Northern Ohio: Kirtland, Novelty, Chagrin Falls & Cuyahoga Valley NP

Sumoflam with his wife at the Kirtland Temple
Sumoflam with his wife at the Kirtland Temple

During a trip in May 2016 I visited my birthplace in the Little Italy neighborhood (See Little Italy Post) of Cleveland and then spent a day with family driving around Cleveland and catching a few sites (see post about Cleveland).  On my final day I picked up my wife in Kirtland, OH.  She had been there for a conference with her sister.  While there we visited a few places and I also had the opportunity to drive a few back roads while they were busy on the conference.  Actually, some of the locations I visited on one of the mornings prior to returning to Cleveland, but they are all compiled here.

Welcome to Kirtland, OH
Welcome to Kirtland, OH
Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, OH
Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, OH
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple
Sumoflam at the Kirtland Temple, Kirtland, OH

On the Sunday morning I was there we got the special opportunity to ring the Temple bells at 9 AM.  Photos inside the Kirtland Temple are not allowed, so we didn’t get any pictures, but it was fun to ring the bell.  I then left her and her sister there wile I did some driving around.

As many of my readers know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).  I am a convert to the Church, after

Kirtland Temple was the site of many miraculous occurrences according to LDS Church history.
Kirtland Temple was the site of many miraculous occurrences according to LDS Church history.

joining when I was 18 (back in 1975 — if interested you can read that part of my life story in my Sumoflam Singlewide Blog Here.) The Kirtland Temple figures prominently in the history of the LDS Church.  (Read details HERE on the LDS History site).  My wife comes from church pioneer heritage, but most of her relatives came from England and went to Nauvoo, which was the next stopping point west for the Mormons.  But key pieces of the church’s early history took place here.  Initially, the Prophet Joseph Smith dedicated the temple on March 27, 1836. According to church history, beginning in January and continuing past the dedication, many Church members reported witnessing heavenly manifestations during this season. Soon thereafter, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery noted the appearance of the resurrected Jesus Christ to them to accept the temple. Later, the resurrected personages of Moses, Elias, and Elijah also appeared to Joseph and Oliver to restore priesthood keys for the salvation of all mankind.

LDS Church Kirtland Visitor's Center
LDS Church Kirtland Visitor’s Center
Newell K Whitney Store
Newell K Whitney Store

Just a few blocks from the Temple is the Historic Kirtland Visitor’s Center which has a number of historic buildings. One of these was the Newell K. Whitney Store where many of the revelations now included in the Doctrine and Covenants were received by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He also received the revelation now called the Word of Wisdom,  as well as the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and the command to build the temple. Joseph also completed much of his inspired translation of the Bible here.  Following are a few other photos I took while at the temple and the visitor’s center.

Historic Sign about the Mormons in Ohio
Historic Sign about the Mormons in Ohio
The Tannery
The Tannery
Historic Kirtland
Historic Kirtland
Kirtland Temple as seen from a distance
Kirtland Temple as seen from a distance
Novelty Post Office
Novelty Post Office

After my visit to Kirtland, I continued south on US Highway 6 towards Russell Township, which also used to be known as Novelty, OH.  There is still a Novelty Post Office.  Of course, one of my favorite road trip activities is visiting towns and places with unique names and this one was a true novelty!!

I am not certain how the Post Office got its name (closed on Sundays obviously), but it is fun.  Outside of the post office, attached to the building is a large wooden postage stamp for Novelty.  See below.

Novelty Post Office
Sign on Novelty Post Office
Welcome to Russell Township
Welcome to Russell Township
ASM International
ASM International

Not far from the Novelty Post Office, on Kinsman Road, is the headquarters for ASM International (formerly known as the American Society for Metals).

According to its website, “ASM International was founded in 1913 as the American Society for Metals. Today, ASM is the world’s largest association of metals-centric materials scientists and engineers with over 30,000 members worldwide. ASM is dedicated to informing, educating and connecting the materials community to solve problems and stimulate innovation around the world. ”  But the reason I went there was for something grand…indeed, the largest geodesic dome in the world and, unique to all others, a non-covered one.

