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Column: Yearbook project, Sears catalog part of city’s past

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Two yearbooks are being produced at Columbus North High School this year.

One follows the traditional format for the Log, the school yearbook that traces its history to the early 20th century, chronicling each year in text and photos of the activities that occurred at the school and the students and faculty who were a part of them.

The other book also will chronicle the activities, students and faculty members at the high school but in a more comprehensive and far-reaching manner. It will cover the entire history of Columbus and Columbus North high schools, a span that reaches into three centuries of Columbus education, an ambitious project that was taken on by seven North students as part of their senior project.

Taking part in the school history are Darian Vedadi, Ben Davis, Morgan Dunleavy, Mackenzie Caldwell, Will Dorenbusch, Madison Monroe and Josh Goergen.

Helping to coordinate the undertaking is North history teacher Dan Marsh, who brings some pretty impressive credentials to the task. Last month he was selected as a 2013 Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year, a national recognition accorded to 50 instructors across the country for their ability to use creative teaching methods and to help students.

Creative is a pretty apt description of the North project. So is ambitious.

“The students are looking at ways to capture campus life throughout the history of the high school,” Marsh said. “At the same time we want to show how students have interacted with the community. We’re going to depict life in the various buildings that have served as high schools over the years but also show how places around town were so important to life for the students. For instance, it’s amazing how many generations of Columbus students hung out at Becker’s root beer stand.”

The students have been able to mine some valuable resources in putting together the project, principally the Log from past years. “We’ve also received wonderful cooperation from individuals who have provided both information and photos from the past, people like Hedy George (former athletic director at North),” Marsh said. “We’ve even come across some 19th-century photos of the high school online.”

Now the group is seeking additional help from the public. “We’d like for anyone who might have photos relating to the school or students to make them available to include in this project,” the teacher said.

While the intent of the project is to produce a product for the public, the research involved has become an exercise in history for the students, some of it fairly recent history.

One participant expressed surprise at learning that Columbus and Columbus North male gymnastics teams in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s were perennial state champions under coach John Hinds. Unfortunately the sport was dropped at the high school years ago, a move that contributed to its short shelf life in the community memory.

Marsh hopes the group’s historical yearbook will serve as a reminder of those and other achievements that were a part of school history.

In the past, such an undertaking would be a pretty expensive proposition, but technology has produced a low-cost answer for the students while at the same time making the final product available to the public for a fee.

Under a process called “Print to Publish,” the school will be given 10 to 15 copies of the book. People will be able to go online and order copies for themselves. The students hope to complete work on the book next month and ship it to the printers. Copies should be available for viewing sometime this spring.

It’s a pretty good bet that the participating students will receive passing grades for this senior project, but they will get something even better in the years to come … appreciation from the community for preserving an important part of Columbus history.

Sears houses, Part 2

The Columbus branch of “born and raised in a Sears house” is growing.

News that the Sears store in Columbus would be closed later this year triggered a recent column about the company’s effect locally. One impact mentioned was that on the local housing industry.

In the early 20th century, Sears, Roebuck & Co. offered through its catalog plans and building materials for a variety of houses that could be assembled by local contractors.

The subject hit home with me because I was born and raised in a Sears house in Bardstown, Ky. Former Columbus Mayor Bob Stewart grew up in a Sears home in Rockcreek Township. Clessie Cummins, co-founder of the engine business that bears his name, had one built in the 2100 block of Franklin Street for his father, and one of his brothers put up a Sears home on Lafayette Avenue.

Columbus resident Bob Taylor saw the column and sent in a note pointing out that he can also lay claim to a Sears background, having been raised in a catalog house in the 800 block of Central Place built by his grandfather and father, Harry and Arthur Taylor. He sold the house a few years ago, and while cleaning it out came across the catalog from which his father ordered the house.

So far as I know there is not a complete listing of Sears houses in Columbus. However, a number of them are still standing, some closing in on the century mark in age.

There’s a certain pride in having been born or raised in a Sears house. Seems to me that’s good reason to form some sort of alumni group. After all, how many can lay claim to residence in a house ordered from a Sears catalog?

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