Thursday, December 29, 2011


Tempus fugit - time flies.  A year ago at this time, I was a little known beginning blogger who had a catchy handle that may have garnered some early attention.  A year ago, I had posted only a dozen or so local history pieces. Today, I am more versed in our county's history and more appreciative of those that came here before me.  A year ago, I had few story ideas other than the knowledge gained while volunteering for 15 years at the Fairport lighthouse.  Today, I have posted some 112 blogs celebrating our county's contributions to American history.  In twelve months, one can go from nobody to somebody, from merely familiar to suddenly called upon.  One does not always recognize what may be happening.  A News-Herald blog posted here.  A Lake County Visitors Bureau blog posted there.  A local Civil War program presented last spring.  A 'DAR' presentation given in early summer.  A lighthouse tour given here, a foghorn demonstration given there.  A year blogging about Lake County history is like a wave washing up on Headlands or Fairport beach.  Only after it recedes do you fully appreciate all the local gems that it leaves behind in the sand.

Isn't that one of the main reasons we continue to celebrate our past?  To see which new persons will earn their way into our consciousness?  A year ago, I did not know the story of Perry's Ann C. Whitman.  She was the confidential secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later V.P. Nelson Rockefeller.  A year ago, I did not know the story of Lewis and Milton Clarke.  The brothers were free men falsely enslaved during the early 1800's.  Their 1843 visit to Madison in support of abolitionism led to a episode that eventually became a part of Uncle Tom's Cabin lore.  Harry Coulby resided in Wickliffe and even served a term as mayor.  This Czar of the Great Lakes and his mansion 'Coulallenby' are even more fascinating to read about.

In history breakthrough performances don't just happen.  Claude Foster and Robert Manry, both of Willowick made history.  Foster was a pioneer during the early automotive era while Manry's nautical feats eclipsed his Cleveland journalism experiences.  Eber Howe founded the Painesville Telegraph (1822-1976) but this abolitionist saved over a hundred people in his day.  General Jack Casement may have been a famous Civil War leader but his trans-continental railroad abilities united two coasts.  The first local medical college in Willoughby   (1834-47) eventually led to three famous Ohio institutions, Lake Erie College, CWRU, and the OSU medical school.  Dr. Amy Kaukonen became Ohio's first women mayor when she took office in Fairport in the 1920's.  Her election into public office (subject to some debate) may also be the first in the United State's local election histories.

Think of the now familiar nicknames that would have meant nothing to me a year ago.  The 'Penny Players' are a part of the history of Lake County's famous Rabbit Run Theater.  Margaret Hamilton WWW was a Painesville resident and local educator.  Uncle Dan has historical marker #43-15 celebrating his contributions to Americana.

The best thing about 2011 drawing to a close is the knowledge that somewhere another citizen is doing what is necessary to become known by this time next year.  He/ she is vowing to rededicate him/herself to a cause.  My New Year's column last year called upon each person to make a resolution that could be carried out.  I asked each reader to resolve to volunteer a few hours of their time  to a non-profit historical society.  Each volunteer hour you donate is a gift.  It is a gift that connects you to our past and allows you to be an 'eyewitness' to the ever evolving history that is Lake County.

Let this coming year be better than all others. Remember to resolve to volunteer.  And most importantly - CARPE ANNO! - seize the year

Historic Lake County Alliance members -  Eastlake Historical Society, Fairport Harbor Historical Society, 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 Welcome Center

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Yuletide Message...

No matter what the language, the message remains the same.  Let the coming Christmas holiday be better than all others.  Let the coming year be better than all others.

       BUONE FESTE NATALIZIE                           NOLLAIGSHONA DHUIT

                                  FROHE FESTE                JOYEUX NOEL

                          SRETAN BOZIC            MO'ADIM LESIMKHA.  CHENA TOVA

                                                MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Random Acts of Holiday Kindness - Red Kettles and Handbells

As a retired teacher I have had the opportunity to participate in many charitable events.  As adviser of the school National Junior Honor Society we participated in the News-Herald Clothe-a-Child campaign, USO activities, Adopt a Soldier Campaigns,  Euclid Police Athletic League programs and many others.  One project I took part in was at the urging of my colleague.  We enlisted some students and stood outside a local Euclid supermarket ringing a bell and encouraging random acts of kindness as we sought donations for our 'Red Kettle'.  Each holiday season and each shopping trip that familiar sound of bells ringing and sighting of a kettle brings back fond memories.  It also lightens my pockets as I gladly donate my change to the cause.

The Salvation Army got its start in 1865 in East London.  A one time Methodist minister, William Booth and his wife Catherine founded a mission for the poor and undesirables of the era.  Originally known as the East London Christian Mission, William sought donations from the 'poor' while his wife pleaded with the rich to assist in their cause.  A family conversation in 1878 resulted in a name change.  The Salvation Army was born.  Alongwith this name change, came uniforms, colors(flag), and a quasi- military organizational structure. The familiar Salvation Army crest first seen in 1878 became known world-wide during the Boer War (1901) and WWI.   By 1880, the army had expanded into Australia, Ireland, and the United States.  A hurricane (1900) and San Francisco earthquake(1906) became signature events for the army's charitable causes.  Today the Salvation Army serves 124 countries and is known in 175 languages.  A 1994 study named them the fourth-most popular charity in the world.  In 2011 it was reported that the 'Army' was the world's largest social aid agency.  Their 'Thift' Shops are known as "Sally's" in the U.S.  Canada knows them as "Sally Ann's" and in Australia nearly 93% of the population refers to them as "op shops".

