Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Love from Ledgemont

This appeared on Facebook today... love from Thompson's Ledgemont High School. How incredible!

Support for Chardon

Showing black & red at work in my retail management career. God bless Chardon!

Prayers for Chardon

Yesterday, Monday, February 27th, was a day that forever changed Chardon and Geauga County, Ohio. As we witnessed the tragic events at Chardon High School, everyone said the same thing: "Not here! Not in our hometown!" Now, we know that is not true.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved. To the students, families, and teachers. To the first responders. And to the community.

As Chardon Police Chief Tim McKenna said: "Chardon will take care of Chardon." We are so blessed to have safety officers in the city and county that are the best and most professional in the nation.

In the aftermath of this awful day, I offer a simple prayer. "God, grant us peace."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

“Pioneer Press”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Reading about Geauga County history is always a compelling exercise. But in particular, uncovering the story of how newspaper publishing has evolved here yields special satisfaction for this writer.

In the ‘Pioneer and General History of Geauga County’ from 1880, much information about our region’s early development was chronicled for future generations. One thread examined in this durable collection comprised the story of journalistic endeavors undertaken by our forebears.

What follows is an excerpt from the book that provides a glimpse of where our traditions began:

by J. O. Converse

The first paper ever published within the present limits of Geauga County was the Chardon Spectator and Gazette, established, probably, early in the summer of 1833, Alfred Phelps, esq., editor and proprietor. Prior to that time, Chardon, though the county seat of the undivided county, had been entirely dependent on Painesville for newspaper facilities, the Telegraph being the leading, and, for several years, the only paper published in that place. Its venerable founder, Mr. Eber D. Howe, in his “Autobiography and Recollections of a Pioneer Printer,” recently published, states that local and personal dissensions, in which he had been editorially involved, led to the establishment, at Painesville, in September, 1828, of a rival newspaper, and that he soon discovered, as if often the case, that old and trusted friends were engaged in the plot. When the new paper first appeared, it was printed by two young men brought from Buffalo for the purpose, whose names he does not recall. Respecting this enterprise, and its results, he further says: “After spending all the time and money which they [the young men mentioned above] could afford, they disappeared. Several other printers who came along were put aboard the leaky ship to navigate it as best they could. This paper was called the Geauga Gazette, and put on a very respectable appearance. The next year our old friend, William L. Perkins, esq., who had recently come among us as a lawyer, and then in the prime of life, took charge of the editorial department for about a year, with what success I know not. He was succeeded by Mr. Henry Sexton, who kept the paper going one or two years longer, when it was sold and taken to Chardon, and printed by Alfred Phelps, esq., for a year or two longer, and finally disappeared from the county.” The Chardon Spectator and Geauga Gazette was a six-column folio of rather more than medium size. Its editor, Mr. Phelps, was a Whig in politics, of rare intelligence and conservative views, a true gentleman of the old school, whose editorials were well written, whose literary taste was apparent in his selections, and whose ideal of a model political newspaper was the old National Intelligencer, of which he was a careful and appreciate reader. But he was not, as every country editor should be, a practical printer, and, after publishing the paper nearly two years and a half, “at a constant pecuniary loss, besides the loss of his own services, by no means inconsiderable, however inefficient,” (as he modestly suggests in his valedictory, November 27, 1835), he was reluctantly compelled to abandon the enterprise. The establishment was sold to J. I. Browne, esq., editor of the Toledo Gazette, by whom it was removed to that city. After the Spectator, no paper was published in Chardon until the spring of 1840, when (May 23rd) appeared the first number of the Geauga Freeman, as the county organ of the Whig party, the late Joseph W. White, editor and proprietor. This was also a six-column folio, a little larger than its predecessor. The division of the county occurred the same year, since which event it has never been without a county paper. The year 1840 will always be remembered for the exciting and otherwise very remarkable and unprecedented campaign, which resulted in the election of General Harrison to the presidency. Of all the Whig counties in the state, Geauga, if not the banner county, was among the strongest and most enthusiastic for “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” Editorially, Mr. White, though styling himself as a Democratic-Republican, was accepted as, like Mr. Phelps, a Whig, but in other respects very unlike him, as the kind of paper demanded for the campaign of 1840, and which Mr. White provided, was unlike the dignified and conservative Spectator, which answered five years before. In him was presented that strange anomaly in politics, a Whig with Democratic antecedents and proclivities. His life had been a varied and stormy one, and his character, which had doubtless been greatly influenced thereby, was both strong and angular. Born in Fort Duquesne, July 3, 1788, his parents, with many others, having taken refuge in the fort, from the Indians, then very numerous and troublesome to the settlers, his boyhood was spent in that city, where he served an apprenticeship at the printing business… He was a man of honest motive, but great eccentricity and hard, Puritanic notions, and, as may be supposed, was an ardent and aggressive partisan, who was believed to possess just the qualifications required in a conductor of a political paper in 1840… For many years previous to his death, which occurred near Youngstown, November 17, 1869, in his eighty-second year, he considered himself the oldest resident ex-editor and printer in Ohio. The people of the county rallied to the support of the Freeman, making it a success from the outset; but Mr. White, in business as well as politics, was erratic, fond of change, and it was probably this disposition more than anything else that induced him to dispose of the paper, which he did after publishing it about two years and a half.

