But before I found them, I found someone else first. And that person, Ed Reeb, is a man who profoundly affected my family’s life.
Edward F. Reeb was born in Columbus in 1880, the son of Alsace-Lorraine immigrant Henry Reeb and his wife, Pauline Lockenbach.(1) In 1911, he opened Reeb’s Restaurant at the corner of Champion and Livingston Avenues. It served draft beer, hot sandwiches, and hearty German dishes to hordes of hungry businessmen, politicians, and neighborhood families.
Reeb’s was hit hard by the double whammy of Prohibition and the Great Depression in the 1920’s and 30’s. My grandfather, Lloyd Ballenger, came on board in time to see Prohibition repealed in December 1933. Soon Lloyd was helping run the place from his usual spot behind the counter. Ed Reeb always attributed the restaurant’s survival during these hard times to his loyal customers and dedicated employees.
|Reeb's Restaurant in the 1940's|
By 1940, the tide was beginning to turn on the Depression, and Reeb’s had established itself as a popular Columbus eatery and watering hole. And so as I began browsing the census records for the near east side, I found Ed Reeb living in an apartment above the restaurant. He was 60 years old and widowed. His sister Mollie Schneider, 72 years old and also widowed, was living with him.(2)
The census enumerator apparently turned the corner at Reeb’s, went down one side of Champion Ave. and back up the other before resuming his canvassing on E. Livingston Ave. My grandparents Lloyd and Nora Ballenger are found there, a couple of pages later, living in an apartment with their infant son above Resch’s Bakery. The Resch family also had close ties to Reeb’s and the Ballengers. They provided the crusty dinner rolls, melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts, and other baked goods for the restaurant throughout its existence, and were lifelong friends of my grandparents.
This is the last census in which Ed Reeb appears. He died March 2, 1943 of prostrate cancer at that same apartment. He and his wife, Estella, did not have children, and in his estate he left his beloved restaurant to four trusted employees. One of these was Lloyd Ballenger. Lloyd and his son, named after Reeb, bought the others out over time. In 1983, Lloyd celebrated his 50th anniversary as employee-turned-owner of Reeb’s Restaurant.
|Lloyd Ballenger with his son in 1940|
I didn’t realize before I started that poking around in census records made two decades before I was even born would trigger such strong memories. Reeb’s Restaurant is gone now, a victim of inner city decay. So it’s up to me and others who remember to record and preserve its place in history.
Copyright 2012, Shelley Bishop. All rights reserved.
(1) “Ohio Deaths 1908-1953,” digital image, FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org: accessed 17 April 2012), death certificate no. 16002, Edward F. Reeb (1943); citing original records, Ohio Department of Health, held by Ohio Historical Society, Columbus; FHL microfilm no. 2,024,127.
(2) 1940 U.S. census, Columbus Ward 3, Franklin County, Ohio, population schedule, E.D. 93-44, sheet 4A, household 67, Edw. F. Reeb; digital image (beta), Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 17 April 2012); from original records, National Archives and Records Administration, microfilm publication T627.