Old Fart at Play – Tracking Coyotes in the Snow

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This is where I stopped tracking. The coyotes had crossed Pine Run and scampered up the bank.

Had a couple of visitors last night. The dogs alerted me to it when we went out for our morning pee.

It was too dark to make out the tracks then. Whatever it was came up the lane as far as the barn, rooted around a bit, then retreated from whence it came.

After breakfast, I headed out to follow the tracks. Two coyotes. They might have been interested in a fox or a rabbit that had crossed the yard earlier. It looked as though they decided the tracks weren’t fresh enough and their would-be prey was long gone.

The coyote tracks led down an old tractor lane, past a log cabin and through a stand of pines that had once been a farm field.

As I followed the tracks through the woods, the wind kicked up. It blew snow off the boughs, creating an instant blizzard.

After crossing through the woods, the coyotes had descended into a floodplain and crossed a small wash. They continued along an old wagon road, then followed Pine Run a short distance before crossing.

I decided not to follow any further. I had followed the tracks about 2/3 of a mile.

It’s possible these was the same coyotes whose tracks we followed across the ice on Pine Run a few months ago.

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Instant blizzard. Wind gusts blowing snow of pine boughs in what had been a farm field.

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One of the coyotes found my stepping stumps to its liking when crossing a small stream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Look Through Any Window

Photos from my window series

Windows are the eyes of a structure — revealing secrets of those who dwell there. Or those who dwelt there.

Windows might not reveal anything outright, they certainly fuel the imagination. It’s always been that way for me.

Naturally, when I got into photography, windows became a tantalizing subject.

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While out shooting along Clear Fork of the Mohican River in February 2017, this window near Gatton Rocks caught my eye.

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Two years ago, I was staying with friends at Shaw’s Hotel in Lancaster, Ohio. I got up early in the morning, grabbed my camera and headed out into the street. Very few people were stirring, yet these two ambitious souls were hard at work.

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I once interviewed a woman who went to this one-room schoolhouse in Green Township, Ashland County, Ohio. When taking this shot in November 2016, I thought about her and all the other schoolchildren who surely looked longingly out that window — especially on nice spring days.

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One of my happy places, Shuswap on Lake Nipissing in Ontario, Canada. The main boathouse has been remodeled, but I always loved this old one. Taken in August 2016.

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While out on my morning rounds, looking for things to shoot, I came across this old cabin in, I believe, Knox County, Ohio. April 2017.

 

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In October 2016, I visited the Loudonville (Ohio) Street Fair early in the morning. That’s the best time to go to fairs as far as I’m concerned. I came across this little sourpuss in an upstairs window on Main Street.

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I’ve gone by this Holmes County farmhouse many times and always been intrigued. One morning in August 2016 I stopped to take a photo. I love the faded look — consistent with the mood here.

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This Perrysville, Ohio, window speaks volumes — of a town that’s seen better days. On a positive note, good things are happening there and things are looking up. July 2017.

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I’m not particularly keen on digitally manipulated photos, but this one called for it. Butler, Ohio, October 2015.

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Facades. Downtown Mansfield, Ohio, October 2012.

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Making my morning rounds in Holmes County, August 2016, found the stone foundation of a barn along a remote township road.

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June 2011, Church window in Ashland, Ohio. Taken while I was working as a reporter for the Ashland Times-Gazette. My caption? Yum!

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Shot last year through a cracked window of a restored one-room schoolhouse. Mohican Wilderness, Glenmont, Ohio.

High-resolution prints of these — and all my photos — are available through my photo blog and Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Algonquin it ain’t – Charles Mill Lake canoe trip, part 3

You are NOT alone

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One of two bald eagles that watched me break camp.

There was no one else around at my Muskrat Bay campsite, but I was not alone. Lucy kept me company all evening and, when I crawled out of my tent in the morning, she was still there.

Lucy was a Canada goose. She appeared to have been injured and unable to fly. She swam around in front of my campsite, constantly positioning herself so she could keep an eye on me. It was sad to see goose couples come and go. Lucy watched them helplessly, perhaps longing for a life she’ll never have.

