Carillon Historical Park

Wealthy people who spend their resources creating something affordable for others to enjoy are some of my favorite people. It’s even better when what they create disguises learning with fun.

Once upon a time, there was a couple named Edward and Edith Deeds. He was a noted industrialist and they were well known as Dayton, Ohio elite. Their list of contributions to the world and to Dayton is pretty lengthy but the one I want to talk about is Carillon Historical Park.

This 65 acre park and museum center is a terrific day trip for any history buff or anyone looking for a fun way to learn about something different.

You enter through a visitors center and rather large museum. Here you’ll find exhibits about the stories that make Dayton special. Did you know that Dayton gave the world the cash register and the electric automobile self starter?

Under this roof, you’ll find everything from an enormous collection of gorgeous antique cash registers to a working carousel you can ride on. There are antique toys, Frigidaire appliances and artwork. Theres an inexplicably large collection of vintage beer steins and pictures of entertainers who fare from the Gem City.

There’s a ton of neat stuff to see.

And then you go outside to a village made up of recreated buildings that are historically important. I told you earlier this week about the incredible Wright Brothers tribute. There’s also a 19th century school house, an early tavern, a small filling station and print shop. There’s a museum of transportation where you can walk through train and trolley cars that are so ornate they put our modern public transit vehicles to shame.

One of the most moving museums is about the 1913 flood. They use a combination of pictures, artifacts and sound to tell deeply personal and moving accounts of what it was like. There’s an imagine of people using telephone lines to escape. Sounds effects convincingly transport you to another time. The blue line on the building’s exterior represents the flood line and will break your heart. It’s so high you have to stand back to even see it.

This park was dedicated in 1950 and still grows. In fact, it is vibrant. There are so many interesting things to see here that it is well worth the $12 adult admission.

In case you are wondering, they do have a Carillon here. Known as the Deeds Carillon, it is 151 feet tall and has 57 bells, making it the largest Carillon in Ohio. And like an idiot, I didn’t even think to snap a picture of it. Next trip!

This place reminds me a lot of Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. It’s smaller than Greenfield but it’s also cheaper and closer to home for my Ohio readers – perfect for a late summer day trip!

Next time, we’ll talk about where we ate. Meanwhile, plan your trip to this fabulous place by learning more here. Oh, and that carousel? It’s just a dollar a ride!

Van Gogh Immersion

Yesterday’s theme was Vincent Van Gogh. I began the day at the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in Columbus and was wowed by the experience which is intended to make the viewer feel a part of the artist’s work in a larger than life way. They use imagery, music and light to draw the viewer into the room sized works of art.

It was awe inspiring.

Then I ventured to the Columbus Museum of Art to view Van Gogh’s actual paintings alongside other artists who influenced his work. This exhibition will be there through February 6, 2022 and is well worth a visit if that’s your idea of fun.

It was a good day but I’m tired and too scattered to attempt writing something. So I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures and the promise that I will try making stories from today interesting – even for those of you dear readers who aren’t all that interested in art!

If nothing else, the pictures will be pretty so check back!

National Comedy Center

Jamestown, New York was my destination last month because of all the Lucille Ball stuff but there is a lot to see and do around the region. It’s a haven for winter sports and for folks who enjoy summer lake activities. There are breweries and vineyards, museums, an escape room and more.

For the last few years it has also been the home of the National Comedy Center. Back in the eighties, when the city approached Lucille Ball and asked how she wanted to be remembered, she suggested that the town become a destination for lovers of all comedy and not just her own.

The first order of business was to develop a museum, festival and other smaller attractions to get people coming here to celebrate her life’s work. In 2018 they finally opened the doors on her proposed celebration of all comedy in the form of the National Comedy Center.

It’s 37,000 square feet packed with countless interactive exhibits, some costume and artifact displays, and LOTS to see and do.

You start with a kiosk where you create a digital identity with your comedy likes and dislikes. You have a little digital thingamajig that you can clip to your jacket or belt loop that contains all your info. The idea is that when you arrive at certain places throughout the museum you scan that thing and the display will load content the computer thinks you’ll like based on your tastes. You can rate what you see too.

