Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for October, 2016

Down the Ohio River with Charles Dickens


The steamboat Messenger carried the Dickens party down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati.

A fine broad river always, but in some parts much wider than in others, and then there is usually a green island, covered with trees, dividing it into two streams.”

In 1842 at the age of 30, Charles Dickens made his first visit to America with his wife Kate, her maid Anne Brown, and Charles’ traveling secretary George Putnam. As part of their tour, the group boarded the steamboat Messenger in Pittsburgh to flow down the Ohio River to Cincinnati – a three day tour.

The Messenger held some forty passengers on board, exclusive of the poorer persons on the lower deck. Dickens wondered that its construction would make any journey safe with the great body of fire that rages and roars beneath the frail pile of painted wood.

As expected, he wrote in his journal daily while traveling, giving us a picture now, of what he saw on that trip long ago. Most of the time he wrote on his knee in their small cabin at the back of the boat. He felt lucky to have a cabin in the stern, because it was known that ‘steamboats generally blew up forward’.


This diorama from the National Road/Zane Grey Museum shows a scene at Wheeling that DIckens described of goods being loaded and unloaded.

Coming from the crowded city of London, this wilderness must have appeared strange with trees everywhere and cabins sparsely populating the banks along the river. For miles and miles the banks were unbroken by any sign of human life or trace of human footsteps.

Meal time was not pleasing for him as lively conversation was lacking. Each ‘creature’ would empty his trough as quickly as possible, then slink away. A jest would have been a crime and a smile would have faded into a grinning horror.

I never in my life did see such listless, heavy dullness as brooded over these meals. And was as glad to escape again as if it had been a penance or a punishment.


Charles and Kate Dickens came to America in 1842. This is a pencil sketch by a very dear friend, the late Mary Ruth Duff.

After the meals, men would stand around the stove without saying a word, but spitting, which was a bad manner Dickens deplored. Therefore, Charles and Kate spent much of the time sitting on the gallery outside their cabin. His description of the only disturbance outside was in true Dickens style:

Nor is anything seen to move about them but the blue jay, whose colour is so bright, and yet so delicate, that it looks like a flying flower.


This sketch by Henry Howe in 1843 shows the mound Dickens described in his journal.

He noted that the steamboat whistle was loud enough to awaken the Indians, who lie buried in a great mound, so old that oaks and other forest trees had stuck their roots into its earth. The Ohio River sparkled as it passed the place these extinct tribes lived hundreds of years ago.

Evening steals slowly upon the landscape, when we stop to set some emigrants ashore, five men, as many women, and a little girl. All their worldly goods are a bag, a large chest and an old chair.

Those emigrants were landed at the foot of a large bank, where several log cabins could be seen on the summit, which could be reached by a long winding path. Charles Dickens watched them until they became specks, lingering on the bank with the old woman sitting in the chair and all the rest about her.


They carried this picture of their children – Katey, Walter, Charlie, and Mamie – when they came to America in 1842. As time passed, they had ten children.

When he reached Cincinnati, a booming frontier river town, Dickens viewed it as a beautiful city: cheerful, thriving and animated. He was quite charmed with the appearance of the town and its free schools, as education of children was always a priority for Charles Dickens. Here he could actually find people to engage in conversation.

While his first trip was a disappointment in many ways,in the 1850s, he was encouraged to make another trip to America to extend his popular England reading tour to audiences there. He was told  would be lots of money to be made in the United States.

But the outbreak of the Civil War, caused him to put those plans on hold. When the war was over, he again received encouragement to visit this New World. Despite his ill health and caution from his closest friends, Charles Dickens wrote a seven point “Case in a Nutshell” describing why he should visit America.

Once decided, he arrived in Boston on November 19, 1867. Even though his health was failing, Dickens never canceled a performance.

No man has a right to break an engagement with the public if he were able to be out of bed.

He stayed for five months and gave 76 performances for which he earned an incredible $228,000, helping to give him a much better view of the United States on his second trip. The country had much improved during those twenty-five years in his estimation.

How astounded I have been by the amazing changes I have seen all around me on every side – changes moral, changes physical, changes in the amount of land subdued and peopled.


The Ohio River is a peaceful place to let your imagination flow.

The next time you visit the banks of the Ohio River, find a secluded spot and imagine what it must have been like when Charles Dickens viewed it in 1842.

