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Book provides photo album for whole town
By Mike Lackey   - 06/11/2008

The Lima News

In 1935 the Hancock County village of Arlington, with fewer than 1,000 people, had six grocery stores, three hardware stores, there grain elevators and two banks. Not to mention doctors, barbers, veterinarian, a pool hall, a dentist, a drugstore, a piano tuner and a funeral home.

Don Steinman says the town had everything but a lawyer.

“I always like to say the people got along well enough that they settle their own differences without needing a lawyer,” he said.

The joys of small-town life are an inevitable theme of “Arlington: 175 Years” (Arcadia, $19.99). Compiled and edited by Steinman with Tom Kroske and Deb Anderson, the book heralds the village’s 175th anniversary, which will be celebrated next year.

In more than 220 pictures, the vast majority nver4 before published, the book outlines currents of change that have shaped and reshaped the community.

This community photo album includes Arlington’s first fire engine, now in a Michigan museum, and presidential visits by George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Bill Clinton in 1996.

Pictures also track the different ages of Main Street: still unpaved in the 1920’s with brick, which still underlies today’s asphalt.

Two images are socking. They show an Arlington Ku Klux Klan robe from the 1920s, when the hat group flourished throughout the Midwest. A caption says most of the village’s able-bodied men were members.

Mostly, though, the book is full of prosaic scenes of small-town Americana. Certainly anybody with an Arlington connection will have a memory or tow jogged.

Co-editor Tom Kroske, a former fire chief who has lived in Arlington all his 70 years, has personal ties to several pictures. One shows his grandmother in from of her house I n the 1900s. The tow bearded veterans discussing their Civil War exploits on page 14 are Elias and Philip Riegle, her uncles.

“I took one of the pictures of the building of our first (village) swimming pool,” Kroske added. “I climbed the light pole back in the park and took that picture myself with my little Pony 828 camera back in 1951 or so.”

The book project began coming together a year ago when Deb Anderson invited Steinman, president of the local Eagle Creek Historical Organizing, to speak to her students at Arlington School. Steinman had long wanted to do a book and he saw that her students could help.

And how. Twenty-eighth forth-, fifth- and sixth graders from Anderson’s Program Alternatives and Curriculum Enrichment class provided computer expertise, wrote captions and worked on the book’s layout. In addition, each grade researched one of the book’s five chapters.

Steinman characterized the partnership as “a good marriage.”

“We really couldn’t have done it without them, and I don’t’ think they could have pulled it off without us,” he said.

The book traces Arlington’s development from frontier settlement in the 1830s to self-sufficient village in the 1930s to bedroom community today. If, as Steinman suggest, Arlington these days lacks the cohesion it had when residents lived, worked and often spent their whole lives in the village, it must still be a pretty good place: Arlington has 1,400 people, and still no police force.

Anybody with roots, or merely an inter, in small town life will get something from this book. Nobody will get more Anderson’s students have already gotten.

“History’s more real to them,” she said. “It happened right here in their backyard.

“To think that horses and buggies hitched up along Main Street of Arlington. It’s not just a TV show; it’s right here.”

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