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

Viewing the leaves in Ohio’s Amish country

Fall from my backyard by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Ohio’s Amish Country, particularly Holmes County, is a great place to be when the autumn leaves are at their finest. With its many stands of mixed hardwoods throughout the area, the colors can be spectacular if all the conditions are right.

The leaves are usually at their colorful peak by mid-October. Though the summer’s drought may have caused some trees to already change, they seem to be on a normal timetable for coloration. Now through the next two weeks will provide marvelous viewing.

Several great routes can be driven to see the rainbow of leaves. Just consider the rolling hills, rows of corn shocks, grazing cows, romping horses, Amish buggies and silvery streams as backdrops to the main event.

Fall farm by Bruce Stambaugh

Simply traveling the main highways that lead into the Holmes County area and crisscross the county will guarantee beautiful scenery. That’s especially true in the fall.

Trees and shocks by Bruce StambaughState Route 39 cuts Holmes County in half east to west. In many places, the road roughly follows the terminal moraine of the Wisconsin Glacier. To the south, hillsides loaded with maple, oak, walnut, beech and hickory trees are steeper than their counterparts on the opposite side of the road. The glacier filled in the valleys on the north side 10,000 years ago, leaving a gently undulating geography, with rich soil that farmers pamper for excellent crops and lush pasturelands. Stands of woodlots and tree-studded fence lines create magnificent leaf viewing.

Yellow and red by Bruce StambaughState Route 83 bisects Holmes County in half north to south. You will be dazzled by the vistas that change seemingly at every curve. Both north and south of Millersburg, the county seat, the route hugs the eastern edge of the Killbuck Valley. Impressive slopes with ample forests east and west nestle golden marshlands teeming with wildlife in between.

U.S. 62 runs diagonally across the county. From the northeast, pastoral views are aplenty, meandering through Amish farmland on each side. Because the wood industry surpassed agriculture as the number one employer in Holmes County a few years ago, trees are treasured and properly cared for.

Fall scene by Bruce Stambaugh

Follow U.S. 62 from Millersburg southwest toward Killbuck and on to Danville in Knox County and you might think you are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In truth, you are. The road follows the area’s main waterway, Killbuck Creek, and then climbs the hills into the Mohican River watershed.

Woods and hills by Bruce Stambaugh

The lesser traveled state, county and township roads provide equal opportunity viewing when it comes to autumn leaves. State Route 520 from Killbuck through Glenmont’s seven hills and on to State Route 514 especially provides a pretty show if the timing is right.

In the east, State Routes 241, 515, 557 and 643 all are winding, hilly and gorgeous in the fall. Farmsteads with white houses and coffin red barns are the norm in any direction on these roads.

Red barn red tree by Bruce Stamaugh

For those who desire more than just riding and looking, the area has plenty to offer. At the Wilderness Center off of U.S. 250 west of Wilmot, you can hike through prairie grass and virgin forests, and explore an education center, where there is fun for all ages.

Mohican State Park near Loudonville affords numerous trails with incredible overlooks to the steep Mohican River gorge. The greens of the thousands of white pines nicely compliment the colorful mixed hardwood forest.

For bicyclists, the Holmes County Trail offers 16 miles of lovely trials from Fredericksburg to Killbuck. Hikers are welcome, too. The trail runs along the Killbuck through the center of the county until it turns southwest toward Killbuck. The wildlife, birding and leaf viewing can all be consumed simultaneously. A note of caution, however. Horse and buggies also use the trail on one side while bikers and hikers are on the other.

Everyone has their favorite spot to view the changing leaves. You’ll enjoy finding yours.

Fall in Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh

This article appeared in Ohio’s Amish Country magazine.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Bible antiquities on display

By Bruce Stambaugh

Antiquities by Bruce Stambaugh
Dr. Rev. Kenneth Walther showed some of the antiquities that will be on display at his church near Millersburg, OH.
During October, Holmes County, Ohio area residents have a unique opportunity to view firsthand biblical antiquity items dating back to 2,000 B.C.

