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The American flag — long may they wave

By Henry Timman • Nov 3, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Last week when I discussed the origin of the name “Olena” in Huron County, I could have added another possible source of the word, although I hardly consider it to be a source.

You see, in Hawaii there is a plant which is considered a canoe plant, in that it is believed it was brought there by early Polynesian settlers who traveled by canoe.

This plant is called “Olena” and is best known by its alternate name of Turmeric, a member of the ginger family. It is widely cultivated in India for both spice and cloth dye use. It also is used as a purifier with much spiritual power, and is sprinkled on persons, places and things to remove negative influences. The Internet tells me that “Olena can be grown in one’s garden,” but I’d be very surprised that any Turmeric was growing around Olena (or even known of by the locals) in 1849.

It’s interesting to find little news items about other small Huron County communities, such as Wakeman. As early as 1860, Wakeman had a library association. It may have been a “pay program” whereby you could use the reading room and borrow books if you paid annual dues.

In March of 1860, a series of lectures was sponsored, along with a concert of vocal and instrumental music. The funds raised were to be used to buy books for the library, which at that time already was up and running. A member of this Wakeman Library Association commented that the library bid “fair to become interesting and instructive.”

The Townsend Center community (U.S. 20 and Hartland Center Road) was a few years behind Wakeman in establishing a circulating library. I don’t know when theirs started, but I know that it was thriving in 1886. One had only to pay $1 to become a life member with unlimited access to a $300 library, according to its publicity. To support the library, interested citizens put on “literary entertainments” in 1886, charging five cents per person. There was band music, along with singing, recitations by school children and other comic and serious skits. I have no idea now many years these small libraries lasted, but they surely must have helped the young folks widen their knowledge of the world.

It was common in the 1800s for each neighborhood to have a household with a bookcase of books which were lent to the neighbors — young and old alike. There was usually time to read in the evening, just as we know that Abraham Lincoln supposedly laid by the fireplace for light, and read at night. ... And then supposedly walked a great distance to obtain and return books. It worked for him, as we know that he attended school only intermittently.

Speaking of schools, it wasn’t until 1890 that American flags began to be displayed inside of and outside of schools. In Norwalk, the board of education paid for flagstaffs on every school building, and then flags were purchased by various civic groups. The flags were unfurled in well-attended ceremonies.

Long may they wave.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in downtown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.


Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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