Archive for March, 2012
To most people, being a twin means everything is the same whether its being dressed the same, playing with the same toys or being interested in the same things.
At first that’s how it was with Jay. I remember the first time I noticed it.
My twin brother, Jay, didn’t talk like me, didn’t draw like me and I was beginning to think he didn’t think like me. At the age of three, I started to realize that Jay was Autistic.
Although we’re twins, always dressed the same way and given the same gifts, our lives started to go in very different directions early on.
When I went to kindergarten, Jay went to a different kindergarten.
When I learned to ride a bike without training wheels, Jay just started using training wheels.
Our father died when we were both eight years old. I was devastated, and it seemed like Jay didn’t know what to think.
After our father died from an aneurism one night, my Mother and I were never sure if Jay fully understood what happened, but we moved on.
Growing up with an autistic twin brother was difficult.
While other people become best friends with their twins, a communication gap prevented us from becoming close.
From kindergarten through eighth grade, Jay and I went to different schools, had different teachers and got to know different people. But, when we got to high school that changed.
Most people met Jay for the first time in high school when we were 14. I chose not to share much of my home life before then because I didn’t understand all of it. I didn’t understand Jay.
To some of my friends Jay wasn’t “normal.” To them he was disabled, special needs or even “retarded,” as some people called him when I wasn’t around.
Even though I didn’t completely understand Jay, there was nothing abnormal about him to me. Jay was the “norm” to me, because he was the only brother I’d ever had.
Instead of going to study hall, I felt more comfortable helping out in my brother’s class. It was then, when I started understanding.
Even though we could only talk a little bit, we bonded and at the end of high school my brother became my best friend. This time, when life started splitting us apart, we still stayed close.
When I graduated from high school, Jay stayed there for two more years.
When I started working at my college paper, Jay started working back home.
This summer I’ll be working in Chicago, while Jay will be back home relaxing.
Things are still changing, but now Jay and I aren’t just brothers, we’re friends.
Thirteen years later, I still take Jay to visit our dad’s grave, but he never wants to get out of the car. Instead he plays with his iPad in the car.
What’s different now is that I understand Jay and I now know that he’s understood everything the whole time.
Our mom thinks Jay still doesn’t fully understand what happened to our dad, but I disagree.
Jay still doesn’t like to think about how our dad is dead . It upsets him.
Jay chooses to act like it didn’t happen. So, he waits in the car.
Jay feels and understands everything. His company and personality allows him to be a good brother and friend, just like anyone else.
To me he’s not just one in 110 because his personality truly makes him one in a million.
I’ll be there to help Jay as much as he’s been there to help me understand everything in his world, because now I understand that he understands too.
I believe that over time, brotherhood can breech any barriers.
I believe in Jay.
As I lie on the bench face down, I hear a switch clicked on followed by a consistent buzzing sound. A buzzing sound that makes my body tighten and my hands clammy. The buzzing is subtle. However, it has the same effect on me as nails on chalk board – It makes me cringe. My hands latch on to my sorority sister’s hands, who is sitting in front of me on a stool. A man named “Digger” holds the noisy object in one hand, while wiping a wet cloth along my back.
Are you ready? He asked.
I told him yes, ready as I’ll ever be. I’m only ready because I truly stand by the motto that is about to permanently etch into my skin – “Change is growth”. Given the fact that this is my first tattoo and my emotional state in life at this time, I think it is fitting.
The needle touches my back. My hand grip tightens. I close my eyes.
It’s ironic. I feel that since I received that tattoo, I have been faced repeatedly with the concept of “change.” People fear change because it is different. They fear the discomfort of the process. They fear the receptiveness of those who will have the accept it.
Change is scary. I can’t pretend that I don’t believe that. But in life, things are constantly changing – the world, cultures, the environments, policies. To stand still in a world that is changing so fast is just as dangerous as lying in the middle of a busy street in the dark of the night. Cars are not going to stop for you. You’re going get run over. You’re going to get passed by.
My philosophy is that is something remains the same for so long, it is consistent. Consistency only attracts the usual crowd. Change draws attention. Consistency allows people to go through the same motions over and over. Change causes people to ask questions and challenge the process. Consistency tolerates sitting comfortably in the same position until someone comes to move you. Change forces people to move forward, become stronger, and grow.
Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
I believe change is growth.
By Tia Woodel
There is something about a simple smile that instantly makes a rough day better.
I can’t remember one instance in which a stranger smiled at me and I didn’t return the gesture. A smile from someone I know is always helpful, but a smile from a stranger, someone I don’t always expect it from – that is powerful.
Everybody deals with their own struggles. Whether it’s a death in the family, a divorce, money issues, or anything else, it’s easy to get caught up in the negatives of life.
A smile has always helped me break through some of my own struggles.
My great-grandmother died last year. On top of the stress of being a college student, now I had to deal with the fact that I no longer had any living great-grandparents. After her funeral, I cried the entire one hour drive back to my apartment.
I pulled into the parking lot and dried the tears from my face. A girl my age was walking by. She looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. The gesture was so simple, yet so meaningful.
According to research on what’s behind the smile, “many smiles are simply readouts of positive internal states such as happiness.” Seeing the girl display such a positive expression was enough to make me take a step back and realize I would make it through this, just as I have in every other tough situation.
She didn’t have to say anything to me. She didn’t need to walk over and hug me, or assure me that everything was going to be okay. She simply turned the corners of the mouth up, exposing her front teeth. She simply smiled.
This has happened many times in my life. It always starts with me being distressed, but after a smile from a stranger, my worries seem to be so much less significant.
I believe in a simple smile from a stranger. A smile can make a difference. A smile can change a life.
By Tyler Buchanan
For us, love has been neither patient nor kind.
It was raining the evening Lauren’s car slid off the road into a brick wall. Her car totaled, we walked away unscathed.
It was raining again three weeks later as we approached our highway exit a quarter mile away. The slick roads and heavy traffic meant we couldn’t avoid the stalled car in our lane.
Fifty miles an hour. Slam.
Months later, I’m still reminded of our feelings of desperation and helplessness each time I take that exit in driving four hours across the state to visit her.
The crash left our doors jammed inward. Fighting to escape, we watched behind us as dozens of semi-trucks and cars came directly towards us at high speeds, some nearly spinning out of control on the wet highway. Many came within a few feet of hitting us as we did the first car.
We freed ourselves from the wreckage and were met by the other car’s driver who’d watched from the highway’s shoulder.
She told us her car had ran out of gas and that she was going to get help. She fled the scene, walking off the exit we didn’t make it to, never to return.
It was just us two in the rain, scared and shaken, but safe.
We are stronger together through these experiences. Improbable chance has kept us safe, along with further evidence of circumstance which brought us together to begin with.
At first, she was merely words on a computer screen.
“21 years old, female, Ohio, dream job: travel writer,” read her post.
Neither of us were single at the time or on any kind of dating site. At the break of dawn, I must have refreshed the page at just the right time to even see it.
“Oh, you’re a writer too?”
“No,” she replied, “I just put something down.”
Going to college in southern Ohio and being from North Carolina, she’d never even heard of Bowling Green.
I believed in following my heart, even if it meant taking a 168 mile chance a few weeks later to meet her in person.
David Coleman, the “Date Doctor” and inspiration for the movie Hitch, spoke at BGSU last year on the perils of long distance relationships. Over 90 percent eventually fail, he warned, and communication becomes increasingly difficult.
But who says we’re normal?
Over the past year, maintaining a strong relationship has been aided by the wonders of modern technology. I’ve learned to appreciate, however, the significance of the occasional phone call or even a simple letter in the mail.
Through the tribulations, the countless thousands of miles back and forth and the growing number of wrecked vehicles, our hearts have only grown stronger. If we’ve survived through such impossibilities and troubles apart, I’m sure we’ll do just fine when we’re finally together for good.
I hope and believe that our engagement will come sooner rather than later, provided our finances cease going to more car down payments.
