A family tradition comes to an end

Jan and Larry Coldwell by Bruce Stambaugh
Jan and Larry Coldwell of rural Killbuck, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Larry and Jan Coldwell, of rural Killbuck, Ohio, have been selling Christmas trees for 24 years. Area families were sad to learn that this year was their last.

“This decision has been harder than when I retired from teaching,” Larry said. Coldwell taught at Killbuck Elementary School until 2006.

“Growing Christmas trees was a hobby that got out of control,” Larry said. “We started selling a few, word spread, and it became an annual business.”

Larry and Jan Coldwell by Bruce Stambaugh
Larry and Jan Coldwell relax in their home near Killbuck, Ohio.
Both Larry and Jan said it would be difficult to end the business because of the relationships that have developed over the years. They have never advertised their trees for sale, yet were as busy as they wanted to be since 1987.

Larry said he began planting Scotch and White pine trees for wildlife and conservation purposes in 1981. When someone asked if those trees were for sale in December 1987, the Christmas tree selling began.

Since then, scores of people returned year after year to pick out their own tree. Of course, Larry accompanied them up the steep hillsides to help cut the tree.

“I kept a written record of who bought what species every year,” Larry said. Over time, he realized he had to expand his offerings as customers’ tastes changed.

“People were looking for more than just pines,” Larry said. With the help of his family, Larry planted several varieties of conifers, including 12 different kinds of fir.

Larry said the first two weeks of December were always the busiest for selling trees. People would even come tag their trees ahead of time in order to pick just the right tree, he explained.

“If they came the third week in December,” Larry said, “color was more important than shape, fragrance, density or needle texture.”

Friendly folks that they are, Larry and Jan both said that they would miss the annual interaction with their customers.

“I got to be a pretty good photographer,” Larry said. “People wanted a family picture with the tree they chose.” He said he recently took a family picture of four generations who had cut Christmas trees. The youngest in the photo was a toddler.

As their three children grew and left home, all the year-round work of maintaining and preparing the trees for sale at Christmas simply became too much for the couple.

Coldwells by Bruce Stambaugh
After 24 years, Larry and Jan Coldwell decided to discontinue selling Christmas trees from their tree farm.
“It’s a very labor intensive enterprise,” Larry said. “Growing trees on steep hillsides eliminated the possibility of mechanical farming.”

During the growing season, Larry fertilized, sprayed and trimmed the trees, plus he mowed between the rows. Jan pitched in with hours of weed eating.

Larry credits his late father, Loren, for his avid interest in conservation.

“Dad loved the out-of-doors,” Larry said.

Over the years, the Coldwells have received letters, cards of thanks along with pictures of customers’ trees. Some trees were even cut when no one was home, but they never had trouble with people stealing trees.

“We would find money in our mailbox, between the doors and some even brought money to school to pay for trees they had cut while we were away,” Larry said.

“It’s not the money that we will miss,” Larry said. “It’s the people.”

Larry will continue to operate his certified 113-acre tree farm and be an active board member of the Killbuck Valley Landowners Association. Jan is a nurse at Walnut Hills Nursing Home in Walnut Creek, Ohio.

Schuler remains young at heart

Feeding the birds is one of life’s pleasures for Judson Schuler, of Millersburg, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

In every way, Judson Schuler, 94, belies his age.

His mind is as sharp as a tack. He recalls incidences from 60 years ago as if they happened yesterday. And yet, he can more than carry his own in conversation about current events.

For a man is his 90s, Schuler has maintained his health, too. He attributes that to his regular physical workout routine three times a week at a local physical fitness facility.

“I like to stay active,” Schuler said. “I think it’s one of the secrets to staying healthy while getting old and enjoying it.”

He is true to his word.

“I still like to mow and help out with raking and gathering the leaves,” Schuler said. Given the size of his property, that is no small task. Schuler lives on Briar Lane in Millersburg, Ohio. His late wife, Beverly, was the daughter of the president of Briar Hill Stone in Glenmont.

“The original idea for our development was that every home would be built using their stone,” Schuler said. “It was to be a model for what could be done in construction.”

“Bev and I built this in 1956,” he said. “It still suits me well.” Accordingly, the home was built using the decorative, multi-colored sandstone. The Schuler’s were married 62 years. Schuler has a son, a daughter, four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

The living room and den to the back of the stately home both have large windows and sliding glass doors that afford Schuler good views of the wildlife that he so adores.

“I enjoy feeding the birds, especially the goldfinches,” he said. Indeed, he has a thistle feeder and a hopper feeder in the spacious backyard. His binoculars hang at the ready by his favorite chair.

Schuler also gets great pleasure from watching other wildlife, like squirrels and deer that scurry through his tree-studded backyard. Though he wouldn’t ever say so, Schuler certainly has earned his right to leisure away his days.

Schuler was a noted attorney in Holmes County for many years. He practiced law well into his ‘70s. His late brother, John, was one of his partners. Ray Miller was the other.

