Monthly Archives: October 2010

Staying calm during a ghostly encounter

Hoover Auditorium, Lakeside, OH by Bruce Stambaugh

Hoover Auditorium, Lakeside, Ohio. This picture was taken July 3, 2010, the day I saw the ghost in the huge hall.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I wasn’t going to say anything about the ghost I saw last summer. But with the ghoulish season of Halloween upon us, and the details of the experience still fresh in my mind, I decided to share what I saw.

First and foremost, I am not a fervent believer in ghosts, especially the horror kind put forth each Halloween season. I have watched with skeptical interest the ghost hunter shows on television. Once I saw how excited they got after showing video of some supposedly spectral orb, I was more convinced than ever that such adventures bordered on silliness.

Nevertheless, I had occasionally wondered how I would respond if I had encountered a ghost first hand. Last July 3, I found out. I just sat there watching, calm and unafraid, taking in every detail.

I was hardly alone when the apparition appeared. More than 2,000 others were in their seats two-thirds of the way through a lively, if not loud, concert in Hoover Auditorium in Lakeside, Ohio.

During one of the songs, something caught my attention directly above the stage. I looked up, and I saw the bluish-white shape of a man walk across the catwalk that held the lighting and speaker systems for the performance hall.

I say “appearance of a man” because that is all I can logically conclude that it was. I watched as the man, dressed in period work clothes of the early 20th century, casually walked across the catwalk from stage left to stage right. He bent down as if to pick up something, and then simply disappeared. I glanced to the stage where the band continued to belt out its Celtic vibrations, looked back up, and saw only darkness.

I knew right then and there that it would have been impossible for a human being to actually walk across that purposed bridge. The crisscrossed steel structure had no stairs that led to it. In fact, the structure wasn’t designed for anyone to ever walk there. The horizontal frame was simply lowered by a system of ropes and pulleys.

Convinced of what I saw, the next day I headed to the Lakeside Historical Museum to see what I could discover about ghosts and the construction of Hoover Auditorium in 1928-1929. Neither the young museum curator nor the senior archivist blinked at my story. Neither did they laugh at me.

After an exhaustive search by the three of us, we had come up empty on both the report of previous ghosts in Hoover, and the report of any serious accidents or deaths during its construction. The one interesting fact I did discover from old blueprints was that the scaffolding that was used to erect the large meeting room was exactly the height of the structure that held the speakers and lighting.

Hotel Lakeside, Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

The rear of Hotel Lakeside in Lakeside, Ohio. Guests have occasionally reported seeing ghosts there.

I also learned of reports of ghosts in the Hotel Lakeside and in the museum where I had begun my search. I appreciated the fact that both the curator and the archivist dived right in to help me find whatever facts we could.

Unfortunately, the facts were few, but the personal encounter was real. If anyone else in the audience saw anything, they never said so. It wasn’t like seeing the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and it certainly wasn’t the commercial and entertainment-driven ghoulishness currently being spewed out.

I know I saw this man in clunky work boots, old-style work pants, a thick leather belt, and old-fashioned work shirt and slicked back hair. I just don’t know why.

Decorated cottage at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

Peaceful, attractive cottages like this one abound in Lakeside, Ohio, making it an attractive, fun and safe vacation destination for families.

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Gale Hershberger is the people’s people person

Gale Hershberger by Bruce Stambaugh

Gale Hershberger has been president of the Winesburg Vol. Fire Dept auxiliary for 25 years.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When the fire pagers sound, Gale Hershberger listens up.

She’s not a firefighter, but over the years, many volunteer first responders have been glad to see her show up at a working fire.

Hershberger, 50, has been president of the Winesburg Volunteer Fire Department auxiliary for longer than she cares to remember. It’s actually been 25 years. She and a dozen other women make sure tired, thirsty, hungry and sweaty firefighters have the necessary nutritional supplies to keep them going.

Hershberger’s husband, Tim, is not a firefighter either. So what got her involved in the auxiliary? It’s her penchant to serve, and her people-person personality that causes her to head for the fire station at 3 a.m. on a cold winter’s night or on the most humid afternoon of the summer.