Within a few months, she’ll move in with me and we’ll begin a life together. The intangibles we’ve gained through experiences, good and bad, will sustain us both forever.
By Ryan Satkowiak
I believe that growing up on my own has prepared me for real life.
Going to college exactly 2,392 miles away from home has given me a new perspective on things. As cool as it is to have mom and dad around to lean on, they won’t always be there to hold my hand; they won’t always be able to guide me through life.
I hear a lot of kids complain about living at home. They claim they want to be independent. But when they finally get away, they seem to always find their way back home.
And what is that going to teach you? That when times are rough, and you don’t want to face adversity on your own, that mommy and daddy are just a two hour car ride away?
Newsflash. That isn’t how the real world works.
My dad instilled that message in me for as long as I could remember. He would tell me, “Ryan, life isn’t fair. Someday, you’re going to have to figure things out on your own.”
Never did I think I would have to do that as an 18-year old college freshman. In a foreign town. With no friends, no parental security blanket.
It was then that I learned how to be responsible. As much as my parents wanted to be there to guide me, both them and I knew this was a lesson better off learned on my own.
They were always protective of me as a child, sometimes over-protective. I hated it, I wanted to be able to do my own thing without their input.
Little did I know how difficult that would be.
Having to wake myself up in the morning, having to budget every single one of my expenses, it was all new to me.
It should never have been that way. A paperwork screw up prevented me from going to San Jose State, a two-hour drive from my hometown.
I could have been one of those kids, but I’m not. I’ve had to play the cards that were dealt to me.
And I believe having to go through this in college has better prepared me for the real world, for life after college.
Unlike many of my peers, I now understand why parents get pissed when you leave lights on: electricity is not cheap. I understand how to balance my expenses, to make sure I can afford that new CD, but still have enough money to feed myself for the week.
For some kids, they won’t know what that’s like until after college, maybe even later. A recent survey of college students showed that 60 percent of them plan to move back home after graduation.
I don’t want that. I love my parents more than anything, but after experiencing living on my own, I could never go back to that.
I know how to live on my own. I know how survive without my parents being just a short drive away.
But I believe that their trust, their faith in me has allowed me to feel this way.
I believe in being independent, and that once you experience it, you will never want to go back.
By Sarah Bailey
My parents have always been there for me. Dance recitals, auditions, award ceremonies. Every little moment, whether happy, sad, funny or dull, I spent with the best parents someone could have ever given me. And that’s just what my birth mother did.
My mom says God chose me for her and my dad to take care of. It was the way our family was meant to form.
“We just wanted a child, prayed, and left it in God’s hands,” she says.
When I ask, my mom tells me it was hard for my birth mom to give me up for adoption. She explains that my birth mom wanted me to have a happy life she didn’t feel she could provide then. When my mom and I talk about it, she says that it was the most unselfish gift anyone could have ever given; the gift of a daughter.
I was adopted through Catholic social services when I was around six months old. I believe it was the nurturing of my mother Chriss and my father Gary, that I have been given countless opportunities in life.
I believe that a relationship between children and their parents has nothing to do with if they are blood-related, and everything to do with their bond.
I don’t recall a specific moment when they told me I was adopted. It’s something I’ve always known, something that was openly discussed within our family. My older sister is adopted from a different birth mom. Sit down with us for one moment and you would instantly see our connection as sisters. Our voices even sound the same on the phone.
When people find out I’m adopted, they look at me differently. They act as if it’s a sensitive topic that I would be offended they brought up. I quickly stop them.
I explain that being adopted is part of who I am, and that it doesn’t make me uncomfortable. It’s not politics and it’s not the abortion debate, and I am perfectly OK with them asking me questions.
I’ve come to learn that it is a rare relationship where someone feels like they can open up their hearts to their parents without holding back, which is exactly what I have found. I realize that it takes both the love of the parents and the acceptance and response of that love back from the child. I think that now I am capable of giving that love back as a young adult. And that is what I hope to do.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize it is inevitable for people to not wonder about whether I want or have met my birth mom. I tell them that at this point in my life, I have everything that I need.
By Kelsey Klein
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
That’s from Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll.
I’ve always loved Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories. They’re about hope, dreaming, discovery, and impossibility—themes that appealed to me even when I was too young to understand what a theme is. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much I had internalized lessons from Alice—especially belief in impossible things.
As a young musician, I believed I would make a mark in my world. Other musicians underestimated me until I made waves in high school, playing what older flutists at my school couldn’t. I was soon playing with an invitation-only flute ensemble and with a university band as a high school junior. Now, I teach young flutists during the summer.
As a granddaughter, I believed my Pappy would live. Nothing could defeat my hero, not even cancer. He never
really woke up after the surgery. Now, when I look in the mirror and see his curly hair and spirited personality, I know he’s still alive.
As a college freshman, I believed I would find love. The tall, tattooed guy with the Rage Against the Machine bag caught my attention, but he never really saw me. Then he showed up in my history class. Now, he kisses me on the forehead every day and tells me how I changed his life.
As a writer, I believed I would someday be published. I knew I was good, if only someone would notice my work. My first poem was published in a newsletter when I was 11 years old. I soon started writing more often and was published several more times. I took up journalism and worked for my high school paper. Now, a piece I wrote on a jewelry artist will be published in a magazine.
As a human being, I believed I could find my passion. So many people go through life doing things they don’t enjoy and living without a real purpose. I didn’t want to be like those people. I ended up in a women’s studies class my sophomore year because I needed a few extra credits. After the first class period, I knew I found where I belonged. I changed my major from journalism to women’s studies a week later. I have found purpose and passion.
As a feminist, I believe violence against women can end. Almost 22 million—that’s about one in five –women in the United States are raped in their lifetimes. About 39 million women experience physical violence from a partner. I believe we can work to end this. It hasn’t happened yet, but with my track record of impossible beliefs working out, I think it can.
Sometimes we want something so badly we have no choice but to believe.
I believe in impossible things. It’s a habit.
By Stephan Reed
I believe that you don’t have to be the perfect parent to make an everlasting, positive impact on your child’s life.
My mother, Tracy Anne Reed, battled alcoholism and drug addiction from her teenage years until the day she died at the age of 47. My earliest memories of her involve her slurring words, driving recklessly and putting the lives of my sister and me in danger.
But I loved her. I still love her. I will always love her.
Even though she seemed to have nothing organized in her life, she tried her best to make a decent life for me. She knew she didn’t have the resources to care for my sister and me, so she put the responsibility of raising us into the hands of our grandmother and later, my godmother.
But this made me care for her no less.
As years went on, her drug addiction worsened and our relationship was strained. We would go months without talking and much longer without seeing each other.
But the urge to be responsible for her never faded.
One time, I arrived at her dilapidated trailer home and found her intoxicated on her cigarette-burned couch. The look of despair on her face as I walked through her torn screen door is unforgettable. She instantly burst into tears. She never wanted me to see her so broken.
After her drunken, yet heartfelt apology, I left her home, leaving $50 on her kitchen counter because, at a glance, she didn’t have an adequate amount of food. I could never let my mother go without.
The relationship with my mother deteriorated as the one with my now ex-girlfriend grew. At the height of my romantic relationship, I hadn’t talked to my mother in six months.
On July 16, 2009, my mother died. I was in Chicago on a church trip with my girlfriend. I was 17 years old. According to a 2010 survey from Comfort Zone Camp, one out of nine people under the age of 20 have lost a parent.
When I received the message, my body went numb. Nothing seemed real.
I told my girlfriend first. She threw her arms around me and cried with me. The first time she met my mother was at the funeral three days later.
The ceremony was grim, yet routine. The same speeches are given at all funerals, yet no words, no speech could give my mother’s life justice.
Her death lingered in my mind. Whenever I saw my girlfriend, I thought of my mother. Eventually, my girlfriend began to fill the emotional void left by my mother. I treated this girl with the same love that I would have treated my mom if she were still here.
