December 6, 2021

Residents debate what to put on signs at village entrances

Welcome to Homer

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

The village of Homer is considering replacing this sign, stirring debate on whether David Harum, a fictional character based on David Hannum, a 19th century figure and among those behind the Cardiff Giant hoax, should be mentioned on the sign. File photo from July 2019.

John Hartsock stood up from the chair on his porch and yelled to his neighbor: “Hey, Jean, what do you think of David Harum?”

“He’s old,” Jean Cadwallader said before adding, “He’s one of the big names that’s been here forever.”

Harum’s name has stirred up debate among Homer village residents as the village board of trustees looks to replace the welcome signs and needs to determine what they should say. The board is replacing the signs because the current ones are old, peeling and their structure is starting to rust and rot.

“Home of David Harum” appears on at least one sign when entering the village and Hartsock said it should go on the new signs, too. The question of whether to include his name on the sign has brought up a debate on what Homer’s identity is and whether Harum represents it.

David Harum, however, never existed.

Harum was a fictional character in the book “David Harum” based on David Hannum, a 19th century man among those behind the Cardiff Giant hoax, who lived in Homer from 1867 to 1892 at 80 S. Main St. That house is now Hartsock’s home.

The book later became a silent movie in 1915, a talkie — a movie with sound — starring Will Rogers in 1934, and a radio soap opera in the 1940s.

Hartsock said David Harum’s character is important to Homer because he was a celebration of the common, everyday person.

“We weren’t celebrating some superman, but an ordinary guy,” Hartsock said. Harum’s character and the place he lived in Homeville — a fictional representation of Homer — made people realize how good it was to have an ordinary, slowed down life.

“I think that’s what attracts people to Homer,” Hartsock said. “That kind of quality of life is something people want.”

However, Homer Historian Martin Sweeney said the signs should just say, “Welcome to historic Homer.”

“I would prefer that the entrance signs just say, ‘Welcome to historic Homer,’ and then have people say, ‘What’s so historic?’ and then go and find out,” Sweeney said. “I just think there were so many people beside Hannum/Harum that merit recognition.”

Sweeney said some of those people include Amelia Jenks Bloomer, who made bloomers popular, or the three Homer natives with ties to Abraham Lincoln.

Homer Village Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe said the village has to take a step back and figure out what its identity is because doing so will help determine a number of things, including what the signs say and how they look.

Board Member Ed Finkbeiner said he believes the signs will be discussed again Aug. 15 at the next board of trustees meeting.

“I rather liked Ed Finkbeiner’s idea of 21st century kiosk where people with cell phones can click on an app that lets them have guided tour,” Sweeney said.

It’s good that people are thinking about how the village should promote and brand itself, Sweeney said. However, the focus shouldn’t continue to be on Hannum/Harum, but on a way to brand all of Homer’s historical representations.

“He’s had his day. He’s had his time in the limelight,” he said. Let’s just celebrate all of them. How many places have this level of historical figures?”