When I got hired by Ron Thrash, the publisher of the Green Views, the forerunner of The Suburbanite, in September 1977 to be the paper’s first sports editor, it was a dream come true.
To get paid to cover sports and then write about them was like stealing money for a sports fanatic like me.
My situation got even better 2½ years later, in May 1979, when Ron added associate editor to my job title at the paper, which had since changed its name to The Suburbanite and increased its coverage area from just Green Township to also Franklin Township (Manchester) and Coventry Township. Ron was a good guy who was always trying to make the paper bigger and better, which he did.
In my new position, I got to do even more sports since I was there full-time, and along with that, I had the privilege of working under Editor Anne Salmons and with Photo Editor/Production Director Lynn Stamp.
But an aspect of my job that no one saw coming was that latter that summer nearly 39 years ago, I was chosen to work with the Portage Lakes Historical Society on a new collaborative project that, for the three- or four-year period that it lasted, had a reserved spot as the dominant story on the front page of the paper every week.
It was a blast. No one at the paper knew that I loved history almost as much as I loved sports, so to be able to spend a good chunk of my week doing both was like stealing even more money. I was having so much fun that Ron and Lynn practically had to chase me out of the building every night and tell me to go home. And I loved being at home.
How the project worked was this: Every Wednesday, I had a standing appointment at 10 a.m. at the home of either Bob Erwine, the founding superintendent of the Coventry school system (he lived on South Main Street in Coventry, just past the Portage Lakes Drive intersection), or Miriam and Leroy Miller, who lived about 50 yards from the back door of the newspaper’s office, which was located on the west side of South Main, at the Moore Road intersection. You could stand in the Millers’ front yard, what little there was of it, and throw a rock into Miller Lake, at about the spot where it connected into East Reservoir.
That Miller Lake was so close to the Millers’ home seemed appropriate. Although Grace Miriam King was born in Akron, she spent almost all of her life in Coventry, growing up on Dorwil Drive, graduating from Coventry High School in 1935 and then eventually marrying Leroy Miller, a 1933 Coventry grad, and settling into the home at which I visited them.
Miriam, who passed away on Dec. 31, just before her 101st birthday, was then the president of the Historical Society, so I was at her home more than that of Mr. Erwine. When I would walk through the door, she would offer me something to drink and then escort me into the living room, where she would have a historical story that she had researched and written by hand on lined notebook paper. She would also have a photo of some kind to go with it.
Miriam would carefully go over the story with me and point out details of both it and the photo that I needed to pay special attention to when I went back to the paper and got the package ready for print.
She was an excellent writer. There was very little – and sometimes nothing at all – I needed to change as I edited the stories. I realized how hard she had worked on them, and as such, I worked just as hard to keep the flavor of the stories as intact as possible. It’s something that I tried to do throughout my career when I’ve edited stories, and it started with Miriam’s pieces. It’s the right to do the job. I am firmly convinced of that.
However, being a young guy who was trying to make a mark in the business, I pushed the envelope from time to time to grab the readers’ attention by spicing things up a bit. Being the classy woman that she was, Miriam hardly ever said a word. She realized that editors edit stories. It’s what they do. It’s a big part of their job description.
The one time when Miriam complained - loud and long, somehow mustering up an incredible amount of vim and vigor from within her small stature to give me a piece of her mind in no uncertain terms – after I edited a story about retired iconic Cleveland TV weatherman Dick Goddard’s days growing up in Green. If she thought she could have gotten away with punching me in the nose, she just might have done it.
It taught me a much-needed lesson.
The articles were a big, big hit. The readers loved them. It was not uncommon for people to stop by our office and buy three, four, five or even more copies of a paper containing a historical piece that struck a chord with them, their brother, their grandmother, their neighbor or someone else. There were more than a few people who got emotional as they stood there and told a story from way back in the day.
History is indeed an important part of every community. It’s the trail that has been left as we’ve traveled to where we are today.
Miriam Miller, with the way she participated in Portage Lakes history for more than a century, both in living it so fully and then writing about it so eloquently to sustain and create countless memories, has left an indelible imprint on this area.
That there is finally a story in The Suburbanite about her own history is only fitting.