Ed Bento

by
Darrell E. Hamilton
 
       Edward Francis Bento was born on June 1, 1933 at 1107 Walnut Blvd. in Ashtabula, Ohio to Francis and Marguerite O’Brien Bento. Ed was born on Marilyn Monroe’s birthday. Ed’s birthday is another birthday that I’ll never forgot. All the people that know me know why I’ll never forget that birthday.
       Ed is half Portuguese and half Irish. His paternal grandparents came from Portugal to Ashtabula sometime in the early 1890’s.  Manuel and Mary Bento did not come into this country as Bentos. Bento was Manuel’s middle name. Their last names were really Campos. Ed assumed that the last name was dropped by immigration officials and Bento became their last name.
       Manuel Bento owned three bars in the city before prohibition came along. After that Ed’s grandfather worked for the city of Ashtabula and became the first sewer operator for the city. Manuel worked 6:00 a. m. to 6:00 p. m. seven days a week. If you were sick you’d send one of your kids in your place if they were big enough. In those days to lose a day’s wages would be a tragedy to a family. There was no welfare, sick pay and very few people had insurance even on their automobile. What insurance people had was usually on their life and that usually was not much more than burial insurance. Emanuel Cosmos Bento died when Ed was two years old on February 8, 1936. Ed can not remember his grandfather Bento. His grandfather was sixty-two years old when he died.
       Edward and Anastasia O’Brien were Irish immigrants and were Ed’s maternal grandparents. The entire O’Brien family worked for the railroad at one time or the other. Ed’s mother, Marguerite O’Brien even worked for the railroad during World War II.
       After Ed’s parents were married they moved into an upstairs apartment above Ed’s father’s parents. That is where Ed and his brother Donald were born. Don was born March 25, 1935.
       Even though both Ed’s grandparents were Catholic, Ed’s mother and paternal grandmother did not see eye to eye. Ed’s parents moved to 1619 West Eighth Street. The house is no longer standing but it was the first house behind Lakeway Restaurant.
       Francis Bento, Ed’s father, worked for the Electric Laundry. Ed’s father worked for the Electric Laundry for about twelve years when he died at 33. Ed was five years old when his father died. “The fumes from the Electric Laundry literally ate his lungs out.” Ed said as he grimaced.
       Marguerite had two boys to raise and a thousand dollars worth of insurance before funeral expenses. In those days when a mother was left a widow with very little money, she and her children usually moved in with her parents. That is exactly what Marguerite and her two sons, Ed and Don did. They moved to 3609 Ann Avenue.
       Ed started school at St. Joseph. Ed can remember every nun very well. Ed: “Some of the best years  of my life were spent at St. Joseph.”
       Growing up on Ann Avenue gave Ed some fond memories. Before Station Street school was built, there was a huge field. When the circuses and carnivals came and sat up in the field, Ed and his friends used to go down and work for tickets.
       “We didn’t have much but we had terrific imaginations.” Ed and some of his neighborhood friends would put on their own circus. “We’d put up flyers on telephone poles to get the neighborhood kids to come. Rufus Tyus would play the strongman. “We would tie wooden blocks to the ends of a bar. Everything went fine until a girl, Carmel (Landolfi) Stevenson, came by and picked up the strong man’s weight with one arm and ruined the show.” Today Ed and some of his other friends, William Tyus, Fred Tyus and Herman “Bucks” Fleming look back at the incident and laugh. Samuel Fleming, also one of Ed’s friends and neighbor recently died on July 29. Sam still lived in the neighborhood on Ann Avenue.
       Ed and his friends had very vivid imaginations. For their circus they borrowed Bill Day’s billy goat for bull fight exhibition. They tied a steel rail to the back of the billy goat to slow it down. Ed feel down trying to bull fight the goat. “I never realized how fast a billy goat could run even with a steel rail hooked to the goat.” I suppose the boxing matches the kids put on were a lot easier than fighting a goat.
       When Alfred Dr. was a dirt street, the neighborhood played football on it. In the winter when ice froze over the streets, they would cut a hole in the ice and play hockey with make shift hockey sticks and puck.
       One day when ED was getting ready to go to school, his grandfather died. Edward O’Brien had a severe case of arthritis that had practically paralyzed him from the neck down. On January 19, 1943Ed and his brother Don lost the second man of their house in their short lives. Edward O’Brien was sixty-eight years old at the time.
