History Archives



PCRTA received a letter from Becky Brubaker Heindl, who grew up in Mogadore, OH, with information on her great grandmother and great grandfather, who were teachers in the early 1880s. Becky wanted to preserve some of their early teaching memorabilia, and when she learned that our own archives were stored at the Portage County Historical Society, she sent some of their archival paperwork to be kept with our things.

Her great grandmother, Hannah Alice Evy, was born in 1862 in Mogadore.  In 1886 she married Alva Albert Loomis of Deerfield. Most of their teaching was done in Portage County: Randolph, Atwater and Rootstown.  They also taught in Summit County at Copley Center and later in Columbiana County in Lisbon.  Rebecca included their teaching certificates from 1881 to 1887.

Hannah Alice Evy began teaching in Summit County.  Her teaching certificates were granted for one year after the Board of School Examiners certified that she had been examined and found “to possess an adequate knowledge of Theory and Practice of Teaching and was qualified to teach Orthography, Reading, Writing, English Grammar, Arithmetic and Geography.”  They also wrote that they believed she would “sustain a good moral character.”  The actual grades she earned in each part of the test were written on her certificate.

Albert Alva Loomis had certificates granted by both Portage and Summit Counties from 1881 to 1886 and later for 1905. Some of his teaching certificates also gave him grades in Algebra, Geometry, History and Chemistry.  He also was believed to sustain a good moral character.

Alva and Hannah were married on February 18, 1886, which would have been in the middle of the school year.  There is a letter of recommendation for the two of them written in May of 1887 by the Copley School Board of Education, so apparently she was allowed to continue teaching for at least another year after she was married, which was usually not the standard of the times.

50th Anniversary Looking Back

Dave Gynn

Dave Gynn

Compiled by Dave Gynn


The history of Portage County schools reflects numerous consolidations.  This information is a summary of materials found in Portage Heritage, published by our county historical society in 1957.

Atwater Township had ten sub-districts in the early 1800s:  Douthitt, Station, Science Hill, Thompson Corners, Kump, Yale, Virginia Corners, Mowen, Center and Stroup. In 1905 four districts were centralized and in 1917 all districts joined the consolidation.

Aurora’s first school was established in 1803 on the square. Eight districts were centralized in 1897: Route 82 and Bissell Rd, Route 306 near Crackel Road, Hudson Road and Old Mill Road, Route 43 and Eldridge Road, Old Harmon Road south of Mennonite Road, Town Line Road near old Kent Farm, Route 43 and 306, and Pioneer Trail and Crookis Road.

Brimfield opened its first school in 1818 in the home of Jeremiah Moulton. There was an academy in the 1840s and 50s. Districts were centralized in 1921. Brimfield claims the first junior high in the county in 1930.

Charlestown Township had a log school house at the Center in 1811. Six districts were centralized in 1915: Augerburg, Center District No. 2, Kirkland, Jimtown, Curtiss and Greenleaf.

Deerfield’s first school was near the Center in 1803 where a select school was later located. A public supported high school was set up in 1895. Centralization of the old districts was in 1916: Deerfield Center, Hillside, Few Town, Helsel Town, Mott Town, Hickory Grove and Wilcox. In 1955 Deerfield joined Palmyra, Charlestown, Edinburg and Paris to form the Southeast Schools.

Edinburg started in 1818 in a log house. In 1823 the teacher agreed to teach for three months for 12 bushels of wheat per month and the remainder in some other trade, such as sheep, cattle, and whiskey.

Franklin Township schools began in 1815 and moved in 1817 to a joint school and church building near Crain Avenue. The five rural districts centralized in 1920: Twin Lakes near gravel pits, Breakneck off Horning Road, Brady Lake School (opened in 1884), Maple Grove on Hudson Road and Northeast of Pippin Lake.

Freedom School was taught in a small frame building at Drakesburg. There was an academy for a short time. Township schools were centralized in 1914, and a fine new modern school was built in 1917. Freedom became a part of the James A. Garfield school district.

Garrettsville schools were “select” and “private” located at North and Maple Streets and opposite Park Cemetery.  The “Red Schoolhouse” was built in 1841. Nelson High School consolidated with Garrettsville in 1948 and Freedom in 1951 from the James A. Garfield district.

Hiram started in 1813 and in 1816 had two school districts: Center (called Stone Jug) and South. Various township districts were consolidated in 1903 with a building at Central.

Kent had three small schools between 1825 and 1867: Lake Street east of North Water, Stow Street opposite the cemetery and Hudson Road near Fairchild (unusual because it was two stories). A select school opened in 1856 in the Township Hall.  The Union School System was established about 1860. In 1869 a small frame building on Franklin Avenue served the “flats.”

Mantua-Crestwood started in 1806 on Mennonite Road. The Town Hall was built for a school in 1867. Mantua Center and township joined the village schools, as did Shalersville High School in a new district: The Mantua-Shalersville Local District or Crestwood.

Nelson Township schools, started in 1816, had 12 sub-districts in 1853: Center, West, Northeast, North, Kennedy Ledges, Swamp, Newell Ledges and Pierce’s Corners. The Nelson Academy began in 1851. New schools were built for $500 and teachers were paid $30 a month. Nelson districts were centralized in 1901, one of the county’s first consolidations.

Palmyra had eight sub-districts: Grover, Lloyd, High Williams Bacon, Wales, Whippoorwill, Diamond, Center and Noel. They were centralized in 1917. Palmyra became part of the Southeast District in 1954.

Paris had two schools open in 1819 – a private school for the benefit of the children of “Uncle” Richard and public school in a log school house on the northwest corner of Lot 34. Locating the arsenal in the Paris District reduced the number of pupils, and the district became a part of the Southeast District in 1955.

Randolph had a small log school-house near the creek bridge. It was built in 1805 by the Bachelor’s Club, comprised of six or seven young men. In 1812 a small frame school was built at the Center. All districts were centralized in 1905.

