Hoarder or thrower? Save it or trash it? We all fall somewhere along the continuum of these groups when it comes to going through our stuff. I’ll admit, I’m more of a saver – not quite to the hoarder stage, but it depends on what it is. And yes, it’s hard for me to throw stuff out. I’m not saying my way or the other is correct, it’s just the way I am. My mind always asks, could this be used someday? And “the stuff” almost always conjures up some memory of how it came to be in my possession. Difficult for me to part with memories.
This probably explains why I get excited to look at or read something from the past that someone, somewhere has saved. Back when we were completing the 50th Anniversary of the Brecksville Nature Center (1989), my former supervisor, Karl Smith asked me what we were going to do with all the “stuff” we have found. We both knew that we had collected some valuable correspondence, photos, oral histories and more. It was time to find an outlet for all this cool stuff, which had tremendous historical significance to Cleveland Metroparks past. File drawers and cabinets served the temporary purpose, but was not a best-practice solution.
Correspondence from Arthur B. Williams Fast forward twenty-six years to today. As our Historian/Archivist Judy MacKeigan sets up an archive room, it’s exciting to see the many items she is amassing. Volunteers are sorting through the hundreds of photographs and documents that are coming in. It’s fun to see some of the old photos of park areas and people, as well as the documents that are a wealth of historic information giving us insight into what we see or do today. I am so glad some people were savers, or much of our history would be lost. And I find it funny that some of the day-to-day items from 1989 are now telling a story of our past nearly three decades later. So, I guess you never know….save the stuff or toss it????
(first park naturalist, 1930-1950)
My favorite story of a “good save” came back in 1989 when I received a call from Steve Coles, then Chief of Park Planning, who had found a stack of correspondence from the Works Progress Administration (WPA)/Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC) era in his office area. Newer employees were going through old correspondence and throwing things out. He said, “I grabbed the files and called you figuring you’d want them, otherwise they were going to be thrown out.” He was so right! What I discovered were several correspondence papers from that time period from our first park director, William Stinchcomb to the WPA and CCC offices in Washington D.C. requesting help on projects. Finding papers with his actual signature on them was like finding historic “gold”. To top it all off, I found a memo with the original signature of Robert Fechner, director of the CCC! I was holding history in my hands!! Thank you Steve for sparing these documents that spurred us on to further investigation of our park’s history.
Portion of letter from Stinchcomb to Fechner
trying to save the Brecksville CCC Camp SP-19
from being closed. It was later closed and the
Robert Fechner's signature (Director of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Portion of correspondence to Stinchcomb.
Collection of program t-shirts donated to the archives.
Park sign from 1948