Excursion 14, Part 4 (Alone in East Liverpool)

In which our intrepid hero explores the empty streets of East Liverpool…

I was 21 in 1988 when I learned I would be moving to Ohio (to go to graduate school).  I knew nothing about Ohio.  The mental image I had was a jumble of snow storms and rubber factories, all with healthy sprinkling of “Rust Belt.”  I discovered, of course, that Ohio is a wonderful and varied place—this blog itself is sort of an ode to the state.  But it is certainly true that there is a Rust Belt and certainly true that Ohio is one of the states at its center.  Ohio cities like Akron, Youngstown, Toledo, Dayton, and others were thriving industrial cities.  Ohio boasted steel mills, automobile factories, all sorts of heavy industry.  Much of that is gone now and although new technologies and new businesses have replaced much of the heavy industry that went to Japan or Korea or China, Ohio has still not recovered from this transformation and probably never will.  Many of the people who had steady factor jobs will simply never make the leap to an information-based economy.  Few assembly line workers can become computer programmers.  Ohio will always have this hole in it, I think.

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Excursion 14, Part 3 (On the Trail of John Hunt Morgan)

In which our intrepid hero encounters the ghost of a Confederate general…

The Civil War has long fascinated me.  Of course, on one level it should, as I have a Ph.D. in American military history.  But it began long before that.  I probably have my grandparents to thank for that, because at some point they purchased American Heritage’s Picture History of the Civil War (1960) for my uncle Dennis, when he was a child.  This amazing book, containing fascinating diagrammatic paintings of battlefields and text written by famed Civil War historian Bruce Catton, remains today about as perfect an introduction to the Civil War as I could imagine.  I soon discovered that they had related gems on their living room bookshelves, including Reader’s Digest abbreviated versions of some of Catton’s histories.  These were among the earliest books I read on military history and certainly had a lifelong influence on me.  They also produced another effect on me that still lasts, too—a wistful realization of the immutability of history.  Sadly, no matter how many books on the Civil War I read, no matter what new material they may uncover, McClellan never manages to take Richmond; Hooker always loses his nerve.  It is Groundhog Day, but where Bill Murray never changes.

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