Selfless. Eternal. I care this much for the friends I now consider family.
Even though she wasn’t the greatest mother, she was still my mother and I loved her exponentially. She didn’t have the estate to leave me with something tangible, but she left this world with a lesson in empathy, responsibility and forgiveness in her metaphysical will.
I was her sole heir.
By Erin Cox
I believe in being rude to the 3.8 million minimum wage workers who provide me a service. Those people working the check out lines and making my food signed up for a position where their only job description is to make me, the customer, the one and only, happy. That’s easy enough. That’s why they only get minimum wage.
It’s so annoying when the cashier is not waiting for me at the register. I usually just shout across the store. She’s always following me around asking if I need any help, and then, as soon as I need her, she’s nowhere to be found. I have places I need to be, an actual job to go to and I just don’t have the time to wait as she finishes whatever it is she’s doing.
After making me wait so long, I can’t believe she still tries to talk to me as she rings up my purchase. She always asks me about my day when I’m checking out; I just turn the other way. She doesn’t actually expect a response. She’s just asking me because she has nothing better to do with her time at work.
I believe when I want to use my 10 million coupons for one item, it should work. I don’t care what she claims the store policy is; she obviously doesn’t know what she’s doing. I don’t understand how these employees can be so incompetent. They should know exactly how to make my coupons go into the cash register.
While I’m on that point, I also think they should know what the price is for each of the items as well. This is all these people do with their lives. They obviously can’t get a better job because who would in their right mind would choose to work at a retail store or fast food restaurant. I honestly don’t see how some people make this their career. They should go school and get a degree.
I believe the clerk sets the prices. Every time a price goes up, I’m going to complain to the girl working the cash register. When she tells me the total of my cart full of items, I will shake my head in disgust and start adding it up for her to show her she’s wrong. She must have made a mistake in her adding because she controls that cash register and the prices it rings up.
I believe I will tell the person who does not make me happy that she must be uneducated since she doesn’t have a real job. Standing on your feet for eight hours a day, handling money and providing customer service to people like me does not count.
I believe the cashier is not my equal.
I believe she does not deserve my respect.
I believe I am better than her.
A Bond Stronger Than Blood ROUGH By Sarah Bailey
Testing audio upload using SoundCloud. This is a rough draft of Sara’s piece.
Hi, my name is Sara, and I’m an addict.
I’m not addicted to the hard stuff, like meth or cocaine.
No, I go for the soft stuff: chocolate-hazelnut cake with fluffy frosting, pancakes with whipped cream, caramel iced coffee… Heck, even M&Ms will do.
Sugar – that’s my drug. I’ve been battling it all my life.
When I was young, my mom would let us kids have ice cream for dinner sometimes when Dad was out of town. Chocolate sauce, marshmallow topping, maraschino cherries – a smorgasbord of sugar was laid out on the kitchen table.
Later, I developed a habit of dipping Oreos in Cool Whip. In high school, trying to lose weight, sometimes I’d skip lunch – but eat a handful of candy instead.
I had an unhealthy relationship with food in general. Sugar was my greatest weakness. It was comfort food, suggesting all I needed to be happy was a scoop of ice cream. My weight crept up, and one day I found myself alone with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Put down the spoon, I told myself. Food is not your only friend.
I resolved to change my life – and I did. I started exercising daily, radically cut back on portion sizes and threw out most sweets. I lost so much weight I had to buy all new clothes. On 40-mile bike rides, I’d carry snacks like raw almonds and grapes.
Over time, though, sugar began to sift back into my life. Pomegranate-flavored yogurt? Sure, that sounds healthy! Just don’t mind the 13 grams of sugar. How about a granola bar for breakfast? It’s got fiber! And chocolate chips! And 10 grams of sugar.
A peppermint mocha nets 60 grams of carbs. Birthday cupcakes for my son, swirled high with icing like bouffant hairdos – an untold cache of sugar.
I have come to realize I’m not alone in my addiction. Americans eat a huge amount of added sugars – a wheelbarrow full per person each year, according to federal data. This increase in sugar tracks with the epidemics of obesity and diabetes in our society. Some researchers say sugar isn’t just empty calories – it’s actually toxic and should be regulated like tobacco or alcohol.
I decided to go cold turkey about six weeks ago. No more added sugar, period. At first, it was really hard. Sugar is in so many products, from bread to spaghetti sauce – not to mention cookies and cakes.
But now, the natural sweetness of apples stuns me. I don’t crave dessert like I used to, and I eat less packaged food.
In the end, I believe we are what we eat. Sugar wasn’t making me sweet – it was just eating a hole in my life. With less sugar in my diet, I’ve discovered the real treat: a happier me.
By Max Filby
From the front lobby to the office where Jacob Raderer works, everything is new, giving the new Falcon Heights sort of a “hotel-like” feel to it.
“It’s interesting to hear the residents talk about it like it’s more of a hotel,” said Raderer, a hall director who also lives in Falcon Heights. “They seem to really like it.”
The hallways of the new Falcon Heights residence hall are quiet, with just a few students passing through on a Tuesday afternoon. Although the building may seem quiet to the ordinary observer, it’s become a big conversation at Bowling Green State University this past year.
The building’s name, Falcon Heights, marks the second time since 1945 it has been used as a type of housing on campus, but in a different way.
The old Falcon Heights was a temporary trailer park on campus consisting of 40 units. The trailers, located where Jerome Library now stands, housed veterans returning to school on the GI Bill, according to a 1946 Key Yearbook.
Come fall 2012, the lobby will hold a piece of the old Falcon Heights. Raderer and Sarah Waters, director of Residence Life, plan to hang either a large photo or plaque describing the history of Falcon Heights and how the new hall got its old name.
“It’s nice to see the starting point,” Waters said.
Trailers lined the field in rows where the old Falcon Heights was located, from about 1945 through the mid-1960s, said Dave Kielmeyer, BGSU spokesperson.
“I’m fortunate enough to have lived in this Falcon Heights,” Raderer said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in one of those trailers, but I guess it was the best solution at the time.”
The sense of history the name brings to campus is what makes Falcon Heights special, Raderer said.
“There’s sort of a historical tinge to it,” Raderer said about the two Falcon Heights locations. “It’s cool that we’ve been able to maintain that.”
The new Falcon Heights, a residence hall on campus, is a little bit different than the Falcon Heights that once stood where Jerome Library now stands.
While the new residence hall pulls in an income primarily from its student residents, the old trailer park pulled in revenue from a single Coca-Cola vending machine, according to a 1946 BG News article.
Like the new residence hall, the old trailer park was headed by a council of students who helped to manage the revenue and activities within the “community.”
While the old trailer park may have been like its own community, the council in the new residence hall has been trying to keep that sense of community in a hall where some students have the luxury of having their own bedrooms and bathrooms.
“The hall council is very active over there,” Waters said. “Its definitely got a good sense of community.
Despite being named after a former trailer park, the new Falcon Heights has a few more amenities than its trailer predecessors of the 1940s.
Rather than one, the new Falcon Heights has multiple vending machines, as opposed to a single Coca-Cola machine in the former trailer park.
The new building also has more than 300 bathrooms, whereas the original Falcon Heights had no running water. It has multiple rooms, while a Falcon Heights trailer had one main room, Waters said.
Although population didn’t triple at the start of the 2011 school year, it did welcome in one of the largest freshman classes on record and along with it, a new Falcon Heights.
With its “hotel-like” feel, the new Falcon Heights may be a lot different from the old one, but the idea to name it came about when students started pushing for it back in summer 2010, Waters said.
“The difference in complexity of the two is just an interesting juxtaposition,” Waters said. “It was about resurrecting that name and bringing it back.”
When pushing for the name, students also didn’t realize a similarity between the two Falcon Heights. Similar to recent enrollment, in 1945 housing opened up to an increased student population, according to a 1946 Key Yearbook.
