Saturday, June 30, 2012

and it's birth in Ashland County, more or less

Square dancing friend and professional appraiser from Ashland County, Russ Matz, recently pointed out a small stone memorial with a brass marker along US 250 about a mile east of I-71 and explained it was a tribute to the Studebaker automobile manufacturing family.

He went on to regale us with local stories about Studebaker testing an early engine in one of their prototypes which achieved a speed of 100 mph on a hill leading up to the site of the marker.   That engine was said to be from a shop at their nearby homesite.

Local anecdote, he said, also has it the memorial site is the smallest state park in Ohio.

Studebaker was a prominent auto manufacturer through the 1940s and ‘50s but ceased production with their last auto being built March 16, 1966 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  In fact, their history goes back into the 1800s where they built wagons for the country’s migration westward.

Matz’s enthusiastic description aroused our curiosity, then, the very next day on a trip to Newark, Sue and I noticed a Studebaker automobile on a classic car lot in Vanatta, south of Utica—where we stopped to do the attached photos.

It also turns out Sue has childhood memories of hauling her family’s derelict Studebaker to a local junk yard while I also remember fondly a neighboring family and their always new and shiny Studebakers during my high school days.

With those events and our combined memories, pursuit of this story was launched.

It quickly turned out there appears to be more legend than fact surrounding the Ashland area memorial.

No history of the Studebaker car company that I reviewed even mentioned Ashland as part of their automobile’s development or production past.

There is no Ohio Historical Marker commemorating the site.

There is no mention of this site being an Ohio State Park on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources web page.

We did find John Studebaker moved to Ashland County with his family from near Gettysburg in 1835 and built a home at the site of the memorial.  The family left there in 1850 and three of his sons wound up in northern Indiana where they started a blacksmith shop.

They were highly successful in selling wagons to the army during the Civil War and their business exploits grew into the Studebaker automobile company.

So, they were gone from Ashland County for some 50 years before the “horseless carriage” came into existence which pretty much eliminates the possibility of automobile engines being tested on a hill leading to their Ashland home.

Regarding the property on which the memorial is located we found a 15 by 20 foot piece of property from the Studebaker homestead was deeded to the Studebaker auto company in 1926 for placement of the monument that is there today.

When the Studebaker company failed that tiny parcel of land was then deeded in 1966 to the Ashland County Historical Society which pretty much trumps the locally popular legend of the site being the state’s smallest park.

The question of the memorial site being too close to the highway was resolved--in the site's favor--when Ashland ODOT's public information officer Christine Myers joined us in our research.

We revealed our findings to Russ and he smiled, knowingly.  With a salute to his sense of humor I left that meeting wishing the local legends were true.

The car in the above photos is a 1962 Studebaker Hawk, Gran-Turismo.  It had an asking price of $7,900.  The light green car in the left rear of the lead photo is a very un-adorned Studebaker Lark.  Can you find lady friend Sue in any of the photos?  Fogeyisms tips our hat to ODOT's Christine Myers, folks at the Ashland Library research desk and the Ashland County Historical Society for their courteous and professional assistance on this story.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Traffic whizzes westward along US 250 in Ashland County rarely noticing this small memorial on the homestead of the Studebaker family; some of whom went on to eventually found the Studebaker Automobile Company.  Fogeyisms found local legend may exceed the facts surrounding this memorial.  Please stop by Saturday as we sort this all out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

of a geriatric adolescent, of course

I ordered those four, 15 oz, liquid-filled, freezable mugs (lower left) from the Elder-Beerman Company and they arrived packaged as if they were a priceless commodity. 

The mugs retailed at about $2.50 each.

The corrugated box was about 2,940 cubic inches and the individually wrapped mugs were nestled in technologically advanced packaging that would have made a purchasing agent in somebody’s monarchy proud.

I wondered if the packaging was worth more than the product.

With my usual hypothesis that things today are done with noticeable mediocrity, this was antithetical.