Ravenna City held school in the unfinished courthouse in 1810. In 1825 the Ravenna Academy was established at Cedar and Prospect. The Tappen Female Seminary opened in 1847 on North Clinton. A school for young men was founded in 1849. In 1859 South Chestnut Street school was built; West Main, in 1875; Highland Avenue, later.

Ravenna Township first held school in a log house near Ryedale farm in 1803. The township schools were: Bean, Babcock, Beechwood, Hinman, Price, Blackhorse, Red Brush and Campbellsport. They were centralized in 1915 and moved into a new building. This is now a part of Ravenna City Schools.

Rootstown schools started in a log building in 1807. The community built a building to be used as a school, church and town hall in 1815. In 1831 teachers made quill pens, boarded around and were paid $18 a month. A centralization of ten Rootstown districts in 1916 was accommodated with one Center school.

Shalersville had a demand for a school in 1810 and opened at the Center. The Shalersville districts were: Center, Coe, Streator, Peck, Feeder Dam, Codey, Babcock, County Infirmary and No. 9. An Academy was built at the Center in 1851 and used until the schools were centralized in 1904. The school is now a part of the Crestwood District.

Streetsboros first school opened in 1826 in the northwest corner of the township. A school opened in the Singletary house in 1830. In 1900 the districts were: Center, Cackler, Moran, Doolittle, Wise and Kennedy Road. The schools were centralized in 1905 and horse-drawn buses were used.

Suffield had a school of six pupils in 1807. There were eight districts: Logtown, Smokey, Row, Mishlers, Central, Porter, Five Corners, Cramers and Swartz. The districts were consolidated in 1923 with a new school building at the Center.

Windham started school in 1811 and a “stove” school was built in 1812. Helping in education was a Library Association in 1824. In 1834 an Educational Association was formed and an academy building was erected. The districts in 1900 were: Center Special, Aston Road, Adrian Sherman, El Bert, Stanley Parker, Stanley Road, Mahoning Corners and Tom Shank.


Looking Back Again

by Pat Gynn,PCRTA Archivist Chairperson

Norm Park, Historical Archivist

Norm Park, Historical Archivist

One of the people included in this year’s Memorial Service at the March luncheon was long-time PCRTA member Norman Park.  He used to write a monthly column called Looking Back for the PCRTA Desktop with many interesting stories about his adventures in teaching.  We asked his wife, Evelyn, if she could tell us some more things about Norm that people might not know about him. Here are some things she mentioned:

Norm was an avid vegetable gardener.  Not much for flowers, but he enjoyed weeding.

He collected stamps.  He carried on an extensive friendship with other collectors in China, France, Germany, Switzerland and the Philippines by mail. Some of these pen pals visited the Parks in Mantua.

Norm was a stone mason.  After retiring from teaching, he constructed many walls, stairways and “monuments” from the same stones he collected.  He also laid slate floors in homes.

He was a classical music lover.  He could identify most pieces of music by his favorite

Pat Gynn, Archivist

Pat Gynn, Archivist

composers just by hearing the first few bars of music.  He admired all the classic composers, but Wagner and Mahler were his favorites overall.

And now you know some more of his story.

Pat Gynn has offered to become the archivist for the Portage County Retired Teachers Association. This was the job Norm did for many years.  Thank you, Pat.


by Norm Park, PCRTA ARCHIVIST  08-01-2014

Many years ago there was a foolish jingle going around started, I believe, by General Douglas MacArthur.  He stated “Old soldiers never die, they just” … and I forget the ending.

This quote was picked up in many variations: Old bowlers never die they just drop their …. Then, old teachers never die, they just… You can finish it with a variety of clever endings.

Like it or not, old soldiers, old bowlers and old teachers DO die.  The reaper plays no favorites.

At the last PCRTA Executive meeting, I asked to comment on the aging process. My 89th arrives in August, which I guess makes me eligible.

One’s thinking and attitudes change with aging. Wow! How profound. Probably the most common is thinking back on youthful activities. If I’d only known! Like the pretty little thing who made overtures to me, and I was too dense to pick up on them.  And the last of the Erie Canal Captains sitting alone in his silent old house just down the road from us. Why didn’t I spend more, many more hours with him?  He liked my company (though I had no tobacco), and even as a young boy I was fascinated by the wild stores of fights that occurred at Johnny Cake Lock.  I’ve resented those wasted hours away from him.  What I did get came in very handy later in the classroom.

I think back on Junior High School.  Why wasn’t I more attentive?  I should have learned more than I did, and it wasn’t the teachers’ fault.

I think more often of friends and especially my older brother with whom I’d like to share ideas. Occasionally without realizing it, I’ll find myself having a silent conservation with some of them.  I believe it to be harmless and not a sign of you know what.

Forgetfulness?  I don’t have a corner on that.  It’s a darn nuisance and inconvenience sometimes. A sharp husband or wife can come in mighty handy when an awkward pause occurs.

Other things happen where age kind of sooths the bumpy spots.  How one dresses becomes less important.  Wearing a necktie fades with the past. Shaving? Maybe tomorrow or sometime next week.  Sleeping in without guilt is a bonus one gets from aging.  And for a bit of nostalgia: From my couch in the living room, I can see a huge sugar maple across the road. After the leaves came down in the fall, I noticed a large black trash bag clinging to a branch.  I’d lose sight of it during the summer and then come autumn it was there again.  This view went on for a number of years, and then one October day I looked for my old friend and it was gone.  I think I know why I keep coming back to this silly episode: something about change and the passing of time.  The trash bag held on as long as it could.

Another thing I’ve been doing which I think is related to aging is having the chapter numbers pop out at me as I read.  Chapter 12? Hum, what happened at age 12? The long depression years, and at 13 they took us to an old farm house with no plumbing or electricity. It was on a dirt road where the ruts got to the hub caps in the spring.  Good years by and large with fresh milk, eggs and a wide variety of garden crops.  Chapter 18 stood for army and a later chapter stood for marriage.  This connection sounds like something an old guy might do.  And, on my mind constantly is the fear of falling.  Have done so several times. So far so good.