Words in italics are Charles Dickens words from his journal “American Notes”, 1842 with the exception of the last one, which was of course written after his second trip.





Judi Tarowsky: Storyteller of Tales: Tall & True


Judi enjoys telling her stories to a roomful of listeners.

A great storyteller is a rare treat as they connect with the heart and soul of their listeners. One that has been blessed with that talent is Judi Tarowsky from St. Clairsville. Her road to storytelling began with a letter.


She was probably even telling stories as a child when she wore a fire hat.

When Judi was in 8th grade, a friend of hers said she had a cousin in Wales, who was looking for a pencil, which we would call a pen pal. Judi was looking for one too. Since Judi comes from a Welsh background, this contact seemed perfect .

Eirwen from Wales and Judi corresponded all through high school. They wrote about typical things like school, music, and activities. For a graduation present, Judi was given a trip to Barry, Wales. As they grew older, correspondence wasn’t as frequent but in today’s world you can always find someone through the computer

Eirwen came over years later with a Welsh dance group to perform in Harrisburg, and the next year came to the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival in Pittsburgh. Judi and her husband went to see them, and it was during those visits that Eirwen said, “You could be a storyteller too.”

Judi thought about it and decided to enter the Adult Liars’ Contest at the Strand Theatre Storytelling Festival in Moundsville, West Virginia. She won!


This storyteller’s favorite story is her version of “The Three Little Pigs”.

Since then she has even gone to Wales twice to perform as a storyteller. While there, she told one of her favorite stories, her version of “The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Fox”, based on an old folk tale.

While storytelling was new to Judi, she had been involved in writing for much of her adult life. Previously she worked as a newspaper reporter and for an advertising agency. Putting words together is something she has done well for years.


She becomes very involved with her stories.

Today, she tells two kinds of tales: tall and true. Both of them involve extensive research. While she delights in telling old legends, historical presentations have become very popular. After selecting a story from history that is little known, interesting facts are then collected.

This storyteller wants to make certain that all her facts are correct before writing her story. But she doesn’t memorize the story. Judi knows it very well from her research and just tells it. Every time it’s a little different.

When speaking, no props or character costumes are used. She is simply a storyteller. According to Judi, “No special effects are required…just your imagination!”


The story of the U.S.S. Shenandoah is an audience favorite.

Her story of the crash of the Shenandoah dirigible brought the flight of the airship to life for those present. This original story, “The Heroes of the U.S.S. Shenandoah”, has become one of her most popular presentations in this area since the crash happened near Ava between Byesville and Caldwell in 1925.

Another well-told story, “Burning Springs”, took place during the Civil War along the Little Kanawa River in West Virginia. She adds a touch of humor to her talks, such as calling the fire at Burning Springs:

“a Sodom of Sin anointed with oil” ~Howard Lee, “The Burning Springs”.

Or by pointing out that when fire reached that town, the first thing the tavern keepers  carried to the mountains was their supply of whiskey. They  wanted to keep it from the Confederates, and it was expensive besides.


Her extensive research captivates the audience.

Humor added to historical facts keeps the audience in her grasp. Following her storytelling, there are always many questions to be asked regarding whatever subject she has been sharing. Her knowledge of her subject is impressive and shows much time spent in research. At the present time, there are over forty stories in her repertoire, but that list is constantly expanding.

She frequently speaks at libraries, festivals and civic clubs. Her programs are so varied that she has something for any age group. One of her special workshops, “The Bones of a Story”, guides people to find their own family stories. For more information, contact Judi at .


Artist, Charlie Gant, made these sketches while listening to Judi’s stories at Jackson Mill Jubilee. It will soon be her new CD cover.

Judi hopes to continue sharing her research through storytelling and perhaps speaking at some larger festivals in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, cooking and traveling by train – most likely with a tablet by her side to record future story ideas.

S.S. Kresge Employees Share Memories


Dresses can be seen in the window of Upper Kresge’s in the Craig building.

Many area residents enjoyed shopping at Kresge’s in downtown Cambridge. This business provided an economical way to purchase almost anything a person needed.  In fact, there were two Kresge stores: an Upper Kresge at 800 Wheeling Avenue in the Craig building, and Lower Kresge at 711 Wheeling Avenue.


Folks dressed in their finest pose outside the Lower Kresge building.

