Friday, October 21, 2011

“Geauga in Print: Part Four”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

The recorded history of newspaper journalism in America is impressive. Archives exist nearly everywhere, across the country. And today, this considerable collection of resources is accessible to average folk as never before.

Most impressive, in a local sense, are stories of Geauga in the near and distant past. One might think that our little neck of the woods would be overwhelmed by news from communities around the nation. But once again, research has proved that our county will forever be an important point of reference for historians, everywhere:

The Bryan Times, December 21, 1976

“Winter heralded its official arrival today with bitter cold and heavy, wind-whipped snows in the Northeast and Midwest, closing schools and roads in Ohio and causing problems for motorists in many other states. According to the calendar, winter officially started at 12:36 p.m. EST today, ending one of the coldest falls on record. ‘Absolutely disgusting,’ said Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Quinn of Geauga County, Ohio. ‘We’ve got all the schools closed today with 14 or 15 inches of snow on the ground and it’s drifting over two feet in spots.’”

Times Daily, September 5, 1961

“BURTON, Ohio – a white Leghorn bantam rooster crowed 38 times in 30 minutes – five more than his nearest rival – to win the crowing championship of Ohio at the Geauga County Fair Sunday. What the champ didn’t know, however, is that he was tricked into crowing. For half an hour before the contest, which began at 4 p.m., the entrants’ cages were covered. When the covers were removed, the birds thought it was day break.”

The Lewiston Daily Sun, February 24, 1948

“BURLINGTON, Vt. – The relative merits of Vermont and Ohio maple syrup are going to be tested to decide which is better. Gov. Ernest W. Gibson said today he and Ohio Governor Thomas J. Herbert will meet ‘over maple cups’ April 3. The contest, said Gibson, is intended to end ‘once and for all, Ohio’s claim that its maple syrup is better than Vermont’s.’ The taste testing will be held in Geauga County, Ohio. The first maple syrup of the season has been reported by 80-year-old William Goss in South Burlington. Goss said he had two quarts of syrup boiled out of sap drawn from trees Feb. 18. Goss said maple syrup production usually starts two or three weeks from now.”

Paterson Daily Press, November 21, 1877

“Cincinnati – A special dispatch states that the man who was taken from the constable of Middlefield, Geauga County, Ohio, on Tuesday night and lynched was taken down and resuscitated. His name is Luther Scott. It is supposed that the object of the lynchers was to prevent Scott from revealing to the authorities the doings of a gang of desperados, of which he was a member.”

The New York Times, March 5, 1858

“The trial of HIRAM COLE, indicted for poisoning his wife in September last, was commenced at Chardon, Geauga County, Ohio, on the 1st inst. The trial is held in the Court of Common Pleas; Judge Wilder presiding. Cole is defended by Messrs. Thrasher and Blakesley. He looks well, and has gained in flesh during his five months’ imprisonment. A Jury was sworn in the course of the day; several jurors having been set aside as disqualified. The history of this case is briefly told. Cole was in business in the town of Bainbridge, Ohio, up to the month of September last. He had formed an attachment for a woman whom he addressed by the name of Emma, in a correspondence which passed between them. These letters, by accident, fell under the observation of Cole’s wife. Her jealousy was aroused, and Cole and his mistress appear to have conspired together to produce the death of the wife, Adelia Cole. The mistress went to Hamilton, Canada, and corresponded with Cole from that place. On the 9th of September last, Mrs. Cole died under circumstances which fixed suspicion on the husband. He was arrested and an investigation was begun. The body of Mrs. Cole was exhumed, and a chemical examination proved the presence of arsenic in the stomach. Corroborative circumstances pointed still more strongly to Cole as the murderer, and on the 14th of October, he was indicted for the murder. On this indictment, he is now standing trial. The trial is in progress.”

