Bob Sautter Sr., owner of Sautter's Market in Sylvania, was always proud to carry the Babcock line of dairy products since the store first opened on Main Street in Sylvania in 1959. Sylvania Schools also contracted with Babcock, so chances are that if you're from Sylvania, Ohio, whether you went to Maplewood, Central, Stranahan or any of the public elementary schools, you grew up sipping Babcock milk through paper straws in the cafeteria. But how familiar are you with the company behind the memorable red, white, and blue cardboard cartons?
Roy William Babcock, born in 1892, was a third generation Toledoan. His grandparents served in the civil war. His father, William H. Babcock, was the owner of one of the finest dairy farms in Lucas county. Young Roy started his own company in his twenties, and in 1919, before he turned thirty years old, he built the largest independent dairy plant in the country, the Babcock Dairy Company on Berdan Avenue in Toledo.
While he was building his milk empire, Roy Babcock got married and had four children. "Deeply interested in the welfare and advancement of his city," he was a Republican party supporter, trustee of the Pilgrim Congregational church of Toledo, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Exchange Club and a Mason (Scottish Rite).
Over the years both Roy and his son Wayne were appointed to national leadership positions for organizations in the dairy industry, as were subsequent company presidents, an indication of the national recognition of Babcock's superiority in the dairy industry.
From the day it first began operations, Babcock Dairy was a leader in Northwest Ohio for supporting sports and athletics. Semi-professional Toledo area bowling, football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams all carried the Babcock Dairy name. The Sylvania Merchants and the Toledo Babcocks met on the football field in Sylvania and developed a rivalry. (see 1938 football below) The Babcock teams often made national headlines, including when the hockey team started a riot in Canada. (see 1942 below)
In 1944, Roy Babcock passed away at age 52 while at his family's summer home in Petoskey Michigan. His wife Ruth, a former schoolteacher, along with his children, maintained ownership of Babcock Dairy and led the company for another five decades. The Babcock Dairy plant in Toledo shut down in 1984, though the name continued on under new ownership. Sadly, the great Babcock name in sports has faded into memory, although a few teams still carry on but under different names.
In 1942, while Toledo Babcock player Rip Williams was escaping out the back door in Canada, his 2 year old son Tommy was waiting patiently at home for dad to come back and play with him and his favorite hockey stick. Which the dad did, and did very well. Tommy, who grew up to play hockey for the U.S. in the Olympics and had an NHL career that ranks at the top of American hockey players, always credited his dad for "teaching him everything he knew."
Several semi-pro football players, such as quarterback Claude Marett, played on both the Sylvania Merchants and the Babcock Dairy football teams. In the 1930's the two teams were bitter rivals who faced off in Sylvania at Legion Field, which is now a small subdivision between St. Joe's School and Promedica Flower Hospital.
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