Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

 

Pat Graven 001

These wave petunias bloomed during the week of Christmas.

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.

~Albert Einstein

Take time to smell the roses. Pat Graven takes time to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside and wants her garden to blend in. The area around her home flourishes with plants that are natural to the area. It’s her place to relax as she works with her plants, and leaves the cares of the world behind for a little while at least.

     But Pat didn’t always live in the country. In fact, she was a city girl from the Cleveland area. There, her grandmothers influenced her life at an early age. One grandmother had a passion for roses and would gather rose petals in the morning to make a facial. The other grandmother would only eat things that were grown on the farm. You can see how Pat came to love nature.

Pat played the shopkeeper

This talented lady even played the shopkeeper in “The Magical World of Dickens”.

     Before coming to this area, Pat worked with the police department in Cleveland as a dispatcher. But once she saw the hills and streams of Guernsey and Muskingum counties, she was hooked.

Pat lime tree 001

Her lime tree needs a lot of sunlight.

     Here she quickly learned to enjoy the tranquility of the countryside. Her love for animals makes living here extra special as her yard is filled with deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, squirrels and many, many birds.

     She seems to have a special attraction for birds as when she finds a dead bird along the road, she’ll stop and carefully pick it up with plastic gloves. Then she buries the bird with a plant, to let it continue to have value.

Pat Sphere Collection

Springtime daffodils are surrounded by a few samples of her special sphere collection.

     Over the years, Pat has picked up spheres of various metals and glass, making an outstanding collection..many from around the world. A special one she picked up on one of her trips to Ireland, a land she enjoyed “just because it feels good there”. She also has treasures from her trips to Mexico and Hawaii. But now, she is content to enjoy her home and surroundings.

Pat Paintings

Galway Bay in Ireland on a moonlit night inspired Pat to paint the picture she is holding.

     This very unique lady also has a talent for painting. Pat didn’t even realize she had this ability until she went to a class taught by Sue Dodd, who was an inspiration. Pat said, “I never would have painted if it weren’t for Sue.” Pat also works with Dickens Victorian Village to create heads for their mannequins.

Pat flower garden 001

Flower gardens such as this can be seen all over the hilltop where Pat lives.

     When Pat decided to begin planting flowers around her home, her first thought was to find plants that would attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. When Pat does decide to take a short trip these days, Baker’s Acres – a favorite greenhouse – is her destination.

Pat aloe

Throughout the year, Pat enjoys her rose geranium, citronella and aloe plants.

     In 2006, Pat decided to join the OSU Extension Master Gardener program in Guernsey County. This group of gardeners gives many volunteer hours to the community to make it a more beautiful place to live.

Pat favorite orchid

When Pat grew orchids, this one was her favorite.

     Pat’s goal in joining was “to learn to manage the land properly” since she lives on a farm. Her yard is like none other. In Pat’s eye, “A flower is no more than a weed in disguise.” She loves weeds and has created an unusual and interesting setting by using native plants in a most eye-catching way.

Monarch Butterfly

Pat’s grandson, Joseph, captured this Monarch butterfly having a nectar taste treat.

     Most of what she has learned has been by trial and error. Every year she experiments with a few new plants just to see how they will thrive in our local climate. But you’ll still find many traditional coneflowers, salvia, primrose and lilies surrounding her many artistic garden statues and yard art.

Pat Bathroom Greenhouse

This large bathroom greenhouse is a great place for her jasmine and other plants to thrive.

     Her eyes light up and her face breaks into a smile as she tells you about her latest projects. Just recently her jasmine plant has blossomed for the second time this year. According to Pat, “My whole house smells heavenly.”

Pat Master Gardener

In 2017, Pat was named Master Gardener of the Year.

     In 2017, Pat was named the Guernsey County Master Gardener of the Year. Working with the elementary school children and young ag students to teach gardening skills gives her real pleasure. Often she even has gardening classes at her home on the hill.

Pat and Garden Club friends sharing their straw bale garden.

Kathleen, Vi and Pat, all Master Gardeners, share information about using straw bales as containers for plants.

