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This is the second article in a three-part series featuring African American elders who live in Yellow Springs. Click here for the first part of the series.
Villagers Paul Graham and Phillip Lawson spoke about their experiences growing up and living in integrated communities in Dayton and Yellow Springs.
Their experiences were part of a larger discussion that included James Felder, Geneva Brisbane and Frances Smith on Oct. 28, and was sponsored by The 365 Project and moderated by activist and writer Bomani Moyenda.
Growing up as a child in Dayton, longtime villager Paul Graham attended two integrated elementary schools before graduating from predominantly African American Dunbar High School in the 1940s. But according to Graham, while the student body was integrated, the teaching staff was segregated — all his teachers were white. Nevertheless, Graham was encouraged to thrive academically by his teachers.
“The staff was all white, but I recall getting a great deal of support, particularly from the elementary school math teacher who provided me with unusual support in terms of … any assistance I needed in making sure that I participated in a number of special exams in math, etc. So it was sort of a mixed bag,” he said.
Graham is a graduate of Antioch College and a retired chemist who worked at Vernay Labs. He became a resident of Yellow Springs in 1956.
Graham also said that, while the schools were integrated, the neighborhoods remained segregated for the most part, with most of the African American community of all walks of life residing on Dayton’s west side.
“There were a number of whites living on the west side also, but they were usually, in terms of economic status, the poor whites who lived on the west side for economic reasons,” Graham said.
Yet despite the academic support from some white teachers, overall societal treatment of Blacks leaned toward pervasive racism, especially before World War II.
“Racism in general — I feel that the line in terms of any changes was after World War II. Prior to that, we all experienced the same type of environment, subtly slight differences. But in terms of how we were treated, we were accepted, etc., stories were pretty much the same no matter where, north, or south, no matter who, no matter what type of institution,” Graham said.
Graham reasoned that the shift in treatment came with the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
“I feel to a great extent, it was because many Blacks served in the armed forces during the Second World War, which was a war supposedly to fight for equality, to dispel the type of activities in society that people like Hitler were promoting,” he said.
Moyenda zeroed in on Graham’s comments, encapsulating why WWII may have sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
“As you [Graham] were talking about the ramping up of the response after World War II, I was reflecting. The veterans … were overseas fighting to liberate people from foreign countries and fighting valiantly, and came back here expecting some respect and freedom, for society to open up and welcome them. It was a similar response after World War I, which I think led to a lot of the incidents of the Red Summer of 1919,” he said.
Named the Red Summer because of the amount of violence and bloodshed, it was a time when African American servicemen returning from the First World War were targeted and lynched.
These attacks were initiated by white servicemen. The violence spread to cities across the country.
According to Graham, the period after WWII is a pivotal moment in history for him personally as well as societally, as both his career and activism expanded.
“I was a chemist, and this was the result of mainly getting a great deal of encouragement and following the careers of Black scientists,” he said.
Graham explained that one of his influences was inventor and scientist George Washington Carver. Another was Percy Julian, whose work contributed to medical breakthroughs for glaucoma and advancements in the production of both cortisone and hydrocortisone. Graham worked for Julian as an Antioch co-op student working in Chicago. It was not lost on him that Julian — despite his contributions to science — was physically threatened.
“He [Julian] encountered a great deal of difficulty, even in Chicago, Ill. — where he was at times protected by law enforcement, because of the reactions of people who could not accept this individual for what he was worth,” Graham said.
When discussing his burgeoning activism, Graham said, “I think I most focused on ‘What can I do to change the situation,’ and that was not possible to any great extent until World War II. Personally, after graduating from Antioch College and working as a chemist in Yellow Springs, I decided that like many Black people during that time, that I would do whatever I could to try to change the situation.”
Graham decided to get involved in organizing for civil rights in the local community.
“I was involved in a number of organized activities, one in Yellow Springs. There was an organization called the Miami Township Committee for Fair Practices, which consisted mostly of Blacks, but there were many supportive whites who were part of the organization. It was through that organization that I personally got involved in the Civil Rights Movement,” he said.