Such a similarity is another reason why the University was “reclaiming something from the past” in bringing back the name Falcon Heights, Waters said.
While the old Falcon Heights welcomed students with an open field rather than a new lobby, the new Falcon Heights does so with a fireplace and a balcony area, right outside of Raderer’s office.
“It’s funny, I don’t know if many students know, but this building has something more than just its hotel-like qualities,” Raderer said. “It’s got history.”
By Erin Cox
The first day of school. Those dreaded words popped up too early on the calendar every year, and the first day of kindergarten had no different feeling for me. I was not ready to go.
I put on my favorite t-shirt, one that looked like a faded American flag. My mom tied my long brown hair back in a ponytail with my bangs combed right on the front of my forehead.
My mom wasn’t ready to see her baby go off to kindergarten and I wasn’t ready to go. The half-mile drive down the street seemed like an eternity.
I was nervous walking up to Washington Elementary. Even though I had my older sister Ashley, a second grader, to show me what to do, I still had a death grip on my pink plastic “Beauty and the Beast” lunch box as my hands and the rest of my body shook nervously.
We walked toward the playground when suddenly Ashley spotted a friend and left my side.
“Ashley, what am I supposed to do?” I cried.
“I don’t know. Go play,” she responded unhelpfully.
There I was, on my own, my first day of school, and I had no idea of what to do. I decided to take Ashley’s advice and go play. But as soon as I reached the top of the steps for the monkey bars, the bell signaling the beginning of the school day rang and I quickly climbed back down.
I picked up my pink plastic lunch box and “Pocahontas” book bag and walked up to where all the other students were getting in lines.
This was it. No turning back now. I followed my line of students and off I went through the doors of Washington Elementary.
That day I became friends with two other kindergarten students, Weston Thompson and Brock Thatcher, whom I still consider my friends today, 15 years later. We have a picture of us sitting together that first day. For me, it tells all there is to know about my elementary school. Washington was that place where friendships and memories were made to last a lifetime.
Soon,though, Washington will exist only in our minds. All first through fifth grade students in Van Wert, Ohio, will go to a new school, Van Wert Elementary School in the fall of 2012. Students and teachers are excited to experience the opportunities the new school will bring. Soon after, Washington will be demolished. The home for so many childhood memories will no longer stand.
Now I’m a junior at Bowling Green State University and when I heard the plans to demolish Washington, I began reminiscing about my days at Washington.
I remembered five years ago when I went with my dad to visit his old elementary school in Arjay, Ky. The school hadn’t been used in years. Weeds covered the playground, and broken windows and graffiti marked the building.
I had thought it must be sad for him to see his school in such a pitiful state. I didn’t know it would be my turn soon.
I called my friend Brock, who I had met that very first day of school, as I wondered if I was alone in this disbelief that Washington would soon be gone.
“I honestly didn’t think they would do it,” Brock said. “I spent seven years of my life here, and now it’s like they don’t even care about it.”
I wanted to visit my elementary school one more time before its doomsday, so I went back to visit one last time.
It was a mild February day when I walked in my old school. The first place I came upon as I walked through the school was the stage that was the location of our music classes and holiday programs when I was a kid.
In second grade, I had the privilege of singing one of the solo parts in the song “The Friendly Beasts.”
“I remember about six or seven people had solos in the song and you were so confident,” Brock said.
I was shy back then, and the nervousness I had of singing a solo had caused me to continuously practice my part from the first day I was assigned it. The dress rehearsal had gone perfectly.
During the show, though, I started singing the wrong part. I quickly realized my mistake and few people probably even noticed.
I instantly started crying and refused to finish my part.The Christmas program went on and I left the stage still in tears when it ended.
Thankfully my friend Weston came to my side and said I had done well. Obviously, I knew I hadn’t, but my friend helped calm me down.
Now the stage looks like it’s being used for storage. All holiday programs in Van Wert are now held at the impressive Niswonger Performing Arts Center near the new elementary school and the relatively new high school and middle school.
The NPAC has a big stage with all kinds of lighting equipment and props, comfortable, padded chairs to sit and air conditioning. At Washington, metal foldout chairs were set up in the cafeteria for programs.
My elementary school programs might not have been in a fancy location, but they were that much more intimate. Being able to see the faces of my friends and neighbors in the audience made my embarrassing moment a little bit easier.
William Wisher, the current principal of Washington, thinks that people will miss this closeness.
“Going to the new building is going to be wonderful because it’s all brand new and there’ll be all kinds of opportunities out there, but it’s going to be larger,” Wisher said. “The smallness is what’s unique here.”
When I was in school, Washington was one of six elementary schools. All had grades kindergarten through sixth and kids went to the schools nearest their homes. Since then, the school number has lessened to four and of those, Washington is the only one that will be demolished after the consolidation.
Washington stands in a quiet, middle-class family residential area. I loved knowing that all the neighborhood kids went to the same school as me. The school was the designated meeting spot for friends to play. It seemed we all got along because we could easily maintain our friendships since we lived right next door.
Wisher also said that he would miss the look of Washington.
“Each school has its own personality about it,” Wisher said. “I’m going to miss the architecture that’s here. The way its looks with the wood trim, the solid doors. Those are things I like about the school.”
As I continued down the hallway of Washington, past the office, I remembered how we used to call this side of the hallway the “big kid” side. When I was here, kindergarten through third-grade students stayed on one side of the hallway. Fourth grade through sixth grade got to walk on the “big kid” side. All the younger students dreamed of the day when they walked on the much cooler side.
Now the school is only kindergarten through fourth grades, and students from all over Van Wert go to school here, rather than just the neighborhood kids.
Van Wert isn’t the only school that has started doing away with separate elementary schools in different neighborhoods. The trend has been catching on across the state.
View Van Wert Elementary Schools in a larger map
Van Wert City Schools Superintendent Ken Amstutz said the consolidation of elementary schools in a school district has been happening for quite awhile. This is in part due to the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which works with local school districts to meet their needs, according to Ohio.gov.
For Van Wert City Schools, the consolidation started as a result of the commission offering to put $27 million into building construction for the school district, Amstutz said. The commission would give the school district the money only if one new elementary facility was built rather than rebuilding the separate schools.
When Van Wert City Schools entered into the agreement with the commission to split the $50 million cost of new construction, the school district paid for the building of the new middle school and high school while the state would pay for the new elementary school.
Amstutz said he thought the consolidation of the schools brought numerous advantages. For example, he said that having students together in one grade level together guarantees that all the students in the district are learning the same material. He also said that it is more economically efficient to maintain one school than four.
I wandered out to the playground. I knew from the quietness in the hallways that the students were elsewhere and it was easy to figure out where they were. I was lucky enough to come at the best time of the day – recess time. The screams, laughter and blowing of teachers’ whistles came from the direction of the playground. Recess hadn’t changed.
When I went here, “big kids” had the right to the big swings. I always preferred the bigger swings.
I could go higher and faster, and in sixth grade, my friends and I discovered the ability of the swings to twist in the air as we got as high as possible. We got in trouble during every recess. I wouldn’t say we were troublemakers, but we definitely knew how to push the limits.
As I watched the kids on the playground, I noticed the older kids huddled around the swings. It seemed that the “big kid” swings were still the most popular aspect of the playground.
Fourth graders Alexa Glossett and Ryan Chen both said Washington is where their friends are. That is why they like coming to school every day.
The transition to the new elementary school is exciting for them, even though they are sad that Washington will be demolished.
Fourth-grade teacher Carol Taylor has worked at Washington for 34 years. She went to school there as a child as well.
“It’s going to be bittersweet leaving here,” Taylor said. “I grew up in this neighborhood, so it’s going to make a big change.”
Taylor also said that it is the staff and students that make Washington special.
Washington will house pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students until Christmas break, but come summer 2013, Amstutz said Washington will be demolished.
