History

Living history – Kazoos, ‘marriage mill’ and speakeasy raids

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   During Prohibition, Lizzie Fuller led raids on local speakeasies. During the Great Depression, Wallace Kramp and his farmer friends started the local “penny auctions” to save neighboring farms after foreclosures. And Georgia Sargent Waugh led the Kitchen Kazoo Orchestra of a local homemakers group. Their stories and more will be part of the 15th annual Wood County Living History Day on Sunday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m., in Oak Grove Cemetery in Bowling Green. Local residents will portray citizens interred in Wood County cemeteries or those who had an impact on Wood County’s leisure time of the 1920s and 1930s. The citizens selected this year were chosen to coincide with the “leisure time” exhibit at the Wood County Historical Center & Museum, “The Return to Normalcy: A Life of Leisure in Wood County.” The annual Living History Day draws a crowd to the cemetery because it gives a glimpse into everyday people who lived in Wood County, said Kelli Kling, director of the Wood County Historical Center. “I think it’s popular because the people being portrayed are real people,” Kling said. “It’s not necessarily the celebrities. It’s people just like us, who made an impact on Wood County.” This year’s portrayals include people with intriguing hobbies or occupations. For example, Georgia Waugh and her kazoo orchestra. “That’s such an unusual thing,” Kling said. “There will actually be a performance at the event.” Also portrayed will be Paul Fuller, who had a role in the Bowling Green “marriage mill.” “Bowling Green was an area where a lot of people passed through to get married,” Kling said. “There was a bit of a competition going on” to see who could marry the most couples. Then there’s Lizzie Fuller, who grew up in a strict Christian household in Grand Rapids, where travelers frequented on the canal boats. She was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which considered alcohol an evil. So she led raids on speakeasies, where alcohol was sold on the sly during Prohibition. “She felt it was her duty to protest against them,” Kling said. Following is a list of all the people being portrayed, as well as the people taking on their roles for the Living History Day event. “I love the fact that they’re all being portrayed by local folks,” Kling said. Raymond George (1889…

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County courthouse murals need a facelift

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Murals depicting the history of Wood County, and now part of that history, need some work. The murals on the third floor of the Wood County Courthouse depict, on the east wall, Fort Meigs in 1813 and facing it on the west wall, one depicting an oil field in 1904. The murals were painted in 1910 and 1911 by I.M. Taylor, an artist and at the time mayor of Bowling Green. Nick Foos, facilities director for the county, said that in the past 18 months as work was being done restoring plaster in the second and third floors of the courthouse, workers noticed some paint flaking on the murals. That information was shared with county officials, including County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. “We collectively decided we should do something about it before it gets worse,” Foos said. So the county contracted with ICA Art Conservation, a non-profit center in Cleveland for advice. On Tuesday, Andrea Chevalier, a senior painting conservator, visited the courthouse, and using step ladders was able to get a closer look at the situation. What she saw was not pretty, but reparable. There are large areas of areas where the paint is peeling, yet still precariously hanging onto the surface. There are also a few areas where the paint is gone altogether. Foos said the mural depicting Fort Meigs is in worse shape than the one depicting Wood County oil fields. The surfaces of the paintings are actually quite clean, without a film of dirt, nor heavy varnish. Foos said there were traces of nicotine from the time when smoking was allowed in the building. Chevalier said that to fix the murals an adhesive will have to be applied under the surface using a hypodermic needle or brush. Then a special packing press will be used to flatten the flaking paint back onto the surface. The areas where the paint is gone will be filled in and repainted to match the original. Chevalier could not give an estimate on what that will cost. She’s working on a report based on her observations on the site. She expects to have a report to Kalmar by the end of next week. Still “it’s not inexpensive.” Just getting the scaffolding up from the second landing will be costly. Chevalier was only able to touch about the bottom three feet of…


