R.E. Ley Sr. & His “Positive Attitude Theory”

Ley RE III RE Sr Sally Jeanne Betsy

Proud grandpa R.E. Ley Sr. and grandkids Robert III, Jeanne, Sally and Betsy at his Iron Avenue home in Dover, Ohio in the 1950s.

“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.

Bob and Sue Ley with cousin "Scoop" Wible and wife Dorothy at the Leys' Dover home, sometime in the 1990s.

Bob and Sue Ley with cousin “Scoop” Wible and wife Dorothy at the Leys’ Dover home, sometime in the 1990s.

“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.

Categories: Ley, newsletter, Weible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “R.E. Ley Sr. & His “Positive Attitude Theory”

  1. Earl

    Swimming hole stories are good and juicy. Nicely done, Colt.

    • Thanks, Earl. From at least two sources now, it seems my great-grandfather favored the name Earl rather than the Robert (or Bob) of his two descendant namesakes, my grandpa and uncle. Here, Scoop refers to his couple-decades-older cousin as Earl, and on great-grandpa’s gravestone is inscribed the name “R. Earl” rather than R.E. or Robert E. I’m sure my aunts and uncle and Mom could confirm this theory, but in this space I’ll just concur — Earl: a great name! 😀

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