Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Hebron Crossroads 10-27
by Jeff Gill

"We’re all just so very excited," said Terri Orr, the new "front end manager" of the newest of 116 Kroger’s right here in Hebron. Terri, as a Hebron resident, is particularly proud of this top-of-the-line store and fuel station that was opened and dedicated two weeks ago. She had to shout, though, to be heard over the Lakewood High Marching Band as Kroger officials from the top on down and most of "official" Hebron assembled for the ribbon-cutting.

"I have some family reasons for taking a personal interest in this store," said Marnette Perry, the familiar face of Kroger’s on TV and president of the company. "My in-laws live right down the road (near Thornville) and this is the store they’ll be shopping at."

No pressure there for Jill Graham, the manager brought in to face the challenging task of opening a new facility literally from the ground up! But there are familiar faces from the Krogers in Heath, Newark, and Pataskala, and many employees from Hebron like Terri, and a piece of tradition few in the crowd were aware of that Sunday 8 am.
"This is not Kroger coming to Hebron," said CEO Perry, to more than a few blank stares; and then, "this is Kroger coming BACK to Hebron."

Turns out a Kroger had been in Hebron in the 20’s to some point during WW II, when it closed, was later reopened, and then closed again in 1954. . .a little before my time. The well-informed tell me it was located about where Park National’s drive-thru lanes front on Main Street, opposite Fitch’s Market.

In fact, Kroger has done a great job of decorating their facility with large prints of both modern and historic views of Hebron, including a shot down old Main Street with the Pure Oil gas station in the foreground, and a wonderful shot of the canal with a lone canal flatboat in the middle distance.

Farms silhouetted against the sunset, a nearby National Road milestone, and the fa├žade of Lakewood High School are some of the modern day views looking down on the shoppers.
Shoppers were visible in abundance, with the pose for the ribbon-cutting regularly disrupted by carts already coming out of the store filled with bags full of groceries. Kroger management tells me they expect, from past experience (it is, after all, their 116th, so you hope they’ve learned a thing or two) to draw on an area with a 20 mile radius. The bulk of the shoppers will come from closer, but the idea of including a pharmacy with a drive-up window and fuel station is to make the trip worthwhile for folks from Etna and Kirkersville to the east, over to Brownsville and beyond to Muskingum County in the west, and south into Perry and Fairfield Counties.

The location just off of US 40 and the Rt. 79 bypass just north of I-70 makes it a good stop-off point for commuters from Franklin County to homes in Thornville and around the east end of Buckeye Lake.

All that, of course, is good for the Hebron economy, shown by the full turn-out of village councilmembers and staff, the mayor of course, and assistant superintendent Phil Hermann for the schools with his family. Even at the early hour, this was a "can’t miss" event in the latest chapter of Hebron’s history as "Historic Crossroads of Ohio."

Some of our local history was honored in a unique way last weekend at Octagon State Memorial, also known locally as Moundbuilders Country Club, just north of Licking Memorial Hospital.

A prayer circle gathered at the center of the Observatory Circle, just one part of the vast 2000 year old structure known as the Newark Earthworks. 117 participants joined in spoken and silent prayer, heard drumming and flute and sung prayer offerings, spoke out of American Indian, Christian, and Buddhist faith traditions, and came from as far away as Michigan and Minnesota to be present for this last of four "golf-free" days at a site known globally as one of the 70 wonders of the ancient world.

That’s right, one of the most significant spots of ancient history, a few miles north of us! Of that list of 70 sites like the Pyramids, the Colosseum in Rome, and Stonehenge, only three are in North America: Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and the Newark Earthworks, of which ours is the oldest as well.
This site is believed to be connected by an ancient "road" of 60 miles to Chillicothe, which passes just through the village limits of Hebron to the west, and some traces of this double walled way can be dimly seen on older aerial photography near Beaver Run.

It was a pleasure and an honor to be part of this ecumenical prayer circle honoring this site, and to be part of the ongoing "connection" to the Hebron area, which truly has been a "Historic Crossroads of Ohio" . . .for two millenia!

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and associate of Friends of the Mounds; if you have Hebron area news or questions about Licking County prehistory, call 928-4066 or e-mail disciple@voyager.net.