Saturday, August 31, 2013

Boston Park—the people’s park

Clara Zelinski looked over her father’s shoulder one day, and saw men working in the triangle of land between Riverview Road and its cutoff to Boston Mills Road.  “What are they doing?” she asked him. “Building a little park.”

It was the mid 1930’s; Claire, as she was called, was in high school. It was also the depression, although she did not know that. In the store they continued to write receipts for the flour and coal families purchased.  The receipts went into cubby holes above, one for each family.  “They’ll pay when they can,” her father said.[1]

There is a dusty piece of land across the railroad track from Zelinski’s Store in the 1905 aerial view of the Cleveland Akron Bag Company, the covered bridge and the Boston Store.  The county improvements to the intersection in 1928 defined the area as a triangle.

Boston, 1905
Zelinsi's store is the white building, right of the covered bridge
In 1905 it was The Boston Store

In the depression era of the thirties, in 1935, the alignment of Riverview Road, with the triangle at the Boston Mills intersection, was formalized.  The projects of the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), Public Works Administration (PWA) and Works Progress Administration (WPA) performed much needed improvements to Riverview.[2]

When the CCA was through working, Claire said, there was a water pipe and spigot in the park, for community use, “although we didn’t get our water from there.” In Boston and the surrounding area many families relied on a public water source for drinking and cooking.[3]

There is a spring on Boston Mills Road, a short distance from the intersection of Riverview and Boston Mills, which had a public watering trough along the road on property once owned by the bag company, as well as a spring house for public use. Many locals tell how the spring house was used as a drop off and pick up location for moonshine.

Mr. Zelinski told his daughter there would be a public spigot in the little park. Apparently a pipe was laid from the spring, under Riverview Road and into the park.  Roads were dirt, paved with crushed limestone; trenching across the road from the spring to the triangle would have been a day’s job.[4] Perhaps the pipe was laid during the County’s 1935 road improvement project.

I believe the folk art stone “well”, now a planter in the northwest corner of the park, was built to protect the pipe and the spigot, probably in the 1930’s, when the “little park” came into being.  It is possible the sidewalks leading to the spigot from north, east and west were laid at the same time.

The sidewalks are sandstone, cut and fitted like a jigsaw puzzle.  They would have stopped the grounds around the spigot from becoming overly muddy.  Where did the sandstone come from?  That remains a mystery, but it has been suggested it was scrap, perhaps from the Slippery Run Quarry scrap piles, trimmed out to make the sidewalks.

No one knows when the public spigot was removed, but there is no knowledge of it by the early 1950’s.  Several landslides onto Boston Mills Road apparently destroyed the springhouse and contaminated the spring.

The stone housing remained, and is visible in a photo of a beam used to build the Ohio Turnpike being transported down Riverview Road to the construction site, in the early 1950’s.  Look under the beam and the stone housing is there at the edge of the park.

Turnpike Infrastructure, early 1950's
Boston transformed itself several times in its history. The boom town of the canal days faded, Boston became a quiet little suburb in a beautiful valley; a rural crossroads with only a few stores, and industries.[5] The Beacon Magazine interview with Kitty Stanford described Boston’s residents as young and friendly.  “They back community projects—like the church—and always help each other in time of trouble.”

Progressive loss of the major employers in Boston notwithstanding, the community remained and the little park had visitors.  A swing behind the park was used by children of the little houses around the crossroads.

The little park that could had no official ownership, except community ownership. The park in the triangle was a patch of grass over county road right of way.  There was no deed, there was no parcel number.  Who mowed the grass?  Citizens.

In the fifties and sixties the grass was generally mowed by the Zorena men, driving the Wheel Horse between Grandpa Zorena’s farm to Mike Junior's home.  The youngest  Mike often was in trouble with his dad for nicking the blades on the sandstone sidewalk.[6]

The park became more “official” in 1971, when a flag pole was placed “in the little park in Boston;… a memorial to the late Lester Dickinson, a World War II veteran, who operated Dickinson’s Place at River and Boston Mills Road for thirty five years.”[7] The 112th Engineers Battalion and many volunteers set the pole and donated American and Ohio flags.