       Ed’s grandmother was left with a very small widow’s pension from the railroad. “She got up at 6:00 a. m. and worked all day. We had chickens, pigs, rabbits and a large garden.” The city then was a lot more of an agricultural area than it is today. “She very seldom left the house. It seemed to me that all she did was work.”
       Ed’s mother worked at West Junior High as a cleaning lady trying to make ends meet. She remarried when Ed was twelve years old to Charles Fails. “He was a wonderful man”
       Just up the street from where Ed lived was a bar-restaurant named The Hut. A lot of men that worked at the Bow and Socket and neighboring factories along Ann Avenue would often stop in after work for a drink especially on pay day.
       In the those days a lot of them that worked at one of the neighboring plants on Ann Avenue usually lived in the neighborhood. Not all the families owned a car in those days. Most of them usually walked to work and stopped off at the neighborhood bar. Almost every Friday and Saturday night someone would get into a fight with someone else outside the bar over politics, baseball or anything else you could think of that they might find to fight about. Every Saturday and Sunday morning Ed and his brother and some of the neighboring kids would go down to the bar and pick up the change that fell out of the men’s pockets while they were rolling on the ground.
       Almost every Saturday the kids would go to the movies at the State Theater which was located at the corner of Prospect and West Avenue next to the Swallows Restaurant where the Rite Aid Pharmacy sits now. The cost to go to the movies in those days was ten cents. The neighbor kids had the men to thank who fought and rolled on the ground at The Hut and gave up their change so the kids could go to the movies.  I never ask Ed but I wonder if they ever thanked these men for giving up their change so the neighborhood kids could go to the movies.
       Ed also supplemented the family’s income with newspaper routes. He delivered the Star Beacon six days a week and the Youngstown Vindicator on Sundays on the streets between Station and Lake Avenues.
       Ed: “When I was growing up, I never went without a good meal, warm place to sleep and a lot of love.”
       Going uptown on a Friday night to shop was a big deal to Ed and his bother. Main Avenue had everything that you ever would want. The Ashtabula Mall had nothing on Main Avenue. Main Street had things that no mall could possibly offer.
       When Ed completed the eighth grade a St. Joseph, he went to West for ninth grade.  Most of the kids that Ed went to school with at St. Joseph lived on the other side of the tracks that crossed Prospect. Those kids went to Park Avenue school for ninth grade.
       The principal of West Junior High when Ed attended school there was Mr. Clarence Horst. Clarence is one of the people responsible for Ed going into teaching.
       The next year Ed started high school at Ashtabula High School.
        Ed was a football fanatic before he attended high school but Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians changed Ed’s mind and Ed became a baseball fanatic. In April of 1947 George Guarnieri revived baseball at Ashtabula High School after a twenty three year absence. All those years of playing baseball as a kid finally paid off for Ed and Coach Guarnieri. Ashtabula High School had its first winning baseball team in 1952. Ed was labeled Mr. Baseball by his classmates and mentors.
       Ed remembers that no one had a television. Almost everyone kept a radio on their front porch. Everyone would have their radios tuned to the Indians baseball game. “You could walk up and down the street and listen the game without ever missing a pitch.
       While Ed was in high school, he obtained his first job was for the New York Central Railroad in the summer months after tenth grade. The next summer he worked for the State Highway Department. As a senior in high school, Ed worked at Isaly’s.
              While in a high school Ed was inspired by two men in high school that convinced him to go into teaching. Principal Maurice Rowley and Assistant Principal Arthur E. Wight made a lasting impression on Ed. Years later Ed was able to thank Maurice Rowley before he died. Ed went to the hospital where Mr. Rowley lied in intensive care. He thanked him for his encouragement and enlightenment. The next day Maurice Rowley died.
       Of course Ed also wanted play baseball and someday Ed would also thank George Guarnieri and show him his appreciation as well.
       Ed graduated high school in 1952. Ed had never owned a suit. He bought his first suit right before graduation so he could have a suit on for his graduation.
       In the fall of 1952 Ed entered college at Ohio University to play baseball of course. Ed would have liked to attend Notre Dame but he didn’t have the money or the grades. After about eight to ten days Ed became so homesick that he became the first official dropout at Ohio University in 1952. He hopped on the Greyhound bus and came back to Ashtabula.