Converse mentioned a number of colorful, county newspapers in the balance of his article, including: The Geauga Polk-Eater; The Young Hickory and Spread Eagle; The Geauga Republican and Whig; and The Jeffersonian Democrat.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

“Geauga in Print – Part Six”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Here is yet another look through the time tunnel – an experience yielded by researching the vast library of online newspaper archives. This series has become part of a continuing project at the Icehouse home office.

Sweet echoes of yesterday linger in each yellowed page of print. But strangely, many of these local stories seem to touch on issues still very much in the minds of modern-day Geauga County residents. What follows here are a few examples of how journalists from yesteryear told the tales of their everyday lives:

The Painesville Telegraph, February 1, 1945

“CHARDON – Many of Geauga county’s schools were closed and traveling was at a minimum here today as vehicles were unable to push through drifts estimated to be from three to four feet deep. A high wind whipped the snow piled high from storms of the last few weeks and drifted so badly that Stanlae Merritt, Geauga county highway superintendent, estimates that 75 per cent of the total 225 miles of highways is blocked. Mr. Merritt, who said that this was the 52nd day since Dec. 11th, that his men had to work to remove snow, stated that the entire equipment of seven plows was in operation. Pointing out that the snow piles up again within a short time, he said that Tuesday at 10 p.m. every road, including side roads, had been cleared. Chardon High School, where pupils from Munson, Claridon, Montville and Hambden attended, was closed, as well as grade schools in Montville, Newbury, Burton, Hambden and Parkman. One of the most heavily traveled roads, Route 44, is said to be clogged with drifts three to four feet in depth. It was reported that many motorists were marooned for several hours and were not able to reach their homes until early this morning. Officials pointed out that they were handicapped by the fact that four of the state highway trucks were out of use. They said that while 17 plows should be working, there were only six and one plow grader as the others lacked parts which it has been impossible to replace. Three plows were working out of Burton, two out of Parkman, one out of Auburn and a plow grader out of Montville. Two were reported stuck north of Chardon on Route 44. At the height of Wednesday night’s storm, Chardon fire department received a call from the C. and S. service station on Water St. but, in a short time, the call was canceled as only a chimney was burning out. Rural mail carriers, who Wednesday were unable to make all their trips, today were unable to make any deliveries.”

The Painesville Telegraph, November 23, 1938

“CHARDON – Radios to receive state highway patrol broadcasts were being installed this week in all automobiles used by Sheriff Harry O. Hill and his deputies. One radio will be in the sheriff’s office. This was made possible by resolution just passed by county commissioners authorizing the purchase of five police radios for $400. It is the first time the local department ever had police radios. ‘It will make for better police protection,’ commented Sheriff Hill.”