She wasn’t the only company I had. As I prepared breakfast and ate it, an osprey looked on from a tree across the bay. It flew off as I broke camp and, moments later, a bald eagle landed near where the osprey had been and stayed there until I slid my loaded canoe into the lake and paddled off. It was joined by a second eagle.

I began a day of exploring the lake north of the SR 430 bridge. Along the way, I saw a mallard, an egret and a plastic goose. I also rousted thousands of cormorants, which have become something of a plague on Charles Mill Lake.

There are suitable Islands for camping and a site — complete with a picnic table — on a peninsula at the southeast entrance to Big Turtle Bay. The downside is they’re situated between US 30 and SR 430 and the sound of traffic never stops.

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon paddling along the shoreline on the northern end of the lake. Because of the highways, Eagle Point campground, a boat ramp and houses, it’s less appealing than the southern part of Charles Mill Lake.

In short, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to stay there.

In Camp Harbor on the west side of the lake, I came upon what I hope wasn’t a familiar sight — a scuttled dredge. Years ago, while working as a reporter for the Ashland Times-Gazette, I wrote an article about the naming of a new dredge. It was dubbed “Sedimental Journey.” Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District had purchased the dredge. The plan was to dredge the channel under the SR 430 bridge, which separates the northern and southern parts of the lake, then take it to other MWCD lakes.

I can’t imagine it would have been scuttled without being used more.The average depth of Charles Mill Lake is only five feet. That’s down three feet from the original depth. The bottom of the lake is covered with a gooey layer of silt, the byproduct of irresponsible farming, logging and construction practices. I’d like to think that this was another dredge, one replaced by Sedimental Journey.

Ironically, as I explored the lake for three days in April, 50,000 gallons of drilling clay had been dumped in a wetland upstream — a byproduct of the Rover pipeline project. It might not reach the lake, but the harm to wildlife and the wetland is disheartening just the same.

Here are a few photos from the final day of my three-day canoe trip:

 

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Lucy, my constant companion.

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A mallard duck doing some morning yoga, north of the SR 430 bridge.

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An egret looks for fish in the shallows along the eastern shoreline.

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A plastic goose lurks in a tree trunk near Sites Lake, a residential area on the north end of Charles Mill.

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A scuttled dredge in Camp Harbor. Note the disintegrated oil boom around it.

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The cab of the dredge. I was concerned that the interior of the hull reeked of oil.

Click on the link below for a map of the lake:

Charles Mill Lake Map annotated

 

Previous posts on this trip:

Part One

Part Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Iwo Jima

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Cledith Skeen reflected in the glass of a commemorative montage of Marine memorabila

One of my editors asked if I wanted to interview a couple of guys in town who fought on Iwo Jima. Talk about a rhetorical question.

On Nov. 29, I had the privilege of talking with two Marines who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima — two guys who ended up living less than a mile from each other in a small town in north central Ohio.

The story ran on Pearl Harbor Day in the Ashland Times-Gazette. Here it is.

ASHLAND — Cledith Skeen sat in a plush recliner in his Belmont Towers apartment. In a chair to his left sat Tom Winemiller, clutching a wooden cane tipped with a shiny brass knob.

 “Until I met this fella, in 72 years I had met only two other Marines who served in Iwo Jima,” Skeen said, gesturing toward Winemiller. “I don’t know if there’s many of us left.”

 “I’ll bet you’re correct,” Winemiller agreed. “There can’t be very many. I hate to say this, but we left a lot of them on that island.”

 “That’s the sad part,” Skeen said. “I don’t want credit. Any honor, any credit, goes to those guys who laid it down, almost 7,000 of them didn’t walk away.”

Skeen, 90, and Winemiller, 91, met for a brief interview last week. They had visited each other twice before after discovering a few months ago that they live less than a mile apart. Skeen, formerly of Canton, moved to Ashland a year ago with his wife, Margaret. She passed away in April. Winemiller and his wife Jeanne are longtime Ashland residents. They live just outside the city on Township Road 853.

Skeen described how they met. His daughter, Nancy White of Ashland, had taken him to a dental appointment. A receptionist at the dentist’s office took notice of his Marine Corps cap and asked where he had served. When she learned Skeen had fought in Iwo Jima, she mentioned that she knew another local man who had served there. A meeting was arranged.