“I see a need,” Hershberger said, “and I like to help fix it.”

Hershberger said she learned early on the importance of helping others. The Dover native would accompany her mother volunteering at their church.

“I like to think that I am observant of what goes on around me,” she said. “I like to be here to help people.”

Indeed, that is exactly what Hershberger has done throughout her life.

For 18 years, she has worked as a teacher’s aide in the East Holmes Local School District. In addition to the fire department Serve them she has. Aside from the fire department auxiliary and the 4-H involvement, Hershberger is also a board member for the Holmes County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Hershberger sees that as natural fit for her and her fire department involvement.

“We were called to the Glenwood apartment fire in Millersburg with the auxiliary,” she explained. “Our first concern was providing for the needs of the firefighters, handing out water, Gatorade and snacks.”

Once the fire died down and the mop-up began, Hershberger automatically switched into the Red Cross mode and began assisting the fire victims. That’s just how she is.

“I feel I don’t do that much,” Hershberger said modestly. “There are people who work at much bigger, better things than me.”

But her efforts don’t go unnoticed. The volunteer firefighters have come to know that if Winesburg is on scene, the auxiliary and the needs they fill will be there, too.

“If the guys go, we go,” Hershberger said simply.

Hershberger received the 2009 4-H Alumni of the Year award. And recently she received a cute card of appreciation from a 4-H’er that meant a lot to her.

Hershberger also co-coordinates the Red Cross blood drive at Winesburg six times a year. The campaign is held in the Zion Reformed Church annex across the street from the fire station.

Like most volunteer fire departments, Winesburg (Paint Township) has its share of fundraisers. Of course, Hershberger can be found in the middle of all the efforts, whether it’s a chicken barbeque, auction, soup and salad supper, or pancake and sausage breakfast.

Hershberger said that over the years the auxiliary has been able to purchase the Jaws of Life, a heart monitor and new tables with money raised from fundraisers. Just ticking off that list brought a smile of satisfaction to Hershberger’s face.

Given what she has done with working for others, that smile may have been a peek inside her heart.

This story appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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Giving praise where praise is due

Marigolds by Bruce Stambaugh

Marigolds highlight an Amish homestead.

By Bruce Stambaugh

It had been a difficult day.

As the silvery sunset melted into the horizon, I reflected on the last few days and the people and events that had occurred. In reviewing the various situations, it hit me that like it or not I was entering the October of my own life, and that got my attention.

Days earlier I had met my friend Steve in a Mexican restaurant in the city where I was born and raised. Steve is a long-time buddy connected to my school principal days. Steve and I have a lot in common. First and foremost is that we both like to talk, at least according to our spouses.

If for no other reason than that alone, Steve and I have agreed to meet periodically without the wives. We get more talking done that way.

Steve is the kind of friend every guy should have. He doesn’t let you get away with anything. He is a self-appointed critic of my writing, and is unabashed about finding any mistakes that somehow make it through to publication. Well, at least he thinks they are mistakes, but he usually is mistaken.

Bright Angel Canyon by Bruce Stambaugh

Bright Angel Canyon at the Grand Canyon, AZ is a favorite spot for hikers, painters and photographers alike.

That’s the kind of friends we are. He has the same theology about technology that I do. He loves to frequent the western United States and does so annually, months at a time, mostly hunting for arrowheads. Archeology and travel are other mutual interests.

At bat by Bruce Stambaugh

Baseball is my favorite sport.

Another thing we have in common is baseball. He hates it. I love it. Also, we enjoy discussing politics, until the conversation gets too political, then we switch to a more congenial topic, like baseball.

We talk about our late fathers and how our mothers are doing. And of course, we extol our wives, and try not to roll our eyes too much. Did I mention we laugh a lot?

A few days later, I took my mother on a short drive around the colorful countryside near the retirement home where she lives in Walnut Creek, Ohio. Mom always enjoys getting out when one of us “kids” can take her.

Mud Valley by Bruce Stambaugh

A typical scene in Ohio's Amish country, this one near Walnut Creek, Ohio.