The mystery of death comes to mind more and more.  No fear, just wonderment as to what form it will take.  A bit of relief comes with the thought: It eliminates pain, the feeling of uselessness, ambitions unfulfilled, no obligations, the weariness and what to do with the clutter of many years.  Someone else will have to cope with it. And as I age, I realize the old bag-a-boo of death has given up much of her sting.  Nature’s way?  If so, thanks. Whatever, I wouldn’t miss it for the world

November-December 2013 A Look at PCRTA’s Past                                                    

Norm Park, Historical Archivist

Norm Park, Historical Archivist

The Volume 1 Issue 1 of our newsletter was published in March, 1991. It was called the “Newsletter Without a Name'”for a year before a contest winner named it “The Desk Top”.

That year the membership committee won a brass bell from ORTA to recognize a significant increase in membership. Members were urged to log their volunteer hours and become politically active.

Twenty years ago Pauline Weckerly installed the following PCRTA officers: President, Winona Vannoy; First Vice President, Virginia Goodell; Second Vice President, Rudy Bachna; Recording Secretary, Dan Moon; Corresponding Secretary, Edith Scott; Treasurer, Grace Manfrass; Assistant Treasurer, Les Bennett; Past President, Gene Newton.

PCRTA had a great concern in 1993 over the proposed SB101 which would limit retirement benefits if a recipient is re-employed. The Legislative Committee urged members to support AARP’s momentum for health care reform as our best chance to improve coverage, control cost, and provide prescription drugs.

 June-July 2013 

Looking Back at Lit Class and How it Has Changed

I went to the basement recently to decide which old books to keep and which ones to ditch. One book in its faded green color caught my eye and immediately brought back some old memories. It was a lit book (published 1947) that I had used in my English classes. It was rather drab by today’s standards–hand-drawn illustrations, no photos, no color. In looking over the stories, it struck me that very few of them could be used in a modern day text.

For instance: The “Old Man and Jim” by James Whitcomb Riley. An old man takes young Jim under his wing when the boy twice returned home with wounds suffered for the Union cause. Each time, the old man cared for him and got him back into the ranks. It is a touching story, but today it could be misconstrued. An old man and a boy? It certainly (snicker, snicker) gives off unsavory vibes. No, Mr. Riley, we can’t use your story.

Another story which probably wouldn’t make it into a modern text was about a rancher whose cattle were being killed by a grizzly. He had several faithful hounds who were good trackers but certainly no match against a huge bear! So there was quite some excitement when the rancher added (at a huge expense) a fierce bulldog to the pack. If and when the grizzly was trapped, the Terrible Turk would be a great asset in closing out this chapter.

In time the bear was trapped and the hounds rushed in. So did Turk-not to go after the bear, but to attack the lead hound whose position in the pack had caused intense jealousy in the bulldog. After mauling the hound near to death, the rancher separated Turk from the fray, lead him over a rise, and a gunshot was heard. A good yarn but a little raw for today’s younger teens. Killing bears and dogs just won’t do.

Another story from the same text, which might not make the grade today, is Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” An old dude in the Yukon decides to go out and check on trees for a possible lumber harvest come summer. It’s around seventy below zero. He gets along fine until he steps into one of those strange never-freezing springs which hides under the crust. He is wet to the knees and his leather boots instantly turn to steel sheeting. He panics and runs briefly on lifeless stumps, slumps into a soft blanket of snow and dies. The man showed poor judgment in venturing out at that temperature and as a result paid the price. Death by freezing might be a little tough on today’s eighth graders. Sorry, Mr. London.

So we live in an ever-changing world. What was acceptable yesterday is frowned upon today, and vice versa. And nowhere would that be more starkly apparent than comparing today’s classrooms with those of sixty-plus years ago. I’m not positive; it’s just a suspicion.

March-June 2013  Looking Back

We are all educated in so many different ways. And so much of what was once learned is of little value today.
There were two activities that enhanced and broadened my education. One was the fascination I had for postage stamps. I learned where the nations were located and had a sense of the different languages. I marveled at the bright colors and the fine engraving. A sense of art appreciation and a vague notion of engraving have stuck.

Sears Roebuck always used stamps on their deliveries. The stamps were mostly from the 1930’s and depicted the presidents. I found the colors, denominations and portraits quite fascinating.

Another bit of education I received which has lasted a lifetime was in the carrot patch at the age of 13. While pulling carrots, into my hand popped a shiny black arrowhead. I wish I still had it.

Then one day I walked across a dusty road to a field recently planted in corn. No sooner had I stepped onto the soil than I picked up a 2-inch point of pink flint. An hour later I returned home with two pockets heavy with flint and artifacts. I was hooked! My education grew as I learned more about these items.  Who made them? Why did they carry them long distances? Why did they choose to use this particular stone?

My second hobby is pretty much gone. The way things are moving today, I feel as much as possible should be salvaged before developments bury them forever. Had I not found these things, they would have been long gone. Now, I’ve used them as a teaching tool for years.

My “education” has been shared in countless classrooms, to scouts, preschools, rest homes, and even today I haul a display to some sort of gathering. So education comes in a variety of shapes and forms, and schools can’t possibly cover all the bases.

These two activities, stamps and Ohio Indians, were good for me. I was educated in two areas which have pretty much fallen by the wayside. Young people today are caught up in their own electronic world. But they, too, should be alert to changing times. The gadgets they hold in their hands today will be obsolete tomorrow. I guess we all have to go with the times. Norm

January-March 2013 Looking Back by Norman Park, Archivist

After giving it a lot of thought and relying on my years in the classroom, I’ve decided to tackle the major obstacles standing in the way of a good solid education: Higher SalariesTeacher-Pupil Ratio,Higher Degrees Only, and Lighter Teacher Load.

