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Friday, September 23, 2016

Why are Gone with the Wind and The Lovely Bones on the banned books display?

The American Library Association launched Banned Books Week in 1982. It typically runs the last week of September, with the aim of educating Americans about censorship. Many libraries, including the Newton Falls Public Library, mark the occasion with displays that highlight famously banned or challenged books in their collections. We used lists such as “Frequently Challenged Classics,” “Top Ten Challenged Books by Year,” and “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books by Decade” on and for inspiration.

Though it’s called “Banned Books Week,” not all the books highlighted have been banned on a country-wide level (although some have been - for example, Salman Rushdie’s controversial 1988 book The Satanic Verses, banned in several countries including India and Iran, and James Joyce’s Ulysses, which drew complaints when it was being published as a serial in a literary magazine and was subsequently banned from the United States for more than ten years). More often, they are challenged in schools, where they are sometimes removed from reading lists or curricula, or libraries, where they can be removed from the shelves altogether. It’s worth noting that even if a book shows up on one of the banned or challenged book lists, it may have never escalated past the challenge phase. Sometimes a compromise is reached – teachers providing alternate book selections for a particular assignment, for example.

According to the American Library Association, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind has come under fire for its language and its portrayal of slavery. cites two specific examples: a 1978 ban in a California school district and a 1984 challenge in an Illinois school district. In 2008, Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was moved to the faculty section of a Massachusetts school library after it was deemed too frightening for middle school students.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Where did the cannon in the park come from?

“Is that an authentic cannon in the park? Did they use it in the Civil War?”

One of our patrons wanted to know more about the cannon in the Newton Falls Veteran’s Memorial Park. One of our librarians took a picture of the engraved stone sign beside the cannon, and another found a few stories about it in Ella A. Woodward’s History of Newton Falls.

The cannon is not a replica, although the wheel carriage it sits on has been rebuilt several times. It was cast in Pittsburgh and then shipped to Warren via the canal. Woodward writes that Andy Carlisle and Warren Patterson went to pick it up from Warren, and that they fired it several times in excitement on the way back.

The cannon in the park is one half of a set. Both parties had one, the Democrats and the Republicans, and they were said to set them off to celebrate elections. According to lore, the Republican cannon came closest to seeing action in the Civil War. During Morgan’s Raid in the summer of 1863, the citizens of Newton Township heard that General John Hunt Morgan and his men had crossed the Ohio River. They loaded up the cannon and went to protect Warren. By the time they reached Leavittsburg, news came that Morgan had already been defeated, so they turned back toward home.

Where is the Republican cannon now? According to one of Woodward’s stories, it injured two people during a celebration and was never used after that. It was stored for a while at the Butts’ home and seems to have disappeared after being taken in to the blacksmith for repairs.

The Democrat cannon in the park was originally mounted on a carriage. When its first carriage rotted away, it was placed on a cement base. The Jaycees restored the carriage in 1975, and it was rebuilt by the Amvets Post 112 in 2003. The Amvets also provided the engraved stone, which they donated in 2006.

Friday, September 9, 2016

How do I find a specific gravesite?

“I’m looking for the grave of a family member. I know they’re buried in Newton Falls West but I’m not sure where. I also don’t remember when they died, but I think it was the early 2000s.”

There are a few popular websites for locating a specific gravesite, and The information is provided by volunteers and can include photographs and transcriptions of the headstones, family photographs, and genealogical information. BillionGraves also uses GPS tagging to pinpoint the exact location of a grave within a cemetery, but the cemeteries in Newton Falls have not been added to that site.

Fortunately, however, they have almost all been added to FindAGrave by the dedicated volunteers of the Newton Township Cemetery Association. We selected Newton Falls West and typed in the name of our patron’s relative, which brought up a picture of their headstone along with information about their parents, spouse, and place of birth and death. (If our patron had not known the cemetery, we could have searched by name alone.)

Now that we had a little more information, we called the cemetery sexton and asked if he could look up where the grave was located. He was able to give us the lot number and grave number.

Our volunteer in the local history room can also access some cemetery records going back to the 1800s (though the records aren't comprehensive, and she does not have access to deeds). She is available most Wednesdays by appointment.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Can you grow a plum tree from a pit?

We looked in The Backyard Orchardist by Stella Otto and How to Grow Food by Richard Gianfrancesco. Both contained information about growing plums, but only about growing trees from saplings or caring for trees that had already matured.

Fortunately, Amy Grant wrote an article for about growing plums from seed. The seed must be kept at temperatures around thirty to forty degrees Fahrenheit for ten to twelve weeks before it will germinate. (Sources vary on whether or not the seed needs to be removed from its protective casing, if the pit simply needs to be cracked, or if the whole pit can be planted as-is.) There are a few ways to accomplish this. Our patron could wrap the pit in a damp paper towel and put it in a plastic bag inside the refrigerator. After it sprouted, they would plant it two inches deep in an even mix of potting soil and vermiculite, keeping it cool and moist. Once there was no chance of frost, they could transplant it outside into the garden.

It’s also possible to simply plant the pit directly outside during the colder months. Grant suggests planting it three inches deep and marking the spot so that it can be found again.

Grant cautions that a plum tree grown from seed may or may not bear fruit, and the fruit may or may not taste the same as the original plum, as plum trees are generally propagated through grafting and not through seed. However, she assures that it is still a rewarding and worthwhile project.

Don’t Throw It, Grow It! by Deborah Peterson and Millicent Selsam, available at the Newton Falls Public Library, has more information on how to save kitchen scraps and grow them into plants, for anyone who is interested.