“It was just a blessing for me to meet him,” Skeen said.

“And being so close,” Winemiller added. “Only about a half-mile away, as the crow flies.”

During the interview, they didn’t reminisce very much. No crowing about the good old days. No war stories — at least none glorifying their experiences on the eight-square-mile hell that was Iwo Jima. In the 36-day battle, nearly 7,000 U.S. Marines were killed — along with more than 20,000 Japanese soldiers. More than 19,000 Americans were wounded. For the Japanese, that wasn’t an option. For them, it was a suicide mission from the start. Only 216 were taken prisoner.

Skeen grew up in Hopedale, a little town in eastern Ohio between Cadiz and Steubenville. His father was a coal miner. Skeen had no desire to go into the mines. After the war, he went to work at the Timken Company steel mill in Canton. He worked there for more than 36 years. Skeen lived in Canton most of his life, where he and his wife raised three daughters. He has six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren — going on eight.

He enlisted in the Marines in January 1944. He was 17 when he signed up and 18 when he went in.

“I was a young kid and a spirit of patriotism prevailed in our nation at that time,” Skeen said. “As a young kid, I wanted to serve my country and a saw a picture of these young Marines in their dress blues and heard the Marine Corps Hymn and it got me all excited. Needless to say, I never had a pair of dress blues and I didn’t hear the Hymn very much.”

There was no time for spit and polish then. Skeen, who served in the 5th Marine Division, took basic training in California. On D-Day — Feb. 19, 1945 — he found himself aboard a landing craft poised to hit the beach at Iwo Jima.

Winemiller served in the 3rd Marine Division. His was a reserve division. There were more than 2,400 U.S. casualties on the first day of the invasion, so he was sent ashore a few days after it started.

Like Skeen, he went through basic training in California and quickly found himself headed for Iwo Jima. The movie “Guadalcanal Diary” inspired him to join the Marines. He enlisted in December 1943.

“It (the movie) was quite a stimulation at the time,” Winemiller said. “You were going to be in some sort of service if you were 17 years old in 1943. I knew I didn’t want to be a sailor. I was always kind of uneasy about the fact that you’re on a ship you’re a target every minute of the day and night.”

Winemiller grew up in Sydney in western Ohio. He lived in town, but developed a keen interest in poultry farming. After military service, he earned a degree in poultry science at Ohio State University. That led to a career in agricultural advertising. He moved to Ashland in the early 1950s after landing a job at Hess & Clark, a livestock supply manufacturer. He retired from there in 1980, but continued to work in advertising part-time before retiring for good about 15 years ago.

He and Skeen talked about arriving at Iwo Jima — part of an armada of 880 ships. The U.S. had been bombarding the island for a couple of months. All that pounding did virtually nothing to reduce the enemy’s numbers. They were waiting in ambush, hunkered down in hundreds of caves and pillboxes — some of them interconnected by 16 miles of tunnels.

“What they didn’t know was how much underground stuff there was on that island,” Winemiller said. “That’s what scared the hell out of all of us; there were more Japs underground than there were on top of that island by far.”

“There was no safe place,” Skeen added. “You’d go right over those caves and there were a lot of guys that got shot in the back.”

“I remember early on that there was a couple of guys who saw a cave opening and they decided they were going to go in and see what was in there,” Winemiller said. “They thought there’d probably be some dead Japs because they’d thrown a couple hand grenades in there. Well they never came out. They got blasted.”

The conversation turned even more somber. They recalled seeing and hearing about torture and other atrocities on both sides.

“These things happened,” Skeen said. “I wish I could forget it, but I can’t.”

“You’re doing all right,” Winemiller assured him.

They talked about their initial landing, the most dangerous part of the operation. Skeen explained that the Japanese strategy was to allow the Marines to land, then gun them down them while they were assembled on the beach. The sand and loose volcanic ash made for slow going.