These four startling revelations are big winners in anyone’s textbook, but the more I thought about them doubts started creeping in. As to the higher salaries, is money the magic wand that attracts superior teachers and can also turn mediocre ones into whiz bangs?
Had we been paid a larger salary back in the beginning, I’m sure we’d have all been better teachers. Doesn’t it stand to reason that a person making 100 grand is three times more efficient than the guy making 30?

My second “solution” is teacher-pupil ratio. How did we ever manage back in the 50s with 28-35 kids per class year after year. If kids are reasonably well behaved and have at least some desire to learn, good results will happen whether dealing with 15 or 39. A good teacher has plenty to share and dealing with 30 kids doesn’t spread the good stuff too thinly.

Thirdly, some school systems have a policy of hiring no one below a master’s degree. Ah, that magical bit of sheepskin that raises one a bit higher on the pedagogical scale. Yet I have trouble correlating a master’s degree and higher with more efficient teaching. I harkened back to the old adage: Teachers are born, not made.

I think there’s truth in it.  I’ve known lots of highly-degreed women and men and I liked everyone, except they were bombs in the classroom.  The one really solid advantage of acquiring an advanced degree in education is money.  Isn’t that why most folks go after them?

Next we have lighter teaching loads.  I will agree that too much can be put on a teacher.  It happened to me.  I was in Summit County and had six classes a day with half an hour off for lunch. I was a perfect example of what they now call burn-out.  In fact, one day after leaving school I went to a real estate office with the possibility of exploring new options.

So there’s something to be said for a reasonable  teaching load, but I really don’t think that lowering the schedule to three or four classes a day will make Mr. Twinkle a more motivated or inspiring teacher.

I don’t think these “solutions” are cure-alls for American education.  If you do so believe, you should join the politicians dishing up pie-in-the-sky ideas.  So often the pie withers and disappears onto a trash heap.  Let’s start with New Math, shall we?

Norm’s note: These ramblings are strictly mine, formed many years ago. They may not coincide with today’s thinking: NEA, OEA, ORTA, and PCRTA. You may put a disclaimer along with it if you feel the need. I’ll take all the blame.

November-December 2102 Looking Back at Elocution

Some time ago I wrote about the “death of cursive,” how that once-important school subject has taken a flying leap into the dust bin. There seems to be no need to teach handwriting (which at one time was considered one of the arts).

Our advanced communication skills have rendered it obsolete. Just press a few keys (no, that sounds like a typewriter)-er, a series of little buttons or squares and you quickly communicate with your friend across the table or across the Atlantic.

Maybe we shouldn’t say just the end of cursive-but the slow death of writing, period. However, there’s no authentic way of affixing a genuine signature or passing a note in class using high tech. Is there?

But writing is not the only art form that has disappeared from the scene. Long gone from the classroom is elocution-the art of speaking. Yes, we all speak, some with the majesty of a Barrymore and others who slur, garble and mumble their way through life.
Old school masters would not put up with the slurring and the garbling. You recited distinctly and with clarity, affording every vowel its due.

The teaching of proper speech may still linger as students struggle with the senior play or for those who have joined Toastmasters.
Where to start on this downhill slide? How about our evening companion, our living room television set.

Have you noticed the beautiful blondes and handsome young men who are bigwigs in the NYPD or the FBI? Both can rattle a long series of sentences, rotely and beautifully memorized, after which I turned to my wife and asked, “What did she just say?” Ev shrugged. She had no idea either.

And there’s that good looking investigator who speaks without opening his mouth. I simply pass on shows of that kind (and my hearing is fine).

Let’s not forget radio either. There’s a classical music program I listen to in the evening. What a shock after hearing a gorgeous piece of music to hear the hosts come on and completely destroy the mood of the just-played music. A lifeless voice and lazy lips for him and a just plain unpleasant voice for her. Fortunately, there are two such stations.

Politicians have pretty much learned the art of speaking for it is in their best interest. You want to sell yourself, sell your ideas, then learn to speak.

The spoken word at one time was considered very important and played a significant role in early education. My father did what I thought was a rather strange thing when I was about fourteen. He would hand me a poetry book (Lowell, Wordsworth, Whittier) and place a chair for himself about forty feet from me.

I made a selection, then commenced to read to him. He coached me in the basics, but what they were I don’t remember. However, something did rub off and I have been forever thankful.

It is such a shame! There’s so much latent yet wasted talent out there that in just an hour or two a week with the right instructor, kids could get a solid leg up in their journey in our very competitive world.

August-September 2012 Looking Back at Summer Jobs

Time was when young teachers started their careers it was a necessity for them to find summer employment. Salaries were low, families were starting, and the idea of relaxing and enjoying three summer months was only for a select few.  I suspect many of you did as I did, seeking extra income:

First, I remember helping to roof the veterans’ hall in Salem, Ohio.

Then in Mantua, I was a gandy dancer on the B&O Railroad. A gandy dancer was stuck with the most unskilled and difficult jobs of all railroad employees. I especially remember the Barko Machine-a little heavier than a jack hammer and just as mean. It leveled uneven rails by forcing ballast under the ties. I received a 10 cent raise the last month by becoming the timekeeper. A dollar an hour wasn’t bad.

Next a real easy job-assisting with the roller coaster at Geauga Lake (some wild stories to tell, but not now). I was promoted from there to driving the launch around the lake. Another 10 cent raise to $1.00!

Then working at a construction company doing what no one else wanted to do. Another promotion-from grunt work to driving a cement truck. I do remember leaving dribbles of concrete on the hill south of town. Salary-not recalled.

I worked up the financial ladder by working for two summers as a painter, interior and exterior. My father was fussy when it came to painting, so I learned and profited from him. It paid a remarkable three bucks.

One day I wandered into a small print shop in Mantua. The smooth clicking of a letter press in a darkened corner plus the unmistakable odor of ink grabbed me and I was hooked; for how long? Way, way beyond the allotted three months. I began by proofing galley sheets and after a while I graduated to the perch from which I fed newsprint into an ancient press that was noted for shredding paper into inky messes. Anyway, The Mantua Record somehow left the shop as a finished product. Salary? I think one dollar plus a free Coke machine plus a buck or two for a weekly column.

