Friday, May 20, 2011

“Roundtable, Restrained”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

The morning was busy at McDonald’s on Water Street in Chardon.

I arrived just after eight o’clock, hoping to buy breakfast before the activities began. We had gathered for the monthly meeting of our Geauga Writers’ Roundtable.

In attendance were many noted wordsmiths from around the county. I felt a tingle of excitement while enjoying my first cup of coffee. Notepads were strewn over the table by their artificial fireplace. We chatted briefly about Twitter accounts and cell-phone plans. Then, the happening commenced.

Carrie Hamglaze, a local figure of renown, was already at our table with a cup of Irish coffee. She was a vision of mature womanhood, dressed in emerald green and Hilltopper red.

“Dear friends,” she began. “Allow me to bring this event to order!”

Mack Prindl, editor of the Parkman Register, sat stiffly upright in his chair. A yellow ‘Terrible Towel’ filled his mouth. He struggled to speak. "Donn likee thiss…”

Carrie shook her head. “What happened to him?”

Martha Ann Reale of the Newbury Siren-Monitor laughed out loud. “In keeping with the NFL lockout, Mack has been restrained from commenting on his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of the Burton Daily Bugle laughed out loud. “Maybe now we can discuss real local issues for a change!”

I bowed my head. “Surely there is a better way to keep him off the subject of pro football…”

Carrie gasped audibly. “This is crazy. Somebody take that out of his mouth!”

Mack bounced in his chair. “Yuhhhh!”

“Really,” I continued. “Give the guy a break.”

“Pringle doesn’t deserve a break!” Martha Ann hissed.

“Thhhuss Prindlllll,” Mack wheezed through the towel.

“Anyway, I’d like to talk about our failed school levy in Chardon,” Carrie said.

“Levy, schmevy!” Martha Ann cackled. “All my readers are talking about the raid to get Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.”

“Hey, that isn’t exactly a local story,” I cautioned.

“True,” Ezekiel thundered. “But Martha Ann is right. Everybody is talking about that event.”

“Okay,” Carrie agreed. “Let’s give thanks today for the brave work of our soldiers and intelligence operatives.”

“And for the courage of our great president!” Martha Ann cheered.

Ezekiel rubbed his eyes. “Not to mention his quiet strategy of continuing the policies of George W. Bush…”

“WHAT???” Martha Ann squawked.

“Thasss nutttsss,” Mack slobbered.

“No, Zeke is right on target,” Carrie smiled. “Mr. Obama retained Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. He kept the Guantanamo Bay prison open after years of promising its closure. And he let the CIA maintain an active role in the war against terrorism. All of that yielded the capture and elimination of Bin Laden.”

Martha Ann shuddered in her chair. “You sound jealous to me!”

“Not jealous,” Ezekiel huffed. “Amused by the irony, perhaps.”

Carrie smoothed the brim of her hat. “Irony, indeed!”

“We’ll see how loud you talk in 2012!” Martha Ann shrieked.

I took a long sip of coffee. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter who wins or loses politically. We were able to complete the job of hunting down Bin Laden. Justice was served.”

A hush overtook the group.

“I say ‘amen’ to that,” Carrie observed, after a moment of silence.

Ezekiel nodded his head. “Amen!”

“Amen, amen, amen!” Martha Ann repeated.

“Mmmmunn!” Mack mumbled.

“So, are you going to pull that towel out of Mack’s mouth?” I wondered.

Ezekiel frowned. “Nah. This is the best roundtable meeting we’ve ever had.”

Carrie went red with embarrassment. “Please, friends. Can’t we show him some mercy?”

“We got none during the NFL playoffs,” Martha Ann said with a smirk.

“But… will there be any pro football this year?” I mused.

“The revenue involved is incredible,” Carrie reflected.

“About nine billion dollars,” Ezekiel said.

“Amazing, isn’t it?” Martha Ann complained. “We live in a nation where schools have to beg for funds, while sports franchises and millionaire athletes are literally drowning in money…”

Carrie sighed loudly. “One might question the priorities of our society.”

“Nohhhht meee!” Mack muttered through his towel.

“It’s the free market at work,” I said unemotionally. “If people didn’t support the league, that nine billion wouldn’t exist.”

Ezekiel chuckled to himself. “Rodney is right. If we want to point fingers… then they should be directed at us. We make this kind of greed possible. Face it. America loves the game of football.”

