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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Python Day!



Notices all over town


Pythons all over town



Laura and Melody at the game station.  That's a Python Shirt!

Emily and Madison have just opened the Python Activity Station.


What really brought Laura?


THE TALE OF THE PENINSULA PYTHON

The tale of the Peninsula Python has had a truly lasting effect on the Boston Township/Peninsula area, taking on almost mythological characteristics.

The story of the python begins shortly after D-Day during the summer of 1944.  As the legend goes, an accident in the Ira Cemetery in Bath involving the Cole Brother's Circus resulted in the escape of two large snakes.  One snake was later found dead near Doylestown.  The other apparently decided to roam the Cuyahoga Valley, terrorizing the local residents.

The first sighting of the python occurred on June 8, 1944, along Riverview Road in Northampton Township, about halfway between Ira and Everett.  Local farmer, Clarence Mitchell, reported that he had seen a snake 15 to 18 feet long cross his fields and slide into the river.  It was spotted later that day by Mike Bobacek on the other side of the river, near Szalay's corn fields on Bolanz Road.  Days later, Paul and John Szalay saw mysterious tracks, "like from an auto tire," weaving across their corn field on Akron-Peninsula Road, a few miles south of Peninsula.  Those doubting the existence of the python decreased in numbers on June 23rd, when Mrs. Vaughan on Northampton Road saw the snake climb over the fence of her chicken yard with a noticeable lump in its middle.

Peninsula's mayor, John Ritch, decided to set up a community-wide search by mobilizing the local Civilian Defense group into posses.  Sunday, June 24th found many area residents gathered in Peninsula with weapons in hand.  Mayor Ritch had the foresight to restrict each posse to only one firearm in order to avoid a tragedy in all the excitement.  In addition, the town was besieged by media types from the Akron and Cleveland papers, who had been sending news reports on the python all over the world via Associated Press and United Press International.  Adding to the confusion, the Ohio National Guard had picked that weekend to practice maneuvers, marching into the now "captured" village.

A call came that the python had been sighted up on Fred Kelly's land on Route 303, near what would later be the Peninsula Player's barn.  Hundreds of people swarmed the area, but to no avail, since it was soon discovered that the call had been a hoax.  The hunt resulted only in ripped and muddy clothes and a few red faces.  But just to be on the safe side, many people kept a vigilant watch, in case the python should reappear.  There were reported sightings a few days later in the village of Boston and during the month of July in Macedonia and Northfield.  August 1st brought the last reported sighting of the python.  The snake dropped out of the branches of a tree in a backyard in Boston village, causing the woman who resided there to faint.  After the summer of 1944 passed, it was supposed that the snake would be able to hibernate in one of the many caves in the valley area.  Nevertheless, anytime a snake of unusual size is found near the Cuyahoga Valley, someone always conjures up the Peninsula Python.

The debate over the existence of the python continues to this day.  Those who saw "something" stand by their stories.  Those who claim that it was all a hoax single out the original source for all the news stories, the Cleveland Press' Bob Bordner.  Bordner, a feature writer who lived on a large farm on Major Road, took every opportunity to get publicity for the Peninsula area.  Other stories that Bordner promoted were the Phantom Horse, the Richfield Wildcat, and more than one hidden cache of gold coins.  In addition, he is largely responsible for the widespread popularity of the Hinckley Buzzards and the Woolly Bear Caterpillar.  Bordner later published an account of the Peninsula Python in the November 1945 issue of Atlantic Monthly.

Many local people feel that the Peninsula Python was just another of Bordner's well-orchestrated publicity stunts.  Those of a more generous nature will grant that the python may have been a harmful diversion from the tense situation in Europe that summer.  Nevertheless, with the passage of time, the possibility of the event being a hoax has taken a backseat to the event itself.  The impact of the large snake on the area has been unmistakable.  For many years one of the local Little League teams has been named the "Peninsula Pythons" and several years ago a 10-kilometer road race was called the "Python Run."  In addition, a 15-foot mural by Honore Guilbeau in the Peninsula Library and Historical Society immortalizes the summer of the python.

Randolph S. Bergdorf
Peninsula Library and Historical Society


PENINSULA PYTHON DAY
SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2008


Honore Gilbeau mural face of the Peninsula Library and Historical Society

Industry in the Valley


18 comments:

  1. Hehe ... what an interesting story Joanne - personaly, I think it was a hoax but it's great to keep the legend alive ... I kept a python for a few years but released it back into the bush when it became too big ...

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    1. Oh, the threat absolutely was a hoax, probably the snake, too. But it was a more simple time back then, and a good reporter recognized a good opportunity to direct minds away from the war, if even for the time it took to read the stories.

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  2. BATH?! Oh, that Bath. We have regular sightings of Mountain Lions (well, black Pumas actually), but I've never seen one.

    Snakes On A Plain.

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    1. How can Britain have black pumas but no Sasquatch?

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    2. We have whole towns in the East populated by Sasquatch, but the gene-pool is getting thinned out.

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  3. My goodness, there are a lot of phythons in your town ;-) Happy weekend to you and yours.

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  4. I read my "local" newspaper on-line.. Athens, Ohio... just a week or so ago a woman set free her python because she could no longer afford to feed it... (go figure)... anyway, a big scare came about... much like your Peninsula Python... this went on for a couple of days before a fellow from the local college came out to her place.. looked around and found the snake coiled up underneath her mobile home. I suppose if he hadn't have found it that little town would have had to change their Indian Mound Festival (yes, there are Indian Mounds all around the town - some excavated, more not) to the Python Festival. Oh no... they couldn't do that... your town already has that name taken.

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    Replies
    1. We're just up for festivals here in Ohio. There is a sauerkraut festival in, I think, Waynesville Ohio. Sauerkraut ice cream and everything. And I think Waynesville is named for Mad Anthony of Fallen Timbers fame. Such a state!

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  5. I love the town decorations. I am not big on snakes, but even I can see the beauty in the skin of a python.

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  6. Here in Britain there are persistent legends of Big Cats (tigers, leopards, panthers etc) which roam the countryside but nobody ever gets a photo of one!

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  7. That's a good story it gives a town character.
    I love the letterbox, that's a beauty I would like one like that but our postman is such a nice guy and he would get a kick out of that box.
    Merle....................

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  8. I have to admit to not being comfortable around snakes, but this is most likely because I live in the city and really don't get to see them except for in the odd pet shop. Pythons have beautiful skin, though, and I love the different colours of snakes. Nice post, Joanne.

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    Replies
    1. Do notice the person holding the snake was not me.

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    2. But the person holding the snake is the grandchild who resembles you the most, I think!

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  9. Fun post. People are quite creative with their python decorations!

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  10. I'm glad the python survived so the story could grow and now you have python day.
    Over here it's far more likely that someone would catch the snake and rehouse it in a zoo.
    I like all the pythons draped around the place too.

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  11. Who cares if it actually happened or not? What it has turned into is a ton of fun.

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