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fireworks

July started off with a bang! Just like many families around the nation, we went to a local park to watch the fireworks display on the Fourth of July. We are also fortunate to live amidst cornfields and rural areas and can shoot off our own sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets, and other types of fireworks. For me the holiday was full of mixed emotions since I knew that just two days later, I would be on my way to Ohio to have my dad’s ashes interred – and – I would see cousins and begin the genealogy adventure that I’ve been waiting to do.

July 6 – Started very early in the morning as my fifteen year old grandson and I finished loading up the car to begin our trip eastward. As we neared the Mississippi River to cross in to Illinois, the sky was full of gray clouds. We drove through Springfield in the rain which turned to sprinkles close to Decatur. By the time we arrived in Brownsburg, Indiana, the sun was out, and it was time for lunch. We arrived at my cousin’s home located south of Dayton before 4:30 p.m.

Our first evening together since the summer of 2010 was full of laughter and catching up. Her two boys are a year older and a year younger than my grandson so the boys disappeared to play video games in the basement. We had a great dinner and then in the late evening, she told me that we needed to go to Bill’s Donuts. Wait a minute – a donut shop – at night? Let me just say that every town across the United States needs one of these places that are open 24 hours! It appeared to be the local hangout for not only teens but families. Picture the very best ice cream shop you’ve visited – but instead of ice cream, it’s donuts! We left there with a baker’s dozen of a variety of sweet treats for breakfast (some of them were still left at breakfast the next morning too!). On second thought, it’s probably not a good idea for one of those to be close to where I live!

July 7 – I used the Keurig coffee maker for the very first time and then headed to the cemetery in order to sign all the necessary documents pertaining to my father’s ashes and the interment. With some heartache, I left the ashes with the cemetery office in order for them to have everything ready for the next morning. After having them in my possession for six months, it felt odd that he wasn’t coming back to the house with me.

For lunch, the boys thought my grandson and I needed to see what all the hype was over Rapid Fire Pizza – so off we went. I love pizza – and I especially love pizza that I can create just for me! Think Subway – but pizza! I absolutely loved this restaurant and this is another place I believe all towns should have (well, on second thought . . . – see my response about Bill’s Donuts in above paragraph!)

That evening was our cousin get-together at Marion’s Pizza (more pizza!!!). We were missing a few but did have a very enjoyable time. Luckily, even though some left after eating, I was able to spend some time chatting with my three first cousins (children of my mom’s sister). This time, I was the one who asked the questions. I wanted to know more about my aunt – as their mom – instead of my mom’s sister. They shared some stories that made me see Aunt Genevieve in a whole new light! I didn’t realize that she pulled pranks and had a wicked sense of humor!

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My 3 first cousins and myself

marions-pizza-7-july-2016-family-gathering-judy-karen-wendy-ann-marie2 My first cousin and 2 first cousins once removed

July 8 – cousins all met at the house where I was staying and followed each other to Royal Oak Memorial Gardens in Brookville, Ohio. When we arrived, I noticed that the gentleman who was handling the arrangements had set up a nice table to hold the container of ashes. They had even placed a flag next to my father’s headstone since he was a veteran. It was a wonderful gesture, and I was very touched. My dad didn’t want a memorial service so I knew that our time was going to be brief. A few of us recounted a couple of stories about my dad, I read the obituary I had written, and then we drank a toast. My dad’s drink of choice was vodka and lemon-lime so some of us (adults) either got a small amount of vodka or both vodka and sprite and the three boys got the soda. We raised our glasses (dixie cups!) and said good-bye. I think my dad would have approved.

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When we left the cemetery, we headed back to the Dayton area to have lunch at Frisch’s (Big Boy). I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to this lunch because my favorite sandwich is the Swiss Miss – a hamburger pattie on a rye bun with swiss cheese and tartar sauce. Can not get this sandwich anyplace else except Frisch’s!

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My cousins, grandson, and myself at Frisch’s Big Boy

After lunch, my grandson and I took off to drive by important places of my childhood. I had a list of addresses and with the help of a loaned GPS, I knew there wouldn’t be any problem finding them. We stopped by my childhood home in Beavercreek, the townhome where my mother spent the last 32 years of her life, two houses my maternal grandparents had lived, and my three schools.

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My childhood home – left (1960s) and right (July 2016)

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One of my grandparents’ homes in Dayton (left – 1950s & right – July 2016)

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My mom’s former townhome

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My grandparents’ house in Kettering, Ohio.

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My elementary, junior high (now a middle school), and high school

When I pulled through the parking lot of my high school (which is now the “back” of the school even though it faces the road), I was pointing out windows of the classes I had been in and what the new parts of the school were when a man came to the car and asked if he could help with anything. As soon as I told him I was a graduate and showing my grandson where I went to school, he had me park so he could give us the nickel tour since so much of it has changed.

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The picture above is of the auditorium from the stage. When I was in high school, we couldn’t perform any theatrical productions there because we did not have such a marvelous stage or auditorium. We had to travel down the road a bit to the elementary school. I’m a tad bit jealous that not only is the stage wonderful but the dressing rooms are pretty nice as well (sure beats getting in costume and make-up in the girls restroom!) Before we left, I had to take a picture of my grandson with our school’s mascot – Bucky Beaver.