A friend and I started our own little printing company in his basement. We had a letter press and an ancient offset press. It worked very well until he was transferred to Detroit. My salary dropped to about 80 cents.

Four or five of my summers were spent in stone masonry -doing fireplaces, walls, steps, and other jobs requiring stone. The salary when self employed? I don’t know-it wasn’t much.

One summer “job” I didn’t do was continuing my education. Maybe I should have.

So, how about you retirees in Newsletter Land dropping me a card telling what you did to earn extra bucks in the summertime. No signature is necessary. I thought that it would be interesting to write a column listing a lot of the different jobs-babysitting, flipping burgers, etc. The list could go on and on and make for interesting reading.
Hey, just an idea!

June-July 2012 Looking Back by Norm Park, PCRTA Archivist

Every once in a while I’ll come across one of my grandmother’s letters buried in an old trunk or closet or in an album of some kind. They were written to my father sometime between 1915 and 1935.

I gaze in awe at her flowing and very meticulous handwriting. She needed no lined paper to keep her sentences arrow straight. Her ink pen was absent of all blots, smears or signs of “running low.” She did not cross her final t’s, which was the custom and her r’s differed from today’s.

I regard each sentence, each paragraph as a work of art. Perhaps fine penmanship represented culture and refinement during a somewhat drab period of the late eighteen hundreds. And by today’s standards we might regard her school as a bit primitive and one wonders why such great emphasis was afforded a school subject which has been completely abandoned today.

Long gone are the green Zaner-Bloser cards which held a commanding position above the blackboard, and upon this slate the pleasing curves were practiced.

I don’t suppose there are many today, especially amongst our newer retirees, who stood over their students and guided their arms (no, no not your wrist) in sweeping O’s.

Ah me, I’m old enough and I did do that. It was in the fifties and possibly, into the early sixties and then somewhere along the way it just stopped. There was no time allotted to it in the new regimented scheduling where every minute has to be accounted for.

The result, I’m seeing more and more, is the death of cursive writing. Children and many adults have changed over to printing. My wife read recently where some children were shown something written in cursive and to them it was a foreign language.

Our granddaughter is a freshman at the U of Texas. I had written to her and made some minor comment about cursive. She wrote back with the comment “Grandpa, I’m writing to you in CURSIVE. Just for you.” As bright as this young lady is, I could tell it was a bit of a struggle-not her usual mode of communication.

Untold thousands of languages and the markings used to identify them are long dead, erased from history. The language of Beowolf, Shakespeare, and Madison has steadily evolved, and our language and our form of writing are not immune.

And yet I hate to see my grandmother’s beautiful script go the way of small clay pillows poked with odd-shaped styluses.



2011 Looking Back by Norm Park, PCRTA Archivist

It’s interesting what sticks in the mind of students. As I go in and about town, I inevitably run across former students (Don’t we all?).  The first thing most of them ask is “Do you still go out and hunt Indian stuff in the fields?”

The History, English and other good stuff we labored through seems to have gone by the wayside. “Gosh, I remember those neat arrowheads you brought to class.” Even some girls were impressed.  I remember one girl telling me how she started walking the fields surrounding her home.

If I showed my collection to their, fourth or fifth graders, I could expect, without fail, pockets full of “possible artifacts” arriving the next day.

What brought this on was the thought of what to do with all of these “precious items” we have accumulated down through the years?  Several of our offspring started questioning me about certain artifacts in my collection.  What culture made them? What was this one used for?  Where were these found?

It occurred to me that I’m the only one who can answer the “where were they found” part and in archaeology, that’s very important!

Ah! A dab of white-out, a fine, black felt tip and a number was at least a start. On a separate piece of  paper I wrote the number and where each numbered piece was found: farm, township and county.

Isn’t this what education is all about?  Passing on our knowledge and usable truths on to the next generation?  A simple thing like identifying a pre-historic spear and its location helps the new owner to better understand where he stands in time and space.

Do not most grandparents feel the necessity and joy of passing on the heritage of their precious heirlooms? This is called education.  ____________________________________________________________________
I’ve read several articles lately about  revising school menus and offering healthier choices.  What we now consider junk food has pretty much dominated the vending machines and school cafeterias around the country.

Not only are we revising the menus and restocking the vending machines, but I’ve heard of one system that was carefully monitoring classroom parties.  Are those cupcakes loaded with empty calories?  Worse than that, there is one school that frowns on bringing packed lunches from home!  Who knows what evil lurks in those inconspicuous brown bags?

We here in the hinterlands are slow to pick up on all the latest innovations that are aimed at restoring and then maintaining our well-being.

The reason I bring this up is, that it reminds me of a Halloween party my sixth grade wanted to have.  Was it really 45 years ago?  Couldn’t be, but probably was.  Anyway, all the kids agreed (I’ll admit I suggested it) to have a party consisting of all the good stuff mentioned in the health book.  I remember we had bananas, apples, grapes, pretzels, lemonade and probably some other stuff.

It was fun and no one grumbled!  In fact, we felt a bit sanctimonious.  To top it off, we all garnered some bragging points that we could humbly flaunt before neighboring classrooms.

Man! Were we ahead of the times, or what?

November-December 2011  

Looking Back by Norm Park, PCRTA Archivist

Back about sixty-five years ago, I received for my class an advanced version of Weekly Reader, and with it a teacher’s edition called The Scholastic.

Its last two pages listed the names of teachers and university students from all around the world who wanted to correspond with U.S. teachers.

I’m sure they had a variety of motives: perhaps to get an inside look at our country or perhaps our schools, what we taught, and how we handled our classes.  I suspect the main reason was their desire to brush up on their English skills.

Anyway, at the time I was gung-ho into stamp collecting, and I would choose to write to those who mentioned stamp collecting as an interest.  So every two weeks, give or take, I’d send another letter or two, heavy on the school, English, America part and light on my true and devious intentions.