Since we are still in the midst of a pandemic, they give you a stylus for touching things. They also have plenty of hand sanitizer throughout the museum and employees are sanitizing the seats and other surfaces. They take your temperature at the door too.

Everything from early radio comedy sketches to late night television to sitcoms, stand up comics, internet memes and everything in between are represented here. They even have a room devoted to animation and comic strips. Do you still read the funny papers? I do!

There’s an area where you can generate memes and another where you can sit and watch Bob Hope give a USO show. There’s a film that addresses how truth has been stranger than fiction in American politics these last many years. It talks about how late night comedy shows became the gatekeepers for truth while the actual media often just reports what someone says even when it’s all lies or when they’re missing even the most flamboyant red flags imaginable.

My personal favorite area is set up with a retro theme of couches and many screens where you can watch longer clips from tv shows. This is one of those areas where they load shows based on audience taste. I sat on a couch to see clips from Roseanne, the Simpsons and a few others.

Another room is devoted to the archives and motivation behind George Carlin’s work. You can digitally rummage through his joke collection by topic and see notes written in his own hand.

I enjoyed the concept of this plaice but not necessarily the execution. To be honest, it felt like sensory overload. From any given place, you might hear a radio show from an overhead speaker, a tv show from another room and Fozzie Bear telling jokes. It’s hard to know where to focus your attention.

The things I enjoyed most were the areas that immerse the visitor in a topic. I loved sitting in a small theater and watching music videos of famous funny songs. Another corner with classic SNL clips was fantastic. Remember Chris Farley’s bit about living in a van down by the river?

They do display some original items like costumes, awards, props and the like. However, the focus is on the technology. Personally, I don’t want to stare at a screen with a scanned copy of a famous person’s note cards in a museum. This, I can do from home for free. If I pay good money to be in a museum, I want to see the actual notecard.

Perhaps I’m just turning into an old crank.

No offense to the hard working folks who put this all together. It’s a nice museum that someone spent a bucket of money and time to create. It has many good qualities and I’m glad I went. It just wasn’t for me. They do have a large, rotating collection so you may see different things if you go. I read recently that they will be home to the Carl Reiner archives. That’s a huge win for them.

With that said, if you are a connoisseur of comedy and if you are impressed with these artificial intelligence aspects, you really should visit. Also, if you’re in town for the Lucille Ball stuff, you can get a dual admission ticket for this museum and the Lucy Desi Museum just down the street. They’re close enough together you can walk there.

One more thing. It’s a safe place to take your kids. The comedy on the main exhibit floor is pretty clean. They keep the uncensored stuff in the basement.

Want to learn more? Visit their website!

Remembering Private First Class Douglas E. Dickey

Here’s one more story from the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio. If you’ve been following along this week, we’ve talked about Annie Oakley and other interesting exhibits the museum offers.

This is the story of Private First Class Douglas E. Dickey, a regular guy who did something extraordinary. He died on this day in 1967.

It was Easter Sunday when this twenty year old Marine from Darke County found himself faced with a terrible choice on the other side of the world.

The long and short of the story is that Dickey and his battalion found themselves in grave danger. He took one look at his buddies and made an impossible choice. He threw himself on a live grenade, absorbing the blast with his body and saving the others.

PFC Dickey was awarded a Purple Heart for this almost indescribable act of courage.

The exhibit about him includes a video of interviews with people who knew him, including his mother. In this grainy, black and white video, she says that the world is full of people who die for senseless reasons. Her son died bravely to save his friends and she asked how she could be bitter about that.

History comes to life when it’s presented well and when it focuses on individuals and their actions. I can think of no better way to talk about Vietnam and heroism than the Garst has done with this young man’s story.

Look for it in the first room of the museum.

Want more information? Visit the Garst online.

Last Pre-Covid Adventures

One of my last pre-Covid adventures last year was to the Ohio History Center in Columbus.

The purpose of my visit was to tour and learn about the Lustron Home which was manufactured in Columbus in the mid century. However, there were a number of other unexpectedly interesting things to see here including an exhibit on Civil War Battle flags.