Geodesic Dome National Register of Historic Places sign
Geodesic Dome National Register of Historic Places sign
World's Largest Geodesic Dome at ASM in Novelty, OH
World’s Largest Geodesic Dome at ASM in Novelty, OH
Sumoflam at Geodesic Dome
Sumoflam at Geodesic Dome

The dome was initially constructed in 1959 and was conceived by prominent Cleveland architect, John Terence Kelly; ASM’s managing director for 50 years, William Hunt Eisenman, and futurist and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller.

The geodesic dome is actually two domes, one inside the other that are 30 inches apart, rising to a height of 103 feet and is 274 feet in diameter.  The dome is built using approximately 65,000 parts, including 13 miles of extruded aluminum tubing and tension rods welded into hexagons. There are no internal supports and the entire 80-ton weight rests on five concrete-filled pylons driven up to 77 feet into the earth.

Another view of Geodesic Dome
Another view of Geodesic Dome

The entire complex sits on a 400-foot diameter piazza with a 100-foot diameter mineral garden in the center that contains 66 labeled specimens of mineral ores with a fountain in the center. The 50,000-square foot headquarter building is a three-story semi-circular shaped concrete structure that occupies two-fifths of the piazza perimeter. The building resides on the western perimeter and is independent of the dome structure and has three distinct sections.

Inside the Dome at ASM
Inside the Dome at ASM

The building has floor-to-ceiling aluminum frame windows inside poured concrete walls and floors. The exterior of the western-facing second level glass wall is protected by a 13-foot high, 390-foot long satin-finish stainless steel “sun shield,” which protects against the afternoon sun without obstructing the view by providing 4,000 one-foot by five-inch louvers. Stainless steel, bronze, copper, aluminum, titanium and tungsten elements are incorporated into the interior design.  This was an amazing sight!

Holden Arboretum
Holden Arboretum

Not too far away from Novelty/Russell Township is the Holden Arboretum which encompasses 3,600 acres in Lake and Geauga counties.

I had hoped to visit, but time constrained me.   The arboretum offers plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities and an abundance of flora from what I could see driving by.  It is also home to a 120 foot tall “Emergent Tower” which can provide views of Lake Erie on a clear day.  The Murch Canopy walk is 500 feet long and is 65 feet above ground. I would love to visit these on a future visit. (See details here).

The Kalberer Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum (photo from holdenarb.org)
The Kalberer Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum (photo from holdenarb.org)
The Murch Canopy Wlk at the Holden Arboretum. (photo from kirtlandchronicle.com)
The Murch Canopy Wlk at the Holden Arboretum. (photo from kirtlandchronicle.com)
Chagrin Falls, OH
Chagrin Falls, OH

After driving past the arboretum I had to head back to meet my wife and her sister and we then headed south on OH 306 to Russell Center and then onto OH 87 to get to Chagrin Falls. This is a quaint touristy little town with two nice waterfalls smack in the middle of the village.

Chagrin Falls Historic Sign
Chagrin Falls Historic Sign
Stroll down Main Street Chagrin Falls, OH
Stroll down Main Street Chagrin Falls, OH
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
Sumoflam at Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop

Chagrin Falls has a few claims to fame — it is the birthplace of famous comedian Tim Conway and was the home of Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic characters Calvin and Hobbes from age 6 on. It is also home to the Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, known for its massive variety of flavored popcorn.  The building now housing the Popcorn Shop was constructed in 1875 adjoining the hydro-powered flour mill to showcase “The Pride of the Falls” grocery items. It was complete with a water-wheel driven gristmill powered by the Chagrin River.  The shop opened as a Popcorn Shop in 1949 and takes pride in offering what they claim to be “the finest & freshest, locally made ice cream, Euclid Beach custard, locally roasted coffee and old fashioned candies.”  The foundation of their tradition is carefully crafted locally made popcorn, always made in small batches with only the finest ingredients.

Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop
Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop T Shirt
Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop T Shirt
Popcorn!
Popcorn!
Ice Cream Offerings at Chagrin Falls
Ice Cream Offerings at Chagrin Falls
Too bad -- No Pets allowed...I had to stay outside!
Too bad — No Good Doggies allowed…I had to stay outside!
Chagrin Falls in the middle of town
Chagrin Falls in the middle of town

The highlight of the town is the two sets of falls in the middle of town.  Its a real drawing card indeed.  The setting is wonderful with restaurants and cafes overlooking the falls. There are also a number of old buildings in the town giving it an old-fashioned and cozy feel.

Old Bank in downtown Chagrin Falls
Old Bank in downtown Chagrin Falls
Old Wall Advertisement on the side of a building in Chagrin Falls
Old Wall Advertisement on the side of a building in Chagrin Falls
David and Julianne at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
David and Julianne at Chagrin Falls in Ohio
Sumoflam at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio and Erie Towpath Bike Trailhead
Sumoflam at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Bike Trailhead

After a nice lunch in Chagrin Falls, we departed for our final destination – Cuyahoga Valley National Park. For me it was an opportunity to add another National Park to my collection, but for Julianne and her sister Laura it was an opportunity to ride the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath trail, the first of their long trail rides in a week (the second was the next weekend as they  took a portion of the Montour Trail near Canonsburg, PA).  Since that trip, Julianne has been on five major bike trails.  I will be writing about these in future blog posts including the the above two and also includes the Dawkins Line Rail Trail in SE Kentucky, the Little Miami Scenic Trail from Xenia, OH and then again with her sister on the North Bend Rail Trail east of Parkersburg, WV.  Great opportunities to see some unique places!!

Sumoflam with Julianne and Laura at the Boston Store Visitor's Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Sumoflam with Julianne and Laura at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Part of a boat in the Boston Store Visitor's Center
Part of a boat in the Boston Store Visitor’s Center

While the girls rode the trail, I enjoyed reading up on the history of the Boston Store and grabbed a few shots of the surrounding buildings.  Then I just chillaxed in a rocking chair (I am a grandpa mind you) while I waited for Julianne and Laura to get back from biking.

Boats of the Erie Canal
Boats of the Erie Canal
Boston Store and Peninsula, OH history
Boston Store and Peninsula, OH history
Trail Mix Boston - Unique eatery, gift shop and snack stop in Peninsula, OH
Trail Mix Boston – Unique eatery, gift shop and snack stop in Peninsula, OH
History Diorama Plaque of the Boston Store
History Diorama Plaque of the Boston Store
Chillaxin' on the porch of Boston Store in a nice rocking chair
Chillaxin’ on the porch of Boston Store in a nice rocking chair

This was a nice final stop to a great four day trip to Ohio.  I sat on the porch, enjoyed the view, watched the bikers and reminisced on all of the fun places, great food (Little Italy!!), history and quirky sites we visited.  Then it was back home to Kentucky with a stop in Wilmington, OH, which I will cover in a subsequent post.

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#TBT Travel: The Mission Days in Japan-1976-78

Mt. Fuji and Fuji City ca. 1978
Mt. Fuji and Fuji City  (ca. 1978)

For this week’s edition of #TBT, I take a look back to 1976 when I served as an LDS missionary in Japan. Just a year earlier I had joined the church and, like some of my friends, as a 19 year old I was off to serve in a very foreign country.  (Please forgive the schmutz on the photos…many of these were scanned from 38 year old slides)

Mt. Fuji framed by Japanese flag, ca. 1978
Mt. Fuji framed by Japanese flag, (ca. 1978)

Prior to my trip to Japan, I had never been to a foreign country other than a couple of marching band trips to Alberta in Canada. Therefore, this was a new experience for me. I had to have a passport, a visa, shots, and the whole works. And though I had been on an airplane in the past, I had never flown on a humongous 747.  It was quite the experience.

Japan Airlines 747 as seen in San Francisco airport in April 1976 prior to boarding for my trip to Japan.
Japan Airlines 747 as seen in San Francisco airport in April 1976 prior to boarding for my trip to Japan.

After two months of language training in Provo, UT, I arrived in Japan with a number of fellow missionaries in mid-April 1976.

Japan Nagoya Mission group arriving in Nagoya in April 1976
Japan Nagoya Mission group arriving in Nagoya in April 1976

Our first night in Japan was quite interesting.  We were given a strange tasting juice and had “orange creme pan”, a piece of baked bread with an orange creme filling.  I was not used to the humidity at all.  It was wet out and the country was filled with strange new smells.  The country seemed crowded.  The subways were packed with black haired people.  It was all so new.

Crowded subway in Nagoya...all black heads
Crowded subway in Nagoya…all black heads (ca. 1976)ts in our areas

As missionaries, our main objectives were to preach and teach the gospel in our assigned areas as well as do service projects.  That is still the objective of Mormon missionaries today.  Despite this, we did have the opportunities to see sights in our assigned areas on our preparation days (p-days).  In this unique country, I tried to take full advantage of the opportunities.

A busy missionary....no cell phones back then.  Just Japanese pay phones. (ca. 1978)
A busy missionary….no cell phones back then. Just Japanese pay phones. (ca. 1978)

During my 22 month stay in Japan, I was blessed to serve in some wonderful areas including Kanazawa, Nagoya, Fukui, Takaoka, Ogaki and Fuji (in location order).  Today those cities are all modern like most of Japan.  However, back then, many were still quite rural.  I got to experience living conditions similar to the Japanese.  Small apartments with tatami (thatched) floors, flash gas heaters, strange toilets, etc.

My first apartment in Japan, in Kanazawa
My first apartment in Japan, in Kanazawa
Our apartment in Ogaki, Japan (ca. 1977)
Our apartment in Ogaki, Japan (ca. 1977) — and yes, those were our washing machines!!!
A Japanese toilet -- we affectionately called them Bennies (after the Japanese word o-benjo).  There were also "dump bennies" (non-flushing benjo) that we frequented. (ca. 1977)
A Japanese toilet — we affectionately called them Bennies (after the Japanese word o-benjo). There were also “dump bennies” (non-flushing benjo) that we frequented. (ca. 1977).  Yes, we had to squat…no sitting on these guys.

The landscape in Japan was either buildings or rice fields back then.  Almost all available land was used for raising crops of some sort.

Industry abounded everywhere. These are the smoke stacks in Fuji City, a major paper producer (ca 1978)
Industry abounded everywhere. These are the smoke stacks in Fuji City, a major paper producer (ca 1978)
Typical Neighborhood in Japan.  This was a sunset in Ogaki (ca 1977)
Typical Neighborhood in Japan. This was a sunset in Ogaki (ca 1977)
Stacked Rice Stalks after harvest.  These are reused for tatami mats and other things.
Stacked Rice Stalks after harvest. These are reused for tatami mats and other things.

Having grown up in a Christian country, it was quite a learning experience for me to know that most of the people in Japan were Buddhist (and/or Shinto).  In our door to door proselytizing it was not uncommon to hear “uchi wa Bukkyo” (meaning we are Buddhist).  They were always gracious to us “gaijin” (forigner) missionaries, as in many places we were still a novelty back in the 1970s. Many would listen, but the Buddhist religion was always engrained into their daily lives and cultures.  Same with Shinto…   So, everywhere we went we would see Buddhist shrines, large Buddhas, etc. I was fortunate to be in Takaoka, home of the Takaoka Daibutsu one of Japan’s BIG THREE Great Buddhas.

Large Buddha statue in Takaoka, Japan.
Great Buddha statue in Takaoka, Japan. Completed in 1933 (ca 1977)
Another view of the Large Buddha statue in Takaoka, Japan.
Another view of the Great Buddha statue in Takaoka, Japan. (ca 1977)
A scary guardian at a Buddhist temple.  These are everywhere. (ca 1977)
A scary guardian at a Buddhist temple. These are everywhere. (ca 1977)
Shinto Toori Gates in Fukui, Japan (ca. 1976)
Shinto Toori Gates in Fukui, Japan (ca. 1976)
A typical shrine...this one in Kanazawa (ca 1976)
A typical Shinto shrine…this one in Kanazawa (ca 1976)

During my time in Fukui, we got to visit the famous Eiheiji Temple, in the middle of a cold snowy day.  Built in the late 1200s by Dogen Zenji, this temple is one of the Soto Zen sects’ two main temples.  When we were there we saw the monks walking across the wooden planks in bare feet, even in the midst of a snowstorm.