Boston Park, though, remained a park that belonged to no one.  In the eighties and nineties it was maintained sometimes by the Boston Cemetery, sometimes by Boston Township.  It was the gathering and stepping off point for the annual Memorial Day ceremonies honoring Boston’s veterans.  The stone pipe housing became a planter maintained by residents, the cedars planted in the forties were tall guardians of the park.

Suddenly, in the 90’s, the residents of Boston learned their park would be swept away. Dynamic forces bore down from three sides. The National Park wanted Riverview’s curves eliminated to enable their vision of a 45 m.p.h. scenic byway; the ski resort wanted more parking, and the County Engineer was happy to find funding to straighten the road.

John and Bonnie Johnston, assuming the title Life-long residents,[8] undertook a campaign to make powers that be understand Boston’s residents did not intend to let their history sink under asphalt.  Petitions were submitted, public hearings held.  The National Park and the ski resort offered to relocate the park as a wayside, with benches and interpretive signs.

The people were not pleased.

The National Park and the County Engineer formulated a design that would relocate the road leaving the north and west sides of the park intact, saving the cedars, the walks, the planter, the flags.

The ski resort was not pleased; if the park could be relocated, parking for the ski resort would be gained.

The citizens of Boston and their elected officials continued to petition their government, attend public meetings, demonstrate their park was Boston.

The people prevailed.

Today the park is a grassy rectangle.  In the northwest corner towering cedars surround the stone planter, the sandstone walks have been reset.  The Memorial Day parade still steps off to the Boston Cemetery.  The little park that could still has no credentials; no title of ownership, but the quiet grassy plot covering road right away remains as the heart of Boston.

 Joanne Noragon
 Boston Township Fiscal Officer                                                                                           
 August 31, 2013                                                                               

The red building in the lower left was Zelinski's store

[1] Conversation with Claire Zelinski Muldowney, August 23, 2013
[2] Riverview Road, a Scenic Byway, prepared by GPD Associates, April, 1991, for the Summit and Cuyahoga County Engineers
[3] Conversation with Jerry Ritch, Boston Township resident, August 23, 2013
[4] Conversation with Joe Paradise, Summit County Engineer’s Office, August 26, 2013
[5] Quoted from My Town: Boston, The Beacon Magazine, November 20, 1955.
[6] Conversations with Amy Zorena Anderson over the course of this park research.
[7] Fran Murphy, in the Akron Beacon Journal, May 21, 1971.
[8] John F. and Bonnie Johnston letters and petitions commencing May, 1996

Thursday, August 29, 2013

An adventure in the park

For the last month I have been swept up by the Boston Park.  You remember the sandstone walks I saw, lifted from under years of sod, back when I had to go see what “dressing a park” was about.

Sandstone pavers being lifted from under the sod

I have been diligent about the township’s other business; I have schlepped children to band practice twice a week, and two Quidditch tournaments, but I’ve lived in the park.  In my head.

When I first saw that park in June I knew it had a story.  I threw it out to the township, tell me the story. Send me an email. Call me. I’ll write it down for you.

At the end of two weeks, except for one person who approached me on the street, nothing.  I suppose this lesson is taught in anthropology 101—if you want to know, get out there and ask. So I did. 

The oldest towns person I spoke with is close to one hundred, and watched the park being made.  One of the road guys and I went out looking for a piece of evidence to substantiate a legend of the park—and found it. 

One township septuagenarian had no use for the park.  “That piece of dirt!”  Many people I chased down did not live in the hamlet of Boston in its heyday.  “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.  Why don’t you call…..”  And so it went.

I’m near the end.  I want to polish my paragraphs a bit more, and do some copyrighting of the pictures.  Then it will go up on the township website as a piece of history preserved. I’ll work on redacting some names and publish it here, too.  It’s a grand story.

