Storytellers’ tales deserve our attention

Day by Day
Storytellers’ tales deserve our attention

By LIZ THOMPSON

August 2017

ThisWeekNews

My late father-in-law loved to tell stories of the “old days” — coal mining in southeastern Ohio, life during the Depression and more.

He would be well over 100 years old if he were still alive.

When we learned of his cancer, one of his granddaughters gave him a cassette recorder and blank tapes so he could record his stories.

My husband, Bob, grew up listening to stories not only from his parents, aunts and uncles, but from others who lived near their farm and had emigrated from eastern Europe.

Recently, Bob was telling some of the stories to our grandchildren. They laughed and asked questions and were amazed at how different things were for their Pappy and his family than they are today.

Our granddaughter, Elizabeth, said she wanted to write down the stories, and that she did. With pencil and pad of paper in hand, she wrote the stories passed down from her great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents.

Intertwined were stories of her Pappy’s childhood and his experiences with all the former storytellers. It was a joy to listen.

Since Elizabeth is a writer in her own right, I have a feeling a version of these characters will show up in a novel or two in her lifetime. At least, she will carry the history on to the next generation.

I grew up listening to stories, as well. I never knew either grandfather, so my grandmothers, aunts, uncles and parents provided tales of life in the same old days. That might be where I learned to love weaving words into stories.

We moved to Grove City in 2005, when we came back from the West Coast. This town was my first beat as a reporter in 2000. I loved the feel of the town. The people were amiable and seemed to work hard for a living.

I had heard history revealed in personal experiences of the early days in Grove City from people like Pudge — that’s the only name I knew him by. I could listen to people like him for hours and never glance at my watch.

Our neighbors are friendly, much like those in the Westerville neighborhood in which I was raised.

In 2007, one neighbor, Ann, hosted a get-together. We were in for a real treat when Ruth Sawyer Jividen, who lived around the corner, was a guest.

Turns out she was the last direct descendent to the first settler in Grove City. She started talking, and I started writing. She was a female version of my father-in-law.

Ruth and I enjoyed our time together writing the “Ruth Remembers” columns, which were published for a few years in a local newspaper, now gone. I was fascinated with her experiences growing up in Grove City, and so were the readers.

Around the same time, Janet Shailer and Laura Lanese published “Images of America: Grove City,” and Ruth’s family homestead history is included.

Ruth is now with her maker, in whom she firmly believed. Her home has been refurbished, but it’s just a house. I’m blessed with my memories of my time with Ruth.

As a reporter in Upper Arlington, I met Pete and Marjorie Sayers, lifetime residents and true storytellers. Marjorie was the driving force for the book, “The History of Upper Arlington,” published in 1988.

A new edition, in honor of the town’s centennial next year, will be available in the fall. The authors interviewed Marjorie and others to give it a conversational tone, along with the historical facts.

Soon after I wrote a story about Pete and Marjorie, the editor of the newspaper asked them to write a column about Upper Arlington history.

The late Patricia Orndorff Ernsberger wrote “Bicentennial Journal” and later added an updated version, including “Uptown: People, Places and Events” about Westerville history.

Most towns have their own local historians, and families have their own storytellers. People of this generation are all but gone. Their stories remind us of different times — not easier, but simpler.

All we need to do is listen.

Ruth Sawyer Jividen

Bob and me with our granddaughter Elizabeth. Our dog Toby joined in.

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A century in, service still vital for Lions

Day by Day

A century in, service still vital for Lions

Feb 13, 2017

By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews

This year marks 100 years of service for the Lions Club International, the world’s largest service organization.

A total of 46,000 clubs with more than 1.4 million members — men, women and youth — do whatever is needed to help their local communities.

In 1917, a Chicago businessman named Melvin Jones, whose personal code was, “You can’t get very far until you start doing something for somebody else,” founded the Lions Club International. The slogan, an acronym, became “Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety.”

In 1925, Helen Keller (See photo at end) challenged Lions at the club’s convention at Cedar Point.

“The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: to foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. … Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”

Her speech marked the beginning of an era of vision service and support that would come to define Lions for decades.

Bill Schultz, chairman of the Ohio Lions Marketing and Communications Committee, said the club will re-enact the speech during May’s State Lions Convention in Sandusky. Canal Winchester member Jackie Christensen will present the speech in character as Keller, Schultz said.

Locally, the Westerville Lions Club was chartered in 1928 and is the oldest service organization in Westerville.

“This past Christmas, at our holiday gathering/meeting, we found out about two families in need and on the spur of the moment we passed the hat and raised $400 to provide a better Christmas for those families,” said Lion Howard Baum. “The generosity of our members is amazing.”

Mike Kerek of Reynoldsburg said, “Being a Lions Club member … is an attitude, a belief, in service to others.”

Since 1948, the Reynoldsburg club has raised more than $500,000 to be reinvested into the community.

Although helping those with vision problems is their main focus, each club looks for what is needed in its community.

Kerek said his club supports a plethora of organizations, including Special Olympics, the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, Pilot Dogs, disaster relief foundations, eye banks and vision-related business. Club members also have made several trips to West Virginia with donations for flood relief.