People’s brains are wired to accept bunk, BGSU historian contends

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even scholars fall for bunk history. Andy Schocket, a professor of history and director of American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, knows a lot of the historians who provided promotional blurbs that appear on the back of Michael Bellesiles’ “Arming America: The Origins of American Gun Culture.” “These are really good historians,” Schocket said. The book argues that gun ownership and violence was rare before the Civil War, and that the current gun culture is wholly the product of a campaign by arms manufacturers. “Arming America” even won a prestigious prize from Columbia University. “The only one problem with the book is that it’s entirely bunk,” Schocket said. That became clear when scholars started to look at the book’s evidence and logic. Bellesiles’ employer Emory University convened a commission to investigate concerns about the book’s scholarship. That commission concluded the book “foundered by a consistently biased reading of sources and careless use of evidence.” Bellesiles no longer teaches at Emory. The prize was rescinded, and the publisher pulled the book, though the author has since republished it privately. Schocket recently spoke on “Bunk Peddlers: Alternative History and Why It Matters.” He first distinguished bunk history from alternative history, a genre of fiction that builds its stories based on history taking a divergent path. Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” being a prime example. Bunk history, he said, adopts the methodology and trappings of history – “you’ve got to have footnotes, that makes it history” – but it “presents a preconceived conclusion” in search of proof. This includes Holocaust deniers and those who promote the “pernicious false claim” that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, not slavery. These narratives “become weaponized in public debate as a way to bolster one’s side in the current political debate.” Schocket also looked at David Barton’s “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson.” The book contends that Jefferson opposed slavery and argues despite “the pretty much overwhelming evidence” that did not father the children of Sally Hemmings, a woman he held as a slave. It also contends he believed in conventional form of Christianity. “Jefferson Lies” won the praise of conservative pundits, was a bestseller, and also won a prize as “the least credible history book in print” by the History News Network…


At 90, composer Samuel Adler reflects on a life in music (Part 1)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Samuel Adler was born, his mother, Selma, declared he would be a composer.  The hospital was located on the spot where Mozart himself had lived. Of course, music was the family occupation. His father, Hugo Adler, was a cantor at the central synagogue in Mannheim, Germany, and himself a composer of sacred works. So the path was blazed early, and Adler has stayed on that road guided by his father and some of the greatest musicians of his time. Along the way Adler has created a legacy of hundreds of compositions, from solo pieces for every instrument in the orchestra plus accordion to operas – “I’ve written too much,” he says with wry self-deprecation – and hundreds of composition students. Adler lives, retired from teaching but not composing, in Perrysburg with his wife, Emily Freeman Brown, the director of orchestral studies at Bowling Green State University. His 90th birthday year will be marked by performances near and far, both in Toledo with the Toledo Symphony will premiering his tuba concerto in fall and in his native Germany where one of his pieces will be performed in Potsdam on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of Nazi attacks that signaled the ratcheting up of the persecution of Jews. Adler has released a three-CD set, “One Lives but Once” on Linn Records and published “Building Bridges with Music: Stories from a Composer’s Life,” published  by  Pendragon  and  already in  its second edition. “I’ve made it,” he declares when asked about the milestone year during an interview at his home. His actual birthday was celebrated in Dallas March 4. It coincided with a celebration of the 65th anniversary of the choir at Temple Emanu-El which he formed.  Music director of the temple was his first job after his discharge from the Army in 1952. His life in music started in Mannheim. After playing recorder in school, his parents started him on violin at 7. This was during the time when the Nazis had taken control, and were imposing increasing restrictions and harassment on Jews.  Musicians and singers were fired from their positions. They banded together to form a cultural organization that staged concerts and operas. Hugo Adler with active in writing cantatas. Young  Sam Adler heard his first operas performed by the Judischer Kulturbund. Then came Kristallnacht in 1938. In…


Holocaust survivor urges BGSU audience to fight against injustice

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Irene Butter survived the Holocaust. Now she sees signs that people have forgotten its lessons. She sees people being dehumanized, stigmatized because of their nationality, families being broken up and deported. “I see all that happening.” People from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and African-Americans are called criminals. “Some people in this country try to get rid of them all,” the 87-year-old Holocaust survivor said Wednesday at Bowling Green State University in a talk sponsored by Hillel. White supremacy is on the rise. “When Trump says ‘make America great again,’ sometimes it means make America white again,” she said.  That echoes the Nazis’ desire to make Germany “clean of Jews because the blood of Jews contaminates the Aryan race.” That’s what gave rise to the killing machinery of the Holocaust.  “I don’t see that,” Butter said. “I see something like the way it all began in Nazi Germany.” Butter of Ann Arbor, knows well the outcome. She had a happy childhood in Germany with her parents and her older brothers. If anyone had asked about their identity, they would have said German, first, and then, Jewish. After Hitler took power in 1933, the signs started to appear with the swastika, an ever present symbol of the new regime. Her brother was beaten up at school and she was ostracized. Then her grandfather’s bank was seized, and her father was out of work. He moved to the Netherlands where he got a job with American Express. Soon the rest of the family joined him in Amsterdam where they lived happily for two and a half years. Then Germany invaded. Jews had to wear yellow Stars of David. Their movements were restricted. They could only shop after 3 p.m. when few of the scarce rations were left. Even their bicycles were confiscated. The Jews had to go to segregated schools. They were sad places, Butter said, as there were more and more empty desks. Some because students and their families were able to emigrate from the Netherlands. Others were in hiding.  But more because Jews were deported back to Germany and concentration camps. Butter’s father, through a friend, had applied for Ecuadorian passports. He had heard this may give them other options as “exchange Jews” who could be traded for German citizens held in Allied countries. Then one day, she…


