Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Season Potpourri

Christmas is a holiday celebrated all around the world.  Whether your season festivities are spiritual or secular - involving a gift-giving character the season is overflowing with possibilities for every kind of believer.  Let's take a look at some of the many interesting ways Christmas is celebrated in Lake County and all around the world.  Included will be some holiday trivia too!
  • Upside down Christmas tree - said to date back to St. Boniface in the 8th century, it remains popular throughout Eastern Europe.  Legend has it that Boniface confronted non-Christians and chopped down their giant oak tree in an angry moment.  A tiny evergreen grew in its place and the triangular shape was used to explain the Holy Trinity.  the tree was hung upside down and the Trinity Tree had its origins.
  • Nativity Scenes (Vatican and Lake County) - Depictions of the nativity figures owe their origins to St. Francis of Assisi.  The first creche appeared in 1223.  In less than a century the custom was entrenched throughout Italy and the world.  Historic Kirtland has a nativity display annually that is considered a top 100 destination in the United States.  Free and open to the public daily into January, one should make every effort to view the more than 400 creches on display, some from countries far away.
  • Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer - Rudloph is 50 this year.  Taken from a 1939 poem, an animated television short about Rudolph aired in 1964 featuring the voice and singing talents of Burl Ives.
  • Frosty the Snowman - A 1950 song was used for a 1954 animated short about this most famous snowman.  In 1969 the television show still shown today remains.  Jimmy Durante was the voice talent used in the 1969 classic.
  • Mistletoe - The bush-like plant found on trees dates back to the Celtic people to about five centuries before Christ.  It is said the Druids considered mistletoe a sacred plant and hung it above their doorways for protection.  Enemies in battle would often declare a one day truce if they met near the plant.
  • George Harrison of Beatles fame is the only member of the Fab Four to never write or record a Christmas Song.
  • Holly & The Yule Log - The log is associated with winter solstice / December 21st.  Its origin remains in doubt although believed to be Germanic in nature.  Burned to bring good luck, holly was part of the ritual and placed under the log.  The sprig of holly symbolized buring up the troubles of the past year as well keeping safe their homesteads.
  • The Grinch -  Dr. Suess wrote his classic tale of the Grinch in 1957.  The animated version first appeared in 1966 and is third in longevity when one recalls Holiday TV specials.
  • It's a Wonderful Life - The 1946 holiday classic includes what today would be called a 'blooper' or DVD-extra.  An inebriated Uncle Billy has trouble walking in a scene.  A crash is heard and Uncle Billy says, "I'm alright."  The actual crash was that of a crew member dropping something during filming.  The gaffe is part of holiday history.
  • It's a Wonderful Life - "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings..." is well known.  If you listen carefully you will hear 42 bells ringing in this seasonal movie classic.
  • Madagascar - Santa is known as Dadabe Noely.  Only small gifts are exchanged.
  • Wales - Carolers highlight the season and Christmas Day.  They sing at dawn and are invited in for snacks.  Carol writing contests are annual events.
  • Russia - Children carry a star and go house to house singing carols and receiving sweets.  A porridge, kutya is popular and served with honey or poppy seeds to ensure happiness and peace for the coming year.
  • Philippines -  Simbang Gabi are the nine days before Christmas.  A practice dating back to Spanish rule of the islands, attending mass is the main focus of the season.
  • Charlie Brown -  Charles Schulz's characters were widely popular since the 1950's.  The comic characters got their first television exposure in 1965 with A Christmas Special.  Arguably the best known holiday special it is a December viewing tradition.
  • Country Lights at Farmpark began its Toyshop in 1990.  Originally meant to just supplement an outdoor wagon ride and visit with Santa, 2014 will feature more than 70 varieties of wooden toys and possibly surpass 15,000 toys built in December 2014.
  • Check out Historic Lake County Alliance Member activities this month and throughout the upcoming year.  Whether it is a visit with the Grinch in Fairport Harbor, holiday fireworks in Eastlake, a traditional concert performance in Painesville or a holiday stroll in downtown Willoughby that includes a visit with Santa as part of their Welcome Center,  there are always holiday traditions Yule Enjoy!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Serving Up Good Will in Fairport Harbor ---The 'Grinch' visits December 6th

Dr. Suess’s holiday classic first appeared in 1957 in an issue of Redbook and shortly thereafter in book form.  In the story a bitter and hateful Grinch is irritated at the thought of the nearby village having a happy time celebrating Christmas.  As the story unfolds Dr. Suess poses two essential questions.  “What if Christmas doesn’t come from a store?”  “What if Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more?”  Winter is in the air.  Holiday programs have started.  Lists are being made.  The countdown to December 25th is officially underway.  In the Village of Fairport Harbor on December 6th, one may experience the answers to Dr. Suess’s classic questions.

