In praise of history and historians

Duke of Gloucester Street, Colonial Williamsburg VA
Living history, Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

By Bruce Stambaugh

History is important. I’m forever grateful for folks who emblazoned that maxim upon me way back when. Parents, teachers, professors all collaborated to ensure that I appreciated the value of knowing times past.

My father was instrumental in getting his children involved in amateur archeology. That was in part thanks to my younger brother, who found an arrowhead on the school playground.

As teens, my brother and I assisted Dad and others at various digs like Ohio’s only Revolutionary War site, Fort Laurens in Bolivar. Dad also helped retrace Colonel Bouquet’s Trail into Ohio, which included Holmes Co. Hands-on learning was Dad’s tool of choice when it came to our indigenous tribes and the pioneers who interacted with them in the settling of Ohio.

Gnadenhutten Museum
Worth the visit.
In college, passionate geography and geology instructors explained how various topographic features came to be. In a college Ohio History lecture hall with hundred of other students, I think I got a passing grade because I was the only one who could correctly pronounce Gnadenhutten in neighboring Tuscarawas Co. Again, I have Dad to thank for that as one. We often explored the areas around the tiny historical town.

It was also helpful to live my entire life in geographic regions that played important roles in the development of Ohio. From Flint Ridge to Schoenbrunn to Fort Fizzle, Native Americans, pioneers, soldiers, rebels all forged their presence upon the land on which I lived. That love of what once was still drives me today.

I’m also fortunate to have a wife who appreciates the place history plays in our life today and the future. In other words, Neva enjoys an excellent museum as much as me.

It’s even nicer when you can weave family, vacation, and history into one outing. It helps to have family members who happen to live in prime historical places. We get to visit and explore together.

Williamsburg, Virginia, where my older brother and his wife live, is such a place. We never tire of living history locales like Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown.

That’s the thing about history. As discoveries continue and new information compiled, history is always changing. I’m not talking about those who would deny the facts and try to twist them to suit their personal beliefs.

History becomes clearer, more defined, better understood the more we explore, the more we learn, the more we know, the more we want to know. Thanks to ongoing research and continued exploration we form new understandings based on new evidence.

At both Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello, for example, tour guides now state clearly the plight of slaves, something conspicuously omitted on previous visits. At Jamestown, archeologists have proved that the original settlement wasn’t washed away after all.

Given the history that is right around us, one doesn’t have to travel far to dig up the past. Novels have been written, movies made, history books published about the history that is all around us. Likely that applies to most anywhere you live. Only the facts, circumstances, and characters change.

Despite what many good books and movies have shown, we really can’t travel back in time. Scientists know that is physically impossible. There is only the present to study history and plan for the future.

We have valued alternatives, however. We can read, explore, study, and visit museums, parks, and historical monuments that help us understand our personal and collective history.

Now that is the way to time travel!

Monticello by Bruce Stambaugh
Pastel blooms accented Monticello’s architectural beauty.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Patterns

rusty roof, summer sky
Patterns.

A hundred times I have driven by this rusty-roof outbuilding. What caught my attention this time around?

Was it the fluffy white cumulous clouds that floated above on another warm summer’s day? Was it the way the afternoon light played on the buildings? Was it merely the contrasting touch of green of the silver maple leaves in the background? Perhaps all. Perhaps none of those.

In truth, I think it came down to the fact that I finally took the time to notice the beauty in the familiar scene. I loved the patterns that play out in the photo. The striations of the siding and roofs. The straight lines of the buildings overshadowed by the beautiful randomness of the clouds sailing through the azure sky. And, yes, the verdant green of the tree indeed added just the right touch like a paperclip holding together two separate photos.

“Patterns” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Dreams come true at Lakeside Chautauqua

Lakeside OH, jogging
Early run.

By Bruce Stambaugh

As I walked along the lakeshore on my morning stroll, the clock tower chimed “All is well with my soul.” I smiled at the apt anthem.

Indeed, that’s just how I felt. After all, I was at my favorite vacation spot, Lakeside, Ohio, the Chautauqua on Lake Erie.

My wife and I have spent a mid-summer week here every year since 1987. The last three years our daughter’s family has joined us.

Why do we keep going back to the same place when there are so many other marvelous destinations in the world to explore? The answer is simple. We love Lakeside.

