Xenia Daily Gazette, January 13, 1986

During this time, some Xenia restaurants including the P.D. Cosmos Dairy Co. only served African Americans carry-out orders. African Americans were not permitted to eat inside. Sadly, this policy did not change in Xenia for quite a while. The ice cream parlor located along E. Main Street, never returned the forty cents owed to Algee and Valentine.

The rights of two women were violated. Actually, the rights of many African Americans were violated in Xenia during this time. However, we have not forgotten what occurred. Louise Algee and Mary Valentine bravely fought for social justice.

I was very pleased to find out that this was not an urban legend!

Until Next Time!

This Week's Trivia Question: The clerk of P.D. Cosmos Dairy Co. was found guilty of violating what Ohio law?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: By 1920 how many acres of public land had been given by the federal government to the public land states in support of public schooling? Answer: 73,155,075

Resources: Women of Greene County. Edited by Imogen Davenport Trolander, Women's History Project of Greene County, Inc. 1994.


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