Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A 2011 New Year's Resolution You Can Keep!

At this time of year the newspapers, television programming, radio, print media, Twitter and other social networks are filled with New Year's resolutions that people are making and, of course, also those that were broken in previous years.  Can you think of how many you've made over the last decade and how many of those that all too soon went by the wayside?

Here is one resolution for 2011 that each and everyone of us can keep.  Resolve to volunteer your time in 2011 to a non-profit historical organization.  Say the words " volunteers needed " and most people look away and pretend they didn't hear you.  Some may donate money to your organization, but 'time' is the commodity any historical society cherishes.  Some of you know that I am a curator at a local lighthouse.  In 2009, seventeen volunteers donated over 3,400 hours to the lighthouse historical society. That 'sweat equity' saved the society over $27,000.  This year saw twenty two volunteers give 4,000 hours of free labor to our Lake County icon.  I am 53 years old and one of the youngest volunteers.  I have been a volunteer since 1996.  The other society volunteers range in age from 70-93.  Many have volunteered at the lighthouse since the 1970's, and one has been with us since 1945.  As a member of the Historic Lake County Alliance, I know that each member society mirrors the points mentioned. Each society is interested in finding ways to transfer this older generation concept of 'volunteerism'  ( that some may think of as quaint these days ) to a younger generation of history lovers. Quite simply, each volunteer hour is a gift.  Historical societies are year-long enterprises.  Each is a living piece of history.  Your volunteer hours in 2011 will be a gift to our present and to our future.

Let this coming year be better than all others.  As part of your New Year's Resolution, I hope that you will resolve this year, along with your other notable resolutions, to make a time commitment to get involved locally with one of our historical societies.

Historic Lake County Alliance Members:   Eastlake Historical Society,  Fairport Harbor Historical Society,  Heart of Willoughby, Inc. ,  Historic Downtown Willoughby,  Indian Museum,  James A. Garfield NHS,  Kirtland Temple,  Lake County History Center,  Madison Historical Society, Perry Historical Society, Rabbit Run Community Arts, St. Hubert's Church,  Wickliffe Historical Society, Willoughby Hills Historical Society, Willoughby Historical Center, Willoughby Welcome Center

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Matter What the Language...the message is the same

From our Lake County home to yours-

Een Plesierige Kerfees
Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Sretan Bozic
Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok

Glaedelig Jul
Merry Christmas
Hyvaa joulu
Joyeux Noel

Frohe Weihnachten und ein gluckliches neues Jahr
Kala Christouyenna
Mo'adim Lesimkha.  Chena tova
Shub Naya Baras
Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket

Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Buone Feste Natalizie
Shinnen omedato.  Kurisumasu Omedeto.
Linksmu Kaledu
God Jul

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia
Boas Festas
Sarbatori vesele
Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Hristos se rodi

Vesele Vianoce
Nollaig chridheil huibh
Sretam Bozic
Vesele Bozicne.  Screcno Novo Leto

Feliz Navidad
Srozhdestvom Kristovym
Chung Mung Giang Sihn
Nadolig Llawen
Cestitamo Bozic

I know there are hundreds of languages out there; what is presented here today is just a tip of the iceberg. If I missed your language, send it to me and I'll add it to our Lake County Greetings list.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Visit 7967 Mentor Avenue, just west of " The Mentor Farm "

One block west of Lawnfield is a park that served as the four season recreational home of my junior and senior high school years.  Until now, I have only known it as Mentor Recreation Park and Eleanor B. Garfield Park. In the summers, my mom purchased a ceramic tag, sewed it onto my bathing suit and the pool beckoned nearly every afternoon.  Down the hill, its ball diamonds provided me and my siblings with years of athletic competitions.  In the 1970's, I ran cross country there for Coach Coogan Reese and the Mentor High Cardinals.  As a high school coach I once again visited the park for GCC and SSL events. This scenario replayed itself for my brother, sister, cousins and friends.  Despite the years of park attendance, I never knew the history of this property until recently.  Here is the rest of the story.

One block up the avenue is a sight well known to all the residents of Mentor and Lake County.  Originally known as " The Mentor Farm ", 8905 Mentor Avenue was dubbed Lawnfield by reporters in 1880.  James A. Garfield conducted much of his presidential campaign from the porch and lawn of his Mentor home.  His election and tragic assassination shortly thereafter is well documented.  His former family home is now a National Historic Site.  The park of my youth was originally the summer home property of John Newell, brother of Helen Newell Garfield ( the wife of Garfield's second son, James R. ) His house sat where the pool is currently located.  The original carriage house still remains at the base of the hill below.  Eleanor Borton Garfield, a former village mayor, secured the land as a recreational park in the late 1950's.  In 1980, it became the first public park in Mentor and was named after Garfield's granddaughter-in-law.  Today, one can swim, play ball, play tennis, or enjoy the park amenities.  You can fish its pond, sled, or enjoy a family skate if winter weather allows.  And if history truly repeats itself, you and your family will visit this park property and add to this living history.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