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From there we headed to our favorite frozen custard stand just down the road from my high school – Ritter’s Frozen Custard. When my mom was living, and we would visit her, this is where we all liked to come on warm summer evenings. We’d all order our frozen treats and sit on the stone benches at the tables. Good memories.

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Next – the rest of our adventures in Dayton before heading to the second leg of our journey.

(All photos, digital scans are property of Wendy Littrell; address for private use.)

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Since I spent two and a half days last week at College Orientation with my daughter, I thought I’d write about those college grads in my family.

The first person that comes to mind is my mom’s brother, my Uncle Glen Johnson.  He was named after his father and was the firstborn child and son of my maternal grandparents.  Uncle Glen attended school in Greene County, Ohio and graduated from Bath Township Consolidated High School in 1936.  He then went on to Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.  Uncle Glen played the Sousaphone in the Ohio State Band and in 1937 was the first Sousaphone (or “big horn”) player to dot the “i” in the Script Ohio at halftime. (Please see the article at Central Ohio for more information.)  The Ohio State Band history also reads: 

History of the “i”-dot
At its first performance, the Script Ohio’s “i” was dotted by a trumpet player, with no special attention or honor being given to the movement. When the trumpet player, John Brungart (1933-36), dotted the first Script Ohio “i” October 10, 1936, the march from the top of the “o” to the top of the “i” was just another movement to complete a formation. Brungart simply took his place in a complex single file line drill. Over 60 years later, the honor of dotting the “i” is known throughout the world.
Because director Eugene Weigel provided several new floating formations throughout the 1936 season, the first Script Ohio was seen by bandsmen as just another formation. No charts were used–Weigel simply placed members in their spots. “We knew that we did something different, not started a tradition,” Brungart said, “I wasn’t picked to dot the ‘i’, I was just in the right place at the right time.” Script Ohio was performed two more times during the 1936 season, both with Brungart dotting the “i”. During a field rehearsal in the fall of 1937, Weigel had a spur-of-the-moment idea, and shouted to Glen R. Johnson, a sousaphone player, “Hey, you! Switch places with the trumpet player in the dot.” After several run-through with the exchanged positions, the script was ready to be performed. At the game on October 23, 1937, the marching band, led by drum major Wesley Leas, performed with Script Ohio with Johnson dotting the “i”. Johnson was in the band from 1937-40, and during all of those years he dotted the “i”. From that time forward, the i-dot became the province of the big horns.
The familiar kick, turn, and bow by the sousaphone player at the top of the “i” was an innovation introduced by Johnson at a game in 1938. “(The turn) was an impulse reaction when drum major Myron McKelvey arrived three or four measures too soon at the top of the “i”,” Johnson explained, “so I did a big kick, a turn, and a deep bow to use up the music before Buckeye Battle Cry. The crowd roared when this happened, and it became part of the show thereafter.”

My grandparents took many photos of the OSU band during their trips up to Columbus to visit their son.  Uncle Glen went on to graduate in 1941 with a Bachelors in Business Administration and spent 41 years working for Clark Equipment Company in Battle Creek, Michigan.  He retired in 1982 as National Accounts Manager.  Throughout his career and his life, he was very successful.

My mom’s sister, Genevieve, graduated from Bath Township Consolidated High School in 1938.  She then went on to receive her nursing degree from Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio in 1941.  Aunt Genevieve was a registered nurse for the City of Dayton for a few years prior to death in 1958.  In fact her granddaughter and great-granddaughter have gone on to pursue nursing degrees. 

My dad’s sister, my Aunt Marie, attended Salvation Army College in New York and still holds a rank with the S.A.

My mom’s first cousin, Fred Wilt, received a Bachelors Degree from Indiana University and a graduate degree from Purdue.  He was a special agent for the FBI for over 30 years.  In his youth, he participated in the 1948 Olympics held in London and the 1952 games in Helsinki competing in track and field.  After retiring from the government, he held coaching positions for many years at several universities.

My maternal grandparents never completed high school – attending only through the 10th grade so it is a great testament to their nurturing and advice that two of their three children went on to complete higher education.  My paternal grandparents also did not attend college and even though only one of their children attended college, I’m sure they were immensely proud of the sons who volunteered to serve their country during World War II. 

Though each generation strives to give their children a better future with better opportunities, let us not forget those who choose other avenues to explore besides college.  Those who serve their country, state or local government.  Those who give their time or skills to help those in need.  Those who use their creativity to make a difference and influence others.  Those who choose to be in public service.  Those who choose to be a stay at home parent.  Those who set examples for others.

Who is the first person in your ancestry that you’ve found who has gone on to college?  What impact has your grandparents’ or parents’ education or lack of had on you?  What impact has your’s had on your children?  Would you do anything different (finished college, gotten a different degree, gone on to graduate school)?

(Picture: Genevieve and Glen Johnson)

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