Some of the organized activities that Graham was involved in were the 1963 Gegner protests in the village when village activists protested Lewis Gegner’s refusal to integrate his barbershop.
Ultimately, Graham sees the struggle for equality on a continuum that includes present times.
“For me, the sort of ‘then’ is preceding the Second World War, and the ‘now’ is from World War II forward,” he said.
Born and raised in the village, Phillip Lawson said he has a lot of family, friends and community memories that “fortify” him. He lived and traveled in many parts of the world, before moving back to the village.
“I am very proud to be in this conversation, particularly because for me emotionally it upholds a real virile tradition of how Yellow Springs represents, as best as it can, equality among people,” Lawson said.
“I played music professionally and was an educator most of my adult life in California and was able to include culture into what I had learned from my upbringing in Yellow Springs,” he said.
Lawson grew up near Antioch’s campus on the south side of the village.
“Obviously, it wasn’t an inner-city environment. People lived … next door to white folks or across the street or around the corner. We lived in the south part of Livermore Street — that house isn’t there anymore. I lived there with my great-grandmother, Virginia Cordell,” he said.
According to Lawson, his family lived near Antioch faculty.
“Professors would have to walk from their homes, which were closer to Allen Street, and walk by grandma’s house … to work.
Lawson got to know some of the Antioch faculty and administration.
“A good friend of mine was [Antioch college] Dean [J.D.] Dawson. As he walked by [he would say], ‘Hey, how you doin’ Phil?’ because I played basketball with his son. So it was that kind of integration,” he said.
Lawson spoke fondly of the integrated education he received as a student in Yellow Springs, as well as the natural resources.
“School was fun. Yellow Springs to me as a kid was very natural, that gave you a kind of confidence. Some of your best friends were streams and trees and not 9 mm [guns] and parking lots. So again, that fortified me for my future,” he said.
Lawson also said that although Yellow Springs had some racism, it was the communities surrounding Yellow Springs where there were more issues, which he experienced as a student athlete.
“We had some racism, but it was mostly like, if we were playing basketball, we would go out of town, there would be some catcalling,” he said.
However, Lawson found support from his teammates.
“On the baseball team, basketball team, your teammates rooted for you, like you did them,” he said.
After high school, Lawson went to California for college, and encountered more ethnic diversity for the first time.
“Moving to that part of the country — there were Chinese people, Latino/Mexican people, and their culture and their food — man that sure was a difference from canned green beans and tomatoes and carrying on in the Midwest,” he said.
However, racism in the United States did inform Lawson’s desire to expatriate himself. Lawson was drafted during a time when Muhammad Ali spoke out against the Vietnam War.
“I was kinda like Muhammad Ali, because I had a literature degree, and I considered myself well-read and well-spoken, and in a sense almost well-traveled. I was ready to expatriate myself,” he said.
During the 1960s, Lawson was also a musician who sang and played the trumpet and flute.
“I was in the music corps, so I traveled all around Europe performing. Again, that kind of isolated me from racism and racist attitudes, because European people were nicer to us than our own hometown folks. Germany and France in particular were very hospitable,” Lawson said.
Despite the more welcoming racial environment of Europe, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. had a profound effect on Lawson.
“I was challenged towards the end of my military career because that’s when MLK was shot and killed. I was stationed in Germany, Heidelberg, the center of the military headquarters there, and we burned some barracks, that was what that was about. That happened in April, and in August I was honorably discharged,” he said.
Many of Lawson’s friends decided to stay in Europe after leaving the military, but Lawson was determined to return to Yellow Springs. “I’ve got Yellow Springs to go to, my grandma,” he said, although he lived in California when he got out. But after eight months in the States, he couldn’t find a job, and civil unrest in the country troubled him.
“I remember I was living in East Oakland because my sister lived in San Francisco, and I’d gotten out of the army to stay with her, couldn’t find a job, so that’s why I was looking back to Europe, too. But more, it was the violence, there was a lot of violence in 1968, particularly East Oakland,” Lawson said.
According to Lawson, he was lucky to catch a charter plane bound for Europe. Remarking on the differences between the situation he was leaving in the States and his arrival in Europe, Lawson said, “I remember leaving where cops were shooting without even thinking and getting off the plane in England — where the cops had bicycles and Billy clubs and said, ‘Welcome to England, old chum.’”
