Musings, Thoughts & Commentaries
Osnaburg Township is where my roots are planted and I wanted my daughters to see and feel the earth that one week in early Spring after the weather is too cold and before it becomes too hot.
We stopped in East Canton to get gas and fast food, across the street from the high school I graduated from in 1959 and where my son Tommy played when he was 2 years old in 1969. We lived near here for 2 years before moving to Vienna, Austria. I walked around the four corners of the town center, past the old and long-closed office of the first dentist who treated me, by the red brick stagecoach stop (the road was once the stagecoach route from Pittsburgh to Canton and onward West)—now a closed antique shop--back to the gas station. We loaded up and circled around town to the Kountz Cemetery across from the empty lot where once stood the Osnaburg Township School building, downgraded to an elementary school when I attended and later the auditorium where “Sparetimers” was held Thursday nights while I was in high school and teenagers could dance with each other. Many hearts lie broken on that empty lot.
My Kempka grandparents went to the Kountz Church (they were Lutherans from Prussia and the original Osnabruck) and are buried in the cemetery behind where the church stood until it burned down in 1968. When I was in grade school, during recess I could hear its bell ring. We found the Kempka graves and took photos while I told these stories to the girls. Uncle Henry, made humpbacked by his difficult birth and never married, is buried by his parents. We left East Canton, going east on Route 30.
Jean Peters was born in 1926 in East Canton, Ohio, and was raised on a small farm along Route 30 east of town. She became Miss Ohio in 1945 and went to Hollywood to work for 20th Century Fox. She made many movies, became famous and married Howard Hughes. My school bus route followed Route 30 and in the 1950’s I liked to sit beside Jean’s younger sister, Shirley. She was in high school and I was 10-11 years old but I liked her. She told me stories about her sister in Hollywood. One day Shirley showed me a huge diamond ring she had received from this guy named “Howard Hughes” who was marrying her sister.
I drove my girls along that bus route out of East Canton and showed them where the Peters had lived…a tiny little house. When she was married to Howard, Jean was the richest woman in the world.
We passed the Clearview Golf Course that was opened about 1950 by the parents of Bill Powell, my high school classmate. It is still a nice public golf course. I became friends again with Bill after I got out of the army and was working for Firestone while studying at U. of Akron for my MBA in International Business. Bill was fascinated with the scene in Cleveland, the “Big City,” and took me there to show me the night clubs where he had something going on and I recalled my days in "Little Italy" while I was at Case Tech. But the other black guys did not accept Bill, the black outsider from Canton and murdered him a few months later. I met his sister when I coincidentally sat beside her on a flight from New York to London in 1980. Renee told me what she knew about her brother’s murder. Renee was only the second African American to play on the LPGA Tour, from 1967-80.
We passed the junction where Route 44 leads south to Dover and I saw Marion Dick’s farm. Dad and Marion were good friends and we went there often to have dinner and play cards. I also met Dave Thelen there, a high school hero. He went on to become the second best football player from East Canton and was inducted into the Canadian Professional Football Hall of fame.
We turned off Route 30 onto the dirt Sam Krabill Road. In the 50’s the school bus stopped at the corner to pick up some kids who walked up the hill, including Rita the majorette and my friend Lee Harrington, and the three Page kids: Twila, Howard and Alan, who walked down from their home up on the hill. Twila was in my Latin class; the tall skinny boys played in the band and we on the football team called them “band boys” implying they were not tough. By the time the boys reached high school they had put on some weight and deserted the Osnaburg Township school system to attend Canton Central Catholic. I never saw the Pages again. My senior year in high school the football team I played on went 0-9. Howard and Alan became All-Ohio players at Canton Central Catholic; Alan was later named All-American at Notre Dame, All-Pro defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, located back where we had started our day today.
We continued on Sam Krabill Road alongside a very small creek on our left that will grow into the Little Sandy as it flows south. When I was 11-14 years old I trapped muskrats along this creek, rising at 4:00 AM, riding my pony, Tippy, along my trap line, killing the trapped muskrats and an occasional coon to bring back to the farm where I would skin them, nail their hides to boards to let them dry and then get myself ready for school, after feeding the cows hay.
In the near distance to the left, a hill dominates the terrain. The unnamed hill was surveyed by the National Coast and Geodetic Survey as the highest point in Stark County. The hill is a part of the continental divide; the natural boundary created when a glacier of the most recent ice age reached this point, dumped its load and receded north. The NCGS erected a high tower on it to survey and planted a concrete benchmark there to verify the actual point on the ground with the maps they would print. The hill is in the middle of the farm I grew up on. I rode Tippy around the tower just for fun while the surveyors surveyed.
I know that hill—it is on the farm where I grew up.
Imagine a snow flake falling exactly on the summit and melting—half of its water would trickle south and becomes the Little Sandy Creek, the other half north across Kiko’s fields into Swallen Crick and then north into the Nimishillen.
Tom Anthony is a West Point Graduate and combat veteran who spent his professional civilian career in global business all over the world. He has lived and worked in Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Iraq, Israel, and throughout Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Anthony also lived in Mindanao for seven years.
Copyright 2017 Tom Anthony.