     Her easy going manner and cheerful smile open the door to many conversations with friends and even strangers. If Pat happens to be stuck in a long line at the store, she doesn’t complain. Her first thought is, “Who can I strike up a conversation with?” Her words of advice to everyone would be, “Happiness is in your destiny. You need not be in a hurry.”

Pat's flowers 001     Would she consider going back to Cleveland and leave this peaceful countryside? “People are so nice down here, why would I ever go back to the city.” The community certainly hopes she will continue to spread her joy of volunteering in so many ways for many years to come.

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A retreat for all reasons – or no reason at all

Stockport Dam

Turbulent waters recently flowed past the Stockport Mill and Inn along the Muskingum River.

Escape crowds and noise. Listen to the sounds of the flowing river. Enjoy a delicious meal. All of these become part of the experience when visiting Stockport Mill and Inn on the Dam at the edge of Stockport, Ohio. Explore the history of the area while you “mill around”.

Stockport Locke

This hand-operated lock sets across the Muskingum River from the inn.

     Stockport Mill, located at the sixth in a series of locks and dams on the Muskingum River, had its beginning in 1842. The building today is the third mill on that site. It was built in 1906 by the Dover Brothers. By using a pair of 10-inch Leffel turbines, it not only provided power to run the mill but generated electricity for the town of  Stockport.

Stockport Mill Sign

This old mill sign hangs on the porch of the Stockport Inn on the Dam.

     Stockport Milling Company was known for making Gold Bond, Seal of Ohio and Pride of the Valley refined flours. Products were shipped on steam packet boats and on the Ohio & Little Kanawha Railroad, because good roads were not available at that time.

Stockport Corn Grinder

Some antique equipment, like the corn separator, can be found throughout the inn.

     That early mill supplied many different needs. Farmers could get feed and supplies for their animals, including halters and show supplies. Wives used the mill to purchase their garden seeds and plants. Even the children found a place to pick up a 4-H project in the form of baby chicks.

Stockport Slate in Entrance

Slate from the roof has been recycled into wall covering at the inn’s entrance.

     This was also the place where farmers met to share their news, until it ceased operation as a feed mill in 1997.  Three years later this beautiful old mill was restored and now functions as Stockport Mill Inn and Restaurant on the Dam. It is the only mill still remaining of many that dotted the busy river in the past.

     The owner, Dottie Singer, has attempted to preserve the original architecture and building materials. Inside you’ll find many unusual antiques, information about the history of the area, and great pictures and paintings throughout donated by local Morgan County residents.

Stockport Suite

Hudson Suite offers a view of the river and a jacuzzi for relaxation.

     There are fourteen guest rooms with private balconies, which all have scenic views of the Muskingum River. You might choose to stay in the Morgan Raider Suite, Valley Gem River View, or Captain Hook Suite.

Stockport Lounge

This meeting room contained workings of the mill as well as a place to visit.

     Suites come with a jacuzzi, while other rooms still have that old fashioned claw bath tub. Each of the four floors has a meeting room for relaxation as well as early morning taste treats. This is a great place for a reunion, wedding, business meeting, or just to get away.

Stockport Dining Room

Enjoy weekend meals at Stockport Restaurant on the Dam.

     Their dining area has a wrap around terrace so you can have a delicious meal while watching the river drift by. The restaurant is open weekends throughout most of the year, but closed in January. Friday and Saturday, their hours are 5PM-9 PM, while on Sunday, their delicious buffet, which brings memories of Sunday dinners on the farm, runs from noon-4PM.  Reservations are recommended.

Stockport Turbine

This was one of the original turbines that provided electricity to the mill and town of Stockport.

     While those early turbines that produced electricity for the town became corroded, new turbines have been installed that are similar Samson Leffel turbines. The only difference is these new ones have stainless steel parts instead of the early carbon steel, which rusted.

Stockport Tunnel

This is the exit tunnel for the water after it has run through the turbines.

     Water enters the turbines through a trash-rack, which keeps logs from interfering with turbine action. Then it goes in a tunnel under the mill, where it hits a runner, which turns and makes the power.

Stockport Wall 2

Guests are encouraged to visit the “Signing Wall” along the steps on their way to see the turbines in the basement area.