As curator of a local historical society, questions come my way concerning the acquisition of society displays and artifacts.  Some visitors want to know the 'his' or 'her' story of our piece.  Others may call and inquire if we would like to have a specific item donated to our collection.  It is these moments that depict the generosity and connections community members make.  Our society was fortunate that the eight founders not only saved our site from a preplanned demolition in 1945, but that they had the wherewithal to acquire in any creative means possible the generational pieces and primary sources of the village and maritime heritage.  Our collections date back to 1850 and some architectural renderings approach 1812.  Photos, journals, diaries, signage, manufacturing items and nautical memorabilia have all found their way into our permanent collection via the community at large.  In 2009, a shipping firm lawyer, a retired teacher, a local resident and others had items they wished to share with us and our visitors.  This year saw the acquisition of a Brig Niagara sign, Diamond Shamrock items, and Great Lakes freighter models.  Again, the generosity of others and their random acts of kindness help our society preserve the sentiment of our village and the maritime history of the Great Lakes.

What is to be gleaned from this writing is simply this.  Each and every one of us is a steward to history.  The black and white family photo, the old piece of clothing, a broken piece of furniture all have a story.  The old box of 'junk' in the attic or basement may contain some historical anecdote or biographical insight.  Quite often the newspapers of the day were used to wrap these stored items.  What a story they can tell.  So the next time you discard or think recycling, ask yourself if the story being discarded may have another life at your local historical society.  They are a phone call, e-mail, or visit away.

Historic Lake County Alliance Members:  Eastlake Historical Society, Fairport Harbor Historical Society, Heart of Willoughby, Historic Downtown Willoughby, Indian Museum, James A Garfield NHS, Kirtland Temple, Lake County Historical Center, Madison Historical Society, Perry Historical Society, Rabbitt Run, St. Hubert's Church, Wickliffe Historical Society, Willoughby Hills Historical Society, Willoughby Welcome Center

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mentor Fire Museum - Old Station #1 Then and Now

Located in the heart of the original Mentor Village on Jackson Street, just north of Mentor Avenue is the Mentor Fire Museum.  Unlike its more famous Mentor museum kin, the Western Reserve Railroad Museum, Garfield Presidential site, or Museum of Speed, the Mentor Fire Museum ( Old Station #1 ) is a hidden gem of living history.

The first fire truck arrived in the village of Mentor in 1921.  Fire Station #1 was built on the corner of Jackson Street and Mentor Avenue in 1942.  It housed two engines and some other apparatus.  Originally manned by volunteers, the Mentor Village Fire Department experienced decades of continued growth.  The 1970's saw a rescue squad service added. 1984 witnessed an addition to the existing structure.  From the 53 runs in 1942 through the 3,975 runs that occurred in the year of its closing ( 1990 ), this corner of Mentor continued to serve and protect the residents of Mentor.  After a brief interlude as a department storage facility, the efforts of the Mentor Firefighters Historical Society ( established 2002 ) and the foresight of the Mentor City officials have transitioned the original site into a Fire Museum and future Mentor Safety Village ( established 2007 ).

The Museum welcomes visitors and has in excess of 900 children tour the museum annually.  Highlights of the museum include Phillip the Fire Truck and an interactive 911 dispatch center.  Phillip, the Fire Truck was born in 1986 in Appleton, Wisconsin.  Adopted by the Mentor Fire Department, truck number 1153 was the pride of the department until 1993 when retirement loomed.  A brief reprieve saw Phillip sub on an as needed basis.  Finally, the combined wishes of local firefighters and council members secured Phillip a permanent home on Jackson Street.  Phillip is currently under restoration and will become an interactive educational tool at the museum.  Future long range goals for the museum include a jail and Police Station.  Curator Don Zimmerman of the Firefighters Historical Society may be reached at 440-299-0202.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Pikkujoulu' Finnish Heritage Museum celebrating ties that bind

Pikkujoulu.  It's an innocuous enough term, literally meaning ' little Christmas', that evokes the smells, sights and sounds of this special time of year.  As a retired foreign language teacher, I am familiar with the many European holiday traditions.  Christkindlesmarkt, tree trimming, stollen  and yes, even the images of Dickenesque rosy-cheeked carollers singing in the London streets come to mind.  Today I share with you a bit of the internationality that comes naturally in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.

