North Canton Through Craig Kindy’s Eyes
by Amanda Palutsis
A North Cantonian born and raised, Craig Kindy loves his city for everything that it was and everything that it is. In the short hour and a half that we spent together, he condensed and conveyed sixty-seven years of memories that were as vivid as if they had happened only last week.
Born in North Canton on the first of February in 1950, Craig has lived in the North Canton area all of his life. To supply a bit of background for his childhood, Craig noted that he attended preschool and kindergarten outside of a traditional school building and instead in the basement of the North Canton Public Library, and he was one of the first fifth graders at Clearmount Elementary School when it was built in the mid-1900’s. During his time at Clearmount, he met Don Cochran, one of his best friends of his elementary and middle school years. The two boys did everything together, which even included taking ballroom dance lessons in the workout classroom at the local YMCA when they were twelve years old. Even though there was only one other boy in the class, Craig enjoyed it and claims to have learned every style of dance from the Waltz to the Quickstep. Within that same year, the two boys went to the Park Theater to see the first ever James Bond movie, Dr. No. Unfortunately, the North Canton YMCA does not currently offer any ballroom classes, and the Park Theater has long been closed, but that is often the fate of half-century old memories.
Although the majority of Craig’s fondest remembrances of his childhood may pertain to locations, people, and events no longer a part of today’s North Canton, I found these stories and memories to be the most interesting and the most indicative of what our city was like before I and many others had even met it yet. In elementary school, two field trips were a tradition that everyone seemed to look forward to. The first was a tour of North Canton’s own Mellow Milk Company dairy. All of the children were familiar with the glass bottles that arrived in the wire basket on the doorstep, so having the opportunity to see where the milkmen loaded their trucks was a fun excursion in itself. Even more exciting, however, was the need for raincoats; due to temperature and humidity conditions required for pasteurization, it actually “rained inside the building,” which was so unbelievable that it left Craig trying to convince others like his parents that it really happened. Another trip was to the train station in Canton, where Craig and his third or fourth-grade class rode the train all the way to Wooster and back, which took over an hour in total. Although the elementary schools are no longer able to take field trips exactly like these, Craig recognizes the excursions as some of the most prominent memories from those younger years.
A major aspect of Craig’s teenage years was enjoying the many opportunities to have fun dancing and hanging out with friends. In the summers, the North Canton outdoor community pool (that used to be on Hower Street, not today’s YMCA Dogwood Pool) would host “splash parties” every Tuesday night. It was a great place to listen to the DJ play popular music, take a dip in the water, and spend time with friends from school while on summer vacation. And, as Craig added, it was the spot in town to “pick up dates.” During the school year, especially the drab winter months, indoor dances replaced the splash parties and kept weeknights exciting. After every home basketball game, Craig and the rest of the students in attendance headed straight over to the nearby YMCA to a party in the gymnasium, complete with a DJ until 11:00. As one can imagine, Craig felt incredibly close to his high school classmates as a result of so many get-togethers outside of school.
Just as the activities have changed during Craig’s life in North Canton, so have the buildings and businesses. In a house on Mckinley Street lived a rock collector that Craig and a few of his neighborhood friends would visit a few times each summer. The man ran a retail rock and gemstone business, Jim’s Gems, out of his basement hall, and the boys would stop by to see any new items that he had added to his collection. On North Main Street, behind the Papa John’s and Mama Guzzardi’s restaurants, there is now only open space, mobile homes, and apartments. 50 years ago, North Canton’s own drive-in theater occupied that space. Affectionately called the “passion pit” for obvious reasons, the drive-in was a regular spot for the high schoolers to hang out, watch a movie on the big screen, and, as Craig put it, “go and make out” away from prying parents or police.
As a Boy Scout for four years and an avid outdoorsman then and now, Craig has always enjoyed being out in nature in any capacity. Perhaps one of his favorite outside activities from when he was younger was ice skating, which began within walking distance of his childhood home at a flooded and frozen Dogwood Park. A widowed neighbor who loved to skate and was “really a good ice skater” offered Craig personal lessons and ended up taking him to skate every night that he was available. More than fifty years later, the two are both members of Zion United Church of Christ in North Canton and, unsurprisingly, remain very close friends. Many years after his first attempt on the ice, Craig reaped the benefits of his private skating tutoring at Bowling Green State University. When having to choose an elective class for the semester, he found figure skating as an option and signed up for the beginner level. After a quick evaluation, the teacher was amused by Craig’s clearly exceptional skills and moved him up to the intermediate class, only for him to again be moved. From the beginner class to the intermediate, and the intermediate class to the advanced, Craig ultimately began skating under the head figure skating coach who eventually asked him to help her teach the others, which he thought to be “really cool.” Especially because of his ice skating days at Dogwood Park and BGSU, one of Craig’s life dreams was to skate under the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center like they broadcast on NBC each winter. On a trip to visit his brother in New Jersey one year, Craig was finally able to do just that. “I always wanted to skate there,” he told me. “That was a lifelong dream that I was able to realize.”
Another memory that Craig cherishes is his impromptu meeting with a future president when he was only ten years old. In the fall of 1960, both Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon were nearing the ends of their presidential campaigns as the election approached. That October, Nixon flew into the Akron-Canton Airport for a short parade down Main Street, stopping in the town square surrounded by people on all four sides. Craig, only ten years old at the time, had ridden to the event on his bike and was watching amongst the crowds. When Nixon had come to a complete stop, Craig took the opportunity to ride up next to the “gigantic” Cadillac convertible and stuck his hand out to the vice president. Nixon graciously shook it with a smile and Craig biked home to tell his parents, who initially did not believe his story. Although Kennedy won that year, Nixon would go on to win the 1968 election, allowing Craig to truthfully claim that he has met the thirty-seventh president of the United States.
After Craig graduated with the 1968 class of Hoover High School, he attended Bowling Green State University for two years until he was drafted into the military in 1971. He was sent to Kentucky for two months for boot camp, then Oklahoma for another two months. When he flew into Frankfurt, Germany, he met an Irish soldier that he had met in Oklahoma and the two were assigned to the same base in West Germany doing the same job. After thirty-one months abroad, Craig returned home to his wife and high school sweetheart, and his daughter Annette. After divorcing just shy of seven years of marriage, he remained single until he married Linda Marquardt on September 11, 1981, and they have been happily married nearly thirty-six years since. The couple has two sons, Kevin and Keith, and Craig now has five grandchildren: Audrey, Mason, and Sawyer from Annette and Marshall and Stella from Kevin.
Recently, Craig has become a trustee of the North Canton Heritage Society because he is passionate about his love for the city and does not think that there is anywhere better to live. His idea for the society’s new shirts with the saying are to allow other people, and Ohioans specifically, to connect outside of the city, since where you are from is such a large part of who you are. Luckily for Craig, he grew up here in North Canton, which he considers being nothing short of a blessing. He actually wishes that “more people would realize just how blessed they are to live here.” I was incredibly fortunate that he was willing to share his memories with me, and I hope that a glimpse of the view of North Canton through his eyes will be remembered for years to come.