Carrie finished her Irish coffee.

“Amen!” she said at last.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

“Reporter’s Notebook”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

I have sometimes observed here that the best columns seem to write themselves. Often, useful prose comes not from careful preparation, but instead, through the humble magic of everyday events.

A recent note from relatives in Brunswick proved this truism, once again.

Their message carried information about upcoming events, to be held in Burton this year. I learned that they would be attending a commemoration for the Civil War 150th anniversary, on June 17-19th, 2011.

My aunt and uncle have long been ‘reenactors’ who study the period with meticulous care. So they cheerfully suggested that I might participate by assuming the role of a nineteenth-century reporter. In that capacity, I would be able to interview soldiers and citizens with respect to the North-South conflict.

The suggestion made me wonder – what local newspapers were in existence during the war? As a former sports editor in Ashtabula County, I knew that the Ashtabula Sentinel was being published in Jefferson during the Civil War. The original Jefferson Gazette came into being shortly afterward. But what of Geauga?

A search through the Library of Congress provided clues to this riddle:


Geauga republic. (Chardon, Ohio) 1849-1854
Free Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1849-1850
Chardon Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1850-1852
Free Democrat. (Chardon [Ohio]) 1852-1854
The Jeffersonian Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1854-1865
The Geauga Democrat. (Chardon, Ohio) 1866-1871
The Geauga Republican. (Chardon, Ohio) 1872-1921
Geauga record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1886-1887
Geauga Democratic record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1887-1888
Geauga record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1888-1888
The Democratic record. (Chardon, Ohio) 1889-1891
Geauga County record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1892-1921
Western Reserve times. (Charndon [Chardon], Ohio) 1872-1872
Chardon times. (Chardon, Ohio) 1873-1875
Burton independent. (Burton, Geauga County, Ohio) 1883-1884
The Geauga independent. (Middlefield, Geauga County, Ohio) 1884-1885
The Geauga leader. (Burton, [Ohio]) 1874-1915
Daily record. (Chardon, [Ohio]) 1886-1886
Middlefield messenger. (Middlefield, Ohio) 1885-1903

According to this list, the county had one newspaper being published at the time:


Title: The Jeffersonian Democrat. : (Chardon, Ohio) 1854-1865
Place of publication: Chardon, Ohio
Geographic coverage: Chardon, Geauga, Ohio

Publisher: J.S. Wright
Dates of publication: 1854-1865
Description: Vol. 5, no. 1 (Jan. 10, 1854)-v. 17, no. 52 (Dec. 22, 1865).
Frequency: Weekly
Language: English
Subjects: Chardon (Ohio)--Newspapers; Geauga County (Ohio)-Newspapers.
Notes: ‘Devoted to the dissemination of Republican principles, education, temperance, literature, agriculture, and the news of the day,’ 1857-1865.

A closer look revealed libraries around the country that have material from this newspaper in their collections:

SUMMARY HOLDING: Brigham Young University Library, Provo, UT
Dates Available: 1854-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy

SUMMARY HOLDING: Burton Public Library, Burton, OH
Dates Available: 1859-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy

SUMMARY HOLDING: Duke University Library, Durham, NC
Dates Available: 1862
Available as: Original

SUMMARY HOLDING: Geauga County Public Library, Chardon, OH
Dates Available: 1859-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy

SUMMARY HOLDING: Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH
Dates Available: 1854-1865
Available as: Microfilm Service Copy
Available as: Microfilm Master
Available as: Original

SUMMARY HOLDING: Western Reserve Historical Society, Newspaper Project, Cleveland, OH

Dates Available: 1854-1865
Available as: Original

SUMMARY HOLDING: Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project, Madison, WI
Dates Available: 1861
Available as: Original

My closest personal connection with the county’s newspaper past came through a tattered copy of the Geauga Republican purchased on eBay. The document was from 1919 and discussed issues of the day including the prohibition of beverage alcohol. I wrote at least two columns that examined this curious artifact. Additionally, I uncovered a long-lost bit of local UFO journalism with help from the Geauga County Archives. A 1957 copy of the Geauga Times Leader boasted reporting about the curious alien experience of Olden Moore. Each of these encounters-through-newsprint offered a sense of the historic value of professional writing.

