Video celebrates 100th anniversary of Toledo slogan

June 19, 2014

One hundred years ago, the people of Toledo declared “You will do better in Toledo.” and the slogan resonates today.

Josh Wagy,  left, and John Amato are collaborating on a video commemorating the 100th anniversary of the slogan “You will do better in Toledo.” Toledo Free Press photo and cover photo by Christie Materni

Josh Wagy, left, and John Amato are collaborating on a video commemorating the 100th anniversary of the slogan “You will do better in Toledo.” Toledo Free Press photo and cover photo by Christie Materni

People from around the city are voicing their thoughts on how they are doing better in Toledo in a short video produced by John Amato of JUPMODE and Josh Wagy of Smash Toledo in honor of the 100th anniversary of the slogan.

The adage dates back to 1913 when the Toledo Commerce Club held a contest to create a new slogan for the city. More than 7,000 entries were submitted and four people came up with “You will do better in Toledo.” C.W. Lammers was the first to submit the slogan and was declared the winner.

In 1913, the slogan was illuminated with 7,000 lights on a sign hung from the top of the Valentine Building at Adams and St. Clair streets. The sign alternated between three images: A locomotive, the slogan and a lake freighter. It weighed 25 tons and measured 76 feet long by 68 feet high, though other reports list it as 100 feet by 58 feet.

In 2008, The Blade published a book, “You Will Do Better in Toledo: From Frogtown to Glass City, A Toledo Retrospective in Postcards, 1893-1929,” that showcases a picture postcard of the sign on the book’s cover. It describes the day the sign was unveiled: “The sign was accepted by Mayor Brand Whitlock and first lit on December 17, 1913. According to The Toledo Blade from the following day, ‘8,000 spectators jammed into St. Clair St., between Madison Ave. and Adams St. to view the sign.’”

The sign stayed until 1926 when the city offices moved from the Valentine Building to the Safety Building. Bill Colter, facility manager at The Valentine Theatre, said the baseboard that held the sign can still be seen on the building’s roof, although it isn’t visible from the street.

Donna Christian with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library’s Local History and Genealogy Department said she suspects the sign was discarded because none of her sources say what happened to it. Local historian John Husman agreed no one seems to know the fate of the sign.

Toledo Railways Light Co., which donated the sign to the city, split into Community Traction Company for the streetcar business and Toledo Edison for the electric business, the year the sign was removed, Christian said.

‘Cool saying’

The original sign may not exist today, but its legacy endures at Wesley’s Bar Grill on Adams Street, where a replica sign hangs on the northern wall. Owner Michael Roberts, a former student of history at the University of Toledo, had the sign custom made in 2006.

“It’s a cool saying,” Roberts said. “Everybody else likes it now. Funny how it was dormant for decades.”

Burger Bar 419 employees also sport the slogan on their shirts, printed by Amato, whose T-shirt company has gained popularity since printing the slogan.

“It’s a quintessential slogan for Toledo,” Amato said. “It’s not just because of a shirt. It’s because [Toledo] Mayor Mike Bell wears a [‘You will do better in Toledo’] shirt. There’s a lot of support for it.”

Because the slogan is Amato’s flagship design, he decided to commemorate its anniversary with a short video, asking people of all ages, races and backgrounds how they have fared better in Toledo.

“We just wanted to get a compilation of all the great reasons why people live and do well in Toledo,” Amato said. “We have 25 [voices] already and we’re hoping for 50.”

Those voices include news anchor Chrys Peterson of WTOL-11, professional golfer Pat Lindsey and Bell, among others, Wagy said.

“The reason I believe you will [be] better in Toledo is because of the people,” Bell said in the video. “I’ve traveled across the world and met people from around the globe and some of the best and nicest people are right here in Toledo.”

Amato and Wagy’s video will be posted to social media, where they hope it will go viral. The launch date is set for the anniversary of the sign’s unveiling, Dec. 17.

The slogan has wide appeal and is unique to Toledo, Amato said, adding that although the slogan originated in the 1900s, it’s still familiar to people today.

“Toledo is a great city,” Amato said. “It’s a great place to raise kids. We have an amazing zoo and art museum, we have two great universities in the area, our Metroparks are incredible, our people are friendly and hard-working, we have two great minor league sports teams, we are the home of the industrial glass revolution and art glass revival. There are many reasons I’ve left out.”

Christine Bailey of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce agrees with Amato’s assessment. Bailey, the communications manager at the chamber, said times do change but the ability to create opportunity in Toledo has withstood the test of time.

“In Toledo, we’ve got a lot of great aspects: water, rail, the people,” Bailey said. “Times change but we still have a lot of the good, raw material to create opportunity here. That is what the chamber still believes in and that is what we support. We are not without challenges, but we still think people will do well in Toledo.”

Lifelong love

Business owner Steve Crouse has a lifelong love of Toledo — 30 years long. He’s collected Toledo memorabilia that hangs in his Downtown Glass City Cafe. He’s also the owner of Erd Specialty Graphics on Monroe Street.

Both businesses have their ups and downs, he said, but he believes he wouldn’t have had the same business opportunities in another town as he has had in Toledo.

Restaurateur Trevor Deeter of Deet’s BBQ agrees. He started in the food business with his father and stepmother three years ago amid cries of “You’ll never succeed.”

Critics told him the economy was bad. After the restaurant’s first year, however, it expanded to a new location and then proceeded to burst those seams, Deeter said. The customer support has been “overwhelming,” considering that the Maumee restaurant does little advertising, relying mostly on word of mouth, he said.

Deeter not only sees the support of  Toledoans through his restaurant, but in his dealings around town. As a driver for the Salvation Army’s Toys for Tots program, he picks up toys at donation centers with his father, Bob Deeter. He said he was amazed at the level of giving this year.

Jeff Schaaf is the brand manager of Toledo Region, a branding initiative with a goal to promote Northwest Ohio and attract talent to the area. The “You will do better in Toledo” slogan reinforces the goals of his program, Schaaf said.

“It supports what we’re tying to do, to enforce that Toledo is a good place to live, work and enjoy,” he said. “When someone says, ‘Yeah, you will do better in Toledo’ because of x, y, z, I think that’s the way the campaign was started in Toledo, to show that Toledo is just as good as any other city. It fits into the message we’re trying to convey.

“We’re trying to say, ‘Don’t look at the negative stuff; look at the good stuff,’” Schaaf continued. “There are a ton of fun things to do in Toledo.”

Toledo is “doing better” because it’s affordable and accessible, said Bill Thomas, executive director of the Downtown Toledo Development Corporation. People are “doing better” because Toledo is experiencing the “re-urbanization” of Downtown, he said.

“People want to live here, play here, work here, shop here, all within walking distance,” Thomas said in an email. “The Downtown is the same size as the Franklin Park Mall. That is evidence that our Downtown is walkable.”

To honor the slogan’s 100th anniversary, Wesley’s is hosting a celebration for the public on Dec. 17. The bar opens at 3 p.m. Drink specials will be available along with “You will do better in Toledo” drink koozies and stickers provided by Amato.

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Originally posted 2013-12-13 09:19:19.

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