       Ed then got a job at the Bow and Socket on Ann Avenue and saved enough money to buy his first car. The car was a 1940 Desoto and Ed paid $350 for it.
       The next summer Ed decided to give college and college baseball another try. He enrolled at Bowling Green University and started that fall and drove his Desoto to school one hundred and eighty miles on five dollars worth of gas.
       The next summer right after the Korean War had ended, Ed could not find a job because of the recession. Ed had a workout with the Cleveland Indians and was supposed to go to Daytona Beach to work out further with the Indians. Instead Ed decided to join the Army.
       When Ed got out of the Army, He bought a train ticket home. However a friend of his was going to Toledo and decide to save the train fare and ride with him. On the way home the in Hannibal Missouri, a truck was stalled on the road. Trying to avoid the truck the car turned over three times and Ed was thrown out of the car onto his shoulder. Ed spent the night in the hospital. Ed was supposed to of had a tryout with the Cleveland Indians. He went to the tryout but he was so sore he could barely move. Needless to say the tryouts didn’t go well.
       Later on Ed was signed to a contract to the Milwaukee Braves by the same scout that signed Willie Mays. He was to go to their farm team. However Ed knew how difficult it was to make to the majors. To top matters off, Ed had meet Jeanne Zalimeni and did not want to be far from her. Ed was in love.
       Ed got a job with the New York Central Railroad. Ed also had the GI Bill available to him and decided to go back to school. At the end of 1957 Ed enrolled at Kent State University at Kent.
       The following year on August 30, 1958 Ed and Jeanne were married. They bought a trailer with the intension of moving it to Stowe, Ohio so Ed could be near school and his job at the New York Central Railroad. Jeanne worked at the CEI at the time and was planning to get a job in Stowe. However, within two or three months Jeanne was expecting their first child. They decided Jeanne would stay in Ashtabula and have the baby. The trailer was parked in Edgewood Trailer Park at the time.
       On June 29, 1959 Frank Bento was born. After Frank was born Mr. and Mrs. Bento moved their mobile home to Stowe, Ohio so Ed could be near his wife and son and go to school.
       Ed came back to Ashtabula High School to do his student teaching. He did his student teaching under George Guarnieri who was one of the people that was instrumental in Ed choosing a teaching career.
       Ed started his teaching career at Chestnut in 1962 in the old building. He taught history, coached four sports, helped the janitor and received $5,395 his first year. Ed still worked for the railroad while he taught. He worked for the railroad for twelve years.
       The next year the seventh and eighth grades were consolidated into two schools, West Jr. High and Columbus Jr. High. Ed taught Ohio History for the seventh graders. He had six classes with thirty students in each class.
       One of those students was Darrell E. Hamilton. I had Mr. Bento for Ohio History.                      
       Starting a consolidated junior high was a whole new experience for me and every seventh and eighth grader at West Junior High. I was not doing as well as I should have and Ed knew I could do better. Can you imagine me not doing well in history?
       Ed took me aside and gave me a good lecture. I felt ashamed but at the same time he made me feel good about myself. Ed had 180 students in his classes. I don’t know how many other students he took aside in his other classes but in my class he seemed to pick me out. I knew some other students in the class that weren’t doing all that well either. To make a long story short, if hadn’t been for Mr. Edward Francis Bento, you may not be reading this biography or any other of my history articles. Thank you Ed!
       Ed continued to teach at West Jr. High for ten wonderful years. However at one time Ed was becoming so disgruntled with the school system that he thought of selling insurance. Then along came Frank Feralo and Angelo Candela. Ed said they were the best principals he ever had. Angelo Candela would later on become superintendent of the schools. Of course Angelo will be another story in my Biography series. Stay tuned.
       In 1967 Ed decided to get his feet wet in politics. Ed got into politics arguing over a baseball field. In the early fifties the city sold City Field was located where the Ashtabula Plaza sits today. At the time it was the city’s only baseball field. The city up to that time never replaced the baseball field.
       In 1967 Ed ran for council-at-large. In those days the voters only voted for one council-at-large seat instead of two. He lost by fourteen votes. In the recount Ed lost by seven votes.
