People who know me well have heard me say it.
You can’t understand where you are and where you are going unless you know how you got here in the first place.
In short, you can’t truly comprehend our world and our society without knowledge of history. And the more you know about our past, the more empowered you are to make the best choices today and lay plans for the future.
Reading about history, studying history, contemplating history, writing about history – at times even living history – is a huge part of who I am. So as I enter the latter part of my life, what better way to invest my remaining time than to help pass on our history.
Sometimes providence deals you an exceptional hand, and that definitely is the case for me with Historic Sauder Village. This is my third season as a part-time staff member there, helping to keep our heritage alive.
Don’t get me wrong, I love newspaper work. My career as an editor with The Bryan Times was tremendously fulfilling, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Continuing to write this weekly column, and having a hand in special projects, is a joy for me.
From my viewpoint, though, newspapers are a younger man’s game. The late-breaking news and rushing to meet deadlines that I found exhilarating in earlier years now take more energy than I can easily muster, and the stress does take its toll. So over the last few years I slowly weaned myself from the newspaper, focusing more and more on my book writing and publishing, and last November I made my retirement from the Times official.
My revamped career has been more successful and rewarding than I ever imagined. That has a positive twist that I did not anticipate – my growing involvement with Sauder Village.
For years my wife said that when she retired from The Times’ circulation department she wanted to work at Sauder Village. Diane, too, has a deep appreciation for our history and culture, and she is extremely talented with crafts as well. Among her duties at Sauder’s are weaving and making baskets.
I became involved with Sauder’s rather by accident. I was with Diane when she interviewed for a position as a historic interpreter, and while we were waiting a friend associated with the village told me they could use someone in the print shop. I was intrigued, and I was working only part time at the Times, so I applied. For most of the last two seasons I worked one day a week, and every other Saturday, at the print shop.
Last fall I was spending less and less time at the Times, and I began working more often at Sauder Village. I also was given the chance to expand my role there, spending time as an interpreter at the cabinet shop and Erie’s workshop.
When the first buildings in the expanding 1920’s Main Street opened last fall I was given the chance to work in the Elmira depot and barbershop as well. Too, Diane and I were asked to help with some more detailed interpretation over the winter, which was incredibly interesting and rewarding.
Diane of course spent much more time at Sauder’s our first two years there, and during that time I was introduced mainly as “This is Don, Diane’s husband.” This year, finally, I am being introduced simply as Don.
The aspect of Sauder Village I love the most is the focus on northwest Ohio history, particularly the Great Black Swamp. Local and regional history has been a deep interest of mine for decades, and I welcome the opportunity to pass on knowledge of our heritage to younger generations. This touches the core of what I am all about, and each day I work at the village I leave with a deep sense of satisfaction.
During the spring and fall months the village hosts many school field trips – thousands and thousands of kids each season. I will confess that the steady stream of young students can become tiring on a busy day. But when you see the light come on in a child’s eyes, when you see him or her begin to understand and appreciate the skills and talents of their ancestors, it all becomes worthwhile. I am certain many children leave Sauder Village with newfound knowledge that will remain with them for a lifetime.
I still of course am focusing on my books as well. Since retiring, I have published another book of my own and am excited to be the publisher of Times staffer Lynn Thompson’s “76 Minutes: My Search for Andrew, Alexander and Tanner Skelton.” My part-time work at Sauder Village balances well with these writing and publishing endeavors, so I am a fortunate man indeed.
In fact, as soon as I wrap up this column Diane and I will head over to Sauder Village for another day of passing on pieces of our heritage, and enriching young people’s lives.
So what can I say, today is yet another great day.
Don Allison is a Williams County native, author, columnist and retired editor of The Bryan Times.