Edwin Solon Conner

Edwin Solon Conner

Penobscot, Hancock County, Maine, USA
Death 26 Apr 1960 (aged 79)
Sewalls Point, Martin County, Florida, USA
Burial Castine, Hancock County, Maine, USA
Memorial ID 54130332 · View Source
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Edwin went to sea on fishing schooners as a boy. At age 14 he was aboard a fishing schooner, probably one captained by his grandfather John F. Peterson, which was blown off course in a severe storm to the coast of Labrador - they landed near Dr. Wilfred Grenfell's mission where Edwin saw his first gymnasium and welfare work. This inspired him to return to school.

He graduated from Abbot School (secondary school) and Eastern State Normal School (now the Maine Maritime Academy; his teaching certificate is dated 5 June 1901), both in Castine, and in 1906 from Bates College in physical education and recreation (starring there in baseball, basketball and football and for four years on the all-state football team [once as an end, once as a tackle and twice as a fullback]). He was vice president in 1903 of the Class of 1906. He then was principal and coach at Hallowell, Maine, then teacher and coach at Lincoln High School, Cleveland, Ohio (where his life-long nickname "Chief" originated). It is interesting that he entered Bates College on a scholarship with $10 in his pocket and one suit of clothes, working waiting tables and washing dishes for room and board. His letters (held by the Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College) to Professor Pomeroy at Bates College in 1908 and 1909 refer to the professor's signing of a note to the bank on behalf of Edwin. He was known by his classmates at Bates as "Solon".

During his ten years (1907-1917) at Lincoln High School he was also athletic and recreational director at summer camps for boys at New York's Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains, where he became friends of naturalists Ernest Thompson Seton and Dan Beard, and was in the group with them which worked with General Sir Robert Baden-Powell to bring Boy Scouting to the United States.

During World War I he was employed (formally by a 23 August 1917 letter from W. H. Tinker, Placement Secretary of the National War Council, YMC; serving 1917-1919) by the YMCA as Director of Recreational Activities (responsible for fitness training, etc.) at Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio. General Edwin Glenn soon recommended him for a commission to be Division Athletic Director (letter dated 27 Nov 1917 to the Commission on Training Camp Activities) - no record of the commission has been found. [After W.W. I he had a choice of three positions: recreational director for Goodyear, one with the federal Park Service, and an opportunity to go to Bermuda to be in a motion picture with Ann Kellerman, a famous swimmer.] His effectiveness at Camp Sherman led Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to induce him to come to Akron in 1919 to provide physical exercise for 17,700 people as a pioneer in industrial athletics. Edwin coached its basketball team in the industrial league; he served at Goodyear from 12 May 1919 until he retired 01 Sept 1953.

He graduated 11 June 1931 with A.B., LL.B. degrees from Cleveland Law School, but never practiced law. He started every heat of the Soap Box Derby from its move to Akron in 1934 (http://www.ohio.com/news/51195057.html) until the late 1950s, served on the Akron Recreation Commission, 1934-51 (chair, 1941-51) and the Akron Board of Education, originated the father-son banquet and pioneered the industrial recreation movement; he was in wide demand as an inspirational speaker. At Goodyear he coached many championship teams, including National AAU soccer and two National Basketball League titles, chaired the city recreation department and was a member of the Akron boxing commission, according to his obituary in the September, 1960 "Bates Alumnus" magazine. His career at Goodyear was celebrated 20 January 1954 with an open house at the Goodyear Gym in Akron. Sportswriter Jim Schlemmer offered an extensive tribute in the Akron Beacon Journal the previous Sunday. He wrote, "Swimmer, cyclist, skater (he once skated nonstop from Cleveland to Akron on the frozen canal); Conner might have succeeded Jack Johnson as the heaveyweight fistic champion if his desire for that kind of business had been equal to his ability... Instead, even before coming to Akron, he devoted his spare time to church work and already had won recognition as the originator and developer of the Father-Son Week idea. ...Long years spent in Boy Scout work built intimate friendships with General Baden-Powell, Ernest Thompson Seton, Dan Beard and others. They called him Coach or Chief like everybody else...." His obituary in the Akron Beacon Journal calls him "big in body, in voice, in mind and in ideals." He was an ardent conservationist and enjoyed bird study, hiking, boating and hunting. He was an avid, serious fisherman, tying his own flies. He died fishing from a boat in the Indian River in Florida. He is buried beside his wife in Castine, Maine. He was a mesomorph in body type. Historian Phil Perkins told A. E. Myers in August, 1995 that Ed Conner had been touted as a contender for the national boxing championship, but that his wife (Vivian) protested strenuously, and he therefore did not fight. He was a member of Lafayette Chapter of the Ohio Society of the Sons of the American Revolution as a descendant of Capt. David Dunbar, Jr. of Massachusetts. He and his wife are buried in Lot 118 in the Castine Cemetery.

In 1911 he initiated the Father and Son Banquet tradition. He was then director of athletics at Lincoln High School in Cleveland. A minister in Ashtabula (east of Cleveland) asked him to speak to a meeting of fathers in his church. Edwin asked that sons be invited, too. In 1912 Edwin, Newton D. Baker, Mayor of Cleveland, and Secretary Robert S. Lewis of the Cleveland YMCA fostered a Father and Son Week in Cleveland, culminating in a banquet. Baker proposed that 500 other American cities encourage the same idea. (- reference: newspaper articles in scrapbook in Castine) Father and Son Banquets were a staple in the church community across America for many decades.

Edwin met his future wife, Vivian, while deer hunting at Amherst, Maine.

"The New York Times" May 9, 1920, Sunday - Section: Magazine Features, Page XX10: "University and Factory; Goodyear Employes May Study Anything from Three R's to Technical Courses", describes his service "in charge of all athletics and recreational work at Camp Sherman" and as head of physical education at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Akron.

Edwin ran several times for the Akron (OH) Board of Education. His candidacy in 1927 (reported in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, p. 13) was in opposition to the control exercised over the Board by the Ku Klux Klan.

Ed wrote a section in a widely-used athletic manual, "Duties of the Captain, the Manager and the Coach," in "[Spalding's] Official Basket Ball Rules: As Adopted by the Amateur Athletic Union and the Young Men's Christian Association Athletic League of North America," ed. George T. Hepbron (New York, 1910)

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  • Created by: AEM
  • Added: 26 Jun 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 54130332
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Edwin Solon Conner (15 Apr 1881–26 Apr 1960), Find A Grave Memorial no. 54130332, citing Castine Cemetery, Castine, Hancock County, Maine, USA ; Maintained by AEM (contributor 47256472) .