Amstutz said that some mementos such as plaques will be taken to the new school. However, it is not these mementos that will make me and others who have gone to Washington remember our childhood days there. Instead, it will be friends, like Weston and Brock, whom I met back in kindergarten.
The building will be gone, but the memories will remain.
Broken glass and scattered piles of wood litter the ground of the Moonville tunnel. Night-time travelers hold bonfires and graffiti the stone walls as high as they can reach.
Dusk began to set on brick letters spelling out Moonville which poked out of the top of tunnel. Some letters, that is. The M and V are now missing.
Dozens of homes used to line those tracks, tucked away in Zaleski Forest, miles away from any other community. Moonville, a secluded group of coal miners and iron workers, was the archetypal southeastern-Ohio village in the late 1800s.
Now, it’s a ghost town.
I first found Moonville by accident. Searching area counties for a summer fair to visit, I came across Vinton County’s Wikipedia page. The largely uninhabited county features no towns or communities. Scrolling down, I paused at the listings of several ghost towns.
“Seriously? Ghost towns?”
The search for county fairs forgotten, my girlfriend and I packed our bookbags. It was time for an adventure.
View Moonville in a larger map
The story of Moonville’s rise in the 19th century resembles that of dozens of other villages throughout what is known as the Hanging Rock Iron Region. A stretch of land from Hocking County, Ohio, down to the Ohio River and into parts of northern Kentucky, the region had rich deposits of limestone and iron ore. Soon, the area became Ohio’s first chief industrial center.
“The ‘Hanging Rock’ iron…is everywhere celebrated for its superior quality,” J.S. Newberry wrote to then-Ohio governor Rutherford B. Hayes in an 1870 geologic survey.
Soon, iron furnaces towered all over the wild, forest-inhabited landscape.
An Ohio Historical Marker rests at the steps of the Hope Iron Furnace. The year it closed in 1874, it was one of 65 furnaces in the Hanging Rock region, according to a geologic report of southern Ohio by T. Sterry Hunt, a 19th century Massachusetts Institute of Technology geology professor.
“The charcoal iron industry was responsible for the rapid development of southern Ohio,” a Ohio Historical Marker reads.
A hundred years before, residents of Moonville and other villages walked miles to the flat-topped clay pyramid that was the Hope Furnace, producing iron for the growing railroad system throughout the expanding United States.
Moonville’s iron production expanded rapidly when the Marietta-Cincinnati railroad built its southeast Ohio rail line through the village’s forest, according to the Ohio Exploration Society. In the geographic cross-hairs of the growing railroad and mining industries, Moonville thrived.
* * *
When I first visited the abandoned tunnel last summer, I was aided by an existing drought.
A bridge used to connect the rail line over Raccoon Creek, a waterway at the base of the hill.
By the late 1980s, when the line ended and the tracks were pulled up, the trestle was removed, OES explains.
Fortunately, the rainless summer meant I could cross by foot and climb up the other side.
The existing stone path of the rail line dug itself through the forest. Suddenly, there it was.
The Moonville tunnel thrusts its surface into the landscape, as if swallowed by the surrounding mountainside. Even in the daylight, the deep recesses of the tunnel are nearly pitch-black, its length reaching into infinity.
I had heard the tunnel was haunted. If ghosts loomed in the shadows, I never saw them as I traveled in the daytime.
Soon, however, I would learn that Moonville was haunted in a much different way. I couldn’t get the ghost town or the tunnel out of my mind.
In the weeks and months that followed, I read everything I could find about Moonville. My mind was insatiable—I needed to learn more.
With Ohio University in close proximity, I contacted more than a dozen of geology, geography and history professors, to no avail. None had ever heard of the ghost town or knew much of the area’s geologic history. The Lake Hope State Park surrounding the Zaleski Forest provided similarly disappointing results.
Modernity was evidently no help for my historical exploration. The history was deep, and my search became even deeper.
I had to go back to the tunnel.
What was a ghost town like before it earned its distinction?
In 1856, a man named Samuel Coe offered parts of his land for free to the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad company. In exchange for the railroad being routed through Coe’s land, the line would haul coal and clay off his property, according to OES.
In searching through a resource database for information regarding Moonville, I stumbled on a true historical relic—a genealogical tree of Robert Coe, a prominent New England Puritan of the 17th century. Of the dozens of Samuel Coes in the family’s lineage, one listing stood out.
Samuel Coe, born in 1813, “became a farmer and in early manhood settled at Rue, Moonville Twp., Athens Co., Ohio…” the listing read. A seventh generation descendant, his reported home in “Moonville Twp” matches the OES description.
Most notably, his being a farmer fits the motive of the railroad arrangement. A 43-year-old in the back woods of Zaleski Forest wanting coal and clay shipped off his land would certainly make planting crops significantly easier.
Other than the tunnel, the only remnant of Moonville is the village’s cemetery, located on a hill down the road from the tracks. Scattered around the open grass were a dozen tombstones, many unmarked, worn down by a century of erosion and decay.
Beside one stone, a small American flag was dug into the nearby dirt. Someone saw fit to honor a Civil War veteran of generations past, despite the cemetery’s location in the heart of the forest and the fact that its most recent burial was in 1914.
“30th Ohio Infantry, Wellington Coe,” the stone read, the flag waving erratically in the sharp February wind.
My mind was spinning. The plot thickened.
“Who was this man?”
Several online databases of Civil War soldiers found a “Coe, Wellington C.” who had served in the 30th Ohio Infantry for the Union Army. The soldier was 38 when he was discharged in 1862, according to one report.
I felt stuck, as if I were wandering around the forest fruitlessly searching for any other existence or remains of the ghost town.
Suddenly, like an abandoned house in the forest, I found it.
A third Wellington, not listed in the database’s index.
It was Samuel Coe’s brother, Lewis Wellington Coe, born in 1824. Lewis Coe would have been 38 years old in 1862 (as described in the Civil War database).
Of the thousands and thousands of names, hundreds of pages of over 500 years of family lineage, the only other connection to the name “Wellington” just happens to lie so close to the man responsible for Moonville’s creation.
“Lewis Wellington Coe…[died] in Ohio, Feb. 28, 1870. History untraced.”
Can forgotten history of 132 years ago ever be traced? It certainly appears so.
If he were the man buried in Moonville Cemetery, he sure never went by the name Lewis. Neither the stone nor civil war database gives that name.
But if this man, hobbled by his “discharged for disability” in Virginia in 1862, decided to travel north 100 miles to his brother Samuel in Moonville rather than at least 700 miles to his home of Windsor, CT., it would seem reasonable. His decision to travel to Ohio rather than return home would also explain why his history was left “untraced.”
The more I looked into Moonville in trying to find the explanation for its decline, the more research took me in a different direction. Searching for southern Ohio environmentalism of the 19th century led to a nightlong quest of finding Wellington Coe as I dug through pages of family records, civil war databases and tried to piece together this historical jigsaw puzzle.
What I thought was the story, the rise and fall of a ghost town in the Hanging Rock Iron Region, turned out to be much more, an expansive search and understanding of our geographic history.
My unquenchable thirst for the truth revealed an unbelievable, historical domino effect.
As I’d learn, Moonville may have been a product of the same theme of unintended consequences.
How, perhaps, did one man unwittingly transform the United States?
Samuel Coe, new to southeastern Ohio, wanted his Zaleski Forest farm to provide for his wife and three children. But his land’s coal and clay got in the way, so a lucrative deal with a railroad company, so he thought, would solve everything.
Suddenly, with the addition of a rail line through the area, towns like Moonville sprung up like iron ore being mined to the surface. Iron furnaces were being built everywhere in the region, and with rail traffic increasing, demand for the area’s resources grew as well.
Then came the nation’s Civil War. Hanging Rock iron makers provided resources during the war for canons and other military equipment, according to the Ohio Historical Markers Committee.
And who used such equipment? The Union Army, the one Samuel’s brother Wellington may have served under in the Ohio 30th infantry, which won the Civil War and dramatically changed our nation’s history.
