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Piqua, Ohio: A Journey Through Time and Hometown Memories

By Robert Christian Sussman

Nestled along the scenic banks of the Great Miami River, Piqua, Ohio, holds a special place in my heart as the town where I was born and raised. Born in 1960 at Piqua Memorial Hospital, my formative years were filled with fond memories of this vibrant community. From swimming at The Hollow Swimming Pool to competing on the YMCA Swim Team and the Piqua Country Club Diving Team, my experiences in Piqua are deeply intertwined with the rich history and culture of this charming Ohio town.

Early Beginnings:

Piqua's history dates back to a time long before my birth, to a period when the land was inhabited by Native American tribes, most notably the Shawnee. The town's name, "Piqua," has its roots in the Shawnee language and means "man who arose from the ashes" or "ashes to life." This name aptly reflects the town's historical significance as a center of trade and culture.

The confluence of the Great Miami River and the Stillwater River played a pivotal role in shaping Piqua's early history. This strategic location made it a natural gathering point for Native American tribes and, later, European settlers. Unlike many other regions during America's early days, Piqua stood out for the unique and cooperative relationship that developed between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims who arrived here.

Native American Collaboration:

The Shawnee and other Native American tribes had a longstanding presence in the region. Their expertise in hunting, fishing, and agriculture, coupled with their knowledge of the land, proved invaluable to the early European settlers. This cooperation was marked by mutual respect and peaceful coexistence, a rare occurrence in the tumultuous early history of the United States.

The Native Americans' influence can still be seen today in the town's name and various cultural elements that have been preserved throughout the years.

Growing Up in Piqua, The Hollow Was My Watery Oasis in my Piqua Childhood

The Hollow Swimming Pool holds a special place in the hearts of Piqua's residents, including my own. This beloved aquatic oasis provided countless hours of enjoyment and respite from the summer heat. Understanding the history of The Hollow allows us to appreciate its significance even more.

Construction and Early Days:

The construction of The Hollow Swimming Pool was a significant milestone in Piqua's recreational history. The pool was built in the early 1930s during the Great Depression as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project, which aimed to provide employment and improve public infrastructure. The project not only offered much-needed jobs to the local community but also created a lasting recreational asset.

The Hollow's construction was an impressive feat. Workers dug a large, rectangular pit in the ground, lined it with concrete, and constructed a grand bathhouse. The pool's dimensions allowed for both lap swimming and leisurely water activities. With its diving boards and slides, The Hollow quickly became a hub for aquatic fun and relaxation.

Filling The Hollow:

Filling The Hollow Swimming Pool was no small task. It relied on a combination of water sources, including nearby creeks and wells, to maintain a constant flow. The natural spring waters that fed into the pool were a refreshing touch that added to its allure.

Maintaining the pool's water quality was essential, and this required careful monitoring and treatment. Chlorination and filtration systems were implemented to ensure the safety and cleanliness of the water. These measures allowed generations of Piqua residents to enjoy a refreshing swim on hot summer days.

The Hollow Today:

As time passed, The Hollow Swimming Pool continued to be a cherished community gathering spot. However, like many public facilities, it faced challenges over the years. The maintenance and repair of an aging pool facility presented financial and logistical challenges.

In recent years, the status of The Hollow has evolved. As communities across the country have seen a resurgence of interest in revitalizing historic sites and recreational areas, The Hollow has not been left behind. Local efforts and fundraising campaigns have sought to restore and preserve this iconic Piqua landmark.

The Hollow remains a testament to Piqua's commitment to preserving its history and providing recreational opportunities for its residents. While it may have faced challenges, the spirit of The Hollow lives on, with renewed hope for its future.

Today, The Hollow Swimming Pool continues to be a cherished part of the community, offering a place for families to create new memories and connect with the town's rich history. It stands as a testament to the enduring importance of community spaces and the legacy of thoughtful infrastructure projects like those of the WPA era.