“Going in, I could see the smoke and hear the noise, but I didn’t have fear in my heart,” Skeen said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. We hit the beach, that ramp went down and we went into that ash. It was like getting into a bin of wheat and it got into your shoe tops. After you went over the top of that, you heard a few live rounds and a couple more shells went off. I thought, ‘I’m going to die.’

“It never dawned on me until then. I dove into a shell hole when the mortars went off and about four or five guys came in on top of me. I said, ‘Keep coming, boys.’ I thought they’d give me more protection.

“I didn’t realize death could be so real, so close, until that moment. When you start hearing those live rounds going by your head and the mortar shells go off.”

Talk of life and death naturally led to talk of religion.

“It wasn’t a very pleasant thing, but the good Lord decided to let us hang around for awhile,” Winemiller said.

“When I hit that first shell hole, when I dove in there, I said, ‘Oh God, if you get me off this island alive, I’ll give my life to you’.” Skeen recalled. “They talk about foxhole religion. Believe me, I meant what I said.”

“I do believe that and I think that’s wonderful,” Winemiller said. “It took me a lot longer to do that, but that was an important part of it.”

“I was afraid I was going to die and I knew I wasn’t wanting to die or ready to die.” Skeen said. “Those things are memories that are almost like they happened yesterday. ”

“You’re never going to get rid of it,” Winemiller responded.

“No. I pretty well got over most of it for awhile, but I had a difficult time with it,” Skeen said. “But I’ll tell you one thing, I am proud to have served my country. I don’t know that I did anything really to win the war, but I was there attempting to help and I’m thinking of all those who died there.”

“You did your share,” Winemiller responded. “That’s all you can say.”

Both recalled seeing the American flag flying atop Mount Suribachi, a 550-foot volcanic cone at the southern tip of the island. Six members of a Marine patrol hoisted the flag on Feb. 23, 1945. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the event in what would become an iconic image from World War II. At the time it also boosted the morale of the troops as well as civilians on the home front.

They also talked about steam from subterranean volcanic activity seeping through cracks in the ground and filling the air with a stench of sulfur.

“It was so hot a lot of times, our foxholes were very warm,” Winemiller said. “You could bury C rations in it and they’d be nice and warm by lunchtime.”

“It was so hot underground, it was 90 degrees all the time,” Skeen added.

Skeen, a corporal, served with a recon company on Iwo Jima He spent 38 days on the island. When it was all over, he returned to Hawaii, where his division regrouped and prepared to invade Japan. However, after the U.S dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered.

“I don’t know how a lot of people feel, but I think that is one of the best decisions that President Truman made,” Skeen said. “It was very very bad that they had to drop those bombs and kill those people but, from what I saw over there, we would have probably lost millions on both sides because they were suicidal. They had no regard for anything — their own lives or anyone else’s.”

He compared Japanese soldiers, who were expected to die in battle, to modern terrorists.

From the fall of 1945 until May 1946, Skeen served in Japan with U.S. occupational forces.

“We went in and basically our job was to destroy all their military installations, their coastal guns and stuff like that,” he said. “For awhile, we saw no people (except for what he believed to be Japanese police officers). The women and children were taught that the Marines were the most savage men in the world, that all they did was rape and kill. They were very fearful of us. But it wasn’t very long before they realized we weren’t what they’d been told and they warmed up to us.”

Winemiller, who also made the rank of corporal, was assigned to the Joint Assault Signal Company. During the Battle of Iwo Jima, he worked on the front lines, communicating by radio or telephone to the ships, directing naval gunfire.

“I heard a good many shells go over my head,” he said. “Thankfully, they all went over. These weren’t always naval shells; there were artillery shells. At the end of their trajectory, they’d start to wobble and you could hear them coming. I don’t tell you that because it was an exceptional experience. I’m sure every guy that was in the frontline situation had that experience.”

He acknowledged that it could be unnerving, but he and the others didn’t dwell on it.

“I think most Marines I was around were dedicated to the job that needed to be done and weren’t just sitting around worrying about whether they were going to get killed,” Winemiller said.

After the Battle of Iwo Jima and Japan’s surrender, he was sent to north China to help repatriate Japanese soldiers who had been stationed there. His unit also helped Chinese nationalists, who were being threatened by Chinese communists active in the region.