The relaid sidewalks
Today a peripheral event brought me close to tears. I made it my project, when the township made the website, to scan and post the complete minutes of the township, since its formation in 1811.  Of course some are missing.  Not many, but enough to be aggravating.

I wrote a little article for the community newspaper, Like a Scavenger Hunt, describing how the minutes probably looked, even the location of the homes of the clerks with missing minutes.  Aside from snippy answers from heirs, nothing.

Today I talked to the man whose wife led the drive to save the little park from the great National Park, back in the nineties.  At the end of the conversation he said, “Oh, by the way, I’ve been meaning to bring you one book of minutes I have.”  A book covering the thirties and the forties.

I was supposed to ask about the park.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sending the children back to school

This is another one of those when I was young “I walked up hill to school, both ways”.  Which I did. 

We went with a new notebook, and later on mom might buy a package of notebook paper for writing themes and such, if last year’s package had run dry.  Most work was done in pencil, although I can remember writing essays out in ink.  Announcements and permission forms came home via child and were returned the same way.  Some announcements were made on the PA, and children were totally responsible for having those fulfilled.

Fast forward to educating my grandchildren. Announcements concerning the current school year, which began last Wednesday, commenced at the end of last school year.  Why do they do this?  Because there is electronic media available to send requests and requirements down the line at the speed of—electricity.

It seems to me, having enrolled these children last year, I could at most check and sign off on a list of facts about them.  I’m still completing pages and pages, times three: their address and who to contact, what meds do they take at school (are nurses’ stations  loaded with drugs to be doled out!  What is going on?!), are they allergic to peanuts.

The supply lists! The book lists (when I went to school texts were passed out the first day and returned the last.  Do not write in your books, children!).  The fees! The fees!  Band is one hundred dollars per.  Lab fees.  Science fair fees (yes, science fair is a requirement!).  School pictures.  Gym uniforms.

I get daily, or more, announcement/reminder emails from the high school, the middle school, the band.  These used to be called morning announcements, children, remember to tell your parents.

I refuse as much as I can.  The grand kids know there is precious little money to spare; they fill in their school picture packets and I see twelve dollars worth of pictures checked. Hamilton and I had a pretty good laugh about the senior pictures.  I bought the cheapest sitting, two poses.  I told him he got one pose with his suit jacket on and one with it off, pick his favorite for the year book.

I looked over the price of pictures while he was being shot—hundreds and hundreds of dollars. We could have a sofa portrait for three hundred dollars.  Hamilton over the sofa, not on it.  A mantle portrait is four hundred dollars.  Notice to relatives—Hamilton’s senior pictures will be cash in advance, and may or may not include a suit jacket.

I do not remember going through this for my daughters, who graduated high school in 1982 and 1985.  Beth, in fact, completely bypassed senior pictures by announcing at the beginning of the prior year she had accumulated enough credits to graduate.

The internet is to blame.  Without it our children would still be responsible for their schooling.

Graduated in 1982 without pictures

Graduated in 1985 with pictures.  I wonder where they are.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Peepers, crickets, frogs and other things that make noise in the night

We live in the woods, with a little creek at the bottom of the ravine behind the house, and only half a mile from a highway.  There are a lot of noises around us.

Twenty five years ago there was far less traffic on the highway and if I heard the traffic whoosh at night I actually thought I was hearing water. Eventually I realized the sound was the traffic, but would tell myself “it’s only water,” and go back to sleep.

Given the trees and the creek, of course we have spring peepers, a night sound I really liked.  It’s so good to have open windows in the spring and know it is the beginning of spring because the windows are open and because the peepers are calling.

The inevitable has come around again—fall is close and the crickets and frogs are here.  I do not like them. They monopolize a pitch and a frequency that set my teeth on edge.  In the night they get inside my head and make my brain look for an escape exit.  For years I slept with a pillow over my head beginning in mid August.

At supper the other night Hamilton asked if the frogs seemed especially loud the night before. Jan said the frogs had not especially annoyed her, but that one cricket with the grating chirp that went on and on and on and on….