Lawson said the racial attitudes he encountered in Europe were a reason he stayed abroad — “It boosted my faith about equal play, but still was challenging. It was quite a few years before I moved back to the States.”
Lawson believed that there were more opportunities in Europe for him at the time, describing the experiences of some of the men he’d served with.
“The guys I was in the service with, they had stayed over there and even married European women, and had careers in music,” he said.
Lawson traveled around Europe in search of his army buddies, who he had trouble locating. With money getting low, Lawson was able to survive through the guidance of the travel book “Europe on $5 a Day,” which advised visitors on how to live in Europe on a low budget.
“I wore that book out. Matter of fact, I was able to do much better than that,” Lawson said.
Eventually, Lawson found his way to Greece, where he lived for two years.
“It was kind of what I wanted to do anyway as a kid — I read a lot of Marco Polo stuff, and I also felt like it would keep me out of trouble. I thought I was going to go around the world and get back to Yellow Springs. I got back to Yellow Springs, but not by traveling around the world,” Lawson quipped.
When Mark Crockett decided not to run for re-election as Miami Township Trustee in the Nov. 2021 election, he knew that it was the right choice. After serving for 20 years, Crockett has seen the township go through many changes.
Prior to running for a trustee’s seat, Crockett studied art at Wright State University, where he met his wife, Gail Zimmerman. They married in 1975 and had two children, Iden and Sara. Crockett and his wife opened their jewelry store, Rita Caz, in 1986.
“When you open a store, you really get to know the people in the community,” Crockett said.
Crockett would go on to know the community in a different way when he began volunteering with his children at the fire station.
“The schools required children to pick a place to do community service; Iden and Sara both picked the fire station,” Crockett said. “I spent so much time at the fire station, people started encouraging me to run for trustee.”
During his tenure as a township trustee, Crockett ran Rita Caz, which sold an eclectic mix of items including guitars, jewelry designed by Crockett and his wife Zimmerman, and African art. Crockett said that balancing his own business with the responsibilities of running the township worked because of the freedoms that owning a business allowed.
“It could be hectic, but it was worthwhile,” he said. “Gail was an active partner in Rita Caz, so I could leave work as needed. The kids came to the shop after school, and we made it work.”
Crockett first ran for trustee in 2001, and since then has worked to maintain the township by making decisions that would help the township evolve as technology advanced and the makeup of township departments changed.
“When I started, the MTFR only had two paid staff members,” he said. “The rest were volunteers who only went to the firehouse when there was an emergency. This made the response time delayed.”
In addition to the changes to MTFR, Crockett said he was proud of the ways the township has addressed the changing needs, such as taking over care of the cemeteries and looking to address broadband needs of the township’s residents.
Crockett also said that building a better working relationship between the township and the village was one of his priorities, and that future trustees should “stay in touch in order to keep a strong relationship with the village.”
Crockett also emphasized the importance of communicating with constituents.
“You have to listen to their concerns,” he said.
Crockett believes that some of the township’s biggest accomplishments have been in collaboration with local organizations, including the Wheeling Gaunt Sculpture project, Tecumseh Land Trust and Community Solutions.
“I am personally proud of the Trustees’ part in the Wheeling Gaunt Memorial. Wheeling Gaunt helped people, hired people and continued to help in his will, which are all activities I would have supported as a trustee,” he said. “I was also very glad to pass the vote to begin Agraria.”
In all, Crockett said he was thankful for the opportunity to serve his community and the greater township.
“I want to thank everyone for the honor of serving as your trustee.”
Coming up on its second anniversary, with most of its existence undertaken amid the pandemic, the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, is continuing to refine its purpose and procedures.
At the group’s most recent regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 9, President Lisa Abel opened with a brief outline of some economic development efforts in the village over the past several decades, not all successful: the Millworks property’s mix of light-industrial enterprises, the rejected affordable housing proposal for Glass Farm; the unrealized vision of the Center for Business and Education on the west side of town; the Chamber of Commerce’s push to make Yellow Springs a destination spot for visitors; the sale of the old firehouse, which the YSDC facilitated, to become an entertainment venue.