       In 1971 Ed ran for City Manager in the primary and won all thirty three precincts. In the general election Ed took twenty-six of thirty-three precincts and became City Manager of Ashtabula.
       In those days terms for City Manager were for only two years. Ed ran a second time and served for a total of four years.
       The tenure of Edward Francis Bento as City Manager can be best described by Ed himself in his own words.
       “During my second term I wasn’t hitting it off with the founding fathers. The ones that wanted urban renewal and I was against it. I thought it was the biggest fiasco and it proved to be.”
       “A parking deck that we never needed that cost 1.4 million dollars and it’s just sitting there. It was just terrible. They wanted to tear the Paine Hardware building down which was a fairly new building and the Sears building down. “
       “The Sears manager and I were good friends. He said that they’ll leave and not come back downtown. I told them that I would throw a police barricade around the Sears building before I’d let it be torn down. They backed off. I kept Sears downtown at least another twenty years.”
       “We had consultants from out of town. We should have known better than they did about our own downtown.”
       “At one time a Ramada Inn would have been built where the present City Hall and Key Bank building sits now. The banks took over the project.”
       “I would have liked the old Shea’s theater turned into a convention center. I thought that since Ashtabula was a family town that an ice rink should be put in the downtown”
       Strange that Ed should mention an ice rink. I mentioned an ice rink could be placed near North Park east of ABC Lanes where the parking lot sits now. In the summer it could be turned into a huge fountain. Certain city officials looked at me if I were crazy. I suppose they have better things to waste our money on. Have you ever noticed that the city ignores downtown Ashtabula? – The East side, the West side the South side, the Harbor.
       Ed’s words are a prime example where Ashtabula could have used a strong mayoral form of government. Ed would have made a great Mayor. However as city manager he never had the power to do what he thought was best for the city.
       A prime example of this is the regional sewer pact. Ed would not sign a regional sewer pact.
      “The county needed sewers. There was a building ban in the county. The county was dictating to us.”
       Under the current charter Ashtabula sold its electric company, water company and gave up its sewers. If you don’t believe me, all some of you have to do is to look in your basements. No successful city would have ever done this. The sewer lines were fine for Ashtabula but with surrounding townships using them, the sewer pipes just aren’t large enough. Who is going to pay for larger lines? – The City?
      “The same problems that we had twenty-five to thirty years ago, we have today.”
       In 1974 Ed had George Guarnieri Day to show his appreciation from him and the City.
       “The best thing about being City Manager being able to help other people and making other people important.”
       After Ed left office, he went back into teaching. He taught at Ashtabula High for the next twenty years retiring in June of 1995 for a total of thirty one years with the school system. His wife Jeanne retired in 1996 after eleven years as County Commissioner.
       Ed has two other children. Mike was born on November 10, 1962 and lives in Toledo and has two children. Mary Katherine, born January 24, 1997 and Ann Marie born April 7 1999. Mike is an assistant professor at Owens College in Toledo.
       Mary Bento was born on July 20, 1964 and lives with her parents.
       Frank, the oldest, is a teacher in Geneva.
       Near the end of the interview, Joe Bento, the son of Ed’s brother Don happened to be driving by and stopped. I told Joe that Ed was my seventh grade history teacher. Joe replied, “He been teaching me history all of my life.”
       Joe works for the City of Ashtabula. He is the third generation of Bentos to work for the City.
       Ed and his wife have lived in the same house on Lyndon Avenue for forty-two years.
       Edward Francis Bento is one of the reasons I, Darrell E. Hamilton, have fond memories of Ashtabula. Thank you Mr. Bento!
 
1940 - St. Joseph School - First Grade

1949 - 9th grade West Junior High

Ed Bento - 1949 - 9th grade West Junior High           Ed Bento - 1952 - Ashtabula High School

Ed Bento & Family - Left to Right: Mike, Mary, Jeanne, Frank - Rear- Ed Bento

                       Ed Bento -Early 1970's                                             Ed Bento - 1972
Ed Bento swearing in ceremony Ed Bento & E. I. Gephart

Governor Gilligan & Ed Bento

Mr. & Mrs. George Guarnieri & Ed Bento

Peter Cosmos (Artist), Ed Bento, George & Lucy Guarnieri

Mrs. George McGovern & Ed Bento

Ed Bento Ed Bento - May 1972
Frank (son) & Ed Bento  
Photo by Darrell E. Hamilton (September 19, 2004)