The distinction between the two Kresge stores was vague until a former manager explained that Upper Kresge’s with a green front was a “twenty-five cent to a dollar” store, while Lower Kresge’s with a red front was a “five and dime”.

Founded in 1899, Sebastian Spering Kresge established his company with one store in Detroit. By 1912, he had 85 stores, which were incorporated under the name S.S. Kresge, Corp.Those who worked for him felt he was a kind gentleman and taught employees how to do their job well.


This group of retirees met to share their stories.

Recently, there was a meeting of former employees of S. S. Kresge stores in Cambridge where much reminiscing created many interesting stories. Most employees had been happy with their jobs even though one person recalled that in 1959, she made sixty-five cents an hour.


Big Bronco had kids begging their parents for a nickel ride.

Some of the most popular attributes of the Kresge store as remembered by many would include the beautiful lunch counter, a deluxe candy counter just inside the door, and a pet shop at the rear of the store. Kresge’s was the place to get everything from toys to clothes for every member of the family.  My Dad always thought that $2.98 dresses from Kresge’s were the only dresses needed by this writer.

“Give friendly service for yourself and your store.”

That motto appeared on the outside of the pay envelopes that Kresge employees received each week. Even then, income tax and Social Security were withheld from their pay, which wasn’t very much  to begin with.


This pay envelope was saved from 1948.

Many recalled food prices that amaze people today. For example, a favorite sandwich, grilled cheese, was only a dime back in 1960. During the work week, the lunch counter was a busy place and they often sold 150 subs before noon. On weekends they sometimes had “sub sandwich specials” at 4 / $1.00.


These Kresge ladies were dressed for a downtown celebration.

Just inside the front door was the candy counter, a first stop for many as they walked into the store. Gumdrops were twenty-five cents a pound. One lady recalls that during the war when sugar was short, they only sold pretzels and potato chips at the candy counter.


Enjoy checking out the 1962 prices in this Kresge ad.

Many recalled their pet department, which contained parakeets, goldfish, hamsters and tiny turtles. One exciting time occurred when someone left the bird cages open overnight, and all the birds ended up in the front window of the store. First thing the next morning, the braver employees caught them with butterfly nets and returned them to their cages.


The oldest attending employee, Uldine Bates, kept her Kresge smock…and it still fits.

Local residents recall walking the streets of Cambridge in the snow and stopping at Kresge’s where a quarter would purchase a cup of coffee and a donut in 1960. A quarter could also buy you either a ham salad sandwich or a hot fudge sundae. Regular price on a triple dip banana split was thirty cents.


On Kresge’s 75th Anniversary, each employee was presented a Kresge diamond.

During Kresge’s 75th Diamond Anniversary in 1973, each employee was presented a Kresge “diamond” ring. They all proudly wore them to work each day and many still have them.

One time a colorful band of gypsies entered the store. That large group seemed to flood the aisles. These wanderers helped themselves to just about anything they pleased before the police arrived. Many left with their pockets and bags filled with merchandise, but no one was injured.


After the store closed, Uldine’s family made her this special gift – a keepsake brick from the building  with a picture of the lower Kresge store.

One lady wrote, “The best days of my life were those when I worked at Kresge’s.” Others said they all felt like family.

In 1962, S.S. Kresge Corp. opened its first Kmart, just four months before Walmart opened its first store. The Cambridge Kmart opened on what is today Southgate Parkway in 1976. Most remember their popular Blue Light Specials.

When the last Cambridge Kresge store closed in 1985, a few of the employees, the “cream of the crop” it seemed, were given jobs at Kmart. But it never held the same excitement even though it was a much larger store. One employee remarked, “It was like walking out of Cambridge and going to New York City.”

Handmade Wooden Toys for the Young and the Young at Heart


Look for this welcome sign on Dewey Avenue when you pay a visit to the Cambridge Wooden Toy Co.

The best kept secret in Cambridge” describes the Cambridge Wooden Toy Co on Dewey Avenue. Here Brian Gray creates toys and trains with craftsmanship difficult to surpass. He’s been making these extraordinarily detailed carvings since 1976, first in his basement and then in a small shop beside his home.


Big Boy from Union Pacific, carved in 2014, was an engine that could pull a hundred cars filled with coal.