“Next year we’re going to see [the] Oberer [housing development break ground] and the expansion of Cresco with 80 to 140 new living-wage jobs,” Abel added.
Her conclusion, however, was that most efforts had been isolated and of the moment and did not involve intentional, long-term planning. She also noted that new startups are hampered by limited space within the village in which to grow, resulting in their relocation to other nearby towns.
She said her hope for the YSDC is to focus on business incubation and development that supports living-wage jobs, which she defined as paying $20 or more an hour.
“Lots of people have lots of ideas,” she said. “I’m looking for people who are actively doing the work. How can we help develop those new ideas, energetic ideas?”
Miami Township Trustee Don Hollister, one of the township’s two representatives to YSDC, said he thought Abel had raised questions worth deeper discussion, particularly pertaining to the space limitations in town. He suggested the group consider holding a special meeting to explore the matter further.
Kevin Stokes, one of two representatives from Village Council, said he was aware of several available spaces in town.
“If there are needs that exist, there are some opportunities,” he said.
Corrie Van Ausdal, the second township appointee, said she supports Abel’s conclusions.
“I think this is where we should be focusing,” Van Ausdal said.
Relatedly, Stokes shared the most recent draft of a rubric the group’s economic impact subcommittee is developing to rate project proposals. Aspects of consideration include tangible and intangible qualities, such as whether it represents the community’s values.
Which values? In what context? Such questions are among those posed by members.
In other YSDC business, Nov. 9:
• Following up on a presentation last month by Clifton resident and entrepreneur Piper Fernwey concerning the proposed Clifton Crafthouse Co-op, YSDC members voted unanimously to be listed among the project’s supporting groups.
• Given the failure of the school district’s facilities levy in the Nov. 2 election, YSDC members agreed to dissolve any plans to help explore other uses for Mills Lawn Elementary School and its surrounding property. President Abel said she would notify villager Len Kramer, who had been named project manager, and the Cleveland-based consulting firm that had been secured to facilitate the effort.
• Members discussed Antioch College’s decision to proceed with reopening the Wellness Center independent of the YSDC, with which it had originally partnered this past summer. The shared opinion was one of support for Antioch and best wishes for its success.
• The group unanimously approved adding a citizens’ concerns section to the agenda.
• Abel noted that the group now has a website, at ysdc.org.
• Village Manager Josue Salmerón, who serves on YSDC as an ex-officio member, proposed that the group plan a deeper discussion about “how all of the tax levies interact and how they have value to our community.” He said he wants to know whether levies that are up for renewal in the next several years will continue as renewals or whether replacements will be introduced.
Referring to the failure of the school district’s facilities levy the week before as “the elephant in the room,” he said that its defeat, while sending a “loud and clear” message, “doesn’t change the fact that our children are going to schools not suitable for their learning environment.” His point: another levy proposal from the district is inevitable.
Hollister said he supported a more unified look at taxes in the community.
“I think the town needs to face up to taxes, when and for what, as a whole, rather than separate jurisdictions,” he said.
Schools Superintendent Terri Holden, who also serves in an ex-officio role, echoed Salmerón about the continuing needs of the district’s buildings.
“Whether it is new [construction] or renovation, it’s not cheap,” she said, adding that the district also anticipates needing to seek additional operating funds in fiscal year 2025, which is reflected in the latest five-year forecast covered in last week’s News.
She added that she agrees with Hollister on the importance of helping “folks understand how this all works.”
The next YSDC meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 4:30 p.m., via Zoom.Detlef Johann E. Frank died Nov. 28, 2021. He was 79.
Detlef was born on Jan. 26, 1942 in Munich, Germany and immigrated to the USA in 1948 at the age of 6. His father was a German scientist brought to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base via Project Paperclip, and the family settled in Yellow Springs — one of few communities to welcome Germans after WWII and during the war trials.