Serving up good will is what ‘Harbor Holidays’ are all about.  It is a Rockwellian slice of Americana worthy of partaking in.  Harbor Holidays began in 1994.  In 2000 the Grinch made his first visit to Lake County’s best kept secret.  The efforts of the Fairport Harbor Merchants Association married the Grinch visit to Harbor Holidays and a Lighthouse Tower Reading of the classic tale.  Attendance averaged 75 annually.  In 2009 the current Grinch partnered up with the Fairport Harbor Historical Society  and the evening event with the Grinch, Santa Claus, and a local church social has resulted in 550 and 285 visitors attending the evening program in 2012 and 2013 respectively.  Free and family friendly have always been the operant words.  2014 will see the event grow some more as the Fairport Harbor Heritage Foundation has stepped up to enhance visitor experiences the entire day.  Lolley the Trolley, music performances at the gazebo and DFH window lighting decoration contests will supplement the Toys for Tots collection and other community holiday programming.

Harbor Holidays -  Local businesses, churches and the school will be open from 10am-4pm for visitor shopping experiences.  Food, ethnic specialties, stocking stuffers and more will be available.  You may even catch a glimpse of the Grinch stealing toys throughout the day.

Fairport Harbor Library -  The Grinch will be on hand with Max the dog from noon -1:30pm.  He will autograph copies of the classic book, mug for pictures and perhaps even share an irritable word or two with the locals.

Grinch / Lighthouse Program -  The Grinch and his cohorts will be at the Fairport Harbor Village Lighthouse at 6pm for a classic retelling of his story from atop the tower.  Bring your lawn chairs or blankets and sit below to listen to the story. At approximately 6:30pm the Grinch will lead all true believers to the park down the street to meet Santa Claus as well as pose for candid pictures.  The Congregational Church across the street from the park will offer hot chocolate and cookies to conclude the evening.  The event ends around 8pm.

Toys for Tots -  The FH Police Department and local VFW Post will once again accept donations for those less fortunate in 2014.  Bring a new wrapped or unwrapped toy to the event and make a holiday memory.

The Grinch Gang promises to be in rare form as they venture once again from Mount Krumpit.  Come and enjoy a day / evening put on by dozens of volunteers.  As stated earlier, serving up good will has been a Fairport Harbor staple since 1994.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Historic Markers of Lake County

There are currently over 1516 historic markers in the state of Ohio.  These markers exist to provide tangible records of Ohio's importance in early American and Western Reserve history.  Lake County is Ohio's smallest county yet has perhaps the most history to offer.  To date 28 markers dot our county's landscape.  Today we offer our readers just an appetizer of the history that is unique to some of our hometown communities.  Here is a sampling of ten markers and the year each achieved its moment of official recognition.  See if you can identify the one incorrect statement for each marker.

Historic Marker #1-43  Indian Point Fort
a.  It is the first recognized marker in our county (1964)
b. The fort is located in what is now Eastlake near the Chagrin River.
c.  Only a low wall remains.
d.  The fort's history can be traced back to the Erie Indians and 1650.

Historic Marker #24-43  Harry Coulby- 2003
a.  He was known as Czar of the Great Lakes
b.  He was born in Wickliffe and lived there most of his life.
c.  He was Wickliffe's first mayor (1916).
d.  His estate was known as Couallenby.

Historic Marker #23-43  Cora Gaines Carrel
a.  Her marker was dedicated in 2003.
b.  She was educated in Painesville in the 1890's.
c.  She was the first female councilperson in the State of Ohio and served in the '20s.
d.  She was part of the suffrage movement.