But what about the Jeffersonian Democrat?

A new mission lay ahead. It was time to visit local libraries, and investigate!

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“Geauga Tel Interview”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

The television studio was bright with artificial illumination. I squirmed in my chair as pre-broadcast preparations were made. The crew frantically adjusted, taped, twisted, and tested every piece of equipment until a proper technological balance was achieved. Then, the program director shouted for attention.

“Ready to go on air!” he bellowed. “Ready in four, three, two, one… we are live!”

The host looked up at her camera as if she was receiving an epiphany.

“Welcome to ‘Wordsmith Watch’ on Geauga Tel!” she purred. “I’m your humble host, Sandra Seale.”

The audience applauded politely.

“This week,” she continued, “we are pleased to have local author Rod Ice as our guest. Mr. Ice has been a fixture in the local Geauga County Maple Leaf for over thirteen years. Let’s give him a warm welcome to the show!”

More applause resounded.

“Rod, tell us about your writing adventure,” she asked.

“Adventure?” I stammered.

“Yes indeed,” she said with encouragement. “Your personal odyssey. The struggle of your soul to find liberation…”

My face reddened. “Uhmm, well, it hasn’t been a struggle, really. I began to write professionally with the hope of selling stories to some of my favorite motorcycle magazines. That was twenty-nine years ago.”

“Really?” she gasped. “Motorcycle magazines?”

“That’s right,” I said, shyly.

Seale smoothed her silk blouse. “An interesting point of entry into the world of wordsmithing. Yet from that beginning you have polished your craft.”

“Something like that,” I replied.

“Now, you hope to follow in the famed footsteps of George Bernard Shaw, and Ernest Hemingway…” she cooed.

“Nah,” I said, plainly. “More like those of Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko.”

“Oh my!” she squawked. “Well… wouldn’t you like to be considered a great writer if it were possible?”

“Not really,” I mumbled.

“No?” she exploded with disbelief. “Isn’t that a bit odd for a professional?”

My stomach began to hurt. “I don’t look at it that way. I’m not seeking accolades or awards. Just everyday readers.”

“How interesting!” she hissed with a smirk.

“From the beginning, my column had a simple mission,” I explained. “It needed to be readable for everyone in the family. My brother is a truck driver, but my grandfather was a college professor. So that meant speaking to a diverse audience.”

Seale shook her head. “An impossible task, I’d guess…”

“Not at all,” I disagreed. “My work has meandered at bit, like a stream in the woods. But everything comes from the heart.”

“From the heart,” she laughed. “A hackneyed phrase, but true in your case?”

I nodded, silently.

“In addition to the newspaper column, you’ve written books?” she said.

“Yes,” I answered. “Three of them. Each provided a unique learning experience.”

“Really?” she said. “How so?”

My eyes narrowed. “I learned the art of editing and publishing a full-length manuscript. And I learned how difficult it can be to sell books on the open market. Especially in the midst of global economic chaos.”

The audience chortled and chuckled to themselves.

“So, what ideas do you have for the future?” she wondered aloud.

The question made me pause. “I’ve done a mock-up cover for the second ‘Thoughts At Large’ collection. It features a package of bologna on a dinner plate, with a knife and fork.”

“DON’T GO THERE!” she screeched, suddenly losing her librarian sensitivity. “I mean… well… surely there must be something more appropriate for the cover of your next volume, Rod.”

“Maybe,” I agreed. “We’ll see how it develops as I get everything together. Instead, I might do a book with California guitarist Davie Allan. I’ve written about him frequently, over the years.”

Seale took off her glasses. “In closing, Rod, many people in my audience want to know about the characters in your column. Are they real people? Or not?”

I rubbed my eyes. “Some, like Carrie Hamglaze, are inspired by friends in the area. Others, like Ezekiel and Lemuel Byler-Gregg, are completely fictional. They serve my needs as a writer.”

“So, one shouldn’t take ‘Thoughts At Large’ literally?” she pondered. “Is what you write true? Or only a fantasy?”

My response only increased her confusion. “As Doctor Who once observed – ‘Everything I say is true. Especially the lies.’”

The audience broke into wild applause.

“This has been ‘Wordsmith Watch’ on Geauga Tel,” she concluded. “I’m your host Sandra Seale, wishing you health and happiness! Goodnight, everyone!”

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