The church’s pastor for the past 15 years, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Walther has arranged for multiple items representative of the first five books of the Bible to be viewed by the public and members of his congregation. All of the items are on loan from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland.

How was a church of 100 parishioners in Millersburg able to acquire such a collection, even on a loan basis? The answer is easy. In addition to serving as the pastor of the church, Walther is also an adjunct professor at the Ashland Seminary. He had taught Bible courses there for 33 years prior to his retirement in 2009.

“Really, the reason the artifacts are here is in conjunction with The Story Bible study project we are holding in the church through April,” Walther said. “The entire church, youth through adults, is studying the same scriptural passages each week.”

Walther said the antiquity items, which range from samples of parchment writing to clay vessels, are part of a 1,500-item collection at the seminary. He said he gives tours on a regular basis there.

“This was really a spontaneous idea,” he explained, “to give people a firsthand look at what some of the Old Testament Bible characters would have used in their everyday life.”

Items will be on display each Sunday in October at the church from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. On Oct. 28, a special open house will be held where additional artifacts can be viewed between noon and 5 p.m. Walther will be available from 3-5 p.m. that same day to take questions.

Walther said the items span the lives of Abraham, Joshua, David and Solomon. He said the items represent three specific cultural areas, Cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, pieces from Egypt and artifacts from the land of Canaan.

“Mesopotamia is the land from where Abraham originated,” Walther said. “We have pieces of colored mummy wrapping from Egypt, and various practical items like jugs from Canaan.”

Specifically, Walther said, the display includes clay tablets from Ancient Mesopotamia, scribe boxes, stone inscriptions in hieroglyphics, and fragments of pottery from Egypt. Items from Canaan include water jugs, lamps, bowls, pilgrim flasks and a variety of cosmetic items that were used thousands of years ago.

Walther said the church decided to share both the study and the artifacts with the general public. He said people could participate in The Story, which is an international study, each Sunday.

“We will discuss the lessons including some of the objects during Sunday school, which begins at 9 a.m.,” he said. His sermon will expand on the themes presented each Sunday.

Walther said the seminary purchased all of the items from private collections and antiquities dealers. All items were obtained by those sources prior to the 1967 six-day war in Israel. Since then, he said, such items are prohibited from being taken from the country.

Walther said The Story is an attempt to introduce people to the Bible, history, and background and interpretation of the cultures of biblical times. He said study materials are available for entire families. The Story was written by scholars from various denominations and published by Zondervan Press.

“We even have a special New International Version Bible to accompany The Story materials that focus on particular events of the Bible,” Walther said.

He said the sampling of items on display at St. John’s Church provides a physical handle on the picture of the Bible. The church is located at 8670 state Route 39 west of Millersburg.

Church by Bruce Stambaugh
St. John’s Church of Millersburg, OH.

The story appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Inspired at the produce auction

Colorful lineup by Bruce Stambaugh
The lineup of produce waiting to be auctioned was colorful in more than one way.

By Bruce Stambaugh

For inspiration this time of year, I love to frequent the local produce auction located just two miles north of my home. It’s a carnival, traffic jam, town hall meeting, commerce hub and art museum all rolled into one.

I like to arrive midmorning just as the auction is about to begin. When it’s peak harvest time, the place is abuzz. Men, women and children seem to have caught the same exciting spirit.

Produce trucks by Bruce Stambaugh
Trucks of all sizes back up to the loading docks to both deliver for the auction and to load produce purchased.

Vehicles of all sorts line up to empty and to load the produce and associated items. Box trucks, pickup trucks, and pickups with flatbed trailers, tractor-trailer trucks, tractors with loaded wagons, horse drawn wagons, vans, cars, carts and bicycles all congregate at the Farmers Produce Auction west of Mt. Hope, Ohio.

Their drivers are there for one of two reasons. They arrive to sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers or to buy them. A few of us, of course, show up to simply admire the proceeding. The exuberant energy and shining beauty are both contagious.

Lining up by Bruce Stambaugh
The drive through auction creates an unusual traffic jam.