Historic Marker #15-43  Daniel Beard
a.  Daniel Beard was a noted illustrator, artist and author.
b.  Beard was born in Canada and moved to the US in the 1800's.
c.  Beard designed the BSA emblem.
d.  His marker was dedicated in 2003.

Historic Marker #25-43  Uri Seeley House
a.  Dedication services were held in 2006
b.  Seeley served in the Revolutionary War.
c.  Seeley was one of the county's earliest settlers.
d.  Uri was anti-slavery and a member of the UGRR.

Historic Marker #16-43  Henry Kelsey Devereau -2002
a.  His home was located on the current Telshe Yeshiva property in Wickliffe.
b.  He was Wickliffe's first settler.
c.  His image was used for the drum player in The Spirit of '76 painting.
d.  Archibald Willard selected Devereau for his iconic Revolutionary War painting.

Historic Marker #22-43  Rabbit Run Theater -2003
a.  The Klump Family converted an old barn into the theater.
b.  The theater began in 1946 and closed in 1967.  It reopened in 1979 and closed for good in 2010.
c.  It is one of the last barn theaters in the country.
d.  Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Tandy and Jim Backus are a few performers who did summer stock in Madison's famous theater.

Historic Marker #8-43  Willoughby University / Lake Erie Medical College
a.  The college began in 1834 and closed 13 years later.
b.  The medical campus marker is the county's second oldest dating back to 1999.
c.  Both the OSU and CWRU medical campuses have roots tracing back to this institution.
d. Grave robbing was alleged during the medical college's history.

Historic Marker #7-43  Hugh Moser
a.  The marker was dedicated in 1999 in Perry, Ohio.
b.  Mosher was a WWI veteran.
c.  Mosher served in the Civil War and was Ohio's finest fifer.
d.  Mosher's image was used as the fifer in the Spirit of '76 painting by Willard.

Historic Marker #26-43  Pleasant Valley Road Bridge
a.  The bridge was constructed in 1881 and is one of ten Whipple Tuss style bridges remaining today.
b.  The bridge located in Willoughby Hills is no longer in use.
c.  The bridge was part of the GAR Highway until 1952.
d.  The bridge received its official historic designation in 2006.

Historic Marker #18-43  Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Station - 2002
a.  The station is part of rail fanning events.
b.  The NY Central line station is still active today for commercial use.
c.  President-elect A. Lincoln visited this Painesville station.
d.  The station was opened in 1851 and closed in 1971.

answer-  As my former students well remember, the one incorrect answer for each was 'b'

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Remarkable Lake County -- Lantern Court

A hidden gem of Lake County may be found on Kirtland-Chardon Road in Kirtland.  It is a Georgian style country house surrounded by over 25 acres of informal gardens as well as a pond.  This country house served as a weekend / summer retreat up until WWII before becoming the primary residence of the family and their five children thru 1966.  The home is situated within the 3600 acres known to many as The Holden Arboretum. The house is known as Lantern Court and was formally acquired by the arboretum in 2007.  It is open to the public for much of the year and I can attest that my visit as part of the Northeast Ohio Intermuseum Council some years back left a lasting impression.  Here is a mini-chapter on this truly unique residence.

Mr. and Mrs. Warren H. and Maud Corning were married in 1928.  Mr. Corning made his fortune in investment banking.  The newlyweds purchased land in 1929 and their country home  began to take shape.  They lived in the gatehouse while much of the country house and its classic gardens were built throughout the 1930's.  The blend of architecture, horticulture and interior decor took its inspiration from the Civil War estates era that prevailed until nearly 1940.  Lantern Court as it was known totaled 17 rooms, eight of which are open for public viewing today.  The family settled in the home full time after WWII and remained there until 1966 when their last child moved away.  The Cornings then took up residence just down the road on another property.

 The Corning family and Lantern Court are intertwined with a well-known landmark - The Holden Arboretum.  The history of the arboretum began in 1931 and its story has been told previously to our readers.  What remains to be shared is this.  Mr. Corning was one of the original pioneers of the arboretum's genesis.  He served as the first unpaid executive administrator.  He helped facilitate many of the land purchases that resulted in the 3600 acres it now boasts of.  Mr. and Mrs. Corning donated their private collection of horticultural classics that comprise a library collection second to none.  Their former residence now serves the arboretum as an educational setting and the 25 acres of informal gardens are shared with all who visit.

