Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Otterbein College

Post World War II young Joyce from Lancaster, Ohio met returning war veteran Bobby from Trenton, New Jersey at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. We don't know what brought Bobby all the way to Ohio, though we did learn his mother also attended Otterbein, and was a member of the class of 1911 -- forty years before they attended.

Anyone who has followed my adventures cleaning out their house can easily extrapolate that means they left behind items that would be viewed as treasures by an archivist named Steve.

Steve took time out of his day to tell us about the campus circa-1945. One of the items we donated was a directory. In the directory is a list of where everyone lived, and their graduating class. The book showed that Honey Bunny lived in King Hall (which is now called Dunlap King Hall and has received a face lift).
Pop-Pop, along with many returning vets not used to strict rules, lived off-campus at 125 King Street -- less than a mile walk to campus. We also learned his sister (Ruth) was attending Otterbein at the same time. We really do need to visit with her to learn more about that time period.
Some places are still standing. Some have changed. The football stadium is still called Memorial Stadium (in honor of the veterans), but is a completely new stadium.

The alumni house was the former home of the school president. Not sure where the current president lives. The campus is decorated with many historic signs. The town of Westerville is proud they were dry until very recently. Now students at Otterbein can have beer. 

In addition to meeting the archivist, there were two other highlights. The first was strolling on their Main Street -- a shopping district made up nearly exclusively of independent shops (plus a CVS, and one other national chain that is escaping me now). It was at their consignment shop I was able to replace my pocketbook which broke on the trip.

The second is discovering that a major exists for Theater Design. Ashley had been saying she wanted to study architecture. It turns out, she was using that as a way to learn how to build in order that she could create sets. With a new end goal, the college search became focused, just in time for her to start junior year in high school.

Through a series of missteps we did not get a college tour. Next time life brings us out that way, I would like to learn more about a place that played an important part in Don's life before he was born.

Ohio Highlights

Last week's five day trip was one of my longest to Ohio. The main purpose was to see my Cousin Allie get married (the first of my first cousins to do so). With July 4th on a Wednesday, we decided to take two vacation days and spend time hanging with friends and family.

Here are some highlights day by day.

The Bexley 5k

Party at Aunt Debra and Uncle Tom's home (too tired to take pictures), followed by fireworks. I slept during the parade.

Trip to Otterbein University where Honey Bunny and Pop-Pop met. I dropped off a small pile of ephemera to the school's archivist, Steve.

Seeing Tom's parent's house after all these years. Long before the house complex was built, Debra and Tom got married by this pond in 1981.

Hanging with Heidi as she played volleyball.

Trip to Lancaster, Ohio to drop off slides Honey Bunny took over the years. 

Ashley's highlight: having Jeni's dairy free salted caramel ice cream.

Seeing "Frankenstein" in Schiller Park. This version is the only one Mary Shelley is known to have seen.

Hiking on the Black Lick Trail in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

Plus Allie and Doug's wedding.

The Mom-A-Razzi (Debra and Sandy) taking pictures.

I love this one -- very classic, and very classy.

Allie's gown was beautiful in the front and back.
A new dress with a vintage look.

Post wedding party

Allie wore the dress her mom wore after her 1981 wedding

Cousin Laura, and her honey, Matt.

Aunt Debra and Uncle Tom

A rare sighting -- all four Smith siblings (Sterling, Pete, Tom, and Joanie)

Note, I did not say the drive was a highlight, only a necessary evil. As always, wishing we lived closer to each other.

"My Future Self Will Thank Me"

Ashley has come up with this charming sentiment: "My future self with thank me." 

The expression started when she changed her sheets and fluffed up all the critters on her bed prior to going on a trip. When she saw the clean sheets and clean room after being away from home for a week she exclaimed "My future self is here now!"

The expression has resonated with me. How can I make my "future self" happy? Exercise is one way. My present self might not enjoy running, but my future self is happy with the results.

I've tried to follow her example and have the house clean and the sheets changed before I go away. It does make me happy to come home to a clean kitchen table instead of a pile of clutter I didn't deal with before I left.

What are things you do to make your "future self" happy?

Bexley July 4th 5K

Each summer my cousins post pictures of running in the Bexley (Ohio) 5K race, and each year a part of me wishes I with them. Cousin Allie's July 7th wedding gave us the perfect excuse to spend July 4th with family, rather than doing the Washington Crossing Rev Run with friends.

In an effort to minimize the amount of vacation time Don took for this trip, we left after he came home from work on Tuesday, July 3rd. It is a nine hour drive to Columbus (with a stop for dinner and other breaks). That meant arriving at my aunt and uncle's house at 2 AM for an 8 AM race. Ouch!