The New York Times, July 12, 1854

“Gathering of spiritualists. - The Cleveland Plain Dealer says there was a great meeting of Spiritualists at Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio on Sunday last. Whole townships turned out, and the woods and fields were full of them. It is estimated that there were eight thousand present. They expected to meet Gov. Tallmadge and Judge Edmonds, who were not there. This assembly was gathered without effort, with little or no public notice.”

Resolved here: the process of professional journalism endures. We write, read, and remember.

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

“Flashback: Hand Grenade Interview”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is a story about the most unusual job interview I’ve had in the past 27 years. The experience came as I was attempting to re-enter the world of retail supervision. It was re-written from an old manuscript discovered in the household archives.

In April of 2009, after deciding to re-start my career as a retail manager, I interviewed at an upscale market located in another county. A friend on Facebook had suggested that I connect with the business, because she was a regular customer.

The store was very diverse and appealing to shoppers who desired something different from the typical fare of everyday food markets. After visiting to leave my resume, I was very happy to secure an actual interview.

My work background included many years of service both in the retail and logistics areas of the food industry. So I felt confident about selling myself as a potential employee.

On that day, I met personally with the business owner in his cafe. Excitement tingled over my skin. Yet I could tell immediately that something was wrong. When I said his wife had called me, the response he delivered was terse.

"Oh she did, did she?" he groaned.

With minimal interest, he looked over my resume. “I need someone in the seafood department!” he barked. “You… are… overqualified. You wouldn’t be happy with this job.”

The revelation caught me by surprise. But I assured him that I just wanted to find employment.

He looked at my resume again. “So… all you’ve done is… run a store?”

The comment made me flinch. At one point, I had helped supervise a bustling team of 275 associates. But I tried to maintain my composure.

“That’s right,” I agreed. “My experience has been in retail management, specializing in customer and employee relations.”

He noted that I left my last supermarket in 2006, and asked what I did after that had transpired.

It was on my resume of course, but I repeated it anyway. I described the odyssey of writing three books, while continuing to work for a local newspaper.

His reaction was predictable. "That's just great but I need a seafood manager!"
Again, I stated my desire to work for his company.

He grew more tense, and rubbed his eyes. “So, why would you accept such an entry-level position?”

For the third time, I stated a yearning to resume my retail career. His store seemed innovative and customer-friendly. I wanted to join the team!

Sweat beaded on his forehead. It was easy to see that he remained unimpressed.
“But, why did you apply for this job?” he said again.

“My resume was submitted last month, sir,” I said. “Not in relation to any specific position, but with the hope that you might be interested in a face-to-face meeting. Your wife called to schedule this interview.”

He grunted as if in pain. “Yes, yes! But why would you want THIS job?”

I admitted being in the midst of an interview process with several potential employers. “My desire is to find the best ‘fit’ for myself.”

At this point he lost control. Red-faced, he got up from the table and began shouting. "So you've already got a job! You’ve already got a job!"

Customers near the café were alarmed. I heard gasps from people who were working in the department.

“Not true,” I said with a frown. “I’m only looking for the best opportunity out of different alternatives…”

While storming away, he shouted like a military drill instructor. "I have an opportunity! A hell of an opportunity!"

He literally left me sitting at a table by myself. I felt like a hand grenade had exploded in my face. All conversation in the café had completely stopped. Now, I seemed to be the center of attention.

Suddenly, the overhead lights were unbearably hot. I just wanted to go home.

Across the store, I could see him leaning against the service counter. With wild gestures, he was growling at someone who I guessed had to be his wife. No words were intelligible, at such a distance. But his emotions rang out like a warning bell.

I collected my paperwork, and left under a cloud of embarrassment. I felt sorry for the owner’s wife. And, for those who depended on this rowdy fellow for employment.

It was not going to be a good day for them, at work!

Needless to say, I never patronized this business, again. But the tale of my encounter with its owner will endure into eternity.

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Saturday, October 01, 2011

“Breakfast Blessing”

c. 2011 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: What follows here is paraphrased a bit, from memory. But otherwise this is a tale based on real events.