     The generator sets on top of the Speed Increaser at a level above the 100-year flood level. This Hydro Project produces around 800,000 kilowatt hours per year, using seventeen million gallons of water each day. After all their electric needs are met at the mill, any excess electricity is sold to the electric company. It’s no surprise that today this system is run by a computer!

Stockport Balcony

There’s always an exciting view of the Muskingum River from the balconies.

     For those who like to stay away from it all, Stockport Inn and Mill Restaurant on the Dam would be the perfect place. Guests often come back for the river view from their balcony, great food, and the rustic décor. Many have a favorite suite they use time after time.

Stockport Summer

In the summer, the river here is peaceful near Stockport, Ohio.

     Relax as you hear the sound of the river bubbling right past your balcony at this historic structure. Look for it on your next trip down the Muskingum River.

Stockport Mill and Inn on the Dam is located just off Route 60 along the Muskingum River about halfway between Zanesville and Marietta. Cross over the river at Ohio 266 W and the mill will be on the left hand side. Their address is 1995 Broadway Avenue, Stockport, Ohio.

 

Dawes Entrance

This sign greets you at the entrance. You have arrived!

Sunshine beckons nature enthusiasts to venture outside for fresh air, a walk or a drive. The Dawes Arboretum near Newark provides the perfect escape. Here you can walk the paths or slowly drive through their four mile auto trail without hurrying as speed limit is 15 mph.

Dawes Daffodil setting

Expect to find flowers, like daffodils in the spring, in their All Seasons Garden.

     Azaleas and magnolias bloomed around every bend, it seemed, on a recent spring trip there. Daffodils flourished in their gardens and banks were covered in a blanket of violets.

     The Dawes Arboretum began through the efforts of Beman and Bertie Dawes back in 1929. Due to their love of trees and shrubs, they wanted to create a place where a large variety of trees would have a home. This nature haven is dedicated to increasing the knowledge of trees, history and the natural world.

Dawes Visitors Center

Begin your visit at the Visitors Center under a century old beech tree. Here you will find  a Discovery Center and Bird Watching Garden.

     Their Visitors Center is a great place to start your visit and pick up a map to guide you through the 1800 acres. It includes a nice Discovery Center to learn more about the plants and animals in this part of Ohio. A viewing window overlooks the Certified Wildlife Habitat outside so you can watch birds and small animals as they live in their natural world.

Dawes Azaleas

Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Azalea Glen.

     All-Seasons Garden right behind the Visitors Center features seasonal flowers throughout the year from daffodils to mums. Name plates are found near the flowers and trees for easy identification. There are many places to sit, relax and enjoy the peacefulness as you take time to smell the roses.

Dawes Summer Home

Daweswood House Museum gives a glimpse of life in the summertime with the original Dawes family.

     Their summer home, Daweswood House, can still be toured on weekends. The garden at the home maintains the flowers that Bertie planted long ago. They’re accurate as Bertie kept a journal describing what she was planting.

Dawes Education Center

The newest addition is the Zand Education Center for special horticultural programs.

     A new addition near the home expands their educational ability. The Zand Center provides a learning garden to hold classes for students mainly, but can also be used for adults. Many field trips stop here to learn about the bonsai trees or give children an opportunity to create their own planter.

Dawes Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden creates a peaceful scene with its rocks, pond and flowering trees.

     One of my favorite places to wander here is the Japanese Garden. The peacefulness surrounds you as you walk around the lake with blossoming trees and stone paths.

Dawes Hedge

The trail passes the six foot high hedge spelling DAWES ARBORETUM.

Dawes Tower

The Observation Tower gives a great view of the grounds and the hedge lettering.

     A highlight of the arboretum is their 2,040 foot long, six foot high hedge forming the letters DAWES ARBORETUM. Beman had this designed for the enjoyment of planes flying into the Columbus Airport. An observation tower close by gives a great view of the hedge letters.

Dawes Cypress Swamp

Bald Cypress Swamp is the northernmost cypress swamp in North America.

     A surprise waits in the form of Bald Cypress Swamp, not something you would expect to find in Ohio. This is thought to be the most northern cypress swamp in North America. The bumps you see coming out of the water have given these trees a special nickname – Trees with Knees. A boardwalk gives guests a chance to get an up close look at the bald cypress trees as well as the creatures in the water.

