EATON — The 2022 Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor recipients were recognized during the unveiling of plaques in their honor at the Saturday, Sept. 24, Preble County Historical Society’s Fall Gathering event.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary in 2011, the Preble County Historical Society (PCHS) created the Hall of Honor and named it the Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor in recognition of the heritage and philanthropy of the Swartsel family as demonstrated by Sara Swartsel’s gift to the PCHS and the entire Preble County community of her family farm in southeast Preble County. The Register-Herald joined the PCHS as a partner in the Hall of Honor, recognizing the natural partnership of the two organizations in recording the history of Preble County.
The Hall of Honor recognizes deceased former Preble Countians who have contributed to the community and world in valuable ways. Several individuals were nominated and three new members were chosen this year.
The three newest inductees are William “Bill” D. Ross, Audrey S. Gilbert, and Myron E. Scott. Barbara Cox announced the induction of Gilbert, Jane Somers announced the induction of Ross and Cherry Anderson announced the induction of Scott during the special ceremony held in The Amphitheatre Saturday afternoon.
Ross was well-respected in his career. He was honored to be one of the research chemists chosen to analyze Apollo 17’s moon soil samples. He published 40 scientific papers and holds two U.S. patents. He presented one of his scientific papers at an international symposium in Rome in 1966, and founded two regional annual scientific seminars for chemical and biological scientists.
Ross attended Concord Church. He served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. He also enjoyed serving with his church in supporting local missions, both locally and regionally. He held Concord Church and its congregation very close to his heart. He also served as a Board of Education member for Eaton City Schools. He enjoyed volunteering for many years at McCullough-Hyde Hospital in Oxford after his retirement.
Ross was a humble soul. His family meant the world to him; he was very proud of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Next to his family, he loved his farm, land that has been in his family for over 200 years; it was his life’s-blood. He was blessed to be born on his farm, and he lived there for 90 years.
One could find him at the end of his lane during the warmer months watching the sun set, not missing a one. He loved writing poetry and putting notes in the margins of books; sailing, gardening, and researching his family’s genealogy; Miami football and basketball games and conversations with family and friends. He also loved his Dixon Township community.
Audrey S. Gilbert
Oct. 1927-March 2020
Audrey Gilbert graduated from Lanier High in 1945. Her places of employment included Loerke’s Restaurant, Twin Valley Bank, McCall Corp., Lau Blower, Curp’s Greenhouse and Baker’s Restaurant. She was a former Lanier Township clerk, member and past president of the Preble County Historical Society, member of the Roberts Bridge restoration committee, the Firebelles, the West Alexandria Library Friends and Round Table Club.
For many years she wrote the Twin Valley Echoes column for The Register Herald, compiled the Lanier Township Bicentennial book, and was co-editor of Preble County 1992 History book (with Ione Hiestand). She was the founder and volunteer of the West Alexandria Archive, a charter volunteer of West Alexandria Emergency Squad, author of the History of Twin Valley South School book and the Sesquicentennial book of West Alexandria; co-author of The First Forty Lots of West Alexandria, compiler of many history and genealogical books and a volunteer at the Brethren Heritage Center.
Myron E. Scott
“Myron E. Scott, an Ohio-born photographer who had such an uneventful career he probably wouldn’t have attracted much attention if there hadn’t been a couple of inspired blips in an otherwise satisfyingly humdrum life,” died in October 1998, at his home in Kettering, according to his obituary. He was 91.
Scott left his marks on 20th-century culture as the man who created the All-American Soap Box Derby and gave the Corvette sports car its name.
A native of Camden who grew up in Dayton, he attended the Dayton Institute of Art before going to work for The Dayton Daily News, first as a staff artist, later as a photographer.
Scott might have spent his life contentedly taking pictures for newspapers if it hadn’t been for a chance assignment in June 1933. Told to scour the area to get pictures of children at play, he was driving through the little town of Oakwood when he became riveted by the sight of a couple of boys coasting down Big Hill Road on makeshift wooden contraptions mounted on baby buggy wheels.
Intrigued, he asked the boys to round up some of their friends and meet him in a few days for a race.
When more than a dozen showed up, including one whose rig reminded him of a soapbox, Scott got not only the picture he wanted, but also the idea that would change his life.
Sensing the promotional possibilities, Scott, who had apparently thought up the name All-American Soap Box Derby while composing his picture, persuaded his newspaper to sponsor a series of local races during the summer of 1933 and to stage a race for boys from different cities the next year. When more than 300 young contestants and some 40,000 spectators showed up for the 1934 race down Burkart Hill, he realized he was on to something big.
Big enough, anyway, to attract the attention of the General Motors’ Chevrolet division, which agreed to sponsor the race as an annual event. Partly because Dayton residents had been annoyed by the disruptions caused by the first race and partly because the city of Akron, home to four large tire companies, lobbied for the event, it was switched to Akron in 1935.
With time out for World War II, it has been a staple of summertime movie newsreels and television coverage ever since.
In getting Scott’s race, Chevrolet also got the man. Although he returned to the newspaper as art director in 1937, he resumed his work with Chevrolet two years later and stayed until his retirement.
As a member of the advertising department, Scott was asked to attend a meeting one day late in 1952 to help pick out a name for an ambitious European-style sports car Chevrolet was developing.
Company officials had decided that the name should begin with a C and should not be an animal name, but after sitting through the meeting in which 300 names, including Champion, Celestial and Challenger, were flashed on large cards and discussed, Chevrolet’s chief engineer, Edward N. Cole, said he didn’t like any of them.
That night, at home, Scott paged through the C’s in his dictionary until he came to the word ”corvette,” the name of a class of small, fast warships used as convoy escorts.
The next day, he sent a note to Cole asking, ”How would you like to go for a ride today in my Corvette?”
An hour later, Cole called Scott and asked, ”How would you like to ride in my Corvette?”
Scott’s name, he was told, had been chosen for the car. Scott, who liked to point out that he got neither a bonus nor a day off, let alone a Corvette, for coming up with its name, did get his promised ride, however. He drove an early model of the first true American sports car, complete with low-slung chassis, 20 miles from Detroit to a suburban test facility. He was not impressed. As he explained years later, he didn’t like ”sitting on the road.”
After Chevrolet ended its Derby sponsorship in 1972 and the race was taken over by a nonprofit corporation, Scott remained a soapbox celebrity, one who could be a bit crotchety at times, especially when he was criticizing the decision to allow girls in the race for the first time in 1972.
But if Scott was a bit old-fashioned, so, of course, was his very vision of an innocent, pre-television America, one in which boys from 9 to 16 had the time, the skill, the inclination and the reliable parental help needed to turn a soapbox into a racer. Today’s soapboxes tend to be sleek, kit-built plastic cars, but Scott’s image has not been entirely obliterated. After a time in which it was replaced with a modern-looking car, his drawing of a 12-year-old at the wheel of an actual soapbox coaster has been restored to the Derby’s logo.