Sometimes you plan for every detail you can imagine, yet things just don’t work out.
Other times an opportunity comes from out of nowhere, and ends up better than anything you could have planned.
Several years ago I had the details of my future professional life clearly outlined. I was stepping back to part time at The Bryan Times to focus on my book writing and publishing. I intended to work less and less at the newspaper and eventually retire early to make my books a full-time endeavor.
That plan did work out, but not exactly as I envisioned. One thing I never saw coming was working part time as a historical interpreter at Sauder Village, and that has turned out to be one of those out of the blue personal success stories.
Last weekend I was reminded of how my unexpected involvement with Sauder’s began, which in turn led me to reflect on how much I have enjoyed that opportunity.
I was interpreting the A.W. Okuley Barbershop at Sauder’s, attired as a 1920s barber, when Terry and Linda Wieland visited the building. I have known Terry for decades, and in more recent years we served together on the Stryker Area Heritage Council Board of Trustees. I had not seen Terry in a while, so it was great to have a chance to catch up for a bit.
As soon as he and Linda left, I realized I should have reminded Terry that he is the reason I started work at Sauder’s to begin with.
For years my wife Diane had said that when she retired she wanted to work at Sauder Village, preferably as a craftsperson. After she retired she was invited to be interviewed at a Sauder job fair. I went with her, as we planned on shopping in Toledo after her interview.
As it turned out Terry Wieland was among those conducting interviews. When he saw me he said “Don, you’re semi-retired. We could use someone in the print shop one day a week. How about it?”
I was taken by surprise, but after reflecting a moment I thought it might be worth a try. Although it was not with Terry, my interview went well and I was hired, as was Diane.
So, one day a week, I interpreted the print shop. It was a natural fit for me, because as a high school student I had covered sports for the weekly Stryker Advance newspaper, and I also occasionally helped publisher Regis Spielvogel with his job printing business. The old Linotype typesetters in the Sauder print shop, as well as a couple of the antique presses, were similar to Regis’ equipment.
I immensely enjoyed the experience. Later, as I reduced my workload at The Times, I started working more at Sauders, and in more buildings. Now I do anything from 1830s to 1920s impressions, and Diane and I have even done some off-season historical research for the village.
An unexpected bonus has been the people I encounter at the village. I have made friendships among fellow employees who share my love of history, and some the the visitors I’ve encountered have been fascinating.
Last Saturday I met a young couple from Belarus. The seemed surprised that I knew about their country, but I explained my knowledge came from following the war in neighboring Ukraine. She was in the United States to study at Bowling Green State University Interesting. They were both fascinated by the social aspects of the 1920s barbershop. I would have loved to talk when them longer, but eventually I had to turn my attention to other guests.
Another couple decided to hang out for a bit in the air conditioned barbershop as a break from the heat. No other guests came in for a while, so after discussing the barbershop at length our conversation turned to other historical topics and eventually to music of the past.
They asked if I was familiar with musician Guy Clark. I said I was not, so they played me a couple of songs on their cell phones. I was intrigued. In turn I told them about Scott Joplin, a black ragtime musician from the very early 1900s, and they said they would look up some of his music when they got home.
That evening I did a search for Guy Clark, and over the last several days I have listened to a number of his songs. Although his career was more recent, his music has a definite folk influence.
Those Saturday guests are just a brief sampling of the people I encounter every day at Sauders – from around the United States and even the world, all exploring our history here in northwest Ohio.
Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times. He can be reached at www.fadedbanner.com.
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