The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
When Benjamin Strauss had his wholesale liquor business on South Main Street, which was the subject of a recent "Hometown History" column, he had a young man who worked for him who either became a partner or eventually bought the business.
The O. and S. Pure Rye Whiskey bottle in the Fenton History Center collection.
This person was Frank A. Ochs. He first appears 1907-08 city directory as working at Benjamin Strauss & Co., married to Louise and boarding at the European Hotel. This hotel just happened to be the hotel at 5 S. Main St. with Strauss as the proprietor. In the 1909-10 city directory, Benj. Strauss Co. at 3 S. Main St. is listed with both Strauss and Ochs as though they were co-owners. By 1911 Ochs and Jacob Stricker are in the liquor business at 3 S. Main St. Strauss is listed as a road work inspector.
Ochs continues as a liquor dealer through the 1915-16 city directory, and in that year "cigars" was added to the store listing. By the next city directory, which is 1920, Ochs and everyone else who had been in the liquor business are no longer listed because Prohibition had begun. (Notice I did not say they were out of business. I am sure that some took their business underground and continued for awhile, but that is another story.)
The mystery pops up with the bottle that is in the collection of the Fenton History Center. According to the label, the bottle had contained "O & S, Old Private Stock, Pure Rye Whiskey" from "Ochs and Stricker, 5 S. Main Street, Jamestown, N.Y."
The Stricker in this business was Jacob Stricker who lived in Warren, Pa. When was the business at 5 S. Main? It was always listed at 3 S. Main. Did they have an "outlet," small shop in the lobby of the hotel that was listed at 5 S. Main St. during those years? There was a hotel at 5 S. Main St. for a number of years, but the name and the proprietor seemed to change about every city directory.
Strauss and his wife, Eva E., last appear in the 1913-14 city directory. Benjamin is listed as a contractor. They are living at 610 Jefferson St. In 1920 after prohibition closed the liquor business, Ochs and his wife, Lulu, live at 20 E. 15th St., and there is no occupation listed for him. On Ochs' World War I Draft Registration from Sept. 9, 1918, his occupation is listed as a guard at the Curtiss Aeroplane Motor Corp. in Buffalo but living at 20 E. 15th St. in Jamestown.
In the 1922 city directory, his occupation is listed as vice president and general manager of the Black Belt Corporation at 15 E. 15th St. in Jamestown. His wife, Lulu, is the secretary-treasurer of the Black Belt Corporation, and Frank E. Clark is the president of the corporation. Something more about the Black Belt Corporation just may appear in a future "Hometown History."
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.