“Oh, that one!” from Emily.  “It said the same thing, over and over and over.  I guess I finally fell asleep.”

I smiled, remembering the day. “They don’t bother me anymore,” I announced. All eyes turned. “I take out one hearing aid, the noise is half gone.  I take out the other, the little buggers are reduced to music to my ears.  Or the sound of water.  Or little spring peepers.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The other side of the bridge

A couple Saturdays ago, you might recall, Laura and I set out to take pictures of the flower boxes on the bridge over the Cuyahoga.  My camera battery died at the next to last flower box on the south side of the bridge. The sun today was lovely, so in the middle of another errand I pulled in at a closed shop and went down the bridge.

I was totally correct last trip; it is not much trouble to walk back up the hill when the trip is interspersed with pictures.

The last box on the south side.  I crossed over.

I was surprised to see a small weir on the north side, as the river travels toward Lake Erie. I walk the bridge infrequently and I don't recall being on the north side ever.  No convenient parking.

The towpath from the north.  The fellow is heading south.

Then I got back in the car and continued on my original errand, which is to unravel the mystery of the Boston park.  This is so interesting.  I'm almost ready to begin writing up the findings for the first community critique.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Were you there?

Years ago I picked up my package of vacation pictures at lunch time and hurried back to my desk to enjoy them.  My boss came in, idly shuffled through the pictures and then said with a twinkle, "You aren't in one of these.  Were you there?"

Good point; I believe I was missing from my vacation pictures more often included.

Emily, Laura and I went to Shaker Woods yesterday.  Linda thought she might get some work out of them, so put them in costume.

This business of running a booth remains a wonder to Laura.  Did you ever see such an overwhelmed face? They were there to help Linda put her stock back in the van at the end of the show, and close down the booth. They disappeared for the day, into the crowd.

We went to Linda's for a picnic supper.  Linda brought home two pints of bean soup from the bean soup booth and Alberta had kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches and melon ready. And a pot of coffee! A feast.

Linda always needs a picture. She had her tripod, but decided not to try to set up the timer. She took this picture, then turned the camera and took a picture of herself.  How funny.  I thought of that day at work when my boss asked me if I had actually been on my vacation.

Linda posted the picture on Facebook.  I saw it this morning and laughed. Look very close. Linda is reflected in my left lens, like a finger poking my iris.  That's her.  White dress.

It's safe to say Laura loves this place.

I set off across the yard.  "Where are you going?" Linda called after me. "To take a picture of the garden."


"The world loves Alberta's garden."

The business end of the garden, with the kale, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes and other stuff I don't recall.

The flower end.  I believe those are zinnias, but don't hold me to it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Our cat population dwindles; we’re down to the old man, Purrl, and Toby, the two year old parking lot kitten.  Ryon, the silver and grey tabby, took an afternoon nap on the sofa last January, and didn’t wake up.

Toby misses Ryon’s ear licking.  Toby licks my arm and rubs his ears on the spot.  Poor fella; I’m not about to lick his ears, although I will scratch them until he hollers Uncle!

Toby hasn’t asked for a new kitten, which shows good judgment on his part. Until all these grandchildren came to fuss him up, we had the luxury of a bedroom for cats plus two guest bedrooms.  Now the box is hidden away upstairs, and sometimes Toby races up those stairs just as fast as a little kid who played outside too long.

We had a cat door and still do, but it was stoppered up while Purrl was in his adolescence, after a couple of unfortunate raccoon visits to the cat and dog food bowls.  Purrl and his late brother, Jazz, learned to ask at the door to come and go.

Ryon was the next foundling we took in, and Jan deemed him an indoor cat.  He was six or eight months when we got him, and an indoor cat.  He came for his looks; we didn’t think he could outsmart the great outdoors and certainly not the hawk rookery that has been established across the road these last ten years.  Ryon was always on the look out to make a break, but the several times he escaped he was back in a few hours, to go to the bathroom and get his supper.