I believe the response to my letters was 100% and   as a result I have boxes of letters still in their beautifully overly-stamped envelopes.  They range from Antigua to the USSR.

One young man I particularly remember was one Ruben Ochauco from the Philippines.  I’m looking at his letter now, dated 23 Aug. 1955.  All his letters are a joy to read and reread.  At the time, he was an advanced student at the University of Manila and we wrote about music, literature, the social scene, and of course education. (Did I mention he was a stamp collector?)

I told him he’d be a great teacher and then he went on to say: “Yes, I have considered teaching, and I am frowning, not because of lack of regard but because there are many more teachers in the Philippines than students.  This is of course an exaggeration, but you get the feel for how many teachers we have. 

“Last summer 3,000 went to Hoilo City and applied for teaching positions.  There was and is none!  And every year, thousands of new teachers go out for jobs-you know what happens most often?  If you know a government official or someone who is influential, you’ll get a job-if not, sorry!          

“Teaching in the Philippines (based on what I have read in the papers) is a nice job if you are teaching in a private school because the salary is assured.  But in government institutions, teachers usually don’t get their salary on time.  However since Magsaysay’s term, teachers get their salaries a little faster and I believe there were certain raises in salaries, but nothing to boast about.  180 pesos a month is not a great amount.”

It’s been many years.  I’ve lost track of Ben, the Philippines and the current state of their educational system.  One thing is fairly certain-There as most everywhere, the government’s grip on nonpublic education show no sign of relaxing.


September – October 2011  

At Missed Opportunities by Norm Park, PCRTA Archivist

Have you ever thought back to an opportunity you should have taken, but didn’t?

One missed opportunity recently occurred to me, and I could kick my behind for not taking up on it.  Although, I wouldn’t really advise the kicking part.  First, it’s quite impossible to do; but if you should succeed, something will become disjointed.

Though the regret part occurred to me recently, the missed opportunity happened many years ago.  I had a summer job, which was a necessity for many young teachers.

We, the shop teacher and I, were doing some work reconstructing on an old house in Hiram.  For some reason, I had to go through a trap door to get to the attic.  Being somewhat a snoop, I couldn’t help notice a box containing letters and postcards.

Upon looking at several of the cards, I discovered they were written by a young man who had taken a teaching position in Carpenter, South Dakota.  The letters were written to his mother and were dated 1915.  I couldn’t help but read some of them.

Can you imagine South Dakota in 1915?  I suspect you can imagine what he wrote about:  the flimsy clapboard school; the pot bellied stove that fought bravely against the Dakota winds; the janitorial work done by him in the school and horse shed; and the plea for clothing left   behind in “mild” Hiram.  He wrote, “I have a negative of my school, and if you’d  send the developer and the proper printing stock, I’ll be able to make a photo.”


I brought several cards down from the attic and asked if I could have them.  I was told yes; they were of no use to the owner.  This is where the regret comes in.  Why didn’t I ask if I could have the whole box?  A young man’s life as a teacher in a somewhat untamed prairie state would make terrific reading.

I would have loved to know about his students, where he boarded, the people of Carpenter, water for the school, his food and transportation.  That box would cover these and much, much more.  I’m fearful they might have ended up in the fireplace, for paper to start the fire might have been more important than a bunch of letters from a young teacher out west.

Also in my own collection of odds and ends I have several documents showing the results of teacher examinations issued by the Portage County Board of School Examiners.  The one before me now shows that Miss Keyes is of good moral character and is authorized to teach in Portage County for a period of six months starting March 24, 1866.

In the subjects she was tested on, 7 1/2 was her highest score out of a possible 10.  Her lowest was 5 1/2 and that was in arithmetic.  Let’s not judge her too severely for I’ve seen a few of these tests, and they can be real doozies!

Mr. Picket and Mr. Dudley were her examiners, both names ringing a distant bell in my head.  Mr. Dudley attached a five cent revenue stamp to the certificate and then initialized it.

What about sitting down and chatting for several hours with Miss Keyes?  What a treat! I wonder if she left any letters behind…

Every year at scholarship time my thoughts go to Teresa Bica, the woman who made PCRTA’s scholarship history grow. Save for the president and treasurer, the director of the scholarship program is by far one of the toughest jobs in the PCRTA.


June- July 2011  Looking Back by Norm Park, PCRTA Archivist

Teresa took to the job of scholarship chair with vigor and efficiency, and I remember meeting in her lovely home three or four times to struggle with student applications. She always had a fine array of refreshments to make our difficult task more bearable. I say more bearable because passing judgment on twenty bright, enthusiastic teens, knowing that only five or six will be chosen is tough!

How does one judge? Did the applicant use a double negative? Was there used instead of they’re or their? And, believe it or not, some applications were once submitted in handwriting! But we always came out with the correct number of winners and hoped for the best. So back to Teresa. She and I taught next door to one another in the same building at Crestwood. Quite often I’d peek in at her at the end of the day and she would be hard at work with stacks of papers cluttering her desk, although she was actually a very neat person. I think many a night she was the last to leave.

She left Crestwood and became principal of an elementary school in Akron. She asked if I would speak to one of the fifth grade classes. Upon arriving there, she said “Let’s go out to lunch.” So, I had a nice lunch in a nice restaurant with a nice lady. It all brings back nice memories especially at scholarship time.

But when she left us, who on earth could take her place? Who could do the difficult job of organizing the many facets needed for a successful drive? Behold…along came Jim Montaquila! Jim has stepped up and has done a wonderful job of coordinating the scholarship program. He is as organized as Teresa was and brought some of his new ideas to the job. Like Teresa, he doesn’t take the job lightly. As an aside, when I was a youngster growing up in rural Summit County on a small farm we often bought things from a feed and supply store nearby. The place was known as “Terry’s” and run by Terry Montaquila. I mentioned to Jim what a coincidence, being somewhat an unusual name. Jim told me that Terry was his uncle. And so at scholarship time, like now, memories are brought together: Teresa, Jim, and even Terry’s store where the poignant, unforgettable odors met you at the door.


