"It was a real nice clambake,
We're mighty glad we came
The program set was good, you bet,
The company was the same."
The quotation above, slightly altered, is from Rogers and Hammerstein's stage play, "Carousel." It expresses our feeling about Ohio Chautauqua. The meeting and greeting of friends and acquaintances who spend part of the year in Florida, the setting under the candy-striped tent, the warm summer air and the camaraderie of the Warren community were heartwarming.
Because the community supports Ohio Chautauqua so strongly, Ohio Humanities has promised that we will be on their schedule every biennium. More than 2,500 people attended the five evening performances. The organizations that support the event are particularly to be applauded: Trumbull 100, the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, the Tribune Chronicle, Trumbull County Tourism Bureau and the Warren Library Association. The city of Warren supported Ohio Chautauqua by assigning police officers to direct traffic and help as they were needed. We found them very helpful.
I also appreciate the assistance of Stephanie Sferra, of the Tourism Bureau. Sally and I can manage the wheelchair on rough, muddy ground pretty well by ourselves most of the time, but we surely appreciated the help of her staff and the policemen. I said to her, "Wouldn't it be a problem if many more people came in wheelchairs?" She said, "Absolutely not - we would find parking spaces for them and would assist them as best we can."
Hank Fincken was the first night's performer. His subject was J.G. Bruff, who went west in the Gold Rush of 1849. His tales reminded me of my grandfather's older brother, Henry. He went west in search of gold somewhat later. We've never heard from him since. We wonder whether he found any gold or not. J.G.Bruff made it clear that the journey west was hard and dangerous, but if they found gold in quantities it paid off dearly.
The next night's performance was by Dianne Moran as Olive Ann Oatman, who was captured by Indians. In 1851, her family left Illinois with a group of Mormons heading for California. At some point, her father took the family of nine away on their own, separate from the larger group. This led to the brutal death of all the family except her brother who escaped, and Olive and her sister. They were taken as slaves. Later they were traded to the Mohaves who treated them as members of the family. This made me aware of the differences in tribes' treatment of captives.
I thought Kevin Radaker as Henry David Thoreau, on Thursday, was brilliant in presenting Thoreau's thoughts and philosophy. I took a personal interest in his remarks because I have been to Walden Pond to swim at the public beach there several times. I remember the site of his rustic cabin and the woods that surrounded it. Not much could be said of the cleanliness of the beach, as I recall.
Friday night featuring Debra Conner as Edith Russell, Titanic survivor, was the most popular of the five presentations. More than 800 people attended. She brought alive the story of the Titanic's sinking. An example she told of the gallantry of passengers was the man who gave up his place in a lifeboat to a woman and her child. He most likely perished. In the question-and-answer section of the program I asked if the hull of the Titanic was made of low carbon steel and if it were made of high carbon steel would it have been more resistant to the iceberg. She had not explored that point but seemed to think so. The Q&A sessions were always a fun and informative part of the programs.
The last evening, Marvin Jefferson portrayed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jefferson eloquently presented the world famous activist and leader of the Civil Rights Movement for the African-American community and the rest of American society. I was sorry to see that this was the poorest attended of the five performances. Those who did not attend missed some penetrating insights into the Rev. King's life and some of his moving oratory.
If you are sorry you missed these programs, you have another chance to see them. Ohio Chautauqua will present them again next summer. The closest location to us will be Akron. Watch for announcements.
This Ohio Chautauqua was a real nice clambake,
And we all had a real good time!
Thomas is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.