It’s a dreamy place, a step back in time, a sanctuary of sorts, a retreat to escape from the hustle, bustle, and negativity of the other world to this dreamland. I could dream this dream every day.

I’m not alone in that sentiment. The usually sleepy town of hundreds morphs into a gated resort for 10 weeks each summer. Weekly visitors number in the thousands.

Why? Lakeside is a beautiful place. It’s a safe place where people don’t lock their doors, where children run free, where strangers smile and say hello, where families like ours gather for a respite generation after generation, year after year.

A quick check of car license plates reveals Lakeside’s universal appeal. Lakeside’s tranquility, setting, familiarity, and planned nurturing draw folks from Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, and Ontario, Canada and places beyond.

What lures them? The Chautauqua community’s four pillars of purpose ensure a variety of stimulating activities for every age. Religion, education, arts and entertainment, and recreation soothe the soul of each participant.

That’s true even if you decide to sit on a bench and read a book or quilt. The dreamy world that is Lakeside envelops you.

Ferries shuttle vacationers and delivery trucks back and forth on the waters from Marblehead to Kelley’s Island. Freighters wait their turn to take on their payload at the limestone quarry dock.

Joggers and walkers and parents with baby strollers amble along the shore, the busyness of home and work overwhelmed by the vestiges of this remarkable space.

Immaculate lakefront homes and cottages line Plum, Poplar, Maple, Walnut, and 2nd and 3rd Streets, and all the other gridded streets. The variety of their architectural styles and colors inspire passersby and artists alike.

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A stunning assortment of flowers and landscaping accentuates the historic homes and buildings. It’s like a different calendar photo on every block.

Folks gather in parks for sports, picnics, and introspection. Birds of all kinds cohabit with the humans among the tall trees and ornamental shrubs.

Children enjoy the kiddy pool and splash park while admiring grandparents smile and supervise from the parameters. Older siblings and parents play shuffleboard or listen to a noted lecturer. Kayakers and sailboats zip in and out of the little harbor near the dock, the magnet for all the Lakeside dreamers.

While teens and seniors sunbathe on the dock, three generations of fishermen angle for perch, smallmouth bass, and walleye. In reality, it’s sheep head, channel catfish, and white bass they reel in the most.

After the evening’s family entertainment at historic Hoover Auditorium, the little business district is abuzz with lovers of ice cream, caramel corn, and yummy pizza. All are satisfied.

In 1873, the founders of Lakeside dreamed of a place where people could gather to recreate, learn, create, and worship in a sacred setting. Because those dreams have come true in Lakeside Chautauqua, all is truly well for those who care to partake.

sunrise, Lakeside OH
Silhouettes at sunrise.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

The Blue Door

Amish private school
The blue door.

Even in a blowing snowstorm, this light blue door stood out from the blandness that surrounded it. Blue is one of the few colors permitted by the Swartzentruber Amish, the lowest order Amish. They are the plainest of The Plain People. If you didn’t know that, you might not think much about this ordinary blue door. But for the scholars and teacher of this Amish one-room school, it might be the only splash of color they see in their stark schoolyard.

“The Blue Door” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

Industrial sunset

2016-01-21 19.22.36

When shooting photographs, I usually try to exclude anything that might be distractive to the main subject of the photo. However, I do make exceptions from time to time. This sunset scene on the Amelia River in northeast Florida fit that bill.

The glowing lights of the active paper mill accentuated the warm and cool colors of the clouded sunset. The gray clouds matched the venting steam of the mill’s smokestack. The orange reflection of the security lights balanced that of the setting sun’s on the river’s quiet waters.

“Industrial sunset” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2016

The Corner of the Barn

Amish barn
The Corner of the Barn.

I loved how the pine bows mimicked the curvature of the shed’s roof. But it was the old sandstones, now whitewashed, that really caught my eye. Those ancient stones of the 19th century barn have a lot of stories to tell about the farmers who have come and gone, and about the passersby who have driven or biked or walked past this beautiful old building. I sure hope they saw what I saw.

