(Image from the East Liverpool High School Yearbook “Keramos”; Courtesy of Sayre W. Graham, Jr.)
“A history in which every particular incident may be true may on the whole be false.” ~Thomas Babington Macaulay
As a historian it is important to get the facts straight. Pretty obvious, right? But it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
While working on the book about Rock Springs Park, I did my best to research as many sources as possible to back up the oral histories I recorded from folks back home who remember it. I soon discovered, however, that while many written accounts confirmed those oral "legends", many tales conflicted with newspaper coverage. For instance, one source from Chester recalled that the Cyclone Roller Coaster was purchased by a local high school teacher for the potential revenue available from selling its metal brackets as scrap. The Youngstown Vindicator, on the other hand, contradicted this claim and reported in 1974 that the long-neglected thrill ride was sold to a businessman in Calcutta, Ohio, for the sole purpose of resurrecting the wood for use in an auto wrecking building. Which one is true? It would seem the newspaper account would have more legitimacy, but in reality no one seems to know for sure.
Recently, in a very unusual instance, a friend from back home actually corrected a newspaper account with his own research on a story about the park.
On Saturday, March 26, 2011, I reported that a “Fred Schoen” drowned while swimming in the Rock Springs Park pool in June of 1913. The account below, from The Baltimore Sun, was my only source and mostly correct, except for the fact that the paper spelled Fred’s surname incorrectly – a simple typo that could be easily explained by studying the early communication system of the day.
But the real problem with this news brief and my blog on Fred’s death is that by simply listing the cold hard facts of the accident, the reader loses the human side of the story. Who was Fred Shone?
It is easily forgotten by the reader that while young Fred Shone lived a century ago, he was someone’s son and brother and that his death left family members shocked and grief-stricken. That is, until alert reader, Sayre W. Graham, Jr., wrote to me this summer.
“A few weeks ago, I had only just stumbled across your blog. I was reading back through it a little bit each day. I really enjoyed the accounts of your visits with my Dad (See March 2011 entries about Sayre W. Graham, Sr.). You really nailed it, right down to the turkey buzzards. When I got to the article about the deaths at RSP, I saw the mention of the drowning of Fred Schoen in 1913. I had previously noted to myself when I saw in your book, and now again in the blog, that Schoen was a misspelling; his name was actually Fred Shone (Alfred J) whom, had he lived, would have been my Mother's uncle.”
In an amazing coincidence, just days after reading about his Great Uncle Fred in this blog, Sayre W.Graham, Jr. discovered a box of old letters in his father’s den and inside found a journal entry dated June 18, 1913 about none other than Fred Shone’s drowning.
(Courtesy of Sayre W. Graham, Jr.)
“Whoa!” Graham reflected, “I started thinking that Great Uncle Fred wants me to set the record straight.”
In the next installment, Graham recounts how he and his wife, Debbie, spent a month this past summer on a quest to find Great Uncle Fred. See http://rockspringspark.blogspot.com/2012/03/setting-record-straight-part-ii.html.