Detlef spent his youth playing “cowboys and Indians” in Glen Helen and graduated from Bryan High School in 1960. He discovered a life-long love of soccer playing on the first Bryan High School soccer team and with the Yellow Springs Soccer Club from its beginning in 1970. Soccer was his passion and social outlet, playing into his 70s when his team won the first national soccer tournament for men over 70 years old. He refereed soccer for youth of all ages through high school and was recognized for 40 years of refereeing service by the Ohio High School Athletic Association in 2020. He also taught soccer refereeing classes and mentored hundreds of southwest Ohio referees. He loved helping kids and adults alike have fun playing soccer and left a lasting impact on soccer in the greater Dayton area.
Detlef graduated from Saint Bonaventure University in 1964 and served his country as a teacher of physics in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. Detlef earned a master’s degree at Michigan State and was ABD from the University Chicago, where he also taught physics at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. Detlef moved back to the Dayton area to work as a software engineer at NCR from 1979 to 1995. After NCR left the area, Detlef returned to teaching at Stivers High School and as a regular substitute at the Greene County Career Center. He loved helping students discover the joy of learning and problem-solving.
Detlef’s outgoing personality and his natural long white beard made him a perfect Santa. He volunteered his “Ho Ho Ho” and warmth to children and families as Santa at Friend’s Care Center in Yellow Springs, the City of Kettering, Carillon Park in Dayton and area daycare centers. Playing Santa was a joy for him this time of year!
A dedicated and loving family man, Detlef is survived by his wife, Ann, of 47 years; his two daughters and their spouses, Kjirsten Frank Hoppe (Will) and Nadja Turek (Dr. Steven); and three cherished grandsons, Hans and Ivan Turek and Calvin Hoppe, all of whom live in the Dayton area. Also, three of Detlef’s four siblings survive him: Dr. Helge Frank (Lori), of Downers Grove, Ill.; Marion Heitner (Dr. Alan), of Cincinnati, Ohio; and Gerda Donovan (Tom), of Chula Vista, Calif. Detlef was preceded in death by his brother Rolf D. Frank.
A celebration of Detlef’s life will be planned in the future sometime after the holidays.
Donations can be made to The Glen Helen Association and/or to the Yellow Springs Youth Soccer program.
As the landscape of small-town Ohio continues to evolve with the ever-shifting trends of commerce, Yellow Springs has had the good fortune to retain its own downtown hardware store for close to a century. Whether villagers know it as Deaton’s, Downing’s or by its current moniker, Yellow Springs Hardware, it continues — at the corner of Xenia Avenue and Short Street — to keep customers outfitted with building materials, bathroom fixtures and birdseed, among other things.
This year, Yellow Springs Hardware will change hands for only the fourth time in its 94-year history: Shep Anderson and Gilah Pomeranz, who purchased the store from the Downing family in 2017, announced last month in a letter in the News’ Community Forum section that longtime villager Dan Badger has taken the reins as its new owner.
“We’ve really enjoyed our time here, and really, it’s been an honor to be part of the Yellow Springs hardware history,” Anderson told the News in a recent interview.
Pomeranz and Anderson cited several reasons for their decision to pass the torch to Badger: the opening of mega-store Menards on Y.S.-Fairfield Road, just eight miles away, as well as the continued threat of online retailer Amazon to small businesses, were considerations. Add to these the ongoing pandemic, Anderson said, and it became clear to the pair that a shift was imminent.
“All of that really changed the game for us, and we knew that, for this store to be successful, it had to change — it had to be reinvented,” he said. “And we knew that probably wasn’t going to be us.”
Pomeranz said the two of them took a long weekend away from the store to discuss its future — during which, discussions included talk of closing the store altogether. By the time Pomeranz and Anderson returned from their weekend away, however, Badger had contacted them about his interest in the store.
“He came to us — it was like it was meant to be,” Pomeranz said. “It was magical.”
Badger said his decision to buy the store — like Anderson and Pomeranz’s decision to sell it — was based partially on the pandemic. Like many, because of the pandemic, he spent more time at home with his wife, Sarah Badger, and his son, David.
“We realized how much we enjoyed and appreciated that time together, and it made me think about ways to continue that after COVID,” Badger said, citing the store’s proximity to Mills Lawn, where David is a first grader.
