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Nation has a little fun with local story

By Henry Timman • Aug 25, 2017 at 10:00 AM

A long-time Norwalk attorney, Irving Carpenter, served as Huron County Common Pleas Court judge from 1923 to 1935.

He then was appointed to the Court of Appeals in Toledo. Some of us remember his son Paul, who also practiced law in Norwalk after World War II.

In 1925, the Wakeman correspondent for the Wellington newspaper submitted the following item: “Common Pleas Judge Irving Carpenter is holding court in the Huron County courthouse, having been in the painters’ hands for two months. The judge is recovering from a surgical operation in Cleveland in the interim.”

One can easily see that the correspondent needed to study sentence construction, though we can easily discern that what actually happened was that Judge Carpenter had surgery, and while he was gone, the courtroom was repainted.

Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter picked up on the original item and commented tongue in cheek: “I can’t quite understand whether the painters went to work on the judge after the surgeons got through with him, or whether the cutting and painting were simultaneous. That phrase ‘in the interm’ makes it confusing. Perhaps the painters took a rest at the end of the first month to let the doctors have a chance. It’s a long time for the decoration of one judge.”

This story received nationwide publicity and no doubt provided some humor in the Roaring 20s. Just 10 short years before Judge Carpenter was “painted,” there was great consternation concerning the courtroom under discussion. I’ve written several times of the fire which seriously damaged the courthouse in the summer of 1912.

The fire started in the attic over the main courtroom, which then was located on the east side of the courthouse rather than on the west side — as it is now. The fire burned forward toward the bell tower, where firemen finally were able to confront it. Until then it had been burning under the metal roof and wasn’t accessible. In its progress, it destroyed the courtroom, the second-floor hall and badly damaged the other offices on that floor.

There was great delay in rebuilding, and when the furniture for the Common Pleas courtroom arrived in March of 1915, the witness and jury boxes were found to be too large. A potential witness would have to walk around behind the seated judge in order to reach the witness box. Everyone blamed everyone else for the mistake, and the commissioners rejected all of the furniture. ... But after talking with the architect and the furniture manufacturer for a few days, they reversed themselves, accepted the furniture, and the witness box was trimmed down to an agreeable size. Everything was put in place and justice moved on.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in downtown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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