Amish men and teenagers steady their team of horses, standing patiently in line under the strengthening sun. Most have traveled miles with their cargos of colorful produce, neatly packaged and ready for the sale.

The assortment of trucks carries interesting payloads, too. The season’s last sweet corn and melon, huge boxes of the season’s first pumpkins, bright red and yellow peppers, and flat after flat of budding burgundy, gold and crimson mums are just some of the offerings.

Produce auctioning by Bruce Stambaugh
Buyers and sellers alike gathered around the auctioneer as bids were taken.

The syncopated rhythm of the auctioneer echoes from the open-sided building, announcing the sale’s start. Buyers quickly abandon the food stand and squeeze in to catch any bargain they can. The pace is quick, and if you snooze you lose. People pay attention.

The buyers themselves are a joy to watch. Young and old, male and female, they represent their own produce stand, local restaurants or a supermarket chain. This is their livelihood. They are daily regulars, and the astute auctioneer knows them well. A wink, a nod, a twitch and particular hand gestures signal bids and it’s on to the next lot.

Two auctions by Bruce Stambaugh
So much produce arrives each day that two auctions, one inside, one outside, are held at the same time.

Soon the drive through auction simultaneously begins outside. Double rows of boxed and packaged produce or flats of hundreds of flowers are sold straight from the wagon or truck on which they arrived. They pass by the canvas-covered auctioneer’s stand two-by-two until the last one is through.

Sellers know they have to be on time. Despite the disjointed configuration of vehicles, the sale runs efficiently, making buyers and producers both happy. To be first in line, one driver arrived at 6:15 a.m. for the 10:15 a.m. sale. That’s the dedication of effective and productive commerce in action.

Sold produce by Bruce Stambaugh
Amish teens help move the sold produce to staging areas until the buyers claim their purchases.
Hand-printed tags on the purchased commodities tell the tale. The number in black indicates the producer. The red number is the buyer. As soon as the lot is sold, young men and boys transport the goods with tow motors to designated stations where the merchandise is parked until claimed. Once the buyer is all in, the purchased containers are loaded into his or her vehicle.

By lunchtime, teamsters mull their successes on the slow, rattling ride home. Truck drivers secure their load, and head to their predetermined destinations where the fresh goodies will be sorted, washed and prepared for consumption.

The fascinating organization, the polished production, the gregarious people and the artsy produce combine to create one rousing show. What an inspiring performance to start the fall.

Loads of produce by Bruce Stambaugh
Growers are taught how to package their produce to ensure both quality and higher prices.
Rows of produce by Bruce Stambaugh
The produce is neatly lined up in rows as it arrives to be sold at the auction.
Double rows by Bruce Stambaugh
The outside auction is done by selling the produce in double rows that slowly pass by the auctioneer’s stand.
Decorative produce by Bruce Stambaugh
Seasonal decorative produce like these gourds and pumpkins add to the auction’s peak season success.
Amish worker by Bruce Stambaugh
Besides the Amish farmers, the auction employs several Amish men and women to help with the sale.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

A most unusual birthday gift

The donkey by Bruce Stambaugh
Robert Troyer, Millersburg, OH, received this unusual birthday gift from friends.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Out of town friends of Robert and Edna Troyer of rural Millersburg, Ohio kept promising him a donkey. When his birthday arrived this summer, he finally got it, sort of.

Around the time of his July 25th birthday, a group of friends from Ottawa, Ohio came to visit. Robert, 67, and Edna, 66, were sitting with about a dozen people in a circle on their concrete driveway when some of the visitors excused themselves to check on the “donkey.”

Robert and Edna are Amish, and their “English” friends thought they could use a donkey even though the couple owns a business, not a farm.

“I was a little suspicious,” Robert said. “I got curious when people started to disappear.” In fact when Robert went to see what was going on, he was politely told to sit back down.

Cement pad by Bruce Stambaugh
The “donkey” was delivered to Robert Troyer on the cement driveway in front of his home.

Soon, the oldest in the group, Leo Schroeder, came riding down the drive on the “donkey.” In truth, the contraption was a jerry-rigged bicycle and hand push lawn mower. To add to the joke, Schroeder wore Robert’s straw hat for effect.