Badger previously worked in antique car restoration, and most recently cared for the collection at America’s Packard Museum in Dayton. After his wife moved into a new job with health benefits, Badger said he was “freed up to consider a lot of possibilities.” He said he wanted to work toward re-engaging with and strengthening the community of Yellow Springs.
“I thought, ‘What would bring me the most joy and bring the community the best use of me?’” Badger said. “When you lay out those parameters as your starting point, you whittle down the options to a very short list, and the hardware store was sort of a natural fit — it’s really a foundational element of a small town.”
Badger has long been an element of this small town himself; he was born in Cleveland Heights, but moved to The Vale when he was very young after his parents, Jim and Christiane, read about the intentional community just south of town in a magazine article. His own family now lives in The Vale in his childhood home.
Badger said his work with maintaining and repairing antique cars was spurred by his youth in the village. As a Cub Scout, he and his fellow den members were given rides in an antique airplane by villager Jim Hammond.
“And I just started showing up over at his place constantly after that,” Badgers said. “He taught me how to build model airplanes and fly airplanes and restore airplanes.”
Badger worked for Hammond for about a decade after graduating from high school, which not only prepared him for the particulars of antique restoration, but taught him how to develop a workflow for problem solving. He said this foundational learning, attained in his youth, is part of what fuels his resolve for the continued life and success of Yellow Springs Hardware.
“I have a lot of passion for making sure that we aren’t raising a generation that doesn’t know how to do things,” he said. “This seems like the best anchor point to get involved in doing that work and creating those opportunities.”
To that end, Badger’s own young son can occasionally be seen helping out at the store; Pomeranz and Anderson, who are staying on at the store for a time to help with the transition, said young David Badger is already something of a customer service whiz.
“Just the other day, he showed someone where the sandpaper was, and after they got it, he asked, ‘Do you need anything else?’” Anderson said. “Which is something you often need to train people to do, and he just did it naturally.”
Aside from young David, Badger’s father, now retired from academic advising at Sinclair College, is going to help out at the store. He’ll join employees Tammy Duncan and David Cowan, who are staying on at Yellow Springs Hardware after being hired by Anderson and Pomeranz. Also remaining on staff will be Wilbur, the store’s resident feline and occasional front window decoration.
Upstairs in the office at Yellow Springs Hardware, Badger keeps a collection of books against one wall. Among the tomes are a Valspar paint catalogue and books on inventions and aircraft, right up against works that consider social psychology and racism. Anderson said this broad interest is part of the reason he and Pomeranz believe Badger is the right person to carry on the mission of a community hardware store.
“We knew that if someone were to keep the store at status quo, it wouldn’t work, and spending time with [Badger] — getting to know his vision for the store, his passion for Yellow Springs and his skill set — he’s the perfect combination,” Anderson said.
Also among Badger’s interests is the history of the hardware store itself; he said he’s delved into News articles and other archives to shore up his knowledge on the subject.
“This business was first Anderson Hardware,” he said, pointing out the synchronicity of two former owners named Anderson.
“Anderson Hardware existed in the space that AC service now occupies, and Glenn Deaton … bought that business from the Andersons in 1927 and moved it into this space,” he said.
Badger said his knowledge of the hardware store’s history has informed his approach to moving forward with his vision for the store — namely, to remain flexible and to listen to the community.
“If you look back through old photographs of this store over time, every few years it had to reinvent itself to remain relevant and to meet the needs of the community,” he said.
Badger said one way he’s responding to those needs is by exploring the possibility of offering home delivery. For example, he said, one of the store’s biggest sellers is birdseed, and many of the store’s customers are not only older but often travel there by walking.
“To expect an 80-year-old to find a way to get a 50-pound bag of birdseed back to her home is illogical,” he said.
He said he’s also considering ways Yellow Springs Hardware can offer more services outside of retail shopping, like repair and fabrication work.
“I already have a well-equipped shop with a mill and a lathe and a welder — all of the tooling required to build and maintain and restore most things,” he said. “Making those capabilities available to the community seems worthwhile.”
Pomeranz added: “And that’s the stuff you’re not going to get at Menards.”