On Saturday, December 11th, the Finnish Heritage Museum will be hosting its annual holiday event.  The event is being held at the Zion Lutheran Church on Eagle Street in Fairport Harbor.  Pikkujoulu means 'little Christmas' and to celebrate it, a traditional gathering will be held.  At this program, the society will also honor another Holiday, the 93rd anniversary of Finland's independence, which occurred on December 6th.

As mentioned, the pikkujoulu tradition has strong roots in Finland, originating in Sweden and Germany in the eighteen hundreds.  A look back in Finnish history will depict events that span many thousands of years.  However, starting with the early settlers in the 13-14th centuries, the Finns were ruled in part by Swedes and Russians for nearly 600 years.  By 1809, wars had left Finland entirely under the rule of Russia.  Despite Russian Rule and Duchy status, Finland achieved autocratic status and secured its total independence on 6, December, 1917.  A tribute to both of these Finnish holidays will play out here and abroad in much the same way.

A traditional gathering and 'Tervetuloa' will be held and culinary specialties shared.  Glogg, a festive non-alcoholic beverage will be served.  Kauneimmat Jouluaulut ( beautiful Christmas songs ) will be sung.  'Tippi' dancers will provide entertainment.  Children dressed as elves might even appear and sing the song 'Tonttujen Jouluyo'.  And while the song is sung, the Finnish elves may sneak out of their holes, tip toe around town, go into the homes and eat the food of their ancestral expatriates as tradition dictates.  At 1pm this Saturday, those in attendance at the Zion Lutheran Church will celebrate two cultural holiday events that have ties that bind across all generations.

" Finnish pride is on display every day of the year, but Independence Day, just like the US Fourth of July, carries significant meaning for all Finns... "    Lasse Hiltunen   President-elect  FHM

Monday, December 6, 2010

Come Home to Lake County for the Holidays

Last weekend saw a Grinch visit the village of Fairport.  A holiday stroll occured in downtown Willoughby.  A Victorian Tea was sponsored by a local historical society, and Painesville celebrated a downtown holiday event on their square.  Today as I write this blog, four inches of snow have fallen in my yard with the promise of more to come.  While the events of this past weekend are over for another year, there remains many more local holiday activities for all to share in.  Free, family- oriented, educational, and seasonal are the keywords.

Historic Kirtland Village:   Nearly 600 nativities are featured this year at the restored historic site.  This international look at nativities encompasses thirty countries contributions to the season.  An olive wood nativity from Jerusalem might be the highlight of this display.  Norbert Coehen, a trained German artisan and Beachwood businessman has nativity creches featured also. Porcelain Lenox pieces and other artwork remind us why the wise men still seek him.

Lake County Historical Society:  Victorian Holiday Splendor are the key words to this LCHS seasonal effort.  The 1876 home is decked out in all of its holiday colors, bangles, and beads through the end of the month.  More than four rooms provide us with a glimpse of the local color and setting made famous in Dicken's 1843 Christmas classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Downtown Painesville:  Many local events dot the remainder of the month for the county seat.  December 4th will feature a Spirit of the Season event.  December 11th will see the Painesville Women's Chorus perform their Season of Snow Christmas Concert.  December 13th is the annual Block Watch Christmas Dinner.  The Holiday Lighting Contest will be judged on December 15th.  Finally, The Burning River Brass will appear at the United Methodist Church on December 18th for a festive performance.

Downtown Willoughby:  While the Holiday Stroll may be completed,  Santa is still available nightly at his home at Wes Point Park.

Concord Township:  December 13th marks the annual Holiday Lighthing Contest event.

Madison:  December 12th will feature a Holly Berry Christmas Tea.

Mentor:  The Wildwood Center Concert will be held on December 10th.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eastlake Historical Society Book Project needs Mariners Input

"  How will our children know who they are if they don't know where they come from? "
                                                                                                  John Steinbeck

That is what history is all about.  Located at the mouth of the Chagrin River, Eastlake has had a history 300 years in the making.   Lake Erie and the Chagrin River are common threads in the  historical events of Eastlake's story.  The Erie Indians were the earliest known occupants of the area known today as Eastlake / Timberlake.  A recorded settlement of Erie Indians was noted on the banks of the Chagrin River in 1750.  The year 1849 officially marked the designation of the Village of St. John.  Finally, in September, 1948 the village of Eastlake is duly recorded.

The Eastlake Historical Society is currently working on the Arcadia Publishing book about the history of Eastlake.  The society needs primary sources and input into the origins and histories of yacht clubs on the Chagrin River.  Pat White, former commodore of the Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club has met and shared some information and pictures.  The Society is seeking input, photos, and testimonies from county residents and members of the other three local yacht clubs.  Society members welcome people to visit the display rooms at City Hall each Thursday afternoon at 3pm.  Visitors may stop by or contact the Society to make contributions to this community history book.