“I still have an office in the firm,” he said. “That was part of the sale, that John and I would always have an office to go to.”

Schuler said that when he began practicing law in 1946, Millersburg had six or seven attorneys.

“Now I think there are 20,” he said with an ornery smile.

Schuler said he no longer practices, but that he still goes to the office occasionally just to check in with the other attorneys. The Critchfield, Critchfield and Johnston law firm bought Schuler’s Millersburg firm when he retired.

“My middle name is Critchfield,” Schuler said. “I’m a second cousin to that family.”

Early in his attorney days, Schuler was once the Holmes County prosecutor. But his heart was in private practice.

With his successful career behind him, Schuler takes one day at a time and enjoys every minute of his experiences. That approach might be because his life has revolved around relationships with his clients, his friends, his community activities and his family.

Schuler has served in several civic capacities. He was the local veterans service officer. He served on the development disabilities board, the airport authority, and several years on the board of directors of the Commercial and Savings Bank.

Schuler was also appointed by the governor to serve on the Ohio Public Health Council, which processed all the rules for mental hospitals, nursing homes, and even public water supplies.

“That was an incredible experience for me,” Schuler said. “I learned a lot during those 12 years.”

Schuler is also a member of the American Legion Post 192 and was made a life member of the Killbuck VFW.

Schuler served in the Army during World War II and fought in the battle of The Bulge. He can rattle off details of war stories as if they had happened yesterday.

He likes to read a lot, too, focusing on “the great people at the beginning of the Republic.” Schuler also likes golf and of course, watching Ohio State football games. He has owned season tickets for 50 years, as he received both his bachelor’s and law degree from The Ohio State University.

Though he has traveled the world and had many exciting experiences, Schuler still considers himself “a small town guy.” Likely, there are plenty of local people thankful for that.

Judson Schuler, of Millersburg, often relaxes in his den.

The road to a fresh start

Mixed peppers by Bruce Stambaugh
Boxes of colorful peppers looked too good to resist.

By Bruce Stambaugh

You can find them nearly everywhere in Ohio’s Amish country. Seasonal roadside produce stands are one of the area’s mainstays.

But for probably a sundry of reasons, tourists and local residents alike often ignore these unsophisticated and sometimes spontaneous mini-markets. They shouldn’t. The goods offered provide lasting and tasteful memories of Ohio’s Amish country.

The produce stands offer excellent foodstuffs and canned goods at very fair prices. A bonus is that the products peddled are green, as in locally grown green.

“Locally grown fruits and vegetable are not only good for you,” says Leah Miller, director of the Small Farm Institute based in Coshocton, Ohio. “They also provide families who live on small farms with additional and needed income.”

Blessing Acres sign by Bruce Stambaugh
The sign to Blessing Acres produce stand says it all.

Blessing Acres Produce, a produce stand located about half way between Berlin and Mt. Hope, Ohio on Township Road 362 in Holmes County, is a prime example. Anna Miller and her children operate the 25-acre produce farm. Son, Abe, serves as the manager.

Definitely off the beaten path, the Miller family still has many repeat customers who have found this little Garden of Eden. Homemade signs direct traffic off of two parallel county roads to the business. As different items like beets, cucumbers, corn and tomatoes come ripe, they are added to the bottom of the sign. At times the chain of produce names reaches clear to the ground.

Their season conveniently starts about the time schools dismiss for the summer. Strawberries are their first main crop, and are always in high demand for their flavor, sweetness and freshness.

Those are some of the key customer benefits to buying from the roadside stands, according to the online Ohio Farm Fresh directory at http://www.ohiofarmfresh.com. Freshness, taste and nutrition are all reasons why purchasing from the seasonal stands makes sense. Of course, the farmers appreciate the cash flow, too.

Marion Steiner has operated the Kidron Road Greenhouse and Produce stand for 17 years with help from her 11 children. Located on Kidron Road just south of U.S. 250 in Wayne County, Steiner said a majority of her customers are local, but a few out-of-state people also stop in.

June Hammond of Wooster, Ohio  has been a regular throughout many growing seasons.

“I come here because the people are friendly, the prices reasonable, and the products are fresh,” Hammond said.

Just down the road at Raber’s Fresh Produce similar comments are offered by long-time, repeat customers. Raber’s is located on Kidron Road just south of Harrison Road.

Dave Guthrie drives all the way from Vermillion, Ohio to buy sweet corn simply because he says it tastes better than what he can buy at stores back home. Guthrie’s seven-year-old grandson, Joshua Snyder, came along for the ride, too.

Hold on tight by Bruce Stambaugh
Joshua Snyder held on tight to the cucumbers he selected.

“It’s pretty and it’s fun out here,” Snyder said. “I like looking around, especially seeing the horses and buggies, and the nice houses and fields.”

The youngster actually hit on another benefit to buying from countryside stands. The bucolic ambiance coupled with decent prices and fresh, tasty food that is also good for you adds up to a win-win situation.

Many of the produce stands also offer fresh, homemade baked goods and what Leah Miller calls “value-added products” like home-canned fruits, vegetables and jams and jellies.