The Red Kettle -  The iconic kettle has an interesting backstory.  It first appeared in 1891 in San Francisco.  Joseph McFee, a Salvation Army volunteer and former naval officer recalled an event from his past.  Remembering a 'Simpson's Pot' he saw in Liverpool, England, Mc Fee asked the local authorities if he could use a crab pot in public to solicit donations for the army's charitable causes.  The use of the hand bell followed almost immediately.

I do not remember how much we collected in December 2003.  I do remember that when both nights ended, our kettles were nearly full as a result of the random acts of kindness of others.  Less than a week remains until Christmas Day.  In the hustle and bustle of these remaining days, while you are out and about, take a moment to listen for the bells and find the kettle.  Your few pieces of change will make a difference in the ongoing history of the Salvation Army.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some Christmas Trivia and Fun Facts

There's no holiday like Christmas.  A recent river cruise of the 'Christkindlmarkt' in Germany and Austria revealed many things to me.  First, the local cable station there had one movie channel that played 'It's A Wonderful Life' at least three times daily.  This was well received by my wife who is in love with this 1946 classic. As for me, I can now attest to the statement that I know more about this holiday movie classic and German Christmas traditions than I did before.  Here is a potpourri of various Christmas trivia and fun facts to test your mettle.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a marketing promotion for what U.S. company in 1930?  (MontgomeryWard)
  • In Australia Christmas comes in the middle of summer.  Outdoor barbecues are a main part of the day's events.
  • Which ocean calls Christmas Island its own?  (indian)
  • According to Irish legend the Gates of Heaven open at midnight on what day?  (christmas eve)
  • The first artificial Christmas trees appeared in Germany.  They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.
  • "It's A Wonderful Life(1946) appears on television more than 300 times per year.
  • In the Charlie Brown  television Christmas classic, how much does Lucy charge for her pyschiatric services?  (five cents)
  • Greensleeves is another name for which Christmas song?  (What Child is This?)
  • Who was the first U.S. President to decorate the White House Christmas Tree?  ( Franklin Pierce)
  • The Gingerbread House has its origins in this country?  (Germany)
  • How many Wise Men are there according to the Bible?  (it does not say)
  • England created eggnog.  Which U.S. city was the first to try it? (Jamestown in1607)
  • Electric Christmas lights first appeared in 1895.  Flashing lights became popular in the 1930's.
  • El Nino, a weather condition got its name because it starts right after Christmas.
  • It wasn't until the 4th century that December 25th became the official date of the Christmas celebration.
  • What was the original name of the classic song 'Jingle Bells'?  (one horse open sleigh)
  • $1.87 begins what famous holiday story by O'Henry?  (gift of the magi)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lake County Holiday Happenings - desserts

Back from a week of visiting Christmas Markets in Europe, serving up good will with family friendly events that are unique and oftentimes free  continues to be the goal.  Here is another sampling of upcoming events that may pique your interest.

Concert Series -    December 19      Painesville United Methodist Church  71 N. Park Place
A touch of jazz, a touch of festive cheer returns to Painesville this week.  The Burning River Brass return with time honored carols and a Big Band Nutcracker in this holiday concert performance.  For more information, call 440-354--3642 or visit

Along the Tannenbaum Trail -    Dec. 16&17    A Wine Trail Experience
Visit Northeastern Ohio Wineries in this event.  You get a 16" Christmas Tree and decorate it along the way with wine themed ornaments.  For more information, call 1-800-227-6972.

Visit Santa in his house -  Wes Point Park - Downtown Willoughby
Santa will be coming to town on Wednesday thru Friday evenings 5-7:45p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 2-4:45p.m.  Stop by and share in the moment as holiday wishes become known.

Gifts from the Heart of Nature -  thru December 30       Holden Arboretum  9-5p.m.
The Corning Visitor Center is the site of this unique shopping experience.  If shopping is not your main goal, you can always explore the wintery outdoors on the surrounding arboretum trails.  For more information, visit

Menorah Lighthing -  December 20      Mayfield Village Gazebo
Mayfield Village will host its Menorah Lighting Ceremony at 7p.m. at the Menorah near the Gazebo.  For more information, call 440-461-2210.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lake County Holiday Happenings Tour - the main course

What if Christmas doesn't come from a store.  What if Christmas; perhaps means a little bit more.  These two lines from the classic Grinch story continue to be the theme as we look at some more family friendly holiday events that are free, unique or both. 

The Twelve Days of Winter Game -     December thru January 1, 2012       Penitentiary Glen
Take a turn, move along the life-sized game boards and discover through interactive play the many things that nature gives us in winter.  The exhibit is free and opens at noon daily. Special free activities are held on Saturday afternoons from 1-3pm.   For more information visit

Home for the Holidays -   December 1-2-3     Lake County History Center
Beautifully decorated in Victorian splendor, visitors may view the trimmings or make a purchase from the local crafters on site.  For more information call 440-639-2945

Spirit of the Season -  December 3      Veteran's Park  1 Liberty Street  Painesville
A parade begins this day of events.  Santa will visit and many holiday themed activities will be available for families young and old.  For more information visit

Downtown Willoughby Holiday Stroll and Tree Lighting     December 1-3
Stroll the downtown business district, visit the new welcome center, or sample the offerings from many local eateries.  For more information call 440-970-9644.

Wildwood Singers Holiday Performance -  December 9    Mentor Senior Center
This free concert will feature many of your favorite holiday classics.  For more information call 440-974-5735.

Serving up good will with Holiday Happenings - the dessert is our final installment.  Check back in a week for more family friendly holiday events.