As the interview wound down, Skeen and Winemiller talked about being grateful for their longevity and having survived Iwo Jima. For 72 years, they’ve carried the burden of painful memories. In the twilight of their lives, they have been blessed with a newfound friendship that allows them to share that burden and reflect on lives well lived.

Their experiences have given them a deeper appreciation of life — and for what lies beyond.

“The best is yet to come,” Skeen said.

 

Along with the story, I wrote what is called in the newspaper business an info bar. Here it is.

The Battle of Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima History

A small island 4.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, Iwo Jima is part of the Volcano Islands. The islands were Japanese territory, administered by the City of Tokyo. Prior to the Battle of Iwo Jima, about 1,000 civilians inhabited the island, living in six settlements. Most were involved in sulfur mining. Some harvested fish from the ocean or raised meager sugar cane and pineapple crops on what little arable soil there was. The civilians were forcibly evacuated just before the U.S. invasion with the exception of about 400, who were detained and pressed into construction duty.

 Before the Battle

Japan had a naval installation on the island before WWII. In anticipation of the U.S. invasion, they built two airfields and were working on a third.

 Strategic Importance

Located about 650 miles from Japan, the island served as a base for Zero fighter planes, which harassed U.S. bombers conducting raids on Japan. It also provided Japan with two hours warning of impending aerial attacks. Iwo Jima was halfway between the Mariana Islands and Japan. Seized from Japanese forces in August 1944, the Marianas served as a base for U.S. bombers. American forces planned to use Iwo Jima for emergency landings for American B-29 bombers. After the U.S. took Iwo Jima, 2,400 B-29 bombers carrying 27,000 U.S. airmen made emergency landings there.

 Japanese Strategy

Led by Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, Japanese troops planned to die on the island — at the hands of the enemy or by suicide. Each man was ordered to sacrifice his own life and take 10 American soldiers with him. The plan was to inflict heavy casualties so the U.S. would lose its resolve and be reluctant to further its attacks on Japanese territory. The Marines sent in 70,000 troops and lost nearly 7,000 men. Kuribayashi knew what he was up against. He had been educated in Canada and had served as a military attaché there and in the U.S. It’s assumed he was killed March 21, 1945. In his final official dispatch Kuribayashi commented, “The strength under my command is about 400. The enemy suggested we surrender through a loudspeaker, but our officers and men just laughed and paid no attention.” His body was never found.

 Iwo Jima Today

The U.S. returned possession of the Iwo Jima to Japan in 1968. The island, marked with shrines honoring American and Japanese soldiers, is open only once a year for a guided tour limited to veterans, their family and a limited number of journalists. Last year, American and Japanese survivors were brought together to the island to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battle and to honor those who died there. Cledith Skeen passed on an opportunity to visit Iwo Jima last year. “I could have gone, but I had no desire to,” he said.

 

Other Facts

  • In “Guadalcanal Diary,” the movie that inspired Tom Winemiller to join the Marine Corps, several Marines appeared as extras. Some of them were among the Marines who invaded Iwo Jima. Also, parts of the movie were filmed at Camp Pendleton in California, where Winemiller and Skeen took some of their military training.
  • Mount Suribachi derives its name from a Japanese term for “grinding bowl.”
  • Iwo Jima has no streams, ponds or lakes. The Japanese relied on wells and collected rainwater to survive.
  • The large flag raised over Mount Suribachi, which replaced the smaller one originally placed there, had been recovered from a sinking ship in Pearl Harbor.
  • The flag raising was also captured on 16mm film by Sgt. William Genaust, a Marine Corps photographer. According to Skeen, he didn’t live to see the footage he shot. Genaust was killed in action nine days later while searching a cave for Japanese soldiers.

 

Sources: “World War II Pacific Island Guide: A Geo-Military Study” by Gordon L. Rottman, World War II Database, the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, iwojima.com, “Combat Camera” by Patrick Brion, “Iwo Jima: Combat to Comrades,” a PBS documentary, Tom Winemiller and Cledith Skeen. Numbers of troops and casualties vary slightly, depending on the source.