Dawes Picnic

A picnic under the blossoming cherry trees makes for a perfect family outing.

     Families were enjoying the day as children played on the banks. Picnics were popular. The most popular activity here is walking, with over twelve miles of hiking trails. People were walking their dogs, pushing their little ones in strollers, or listening to their headsets while they did some power walking. The paths are easy with most being paved.

Dawes Magnolia Drive

Magnolia blossoms presented a pleasant surprise around one bend in the Auto Trail.

     Meander through the grounds any time of the year surrounded by the beauties of nature at Dawes Arboretum with over 16,000 living plants. It’s open 362 days a year and admission is free. You’ll want to come back each season!

Dawes Arboretum is located off I-70 at exit 132, OH-13 North. After about five miles north, the arboretum can be found on the left side of the road at 7770 Jacksontown Road. If you enjoy nature, you are certain to enjoy a visit here.

PV storefront

Pearl Valley Cheese is today nestled in the valley along State Route 93 between Fresno and Baltic.

This has been a great year for us!  We won the 2017 Ohio Grand Champion Swiss Cheesemaker at the Ohio Swiss Festival.  What a testimony to our amazing farmers, employees and especially all our customers who continually support us year after year.”                              ~Pearl Valley Cheese

PV Original Factory

Their original business sat in the parking lot of today’s Pearl Valley Cheese.

Pearl Valley Cheese has been a family owned business since 1928. No wonder they have excelled at making the best cheese around. They credit their success with farmers bringing them high quality milk, employees who all seem like family, and wonderful customers from all over the area. It’s not surprising they have won many state, national and international awards.

PV Founders

Swiss immigrants, Ernest and Gertrude Stalder, started Pearl Valley Cheese in 1928.

Founded by Swiss immigrants, Ernest and Gertrude Stalder, area farmers brought them their fresh milk in cans by horse and wagon. They purchased the building, which was on today’s property, for $700.

PV Original Copper Kettle

This was the original copper kettle used for making cheese until WWII.

Ernest thought it needed a little improvement so began hauling wheelbarrow loads of bricks from a nearby source until he was satisfied with its appearance. In those early days of 1928, cheese sold for eleven cents a pound.

PV Tanker

A stainless steel tanker is unloading a morning load of milk after it had been tested.

All the milk they use today is of top quality and as safe as they can possibly buy. The milk comes from about 50 area farmers and two milk marketing co-ops. Dairy producers are very important because high quality milk makes high quality cheese. Each load is tested for antibiotics, and the whole load would be disposed of if any were found. This rarely happens.

PV milk silos

These cold wall silos hold the milk until ready for pasteurization.

Once the milk is received, they store it in cold wall silos until time for it to be pasteurized to make sure bacteria counts are minimized. Then the milk is cooked in Double Os, which look like ‘large stainless steel crock pots’, holding 4000 gallons each, until the curds are formed. Around 30,000 gallons of milk are used at Pearl Valley Cheese each day, resulting in 25-30,000 pounds of cheese daily.

PV Double Os

Four Double Os, ‘large stainless steel crock pots’, cook the milk until curds are formed.

The separated cream is sold to a butter factory in Wisconsin. Pearl Valley buys back truckloads of butter monthly to sell in their store and to their wholesalers. A pound of that delicious fresh butter came home with this gypsy.

They process the whey and send it to other companies, who dry it and use some of it in nutritional whey protein drinks, animal feeds and other food products. Some of the excess whey is stored at Pearl Valley in a waste water treatment plant, where it is refined into methane gas, then used to create electricity for their business. Pearl Valley has gone green.

PV draining table

The curds and why are separated on this draining table by churning arms.

Through a window to the left of the cheese store, you can watch cheese being made most weekday mornings. See giant vats of milk being turned into curds on their draining tables, and then packed into cheese rolls or wedges.

PV Cheese Tubes

After the curds and whey are separated, the curds are pressed into tubes and wedges.

Only two major cheeses are made here: Swiss and Cheddar, and four different kinds of each. At the end of the day, everything is cleaned and sanitized to maintain their high standards.