By the early 1900s, coal mines around Moonville were drying up. The war was over, the mines began to close, and the industry demand lessened significantly, according to OES.
Hope Furnace had been closed since 1874, and by 1916 the Hanging Rock Iron Region industry was dead.
Samuel Coe died in 1883, never knowing that soon, the village of Moonville he created through his farm, would reach its end.
The last family moved away in 1947. Only the tunnel, cemetery and the occasional ghost story remain.
If a ghost town disappears in the forest, does it make a sound?
The history lies somewhere deep in Zaleski Forest. With nothing else left, perhaps it exists mainly in our fantasies.
I’ll return someday for a third trip to the Moonville tunnel, and maybe I’ll even see a ghost or two.
The darkness of the tunnel surrounded me, even with up daylight ahead. I thought I had figured the story out, when in reality the mystery had its grips on me the whole time.
In that sense, Moonville truly is haunted.
This trip, a cold, February journey into the forest, I walked back out the tunnel as the darkness hastily settled over Vinton County. A now-filled creek forced me through the forest towards Moonville, as if I were heading home after a long day at the furnace.
Trudging through the path alongside Raccoon Creek, I noticed footsteps lying below me in the mud.
Either they belonged to fellow tourists, or a tired villager on his way back from the mines.
By Ryan Satkowiak
Outlined by a blue-gray February sky, Oak Grove Cemetery has a particularly eerie feel to it.
It is quiet, except for the passing traffic on Merry Avenue. Standing at the center of the cemetery, its highest point, gravestones cloud the immediate field of vision in all directions.
Very little goes on at Oak Grove. Rolling hills make the cemetery an inviting place to take an afternoon walk, but the overwhelming sense of death turns off many from entering it.
Only about 40 people are buried here each year, according to an estimate by Tim Dunn, co-owner of Bowling Green’s Dunn Funeral Home. Those people are laid to rest on the northern-most end of the cemetery, the only place in Oak Grove that has empty patches of grass. The headstones in that area are often reserved spaces, ones that feature a name and birth year of a person who’s time to leave earth has not yet come.
Winter merely adds to the atmosphere of the cemetery. Trees that beem with life during the warmer months of the year are naked, as barren as the skeletons that rest peacefully in the ground underneath.
But there is something peculiar about the Oak Grove Cemetery. Something sets it apart. It is smack-dab in the heart of the BGSU campus, wedged between Merry Avenue and Ridge Street, right next to Olscamp Hall.
Many people walk past this place every day. The sight of Oak Grove has become so commonplace for BGSU students that many simply are complacent with its presence so close to their everyday lives.
“It’s something that you eventually get used to,” said Brian Hilliard, a junior international studies major who walks by Oak Grove every day to get to classes in Olscamp Hall and the Business Building. “At first it was sort of weird to have a cemetery so close to campus, but after seeing if for a couple of years, you don’t even think about it being there.”
While Hilliard estimates he has walked past the cemetery at least a hundred times, he has never entered it, or even thought about entering it: “I don’t really have a reason to. I don’t know anyone buried there.”
Many students who have attended BGSU would be familiar with Oak Grove’s existence. The cemetery was founded in 1873, about 37 years before the college was ever built.
While Oak Grove is the only cemetery in the Bowling Green city limits, it is not the only place in where people were buried in town.
There used to be two cemeteries in Bowling Green. One was located on present-day South College Drive on the south side of Wooster Street. The other was on the current site of Ridge Elementary School.
The reason for the incorporation of the land Oak Grove sits on has a political background to it.
Back in the early 1870s, Bowling Green was engaged in a political battle with Perrysburg, with each city fighting to be the county seat. During that time, having a rural cemetery was seen as a strong point of the development in the town, according to a 1996 newspaper article by James Kasser.
So in 1873, the City of Bowling Green paid $950 to John and Robert Eldridge for the nine and a half acres of land that Oak Grove Cemetery sits on.
The stones and bodies were transported from the two graveyards and reinterred in Oak Grove. In April 1873, the city began drawing lines and lots to divide up burial plots.
On August 9, 1873 the city began selling plots to citizens. The money made from those sales went to planting trees and other foliage and putting benches in the cemetery in order to give it a “park-like atmosphere,” according to Kasser’s article.
The trees planted in the cemetery, mostly willow and maple trees, give Oak Grove the standard feel of a horror movie setting. The often vicious winds that sail through Northwest Ohio glide through the tree branches with ease. The sounds of tree’s movements encapsulate visitors from all angles, giving the feeling that someone else is there, even though no one else can be seen on the inside parts of the cemetery’s gates.
Not many of the names on the headstones are recognizable. The deeper one walks into the cemetery, the older the monuments become. One cites a date of death in 1887, another in 1883. As the sun begins the set along the horizon, the few lights that are in Oak Grove turn out. Visiting hours are listed as “dawn ’til dusk,” although the front gates rarely close.
This usual all-hours access has led to some problems at Oak Grove.
Vandalism at the cemetery has been an issue, given its proximity to a college campus. Perpetrators have caused damage to gravestones and other nuisances.
Vandals did their most recent damage in October 2010. The memory wall near Oak Grove’s entrance was destroyed, knocked out of the ground and broken into four pieces. Cost of replacing it was between $6,000 and $8,000, according to an article in the Toledo Blade.
However, those instances are becoming less frequent.
“I think since I’ve worked here, I can’t remember more than three or four instances in a year for the past 20 years,” said Tim Hammer, the cemetery’s sexton for the past 12 years.
Hammer handles the everyday care of the cemetery, including selling graves and preparing them for burial. He estimates that there are around 700 burial plots remaining in Oak Grove, leaving it at about 93 percent capacity.
BGSU expansion negatively impacted Oak Grove because as the university got bigger, it land-locked Oak Grove. Buildings surround Oak Grove’s east, west and south sides, while parking lots are on its north side. This prevents Oak Grove from ever expanding.
Additionally, the city of Bowling Green granted BGSU land that had at one point belonged to the cemetery, including the area now occupied by Overman Hall.
“There used to be a mausoleum on the southwest corner of the cemetery that the city had to tear down,” Dunn said. “We removed 332 deceased from that mausoleum and moved them to other areas of the cemetery that the city donated properties for or other cemeteries that the families paid of have them moved to.”
Plots of land at the cemetery cost $325 per grave, according to the Bowling Green finance department. Because of space in the cemetery running low, people are only allowed to buy two plots in the cemetery, Dunn said.
Dunn added that his funeral home has had preliminary talks with the city to find new burial grounds ince there is simply no room for Oak Grove to expand. This is to accommodate the citizens of Bowling Green when Oak Grove eventually reaches capacity.
“We’ve had some light discussions with the city to where they would develop new land and they’re thinking west of Bowling Green,” Dunn said. “Everyone needs to be assured that Oak Grove will not be disturbed; that cemetery will always be an ongoing cemetery that the city will maintain.”
While students rarely enter Oak Grove just to observe, the mere presence of it still induces spine-chilling sensations. Walking along the outside of Oak Grove’s gate, along Merry Avenue, the atmosphere of the cemetery still lurks. The unseasonably mild weather has created a thick layer of fog descending on Bowling Green. Visibility decreases, and the inner-most parts of Oak Grove can no longer be seen. The sound of the breeze echoes out from the cemetery, almost as if the deceased are calling out for living company.
View Oak Grove Cemetery in a larger map
By Sarah Bailey
Draped in colorful head scarves and covering clothing in respect for their religion, Muslim women gather with their children for a Friday afternoon service,
listening like attentive students as the words of their spiritual leader echo throughout the circular room.
Men assemble on the other side of a wooden fence-like structure. Farooq Aboelzahab faces them capturing their attention with his words. Aboelzahab is their imam, the head of their Muslim community who leads them in their practice of Islam.
