GALION — It may not have been paradise. But an innocuous concrete block building on North Union Street was a second home for the families of Malcolm E. and Boyd Epperson and the clientele and animals they took care of for nearly 35 years.
And last week, it was razed to make room for a larger parking lot.
That small red building, which took only a couple hours to demolish, housed a lot of memories, and contained a lot of history, most of it relating to the Epperson family.
It was designed and built by Boyd Epperson’s parents. Malcolm E. and Harriet Epperson, in 1940. Malcolm, like his son, was a veterinarian and that building initially housed Malcolm’s office.
“It was a modern office at the time,” Boyd said. “Exam rooms and an x-ray machine and waiting room upstairs, with kennels downstairs.”
The Eppersons have a long history in Galion. They are known for their veterinary business and also were civic-minded, helping others in the community when they could.
“My first memories of that buildings are when I was about this high,” Boyd Epperson, now retired, recalled, holding his hand about three feet off the ground. “Dad loved bigger animals, especially the cows and steer, and during the day he traveled all over to see them. At night, the office was open, and that’s where he saw smaller animals like dogs and cats.”
Malcolm came to Galion in 1933. He received his veterinary education at Ontario Veterinary Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
He didn’t plan on coming to Galion, and Boyd’s not quite sure how his parents ended up in Ohio, but relayed part of the story.
“After he and Harriet got married, they were looking for a place to start their lives,” Boyd recalled. “A friend told him that he needed to look at Bucyrus, Ohio. So he did. He said ‘Bucyrus was a nice town,’ but it wasn’t quite what he was looking for. Then he headed east and ran into Galion.
“As soon as he got to driving around here, he said: ‘I believe this is where we belong’.”
Malcolm’s first office was in the old stockyards. He worked hard and managed to get by with work at the stock yards and by seeing smaller animals when he could.” He also saw clientele across the street from the office he was to build, behind a spark plug company.
But Boyd and Harriet had bigger plans.
They purchased a small site next to a tire story at the corner of North Union Street and Harding Way West. That tire store was torn down around 1970 to make room for a Borden Burger. Now it is the home of Wendy’s, which purchased the Epperson office. Wendy’s was closed while the building was being razed and is now revamping its drive-thru and enlarging its parking lot.
Malcolm Epperson’s new veterinarian office went up in 1940. The address was 124 N. Union St. It wasn’t large by any means. A basement and the upstairs. It measured just 24 feet by 30 feet, but it was solid, constructed of concrete block. It was very modern at the time.
“It was so well built it was certified as one of two bomb shelters in Galion,” Boyd said.
Eventually, a piece of property behind the new office was purchased, and it also became part of the Union Street office.
After earning his degree from Ohio State, Boyd Epperson joined forces with his dad in 1958. Customer service has always been a big part of the Epperson business philsophy, and eventually they outgrew the Union Street office.
“The reason we left was because we were so busy that the waiting room was always full,” Boyd said. “The customers had to wait too long to see us. We just needed more space. Plus, it was getting harder to get up and down those steps.”
That new office was built off Bucyrus Road. It eventually became Horizon Animal Hospital, which is still at the same site.
“That was 1973-74,” Boyd said. “It was what we needed. Surgery rooms, more patient rooms, more room for everything. A few years later a new computer system was added.”
The Galion chapter of the American Red Cross soon moved into the North Union Street office, and it remained there for more than 20 years. It was the hub of CPR and other training in the community and Red Cross volunteers, including Bill Carpenter and others, traveled the nation representing the Red Cross at disaster sites. Pat Wittibslager was executive director of the Galion chapter, and hundreds of volunteers called the North Union Street building their home for years.
The deed to the building was handed over to the Red Cross in 1992, with a provision that it would be donated to the Galion Historical Society if the Red Cross quit using it, and it was.