WOOSTER – Ann Gasbarre’s long Bits and Pieces chronicle brings together a thread of anecdotes, memories and quick facts that go back and record people, places and events in Wooster’s past.
His last column on December 17 featured a flurry of Wooster memories and peaked Gasbarre’s career on the Daily Record.
She contributed to Wooster’s history as a newspaper employee for five decades, starting with an internship when she was in her final year at Wooster High School.
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“With the exception of the 12 or 13 year old I stayed at home until our four children were in school, I have been employed by the newspaper since 1958, a total of 50 years or more,” said declared Gasbarre.
Her earliest memories include working on a teletype machine and progressing from her initial stint as a typist and proofreader to her roles as a feature film writer, family page associate, and lifestyle editor.
During her career, she has received awards from the Ohio Newspaper Women’s Association and the Ohio Press Women.
“Names sell papers” and so do souvenirs
His Bits and Pieces column initially focused on community events, but evolved to encompass readers’ memories and Wooster’s story, Gasbarre said.
Former publisher Ray Dix told her, “Names sell newspapers,” she recalls. “That’s why I’ve always included as many names as possible in the column.”
It turns out that souvenirs are just as popular.
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Over the years, Gasbarre has been inundated with readers’ memories as well as newspaper clippings, place mats and restaurant menus and other keepsakes.
“We all remember happy times,” Gasbarre said, adding: “These days it’s a way of dealing with the day-to-day. It’s fun looking back.”
People in their 90s and 100s are especially fun to talk to, she said, marveling at what they could remember.
âPeople have really responded,â she said. They “wanted to share their good memories”.
She also recounts her own special memories – the former White Hut Drive-in across from the Wayne County Fairgrounds, where her late husband, Dominic Gasbarre, proposed to her; the smell of leaves burnt in the fall when it was legal to cremate them in the city; and the museum above the old Carnegie Library.
Gasbarre especially thanks Wooster historian Harry McClarran for supplying his columns with “such a large tote,” she said, gesturing broadly. It contains manila envelopes filled with information about the past.
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Beyond McClarran’s “innate interest in history,” she said, he was also able to identify addresses from long ago and find his way to iconic establishments in Wooster, from Wooster theater with its plush seats at Freedlander’s, as these institutions packed and dismantled, entering the archives of local history.
She is also grateful to other “history buffs” who shared their knowledge.
Like them, Gasbarre got to know his adopted city during his tenure on the Daily Record.
Wooster has “something to be proud of”
A former board member for Main Street Wooster and the Wayne County Historical Society, she enjoyed learning about the history of Wooster and Wayne County and found, âWe have so much to be proud of. “.
Among its illustrious citizens are a treasurer of the United States, John Sloane; a Nobel laureate, Arthur Compton; and the first black professional soccer player in the United States, Charles Follis.
At one point, she said, Wooster was home to the “largest independent department store in western New York” – Freedlander’s.
Wayne County native William Knight was “one of the first 15 men to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Heroism during the Civil War,” Gasbarre said.
Unfortunately, “there are negative milestones as well,” she said, citing a 1920s march through the city center by 1,000 KKK members in white robes and “several occasions” to burn crosses.
Overall, Wooster’s story is positive. âIt’s very unique,â ââshe said.
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Gasbarre had a special connection to the Italian-American community through her husband and the Woosterians whose ancestors migrated to Wooster from Collepietro, Italy.
âI was kind of adopted by the Italian community,â she said, due to a trip she took to Italy with a group in 2000.
One of the members told then-publisher Vic Dix that she was to accompany the journey of the 42 descendants “in search of their roots. Every day the newspaper published stories of (their) adventures while we were going to the small ancestral towns in the hills. “
She was invited to a house where Dominic Gasbarre’s father and uncle were born.
âEven though I am Irish / English, I have always felt a connection with the Italian community,â she said.
“Rethinking the good old days”
Although Gasbarre retired from his full-time job at the newspaper in 2006, he has been asked to continue writing his column.
âI have met a lot of wonderful people through (this),â she said. “Readers made it so easy.”
Gasbarre kept the reader comments thanking her for “the wonderful way you write about the way things were years ago”; to rekindle the memories of old Wooster; to âbring so many memories of my childhood back to Wooster; “And to” think back to the good old days “.
Many refer to specific columns, such as âPresident, Circus and Farm Dairiesâ.
A reader’s mother remembered President Harry Truman coming to Wooster and visiting the church next to the old Beeson Hospital.
âWooster is a special place with special memories for many,â said another reader.
What is most special for Gasbarre are “the people”, she said.
His former colleague Paul Locher said that local newspapers “have traditionally had the role of not only recording local history on various fronts on a daily basis, but also presenting stories that remind readers of the region’s past, including its growth, its successes, its failures and its triumphs, and the people who have been influential in all of these arenas.
âIf we don’t remember our history from time to time, the stories may just get lost from generation to generation,â Locher said. âAnn has been doing admirably for many years to keep these memories alive,â he said, hoping that âsomeone else can soon take up the torch she is layingâ.
Meanwhile, Gasbarre, whose career she says began in earnest with a poem she wrote called “My Guardian Angel”, which won first place in a poetry competition nearly 70 years ago when ‘she was in Cleveland Elementary School, “hasn’t finished writing.”
She’s working on a book for her grandchildren through StoryWorth, which “allowed me to tell my life story in chapter form.”
âI will add a chapter on the history of Wooster,â she said. “I want people to understand why Wooster is such a great community.”
As Gasbarre signed at the end of each column, “I thought you should know.”