“We need brothers and sisters,” he says. “Civilization means humanness.”
While many local residents pass the mosque on their daily commute to or from Perrysburg, they may not know the history and meaning behind the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. Located right off Interstate 75, the mosque is home to 500 families from more than 23 different nationalities.
Members come to worship Allah, or God, most popularly on Friday afternoon “Jumaa,” or “gathering” prayer services. Muslims believe in Islam, an Arabic word meaning “surrender.” They believe someone can find peace with God, one’s self and with humanity by “surrendering to the will of God,” according to the center’s website. Muslim belief is based off the six primary principles: God, the prophets, angels, holy books, the day of judgment and fate and predestination, according to the website.
Approximately 0.6 percent of the U.S. population, or 1.8 million people, are Muslims, according to the CIA World Factbook 2011. Toledo and its surrounding region represent a place where about 7,000 Islamic men and women live and practice their faith daily, said Aboelzahab.
Dressed in black and gold robes, Aboelzahab leads the service with his words and quick hand gestures. He projects his voice periodically. People bow, sit and stand before him, listening to his prayers and lessons. Behind him a large bookcase with a temple-like structure holds a small library of red, green and gold Islamic texts. Stained-glass windows draw in sunshine and cast a warm glow on his face, placing a spark in his eyes.
View Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in a larger map
The center is the third Mosque to ever be built in America, according to toledomuslims.com, a Northwest Ohio Muslim information providing website. The first Muslim immigrants came to Toledo from Syria and Lebanon in the late 1930s, according to the center’s website. They established the Syrian American Muslim Society, and in 1954 Toledo’s first Islamic Center was built on East Bancroft Street. There was a need for a larger building as the community grew in the 1970s and 1980s. The new center, now located in Perrysburg, was opened in October of 1983. The center now has a full-time school with about 100 students, according to the website.
When the current imam and director Aboelzahab came from Egypt to work at the center in 1989, he was planning on staying only a few years.
Quickly, he became very close to members of the community, Aboelzahab said. He decided to stay longer and had his family back in Egypt join him in Toledo.
“It has been a very rich experience here,” he said. “I have learned more than I’ve taught.”
Since then he has enjoyed working, preaching and exchanging ideas on a daily basis with members of the center and outside community.
“I love communicating with people and talking about issues of mutual concern,” he said.
Aboelzahab leads weekly Friday services and Sunday sermons for about 500 people. He also gives tours to surrounding schools and people of different faiths, he said. From time to time, speakers from outside the community also come to the center. Recently a nutritionist talked about how to use food as medicine. In March, a visitor from Canada will focus on misconceptions about Islam, he said.
“This place is a center of learning. It is not just a mosque,” he said. “The mission is to talk about our differences, to celebrate our community and to learn from one another.”
As Aboelzahab leads this Friday service, he looks directly into the eyes of the members. A metallic clock hangs high above him, reflecting the stained-glass window colors and highlighting the tapestries on the walls. Five chandeliers hang from a piece in the center of the ceiling, reflecting the natural light from outside onto each person’s face. Each crystal shines like ice on a bright winter day. Some stand in worship. Others kneel or sit. An occasional child cries but is quickly held and hushed by its mother.
Aboelzahab also participates in Interfaith, a religious group consisted of Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, which meets at least two to three times a year to talk about civilization and differences between faiths.
“If we have faith, we should acknowledge that religion has the utmost respect for all mankind, regardless of your religion,” he said.
Aneesa Shaheen, secretary of the center and a Toledo native, has been working and a member of the mosque for over 20 years.
“This is a part of my whole life,” she said.
As a girl, Shaheen grew up going to the old mosque and then started working there. She has known Aboelzahab during his entire time as the imam, and knew the previous imam before he died. She used to teach Sunday school and has seen her students grow up before her eyes, she said.
“I love being with my religion, people and culture here,” she said. “I’ve seen people grow from children to adults.”
In order to experience the community for what it is, she welcomes people to visit.
“Come here and understand the religion and culture for what it is, not from the examples of what other people have said,” Shaheen said.
Tabassum Ruby, a Muslim and professor from the women’s studies program at Bowling Green State University, said she is happy knowing there is a place like the
Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
“To see such a big area dedicated to that place is something I am definitely very pleased with,” Ruby said.
Ruby, who has visited the center but is not a member, said the mosque showcases Islamic architecture and design.The calligraphy on the stained-glass windows and verses of the Quran written in Arabic on the carpet pieces are details she appreciates.
Ruby said that when general discussions on discrimination come up in her classroom at BGSU, she tries to educate her students on the stereotypes associated with Islam.
Muslim communities’ histories go far back in the historical make-up of this society, she said.
“Why do Muslims constantly have to justify their religion?” she said. “It’s a part of the stereotypical environment that we live in. We keep telling particular people and communities that they need to justify their actions.”
While facing Islamic stereotypes can be difficult, Imam Aboelzahab still has hope.
“Islam has a lot to offer,” he said. “We have to start talking about it in a positive and realistic way.”
As the imam ends his service, members respond promptly in unison, their Arabic prayers blending into a soft humming sound. Each person repeats specific physical praying positions:standing, bowing, and leaning into a deep bow on the floor. When they finish their prayers and bowing motions, they head towards Aboelzahab to hug him and shake his hands. A young girl, covered from head to toe in a bright floral pattern, runs to him and he picks her up. She giggles with delight.
Members exit slowly, lingering with one another. They put their shoes back on, get in their cars, and return to their daily Friday work schedules. Light continues to drift through the stained-glass windows and illuminate the empty room.
By Kelsey Klein
The first time I visited People Called Women, I met a woman with a lizard. It was Valentine’s Day and she had come in the shop looking for a lesbian love card; the lizard was incidental. The mohawked woman took it everywhere with her, she said.
Another woman, wearing a multicolored striped hat, was in the store that afternoon as well. She had stopped in while doing errands and found herself venting to the owner of the shop. The two women talked familiarly about politics as the patron browsed the store.
People Called Women, an independent, feminist multicultural bookstore in Toledo, Ohio, is a place owner Gina Mercurio strives to make an accepting atmosphere. From children’s books to “The Guy’s Guide to Feminism,” People Called Women has something to interest many different people. And that’s the way Mercurio wants it.
“To me, feminism includes all sorts of things,” she said. “That’s part of what feminism is.” Feminists should support all manner of social justice efforts, including multiculturalism and anti-poverty work, Mercurio said.
Patron Sharon Barnes thinks People Called Women truly supports her. “I know I can find material here that’s not racist, not sexist and not homophobic,” she said.
That diversity is what People Called Women aims for. When the store opened in 1993, Mercurio decided to keep books by women of color in the front window instead of letting white authors dominate the space. She still keeps that policy.
Not even the lizard—a bearded dragon, by the way –was looked at strangely at People Called Women. If anything, the unexpected pet was met with interest and curiosity, Mercurio and I both petting his spiny sides.
The idea of People Called Women first came to Mercurio as a senior at the University of Toledo. The first wave of feminist publishing was happening and Mercurio wanted a feminist bookstore in Toledo. At the time, however, she did not have the resources to open the store.
Years later, Mercurio was living in Boston. She had saved some money, her family contributed some money and she decided it was time to open the store in Toledo.
“Big cities have all these different kinds of cultural opportunities that smaller cities like Toledo don’t have,” she
said. “In terms of a feminist bookstore, I thought it would be perfect in Toledo… I know I would have appreciated it when I was growing up.”
People Called Women is now the only feminist bookstore in Ohio, according to Mercurio.
When I wandered in to People Called Women, I was greeted by a blanket depicting “Great American Women of the 20th Century.”
To the right inside the door I found a small children’s section. The room opened up into a space lined with bookshelves. I found a rack of t-shirts with feminist slogans and handmade jewelry hanging on small racks throughout the store. Bumper stickers with slogans like “Come Out” and “Stop Blaming the Victim” caught my eye.