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Cledith Skeen, left, and Tom Winemiller

 

 

 

Glazed and Diffused

Stepped out onto the deck this morning, camera in hand, looking for something interesting to shoot in the morning light. I was intrigued by this reflection of the deck and the house in a black ceramic planter.

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(Gratuitous Selfie)

 

 

Making history – and my day

They call them the greatest generation for a reason

Norma Snyder with the flag replica she made from scratch – now on display at the Cleo Redd Fisher museum in Loudonville.

Norma Snyder with the flag replica she made from scratch – now on display at the Cleo Redd Fisher museum in Loudonville.

I have to admit that my years with the Ashland Times-Gazette represented a coming of age. When I arrived there in 1997, I had no idea what to do. All I had going for me was raw writing talent and an instinct for tracking down stories. I also had one major handicap; I thought the world revolved around me.

It took a few years, but I gradually realized that journalism isn’t about journalists. It’s about the people we cover. It’s a sacred trust. It’s about capturing the essence of the people and their times – not just to let them know their lives counted for something, but to preserve those nuances for future generations.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing a member of what has been described as the greatest generation, the folks who carried us through the Great Depression and World War II. It was one of the most touching interviews I’ve ever done. I’ll let her story speak for itself.

This article appeared in the June 30 Loudonville Times.

LOUDONVILLE — During World War II, Norma Snyder helped make history at the Flxible plant. Seventy-one years later, she remade history — this time for the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum.

At the age of 17, Snyder worked at the plant, making airplane parts for the war effort. She was on hand in August 1944 when Flxible was honored with the Army-Navy “E” Award flag for outstanding production of war materials.

It was quite an honor for Flxible, which also produced gondolas for blimps and naval sonar components. During the war 85,660 companies produced war materials. Only five percent received “E” Awards. In 1945, Flxible received a renewal of the award for continued excellence. That allowed them to add a white star to the flag.

Somewhere along the line, the flag got lost. Snyder, a former Mohican Historical Society board member and longtime museum volunteer, remade history by sewing a full-size replica of the flag. She brought it in to the museum earlier this month and it’s now on display in the lobby.

Snyder is a quilter and has experience making large banners for her church, Zion Lutheran Church of Loudonville. So, museum curator Kenny Libben asked her in April to make a reproduction to replace the lost one.

She was reluctant at first.

“I’m 88 years old and I don’t take on new projects if I can help it,” she said. “I decided that, if I had experience with making banners at my church, it was something I could do. So I said would.”

It wasn’t easy. All she had for reference were photos of the original.

“It was a challenge to find supplies, the fabric and all the different things we needed,” Snyder said. “It wasn’t ordinary fabric, so I ended up going to four different towns to find what I needed. I went to Berlin in Holmes County, then Mansfield, Ashland, then I went to Columbus where I found the last of the things I needed.”

Her daughter, Connie Snyder McGowan, a retired art teacher living in Columbus, helped with the letters.

The shape of the flag, a design known as a swallowtail, also made the job challenging.

Working part-time, it took Snyder more than two months to gather the materials and make the eight-foot by four-foot flag.

Snyder had a special connection to the original flag. She was among the workers who helped earn it and among those who posed for a photo with the flag outside the plant in August 1944. The people in the photo probably represented only one shift. Snyder is hoping that the new flag will inspire others who worked there or posed for the photo to come together

“I’m hoping that, with the article, maybe people will contact Kenny (Libben) or me and we can gather whoever is left and get another photograph,” Snyder said. “I know of about five local people I could find, some of them older than myself. Time’s a-wasting.”

Snyder, whose maiden name was Stitzlein, was only 17 and still attending Loudonville High School when she started working at the plant. She worked during the summer before she graduated in 1944 and full-time afterward.

A lifetime Loudonville area resident, she attended Greentown School, a one-room schoolhouse that still stands on the property of a relative at County Road 775 and Ohio 95. The building was moved there from another location near County Road 775, commonly known as Honeycreek Road.

“When I was in fourth grade, they consolidated Loudonville Schools and then we rode the school bus,” Snyder said. “Before then we walked — uphill both ways. Actually, it was because it was hills.”