This day was exceptional. The sky was pure blue, allowing the sun to heighten the already vivid colors. Since Mom was an avid and prolific watercolor painter, I always hope these short rides spark a memory of those days gone by when she and her friends would find a spot to paint, set up their easels and spend the day communing with nature and one another, beautifully interpreting what they saw.

Besides the warm hues of the leaves, a stunning red-tailed hawk flew right across our path. Around the curve, Mom spied some flashy marigolds. All in all, it was an invigorating jaunt. Seeing that Mom enjoyed the little excursion, I chose to tell her a comment that Steve had shared with me at the Mexican restaurant.

Marian Stambaugh by Bruce Stambaugh

Marian Stambaugh, 89, taught me to see and share in creative ways.

Knowing my mother was an accomplished landscape artist, Steve said, “You have your mother’s eye.” I non-verbally asked for clarification. “Instead of a brush, you paint with words and through the lens of your camera.” I don’t know if Steve noticed or not, but tears welled in my eyes. I was honored with the keen compliment. When I shared the kind words with Mom, tears welled up in her eyes, too. Despite her advanced dementia, knowing that Mom had understood at least a little of the depth and breadth of Steve’s insight made the compliment all the more meaningful.

The circle of blessing was now complete. It had returned to its rightful owner, the creative and artful woman who had taught me to see and share Creation’s beauty.

Suddenly, this difficult October day didn’t seem so difficult after all.

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Nepali volunteer is all about business

Amrit Rajbanshi by Bruce Stambaugh

Electronics is one of the stations where Amrit Rajbanshi works at Save and Serve Thirft Shop, Millersburg, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Someone had to be first.

Amrit Rajbanshi is the first person from Nepal to serve in the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) program dubbed IVEP, short for International Volunteer Exchange Program. Of all the places in the United States he could have gone, Millersburg gets to be the recipient of his services.

Rajbanshi is serving as a volunteer at the Save and Serve Thrift Store on South Washington Street in Millersburg through next July. The 18-year-old is a first year college student majoring in business.

He arrived in the U.S from Nepal on August 11, and spent his first week participating in an orientation in Akron, Pennsylvania. He is one of 48 IVEP’ers from around the world who are serving in the U.S. through MCC this year.

“I feel blessed to have been chosen to be the first from Nepal to serve in the IVEP program,” Rajbanshi said. He said he chose to volunteer in a thrift shop to learn hands on business skills.

“I have already had several practical experiences,” he said, “compared to simply studying the theory of business in school.”

At Save and Serve, Rajbanshi has been assigned to work at several different stations, including repairing electronics, arranging clothing, serving as cashier, and handling the store’s online used book sales.

Rajbanshi starts each day at 8 a.m. sweeping in the store. He admitted that at first he thought that task was a bit menial for him. But he soon understood that it was an essential part of the IVEP process.

“I realized that if I don’t do the work, then who will do it?” Rajbanshi said, revealing wisdom beyond his years. “This is not only for me. It’s for MCC and all those who come after me.”

Rajbanshi is staying with Stan and Marilyn Kamp of Millersburg. His expenses are covered through MCC and Save and Serve and he receives an $80 monthly stipend for personal needs.

“I feel very welcome here,” he said. “I’m adjusting to the culture.”

Rajbanshi said his hometown in Nepal has a population of 100,000. But he is also used to the country since his father, Meghnath, is a pastor at a rural Brethren in Christ church in Nepal.

Family is very important to Rajbanshi, and he did acknowledge being a little big homesick. Besides spending time with his family, he said he enjoys soccer, chess and working on the computer.

Rajbanshi has two sisters, Urmila, who is a high school teacher and is studying for her master’s degree, and Punam, a high school student. His mother, Chandrabati, is a homemaker.

“I respect my father very much,” Rajbanshi said, “because unlike most others in our culture he treats woman equal to men.”

“IVEP is a very good program and opportunity,” Rajbanshi said. “It is nice to be introduced to the new culture.”

Rajbanshi said he is still learning English, although he speaks English very well. According to Helen Glick, co-manager at Save and Serve, knowing English is a requirement in order to be considered for IVEP.