“The Corner of the Barn” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Lighted Lighthouse

Marblehead Lighthouse, lighthouses
The Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, OH. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

The Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, OH is one of my favorite places to linger. Winter, summer, spring or fall, it doesn’t matter. I love to linger on the lighthouse grounds, enjoying the view, the passing boats, the birds, and the folks I meet there. Most of all, however, I just like to sit on the hard limestone outcroppings and look at the lighthouse. Last evening, I visited my old friend after a day of birding along the Lake Erie shore in northwest OH.

I arrived at the lighthouse near sunset. As soon as I drove into the nearly empty parking lot, my face lit up. As the sun neared the western horizon, it broke through a layer of clouds. A soothing golden light magnificently illuminated the top of the lighthouse. I thought it rather poetic that the natural light bathed the source of the artificial beacon that the historic lighthouse would soon produce.

“Lighted Lighthouse” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Pippi Longstocking comes to life on Amelia Island, Florida

Villa Vilekulla, Pippi Longstocking
The real Villa Villekulla. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Art often imitates life. It’s more unusual to have it happen the other way around.

On Amelia Island, Florida, art and life have harmonized, especially for one particular children’s fictional character, Pippi Longstocking.

Pippi Longstocking was the brainchild of Swedish children’s author, Astrid Lindgren. She wrote a series of adventures about Pippi that have been read and reread by adoring youngsters around the world. The books have been translated into 64 languages.

Pippi books have been so popular that Hollywood had to join in the fun, too. Several versions of Pippi Longstocking movies have been made.

In 1988, an Americanized version of the original Swedish story was made into a movie, which was filmed entirely on Amelia Island. Island tour guides like to point out various locales where scenes from “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” were shot.

Lighthouse cottage, Pippi Longstocking, Fernandina Beach FL
The lighthouse cottage where Pippi threw the bottle into the ocean.
Most of the scenes were filmed in or near Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island’s only city. The only seashore scene, which was very brief, was filmed just down the beach from where we have stayed on vacation.

When our three grandchildren visited us in Florida near the end of January, they wanted to see some of the locations as depicted in the movie. They had seen the movie, thanks to Nana, who had it on videotape from her teaching days.

Nana packed the tape so the kids could review the various locations in the movie. They watched the light-hearted film, and we were off on our Pippi tour.

Since the setting of much of the book and movie was in Pippi’s dilapidated house, the Villa Villekulla, we headed there first. In previous years, the house looked much the way it appeared in the movie, unkempt, disheveled, and badly in need of a fresh coat of white paint.

Imagine our surprise, and the grandkids’ disappointment, when we found the house being remodeled. A distasteful olive green siding replaced the weathered white clapboards so prominently featured in the film.

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It was evident that the remodeling project was a work in process. The owner had replaced some of the windows of the Victorian-style home. Others were boarded up.

We later learned that the beloved house had been vandalized, purchased, and was being restored with the purpose of giving tours. In the movie, the villain tried repeatedly to obtain the home by deceit so the old house could be demolished and replaced with a moneymaking scheme.

The grandkids were disappointed to learn that the big tree in the side yard where Pippi and her neighbor friends so often played was the convenience of the producer’s imagination. They discovered how movies are produced.

We visited Centre St. in the quaint downtown area, where most of the movie was filmed. The ice cream shop was actually the oldest saloon in Florida. The building Pippi flew her bicycle by just happens to house a toy store named “Villa Villekulla.”

One puzzle remained, however. Where were the orphanage scenes shot? I found the answer after the kids left. Those scenes were filmed at a private school just north of Centre St. Ironically the old brick building originally had been a home for orphans.

When the sun broke through, and the temperatures warmed, our grandchildren’s attention turned from fantasy to reality. They played on the seashore in front of the lighthouse-shaped home where Pippi threw the bottle with a message in it for her father.

Imagination and reality met on the beach. Our grandkids couldn’t have been happier.

Pippi Longstocking, pink sunset
A sunset just the way Pippi would have liked it. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Tall ship angles

tall ship, peacemaker, abstract photography
Tall ship angles. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I had a chance to board and tour a tall ship docked at St. Marys, GA earlier this year. I enjoyed the tour and took several photos of interesting subjects and objects onboard the ship. However, I thought this photo, with its many shapes and angles, was the most interesting. The patterned sky of white and blue provided a distinctive background for the ship’s main mast.

“Tall ship angles” is my photo of the week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015