Don and I took turns driving. Unfortunately we did not also take turns napping as I stayed awake the whole time. Our new driver, Ashley, had troubles sleeping haunted by images of the movies her Drivers Ed teacher made her class watch. As she is not allowed to drive between the hours of 11 AM and 6 AM, she did not take a driving shift. That and she has only been driving about a week and they go FAST on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Back to the race.

Cousins Laura and Allie, Jordan, Don, and I, and a couple of their friends did a gentle jog to the start line 8/10 of a mile from the house. A 10-minute mile pace was a gentle jog for all but Laura, Don, and I. We caught up to them just before the race and snapped the annual group photo. We bookend the picture.

Looking at the results, there were 333 runners. That is a cool number! Laura picked up bibs for nine of us. Somehow we managed to only mix up two bibs -- hers and Jordans. I took bib number 2525 because I thought it sounded cool. Don grabbed 2524 because it was the only one left.

The Bexley 5K is super flat. It weaves through the section of Bexley starting with Jeffrey Mansion and past the Governor's Mansion (two different big homes). I'm sure my cousins could point out other highlights, such as where their friends lived.

It was 77 degrees at the race with a whopping 91% humidity. You just wanted to tell the skies to get up to 100% humidity and rain already.  As a result I was about a minute a mile slower than usual, and I managed to legitimately finish before Don. At a larger or longer race, I might have walked with him, but I really just wanted to finish. They had two water stops (sounds like they added the second because of the weather conditions). The finish line had Popsicle sticks, in addition to bananas and water.

  Don was much happier unicycling later.

Laura slowed down to walk with her friend and her six-year old son. We waited for Laura in order to take our finish line photo.

The race cost $30, not bad for a 5K. What was pretty awesome was that it included a gift card for a free soup or salad from Brassica, a new local restaurant, and a coupon for a classic sub from the local Jimmy John's -- together about an $18 value. This might have been the best race packet ever.

I'd love to say we got a lot more sleep on the rest of the weekend, but that wasn't the case. At 10 PM that night we saw fireworks. Thursday night I watched Heidi play volleyball at 9:30 PM. Friday night we saw "Frankenstein" at Schiller Park in German Village. Saturday night was Allie and Doug's wedding -- remember, the real reason for going to Ohio that weekend. I can always sleep in New Jersey.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Miss Amy's "I Can Do it Myself"

Last weekend I had a time warp experience -- I went to a Miss Amy Kids concert. For those of you not in the know, Miss Amy is a Rock Star to the preschool set. We most likely first encountered her at one of her library local performances, but followed her to Princeton MarketFair and other venus. She is also a Rock Star to the moms of these preschoolers.

Miss Amy has high energy and enthusiasm. She always his a kind word and encouragement for everyone she meets. Her target audience members are 18 month olds through kindergarten -- an age she says keeps on being born. It is awesome! She is a fabulous role model (for us moms, too) and a Grammy nominated artist. Her Big Kids Band has performed at the White House's Easter Egg Roll.

The sad thing is, as our kids age past Miss Amy's target audience, we stopped seeing Amy as often. My BIL, Chris, is the bassist for her Big Kids Band. He shared with me they were performing around the corner from our house at Terhune Orchards' annual Firefly Festival (which, oddly, is held during the day before the fireflies come out, but while their target audience is still awake).

Even though it has been about a decade since last attending a Miss Amy concert, the words to her songs came right back to me. When she sang "I Can Do it Myself" I started wondering what new lyrics should be added to refer to 16-year olds.

The song can be found HERE. Trust me it is better in person when Miss Amy is interacting with real children instead of playing to the camera and interacting with the camera. 

The words talk about the things the preschooler no longer needs help with, such as getting dressed, and brushing teeth, but I choke up when I listen to the chorus: 

I still need you to you hold my hand, tuck me in and sing so sweet 
( so sweetly).

What does the 16-year old in my life still need me for? The same 16-year old who got her drivers permit this week?

The obvious is ... she still needs me to help her practice driving, she needs me to help her study for hard tests (even if I don't know the topic), and she still needs me for rides. 

I'm sure there are other reasons she needs me, maybe to listen, to love her unconditionally, to support her dreams, and to take her places (can you tell I'm a bit fixated on my role as Mom Taxi?). I do know her 16-year old needs are different from her toddler needs, as they should be. I also know they will change as she grows, which is also how it should be.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Knoebels Amusement Park

Knoebels Amusement Park proclaims themselves to be America's largest free-admission amusement park. To our surprise and pleasure, we could have spent the day there without spending any money. Parking was free -- and an easy walk to the entrance. Walking around the park was free. Because it was free, you could enter from several points. There is no bag check. Leashed dogs are allowed to come in with their owners. There is a picnic area. After countless trips to Disney theme parks, the business model confuses us. Even the concession prices seemed reasonable. How do they pay their employees? How do they maintain their grounds?