I also was amused when I imagined the suits in Beerman’s PR department in their continuing quest to be considered at the top of the “green” heap of environmental friendliness while the boys in shipping were working just as hard to prove that wasn’t so with this packaging extravagance.

Ain’t life somethin’. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


The Bicycle Museum of America is located in New Bremen, OH. 

That’s right; it’s in this quaint village of some 3,000 souls just a bit southwest of Wapakoneta.  As you roll toward the center of town on State Route 274 you will be impressed with an expansive spread of newly constructed buildings including a dandy high school.

What looks like a massive, urban renewal project all completed at once continues in the downtown area and includes this marvelous museum.

The former museum of the same name was at Navy Pier in Chicago.  When that museum closed down in 1997 and was put up for auction, Crown Equipment Corp., Chairman James F. Dicke II purchased the vast majority of the collection and moved it to the home of Crown’s headquarters in New Bremen.

Crown, by the way, started in the 1940s making thermostat controls then transitioned to the forklift industry in the late 50s.  They currently are the fourth largest manufacturer of powered lift trucks in the world—and remain family owned.

The purchased collection was roughly 160 bicycles.  It was merged with Dicke’s  personal collection, now stands at over 1,000 bicycles and continues to grow.

In the upper photos, my lady Sue is enjoying a personally guided tour of the facility by Matt Staugler, an extremely knowledgeable and personable museum assistant.  The lead photo shows them in the older part of the museum which houses bikes ranging in age from 1819 to 1901.

The bike Sue is riding (right) is a replica made by the Boneshaker folks of Alameda, CA.  The tandem on top of the cabinet behind her was the personal tandem of Ignaz Schwinn, founder of the Schwinn Co.  It was made for him personally in 1896.

This bike (left) is a replica of an 1816 Drassine. It was made in the 1970s but very accurate to the time period. This model was invented in Germany by Baron Karl von Drais and his design went on to become the basis of the bicycle we know today.

The twin carbide lamps (right) are from an 1896 "safety" bicycle with very rare ornateness. Light made from gas burned in carbide lanterns preceeded battery or generator powered lights.

In the lower photo Sue is enjoying Mr. Dicke's collection of presidential inaugural police badges which are issued to each participating, police department in Washington's inaugural parade.  

The huge flag behind her is from the Civil War and was stitched by New Bremen area women in 1861 for local soldiers fighting in that war.  It was found in it's battle scarred condition, restored by the generosity of Crown and is on loan to the museum by the New Bremen Historic Association.

As we pondered the historical significance of the museum's collection, Matt shuddered as he recalled the statistic that says a bicycle is destroyed in a landfill or under similar circumstances once every 40 seconds in the US.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On The Miami and Erie Canal in New Bremen

That's lady friend Sue enjoying a restored lock (above) and examining the profile of this historic canal system that connected Lake Erie near Toledo and the Ohio River near Cincinnati.  The system was constructed between 1825 and 1845 and was just completed when railroads began to emerge.  The canal competed with the railroads during much of its existence and had nearly ceased operation by 1906.  Massive floods in Ohio in 1913 ended the canal system for good..

Fogeyisms was in New Bremen recently to take a peek at the delightful bicycle museum located there.  This historical treasure of our waterway history is located behind the museum.  Please stop by Saturday for a peek at--drum roll please--The Bicycle Museum of America!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I found this critter one recent morning in the bed of my aging and rusty garden trailer of all places.  It must have been quite a "hike" for it to meander up, down and around slanted and vertical metal surfaces, all festooned with rust.

Unless it was munching on something tasty in the rusty minerals I cannot imagine what caused it to make such a journey, especially since the trailer lives in the woods where snail habitat otherwise would be bountiful.

Obviously it is a snail of some sort.  But, it's identity eludes me.  As I usually do in such instances I shared these photos with one of my favorite bugologists and spent time in my usual research haunts hoping to attach a name to this critter.  No luck.