If you have a chance to stop by this holiday season, do so.  If not, make Lantern Court a top priority for 2015 - it is a hidden gem and a part of our county history not to be missed.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Remarkable Lake County --- Lake Erie College Part II

In a previous entry last week the history of Lake Erie College was examined.  As we continue to celebrate the history that is our county, we look again at one of the Western Reserve's oldest higher education institutions Lake Erie College and the traditions that have shaped the college throughout the years.  Some of the more notable ones are shared below...

Founders Day -  The oldest tradition on campus began on November 8, 1894.  The day pays tribute to the six men who began the school, nurtured it throughout its beginning years, and even sent their daughters there.  The six founders were William L. Perkins, Charles A. Avery, Reuben Hitchcock, Aaron Wilcox, Timothy Rockwell and Silas T. Ladd.  All six are buried nearby at Evergreen Cemetery in Painesville.

Mountain Day - This tradition began in the fall of 1903.  Bagpipes at 6am informed students of this new campus holiday.  Founder Charles A. Avery made available his Little Mountain Hotel property to all the students for a day of relaxation and shared fun.

Tiberius I-IV  -  A quiet sentinel now guards Lake Erie College and is a part of campus athletic lore.  The four foot canine statue was originally located in the City Park near the County Court House.  Tiberius I arrived in 1910 as a gift from Harriet Young.  In the 1950's students from Case Western Reserve University kidnapped the campus mascot and he was lost forever.  In 1975, Tiberius II arrived from upstate NY where this exact duplicate was found in an antique shop.  Unfortunately vandalism in 1984 left Tiberius II in shambles.  Tiberius III was a gift in 2004 and housed in a gazebo.  Tiberius IV arrived in 2008 and sits on the original base where he guards the campus as well as brings 'good luck' to the athletic teams who rub his pate.

Senior Week -  Common to many a campus, this week before commencement allows seniors one last opportunity to share in cookouts, local winery visits, Cleveland Indians games, visits to the President's residence and other social events.

Stormy -  Every campus has its mascot.  Stormy arrived in 1994 via student selection and became the fourth official college mascot.  Earlier mascots included a dog, lightning bolt and unicorn.

Other campus traditions may be found at  These include honors convocation, class receptions and commencement.  New traditions are in the making.

Monday, November 10, 2014

' To Those Who Have Served and To Those Who are Serving '

November 11th, Armistice Day and Veteran's Day share a most interesting history.  In its simplest form Armistice Day signaled the end of WWI on November 11, 1918 and one year later in 1919 marked the anniversary of the conclusion of the 'war to end all wars."  Its goal was to pay tribute to the veterans both living and deceased.  It became a recognized date annually beginning in 1926.  In 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name to Veteran's Day and the scope of the day increased in importance.  The years 1968-1975 even saw the official date of recognition change to the fourth Monday in October before President Ford changed it back to its historical date of November 11th.  Britain, France, Australia and Canada also commemorate the day / event.  With over 21 million veterans in our country, it got me to thinking of how to link the living and the dead as we pay tribute to all those who served.  In 2014 my Uncle Mike (Borrelli) passed away in May.  He was a US Navy veteran who served in the Pacific Theater in WWII.  My dad was called to duty during the Korean Conflict.  Another cousin served in the US Air Force.  My wife's uncle Dick Snoots served in the Army and was in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.  Two volunteer woodworkers who assist me Lew Ballard and Mike Bodnar are Vietnam Veterans.  A teaching colleague has a son who served in Iraq and is still active.  Another group of soldiers were sponsored by our volunteer historical society some years ago.  Sadly many of those we adopted were killed.  How can we pay tribute to all these veterans tomorrow and on any day?  Here is one way that is a little off the beaten trail.  Visit a local cemetery in Lake County.  Cemetery history basically began in 1831 when the first known cemetery opened.  It was Mount Auburn and was located in Massachusetts.  At first most final resting places were rurally located.  This morphed into memorial parks in the early 19th century and an entrance gate denoted the gateway from the living to the dead.  Military cemeteries number around 200 and had their genesis in 1862, yet the vast majority of veterans are buried in private or community cemeteries.  I challenge you to visit these parks without a crowd.  Wander the sections and look for the names of those who served.  I know the next time I visit my dad's grave or my Uncle Mike's I will look at the names nearby.  I am certain many veterans will be on the cemetery doles.