The YMCA and Swimming in Piqua: A Journey of Discipline and Community

Growing up in Piqua, Ohio, my involvement in sports went beyond casual recreation; it became a profound and transformative part of my life. Among the many sports experiences I cherished, my time on the YMCA Swim Team and the Piqua Country Club Diving Team were particularly formative. These teams not only nurtured physical fitness but also instilled invaluable life skills such as discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Let's explore these cherished memories and the role of the YMCA in Piqua's sporting legacy.

Early Days of the YMCA:

The YMCA, or Young Men's Christian Association, has long been a cornerstone of community life in Piqua. The organization's commitment to youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility made it a natural hub for sports and recreation. The first YMCA in Piqua dates back to the early 1900s when it was founded to provide support, guidance, and recreational opportunities for the town's residents, including its youth.

The YMCA Swim Team:

My fond memories of the YMCA Swim Team are a testament to the positive influence of this institution. Swimming was more than just a sport; it was a passion that brought me closer to the water, my teammates, and the Piqua community.

Each swim practice was a chance to refine our technique, build endurance, and work together toward common goals. The sense of camaraderie among teammates was palpable, and the bonds formed in the pool extended far beyond the water's edge. We cheered for each other's successes and offered support during challenging times, nurturing not only our swimming abilities but also our character.

The Piqua Country Club Diving Team:

My journey in sports extended to the Piqua Country Club Diving Team, another platform where I honed my skills and forged lasting friendships. Diving requires precision, focus, and courage. As a diver, I learned to conquer fears and push boundaries, always striving for excellence with each graceful dive.

A Cherished Past and a Promising Future:

My love for swimming on the swim team was deeply rooted in the sense of community and the accessibility it offered. Back then, I could walk to the YMCA on Wayne Avenue without a worry, a testament to the safety and tight-knit nature of Piqua. Those moments spent practicing and competing were more than just athletic endeavors; they were opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with peers who shared a passion for the water.

As Piqua continues to evolve, so does its commitment to fostering healthy lifestyles and vibrant communities. The construction of a new YMCA speaks to the enduring importance of providing accessible facilities for sports and recreation. This new chapter will undoubtedly offer future generations the same opportunities for growth, camaraderie, and personal development that I experienced on the YMCA Swim Team and the Piqua Country Club Diving Team.

My journey in sports in Piqua was not just about the medals or accolades; it was about the life lessons, friendships, and the deep sense of belonging to a community that cherished its young athletes. The memories of those days continue to inspire me, and I eagerly look forward to the bright future of sports and recreation in Piqua.

Family and Business My Parents Shirlee and Wilbur Sussman: Contributions to the Piqua Community

In the vibrant tapestry of Piqua's community, Shirlee and Wilbur Sussman were standout threads, weaving their own unique stories of service, dedication, and resilience. Beyond their role as owners and operators of Sussman Inc, a well-known scrap yard, their individual pursuits and contributions touched the lives of many in Piqua.

Shirlee Sussman's Dedication to Education and Polio Advocacy:

Shirlee Sussman was more than just a business owner's spouse; she was a dedicated educator and community leader. Her role as a teacher at St. Mary's School left an indelible mark on countless students. Her passion for education shone through in her commitment to nurturing young minds and fostering a love for learning.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Shirlee's life was her advocacy for the polio vaccine. Having experienced the devastating effects of polio herself, starting at the tender age of two, she understood the importance of preventing this crippling disease. Shirlee's advocacy efforts extended beyond her own experiences; she became a vocal supporter of polio vaccination campaigns in Piqua. Her personal story and tireless efforts inspired others to take action, contributing to the global fight against polio.

Wilbur Sussman's Entrepreneurial Spirit:

Wilbur Sussman's legacy in Piqua can be traced back to Sussman Inc, the scrap yard he owned and operated. This business played a vital role in the town's economic landscape, recycling and repurposing materials in an environmentally responsible manner. Through his work, Wilbur not only contributed to the local economy but also demonstrated the importance of sustainable practices long before they became mainstream.