She went to work at Flxible because the company was doing war work.

“We were making the lower aft fuselage of a cargo plane,” Snyder said. “We had sheets of aluminum and you had framework and a jig it was on. I was not a riveter. I was one of those who drilled the holes for the riveters. They called the aluminum skin and we were the skin gang.”

Most the workers on her crew were women.

“There were some men, and a lot of young people like me,” she said.

Snyder was no stranger to hard work.

“I lived on a farm, so I was used to working,” she said. “It was kind of a novelty because, in those days, we didn’t have three or four cars. We had one car and it went to town maybe one day a week, or one night. So it was kind of an experience for me because I was kind of naïve. It was not bad, but it was interesting and we got paid — not much, but we got paid.”

Flxible was the lifeblood of the community back then. The company provided employment for area residents, often from the time they graduated high school until they retired. For many, it was a family affair.

“I had three sisters who worked in the office at that time and one of my brothers worked there for a short time before he went into the service,” Snyder said.

She continued to work at Flxible for a year or so until war production tapered off.

“I went to Minnich Beauty School in Mansfield and I was a beautician for awhile,” Snyder said. “Then I got married and started having children.”

She and her husband, Robert Snyder who passed away 18 years ago, had five children. Four live in the Columbus-Delaware area and one in Lexington in Richland County. The family has grown to 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

“So, we started something, didn’t we?” she said.

Snyder was the youngest of nine children. Three of them are still living. Her husband had nine siblings.

“There were six boys and four girls, and four of the boys in his family were in World War II and one was in the Korean War,” she said.

In 1951, her husband built a building and rented it out for a couple of years.

“Then we started having building supplies and had a construction company and I also worked in that business, Modern Home Supply and Loudonville Construction,” she said. “The store on State Route 3 is still in the family. My husband’s nephew has it now, Mark Snyder.”

The Snyders built many houses in the area.

She remains active with the historical society.

“I’ve been a member for many many years, but I don’t do as many physical things as I used to,” Snyder said.

She’s hoping more people will step up and help preserve the area’s history for future generations.

“We’d like to get young people in,” Snyder said. “As time goes on, you lose people or (older) people can’t do all that. That’s true in every group I belong to.”

Her effort to replace the lost Army-Navy “E” Award flag helped preserve a part of that history.

When Snyder stopped by the museum last week, curator Libben thanked her for all her hard work.

“It was a labor of love,” she responded.

Perhaps the same could be said for her efforts during the war years — and throughout her life.

But then, that’s how history is made. And preserved.

The Cleo Redd Fisher Museum and Mohican Historical Society can be contacted at (419) 994-4050 or by email at info@crfmuseum.com. The website can be accessed at http://www.crfmuseum.com/ and the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CleoReddFisherMuseum?fref=ts.

Flxible employees gathered for a photo with their “E” Award flag in August 1944. Norma Snyder is the fourth person to the right of the flag in the front row.

Flxible employees gathered for a photo with their “E” Award flag in August 1944. Norma Snyder is the fourth person to the right of the flag in the front row.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Photographic Memory

ospsign1I took a lot of photos when I worked for the Times-Gazette, but I’ll always remember one I didn’t take. The image is burned deep into my psyche. I can see it clearly to this day.

There had been a fatal crash outside of Hayesville, Ohio, a quiet little town between Ashland and Loudonville. A woman had been driving home from work, went off the road and struck a tree.

For a newspaper reporter, it’s an all-too-familiar scenario, one of those things that makes you realize that life dangles from a thin thread. One minute you’re doing something you do every day, just driving along, thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner and — in the blinking of an eye — gone.

Shortly after I arrived on the scene, the woman’s husband drove up, got out of his car and took a few steps toward the wreckage. Realizing what had happened, he dropped to his knees and sobbed. A trooper came to his side, took a knee and put a hand on his shoulder to comfort him.

There’s a saying among photographers — the best camera you have is the camera you have with you. I didn’t happen to have a camera with me that day. Perhaps it’s just as well. As touching and poignant as that moment was, I’m not sure I would have taken a photo.

Sometimes it’s better just to carry an image in your heart.