Last week’s column closed with discussion of a photograph dealing with an historic Civil War reenactment of 1977 at what was then called Rio Grande College and Rio Grande Community College. The photo was part of an illustrated history of the institution issued by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, S.C., co-authored by Jacob L. Bapst and Dr. Ivan M. Tribe, familiar names to at least a couple of generations that either studied at or were associated with Rio Grande.
An entire series of Arcadia histories, appearing under the “Images of America” banner, possess the requisite background of the towns, counties, schools and other landmarks chosen for the spotlight, but are more remarkable for the archival photos and illustrations that dominate each volume. The photos tell the story of growth, decline and rebirth of communities near and dear to all of us.
Meigs County is the topic of one of the books, with Point Pleasant and Mason County amply represented in separate publications. Rio Grande’s place in Gallia County history is celebrated in the 2017 collaboration between Bapst, retired educator and archivist, and Tribe, noted historian who had a hand in the Meigs study with its originator, Jordan Pickens.
And it’s not just limited to our part of the country. Some years ago, my younger sister, Liz Korycki, sent me copies of “Images of America” histories of our old stomping grounds in Wallkill and Goshen, N.Y., that not only revived memories but proved highly informative about the places where we grew up. Yes, there was a lot I didn’t know about the area even if it was my home for just over two decades before I made permanent my move to Ohio.
Like who built the grand old house we always passed by on what was known as Middletown’s East Main Street, even if the “street” extended into what we knew so well as “the country” and its dairy farms. Or the wide spot off the main road west of the same municipality known as Howells Depot, or just plain Howells, with the Catskill mountain range looming prominently in the distance.
Not to mention views of the Mechanicstown Volunteer Fire Department on Middletown’s east end, for which my mother served as secretary-treasurer for many years. In 1991, the department approved Mom’s request for us to borrow its ample supply of Friday night bingo folding chairs for use at Dad’s Army reunion, staged that year at our house. When I commended the firefighters for being so generous, my older brother John drily responded: “Kevin, Mom OWNS this fire department.”
Not having been back there in many a year, my sister tells me much of what we remember from then is unrecognizable today as progress and population shifts out of the New York City area, originally forecast for the 1960s and ’70s, finally caught up with sleepy old Orange County a few decades later. Even the impressive home I mentioned earlier is gone, the land part of a new hospital complex. But thanks for allowing me a digression down memory lane.
Books like the “Images of America” series are meant to recapture some of the look of what would be called our home places, the scenes that haven’t entirely slipped our memory. As such, they really serve a purpose for those individuals who have called their communities home all of their lives, and to newcomers looking to understand local heritage and what makes it so unique.
Response to my query of last week about the outdoor musical drama “Gallia Country” drew an unexpected but most welcome response from folks in the know, starting with Cheryl Enyart of the Gallia County Historical Society who will graciously make available to me its archive on the show, staged over several summers in the ’70s at what is now the Bob Evans Farm Shelterhouse.
Mike Thompson, of the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College’s Instructional Media Center, released to Facebook a 1978 video of “Gallia Country” in what was apparently its last season, providing a vital piece of history surrounding the show.
His action elicited a number of FB responses from appreciative folks who either participated in “Gallia Country” or saw the production when it was a new experience, written by Lee Duriex and directed by Greg Miller. My understanding is that the show underwent a few changes over the duration, so the video may very well be a record of what it looked like in its final form.
And if no one else will do so, I will offer congratulations to Ohio Valley Publishing, the Point Pleasant Register and its editor for winning awards in the West Virginia Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.
OVP and the Register won second place in Best Special Section Division 2 for “Remembering the Silver Bridge Tragedy, 50 Years Later” that appeared Dec. 15, 2017, in the pages of the Register, The Daily Sentinel and Gallipolis Daily Tribune.
OVP Editor Beth Sergent won second place for Best Lifestyles Feature in Division 2 for her examination of the history of Lakin State Hospital, and third place in Best Lifestyles Pages for another in-depth feature on the production of the film “The Mothman of Point Pleasant.”
An excellent showing all around, and indicative of the work the OVP staff puts into the creation of its newspapers every day.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.