Rather than questioning it, we tried to enjoy it.

Rides cost money -- but not a lot of money. Their biggest, baddest coasters were $3 a ride. Don went on five rides. I went on three. We spent $24 riding coasters. A drop in the bucket compared with a day at Disney.

Don's favorite coaster was a woody called Twister. I found it too jarring.

By contrast, my favorite was a woody named Phoenix, which in my opinion lives up to its proclamation of being "world's finest roller coaster," and an ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) landmark. There were signs inside telling us to stay seated. What else would I do? the loose lap bar practically begged for floating. The last half of the ride I was out of my seat more than I was in it. I felt weightless and invincible. It was awesome! Huge toothy grin at the end.

We even had our picture taken with characters, who came to the site by standing on the back of a golf cart. They did awesome crowd control. Parents were to stand behind a rope. The area was blocked off so the characters did not get crowded, and so there were no other people in the photos. Disney could learn from them.

The park also boasts a pool, golf course, and cabins. You pay for what you want. Entertainment is free. The atmosphere is laid back. We'd consider making the three hour drive again someday. It was a great way to spend our first weekend without rain in nine weeks -- a trend I hope continues.

Carousel Organs

Two years ago, we stumbled upon the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA)'s showcase in Princeton. It was a "Who knew" kind of moment. Every other year they hold this event at Knoebels Amusement Park, and the other every other year it is held someplace else. Don has been following them. 

This year it was held at Knoebels Amusement Park -- a free amusement park. I'll share more about that in my next post. 

Looking at their website, I see they have more than one rally a year, but one is their big rally. What we saw in August 2016 was the COAA Rally at Amica Convention. Yes, I am still confused.

Unlike the Princeton event, the one at Kennywood did not include a map. We were told by the first owner there were about 25 large mechanical organs, and 25-30 smaller ones. I wish I knew how they chose their spots. Some seemed more prime than others: shadier, more foot traffic, etc. Adding to the confusion is that Knoebels is host to several (two, three?) carousel organs, which is throwing off my ability to count.

Twice a day (at 1 pm and 4 pm) they had a presentation of hand organs -- ones that are portable. At the first

performance they had eight different organs (one was tied to another by the man in the top hat). Each owner spoke a bit, then played a song. The emcee told us how far they traveled (the furthest as 1197 miles). Songs ranged from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to "Dizzy Fingers." While walking around the park I heard a large one play "Mr. Sandman," and a handheld one play "La Foule" -- a favorite accordion piece of mine.

Cranky People Wanted sign
I ended up returning at 4 PM because Don was riding a roller coaster I didn't feel like riding. There was a different batch of eight hand organs for that performance. After the played a song, they went back and answered the question: "When did you first fall in love with mechanical instruments?" They all vividly remember either hearing a carousel organ (perhaps in Binghamton, or another city with many carousels) or knowing someone with a player piano. They then played a second song.

My favorite sign at the event was "Cranky People Wanted," because the hand held organs are hand-cranked.

At the half-way point in the concert three people came up and held a concertina concert. They have one sender and the rest are receivers (the day before there were five in total). These are even more portable. They wove their way through the audience.

They are a self-identified aging population. We spoke at length with Terry and Pat. They readily admit they do not know if they will return to Knoebels in two years. This loquacious couple had their carousel organ built to their specifications (yes, they are still being made). They wanted the case to be Craftsman style, and visible from all four sides. They are just charming. Finally Pat lovingly told her husband that "these nice people might want to see other organs."

There were a couple of repeats from Princeton.

Perhaps the oddest one was made a 1200 pound granite organ. As you can imagine, some holes took longer than others to drill.

Organs work on computers (like the one above), SD memory chips, pin wooden barrels (which are unique), and paper rolls (like the one below). The paper rolls are basically an early computer as they work on the binary system -- they either play a note or they don't. 1 or 0. My geeky friends' eyes are popping. My non-geeky ones still don't get it.

At the 1 PM concert, the emcee talked about the history of organ grinders, something Terry and Pat also shared with us. In the early 1900s people would rent them for a dollar a day and stroll around town playing music for tips. In those days for poor people to hear music was rare. You might hear it church, but most people did not have the exposure to it like was have today. In Gigi's interview she talked about following an organ grinder for blocks dancing to his music. It was a treat we cannot imagine now a day. Buskers would get to keep whatever they earned above their dollar investment. Disabled veterans of wars in Europe made money by playing these organs. 

It is hard not to smile when you hear a carousel organ or calliope. The COAA's 400 members consider theirs the "happiest music on earth."

As a parting shot, a few more pictures: