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Archive for the ‘Share Your Memories’ Category

Living Through History

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

My name is Michelle Myers, and I am a summer intern at the Oberlin Heritage Center through the Leadership Lorain County Internship Program. This is my second summer here. I was born and raised in Elyria, and I am currently working on my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Swarthmore College. This is why I have come to the Heritage Center for my second summer: because I love learning about and talking to people.

History, as I have come to learn it, is not facts. History is stories. History is the light in someone’s eyes when they recall an event that made headlines. History is a grandfather telling his grandchildren about the war at a family event. The past is what connects us all together. It is all of our stories interwoven in a conversation where people recall the good old days, the not so good days, and feel less alone. History is not the history of individuals, but of a common humanity who has been through and seen it all. History is what makes us live forever.

This is why I love giving tours of the three buildings at the Oberlin Heritage Center. I love when a visitor recognizes an item in one of the historical houses and says, “My grandmother has one of those in her house.” Someone else says, “I used to use one of those when I was a kid.” Then a conversation starts. People talk to each other. A human connection is made. Meaning is made out of washboards and rug beaters.

When a woman and I talk about the hardships a mother with her child could have faced trying to find freedom from slavery, and the visitor is nodding her head, her eyes deeply concerned, I feel as if something beyond our words is being fulfilled. She understands what it means to work hard, to face destitution. Both women understand. It is all three of us in this conversation. We live through each other’s thoughts and words. This is what history looks like.

But history is also the amazement and hilarity that ensues when first graders realize what a chamber pot is. They get on their hands and knees on the wooden, creaky floors; look under the rope-wrung bed; see the white, shiny bowl; and cry “People would poop in that?!” Maybe they imagine a life, long before televisions and video games, without bathrooms. They have something to go home and tell their parents about. They gave me something to remember. They fill these buildings with laughter and excitement. They keep these buildings and the Oberlin Heritage Center alive. Thank you to all of you, past and present, who keep this place alive.

1940 DeSoto Coupe: History Lesson on Wheels!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

By Mary Anne Cunningham, Assistant to the Director

Last month, OHC staff visited with Michael and Dorene McAndrews of Brooksville, Florida, who traveled to Oberlin as part of a journey to research and document the history of their restored 1940 DeSoto, once hailed as “America’s Family Car.” The couple purchased the car two years ago, and since then have lovingly and painstakingly restored it to its former glory. Mike and Dorene not only are proud of their pristine restoration, but they’ve enjoyed all the history lessons they’ve acquired through their automobile. Early in this process, they discovered gas ration coupons and a tire inspection record that were used during WWII by the automobile’s original owner, Clyde A. Rawson (1879-1974), of Oberlin. The McAndrews began doing research via Ancestry.com. Some months later, they discovered a copy of Mr. Rawson’s WWII Draft Registration card that listed Oberlin College as his place of employment. The couple requested the assistance of the Oberlin College Archives, the Oberlin Heritage Center and most recently have spoken with a few current residents of Oberlin who remember Mr. Rawson proudly driving his 1940 DeSoto through the streets of Oberlin.

1940 DeSoto Coupe

1940 DeSoto Coupe
(Photo courtesy of Mike & Dorene McAndrews)

The couple compiled a biographical sketch about Mr. Rawson as well as the beautiful DeSoto that they are preserving as a piece of American History. Clyde was the athletic equipment manager at Warner Gymnasium on the Oberlin College campus for 37 years and loved his DeSoto so much that after purchasing the car new in 1940, he never purchased another vehicle and drove it until his death in 1974. He kept the car in his garage at his home on Lorain Street and proudly showed it to admirers who came by knocking on his door asking to see the car.

Clyde Rawson

Original Owner Clyde Rawson
(Photo courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives)

Mike and Dorene have also explored the history of the DeSoto Automobile which was part of Chrysler Corporation from 1928 – 1961. Thanks to the record keeping of the Chrysler Historical Society, they learned that the car was shipped to McDonough Motors in Cleveland in December 1939. In old newspaper articles the couple found about Mr. Rawson when they first began their research, there was information about Mr. Rawson visiting his Mother at the Cleveland Clinic and he himself being in the Cleveland Clinic Hospital. The pieces had finally all come together.

Mike and Dorene expanded their research to include materials on gasoline and rubber tire rationing, coupon books and promotional materials that rallied citizens around the wartime efforts as well as learning a great deal about America’s home front during World War II. Not only do they now feel a kinship with the car’s original owner, they are thrilled that they’ve been able to drive the local neighborhood streets upon which their vehicle traveled nearly 75 years ago and walk down the same sidewalks where Mr. Rawson went to work at Oberlin College.

You probably have a treasure of your own that can initiate a fun and fascinating new history lesson for you and your family!

Morgan Street Bridge Railings

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

 Morgan Street Bridge Railing at the Oberlin Heritage Center

Restored Morgan Street Bridge Railings
Installed at the Oberlin Heritage Center

Last spring Oberlin Heritage Center volunteers, including Walter Edling, Bert Latran, Dick Holsworth, Charles Pope and George Clark rescued and refurbished the century-old iron railings that had been removed from the Morgan Street bridge over Plum Creek.  This was a huge undertaking which took several months and included some heavy lifting help from members of the Oberlin High School football team.   The refurbished railing has been installed along the Oberlin Heritage Center brick heritage trail, just south of the Jewett House at 73 S. Professor Street.  

 

We are nominating this project for a history award and are seeking letters of support and comments about why and how this project provided a real service to the community.   We’d love to hear from you.

We are also still searching for photographs that show the bridge at its original location.  If you have any and are willing to lend them to be scanned, please let us know! 

Smile for the Camera

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

 

Stofan Studio on East College Street in Oberlin (Photograph by Michael Wm. Kelly)

Stofan Studio on East College Street in Oberlin, circa 1970.
(Photograph by Michael Wm. Kelly) 

 

Andrew Stofan operated a photo studio in downtown Oberlin from the 1934 to 1974.  He took pictures of every Oberlin High School senior class during that time period except in 1936 and he documented countless weddings, graduations, and more.  Andy Stofan learned the trade from Oberlin photographer T.J. Rice who had begun taking pictures here in 1894 and whose studio was located upstairs in the building that formerly stood on today’s College bookstore site.   Andy Stofan took photos of every Oberlin College first year class standing on the steps of First Church and also took ID photos of each one for their “wolf” book – print version of today’s online Facebook or My Space. 

The Stofan studio was located first in the storefront where Dave’s Army Navy is now at 29 S. Main Street, and later in the old house that formerly stood at 49 E. College Street (the site of today’s Sustainable Community Associates’ building that is under construction.)  He and his family lived in town and he was active in many community groups and served on City Council for 4 terms in the 1950s, including 4 years as Chairman.  An extensive article on Andrew Stofan was published in the Oberlin News Tribune on April 1, 1976 and a copy of it is on file in the Oberlin Heritage Center’s Resource Center. 

 

Please share information or memories of Stofan and other photographers who have worked in our community over the years, and tell us about photo collections that have survived to tell our community’s history!

 

School Memories

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

The Little Red Schoolhouse

The Little Red Schoolhouse  was built in 1836 and first used in 1837.  It is Oberlin’s oldest building.

Tell us about your memories of going to school in Oberlin.  What did you do?  Who was the teacher?  How has the building changed?