So, I will find comfort in the photography--rather than the biology--of the event and share that with you:

Photo Details:

The pictures were done with a Canon T3i, digital SLR camera and Canon's 100mm F/2.8 macro lens, hand-held.  There is significant difference in the hue of the images because the small one was done in the open shade of the woods where I first found the critter.

After I discovered it was going to tolerate my photographic curiosity, I moved the trailer into sunlight where the larger image was made.

The small photo was done at 1/25th second, F/2.8 and ISO 400.  Note the very shallow band of sharp focus.  That was created by all three things that limit depth of field in shots like this; being close to the subject, a longer than normal focal length lens and a wide aperture.

HINT:  In these instances I focus on the general subject area then move the camera gently fore and aft to fine tune the sharpness; a good technique when shooting hand-held, especially when the subject is still.

In sunlight, the larger photo was done with a slightly smaller aperture and I moved back somewhat from my very close camera/subject distance in the small photo.  Remember increasing your distance from the zone of sharpest focus provides greater depth of field.  At the amazing resolutions of which these cameras are capable, I could then enlarge it with Photoshop Elements without loss of image quality.

When I was done with the shoot, I coaxed the snail onto a putty knife and put it back in the shade of a moist pile of woods humus--all the while hoping I was not removing it from its favorite dining site.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


All three of my very-much-grown children were home last week  Local son Brian (left) was joined by his sister TJ (Jacksonville) and younger brother Craig (northern Indiana) for a collective romp in their old stomping grounds.

TJ was here with son Eli for a much needed break from the pressures of her work in the executive level of the banking industry and Craig was helping Brian with a huge, deck construction project--when he was not busy enjoying the races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

They were clowning around (above) while dad was fussing with the camera and repeated the hi-jinx at the photographer's encouragement when dad's aging fingers missed the original silliness.

That's Craig's marvelously restored 1977 Volkswagen bus being used as the stage for the shot.  He acquired the vehicle as a fire-damaged basket case, bared it to the soul of its components and restored it to the eye-catching treasure it is today.

It has the original 70-something horsepower engine so there were lots of laughs when smashed insects were noticed on the front of the vehicle.  Knowledgeable folks were astounded the little bus could achieve a speed sufficient to kill bugs.

Others quipped the insects evidently were traveling at high speed and flew into the front of the bus while it was parked somewhere.

During the treasured interlude of their visit there was time for some dinners and campfires and gatherings with old friends.  ...and some mother/son fishing on the homestead pond below.

As quickly as the visit assembled itself it poofed into the warm fuzz of life's history.

And, I'm very thankful for such memories.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On the Kokosing Gap Bicycle Trail

Somehow it was disconcerting to learn the steam engine in these two photos, regarded as an historical object by most folks today, is younger than me.

It was built in New York in November 1940 and spent its early life moving cargo around the docks in Mobile, Alabama until 1956.  The engine and tender behind it weigh 106 tons, are 67 feet long and can hold 8,000 gallons of water and 10 tons of coal.

The coal was shoveled into the gaping hole in the top picture where it was burned in the engine's boiler, making steam which propelled the engine.  In the small photo, lower right, I am standing atop the sloped floor of the tender and looking forward across the engine.  Angled wooden baffles were removed one-by-one to give convenient access to coal being shoveled into the boiler.

After its life on Mobile's docks it was displayed in Tuscaloosa, AL from 1959-1980.  It was bought by the trustees of the Kokosing Gap Trail and moved to its current location in April 2001.

The engine and tender along with a flat car and red caboose, typically the end car of trains in its day, are now on permanent display along the bicycle trail which passes south of Kenyon College in Gambier where it is being enjoyed by bicycling companions Mark and Nancy Meinzer and Sue Brooks.

The caboose was built in 1924 and rode the Chesapeake and Ohio RR rails until 1979 when it was donated to Mt. Vernon.  It sat in front of the Pennsylvania RR station on S. Main St., there until 1997 when it was donated to the bike trail and moved to Gambier.

The caboose had been vandalized and horribly deteriorated.  Volunteers threw everything away but the steel components and rebuilt the caboose.  Ultimately it was painted in genuine C & O RR colors.

