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Kay Reimers writes Yellow Springs history in ‘How It Happened’

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In order to understand the identity and character of Yellow Springs, it helps to know something about its history.

That’s the guiding principle of local author Kay Reimers’ recently released historical book, “How It Happened: The Creation of Yellow Springs, Ohio.” A reading and signing in celebration of the book, which was published by small press Braughler Books, will be held Friday, Oct. 6, 6–8 p.m., at Epic Book Shop.

As Reimers told the News this week, her slim tome of 164 pages is not intended to be an exhaustive primer on Yellow Springs history. Rather, she said, she envisions the book as a resource to sate the curiosity of both locals and visitors who want to learn a little more about how the village came to be.

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“There’s a lot of information about Yellow Springs history, but it can be kind of fragmented and in different places,” Reimers said. “So I thought I would just pull it together — like a ‘Yellow Springs 101.’”

“How It Happened” begins its narrative journey through the formation of Yellow Springs with its physical formation — that is, the shifting geology over millions of years of the land where the village would one day be founded. From there, the book moves swiftly through the thousands-of-years-long history of Indigenous societies in the area, through the influx of white colonists in the area and Ohio’s early statehood, the foundation of Yellow Springs, the establishment of Antioch College and the relationship between the village and the college.

A longtime resident of the village — she  moved to Yellow Springs with her parents, John and Mildred McConville, in 1957 when she was 2 — Reimers said she’s had a long interest in both writing and history, but it took her a while to combine the two.

After graduating from high school, Reimers studied English, education and history at Ohio University, and then moved on to a stint in the Peace Corps, teaching English language classes on the Micronesian island of Palau. After returning to the U.S., she at first tried to find work as a teacher in Cincinnati, but when those attempts were unsuccessful, she moved to Los Angeles, California, where she had friends. She and her husband, Gary, both worked for hospital chain Kaiser Permanente for several years before the company began downsizing. When Reimers’ husband lost his job, the young family had to rethink their living situation.

“We had two small children and were living in Los Angeles — and it was not going to happen, you know?” she said, referring to the city’s high cost-of-living. “So we moved back to Yellow Springs, and it was a very good decision.”

Back in the village again, Reimers said she cobbled together a series of part-time jobs while helping to raise her sons, John and Eric.

“And that’s when I started writing, during my free time,” she said.

Reimers’ writing didn’t begin with nonfiction or history, however — she began with writing plays, both for the stage and for local radio station WYSO. In 2011, she was instrumental in helping to revive local community theater following the closure of the community theater venue Center Stage in 2003. She and the late Virgil Hervey were the founders of the 10-Minute Play Festival, which has since become an annual tradition.

“Writing a whole play can be so much sometimes,” Reimers said. “But I would tell people, ‘Just think of a “Saturday Night Live” skit and extend it another five minutes, and you’ve got a 10-minute play!’”

Reimers stopped writing for a while after her husband, and then her mother, became ill, and she became caretaker to them both, one after the other.

“Writing is such a fragile thing, even if you have the time, unless your head is into it — and mine wasn’t,” she said.

Following the deaths of her husband, in 2019, and her mother, in 2021, Reimers said she turned back to writing as a way to manage her grief.

“It’s kind of difficult when people pass away — writing can give you something else to think about,” she said.

Reimers said she decided her new project would be a local history book, because she’s “always been interested in Yellow Springs.” Much of her research for “How It Happened” came from local sources, including The 365 Project and Antioch College’s Antiochiana, the latter of which she noted has a “tremendous amount of material — not just of the college, but of the town, because the two are interconnected.” She also praised the late Becky Eschliman, a longtime member of the YS Historical Society, another source for Reimers’ book; Eschliman died in April 2022. 

In addition to being a bite-sized history for those who only want to dip their toes into local history, Reimers said she hopes “How It Happened” will help some readers discover that they want to dive in deeper. For that, she recommended local author Jane Baker’s book, “William Mills: The Yellow Springs Man,” and the YS News’ own 2005 publication, “Two Hundred Years of Yellow Springs.”

The final chapter of “How It Started” meditates on time and the idea of looking toward future changes, specifically with regard to Yellow Springs’ own future.

“The history of Yellow Springs is the ability of a community to reinvent itself constantly,” Reimers writes. “Time continues to move on, and Yellow Springs continues to reinvent itself.”

Reimers, perhaps, has undergone a little reinvention, too: As she looks ahead, she said she intends to keep pursuing writing as her vocation.

“I haven’t narrowed in on a subject just yet,” she said. “But I enjoy doing the research, and I’ve found an interest, so I think I’ll stick to history.”


2 Responses to “Kay Reimers writes Yellow Springs history in ‘How It Happened’”

  1. Chuck says:

    Congratulations, kay. I am always impressed with published authors, and also somewhat envious. My earlier years were indelibly entwined with Yellow years as I worked directly for and with “Boss Kett” at the Kettering Research Lab and lived there from 1957-1971. Was involved in the Gegner incident with a group of Antioch Students and with another group of Antioch students in traveling to Dr. King’s March on Washington. Since that time 15 yrs. of research on “Boss Kett” has only resulted in a couple of written pages, so I’m really envious of published authors. Congratulations, again.

  2. Peggy Engle Christopoulos says:

    Congratulations, Kay! What a great idea! I’m looking forward to reading your book!

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