And what an effect it had, too. Everyone burst out laughing.

“You can actually ride the thing,” Robert said, “but it doesn’t turn very well.”

A rotary blade mower head serves as the front wheel with its handle attached to where the front bicycle wheel should be. The rest of the “donkey” is a regular push pedal bike.

About 20 years ago, the group was looking for a harness shop. One of the group members needed harness items for some ponies.

Originally the group consisted of seven couples. In their search, they stopped at a home near Walnut Creek and asked about a harness shop. They were told to keep driving north on state Route 515 to Indian Hill Harness, just north of Trail. They found what they were looking for at Robert’s shop, and they have been friends ever since.

“Robert was a work,” Edna said. “I waited on them and they later told me that they took to us because I was handicapped.”

Edna suffered a spinal cord injury when she was 18.

“I fell through a hole in a barn and onto concrete,” she said. “I was paralyzed at first, but later could walk.” Edna said that as she aged and after an unsuccessful knee surgery, she needed a wheelchair full time.

“They are all members of the Farm Bureau,” Edna said of the group of friends. “They meet here in February, July and August.” Edna said that none of the group farms anymore, but they stay interested in farming.

Harnesses by Bruce Stambaugh
The harnesses are just a sample of some of the custom horse harnesses Robert Troyer makes.

Robert and Edna, who have been married for 46 years, have become such close friends with the group that they go on overnight outings with them, including to other states.

“One of the members even bought a big van so I would be able to accompany them,” Edna said. “It is just he and his wife, so he didn’t really need a van.”

With their gregarious and easy-going personalities, it is easy to like both Robert and Edna. They said they enjoy sharing their hospitality with others.

When she learned that one of the group members likes pineapple pie, Edna baked one for him.

“He liked it so much,” she said, “he ate the whole pie in one day.”

Edna said that the group has even hosted them in Ottawa, located in western Ohio. She and one of their friends, Sharon Lammers, even share the same birthday, August 16.

Edna keeps busy painting scenes and decorating cups, glasses and wooden plaques with flowers and birds. She said she taught herself to paint, and her paintings are available to purchase at Behalt!, on County Road 77 near Berlin.

Robert said most of his business is supplying the Walsh Company in Brookfield, Wis. with fine show harnesses. He had worked for Mast Leather in Walnut Creek, Ohio until Walsh bought the business in 1990, the same year he started his harness shop.

Edna appropriately summed up why their friendship with the group has lasted so long.

“Despite your situation,” she said, “you have to keep going. Life is too short.”

Paintings by Bruce Stambaugh
Edna Troyer’s paintings are available at Behalt! near Berlin, OH.

This article appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Mountains of fun on the beach

Sunset Beach NC by Bruce Stambaugh
The pier and beach at Sunset Beach, NC.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’m not a sun worshipper. I prefer an exhilarating hike in the cool, refreshing mountain summer air where the views are spectacular and the flora and fauna inspirational.

How did we end up vacationing on a North Carolina beach? When our daughter asked my wife and I to join her family on their beach vacation, we didn’t hesitate. It’s what grandparents are supposed to do. It’s what grandparents live to do.

Watching our grandchildren’s initial reaction to being on the beach was alone worth the eight-hour drive from their Virginia home. After getting things settled for the week in our rental home, we walked to the beach with the intention of simply taking a look. The three grandkids, ages eight, five and two, had other ideas.
First encounter by Bruce Stambaugh
At low tide, the impressive sandy beach served as a gradual launching ramp into the soft, rolling tide. With their parents’ approval, all three grandkids dived right in fully clothed sans shoes, laughing and giggling away.

The adults kicked off their shoes and waded in as well. The water was unusually warm for mid-June.

For a week, save for one rainy day, the weather was absolutely perfect. The morning air warmed enough that we could hit the beach before 10 each day. Steady ocean breezes kept down the humidity and the sweating while we played with the grandchildren both in the gentle, silvery surf and on the sandy shore.
Empty beach by Bruce Stambaugh
Arriving early at the beach had another advantage. We nearly had the expansive seascape to ourselves. At that time of day, beach walkers and runners easily outnumbered the swimmers.