“As a Lion since 1999, I have had many moments where the intrinsic rewards made me understand how important the services we provide are,” Kerek said.

Bob Scheetz of Worthington said his dad was a charter member of the Lions Club for 30 years in his hometown of West Lafayette.

“Clubs focus on needs of their particular community,” he said. “Our club (also) has a focus on the Worthington Food Pantry and young children’s literacy through Worthington Libraries. We sponsor the Worthington Summer Reading Program.”

Duane Shaul said the Grove City club began in 1939. Every year, its members set aside funds to be able to help someone get a Pilot Dog. The cost is $10,000. Each week, Shaul and others walk Pilot Dog puppies, helping them learn social skills.

“I would love to let more people know who we are and what we do,” Shaul said. “We do not keep any funds for administrative expenses.”

This club helped fund e-sight goggles — computerized goggles with a camera that relays images to the brain — for a blind Grove City student to see his parents for the first time.

Bob Dotson has been a member since 1998, starting in Athens County before he moved to Powell. The Olentangy Lions Club is four years old.

“Many hands make light work,” Dotson said. “The biggest need of Lions, and other service organizations, is members. Get involved. Make a difference.”

My personal interest in Lions began in 1997 when they trained my first Hearing Dog, then my second in 2009.

I was delighted by the enthusiasm of these members who gave me an abundance of information. Since I cannot write it all here, I encourage you to seek information at lionsclubs.org, support their fundraisers and donate eyeglasses.

As Dotson said, “Maybe you can be the one person that makes a difference in someone’s life.”

 

Helen Keller (right) reads the lips of First Lady Grace Coolidge in 1926. Her husband, Calvin Coolidge, was president from 1923-29. Image from the Prints and Photographs Division of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Helen Keller (right) reads the lips of First Lady Grace Coolidge in 1926. Her husband, Calvin Coolidge, was president from 1923-29.
Image from the Prints and Photographs Division of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Anniversaries provide reason to reflect on past

Anniversaries provide reason to reflect on past

Day by Day
by Liz Thompson
This Week News
June 2, 2016

When I walk through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur, and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze…

This verse in the hymn, How Great Thou Art always makes me emotional.

We camped in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last month and we experienced all these words imply first hand.

This might not have been possible if a few determined people hadn’t gone many extra miles to make national parks part of our lives. What began in the 1850’s, became official 100 years ago this year. It wasn’t all pretty and it wasn’t all easy.

Some of the saddest pages in our nation’s history include when Native Americans, who had lived on these lands for generations, were driven off the lands. When our government finally had the opportunity to make National Parks in Alaska, they had a chance to “do it right.” The natives continued to be part of the culture, not excluded from it.

But we can focus on the end result of what these determined people did for our nation. First and foremost, to preserve the natural wonders– flora and fauna in all its purest form. And later, the wonders like Mount Rushmore and other monuments to people and historical events.

All this happened when communication was very basic – written letters and telephone. Transportation was by train and car – and many people did not own cars. If you wanted to travel from the East Coast out to California, it wasn’t easy going. I’m not even sure the condition of the roads.

Most of us can’t think back 100 years or even imagine what life might have been like. But preserving our history is important so we can learn from it and hopefully not make some of the same mistakes.

Preserving history also is celebratory.

Recently, my Mother came upon her mother’s wedding gown she had stored in her home. Another 100 year marker. The satin of the gown is in mint condition with only the delicate bodice and sleeves having become more fragile.

In my quest to find a home for this gown with a historical society, I wanted to get a copy of the February 27, 1916 Columbus Dispatch. The front page of the Society Section had a story about my grandparent’s wedding with a photo of the bride, her six bridesmaids and two flower girls.

My grandparents were married in a downtown Columbus church. 1,500 people attended and the reception at my great-grandparent’s home at 368 E. Broad greeted more than 300. The church still stands but not the large home.

I was amazed the paper copy my mother had of the story was still intact and, for the most part, we could see the photo and read the article. Personally, I’m glad I didn’t have 1,500 people at my wedding. My Mother and I were trying to imagine addressing invitations or writing thank you notes to all those people.

I learned the Dispatch only keeps papers in storage back to 1980. They suggested contacting the library, which I did.

Julie Callahan, of Reynoldsburg, Librarian in the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Columbus Metropolitan Library gave me the good news.

“We have every copy of the Columbus Dispatch since it began.”

I told her of the paper copy my mother had and that I wondered how it survived 100 years. Julie explained that paper in the 1800’s was fiber and lasted much longer. So the newspaper in 1916 was still a much higher quality paper than is used today.

Now I’ll have my copy to go with the dress once I find it a permanent home. No gown 100 years old should be hidden in storage.

Time does march on, but when I see my grandmother’s wedding gown I can’t help but wonder what was going through her mind as she placed the gown over her head and walked down the aisle. What gems did I miss in the 30-plus years I knew her?

She was starting married life the same year that the National Parks began.

I know she could play “How Great Thou Art” on the piano beautifully.

So while I walk through the woods, I can see the connection to the beauty in more ways than one.

For more information, go to: pbs.org/nationalparks