Arthur Mattingly Brought History to Life

Arthur Mattingly, history prof, SEMO c 1966When Jim Stone headed off to Ohio University, he and I would trade audio tapes instead of letters. It’s almost painful to listen to the two of us half a century later, but I was playing part of one the other day and heard myself describing my history prof: “He’s talking when he walks into the room, and he’s still talking when the bell rings and people are walking out.”

That was Arthur Mattingly, one of the best profs I had at SEMO or Ohio University.

Founded historic preservation program with Dr. Nickell

The Missourian had a story in 2006 saying that Dr. Mattingly and Dr. Frank Nickell were being recognized for founding SEMO’s historic preservation program 25 years earlier. A 1973 article he wrote does the best job I’ve ever read in explaining the value of historic preservation and how “old” doesn’t always translate into valuable.

Taught history in present tense

Arthur Mattingly, history prof, SEMO c 1966 One of the things I liked about him was that he delighted in debunking all those myths about history that we had been taught from grade school on. His accounts of battles were told in the present tense. He didn’t dwell on dates and troop movements, he made you feel like the enemy was going to come up over that rise any minute.

He, John C. Bierk, and Fred Goodwin are three SEMO profs I remember well.

Things are going to slow down here

I got a call from a perky and squealing Curator Jessica this morning. A grant we had applied for to put on a week-long workshop in Athens, Ohio, in August was approved. Since I really hadn’t expected it to get funded, I drug my feet on preparing for it.

I have to pull together an update for my Smelterville project by July, figure out what I’m going to do convince a bunch of amateur photographers that shooting pictures today with history in mind is fun, and knock off my Last Generation project for an Immigration Conference in Altenburg in October.

To get everything done, I’m going to have to throw some babies out of the lifeboat. I can’t give up food, sleep and afternoon naps, so it’ll be blog posts that go splash. I may plug in re-runs so you don’t forget about me.

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Last Generation Sneak Peek

Edgar Dreyer - 11-13-2013I mentioned my Last Generation project on March 26. I’ve been working like crazy to get a video presentation done so I can talk with a SEMO historical preservation about shooting regional history (or something like that. I usually don’t know what I’m going to talk about until I get in front of a group).

I finally got it whipped into passable shape this afternoon. Some of the transitions between clips are a little rougher than what I like, but I think the stories Dorothy, Edgar and Myrtle are more important than the technical stuff.

Shooting video is a whole different ballgame than shooting stills, even if you have been shooting picture stories for years. For one thing, the audio is as important, if not MORE important than the images. The best segment of the three was with Edgar Dryer (shown above when he was 8 or 10). He was 78 last fall when I photographed him. I couldn’t have asked for better natural lighting. He was also the first person I used a wireless mike on. That made a world of difference.

The biggest challenge was getting all the audio levels to match when you are shooting different subjects in different places. Watching tutorials and reading the manuals to figure out how to do it was mega-nap-inducing. I got the levels within acceptable levels, but I’m sure someone who knows what he or she is doing could have saved me hours of work.

The Last Generation video

I hope you enjoy the video. I have at least another dozen Perry County folks to work on before the Perry County Lutheran Historical Society’s Third Biennial Immigration History Conference in Altenburg October 23-25.

By the way, if you want to enlarge the video, hover your mouse over the bottom right-hand side of the vido screen. You’ll see a square box that says Full Screen. That will make the video fill your monitor screen. Press ESC to get it back to normal size.

The Last Generation

Myrtle (Schilling) Kuehnert in Trinity Lutheran Church 11-12-2013I’ve been working on The Last Generation off and on for about two years. It tells the story of the last generation of the original East Perry County pioneer families who spoke German as their primary language. I’ve had an opportunity to meet interesting men and women who grew up in an era before electricity; when little girls died of “winter fever” and telephones were just arriving.

The challenge has been to edit the videos and recordings down to a workable length. I have more material than I can use, and I was planning on interviewing some more people when I go back to SE Missouri next week. It’s been a race against the clock. Several of my subjects have died since the project started. Here are three of my friends.

Myrtle Schilling Kuehnert

Myrtle Schilling Kuehnert, above, met her future husband at Altenburg’s Trinity Lutheran Church when she was 13. She said he would have to ask her father for permission to ask her out after an evening church service. Her father told him she had to be back home by midnight because she had to help him milk cows at 4:30 a..m. She said they went uptown to a tavern where they played the jukebox and each drank a beer.

“AT 13!?!?” I exclaimed.

“Well, there weren’t any restrictions at that time.”

She wrote “Ernie” close to a thousand letters while he was serving as a turret gunner in the Pacific during World War II. She has all his letters, but he had to, “with a heavy heart,” throw her letters overboard when the ship had be be lightened during a storm.

Edgar Dreyer walked 4 miles to school

Edgar Dreyer - 11-13-2013“Uphill each way. In the snow,” he said.

Edgar Dryer is a great and funny storyteller, but he grows solemn when he talks about his sister, Irene, who died when she was 13 years old, on his 4th birthday. He still remembers her coffin being brought into the living room or “die gute Stube,” and the strain it placed on his family. “She died of ‘winter fever.’ It’s pneumonia these days.”

He went to school until the tenth grade, then his father said, “Son, now you have to go to work.”

Electricity was a big thing

Dorothy Weinhold 11-12-2013Dorothy Weinhold – and several of the other subjects – said that electricity was the biggest change they remember in their lifetimes. Her mother actually bought an electric iron before the house was wired for power because she was tired of firing up the wood stove to heat the old flatiron.

After she said their bathroom was outdoors, I asked, “Sears and Roebuck catalog or corncobs?”

She laughed and said, “I remember the Sears and Roebuck catalog.” Pausing, she added, “but  I’ve heard about the corncobs.”

Presentation and exhibit in the fall

I’ll show the videos and exhibit prints from the project at the Perry County Lutheran Historical Society’s Third Biennial Immigration History Conference in Altenburg October 23-25.

 

 

 

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.