The Montreal Gazette, September 4, 1928

“Cleveland, Ohio – Representatives of organized labor from northern Ohio and surrounding territory gathered today at Geauga Lake near here, to hear William Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, sound a call for their active participation in the forthcoming election. Making clear the non-partisan attitude of the Federation itself, Green told his hearers that labor ‘possesses a potential power in the political and economic fields’ which can, if made active and centralized, exercise ‘the balance of power on such decisions as may be made.’ The Federation president urged Labor, as a group, to give most serious consideration to the formation of the next Congress, promising that all available information on the records of Congressional candidates will be gathered and supplied by the Federation’s non-partisan political committee. Extension of the five-day week was characterized as the outstanding accomplishment of Labor in the last year by Mr. Green, who declared that ‘the public mind has accepted the change and placed upon it the stamp of approval.’ Hundreds of thousands of working people have obtained the five-day week, he said, and added that the complete establishment of the plan would continue as one of Labor’s chief objects. Turning to the subject of wages, Mr. Green declared that ‘the theory of low wages and cheap production has been exploded.’ Low wages would be a calamity in America, he said, adding that wages ‘must keep pace with our increased power of production, and must correspond with the requirements of the American standard of living.’ Thousands have been forced into unemployment at varying intervals during the past year, he asserted, and went on to outline the Federation’s plan for relieving such situations by instituting public improvements and the construction of public buildings ‘when unemployment forces itself upon a large number of our citizens.’”

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Friday, February 10, 2012

“Opposite Day”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Funny things happen when I stay up late at night, drinking coffee. Fantasy and reality become difficult to separate. What follows here is the product of one recent adventure into the long hours after dark.

Social networking has redefined how we interact with each other in the 21st Century. The benefits of this connectivity are numerous, and well documented. But my own participation in the global community of Facebook delivered a recent prize that was completely unexpected.

I landed a job interview at Cleveland’s most notable radio outlet, WTAM 1100.

Preparation for the meeting grew more intense with each passing day. I copied my resume, writing samples, and various articles published over the last thirty years. Added to this stack were letters of recommendation, and a copy of the current Maple Leaf.

The game plan I devised was simple - to overwhelm their Program Director with evidence of a long and productive career.

But on the night before our chat, I happened to see a familiar rerun of the 90’s sitcom ‘Seinfeld.’ In the episode, George Costanza approached a young woman with the most unlikely of pickup lines:

“I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.”

His strategy of doing opposite things yielded new success. As I watched, a stunning realization occurred. For many years, my habit had been to seek out opportunities and offer traditional tidbits from my portfolio. Yet the result was always predictably unchanged. I had to continue working as a retail manager to pay the household bills.

Costanza had offered light in my under-employment darkness.

It was time to try something completely different.

I arrived for the interview dressed in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, jeans, work boots and a baseball cap. A bubbly Clear Channel receptionist seemed to giggle when I approached her counter.

“Are you here to fix the telephones?” she warbled through dangling curls of hair.

I was caught by surprise. “What? No, I am here to see Ray Davis, your Program Director. About a job.”

She frowned with disbelief. “We haven’t been able to transfer calls since last week. It is such a headache! And all they do is complain about the budget. No money to hire a repairman.”

“Sorry to hear that,” I said.

“You really aren’t here to fix the phones?” she asked again.

“No,” I repeated. “Ray Davis, please.”

The receptionist turned in her chair. “The paging system doesn’t work, either.” She put a jeweled hand to her mouth. “MR. DAVIS YOU HAVE A VISITOR AT THE COURTESY DESK!"

“Umm… you need to unplug the system,” I observed, suddenly.

She rubbed her tired eyes. “What did you say?”

“Unplug the entire system,” I explained. “For at least a couple of minutes.”

“Aha!” she shouted. “You ARE a repairman!”

“Nope,” I laughed. “We have the same system at my supermarket. Any kind of power surge makes it crazy. You have to reset it.”