Main gate to Eiheiji. Note the monk walking across.  He was barefoot. (ca 1976).
Main gate to Eiheiji. Note the monk walking across. He was barefoot. (ca 1976).

I visited other Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines during my stay, but none was as impressive as the Sokkagakkai Taisekiji, home of the Nichiren Shoshu sect of Buddhism.  Located in Fuji-no-Miya, at the base of Mt. Fuji, the old was mixed with the new.  Like Taisekiji, the original temple was built in the late 1200s, but they also built a HUGE building with ginormous pillars.

One of the huge buildings of Taisekiji in Fuji-no-miya (ca. 1978)
One of the huge buildings of Taisekiji in Fuji-no-miya (ca. 1978)
Towering pillars of Taisekiji.  Notice the little dots at the bottom...those are people. (ca. 1978)
Towering pillars of Taisekiji. Notice the little dots at the bottom…those are people. (ca. 1978)
Pagoda at Taisekiji, near Fuji-no-Miya (ca. 1978)
Pagoda at Taisekiji, near Fuji-no-Miya (ca. 1978)

Another item of Japanese culture that I became enamored with was the castles from the 1600s.  Japan is dotted with castles, but in my mission area, there were only a few.  The famed Nagoya Castle is known throughout the world. I got to visit, but was only in Nagoya for two months and never got to go there on a day off so I have no pictures.  The Gifu Castle, in Gifu, is also famous.  It was original built as a fortress in the 1200s, but by 1597 was a full fledged castle.  I lived in the neighboring city of Ogaki in 1977 and so was able to visit the Gifu Castle.  On my way home I got to see the Imperial Castle in Tokyo…not as impressive.

Gifu Castle in Gifu Japan (ca. spring 1977)
Gifu Castle in Gifu Japan (ca. spring 1977)
Another view of Gifu Castle (ca 1977)
Another view of Gifu Castle (ca 1977)
Visiting the Imperial Castle in Tokyo just before I left to return home.  I was with one of the sisters who I taught in Ogaki in 1977, who came to see me off.  (ca. Apr 1978)
Visiting the Imperial Castle in Tokyo just before I left to return home. I was with one of the sisters who I taught in Ogaki in 1977, who came to see me off. (ca. Apr 1978)

The real highlight of my mission in terms of places to be, was living in Fuji City.  It was a moderate climate, well known for its green tea and mikans (mandarin oranges) and, of course, Mt. Fuji.  While in Fuji I took over 100 photos of the mountain that had a different personality daily.  I was blessed to visit Mt. Fuji again in the 1980s and again in the 1990s.  Certainly my most lasting memories of the country.

Mt. Fuji at night (ca. 1978)
Mt. Fuji at night (ca. 1978)
Top of Mt. Fuji (ca April 1978)
Top of Mt. Fuji (ca April 1978)
A Bullet Train speeds by with Mt. Fuji in the background (ca. 1978)
A Bullet Train speeds by with Mt. Fuji in the background (ca. 1978)

I got to ride the bullet train a couple of times while in Japan.  It was an amazing ride back then!

Mt. Fuji in the morning overlooking Fuji City (ca. 1978)
Mt. Fuji in the morning overlooking Fuji City (ca. 1978) That’s me on the tower
Mt. Fuji in the trees and clouds (ca. 1978)
Mt. Fuji in the trees and clouds (ca. 1978)

I spent nearly a year on the Japan Sea side of the country while in Kanazawa, Fukui and Takaoka.  My first winter in Japan was a monster.  I was living in Fukui.  We rode bikes everywhere.  I had spent time in Denver, Great Falls and Bozeman growing up, so I was used to the snow, but the snow of Fukui was astounding.

