Edwin MugridgeEd Mugridge is a delightful man with a very interesting story to tell. He was born in Cleveland March 21, 1916 on West 52nd Street. He remembers the address, too, it was 1818. "No" he laughs, "that's not my birthday that's the address!" Ed laughs a lot and his laughter is contagious. You can tell by talking to him he is a happy man with a lot of good memories of the past and plans for the future.
Cape Town, Zanzibar, Trinidad... Cleveland!
He is one of three children, the only male in the group. His sister, Viola, was six years older than he. She died in Cleveland's flu epidemic in 1918. But Ed remembers her with a special fondness. He remembers that they were living in Buffalo for a time and his mother baked cakes every Friday and Saturday. His sister would stand up on the window seat and scoop out some icing and share it with young Ed. He pauses his story and you know he is remembering her small kindness and missing her all over again.
Ed's family moved often because it was the middle of WWI and you went where the work was. His whole family was in the railroad business, his father a steam engineer. Of course, in 1929 the Depression came and by 1931 his father had lost his business. Ed started working as soon as he was able and worked anywhere and everywhere he could.
Helen and Ed Mugridge on their 65th anniversary
He would gladly take a day off school for the chance to earn a dollar. Economics played a part in his social life, too. "In those days" he says, "if you asked a girl out, you paid. There was no such thing as splitting a bill". So without the extra money needed for socializing, Ed stayed pretty much to himself. He graduated from West High where he was on the wrestling team.
By the time he was about sixteen Ed had built six different boats with his neighbor. His father had taught him about car engines and Ed took that knowledge and converted it to marine engines. He loved everything to do with cars, boats or airplanes, and does to this day. Ed spent every weekend shoveling coal - sixty tons a weekend - for fifty cents an hour! He loved to work on the water, but of course, he couldn't work in the winter because no boats could run in the frozen waters.
His friend had a 1934 coupe and the two of them drove to St. Petersburg Florida to find work. Oddly enough he found a job in an Ice House Building in the Cold Storage Room. But his trip to Florida only lasted from September to February when he came back. He found work on the water at the Erie Bards Canal, but once again he was out of work in the winter.
Ed Mugridge making a toast at son Tom and Pat's 25th anniversary party in 2002
It was time for Ed to find something more permanent, if not more tranquil. In 1936 he went to New York City and signed up on a tramp steamer. This ship carried everything from automobiles to tar. Ed was part of what was known as the "black gang" because he was an engine oiler. They went from New York City to Panama City, Florida to Mobile, Alabama to New Orleans. From New Orleans they traveled to Cuba, this time to drop off a seriously ill steward from their ship. From Cuba they traveled to Trinidad, Port of Spain in the British East Indies.
Here they went to Pitch Lake to procure pitch tar. The tar comes up from beneath the ground and hardens into a crust on the top. Ed and the crew dug down into the hardened tar and took barrels of the messy substance out and loaded it onto their ship.
Ed and Helen Mugridge Labor Day 2001
Imagine if you will young Ed. About twenty-one years old and on the adventure of a lifetime. Sure, it's hard work, but it's exciting work as well. Now picture Ed in the British East Indies, where natives still look like the natives in the movies and nothing quite looks like it did back in Cleveland.
He's walking into a forest and out comes a native - with a spear, tribal headwear and adornment around his ankles. And finally, imagine the surprise and relief, when the native says with the heaviest of British accents " I say, ol' chap. Do you have the time?" Again Ed laughs that special laugh of his and again I know he is remembering a very special time.
Ed spent the next twenty days at sea on his way to Cape Town, Africa. He knew the docks in New York were old, wooden docks with corrugated iron, so he certainly wasn't expecting much from Africa. He would be grateful if they had any docks at all. Ed still marvels with surprise at the big beautiful concrete docks that greeted him with all new Gentry cranes. The city had amusement parks and trackless trolleys and was really built up remarkably. But he was still in Africa, and he also remembers the stories of people's children being eaten by lions.
Helen and Ed Mugridge in 2002
He weathered the twenty days at sea with storms and rough winds with no apparent problems. However, when he crossed the river from Port Elizabeth to East London (twin cities similar to Minneapolis and St. Paul) he blushes to remember getting terribly seasick! Ed contracted malaria in Beira, Africa. Quinine and Calomel took care of that problem, but additional problems always seemed to come up.
As they traveled up the coast they were forced to anchor pretty far our because of the shallow water. The tide wound the anchors tightly around themselves and the ship and three days were spent trying to get out.
Ed's pockets were always full of money, but "that", he says "is because they used paper money for a penny. It wasn't hard to have a huge roll of money that didn't amount to fifty cents!" Then there was Zanzibar, a little island east of Tonga where he was happy to find an old German fighter plane.