Wetlands plan at park doesn’t sit well with farmer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As a young boy, Tom Carpenter learned quickly that his neighbor, Everett Carter, liked things done a certain way. At age 12, Carpenter started mowing lawn for the aging farmer. “Can you make straight lines,” Carpenter recalled Carter asking him. “He was very, very particular. His home was immaculate,” Carpenter said. Decades later, now Carpenter is the farmer of the land once planted and harvested by Carter. And as such, he approached the Wood County Park District Board on Tuesday about its plans to turn part of the old farm into a wetlands demonstration project. The property has been in the park district’s hands for years, being donated by Everett’s daughter, Sally Loomis. The park district has maintained the farm, house and outbuildings as a historic site for visitors. Carpenter complimented the park district for its efforts. “If Sally Loomis were to pull in the property, she would be very appreciative” of the care given the buildings, and the animals being raised on the site north of Bowling Green, Carpenter said. But he’s not so sure that Loomis would appreciate 20 acres of her former farmland being turned back into wetlands. Carpenter surmised that Loomis would prefer that the acreage continue to be used as productive farmland. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger explained the proposal to revert a portion of the farm back into wetlands would serve two purposes. One is historic. “It would restore it to what it would have been back in the day,” Munger said. The other reason is scientific. The wetlands proposal by the Black Swamp Conservancy would be a demonstration project to study how wetlands can be used to filter out nutrients from farm fields – before those nutrients reach streams and ultimately Lake Erie. Carpenter said he is aware of runoff from farmland causing water quality problems in the region. “I understand about 70 percent of what we put on farms can end up in Lake Erie,” he said. The preliminary proposal calls for the wetlands to be located with a wooded buffer on 20 acres on the far west end of the farm. The acreage involved sits along a ditch that flows into Toussaint Creek. The wetlands would be designed to create wildlife habitat. Munger said his conversations with Loomis led him to believe she would approve of…


Nemeth to leave historical museum for new challenge

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Five years ago, Dana Nemeth came home to the Wood County Historical Museum – the former county infirmary that she frequently visited as a child. As director of the museum, she was at the helm as the site was transformed into an ADA accessible facility – no simple feat for the rambling building more than a century old. And she led the staff as they created a World War I exhibit that filled the sprawling site and drew the largest crowds ever at the museum. But now, Nemeth is leaving for another challenge – also one close to her heart. On April 2, she will move into the new position of reference archivist at the Bowling Green State University popular culture library. “It’s bittersweet,” Nemeth said about her departure from the museum and arrival at the library. “I love the museum and what I do there,” she said. “I grew up going to that museum. It’s had a special place in my heart – always has, always will.” Nemeth’s dad, Dorsey Sergent served as the pharmacist for residents at the county infirmary, then later volunteered his time to turn the closed site into a county historical museum. “I remember as a little girl going over there with my sister,” Nemeth said of the historical center which is about a quarter-mile from her childhood home. But Nemeth also has history with her new home at BGSU. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Master of Arts in Popular Culture, and previously served as a library associate at BGSU’s Jerome Library’s Center for Archival Collections. As a student, she worked in the pop culture library. Her new position is in administration, and will entail supervising student employees and helping with research requests. BGSU was looking for someone with a library science degree and popular culture expertise. “It just seemed like a really good fit for me,” Nemeth said. “It seemed like the right thing to do.” She previously worked at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, N.Y.; the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.; and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. During her years as director at the county historical museum, the overarching goal was to make the site more accessible. With the help of state funding, support from the county commissioners, and volunteer fundraising…