Sussman Inc.'s location on Statler Road, coupled with the textile warehouses on Water Street and College Street, made it a prominent fixture in Piqua's industrial scene. It served as a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that defines the town's history.

Legacy and Enduring Impact:

While the ownership of Sussman Inc. has transitioned to new hands, the legacy of Shirlee and Wilbur Sussman lives on in the hearts of those they touched and the contributions they made to the Piqua community. Shirlee's dedication to education and polio advocacy, along with Wilbur's entrepreneurial spirit, continue to inspire those who follow in their footsteps.

The enduring spirit of entrepreneurship in Piqua, embodied by businesses like Sussman Inc., contributes to the town's economic vitality and resilience. It reflects the values of hard work, dedication, and community that have defined Piqua for generations.

As Piqua continues to evolve, it's important to remember and celebrate individuals like Shirlee and Wilbur Sussman, whose contributions have left a lasting imprint on the town's history and the lives of its residents. Their stories serve as a reminder of the profound impact that individuals can have when they invest their time, energy, and passion in the betterment of their community.

Piqua's Industrial Legacy:

Piqua, Ohio, boasts a remarkable industrial legacy that played a pivotal role in shaping the town's identity and economic development. Throughout the 20th century, several prominent companies called Piqua home, leaving an indelible mark on the local community and the broader industrial landscape.

Orr Felt Company:

The Orr Felt Company was a cornerstone of Piqua's industrial history. Established in the late 19th century, the company specialized in the production of felt products, including textiles, padding, and gaskets. Their products were widely used in various industries, from automotive to construction. Orr Felt not only provided stable employment opportunities for local residents but also contributed significantly to the town's economic prosperity.

Hartzell Propeller Inc.:

Hartzell Propeller Inc. is a name synonymous with aviation excellence. Founded in Piqua in 1917, this company has been a global leader in the design and manufacture of aircraft propellers. Hartzell's innovative technology and precision engineering have played a crucial role in the development of aviation, serving both military and civilian markets. Its presence in Piqua has not only created jobs but also brought international recognition to the town as a hub of aviation excellence.


The Miller-Meteor company, based in Piqua, specialized in the manufacturing of professional vehicles, including hearses and ambulances. With a history dating back to the early 20th century, Miller-Meteor became renowned for its craftsmanship and quality. Their vehicles were trusted by funeral homes and emergency services across the country, showcasing Piqua's ability to produce high-quality, specialized goods.

Atlas Underwear Corporation:

Atlas Underwear Corporation, another prominent business in Piqua's industrial landscape, focused on the production of undergarments and hosiery. Established in the early 20th century, the company quickly gained a reputation for its comfortable and well-made products. Atlas Underwear provided steady employment for many local residents, contributing to the economic well-being of the town.

These companies not only contributed to Piqua's economy but also shaped the town's identity. Their presence fostered a sense of community and pride among residents who worked in these industries. Additionally, the products manufactured by these companies reached far beyond Piqua's borders, gaining recognition and acclaim nationwide.

While some of these companies may have evolved or transitioned over the years, their legacies live on in the collective memory of Piqua's residents. They serve as a testament to the town's industrious spirit and its ability to adapt to changing economic landscapes. Today, Piqua continues to honor its industrial heritage while embracing new opportunities for growth and development.

A Musical Legacy: The Mills Brothers

Piqua, Ohio, proudly claims a unique and enduring musical legacy as the hometown of the legendary vocal group, The Mills Brothers. Comprising four exceptionally talented siblings, Herbert, Harry, Donald, and John Mills, this quartet captivated audiences around the world with their harmonious melodies and timeless hits. Their remarkable journey from humble beginnings in Piqua to international stardom is a testament to the enduring power of music and family bonds.