Toward the back of the store I discovered a small hall full of literature from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, pamphlets of women’s health information and event flyers. I was stunned by the mass of information vying for my attention.
A community room, which also houses the store’s used books, has a deep couch, comfortable chairs and cookies on the coffee table. It feels homey and comfortable, a place to meet and catch up with friends.
The bookstore has become a meeting place for organizations like Toledo’s chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Toledo Take Back the Night collective, and the Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund, a fund that assists women seeking abortions.
“It’s a resource beyond what’s on the shelves here,” Anita Rios, president of Toledo NOW said. It is a meeting
place, a safe space, and a place for education, she said.
Mercurio agreed. “I’d have to say it’s as much of a community center as it’s a bookstore, and I think that’s what feminist bookstores do very well,” she said.
“It’s a place to meet. It’s a place for people to organize around social justices issues and where else can you do that? At universities. But this is an actual place in the community where people can come together and do important things.”
During a Toledo NOW meeting, Barnes sprawled out on the couch. Rios, across from her, sat in a cushioned chair with a pillow. Another woman sat with her legs curled under her. Mercurio was present, sitting in sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt with the line “Hey Mister Keep Your Hands Off My Sister” printed on it.
The women were discussing a recent NOW protest of the Catholic Church’s birth control stance. They passed around a newspaper article about the protest outside of Toledo’s Mercy St. Anne Hospital. A photo of Rios holding a sign with the slogan “Birth Control is a Human Right” garnered excitement.
The group threw themselves into planning a second protest. The energy and feminist ideology in the store that
day was as thick as some of the books.
The ideology in People Called Women is almost palpable. I feel surrounded by feminism in the store and encouraged to take a stand for what I believe. Sitting in the room with the members of NOW, I was ready to jump into the meeting.
Barnes and Mercurio jumped during the NOW meeting when Sarah Balser came into People Called Women unexpectedly.
A Toledo area native now living in Akron, Balser makes a point to visit People Called Women whenever she’s in the area. When living in Toledo, Balser volunteered at People Called Women.
“PCW is home,” she said. “I can’t imagine Toledo without it.”
The feeling of home is something repeated by the women I spoke to.
“It’s kind of like coming to your friends’ house in some ways,” patron Stacy Jurich said. “I came in the door and started venting to Gina, like I think a lot of women do.”
I felt like I was at a friend’s house when Mercurio left the counter for a moment and asked me to answer the phone if it rang.
“Stall them if someone calls,” she shouted as she walked through a doorway.
With no choice in the matter, I lamented my lack of reason to refuse. Lucky for me, the phone never rang and I didn’t have to test my stalling skills.
As our interview was winding down, Mercurio suggested we step outside for a smoke. Lighting her cigarette, she blew smoke into the bitter wind. We talked for a few minutes about the impact of young feminists and feminist organizations at Bowling Green State University before the cold became too much for us and we parted—Mercurio into People Called Women and me to my car, to blast Riot Grrrl music the whole way home, empowered and feeling quite feminist.
View People Called Women Bookstore in a larger map
Phillip Keck, trumpet player for Texas Pete and the Revolution, sounds his horn into the microphone during the band’s sound check. The reverberation of the trumpet blast, along with the remnants of smoke from the fog machines and the crowded room, make the stage feel like a pre-modern warfare battlefield.
However, Howard’s Club H (http://howardsclubh.com) is more than just a band’s battleground in the war of popularity — it is also a band’s great ally.
Because of the economic downturn and diminished demand for live music, owner Jim Gavarone has seen a fall in attendance, despite being one of the only remaining clubs in downtown Bowling Green that offer live performances. Gavarone scoffs at his competitors and what they find to be amusement.
“I’ve seen what kids spend their money on these days and it’s not real entertainment,” Gavarone said. “They could pay $3 to see a band here. Instead, they’ll go next door [to Skybar] and pay $10 … to listen to the same eight songs.”
There are not many places for bands to perform downtown anymore. Howard’s is the only place that has kept its stage open to traveling and local bands said disk jockey Brian Scavo.
“We have been here for over 80 years,” Gavarone said. “Ten years ago, half of these bars weren’t here. Cla-Zel, Skybar, none of them were here. Now, they are our main competition.”
On the outside, Howard’s Club H looks like a basic downtown bar, but on the inside, with its graffiti-covered tables, mural-covered walls and legendary stage, is where the club harbors its history and sets itself apart from the others.
Howard’s has been in business for more than 80 years. The establishment has seen wars, the Prohibition and thousands of students come and go each year at Bowling Green State University. Gavarone and general manager Jennifer Snyder look to preserve the culture behind Howard’s while annually bringing in a whole new crowd of students.
“No matter what you do with your life, you can come back here,” Snyder said. “You can walk through our door and it will always be Howard’s. We have people who come back as alumni and they look around for their names on the wall. They are looking for a little bit of their history. They know that they are a part of this place.”
Gavarone and Snyder allow patrons to write on the walls of the bathroom and carve words into the tables as they have for years. The bathroom looks like a vandalized train, almost completely covered in bright, nearly illegible writing.
Performers like Keck cite the writing on the walls as one of Howard’s most distinctive characteristics.
“We always joke about the graffiti,” Keck said. “There are some questionable messages in there. We also look around for our old stickers on the walls. We feel like we really are a part of the culture there.”
The club looks rough around the edges, with its graffiti and low lighting, but it holds some lifelong memories for many people, including the owner.
“I get a lot of pressure from people who want me to clean this place up,” Gavarone said. “I am a sentimental guy. I do not have the heart to shut this place down. In fact, I kissed my wife for the first time against the pole near the stage.”
That stage is where Howard’s differs from all the other clubs downtown. Bands like Panic! At the Disco and The White Stripes played there when they were first starting out, while Method Man, Andrew W.K. and David Allen Coe performed to maximum capacity crowds.
“I had Fall Out Boy play here in 2003, and people were bitching at the door about paying $3,” Gavarone said. “A few years later, they were selling out stadiums nationwide. Bands are nobodies here and then they become somebodies out there.”
Scavo agreed, adding that Howard’s is where many artists come to get noticed and bask in the light of the stage.
“Howard’s has its own character and its own stories,” Scavo said. “Bands coming through Bowling Green always go there. It has such a great reputation. It’s one of the only places left in Bowling Green that gives our downtown diversity.”
The club also played part of the famous blues tour known as the “Chitlin’ Circuit” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitlin’_circuit) during the late 1950s, providing a place for blues artists to perform. The tour consisted of blues guitarists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
“This place had legends play here every weekend back in the day,” Gavarone said. “Howard’s would get the big name blues guys who were on their way from Chicago to Cleveland.”
Deeper in Howard’s history is the tale of confectioner and founder Freddy Howard, a candystore operator turned bar owner.
“Legend has it that this candy store sold liquor out the back,” Gavarone said. “He was famous for his parties because he would have the entire football squad out here. The coaches began calling him Freddy the Falcon. The day Prohibition was overturned, he was one of the first ones selling [legally].”
Currently, the bar caters to anyone who walks through the door by providing food in-house and next door at Mr. Spots. Gavarone is also the owner of Mr. Spots (http://www.mrspots.com), which is how he received his liquor license.
The club is separated into two parts connected by a wrap-around bar. One side is more laid back, complete with a few TV screens playing sports games and the majority of the beer taps, while the other side is focused on recreation with four pool tables, a soundboard and a stage.
Snyder said she thinks of Howard’s as the town hangout, as well as the final stop during a weekend bar crawl.
“We have always been the closing bar,” she said. “We are open seven days a week and everyone seems to come here for their final round of the night. It’s been like that for decades.”
Whether it’s a night of just hanging out and shooting pool with the regulars or it’s a night of rocking out with the next band preparing for its big break, Howard’s and its operators look to keep the stage open and to continue to aid bands in the fight for stardom.
View Route from BGSU Campus to Howard’s Club H in a larger map