Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Denny Morris, director of the Mount Sterling Community Museum, is conducting interviews with people who have strong ties to Mount Sterling. The oral histories are preserved on DVDs, which are available for checkout at the Mount Sterling Library.
In the early 1900s, Bob Tracy’s great-grandfather, Landy Hill, was a marshal in Mount Sterling with a stern reputation. As a boy, Tracy tagged along with Hill on calls to corral bad guys. When confrontations arose, the unarmed marshal relied on his brute strength to resolve the conflicts.
Tracy tells this and other stories in his videotaped interview with Denny Morris, director of the Mount Sterling Community Museum. Over the past 18 months, Morris has interviewed 35 present and former Mount Sterling residents, as well as other individuals with strong ties to the village. The interviews are captured on DVDs that are available for checkout from the Mount Sterling Public Library.
“The goal of this project is to preserve the oral history of Mount Sterling—what it was like and how times have changed,” Morris said.
“People are pretty modest. You don’t realize what they’ve experienced until you ask. They are willing to talk about it, but they don’t bring it up themselves.”
For instance, Morris knew that London resident Robin Priday was a member of Ohio State University’s 1942 football championship team and that, in 1947, he resurrected the long dormant high school football program in Mount Sterling. What Morris didn’t know was that Priday flew 65 missions over Germany as a crew member on B-26 bombers for the U. S. Army Air Force during World War II.
“Some of the stories people tell are very moving. Rupert Starr, a former resident of Mount Sterling, talked about how he was captured in the Battle of the Bulge. I was amazed at how well he controlled his emotions when he talked about trying to escape and being shot at,” Morris said.
Most of the people Morris has interviewed are 70 or older. He has videotaped an even number of men and women. When a person agrees to be interviewed, Morris sends them a list of questions. He then meets with them at the museum or in their homes. The taped interviews last 60 to 90 minutes.
“There’s an urgency to the project…It hit me last year when someone I planned to interview passed away while in Florida,” Morris said. “My only regret is that we weren’t able to start this 10 years ago.”
In addition to interviewing more individuals, Morris’ plans for the project include interviewing small groups of people, such as school chums or folks who were in business together in Mount Sterling. He also hopes to get the completed interviews online, making them accessible to anyone who has a computer at home.
For more ideas, Morris and Heidi Fletcher, director of the Mount Sterling Library, have attended meetings of other groups who are preserving oral histories. Most recently, they met with the Southwestern Ohio Heritage Association.
For more information about the Mount Sterling Community Museum’s oral history project, call Denny Morris at 740-869-2430. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The museum is located in the lower level of Mount Sterling Public Library at 60 W. Columbus St. Look for the separate entrance.
Sampling of Oral History DVDs
The Mount Sterling Community Museum is gathering oral histories from people with ties to the village. The collection contains 35 interviews so far, each preserved on a DVD. The following is a sampling of the people and their stories.
• Ross Alkire Jr., who for years was vice president of Sterling State Bank, was in a movie theater in Mount Sterling in the 1930s when the film caught on fire. The place was packed, but everyone got out unharmed. Film combustion was a common occurrence in those days, Alkire said.
• Dorothy and Grant Harris sat for their interview together. Dorothy talked about her years as a local school teacher. Harris talked about playing professional baseball in the minor leagues.
• Martha Bricker, now a resident of North Carolina, talks about her most famous relative, John Bricker, a former Ohio governor.
• Brooks Julian, a graduate of Mount Sterling High School, was president of Ohio National Bank and very successful in the business world. He will be 90 this year.
• Deacon Tanner’s interview includes a trip down memory lane in which he lists what businesses used to line Mount Sterling’s main drag in 1937-38.
• Jim Jacobs, 90, was a real estate contractor. He was instrumental in the development of Mount Sterling’s Rosewood and Pleasant Ridge additions.
• Jean Bragg’s interview includes stories from her 30 years as the Mount Sterling Methodist Church organist.