I’ve said it frequently in this newspaper – sometimes the best columns seem to write themselves.

Recently, I needed to get work done on my pickup truck. This meant a visit to Chardon, and my favorite repair garage. The owner was a regular customer when I helped manage the city’s most successful grocery store. So I trusted him with my vehicles just as he depended on me to provide meal choices, snacks, and beverages.

The habit stuck even when I moved on to a different location.

After dropping off my truck, I walked around the corner to McDonald’s. The breakfast rush was in full swing, and I took the opportunity to share coffee and conversation.

My brother-in-law arrived after about half an hour. He cheerfully recounted family events of the week, while I finished a polystyrene plate of tasty pancakes and sausage.

While listening, I noticed a tall figure across the room. He was quietly reading a morning paper by the faux-stone fireplace. In between pages, I saw his face.

“Soldier Joe?” I asked myself, silently.

Breakfast disappeared too quickly. Then, my brother-in-law gestured with his coffee. “Were you ready to go?”

I nodded, taking a gulp of the Colombian brew. “Yes. Thanks for coming here… not sure when the truck will be finished.”

We both got up to leave. He was several steps ahead of me, when the tall fellow by the fireplace put down his newspaper.

“Rod?” this lone figure exclaimed. “The Grocery Guy?”

I shook his hand. “Hey! How are you?”

Soldier Joe looked a bit older than I remembered. Thatches of gray filled his hair and moustache. But there was strength in his voice and eyes.

“Haven’t seen you at work in a long time,” he reflected.

“No,” I explained. “Still doing the retail-manager thing, but at a different store. And still writing for the Maple Leaf.”

Joe smiled. But before he could reply, news bellowed from a flat-screen TV above the fireplace. In serious tones, a CNN reporter described the bleak local scene in Afghanistan. Plus, the political implications here at home.

“I remember being alone, in the middle of war,” my friend reflected with a somber expression.

“Vietnam, right?” I asked.

He nodded. “When I came home, there were no parades. My buddies and I felt shunned – by everyday people, and the government. It’s like they wanted to forget.”

I took a deep breath. “You know, I was just talking about the Vietnam Era with one of the college students at work. To them, the war is ancient history. But I described how that conflict shaped my generation…”

Soldier Joe grew curious. “What do you mean?”

My mood quieted. “I was a young kid in those days. Our family was Christian and very middle-of-the-road. We were taught to respect the government and its decisions. I would never have imagined anything else. But every night on the evening news, there were reports from the battlefield. And from our nation’s capitol…”

Joe bowed his head. “You saw it on TV, or read about it in Life Magazine. I lived it, in Vietnam, and back here in Ohio.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. “While soldiers struggled and the government careened toward finding a successful resolution of the conflict, young kids like myself watched from the sidelines. People like you were our heroes.”

My friend brightened. “Really?”

“The aftermath of Vietnam,” I said dramatically. “How we dealt with the soldiers coming home. How our politicians wrestled for partisan advantage while you were abandoned and ignored. That was a defining event for my generation. We saw what happened to you and vowed that it would never be allowed to happen again.”

Joe’s eyes grew wet. “I’m still fighting for medical benefits. For people like me, the war never ended.”

I sighed loudly. “Growing up in that moment made me a Libertarian of sorts. Indeed, I think that whole experience helped revive the old-style Jeffersonian resistance to government, in America.”

A wordless pause filled the air, as both of us reflected.

He shifted gears, suddenly. “So, you’re still managing a grocery store?”

I was caught off guard. “Yes, that’s right. It pays the bills. I actually wrote, edited and published three books over the past few years. But it’s hard to sell printed work in this economy. And I’m not much of a salesman.”

Soldier Joe laughed out loud. “Well then, I’ll come visit your new place, sometime. Good to see you, Rod!”

I shook his hand, again. My coffee had gone cold while we conversed. But now, my spirits were warm.

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