Rajbanshi said he views being an IVEP’er as a form of peace building.

“I get to know and learn new people and a new culture,” he explained, “and when I go home I can tell my people what it’s really like here.”

Rajbanshi expressed a concern that neither his people nor those of other Asian nations really know what America is like and vice versa. Fortunately, he won’t have to do all the sharing on his own.

“MCC has lots of programs in Nepal in conjunction with the Brethren in Christ Church,” Rajbanshi said. In Nepal, MCC mainly supports efforts to equip grassroots community workers to build peace in their own context. They support education in settings from Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, to a remote mountain stone quarry where children work along side their parents.

Rajbanshi said Nepal is a country in political transition, moving from a Hindu state to a secular republic. He said the government has another year to complete that change.

“By the end of my year here,” Rajbanshi said, “I will use my experience in my schooling.” But true to his nature, Rajbanshi’s goal doesn’t stop there.
“I will try to inspire others to participate in the IVEP program,” he said. IVEP is aimed at young adults, 18-30.

This story appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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See how they grow, the grandchildren that is

The boys and Slider by Bruce Stambaugh

Slider pounced on Evan and Davis at a Cleveland Indians game in August.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Every time I see my three grandchildren, I marvel at how much they have grown. I used to think that a lot when they lived in Texas, and we only saw them three or four times a year.

Each time we visited, whether the venue was here or there, our Texan born grandchildren showed obvious changes. One would expect that given the infrequent gatherings.

Massanutten Mountain by Bruce Stambaugh

Massanutten Mountain dominates the Shenandoah Valley at Harrisonburg, VA.

But now that they live in Virginia’s lovely Shenandoah Valley, I seem to find myself saying that to them and about them each time we see them. And compared to Texas, that’s been a lot more frequent.

Since they moved from Pflugerville to Harrisonburg in mid-June, we have been together with Evan, Davis and Maren several times already. They have been in Ohio twice, and we have driven the 350 miles southeast four times.

The visits included a couple of celebrations since two of those trips marked birthdays. In July, we finally got to party with Davis on his fourth birthday. The Texas heat always discouraged us from mid-July visits, other than when he was born of course. We wouldn’t have missed that no matter how hot it got.

On our most recent trip, we celebrated Maren’s first birthday with a host of family and friends. It was quite the party. They may be living in Virginia, but their Texas roots run deep. Maren’s daddy couldn’t forget the good things about Texas. He bought a smoker and we had ourselves some swell tasting Texas brisket with homemade barbecue sauce.

Texas Blue Bonnets by Bruce Stambaugh

A field of Texas Blue Bonnets in full bloom.

Joining in on Evan’s special day was never a problem. Flying to Texas in mid-April, when the gorgeous blue bonnets were often in full bloom, was always a pleasure.

Evan by Bruce Stambaugh

Grandson Evan on the move in a soccer game.

Now all of that has changed. Evan is enjoying first grade and is growing like a weed. He is athletic, inquisitive, assertive, and definitely knows he is the oldest of the three. In other words, he is a typical six-year old.

Davis by Bruce Stambaugh

Grandson Davis was all concentration in his soccer match.

Davis enjoys his pre-school three days a week. On our last visit, his bouncy, blonde curls had been trimmed back to manageable standards. That didn’t seem to deter getting the attention of the girls at his soccer match.

A true lefty, no lines can confine his creativity. That included drawing with red permanent marker on the new tan bedroom rug. He can be a bit moody like his Nana. Nevertheless, it is a joy to be the brunt of his silly jokes. Playing along is all a part of being a grandparent.

My favorite moment with the boys came when they spent time with us here in early August. Nana and I took them to an Indians game, where Slider, the Tribe’s fuzzy mascot, jumped the boys, much to their delight.

Maren by Bruce Stambaugh

Granddaughter Maren was all dressed for the Eagles' game in her skinny jeans and jersey.

Maren is the happiest baby I have even seen, unless of course she wants her mommy and her mommy is unavailable. Modeling might be in her future. She already poses for the camera.