Boogie boards by Bruce StambaughThe kids enjoyed the boogie boards they had borrowed and brought along. The two boys ventured out into waist high water to await waves sufficient enough to carry them gently onto the moist sand. Of course they didn’t always make it that far, which made it all the more enjoyable. Either way they jumped and shouted and repeated the playful process.

Breaking water by Bruce StambaughTheir sister, the two-year-old, took a more delicate approach. She marched to where the water lapped the shore and laid down atop a little boogie board facing the ocean. Apparently she reasoned that with the tide coming in why not simply let the waves come to her. That way she didn’t have to face the force of the rolling water head on.

Her plan worked. Once the water reached her, she raised her head, pushed back her blond locks and enjoyed the gentle saltwater buffeting.
Bicycles by Bruce Stambaugh
Between interplays with the sun, sand and the waves, the children and their parents enjoyed bicycle forays around the small island. The two-year old rode in the bicycle trailer. The combination of the bumpy roads and the arduous times at the beach took their toll. She returned to the beach house sound asleep.

Toward the end of our stay, the kids turned more toward plying their sandcastle construction skills than they did dips in the ocean. The relentless waves served as an excellent cleanser for their sand-plastered skin.
Sandcastles by Bruce Stambaugh
The last full day of the vacation, the two-year-old already had on her swimsuit before breakfast. With arms stretched wide, her excited “Ta Da” entrance and her big smile summed up the entire week.

We may have been at the beach, but we all had mountains and mountains of fun.

Marsh sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Sunset over the marsh at Sunset Beach, NC.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

More delicious reasons to visit Ohio’s Amish country

Strawberry pie and ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
The delicious homemade strawberry pie and ice cream will again be offered free to all those who attend Homestead Furniture’s Strawberry Summer Fest, June 14-16 at Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

People visit the world’s largest Amish population for many reasons. Nostalgia for the way things used to be, the friendly, plain folks, the delicious, affordable food, and the neat, quilt-patch farm fields often top the list.

Free pie and ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
This youngster was pretty pleased with his free homemade strawberry pie and ice cream.

On June 14, 15, and 16, two more reasons will emerge. Visitors can enjoy free homemade strawberry pie and ice cream made on the spot at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, Ohio.

The expansive furniture store, which specializes in customizing hardwood and upholstered furniture, will hold its 12th annual Strawberry Summer Fest on those three days. On average, the store serves up 350 pies and 150 gallons of machine-cranked ice cream over the three-day gathering, which draws hundreds of people from several states.
Strawberry pie by Bruce Stambaugh
The Strawberry Summer Fest is held each year to help welcome in summer. According to Homestead Furniture’s sales manager Todd Reese, the store chose strawberry pie and ice cream as symbols of the season to share with customers old and new.

Cortona dining table by Bruce Stambaugh
The Cortona dining room table is just one example the exquisite furniture design and built by the craftsmen at Homestead Furniture.
Besides the free food, Homestead Furniture will also hold a drawing for gift cards to the store. Prizes total $1,750. Of course, Homestead Furniture will offer special sales prices on all of its hardwood, upholstered, and leather furniture, excluding custom orders. Their only other sale is in October.

In fact, the Mt. Hope merchant’s annual Sundown Sale will be held on Friday, June 15. Most businesses in town, from the hardware store to the fabric store, will be open until 8 p.m. The merchants also have a special drawing.

Homestead Furniture by Bruce Stambaugh
Homestead Furniture, Mt. Hope, OH is a busy place during its annual Strawberry Summer Fest.

Homestead Furniture will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 14 and 15, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 16. The store is located at 8233 SR 241, just north of Mt. Hope.

Mt. Hope is located 35 miles southwest of Canton, 50 miles south of Akron, and 75 miles south of Cleveland in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.

Ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
Employees at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, OH make homemade ice cream five gallons at a time over the three day event.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012