This one represents the 121st Ohio Infantry Volunteers which was organized out of Delaware, Ohio. They mustered in for three years service starting in 1862

It’s ragged from use and age but it’s still beautiful.

That was a good day.

Honestly, I don’t recall what all I did that day. It was a cold February Saturday and I had gotten up early to be there when the doors opened. I’m pretty sure there was a Half Price Books stop involved on the way out of town. If I had know that it would be one of my last adventures for a while, I might have dawdled longer and appreciated the freedom better.

But that’s the curse of the human condition, I suppose. We always think we have more time time, more opportunities then we really have.

What was your last adventure before the shutdown? Spare no details. Some of us are starved for the excitement of fun outside home and neighborhood.

Learn His Name

Do you know the name William H. Pitsenbarger? He’s the young guy pictured above, the good looking kid who looks like he’s barely old enough to vote. If you don’t know about him you should because his is an inspiring story of selflessness and heroism.

He was a US Air Force Pararescueman who flew on more than 250 missions during the Vietnam War, helping scores of downed soldiers and pilots.

On one of his best known missions, he hung from an HH-43 Huskie helicopter’s cable to rescue a wounded South Vietnamese soldier from a burning minefield. This action earned him the Airman’s Medal and the Republic of Vietnam’s Medal of Military Merit and Gallantry Cross with Bronze Palm.

On April 11, 1966, he was sent into a battle near Cam My to extract wounded Army members. He attended to wounded on the ground and helped six men be lifted into two helicopters by cable. Those choppers flew wounded men to a nearby aid station but took on small arms fire when they returned for a second load. One damaged chopper sent a basket down for Pitsenbarger but he waved them off, instead choosing to stay and help the wounded Charlie Company, gather ammunition from the dead, and improvise splints and stretchers from vines and trees to help the wounded.

And when necessary, he picked up a rifle, helping to hold off the Viet Cong. He died by sniper fire that night. When his body was recovered the following day, he was still clutching a medic kit and a rifle.

While the 21 year old did not live to see the sun rise over a new day, the military says that sixty others did because of his courageous actions.

One of the reasons places like the National Museum of the US Air Force means so much to me is that they help keep alive stories that would otherwise be lost to time.

The museum tells his story with photos, a short video, the written word and some of the young Airman’s possessions and they do it beautifully. It was meaningful enough to me that I wanted to tell you about him.

Anyone who would wave off a chopper to safety in favor of staying with a unit that was pinned down and in grave danger doesn’t do that sort of thing to have their picture in a museum. But having a display dedicated to his actions is a reminder of the brave sacrifices made by countless young men in Vietnam. It’s a poignant reminder that life isn’t fair and that young men, even the brave and strong, too often don’t come home from war.

It’s also a subtle reminder of those who did make it home but who brought with them emotional baggage far heavier than the weapons and ammo they carried through the jungles of that place so far away.

This story, if told in a school text book would have a picture of a guy in uniform next to a story that basically says “there was a battle and people got hurt and this guy went in to save them. He died. The end.”

There was so much more to Airman Pitsenbarger. He was an only child who wanted to be a Green Beret when he was a high school junior. His parents wouldn’t give permission for their underaged son to join the Army. His pals called him Pits. His birthday was July 8, 1944.

Airman First Class Pitsenbarger was from Piqua, Ohio and he volunteered for the very dangerous pararescue work. He volunteered to go to Vietnam. He volunteered to stay when he knew his odds of survival were slim.

Had he lived, Pits would be 76 years old today. He might’ve had grandkids sitting on his knee at this very moment. Instead, he was posthumously promoted to Staff Sargent and awarded the Air Force Cross even though his superiors put in for the Medal Of Honor. It took another 35 years before his family and other Airmen looked on as that original award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

A movie was made about him and released in January. Perhaps you’ve seen it? I have not. It’s called “The Last Full Measure.”

His story is still taught to Air Force trainees and I hope that never changes. If you go to the Air Force Museum, look him up and watch his video. Look at his things and say his name as you hope that someday young people can stop dying in wars.