PV Swiss

Large blocks of Swiss cheese float in the brine to add a touch of salt to their taste.

Swiss cheese is often more expensive because it takes more time to make. Once blocks of Swiss are formed, they are then soaked in a salt brine to absorb a small amount of salt.

PV Swiss Cheese Crates

Sally Ellie, my guide on this trip, explained the crates of Swiss cheese in the warming room where they wait for the bubbles to burst.

After this they are placed in a warming room at 76* where the cheese is placed in wooden crates where it “creates the holes”. Those round holes are caused by carbon dioxide bubbles in the cheese, and take weeks to appear.

Ohio is the largest producer of Swiss cheese in the nation. While several local places make Swiss Cheese, the Stalder family feels Pearl Valley makes it better than anyone else. Their Mild Swiss Cheese is an area favorite.

Grace and Sally

Grace Stalder and her daughter, Sally Ellis, display a large piece of Swiss cheese, a customer favorite.

Four generations of that Swiss family are still working there today headed up by John and Grace Stalder and their extended family. Grace shared her story of joining the Stalder family 60 years ago when she married John, the son of Ernest and Gertrude. The next morning Ernest was at their door telling Grace she needed to total lines of figures that very day. She’s been working there ever since.

PV 2017 Ohio State Fair

Their awards include 2017 Ohio State Fair Grand Champion.

They feel with all their experience, they know how to make cheese the very best way. Even though they have a retail store, they want your experience to be more than a buying adventure. They want to educate you on how the cheese is made from farm to table.

PV Playground

There’s even a close-by playground for children to enjoy.

Customers enjoy their friendly service with plenty of free cheese samples so you can always get a taste before buying. Prices are extremely reasonable so people come back again and again. Everyone has their favorites from Baby Swiss to Extra Sharp Cheddar. Visit soon and try to decide your favorite from so many choices.

Make your visit a special memory that starts a tradition of visiting Pearl Valley Cheese with your family.

Pearl Valley Cheese is located on Ohio State Route 93 between Fresno and Baltic.

frieda-and-her-buttons.jpg

Frieda surrounded herself with buttons and more buttons.

Almost everyone keeps a container of buttons someplace in their home. At one time, many cut off the buttons on old clothes and kept them in a jar or can. You never knew when you might need an extra button.

Frieda Warther did much the same thing.

Frieda Button Strings

Buttons hung on strings around the walls of their dining room so she could reach them easily.

Living in Switzerland until the age of four, the family then came to the United States and settled in Dover, Ohio. Frieda was the oldest of thirteen children. It was a Swiss tradition that the oldest child would receive their mother’s box of buttons and sewing tools. Thus began Frieda’s love of buttons.

Frieda Button House

This Button House originally housed the Warther Museum to display Mooney’s trains.

Today those buttons have been used in some of the designs at the Warther Button House, which is just outside Warther’s Museum in Dover.

When Frieda first met Earnest Warther, called Mooney by his friends, their first date consisted of a field trip to hunt arrowheads. After marrying Mooney, Frieda became a wonderful mother to their five children and Mooney’s main support as he developed into a master woodcarver.

Her main relaxation came from tending the gardens outside their home and Mooney’s workshop. She designed them to remind her of her back yard in Switzerland. When the children were young, these gardens contained many vegetables as well. Today, those flower gardens provide a peaceful place to relax with many benches available.

Frieda Bank

During the depression, Mooney hid his money under the coal in this train. But Frieda knew!

Mooney frequently ‘borrowed’ items from his wife to use in his carving creations. When he needed a belt to run one of his model trains, he would borrow it from her sewing machine and replace it when he found one in his journeys. He often liked to use red and green sparkling gems on his trains as well. These he borrowed from Frieda’s brooches.

When visitors came to see all of Mooney’s carvings in those early days, they often spent the afternoon viewing trains brought from storage in the various rooms of their house and even the attic. Frieda decided in 1936, it was time for a museum, so they built the small museum, which is today her Button House.

Frieda House

Kristen, great-granddaughter of  Mooney and Frieda, stands on the porch of the Warther’s’ home.