Brian grew up in Seattle, where his father worked as a fireman on trains. As a child, Brian used to ride the switch engines around the train yard. He and his brother would play being engineer and fireman. Having a father in the railroad world, gave them many opportunities for train rides.

Therefore, Brian acquired a passion for trains that has never been squelched. His main inspiration for carving engines came from Ernest Warther, world’s master carver of Dover. When Brian told his brother about how he would like to try carving, his brother’s response was “I’m tired of hearing you talk about it. Do it.” And that’s what Brian did.


Brian holds a Domeliner Dinner Menu from 1958. This was from the first class section where meals were served using china and silver.

Over the years, Brian studied engineering and when drafted into the Army, studied General Engineering there. Upon the end of his military service, jobs were scarce. A friend told him they were hiring in Cambridge at NCR. With his engineering background, Brian decided to give it a try…and has been here ever since. 


Brian drills the window in the cab of My First Choo-Choo, a new pull toy this year.

Woodworking has been his hobby for years. Sometimes he did carpenter work building decks and gazebos or remodeling houses. But Brian wanted to do something where he had the freedom to choose what he made.

1982 was the first year he made toys. In 1983, he decided to exhibit at the Salt Fork Festival. There he sold almost all the toys he had made, plus he won first prize for an oil field tractor trailer with a bulldozer on the back. That success made him decide to work five hours each day making toys before heading to his regular job. Brian has been participating in the festival ever since.

But making toys and trains isn’t his only pastime. He also does upholstery and repairs wooden furniture. When visiting, Brian was refinishing the arms on chairs for the Barnesville Library.


For 33 years, his toys have been displayed and sold at the Salt Fork Festival. The 2016 festival was particularly hot so Brian donned a sweatband.

His specialty engines are carved intricately from wood. Some of these engines have won first place at shows such as the Ohio State Fair, Salt Fork Festival, and Tri State Woodworking Show.

Each year Brian makes one new wooden engine to add to his increasing collection, which he displays for those who visit his Great Steam Locomotive Engine Museum. All the engines are made on a 1-18 scale out of walnut. Right now there are seven large locomotives in his museum.


Alaskan Railroad #557 has won three awards so far. It’s the most detailed engine he’s ever done.

His Alaskan Railroad # 557 won first prize in woodworking at the Ohio State Fair in 2016. This was done in memory of Brian’s father, who worked as a fireman on the rails of Alaska.


A child would enjoy rocking in this bi-plane, Snoopy’s Flying Circus.

Rocking horses, cascading marbles, and many wooden toys make great Christmas gifts. No nails are used, just wooden pins, and he’s careful that edges are rounded and smooth for the child’s protection. His toys are so strong, they last for generations. Brian has been making these toys for over forty years. Presently, he makes 72 different toys in his shop.


The Railroad Toy Box is the perfect place to store a child’s toys. It even comes with 6′ of track. The child’s name can be added and the boxcar number is usually the child’s birthdate.

While Brian sells his toys, he’s doesn’t do his wood carving for the money. Many hours are spent to make each toy and sometimes he figures he makes about $1.50 per hour. “I love doing it. I keep my prices low. Haven’t changed prices in five years.”


Brian checks out the blueprint for next year’s engine project.

The blueprint is ready for next year’s engine project. The Golden Spike National Historic Site sent him the blueprints of the original engines on a CD. Then the map department printed it off 1- 18 scale. He’s going to do a scene for the first time. It will be two engines meeting at Promontory Summit, Utah, where the driving of the “Golden Spike” connected east to west.

Brian still has a dream for a place in Cambridge where he could display his trains, and other local train enthusiasts could find a home for theirs as well. His eyes are on the original Train Depot as the perfect place for a museum to attract visitors to our area. Keep dreaming, Brian, you never know what the future may hold.


Musical Marble Trees entertain children and adults with their cascading musical tones. It’s hard to resist putting one more marble down its branches.

At his small museum, children and young-at-heart adults are free to play with the toys. There is no cost to visit so head up to 515 Dewey Avenue and walk inside. You’ll be amazed at such talent right here in Cambridge.  Then you’ll want to share this “best kept secret” with your friends.

Cambridge Wooden Toy Co can easily be reached off old Route 40 through Cambridge, Ohio. At the west end of town is a viaduct over Wills Creek and the railroad tracks. The Toy Co is straight south of here at 515 Dewey Ave. 



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