January – March 2011  

Looking Back by Norm Park, PCRTA Archivist

As I sit with pen in hand, I notice the date.  I also notice the date on an article I wished to comment on.  January 14, exactly one year ago.

It was on this date that we lost a truly fine gentleman, a diligent worker in the cause of education, and for the new retirees he wished to bring into the fold.  Ray Troxtell, January 14, 2010.

It’s difficult for me to grasp that it’s been one year.  I remember so well sitting next to him at committee meetings and seeing subtle changes in his voice, his hair, his movements.  He attended meetings as long as  he could, possibly in pain which he did not  convey to us.

Now let’s go back to a quote from the Desktop, July, 1998:  “Ray Troxtell is mending slowly.   He is counting the days until his school days are over.  He is expecting to have more surgery.    We wish you well, Ray, and will be glad to have you back.”

This was written thirteen years ago.  It would appear that Ray was in a state of ill health even prior to the above quote.

Also on the front page of that same edition was the heading, “A Message from Ray Troxtell.”   As president of PCRTA his duty was to write a  President’s Message for each edition.  It’s  surprising, knowing Ray, that he spent the whole column on his “ups and downs these last ten months.”

A few highlights:

-Call from a superintendent wanting me to come back and take over as interim principal for a couple weeks or months.
-Met and worked with some teachers I knew as beginners many years before.
-Lost my athletic director and football coach who died after his first football game.
-Lost a chunk of flesh in my right triceps muscle due to a bite by an 18 year old special student.
-With sadness, regret, and relief made the difficult decision to resign as the President of PCRTA.
-When post surgery problems clear up, I  promise to serve the organization in any capacity. (And indeed he did.)  Quite a load for a ten-month period.

When Ray had mended sufficiently, he became active in ORTA and our own chapter.

Speaking of ORTA, I’ve been reading the ORTA Quarterly with greater interest since various reps from Portage County are showing up more and more.  Dave Gynn, president-elect of ORTA and Dan McCombs, our Trustee and the chair of the ORTA Legislative committee were both pictured and named several times.

Out of 88 counties, we got recognized about ten times.  I consider that mighty significant.  If Ray were still with us, I’m sure he’d be there somewhere, too.



The Kent Historical Society and Museum is presenting a special display called “School Days in Kent, 1880-1940.”

Although many of the items displayed are about Kent, it represents the growth of education during that time period which  occurred all throughout Portage County.

Old report cards, photos of classes, types of teaching materials, teachers’ lesson plans, old sports memorabilia, pictures of schoolrooms and much more help to take you back in time.

Mildred Bumphrey, who was honored at our 40th year anniversary of PCRTA and who lived to be over a hundred years is featured on a DVD taped by Pat Gynn and Darlene Fetterhoff in an interview with Mildred.  There is also a knitted afghan she made to celebrate Kent’s bicentennial.

The museum is located at 234 S. Water Street in Kent.  Their hours are 11-3 Thursday and Friday, and 11-2 on Saturday.

Bruce Dzeda, noted Kent historian, will  present a program based on his new book, Railroad Town: Kent and the Erie Railroad, on Monday, November 1 at 7:00 PM at the Kent Stage.

The program, part of Kent Historical Society’s “All About Kent” series, will include some familiar and some rarely-seen photographs of historic Kent.  Mr. Dzeda is a former Ohio  History Teacher of the Year and Kent Roosevelt faculty member.

The program is free and open to the public.  Doors open at 6:30.  Signed copies of his new book, published by Kent Historical Society Press will be on sale.

Archives by Norman Parks

November – December 2010

In past Desktops I’ve mentioned Ralph Moore and Orville Hissom.  I mentioned also that I knew them but not nearly well enough.

Orville died in July of 1991.  An obituary appeared in the PCRT Association Newsletter (not yet called The Desktop).  No author was given, but I would wager it was written by Ralph Moore.

It reads as follows:  “Orville Hissom left our presence with a smile as he peacefully joined his wife Mary July 3rd at 1:30 PM.

“Orville was so proud and elated with his life membership in PCRTA that he had it on the wall beside the bed, and spoke of it to all who visited.  On Friday, he was interviewed by the Record Courier.  Monday, I took the newspaper to him.  He chuckled, ‘That young man didn’t forget a thing’.”

“Tuesday he was so weak he could no longer carry on a conversation.  Pain was now with him but not a complaint did he utter.  And Wednesday he passed on.  We shall surely miss his counsel, friendship and smile that followed him everywhere he went.  May God bless you for all you’ve done.  Thanks, Orville.”

Ralph, being a fine essayist and poet, composed a poem on the death of his friends.  It ends with these lines:

“His bright and shining gavel was his mirth;
His  hammer kept him human…and us sane.

“The poem started:

“And now he’s gone, and we who love him grieve,
We send a note ahead and say “Beware!” This pilgrim moves and shakes his fellow souls
And Orville still shall shed his noble grace.”

Ralph Moore, July 1991


Archives by Norman Parks

September – October 2010

As we retirees sit back and relax, sometimes our minds wander back to our early years spent in the classroom.  The events leading up to that first year can be interesting also.

Ev and I were married in September of 1949 and she, after two years at KSU, was offered a job in Salem teaching third grade at $1,200 a year.  We had a nice brick house on South Lincoln Street.  The monthly rent was about $62 and Ev’s salary just covered that.  I was afforded $75 a month on the GI Bill and so we lived quite well.

When spring came I was still a few credits short, so we got a room in Ravenna from an ancient but gracious lady, Mrs. Jenkins.  We could use her kitchen at will and invited her to sup with us. (Do  not put the catsup bottle of the table, Norm-that shows lack of class.)

Anyway, I graduated and Ev saw an opening for a  kindergarten teacher in Mantua.  Where?  We  assumed it was somewhere in Ohio, but who on  earth ever heard of it?

She answered the ad, made an appointment and after referring to our road map, we found ourselves sitting before the board at the Village School on Main Street in the village of Mantua.