The porch of the Warther Home gave Mooney and Frieda the perfect place to watch trains go by on tracks just across the street. From here they could also watch their children playing in a large playground Mooney had created for them. It’s no surprise that there is a red caboose there also, since Mooney carved so many trains during his lifetime.

Inside the Warther Home, you’ll learn more about Frieda and the family. They lived in their original residence for sixty-three years.

Frieda Table 2

This table served as Frieda’s workplace for most of her button creations.

Life was busy for young Frieda, so it wasn’t until she turned sixty that she began working on her button designs at their dining room table. She began experimenting with various combinations and then attached them to a board with either wire or dental floss to make beautiful hanging designs.

Frieda Button Wall Favorite

Beautiful button designs fill the walls and ceiling of the Button House.

Mooney enjoyed her artistic endeavors by saying, “Sometimes while Frieda was working, she would drill too deep and hit our table. One look at her breathtaking designs and you will realize it was well worth all the holes.” Those holes can still easily be seen.

She also used buttons to make jewelry, a button tree, chess sets and many games. Strings of buttons hung in her kitchen just waiting to be used.

frieda-warther

This picture postcard show Frieda in her Button House.

Today many of those creations containing 73,000 buttons can be found on the walls and ceiling of the Button House. Here you will find buttons of many kinds of materials: hand-painted ceramic, pearl, metal and wooden. Amazing as it may sound, there are no duplicates in the displays.

Frieda Lincoln Button

This button design features a button in the center from Mrs. Lincoln’s inaugural dress.

One of her favorite designs has, as its centerpiece, a button from the Inaugural Dress of Abraham Lincoln’s wife. Lincoln was a favorite of the Warthers, and Mooney followed Lincoln’s philosophy of life.

Because the family loved children, Frieda made one design especially for them. It consists of Cracker Jack prizes, novelties, and what she called Goofy Buttons.

Frieda Arrowheads

Arrowhead displays by Frieda also hung in Mooney’s workshop.

If you look carefully, you can also spot her button designs in another spot – the ladies’ restroom inside the Warther Museum. Had to inquire from a gentleman visitor regarding what was on the wall in the men’s restroom. Here Frieda made a creative display of Mooney’s arrowheads he found on his trips to the country with their family. You never know where creative objects might be found.

Frieda back

The back of a button display was shown by Sheila, our guide and daughter of Mooney’s barber.

There are still unfinished patterns that Frieda had planned. Even when she was in her final days at the age of 98, she was still asking people for one of their buttons if she saw an unusual one.

Soon thousands of springtime tulips will be blooming in Frieda’s Swiss Flower Garden. Many of the spring flowers were originally planted by Freida. Stop by and relax on a bench and imagine what it would have been like to live at “Dumb Street” along the Calico Ditch.

Warthers Museum can be found easily off I-77 in Dover, Ohio. Take Exit 83 to the east and follow the well placed signs to Warthers.

Len Salt Fork Bash 2

When a piano’s not available, a keyboard will do.

When Leonard Thomas enters a room with a piano, you want to pull out the piano bench and have him tickle the ivories as he bursts into song.

While Len was born in Cambridge in 1927 and now lives there, he has traveled extensively using his musical talents not only at the piano or with his vibrant voice, but also in composing and directing. This man overflows with musical talent.

Len Note from Fred Waring

Fred Waring showed his appreciation to Len in this keepsake note.

He credits his success to the wonderful upbringing he received from his parents and siblings. Their support and encouragement make him feel lucky to have such a special family. He learned the importance of hard work from being a paperboy and soda jerk to conductor and performer.

The first time he sang in public happened at the First Christian Church when he was twenty-four months old. He entertained the crowd downstairs by singing “Bow Wow Blues” to the amazement of all. Len still calls this church home.

Len going places

Even as a youngster, Lenny had plans for going places.

When Lenny was only three years old, he went to visit with the family. A niece was just starting to take piano lessons and he asked her to show him what she was learning. She first  played the notes with her right hand, and Lenny played them back by ear. Next she played the left hand. Again Lenny played them back by ear. He asked her how you put them together and she said she had never done that yet. So Lenny said, “Do it like this.” and played them both.