By definition, Maren is really a toddler now that she has passed her first birthday. Close to walking, Maren stands by herself and never tires of pushing around the toy cart Nana bought her.

With those sparkling baby blue eyes, that constant smile and gregarious demeanor, Maren is already a knock out. At the rate she is growing up, I may be called into Virginia guard duty sooner than I think.

Maren and cupcake by Bruce Stambaugh

Since it was her first birthday, Maren wasn't too sure what to do with her first cupcake.

Maren figured it out by Bruce Stambaugh

In the end, Maren figured out what partying was all about.

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Signs of fall are everywhere

Fall in West Virginia by Bruce Stambaugh

Fall had arrived along US 33 in the mountains of West Virginia.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Even before we left to visit our daughter’s family in Virginia’s lovely Shenandoah Valley, signs of fall were abundant.

Fall in Ohio's Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh

A lone horse sought shade beneath a changing sugar maple tree near Benton in Ohio's Amish country

A casual drive around the Holmes County countryside provided enough evidence to
convince even an inattentive jury. Autumn had no choice but to plead guilty as charged.

Fall’s natural arrival was indisputable. Leaves had begun their annual transformation from green to some color of the rainbow. Others, due to the late summer dryness, simply fell off the trees altogether.

The regular purr of leaf blowers had replaced the regular whine of lawnmowers, further proof that summer had succumbed to fall. Occasional columns of white smoke signaled smoldering leaf piles.

Fall weather arrived just before we left for our Virginia visit. A strong cold front pushed the warm, muggy air out, and replaced it with cloudy, rainy, cooler days and nights. The annual fall fogs had already begun making morning commutes temporarily treacherous.

Dogwood tree in the fall by Bruce Stambaugh

The subtle greens and purples of the dogwood leaves highlighted the tree's bright red berries.

In my own yard, silky green to purplish dogwood leaves accentuated the trees’ bold, bright red berries. The backyard birds weren’t too pleased with me for disturbing their feasting.

My neighbor was just beginning an early harvest of his field corn, and we had yet to have a frost. Elsewhere, other farmers still resorted to the old-fashioned and nostalgic way of picking corn. They filled their fields with row upon row of shocks, mimicking an encampment of teepees.

Picking corn in Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh

Horse-drawn corn pickers began an early harvest of the field corn.

A month ago already football had replaced baseball as the primary pastime, whether viewed from the bleachers or the couch. Back outside, squirrels scurried across the road. Some of them didn’t make it, casualty to road kill or a hunter’s sharp aim.

Long before the leaves began to change colors, autumn was being ushered in with human flare. Front porches once home to pots of impatiens, petunias and begonias were now decorated with all sizes of orange pumpkins, gold, white and crimson chrysanthemums and multi-colored and curiously shaped gourds.

Fall display of pumpkins by Bruce Stambaugh

A typical fall display found in Ohio's Amish country.

For those desiring more man-made symbols, giant ghouls and inflated spiders hanging on webs big enough to catch a bus popped up almost overnight. The business industry had also begun their annual capitalization of fall with seasonal displays and multi-media commercials.

Inventory at roadside produce stands had changed accordingly. Bound bundles of cornstalks and the aforementioned flowers and squash replaced zucchini and tomatoes.

One place banked on a narrow market share. The good folks only offered the scarce bittersweet. By the number of cars in their tiny lot, they seemed to have found their niche.

Fall festivals, often historically annual events, began to celebrate nearly every conceivable aspect of autumn. A town picked a theme, say pumpkins, apple butter, antiques, wooly worms, quilting, or just good old-fashioned fun, and the festival was on.

These endeavors were not unique to Amish country either. Large banners across the main drags of many a town on our drive from Ohio to Virginia announced their particular local event.

Fall even showed its face on menus with fresh pumpkin pie, locally grown apples sliced and dipped in yummy caramel, and of course the seasonal snack mix of candy corn and salted peanuts.

Fall sunset with geese by Bruce Stambaugh

A flock of Canada Geese cut across a fall sunset in Ohio's Amish country.

Given all these obvious signs of fall, there can be no doubt. From gardens to town squares, fall is in full force everywhere we look.

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