The receptionist silently followed my instructions. After a pause, the intercom sounded.

“Claire, can you hear me?” a male voice intoned.

“Mr. Davis!” she cheered. “Your nine o’clock interview is waiting out here. And he just fixed the phones.”

“SEND HIM TO MY OFFICE!” Davis shouted.

I entered his sanctuary with an armload of manuscripts. “Opposite,” I thought quietly. “Must do the opposite today…”

Instead of offering the material for his approval, I dumped my collection in the waste can.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” he barked.

“My name is Rod Ice,” I said dramatically. “Thank you for seeing me today.”

“Yes,” he gasped. “Okay… you’re a newspaper writer as I recall?”

“That’s right,” I said.

“So, those files in my trash can were examples of your work?” he asked.

“Yes,” I agreed. “I’ve been a freelance writer for thirty years.”

“And you threw everything in the rubbish?” he said with confusion.

“Yes,” I answered, proudly.

He reached for the trash. “C’mon, now. I’d be glad to look at your columns.”

“No, that stuff is basically worthless,” I confessed. “Forgotten like yesterday’s breakfast. Let me be honest with you today. I manage a grocery store for a living. Writing is my first love, but it doesn’t pay enough. I am overweight, middle-aged, and a social dropout. Basically one step above Dick from Dayton, who calls Mike Trivisonno or Bob Frantz all the time.”

Davis was stunned. “You know, I’ve never had an interview like this!”

“Your biggest radio star is a blue-collar guy with no professional experience,” I proclaimed. “People love Triv because he is genuine. Well, I could bring that same kind of ‘street cred’ to your station. Think about it – a regular guy from Geauga County discussing news of the day. I have no life. All I do is listen to the radio.”

“Geauga?” he snorted. “You mean the home of maple syrup and Amish buggies?”

“Hey!” I interrupted. “The Bainbridge Township police just arrested a 29-year-old woman for driving at speeds up to 128 mph on Route 422. She was inebriated, and wearing a slinky fishnet top and bottom, with clear heels.”

Davis sat up in his chair. “Now that’s more like it!”

“Or how about this,” I continued. “In 1957, a UFO landed near Montville. Local resident Olden Moore saw the craft and was later interviewed in Washington, D.C. under a cloak of secrecy.”

“Yes!” he agreed, loudly. “Ratings! Gotta get those ratings!”

“Remember Rick Gilmour?” I wondered aloud. “He had that same kind of everyman style. You need more off-the-wall personalities on WTAM.”

“I loved Rick,” Davis whispered.

Boldly, I extended my hand. “So, let’s strike a bargain here. I give you this promise - every minute I am on the air will be one-hundred-percent entertaining. As Mike Trivisonno would say, ‘trust me when I tell you!’”

Davis pounded his desk. “This will be ratings gold! Yes, I say! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Postscript: I woke up around four o’clock in the morning. Everyone else had surrendered to the night. But I had one question left to ponder – should I send this column to Mr. Davis himself, or not? The answer was obvious - I should do the opposite and delete my column, immediately.

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

“The Cat Came Back”

c. 2012 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers: Around Christmas, a stray tabby took up residence under my porch. It howled for attention until after the New Year. Though neighborhood children briefly adopted the kitten, it came back. My dogs chased it around the yard. And it came back again. A winter storm made it disappear amid heaps of drifting snow. But it came back again. Until at last, my patience was exhausted. All I could do was sing the refrain from a traditional song originally written by Harry S. Miller…

It was a late morning at the Icehouse home office.

A winter storm had buried my east county home in two feet of snow. But thankfully, I was off for the weekend from my ‘real job’ in Geneva. So the ferocity of Mother Nature caused little concern.

I sipped coffee while doing research for the next installment of ‘Geauga in Print.’

Suddenly, the telephone rang. It was my sister, Becka, from Hambden.

“Hello there, Rodney,” she squawked. “Are you keeping warm in Thompson?”

