Things have changed since the first county fairs in Athens County. Until this century, after the Great Depression, most folks lived in rural areas. Not until the last quarter of the last century did we witness an exodus to the city – people left to find “good jobs.” The pendulum swings again, the “good jobs” have evaporated. . . . demographics shift again. But people still gather at county fairs or church celebrations to share a sense of community with others. . . in fact, fairs in medieval Europe had the same festive atmosphere that our county fairs have today. As luck would have it, recently, quite a few boxes of papers have landed in my lap . . . from Amesville spanning eighty years. It is a treasure trove filled with notebooks distributed to farmers to keep records of planting time, fertilization and crop yields; guides for putting foods by; guides for young people in the Grange; beautiful cards distributed by a baking company with illustrations of birds that were “good for the land” – and photographs of boys with girls posing for school pictures, yearbooks among so many things precious and rare. . . But perhaps, the strangest and most interesting of all is the story, “Travels of a Rolled Oat” published by the Quaker Oats Company in 1930. in this pamphlet, we see oats that are first planted, processed and finally eaten by a young child. The story starts like Moby Dick . . . “being an account of an old man in Sweden” who keeps a shop. . . and tells Nils how it is that oats are grown. The oats are depicted as if they are living organisms that finally become a part of the young man. It is the rolled oats who tell the story and in the end, “the rolled oats become a part of Nils.” There are other pamphlets as well, such as Pigmies. In this tale, germs are represented as pigmies – the smallest of characters taken from myth by the author to tell the morality tale that Hercules could not fight against an army of these! Another pamphlet, The Jungle Pow-Wow published by Colgate Palmolive to teach the universal benefit of brushing teeth. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the hygienic movement addressed many concerns. Teaching children the virtues and benefits of cleanliness, good health and an adequate diet were among the topics that teachers, like Mrs. Linscott at Amesville-Bern Middle School addressed. Teachers used materials provided by private industry to teach. Funds were limited and resourceful teachers used these aids. . . The radio and television were just new mediums for major companies to influence our tastes. From my vantage point, the pamphlets are priceless – they often have amazing graphics. And the pamphlets tell a story of all the resources that one teacher pulled together to address the needs of her class. I am humbled by this rural school teacher . . . who has left me with new insight into how it is that we became a “great melting pot.”
Ephemera is one of those words that when spoken sounds like its meaning . . . a soft, wispy sound like whisper and rhymes with chimera. Ephemera are things that last only for a brief moment in time . . . like whispers and chimera, ephemera lack real substance but not necessarily importance in everyday life. You might even say that we take some of the most important things in life for granted.
The bits and pieces of ephemera that we come across can really stir memories. Monogrammed paper napkins carefully folded then placed in a book . . . garters thrown at weddings . . . matchbooks from a restaurant . . . cards, letters and postcards. Fragments of life . . .
So when I first spotted this A&W root beer container . . . I was so surprised! I had forgotten about these containers (waxed cardboard) in the shape of a bullhorn. The root beer was so damned good; hate to admit it but when I was pregnant with my first child, I craved root beer from A&W at all hours of the day and night!
Another example of ephemera are the round cardboard inserts that were used to seal glass milk bottles. I love the reminder to wash the bottles before returning. Reminds me once again that reusing is the predecessor of recycling. Hard to believe . . . but those were simpler times long before a madman decided to tamper with the supply of Tylenol. Glass milk bottles belong to the time when we had public trust . . . like trusting the milk man to keep the milk cold as he delivered it to our homes every morning.
Even though the milk bottle is not ephemera by definition, I found a very special milk bottle from Chicago Heights, Illinois – and so am I.
As the collection of ephemera grew, I realized that I needed a good way to pass it on without damaging papers sometimes fragile but always precious and quite often rare. I am now packaging many of these papers in a way that makes sense to me and I hope, makes sense to you. There are vintage wrapping papers for weddings and baby showers, rain bonnets for showers, postcards, old coins, buttons, illustrations among other bits and pieces that fit together in ways that seem to bring them to life. I imagine some of you might use them for scrapbooks or wrapping presents or in a collection of some sort or other. I have found them useful – as they were yesterday. And beautiful, each in their own way.
Would love to hear your ideas . . . and you might want to take a peek on Etsy or see them in the store at Eclipse when we are back from summer break.
Back in the day, when we were in college in Kirksville, a young man from Brooklyn moved into our neighborhood. It was his first time outside of a city. We did the best we could to calm him – even though there was no McDonalds, even though there were no buses, department stores, big restaurants . . . even though it was not the city, certainly, once he started class, he would find friends, good times and settle in to this new place. As fate would have it, the very next morning, a few hogs escaped the livestock auction and barreled across the neighborhood yards. He was unnerved – really – in part, because he had not been able to sleep because it was too quiet. The hogs, well, they were the last straw. He gave us all of his groceries and caught the next plane back to New York.
I love New York, it is exhilarating! But my spirit is ignited by the small, lets say very small town that I live in. You might be thinking, a one-stoplight kind of place. But no, there is no stoplight nor stop sign for thru traffic. So, I suppose, we would define Amesville as a no stoplight town. And that is just fine with everyone that I know that calls this place home.
Amesville was founded late in the eighteenth century when the new republic found a way to remunerate the army that fought for independence. Men and women rode the flatboats from Pittsburg to Marietta and claimed their fifty acres. Many came with big ideas – they built ocean going vessels in a little town near Amesville. But they settled in to a rolling landscape that reminded them of their old homes in New England. The countryside remains bucolic and quiet, very quiet. And when I need a few things from the grocery, I travel the two miles to Amesville for cream and milk from a small creamery, free-range eggs from a local farm – and even homemade granola. I do not wait in line, I am back home in minutes. If I need to go to the bank – I am first in line all the time. If I need to go to the post office, again, chances are good that I am the lone customer. The short drive often, brings tears to my eyes, but I am very sentimental. There is no other place on earth that I want to live.
I have no idea why I could make the jump from growing up in a big city like Chicago and settle in to this quiet place. I toss and turn at night when I visit a city. – it is so noisy. The lights from cars on the road way traveling across the bedroom ceiling . . . it is unnerving. Nonetheless, every now and again, I crave the excitement of the city, really need to breathe in all the life on the streets. But when you believe that you live in a paradise, then all you really need to do is open your eyes to see all that there is in a new light. Now that is a good place to live!
And work! Our barn opens up over a beautiful valley – a barn with a view! At the end of May, we will open up the doors for our Barn Sale. You are invited, of course, and we will get more information out later. It is worth the drive and you never know what you will find!