By the time he was four, his parents thought he should have piano lessons, but they couldn’t afford it. Lenny went to see a lady across the street who gave piano lessons and told her he would like to take lessons but didn’t have any money to pay her.

She asked him if he would mow her yard for fifty cents a week. Lenny asked her how much the lessons would be. “Fifty cents a week.” It worked perfectly.

Len Fred, Ann and Len

Fred Waring and Len’s one-room school teacher, Anna Priaulx, visit with Len after a concert.

Lenny attended Rock Hill School, a one-room school near Center.  This provided a great learning atmosphere for him as he learned from all the classes. Everything fascinated him under the guidance of a very special teacher, Anna Priaulx.

By the age of ten, this young boy could play nearly all the classicals from great composers from memory.  He didn’t however forget the songs that were popular during that era.

Len Trio (2)

At Cambridge High School in 1947, Len played for this trio of  Carol, Barbara and Donna, who he said could harmonize as well as the Andrew Sisters.

At Cambridge High School, his musical talent has never been forgotten. His choice of a band instrument became a sousaphone, but he also sang in many groups as well as served as accompanist. No wonder he was voted the boy most likely to succeed as well as the most talented.

Len Muskingum Sr

Len graduated from Muskingum College and after retirement came back to assist with their music program.

Leonard graduated from Muskingum College with a B.S. in Music Education, but he never intended to use it. He wanted a career in performing so headed to Boston University, where he studied with great success.

But when he got home from Boston, his mother told him there was a letter waiting for him. It was his draft call from the Army. Len got lucky again as he was assigned to a base with a band. Now he could use his sousaphone experience from high school to participate in the Army band.

With this band, he headed to Germany, where they spent their time performing, participating in parades and singing at the chapel and in a barbershop quartet. Why he even had his own apartment and gave piano lessons.

Upon his return home, the hand of God guided him to the minister of the Central Presbyterian Church in Zanesville. There he had his first real job as choral director for five choirs among other assignment.

Along came someone from the court system and suggested that Len become a probation officer since he worked so well with young people. Now he had two jobs, so decided to buy his first car – a black ’57 Sunliner convertible.

Len with Steinbach

He still plays the piano he purchased in New York City in 1964, when he lived in a townhouse on the 19th floor.

Three years later, Len again decided to further his education and headed back to Boston to pursue his doctorate. Since all the schools were closed for the summer, he contacted an Army buddy in New York City and moved there for a while to a Central Park Townhouse.

Enjoying city life, Len began looking for a teaching job in the area.  He found one in Brooklyn at McKinley Jr. High School. Here he directed their choirs and led them in performing outstanding concerts. For eleven and a half years, this was his life.

Len Pennsylvanians

An attractive program design highlights Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.

Well, except for summers!  Those last six summers he attended Fred Waring’s Workshops, where he learned more about performing. One of the students asked Len to play for their audition. It was Len that landed the job to play with the Pennsylvanians with his keyboard talent.

Len Young Pennsylvanians

Teaching young people is something he has always enjoyed. Here he is conductor for the Young Pennsylvanians.

For many years, Leonard performed with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. During the 40s and early 50s, Waring produced a string of hits, selling millions of records. Breezin’ Along with the Breeze was his signature tune. Waring’s often called The Man Who Taught America to Sing. Len Thomas was one of those he helped along the way.

Len and Fred at last performance

Pennsylvanians perform for the final time with Len and Fred Waring, only twelve days before Waring’ passed away.

When Fred Waring died in 1984, Len was asked to work as editor and arranger for Shawnee Press, which was founded by Fred Waring. Shawnee Press has been instrumental in providing quality musical arrangements to high schools, colleges, and orchestras.

Len Shawnee Press Business card

Len’s business card with Shawnee Press carried Waring’s logo at the top.

After working for Shawnee Press for seventeen years, it was sold and moved to another state. At the same time, Len had an offer to purchase his beautiful home in Pennsylvania. His heart and mind said it was time to return home.

Len Distinguished Service Award at Muskingum

Len received the Distinguished Service Award at Muskingum University.

When he returned, Muskingum College requested that he direct their concert choir. Frequently, he gave piano lessons, where he explained to students that playing the piano isn’t just done with the fingers, but with the wrists, arms and elbows. Your entire body feels the music.