“Of course,” I said with certainty. I put the phone on speaker mode.

“How about your new pet?” she laughed.

“No extra animals here,” I stammered.

“Fibber!” she yapped. “Is the kitty making herself at home?”

There was a short pause. The line crackled between us, suffering from electrical fatigue. Frosty winds rattled the windows.

“Nope. We kicked that thing out in the snow,” I shouted defiantly.

Riley and Quigley, my Black Lab and Pomeranian duo, were amused.

“Nonsense!” my sister retorted.

“We did!” I insisted. “No room for another resident in this house. Especially a cat.”

“Horse hockey!” she chirped.

“It’s gnawing on an icicle as we speak…” I proclaimed. “The rest of us are having pan-fried steak.”

“Rodney!” she groaned. “You are a bad liar!”

I bowed my head. “Okay, I gave it a can of Valu Time tuna last night. Kitty won the war of nerves. Does that make you happy?”

“Yes,” Becka confessed. “You have a good heart.”

My face went red. “I called Dree to see if she wanted the cat. But her apartment complex requires a $250 deposit for animals.”

“Too much!” my sister observed with disdain. “Keep the kitty for yourself.”

“No,” I disagreed. “It’d be a bargain to give her the money. This little feline eats like a pig with fur!”

“C’mon Rodney,” she taunted. “The tabby can’t be that bad.”

My mood darkened. “Last night I made seafood stir-fry after work, and she attacked the wok! Her appetite is insane.”

“Gotta watch her like a toddler,” Becka giggled.

“Two dogs are enough.” I said. “Why don’t you take the little varmint?”

My sister huffed out loud. “We’ve already got two kitties here. Plus three gerbils and a parakeet.”

“A parakeet?” I snorted.

“It was a Christmas present from someone at church,” she explained. “A bit unexpected, really… Mrs. Palka’s grandma had to go in the hospital. But we like the bird.”

“Well, what about Lon?” I asked.

“Our brother just got a potbellied pig,” she replied. “It fits him, actually. Very clean and well behaved. Kinda cute.”

“Look, if nobody will take this thing, then it’s going back out in the cold!” I promised.

“Bull!” she disagreed. “Better stock up on meow chow.”

“Maybe it will find a mouse-sicle out in the snow.” I said.

“Rodney!” she hissed. “Quit being mean.”

“Mean?” I shouted. “Just because I don’t want the little furball trashing my house?”

“Your house is trashed already,” she quipped.

“Can’t hear you,” I said, suddenly. “The connection must be bad…”

“Rodney!!” she shrieked. “Don’t hang up on me!”

“Hearing nothing but static,” I whispered. “Must be the weather.”

“RODNEYYY!” she yelped. “Don’t get rid of that kittyyyyyyyy!”

“Take it easy, Beck!” I cheered.

I clicked the phone off before she could answer.

While making a fresh pot of coffee, song lyrics began to jingle in my head. I grabbed a pencil and scribbled words on a piece of scratch paper.

What appeared was a new version of the classic cat composition that had been echoing in my thoughts:

The Cat Came Back (Geauga County Version)

The neighbor kids
Tried to take kitty home
But mom wouldn’t budge
She tossed it back out in the snow

When I came home from work
It was waiting by the door
I tried to raise a ruckus
But it hid on the porch

The cat followed close
When I walked my dogs
It wanted a spot
By the Yuletide log

Christmas Day
And Santa didn’t show
But the kitty kept begging
For my lump of coal

I tried to win
But the cat wouldn’t stop
It yowled and yowled
Right around the clock

I finally caved
And gave up my plan
Went to the door
With a tuna can

The cat was wild
Finally got its wish
Dining like a queen
On the tuna fish

My house was plus one
Two dogs and a cat
It won the fight
Now how about that?

Oh, the cat came back
With a desperate yowl
Hidden in the bushes
At the corner of my house

Begging for a meal
Just a wandering stray
My sister named it ‘Gypsy’
‘Cause it wouldn’t go away

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