Toby came as a four week kitten, a certain hawk treat if he left home.  In spite of the coming and going of Purrl and an occasional escape by Ryon, Toby has no interest in the outdoors. Perhaps after that pitiful night he cried away in a parking lot in Pittsburgh he knows out is not place to be.  He’s the inside man.

Today Grandma’s Gardeners pulled a few weeds and spread a lot more mulch.  Toby looked on from one of his windows.

Purrl generally sleeps on the gravel under the studio window, but I didn’t see him when we started on that side of the porch.  Then there he was, under the peony bush.  I called and he did not move.  Not a whisker. My heart sank.

Laura came over.  “Purrl, get out of there.”  The old fool came out and got a belly rub from Laura, while Hamilton put mulch under the peony.  The he went back and resumed his nap.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A road story

My township has a major river running through.  The Cuyahoga River valley is crossed by massive highway spans with traffic whizzing overhead and no idea of life in the valley below.  Down here we citizens get across the river by driving into the valley, crossing the river on one of several bridges, climbing back up on roads built on ridges of our old glacial moraine.

The roads all twist and turn as they follow the ridges; the grade change is three hundred or more feet over a couple of miles.  Great motorcycle roads.  And there are accidents occasionally.

Some of the roads belong to and are maintained by the state or the county.  Most belong to and are maintained by the township.  This story is about a freak ice storm in the valley late last winter.  It hit and left in half an hour.  It began as rain and coated the roads with ice in less than the time required to drive into the valley, or out.

Truxell Road (called Kendall Road at the top) is a county road that winds down into the valley. A car spun out of control half way down, at Kendall Lake.  Someone was injured, emergency crews were sent.  The police, first responders, started down Kendall from the top.  At the accident they slid off the road.  EMS started up from the bottom.  The EMS ambulance could not get up the hill, in spite of its weight.

One of our road crew was passing on Akron Peninsula road, at the foot of the hill, on the way to salt township roads.  The ambulance crew stopped him.  It was a county road, but the county crews hadn't come yet; it was an emergency, could the township truck help?

Doug was driving this time.  Like the little train that could he started up head first, and in a few feet slid back, as the ambulance had done.  Only one thing to do.  He turned the truck around and went up the hill backwards, spraying salt all the way.  The turns are not hairpin, but they are continuous.  He did it hanging out the door, his head coated in ice as he backed slowly, the EMS fellows hanging out their windows and cheering him on.

They made it to the lake; he dumped more than enough salt to let the EMS crew work and to free the police cruiser.  Doug claims the first thing he said to the police on the scene, “I hope you fellows closed all these roads at the top of the hill; I’m not going to bail out any more of your sorry county butts with township salt!”

After it was all squared away, he went back to work on township roads. He received a commendation from the township trustees.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Holy great pumpkin patch, Linus

Where we left off yesterday:

From the right:  some rocks.  Never know when you will need a rock.  Some size of gravel.  In the bin, another size of gravel. Actually, there are two sizes of gravel in that bin, in neat piles. Some spare culvert pipe tucked back there. Then, the squash advancing on Boston.

The road super was still in his office when I stopped to pick up the payroll information.  I asked why he didn't just dispatch that dud squash to get at his back fill.

It's a punkin, Charlie Brown!

The pumpkins out on the asphalt.  I am not about to climb that hill of fill to look at the pumpkins up there.  They are growing in gravel!

Last summer the super couldn't open one garage door because there was a sunflower in it.  This summer he can't use any back fill because there's a pumpkin in it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Boston Creeper

The township road super runs a rather tight yard. Clean, neat, shipshape.

The salt barn, for instance.  Last year's left over salt in the first bay, some rolled up snow fence.  Some catch basin thingies.  The snow plow blades for the two trucks are in the middle bay.  Take my word, it is equally neat behind the grey door.  A wall of shelving; rows of fanny numbing metal folding chairs.  The floor probably is swept.