Some of the stands like the one that young sisters Anna and Neva Miller manned pop up randomly. The girls brought excess green beans from their garden and set up shop opposite a local bulk food store north of Mt. Hope. It wasn’t long until they had to return home to replenish their supply.

There is yet one other important reason for stopping at a local produce stand. You just might make friends, like Scott Thomas of Fresno, Ohio has.

Thomas has been coming to Blessing Acres for years. He knows each family member by name, and you could tell by the smiles of family members that they are always glad to see him.

“They come down to my place and help me butcher hogs,” Thomas said. In turn, he lets family members hunt deer on his property.

Fresh, tasty, nutritious food and good friends are always a healthy combination. And in Ohio’s Amish country, all that can be found right along the road.

Roadside beans by Bruce Stambaugh
Anna and Neva Miller sold beans from their garden along the highway north of Mt. Hope, Ohio.

This story was first published in Ohio Amish Country magazine, August 2010.

Retreating to Lakeside again and again

Lakeside view by Bruce Stambaugh
The view of the dock and Lake Erie from Hotel Lakeside's front lawn. Kelley's Island is in the distance.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There are lots of places I would love to visit in the world. But every Fourth of July, you can find me with my wife at Lakeside, Ohio.

Fountain in front of Hotel Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh
Wind blew the fountain's water in front of Hotel Lakeside.

Why do we keep going back? I’ll be a typical man and answer that question with another question. How can we not return?

We find the summer resort a respite from our busy schedule. A random survey of Lakesiders would likely reflect that common answer.

You could argue that respite can be found in plenty of other locales, too. But there is only one Lakeside, and the best way to appreciate it is to visit there.

The quaint town on the shores of Lake Erie mushrooms from 600 year-round residents to 3,000 summer vacationers. Gate fees are required from mid-June through Labor Day weekend.

I could list 100 reasons why we savor Lakeside each summer. But I’ll pare it down to a pertinent few pleasures we experienced during our latest stay.

Friends gather on the porch by Bruce Stambaugh
The porch at Maxwell's Hospitality House in Lakeside, Ohio is an inviting, relaxing place.

First and foremost has to be the renewal of relationships with friends, some who we only see at Lakeside. Of course, we stay in touch via email or phone. But we only see most fellow Lakesiders while we are actually at the Chautauqua on Lake Erie

We enjoy where we stay, and we always board at the same hospitality house. We like our hosts and their guests, most of who return the same week annually. We have a lot in common, share food, stories and values.

The Patio Restaurant at Lakeside OH by Bruce Stambaugh
The signs said it all.

We cherish the familiarity and ambiance that Lakeside affords. Doughnuts at The Patio Restaurant, ice cream from Coffee and Cream and pizza from Sloopy’s are all part of the Lakeside experience if we so choose

But we value the special surprises that always seem to plop in our laps. We run into friends from home or people we know that we had no idea even knew about Lakeside. It’s always fun to reconnect and discover how each found the resort town.

P.A. Dunfee of Lakeside, Ohio piloted his 1968 restored Lyman. by Bruce Stambaugh
P.A. Dunfee, Lakeside, Ohio, piloted his restored 1968 Lyman boat.

This year we had an extra special treat. A resident of Lakeside that we got to know through our hosts at Maxwell’s Hospitality House invited my wife and I for a ride on his restored 1968 Lyman inboard motorboat.

With the temperatures and humidity at the wilting stage, we leaped at the opportunity. The wooden boat, originally built in nearby Sandusky, glided through the slightly wavy water with ease. We cruised past Lakeside just beyond the dock.

Lakeside cottages by Bruce Stambaugh
Steamboat style cottages, typical of some of the older homes in Lakeside, Ohio, were decorated for the Fourth of July.

During out week’s stay, we also took in some of the evening entertainment that comes with the price of admission. Workshops, museums, tours and worship are also available for children through adults

Running at Lakeside by Bruce Stambaugh
The path along Lake Erie in Lakeside, Ohio is a popular place for exercise or just strolling.

Each morning I stretched my legs by walking the two-mile parameter of the lovely village. Walkers, runners, bikers and dog-walkers alike bid each other a friendly Lakeside hello or a nod

Besides the exercise and human interaction, I got to absorb beautiful gardens, charming restored cottages from Lakeside’s beginning in 1873, watch night hawks glide, stroll along where old trolley tracks once ran and glimpse tennis matches on both asphalt and clay courts.

Round porch at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh
Inviting round porches can be found attached to many homes in Lakeside, Ohio.

I enjoyed a personal Lakeside moment, too. I found a lakeside bench under the generous shade from the large stand of old growth trees and watched the ferries shuttle between Marblehead and Kelley’s Island.

In that Norman Rockwell setting, time seemed to simply stand still. That alone is reason enough to treasure our annual Lakeside vacation.

Concert in the park by Bruce Stambaugh
Concerts in the park are always popular at Lakeside, Ohio.