The Mills Brothers' Journey:

The story of The Mills Brothers began in Piqua, where the brothers were raised in a household filled with music. Influenced by their father's barbershop quartet and the vibrant local music scene, the brothers honed their vocal skills from a young age. They began performing at local venues, churches, and community events, quickly gaining recognition for their exceptional harmonies.

In the 1930s, The Mills Brothers' breakthrough came with their iconic hit, "Tiger Rag." This upbeat, jazzy rendition of the popular song showcased their innovative use of vocal mimicry, with one brother mimicking a trumpet and another playing a trombone-like melody, all with their voices alone. This groundbreaking approach to vocal harmonization set them apart in the music industry and became a hallmark of their sound.

Chart-Topping Hits and Albums:

The Mills Brothers went on to produce a remarkable discography of chart-topping hits and successful albums. Some of their most memorable songs include:

  1. "Paper Doll" (1943): This timeless classic became one of The Mills Brothers' biggest hits. Its catchy melody and heartfelt lyrics struck a chord with audiences and earned the group their first number one hit on the Billboard charts.
  2. "You Always Hurt the One You Love" (1944): Another iconic hit, this song beautifully showcased the group's ability to convey deep emotions through their harmonious voices. It became one of their signature songs, resonating with listeners of all generations.
  3. "Glow Worm" (1952): This cheerful tune demonstrated The Mills Brothers' versatility, as they effortlessly shifted between musical styles. "Glow Worm" was yet another hit that solidified their place in music history.

The Mills Brothers' albums were equally influential, with notable releases like "The Mills Brothers in Hi-Fi" and "Sing for You." Their ability to blend jazz, pop, and traditional harmonies made their albums a must-have for music enthusiasts.

A Lasting Legacy:

The Mills Brothers' impact on the music industry cannot be overstated. They not only achieved commercial success but also broke racial barriers in the music world, becoming one of the first Black artists to have crossover appeal and a predominantly white fan base. Their music transcended boundaries, bringing people together through the power of song.

The Mills Brothers' legacy endures in Piqua and beyond. In their hometown, Piqua residents take pride in their connection to this iconic group, celebrating their achievements with local tributes and memorials. Their influence can still be heard in the voices of aspiring musicians who draw inspiration from their harmonious melodies and innovative vocal techniques.

As we remember The Mills Brothers and their remarkable journey from Piqua to international stardom, we are reminded of the enduring power of music to unite people and leave an indelible mark on the world. Their timeless hits continue to bring joy and inspiration to generations, ensuring that their musical legacy lives on.

As I look back on my journey from a Piqua-born child of the 1960s to the present day, I am reminded of the enduring spirit of this remarkable town. Piqua's history is a tapestry woven together by the cooperation of Native Americans and early settlers, the industriousness of its residents, and the creative genius of The Mills Brothers.

My hometown, with its scenic riverways, industrial heritage, and a strong sense of community, has left an indelible mark on my life. Piqua, Ohio, is not just a place on the map; it's a place where memories are made, friendships are forged, and a vibrant past meets an exciting future.

About the author:

Robert Christian Sussman, also known as DJ Speir, is the founder of ‍Speir TV and InterQ, the groundbreaking social entertainment and advocacy platform that provides inclusive, LGBTQ+ content to audiences around the world. Born on September 17, 1960, in Piqua, Ohio, Robert has been an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and HIV/AIDS awareness for over three decades and supporting Until.Org all the way. Robert has also been diagnosed with dementia, a condition that can be related to HIV infection or to aging. Despite this diagnosis, Robert has remained determined and is still able to live on his own and work on developing the InterQ Platform with the help of artificial intelligence to assist in his daily work and life, he will kick ass to the end lol.

Despite these challenges, Robert has continued to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and to build the vision for InterQ. He has been a trailblazer in the entertainment industry, using his platform to promote positive representations of LGBTQ+ individuals and to bring attention to important issues affecting the community.

Robert's legacy as DJ Speir and as a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ+ community will continue to inspire future generations.


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