Today the bike trail is a paved corridor from Mt. Vernon through Gambier and Howard to Danville, OH, 14 miles in length along the old roadbed of the Pennsylvania RR.  Visitors enjoying today's trail will traverse the Kokosing River twice on newly decked, steel bridges more than 250 feet long.

The trail is a delightful ride with restroom facilities in Gambier--with its marvelous "train station"--, Howard and Danville.  The first four miles of the trail are through hilly, heavily wooded terrain and much of that along the river.  Regardless, the trail is virtually level along its entire route.

Benches are provided nearly every 1/2 mile for folks without seats attached to their means of locomotion.

I especially like the fact there is little vehicle traffic to contend with.  Only one highway is crossed and that is lightly traveled Ohio Route 229 which the trail crosses near Gambier.  The other highway encountered is US 36 at Howard, but there the highway passes high above the bike trail on a splendidly arched, brick bridge.

The trail also has the unique distinction of being the largest, paved rails-to-trails park in the US which is administered and maintained totally by volunteers.

"It's non-profit board relies solely on gifts, contributions and volunteers for support...."

Can you see my smile of appreciation?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In the geriatric style

There was this lady on Shaffner Dr., in Mansfield who had grown weary of her raggedy, front yard bushes so she hired me to remove them.  Predisposed to working at the gentle pace of a retired fellow, I took the picture of my feet relaxing--while attached to the rest of my body, of course. 

Meanwhile, my exasperated employer, with substantially less than normal patience, took tools in hand and wrestled with the task herself.

Actually, the Shaffner Dr., lady was my very own Sue Brooks.

She didn't hire me; she hired a fellow from the Yellow Pages to do this laborious task and he didn't bother to show up during the agreed upon week.  He didn't even bother to call and explain why he didn't show up.

So, on a recent afternoon, the pair of us undertook the task of digging/slashing her six pitiful bushes into old plant oblivion, piling their remains on an equally raggedy tarp and dragging them onto the compost pile in a nearby woods.

Since the main excavating tool available was a shovel; the kind than only runs on human power and it was assisted by lopers, equally under-powered and, no doubt, of an antique age that exceeded our own venerable status, we toddled into the task being mindful of taking numerous breaks along the way...

 ...which gave rise to numerous opportunities to ponder relaxing feet with a camera, or wondering how this situation might have been covered in a collective bargaining agreement.

And so it goes.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Deep in the forested hills of southeastern Richland County, this marvelous rock formation remains one of the area's top, geologic and natural, botanical attractions.

Back in 2007 ownership of the property was transferred from the Johnson family to the Richland County Park District via the Mohican School in the Out-of-Doors.

This means the 85 acre parcel of pristine, wooded land will be protected from commercial development in the future, forever.

Steve McKee, director of the Gorman Nature Center which also serves as headquarters for the park district said the Mohican School will continue to serve as gate-keepers for the falls property.

Visitors are asked to stop by the school office on Bunker Hill North Rd., to sign a release and obtain their written permission for a visit.  Parking for such visits is available in the grassy area across the road from the school's entrance.

Steve also shared with Fogeyisms plans are on the table for a new hiking trail which will originate in the Mohican State Forest and travel to Malabar Farm and through the Hemlock Falls property, connecting then with the bike trail in Butler.

Can you imagine someday taking a stroll from Mansfield's North Lake Park to Mohican's Lyon's Falls?

McKee said easements or permission to use over 90 percent of the proposed trail's land already have been obtained.

Fogeyisms was comforted to learn this likely will be done while I retain some capacity to enjoy such a hike.

Friends Mark and Nancy Meinzer are pictured with my lady Sue on the bridge below the falls and in the massive rock structures adjacent to the the two falls at Hemlock. 

That's Mark (left) wrestling for a vantage point of the larger water fall in the luxuriant foilage, in places containing plants rare to Richland County; some even rare for the state of Ohio, Steve points out.

A stunning place, indeed!