German Village Gazette

Oral history interview project to begin this fall

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Two weeks after Ann Lilly moved to German Village in 1961, a carnival set up across the street from her rundown dwelling on East Beck Street.

Fearing that friends and family would urge her to move, she always would suggest meeting somewhere different than her house.

"That was kind of an interesting experience. I didn't stay there of course," she said of her original residence. She moved to her current residence on South Sixth Street in 1967.

Lilly is one of dozens of village residents who will be interviewed as part of an oral history project, which looks to spread personal stories and remembrances of keystone events that helped shape the village.

It is being funded through a $5,000 grant recently awarded to the German Village Society by the Ohio Humanities Council.

Shiloh Todorov, German Village Society director, said interviews will start this fall. The society has identified at least 40 people and 15 vignette topics.

Each interview will be 30 to 50 minutes.

Because the project is ongoing, there will be no final cut, so to speak, Todorov said.

Instead, viewers will cue up and watch the interviews they are interested in, she said.

The GVS will premiere a half dozen or so interviews this December to celebrate the grant and show people how the project works, Todorov said.

The project will also put to use new digital software equipment, which also will allow the society to digitize other archive material.

The importance of preserving live memories can't be understated, Todorov said.

"We are privileged to be 53 years old and that means were privileged to have around people who kicked it off 53 years ago," she said.

Jody Graichen, historic preservation consultant for the Society, said those actively involved in the Society to others who contributed in different ways will be interviewed.

"I think we want to hear people's memories of the neighborhood," Graichen said.

"We want to hear from those who were involved in our neighborhood, what they witnessed, how they helped," she said.

"And, a lot of times that will overlap with what's happened with the Society over the last 50 years."

Lilly, 82, is one of the village's earliest pioneers, helping with early Haus und Garten Tours. In fact, her house was on the tour in 1968 and her garden in 1988.

She also served on the German Village Commission from 1974 to 1988.

"We looked at the plans, used our best judgment in relation to what we saw the village being," Lilly said.

"There were no written guidelines," she said. "We made mistakes, some not as bad as others. We also made a lot of very good judgments."

Lilly said she also recalls Frank Fetch, who is credited with founding the German Village Society in 1960.

Incidentally, the vacant parcel of land on East Beck Street, where the carnival set up, would become Frank Fetch Park.

"He was a character and he was determined to get things done. And he did," Lilly, a retired school teacher, said of Fetch.

Sure, German Village has changed, she said. Things always do. But there's been one constant in the neighborhood, she said.

"I think the passion people have for this village has not changed," Lilly said.

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