The parking lot is swept once a year for Memorial Day.  Every year I've been here the super had Buckeye Sweeping do the yard and all the roads.  This year just the yard was swept.  By hand, by the super.  "Sequestered," he said.

There are bins for road "stuff".  Some gravel, in case of a wash out in a ditch.  There's another bin, just to the left.  It's to the top with back fill that will come in handy for those potholes that spring up in the road right of way at the intersection of township and county roads.

Yes, the road super who rescues sunflowers let another plant in. The squash (?) that owns the back fill bin.  Apparently out in search of a mate all these months.

PS--the fence is not broken.  Those are spare pickets, just in case.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Tying my shoes

Some childhood moments remain with me in complete clarity.  Learning to tie my shoes is one. I was between three and four years old.

The staircase to upstairs had one landing.  I sat on the first step of the top landing, tying the shoelace of a brown Buster Brown, overhand knot after overhand knot. I wanted to make the laces short enough not to step on.

“Damn shoe won’t tie,” I said repeatedly under my breath. “Damn shoe won’t tie.”

I became aware of my father looming tall over me. “Would you like to learn to tie your shoes?”

I nodded a vigorous yes.

He walked down a couple of steps, and then sat down behind me on the landing, his feet below mine. (Dad was about 6’6”, and could stand on the bottom step, bend over and put his palms on the floor.)

I watched as his long fingers quickly untied several inches of knots.  Then he demonstrated.  Then he untied my shoe lace and guided my hands through the motions.  Then he untied my shoe and I tied it myself.

Dad stood up and said, “Very nice.  Your cousin Bobby can’t do that yet, and he’s in school.”

My brother Walt and me, April 1946.  The sibling on the left could tie shoes.

With thanks to Handy Andy for stirring up such a fun memory.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A walk across the river

I've mentioned the flower boxes on the bridge across the river. I decided today would be excellent to take pictures of them. Laura said sure, she'd like to come along.

We parked above North Canal street and started down to the bridge. There is a Canal Street because Peninsula was a canal town. On my list of things to do, talk to Skip and get the history of Canal Street. The vacation of Canal Street is a great story.

The white building was the first store in town. The next building with the tile roof was the bank, until the Great Depression.

This is for Laura, who frequently finds eyes in trees.

On the way. The steps of the house on the corner of Main Street and North Canal. They use the back door.

Steps and the stone marker at the white store. There is so much stone in this town...

Going past the bank building. The steps go down to a studio apartment, rented in the last few weeks.  They inherited some landscaping in front of and behind the guard rail that protects the public from the towpath and the river below.

Some folks know who planted some of the plants, some know who planted others; no one knows who planted most. A perfect sort of community garden. Pardon the shadow; someone had to take the picture.

We're almost to the bridge, where the garden club ladies rule. I looked down and saw one secret to their success.

First box on the north side of the bridge.

A few steps further, the towpath is visible below. A beautiful morning to be out on the towpath.

The next flower box.

Laura, waiting to show something to me. That's Evelyn, one of the garden club ladies. It's her Saturday to water and prune.

Laura wanted me to see the spider web and take a picture of the four captured prey in it. The best I could do without an eye piece. If Laura gets much more inquisitive about pictures, I will have to show her how to use the camera.

Another spider web attempt that is a nice picture of a happy river. Nothing like the day after the floods and we stopped to watch the river roar.

The next to the last box; with a black and yellow bumble bee. My camera, which I've said for days needed recharging, quit.  

My plan had been a leisurely stroll back up the hill, taking pictures of the flower boxes on the other side. That plan dashed, I trudged back up. Laura may have skipped.

When I take pictures of the rest of the boxes I will see how to be higher and include the river. The sidewalk is fairly narrow on this side and I had to be concerned about stepping off the curb.

I'm sure you recall the garden club women blocked the great State of Ohio from installing standard issue Ohio Department of Transportation railings on this bridge when it was last repaired. They got 1930's style railings, with flower box holders and flag holders.

And, they just got a grant to have the railings sanded and repainted in the fall. These women don't wait around for ODOT.