Snow piled high (yes, it was THAT DEEP!!) in front of the LDS Church in Fukui, Japan (ca. winter 1976/77)
Snow piled high (yes, it was THAT DEEP!!) in front of the LDS Church in Fukui, Japan (ca. winter 1976/77)
Trapped by snow and icicles in Fukui, Japan. (ca winter 1976/77)
Trapped by snow and icicles in Fukui, Japan. (ca winter 1976/77)

Then there was the exotic food in Japan.  I had to learn to eat many interesting things…squid, octopus, dried fish, daikon radishes, miso soup and more.

Daikon radishes drying for pickling in Ogaki, Japan (ca 1977)
Daikon radishes drying for pickling in Ogaki, Japan (ca 1977)
A fish monger with an octopus in Takaoka, Japan (ca. 1977)
A fish monger with an octopus in Takaoka, Japan (ca. 1977)
Hanging with the fish monger and holding dried squid in Takaoka, Japan (ca. 1977)
Hanging with the fish monger and holding dried squid in Takaoka, Japan (ca. 1977)

Another wonderful experience I had was turning 20 while in Japan. The country has a tradition of “Seijin-shiki” or Coming of Age Ceremony.  We got to attend one in Fukui (I think….).  All of the girls wore nice Kimonos.  I got a picture with them…

Seijin-shiki 1976 in Fukui, Japan (ca. Nov. 1976)
Seijin-shiki 1976 in Fukui, Japan (ca. Nov. 1976)

Then, there were all of the kids.  Everywhere we went they would approach us and say “This is a Pen!!” – the only English they knew.  I loved to play with the kids (and still do nowadays!!)

Playing with the kids at an amusement park near Fuji. (ca 1978)
Playing with the kids at an amusement park near Fuji. (ca 1978)
Playing around with the kids in Kanazawa (ca 1976)
Playing around with the kids in Kanazawa (ca 1976)

And here are a few more photos from Japan…shopping, parks, cities…

Japan Sea sunset taken near Fukui, Japan (ca 1977)
Japan Sea sunset taken near Fukui, Japan (ca 1977)
Typical Japan Town (forget where this was) (ca. 1977)
Typical Japan Town (forget where this was — and it is backward) (ca. 1977)
Mr. Universe Japan in front of the main Nagoya Train Station.  He was a Mormon too! (ca. 1976)
Mr. Universe Japan in front of the main Nagoya Train Station. He was a Mormon too! (ca. 1976)
Cherry Blossoms.  Old photo so colors have faded. This was taken in Gifu (ca. 1977)
Cherry Blossoms. Old photo so colors have faded. This was taken in Gifu (ca. 1977)
Ken-roku Park in Kanazawa. One of Japan's most famous garden parks (ca. 1976)
Ken-roku Park in Kanazawa. One of Japan’s most famous garden parks (ca. 1976)

I loved Kenroku-en in Kanazawa.  A beautiful park, it was only a block from the LDS Church in Kanazawa, so we got to see it all of the time.

Kenrokuen in Kanazawa (ca. 1976)
Kenrokuen in Kanazawa (ca. 1976)
A Japanese road sign in Fukui (ca. 1977)
A Japanese road sign in Fukui (ca. 1977)
A typical Shoten-Gai shopping area.  They always had festive colors throughout Japan. I think was in Fuji (ca. 1978)
A typical Shoten-Gai shopping area. They always had festive colors throughout Japan. I think was in Fuji (ca. 1978)
An Undokai (exercise festival) at a high school in Japan. (ca. 1977)
An Undokai (exercise festival) at a high school in Japan. (ca. 1977)
A wave splashes at sunset on the coast of the Japan Sea near Fukui (ca. 1977)
A wave splashes at sunset on the coast of the Japan Sea near Fukui (ca. 1977)
A Japanese hearse (ca. 1977)
A Japanese hearse (ca. 1977)

Obviously, this two year mission had a profound impact on my life.  I returned home and by 1987 was back in Japan working for the Oita Prefectural government.  But that is another story….

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