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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Frank Siedel, The Ohio Storyteller

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 01, 2007

Frank Siedel (1914-1988) was an Ohio storyteller.

 

He took Ohio history, and made it into real stories for all to enjoy.

 

He worked in radio as a commentator from 1936-1947 in both Pittsburgh and New York City before returning to Ohio.

 

In 1947, he sold a pilot radio series to a Cleveland station where it was broadcast statewide three times a week.

 

The television version, called "The Ohio Story" ran for 20 years all across Ohio, sponsored by the Ohio Bell Telephone Company.

 

In my early days working in Ohio's libraries, his books were popular reading for all ages.

 

Today, he has faded into Ohio history, and his books have been moved to storage stacks.

 

Recently, I ran into his book, "The Ohio Story," in our collection.  It was written in 1950 and I had first read it about 40 years ago.

 

It contains 22 short stories based on Ohio history, typically stories that don't make the "front page" of Ohio history.

 

The one I remember reading involves what will happen on May 3, 2336 when the Peltier Comet again comes into view in the night sky of America.

 

A young boy watched the night skies of western Ohio beginning in 1917.  He had purchased a small telescope to watch the night sky, and sent detailed reports to Harvard University.

 

By the 1920s, he was designing furniture by day, and scanning the skies by night.

 

His work was so renowned in astronomy circles that Harvard provided him with a larger telescope --- for the boy who sat in a strawberry patch to watch the skies.

 

His interest had been developed by his habit of reading, and reading, and more reading.  The boy had quit high school in his junior year.

 

He said that you could find anything you want with the ability to read.

 

On May 15, 1936, the young man was waving his arms to ward off the cold of the March night, when his greatest discovery was made.

 

He had seen a comet three months before it was visible with the naked eye, and called Harvard University to report his finding.

 

In return, it was named the Peltier Comet, and it will return in 2336.

 

Turn the clock forward to 1977.  I am being interviewed for the job of librarian in the western Ohio town of Delphos.

 

An elderly man on the Library Board sat and observed me, asking no questions during the interview process.

 

At the end of the interview, the man introduced himself as Leslie C. Peltier, a member of the Board for 20 years, and an avid library user.

 

Another Board Member mentioned that Mr. Peltier was an astronomer with a comet named for him.

 

Suddenly, Frank Siedel's book flashed before my eyes.  Here is the boy in the strawberry patch!

 

I was excused from the interview, and asked to sit in the reading area for a few minutes, before the committee emerged and said, "You're hired."

 

Mr. Peltier walked over and shook my hand, and said he was looking forward to working with me to make the library better.

 

All I could say was, "you're the boy in the strawberry patch!"

 

He was embarrassed; lowered his head, and muttered "Yep" and went out the front door.

 

Mr. Peltier was a delight to have on a Library Board.  He was a regular at least once a week, read anything and everything, and always wanted to know what I thought.

 

He died unexpectedly in 1980 at the age of 80 - he was born on January 1, 1900.

 

A memorial sundial and bronze marker stands in the front yard of the Delphos Public Library remembering the famous astronomer from town.

 

There should be a strawberry patch around it.