Here is just a brief look at some of the county cemetery histories I have learned of.  Evergreen Cemetery in Painesville was founded in 1850.  Thirteen Revolutionary War Veterans including Abraham Skinner are buried there.  Samuel Huntington, a Supreme Court Justice, our third State Governor and  Army paymaster resides there.  Civil War veterans Elezer Paine and Jack Casement are there.  Charles Eledge and Medal of Honor winner Howell Burr Treat both men of color are Civil War veterans found in Evergreen.

Historic North Cemetery in Kirtland dates back to 1828 and Revolutionary War veteran William Cahoon may be found there.  South Kirtland Cemetery has a marker dating back to 1812 in its acreage.  Wickliffe cemetery has markers going back to 1808 and has a north slope dedicated to Civil
War veterans.  Likewise the Perry Cemetery dating back to 1860  features a vault with the name of 12 Civil War Veterans and two Revolutionary War soldiers, one of whom Ezra Beebe was the first resident.

Madison / Fairview Cemetery began in 1854 but has stones of possible veterans dating back to 1816.  The Willoughby Cemetery on Sharp Avenue claims 95 Civil War Veterans on their official records.  The Fairport Harbor War Memorial lists Vietnam Veteran Budd Hodd, Korean Conflict Veterans Amen P. Otto and Mervin Norris in addition to 22 WWII and 4 WWI veterans.  The Willoughby Hills Som Center Cemetery dates back to 1840 but has markers as early as 1832 honoring veterans.

While Memorial Day in May pays tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, tomorrow Veterans Day is a day to say 'thank-you' to the living veterans or maybe a day to take a walk in our memorial parks and remember those who reside now in our gardens of stone.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Remarkable Lake County -- Lake Erie College Part I

Lake Erie College is one of the oldest higher learning institutions in the Western Reserve.  Founded in 1856 as the Lake Erie Female Seminary, College Hall was completed in 1857 and by 1859 over 137 ladies were enrolled in what is today known as Lake Erie College.  To date over 10,000 graduates comprise the ongoing history that is found on this Lake County campus.  Today we examine some of more interesting facts / happenings from the past decades of the college's timeline.
  • 1861  Students walked to the Painesville Railroad Station to catch a glimpse and listen to a speech from  President Abraham Lincoln.
  • 1880  President-elect James A. Garfield and family were dined and entertained on campus.
  • 1893  President William McKinley visited campus.
  • 1915  Former President Howard Taft visited and spoke to students on campus.
  • 1927  A Skinner Organ valued at $51,000 and the largest of its kind in the State of Ohio was installed at Morley Memorial Music Hall.
  • 1935  Night Classes begin.
  • 1935  Aviation becomes a part of the college curriculum.
  • 1936  Amelia Earhart spoke on campus.
  • 1937  The Cleveland Rams professional football team uses the campus fields for practices.
  • 1940  Three women aviators earn degrees and licensure.
  • 1951  The Mathews House is moved onto the campus at a cost of $21,000.
  • 1951  A nursing program is added to the college curriculum.
  • 1959  The first male graduate, Robert B. Lapp is awarded a degree  ( two brothers did attend the college decades earlier).
  • 1976  Anthropologist Margaret Mead visited campus.
  • 1978  Weekend College is established.
  • 1985  The Royal Lipizzaner Stallions come to campus to perform and train.
  • 2004  The Indian Museum (Lake County) celebrated 24 years as part of the campus community.  In 2014 the museum may be found in downtown Willoughby.
  • Since 2010  Expanded athletic programs / facilities, various campus housing opportunities, unique donor gifts as well as off campus partnerships with the City of Painesville infuse the college experiences for future graduates with new possibilities.
Next week -  Lake Erie College Traditions