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Friday, June 29, 2012

When Did Newton Falls Begin Having 4th of July Fireworks?

“When did Newton Falls begin having 4th of July fireworks?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff found this to be a very timely question.

We searched through the History of Newton Falls by Ella A. Woodward [Revised 1977 Edition].  In the section about the Sesquicentennial (p. 188) it describes the activities which occurred from March through July 4, 1953. “The festivities were climaxed with the 8th Annual Veteran’s Homecoming Fireworks Display.” That would have made the first display in 1946, the year following World War II and the return of the veterans.

This year’s celebration will be held on July 4 at 10 p.m. at the Community Center. There is also an interesting Facebook page showing past displays, which can be accessed by going to Newton Falls OH 4th of July Festivities .  The Newton Falls 4th of July Committee also has a page at

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Does the Center of My Tree Look Like This?

Patrons visited the Newton Falls Public Library with a small section of wood which had been cut from an ash tree. They explained to the staff that it had not been affected by the ash borer, but part of the center was very unusually shaped and discolored in reds, tans, and browns.

We first looked in Diseases of Trees and Shrubs by Wayne A. Sinclair, Howard H. Lyon, and Warren T. Johnson. Using the index to find diseases of ash trees, we came across the section on Trunk and Limb Rots of Hardwoods (p.342). The trunk of a tree contains sapwood, which is alive and carries the sap through the tree, and heartwood. “Heartwood is dead, brightly to darkly colored wood that forms normally in the centers of trunks and large branches . . .” This is usually caused by decay due to rot caused by fungi.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why Are Marathons 26.2 Miles Long?

“My kids run marathons. Why are they 26.2 miles long? That seems like such an odd number.” The Newton Falls Public Library staff remembered that had something to do with the Ancient Greeks, but couldn’t remember the exact story for our patron.

We first went to Library Databases on our website, selected the Clevnet Databases, then Almanacs, Dictionaries & Encyclopedias, and Oxford Reference Online. It stated that “The standard marathon is 42.2km (26.2mi) long, which was the distance run by the ancient Greek soldier who brought news to Athens of victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC).”

Marathon Runner's Handbook by Bruce Fordyce (p.8) has several stories relating to the origins of the marathon and the distance. Fordyce says that “structured distance racing first appeared with the Ancient Greek Olympic Games which date back to 472 BC.” None raced the 42.2km at that time though. “The first official marathon of this distance was raced at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens . . . the distance was standardized in 1908, at the Olympic Games held in London.”  He also tells three stories similar to the information in Oxford Reference Online, with runners running from Marathon to Athens and also from Athens to Sparta. The stories tell of “trained messengers running very long distances, but it is certain there was no distance remotely resembling a marathon at the Ancient Greek Olympic Games.”

The Ancient Olympics by Nigel Spivey (p.114) supports Fordyce, confirming that the original episode has become muddled in the retelling. It was for that first modern Olympics in 1896 that a course was mapped from Marathon to Athens, and the distance we view as a marathon set.