I sat in on the interview and somewhere along the way I was asked what I did for a living.  I replied that I’d just graduated with a Jr. High degree.  Was I looking for a job? Well, I guess… sure.

We were both hired that evening.  Ev’s kindergarten class met in an old house where the present high school stands.  I was to go to  Mantua Center in a colonial-style building in continuous use since 1917 (the oldest in the county).

Due to changes along the way, the sixth grade class fell through, but there was an opening at the Village School.  Actually, it was two grades.  The desks were screwed to the floor in rows and I was to have two rows of 8th graders and three rows of 7th.

Talk about getting introduced to the teaching business in one huge leap.  But somehow with my inexperience and the kids’ innocence it ended up a truly great year.  The youngsters were well behaved and respectful and tolerant of me.

One thing I did teach rather well, at least to the boys.  At recess, we’d go to the field out back and they learned to march like real soldiers.  My, how times have changed!

If anyone has an interesting “How I got started” story, consider jotting it down and sending it to me.  These stories are a bit of history and they belong in the archives!

Archives by Norman Parks

April – May 2010

On August 15, 1973, PCRTA met at the Ravenna K of C Hall and enjoyed ham and sweet potatoes.  Our speaker was Harold Swift, who spoke on “Curbing Impulses.”  A carefree time was enjoyed by all.

Archives by Norman Parks

January – March 2010

I had an occasion to drop into several high schools this past week. The purpose of my visits had to do with our scholarship program coming along this spring.

Since some schools didn’t seem to respond last year, I suggested to our scholarship chair, Jim Montaquila, that it would be nice to approach guidance counselors/principals individually.

I was received graciously at all schools; was met and escorted to the appropriate rooms. My last visit was at Garfield, where our oldest daughter teaches. I mention my visits to these high schools for two reasons. One was how friendly and helpful everyone was. Two, as I passed room after room, I observed rows of computers, most being utilized. Then it struck me: I don’t think I could teach in today’s schools. I certainly would have to go back to school myself to learn to operate all this modern equipment!

The new technology started when I handed the application form to proper person. I suspect in less than a minute, enough copies could be run to supply all potential applicants. Ah, it was so simple.

If I remember correctly, to get our needed copies years ago, we had to type the material onto a sheet suitable for the mimeograph machine. We’d turn the crank and hope for the best. (Remember when smokers had brown fingers? Remember when teachers had blue ones?)

Prior to cranking out copies I have a vague memory as a student of gelatin-covered mats that had to be prepared the night before. I have no idea how copies were made from that. If anyone is aware of this rather primitive operation, please send your recollection to the editor of the Desktop.

I’ll admit I’m a bit old fashioned. I’m stuck in the middle of the last century, but I do wonder how education was handled prior to the computer. How did Aristotle and Socrates manage? How did vast numbers of those who built America manage to gain an education in one-room schools? Remember the past disappearing age we all knew: the era of erasers, chalk and blackboards. It lasted a long time and got a lot done.

I just don’t want kids using today’s technology as toys and not being able to survive if the cell phone is more than a foot away.

One of Paul Harvey’s parting shots was, “With all our modern teaching methods, I hope our kids will still be able to solve an arithmetic problem in their heads.”

August-September 2009

As I look back over old news releases, I learned a variety of new things.  For  instance, did you know that “The  Portage County Retired Teachers Association was the third group to Adopt-a-Route for Mobile Meals?  I guess “we” had adopted several routes throughout the county.  The group included Winona Vannoy, Betty Dickerhoof, Irene George, Anne Spence, and Saroj Sutaria.  (From 1992 issues)

I knew that many individual retirees delivered meals (yours truly for 25 years), but I had no idea that our own association sponsored a delivery program.

Also from early 1992, we learn there was a contest to find a new name for our newsletter.  The two winners were Bentley Hurd of Ravenna and Margaret Prichard of Kent. Their reward was a free luncheon at an upcoming meeting.

The winning name (pant, pant) was-you guessed it-The Desk Top.  As you may or may not know, prior to 1992, our group’s publication had the ungainly handle of The Portage County Retired Teachers Association Newsletter, Ralph Moore, Editor.

Also, another note of interest which eluded me at the time was an award (a school bell) given to us in 1990 for increasing our membership percentage more than any other chapter in the state.  Quite an accomplishment.  In charge of the membership drive was Pauline     Weckerly.  Gene Newton was president at the time.

The very first issue of our association newsletter (Vol 1, Issue 1, March 1992) contained this gem:  “At an Exxon gas station in Sunnyvale, California, a worker ignited the pumps when he used an acetylene torch to remove the ‘No Smoking’ signs.”  This is right up Ralph Moore’s alley.

October to December 2009

From July 1991-King and Queen

Betty Dickerhoof and Royal Reynolds have accepted our nominations for Queen and King respectively to represent PCRTA at the annual Randolph Fair.  You may share in the festivities by being present at 1:30 pm on Friday, 23 August.  That is Senior Citizens Day and there are reduced charges for us.  Hope to see you there.

The request to participate was forwarded to me by Orville Hissom.  This appears to be his last involvement in retired teachers’ affairs.  Very soon after his concern about our representation in the county fair, he died on July 3rd.

Not long before, he had become a life member and was so proud of it he showed the plaque hanging on his wall to anyone who entered his home.
And when Orville Hissom died, whom do you supposed wrote his obituary in the form of a poem?  You guessed it-Ralph Moore.

From September 1991

Pauline Weckerly placed this in the September ‘91 edition of our newsletter.  It’s but a small part of a large article.  She wrote:

“In our day, cigarette smoking was fashionable, GRASS was mowed, COKE was a cold drink and POT was something you cooked in.  ROCK MUSIC was a Grandma’s lullaby and AIDS were helpers in the Principal’s office.”

From March 1991   

Betsy Nelson of Arlington, Virginia sued Irving’s Sports Store of nearby Falls Church after security personnel there falsely accused her of shoplifting a basketball.  Nelson, 33, was nine months pregnant at the time.