From Africa Ed finally returned to Cleveland, again just for a visit. This time it was to see his lady friend, Helen, before going to Brewerton, New York, where his parents still lived and then to Schenectady. Helen was a special lady for Ed. The one true love of his life. They exchanged letters while he was gone and sometimes even now, in the winter time, they sit in front of a fire and read them to each other.
September 9, 1937 Ed proposed and he and Helen were married June 18, 1938 in Cleveland. He finally decided to stay in Cleveland and get permanent work, no more traveling back and forth to New York, or around the world for that matter! Ed had worked his way up through the ranks as a Tug Boat Captain and a River Boat Captain. He still has his River Boat Captain's license.
Ed was hired to work at the boat yard. The owner of Bishop and Babcock Co. had a large boat and needed someone with Ed's talent and expertise to work on it. When he wasn't working on the boat he was working inside in the lab. They were experimenting with air conditioning in cars at the time. He actually put the air conditioning in Edsal Ford's personal car, and yes, he test-drove it, too!
World War II came around and the government shut down all manufacturing that did not apply to war work or defense work. Ed was hired by Cleveland Diesel were he tested engines for submarines, destroyers, minesweepers, etc. He soon left that job and went to work at the Bomber Plant, now the IX Center. However, his job now was walking around with a clipboard making drawings of repairs that needed doing, and this just wasn't his cup of tea. Ed needed hands on action, not a clipboard.
So he was off again, this time to White Sewing Machines in the Flats. At this time they were making rocket fuse heads for the Army and Navy. He was put on as a trainee, but the first day his knowledge of engines and all things mechanical rewarded him with a raise and a promotion to Machine Operator. A few more days and another promotion and things were looking really good for Ed.
Unfortunately, one of the women working in the office forgot to send in his deferment papers and Ed soon received greetings from the President. June 1945, Ed went into the U.S. Navy. He went to Great Lakes Illinois for Boot Camp and was supposed to go overseas from there. However, in the process of testing to see where he could best served, the Navy discovered his vast knowledge of Navy propulsion engines and diesel engines and they decided to keep him right were he was.
Opening presents Christmas 2001
He stayed in Great Lakes, Illinois until his third child was born. At that time anyone with three or more children was being discharged.
Back home to Cleveland and the "job-cycle" began again. Most companies had reverted to domestic work by now, but after a few attempts at things he just wasn't pleased with, Ed and a friend went into business for themselves. They opened a gas station and garage on State Road in Parma. Things were not going too well when he received a call from Cleveland Yacht Club with a job offer. A chance to be back on the water? Ed didn't think twice.
Ed soon decided it was time to have his own home. He had a wife and children and they needed the room. So he built a two-story house in Strongsville. Every night after work and every weekend he dug the foundation, ditches, leech bed, etc. He chiseled a 200-foot driveway and hauled lumber on the top of his car. He did all of the work with hand tools; there was no electricity there at the time.
1951 found Ed changing jobs again. This time he went to Lincoln Electric where he worked in maintaining the machines and equipment. He was just going to stay in that position until something opened up, but he finally found his niche and stayed there until he retired in 1978.
He bought a house in South Euclid in 1957, and like the job at Lincoln, he found something he really liked and stayed there for 43 years. He and his wife recently moved to Solon.
Ed and Helen Mugridge with family members on Christmas 2002
Ed's life never was dull, and still isn't for that matter. He became a licensed pilot in 1945 and in 1967 got his license to carry passengers. He got this license because Tom, the youngest of his six children, wanted to be able to go along. However, in 1972 when he crash-landed the plane into a hospital parking lot in Florida, his passenger wife was probably wishing they had taken a bus. Both were injured, but remarkably their injuries were limited to broken bones, cuts and scrapes. His wife, Helen, still has the scars to prove it.
Helen and Ed Mugridge on their 66th anniversary
June 18, 2004
He's enjoying his retirement, but he's certainly not taking it easy. He does all the cabinet making, plumbing and, electrical work around the house. He doesn't actually garden, but he digs the holes for his wife so she can. He is still captivated by engines of every kind
Ed has a very simple philosophy. Don't do anything ever, that could possibly make you feel guilty, or ashamed or make you regret your action. That way you won't have to live your life looking over your shoulder. He calls it 'mental insurance" because it insures you a peaceful life. He also believes that's why he feels so physically fit. There's nothing hanging over his head to cause him sleepless nights of anxiety.
He is a good, honest man who has lived a good, honest life. He loves his wife, his children and his grandchildren. He is a strict Catholic and believes vigorously in God. He is jovial and fun loving and he sleeps well at night knowing that he has done his best. And his best is quite good.
Update: Ed Mugridge passed away December 21, 2008 joining his beloved Honey
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
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