Len at Salt Fork Festival Chorus

He still loves to perform and assists with many community musical events, such as the Salt Fork Festival Chorus.

The community feels lucky to have him return to the Cambridge area. Now he plays in the Muskingum Jazz Group, for numerous groups including the Cambridge Singers, and provides background music for many banquets, parties, funerals and weddings.  Let’s face it, Len loves to perform.

Preservation Dixieland All Stars

Preservation Dixieland All Stars will be performing at the Salt Fork Festival BASH. Members include: Jerry Weaver, Len Thomas, Don Kason, and Dave Jacobs.

Today at the age of 86, he has no problem remembering all those songs from years gone by. No matter what song is requested, Len’s fingers respond perfect. “The Lord’s been good to me,” smiled Len, as he’s fulfilled all his dreams.

His twilight years have been both enjoyable and fulfilling. Now it the time when he can give back to the community where he grew up. “When you spend time helping others, you find the happiness you seek.”

 

Veselenak family at Easter

The Veselenak family continues the Easter tradition followed by their grandparents and great-grandparents at St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Robins in the early 1900s.

Traditions often bring families closer together. An old Czech tradition being carried on at the Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Byesville involves an Easter Basket. This year, the Orthodox Easter falls on April 8.


When the blessing of Easter Baskets likely began back in the 1700s, people faced stark times without meats or fats in their diets for the 40 days of Lent. Being able to return these items to the table was a big part of the Easter celebration.

Most Orthodox celebrate Lent as a time to do without meat and cheese or something that they especially like. They want to make a sacrifice that is meaningful.

Slovak Inside Church

Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Byesville is filled with light during the Easter service.

On Holy Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, they gather at the Byesville church to create a service of resurrection. The darkened church becomes filled with light after circling the church three times to indicate the three days Jesus stayed in the tomb.

Slovak priest

Easter baskets are blessed by Orthodox priest, Father Benjamin Johnson.

After this service, early on Sunday morning, the priest then blesses all the Easter baskets that have been brought to the church hall. Then there is a bountiful feast, as they once again enjoy the taste of meat, cheese, and their favorite food that they haven’t had during the weeks of Lent.

Slovak Basket

These beautifully filled baskets contain everything expected and even more.

Each item in the large Easter basket holds special meaning:

  • Bread symbolizes Jesus, the Bread of Life.

  • Easter eggs represent our new life in Christ.

  • Salt reminds Christians they are to “season” the Earth.

  • Meat stand for Joy and Abundance.

  • Candles signify Christ as the Light of the World.

  • Ribbons symbolize Joy and Celebration.

Other items they might add are chocolates and desserts.

Slovak Bread

Bread has various designs on the top with this using the symbol of the cross.

The Pascha Easter bread is a sweet, rich bread filled with eggs. milk and butter…the foods that were not eaten during Lent. The bread is often braided to represent Christ’s crown of thorns.

Slovak Easter eggs

Every basket is certain to contain intricately decorated Easter eggs.

A red egg plays an important role in the Orthodox Easter. Legend says that when Mary Magdalene told the emperor about the empty tomb, she held an egg as a symbol of it. The emperor said the empty tomb was just about as likely as the egg in her hand turning red. The egg did turn red and has ever since been part of the Easter tradition.

Slovak Basket cover

A traditional embroidered cover is placed over the basket.

Some of the men make smoked kielbasa for this special Easter Basket, while the women might prepare cirak, a special Slovak Easter Cheese. This homemade cheese is very mild and often served sliced with baked ham and beet horseradish. A great sandwich treat!

Traditions like this Easter Basket bring families together as they create and share the contents, while celebrating the meaning of this Holy Easter Season. Their church bulletin states: “May God reward your good deeds and preserve the spirit of devotion to Him every day of the year.”

Photos were provided by Nicole Veselenak Caslow. She is the daughter of Rick and Chris Veselenak. I’m proud to say the pictured, dedicated men – Mike, Rick and Gary – are my cousins. Our grandparents, George and Mary Veselenak (Dede and Baba to us) attended the St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Robins in the early 1900s.

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