“Scoop” Wible on Robert Earl Ley
Earlier posts on my great-grandfather, Robert Earl Ley, have related the tragic passing, at age 24, of his bride (and my great-grandmother), Zula (Fisher) Ley; the mysterious ailment that claimed the son of his second marriage, Richard “Dickie” Ley; and his own sudden death while working alongside my grandfather, Robert E. Ley Jr. at their Dover, Ohio dental office.
Certainly, there are sunnier memories from Robert Earl Ley’s 59 years, such as the account related here of his passion for hunting dogs, but growing up, the tragic stories made the most vivid impression. And looking back, it’s natural to wonder what the effect such sad passings had on my great-grandfather and his family.
Happily, then, comes this dispatch from relative David Wible that illustrates the “Positive Attitude Theory” of a middle-aged R.E. Ley Sr.
Dave and I have traded messages over the last couple years, mainly related to the extended trunk of the Weible/Wible tree as its roots stretch through Pennsylvania, over the Atlantic, and beyond. But this week he was kind enough to share journal excerpts from his father, David “Scoop” Wible, a contemporary of my grandparents, Robert Ley Jr. and Suzanne Abbott Weible.
Both Dave and his namesake father pull off the neat trick of being a cousin to me through two branches of the family — the Leys and Weibles — and by doing so through means entirely separate from my grandparents’ marriage.
Scoop’s parents — remember? — were Edwin Frederick Wible and Minnie Mae Ley. Edwin was cousin to my great-grandpa Robert Ohio Weible; his father, David (David “Scoop’s” grandfather), was brother to my great-great grandfather Franklin Eli Weible. Minnie was sister to my great-great grandfather Charles Henry Ley, so, an aunt to my great-grandfather Robert Earl Ley Sr.
Edwin and Minnie called 1028 N. Walnut in Dover home for a while, which is where my great-great-great grandpa Harriet (Powell) Ley spent her last decade. And they were patriarch and matriarch of the “model” Wible family written up in W.D. Shirk’s history of the Powells.
Which is all the circuitous route for telling you: David “Scoop” Wible and Robert Earl Ley Sr. were first cousins, even though Scoop was just a year or so older than my grandparents, Bob Jr. and Sue Weible.
“Bright and Beautiful” Memories of Dover Swimming Holes
This week, Scoop’s son shared some stories from the pen of his father.
As Dave Jr. related, his father, when he reached his 80s, began to finally set down in print the stories of his youth he’d spun for years for their enjoyment and entertainment. “As you can imagine,” Dave wrote, “I was pretty busy playing tech support on the phone, whenever my dad… would stumble into some speed-key combination in MS Word, losing his way in documents, but it was well worth it to have all these great stories for posterity!”
About the time of Scoop’s 90th birthday, in 2006, the family collected these tales in a volume, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and distributed these to family and friends.
The first story I’ll relate here — with Dave’s blessing — covers Scoop and friends’ adventures in their old Dover swimming spots. But for the middle paragraphs, Scoop relates some of the wit and wisdom of his 23-years-older cousin, and in these sentences, a young great-grandpa Ley seems to step right off the page and speak to you.
From “The Old Swimming Hole,” by David Augustus “Scoop” Wible:
In my younger days the only spot available for swimming was a
clearing on the banks of the Tuscarawas River which was called “Yonkers”.
No one ever seemed to know just why this was called “Yonkers” but it had
always been called that and the name was passed down from the older to
the younger boys without explanation. I say “boys” because we were at
the age and in an era of male chauvinism –no one ever thought to question
the rightness of excluding girls and morally it did seem the right thing to do
since swimming at “Yonkers” was exclusively “skinny dipping”.
I don’t remember anyone ever showing up at “Yonkers” with a swimming
suit–I suspect he would have been laughed right out of the gang for such
unusual behavior. Also suits would not have been very practical because of
all the mud in the water–couldn’t have kept them clean. Once there was
supposed to have been a little sand to the bottom but by the time of my
swimming hole days all sand had washed a mile downstream to the “Sand
Bar”. We could have gone swimming at the “Sand Bar” but they charged
money there and you had to wear suits–and also there were girls there–now
in a few more years..!!!
One thing nice about “Yonkers” was when you reached the age of
11 or 12 and were about 5′ 3″ tall you could just about walk across the
river which was nearly 200′ wide at this point. I say “just about” because
your feet would sink into the squishy mud-clay bottom and you would have
to shove upwards toward the opposite shore, take a deep breath and hold
your nose to settle back to the bottom to repeat the process. According to reports from observers on the opposite shore we didn’t look unlike a bunch
of approaching alligators.
Which all reminds me of one of the theories of my cousin, Dr. Earl Ley.
Earl was not only a very good dentist but also one mighty fine human being.
There is one thing about we Leys–we are never lacking in theories–some
logical–some a little impractical–but no one could say that we couldn’t
conjure up a theory for any situation. Earl’s forte was the positive attitude
theory which was a reflection of his optimism –but not all of these were of
the practical mold. Earl did all the dental work for our family and was like
an uncle to me because of our age difference. I remember one day being
in his dental chair for multiple fillings when he started drawing conclusions
about a Tuscarawas River drowning and I knew he was building up to one
of his theories, He avowed that he could not see how anyone could drown
in a river since all one had to do was go down to the bottom and start walking
across stream until his head surfaced at the opposite shore.
I remember that during the height of the depression Earl voiced one
of his more positive and plausible theories when he declared he couldn’t
understand how anyone felt he couldn’t go to college because of the lack
of money. “Boy that wouldn’t happen to me” he averred. “I’d start a peanut
and popcorn stand”. Knowing Earl, he would have–and been successful too.
But to get back to the old swimming hole. Sometimes if we guys felt
more ambitious we would hike (six miles round trip more or less) to the
White Bridge where there was a swimming hole a class above “Yonkers”.
This hole was really deep and you had to be a good swimmer to fight the
current. There also was a rope you could swing out on from the bank and
drop into the hole. The best feature was that if your feet ever touched the
bottom it was rock–not oozy mud.
Later as we grew older we started going over to New Philly where
they had built two fancy swimming pools with white washed sides and
bottoms. These always seemed too antiseptic and sterile–never as much
fun as “Yonkers”. It was after I had left Dover when a pool was built there—
thankfully Dover was reluctant to part with ways so filled with nostalgia.