From “ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SHAKESPEARE STUDY CLUB” c 2005 by Elsie Owen Hevelin
(Part 1 can be found here, part 2 here, and part 3 here)
Elsie Owen Hevelin
This is the point where I will stop giving numbers to the ladies who have formed our club over the years. From here on, I will give readers the biographies of members as I can collect them. They will not be in any particular sequence, as I no longer have access to the club minutes. In addition to these biographies, as I manage to accumulate them, will com the few biographies of guest speakers which I can manager to attain. It is my hope that some other club member will decide to continue gathering brief stories about our members for future reference.
In 1953, while Antioch College was celebrating its one hundredth birthday, the Antioch Area Theatre was presenting its second summer of Shakespeare-Under-The-Stars. A stage was built over the steps on the east side of Mann Hall, outside President McGregor’s office, and chairs were set up on the lawn before it. Beyond that was Glen Helen. With the towers of Mann Hall as a backdrop, and multilevel staging built against it; with acres of lawn and wooded glen behind the audience; the Shakespeare Festival began to draw visitors from great distances. It was a nice place to escape the heat and enjoy exceptional theater.
According to “Gerry” Feil, Antioch student, who produced a radio show to celebrate the occasion, more than twenty-five thousand people from “at least thirty-nine states and three foreign countries” attended the plays. Needless to say, several of the ladies of the Shakespeare Study Group were enthusiastic participants in the plays, four of which had never before been produced professionally in this country. These were “Troilus and Cressida,” “Pericles,” “Timon of Athens,” and “Titus Andronicus.” All these were of interest, but one of the most popular plays of the 1953 repertory was “Julius Caesar,” directed by David Hooks and featuring Arthur Lithgow as Brutus and Meredith Dallas as Mark Antony. So far as I know, David Hooks never addressed the ladies of the club, but Meredith Dallas and Arthur Lithgow did. They will be discussed later on, along with club members who participated in the actual productions.
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Ruth Perkins Liddle was born August 11, 1900, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. According to the information she gave to fellow club member Dorothy Laming, she was one of six children, but according to her obituary (in 1995) she was one of eight children. Ruth’s own mother died when Ruth was very young, and her father, Franklin Perkins, a Methodist minister, remarried. The family moved frequently, as minister’s families often did, and eventually spent many years in New York State.
Ruth attended a Methodist boarding school and then Miss Finche’s Finishing School, in New York City. While there, she met a young naval ensign named Albert Walker Liddle, who had been a student of Ruth’s older sister, a school teacher in Argyle, New York.
Albert, (who spoke to the Shakespeare Study Club about Fossil Expressions in Everyday Speech,) was married to Ruth in 1919, and then went back to complete his work at Cornell, earning his BS and his PhD in English. He and Ruth spent summers in his father’s farm near Argyle.
Because Ruth and Albert shared life together until his death, I will discuss them as a couple, representing the caliber of man who occasionally addressed the ladies of the club, and the kind of husband the ladies attracted. Surely that demonstrates the quality of the ladies themselves.
In August, 1927, Ruth and Albert rolled into Yellow Springs in a model-T Ford, having camped their way to Ohio to avoid staying in motels or hotels because of a polio epidemic. They brought with them their three daughters, Dorothy, 7, Jeanie, 2, and Juliet, 7 months.
After leaving Cornell, Albert was instructor of English at Princeton for two years and then instructor of English for another two years at New York University. He then sought an interview with Arthur E. Morgan of Antioch College, and was given a one-year “replacement” job as Associate Professor of English, and head of the English department. He ended up staying for thirty-four years!
In addition to teaching, Albert was served on the editorial board of The Antioch Review, and because he was fluent in French, German and Italian, he began to handle the foreign correspondence of a local business (the DeWine and Hamma Feed and Seed Company) here in Yellow Springs.
The faculty wives met every Friday afternoon for tea and conversation. The teas, held in various faculty homes, were fancy affairs, with flowers and lace tablecloths, polished silver and tiny assorted sandwiches. Lucy Morgan, wife of the college president, Arthur E. Morgan, deplored “wasting time,” so the ladies brought handwork to do while they visited. They mended socks, and knit baby clothes, and did other sewing while they chatted and kept abreast of all the news. Ruth and her friends made these meetings a major part of their life, and Ruth was a gracious hostess on many other occasions. She joined the Xenia Women’s Club and the Shakespeare Study Club and the Yellow Springs Library Association, as well as the League of Women Voters. She became a deacon of the First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs, despite the fact that she had been raised by a Methodist minister father. And she kept a journal for most of her life. I’m sure the ladies of this club would dearly love to see the contents of that journal.
When Ruth and Albert first arrived in Yellow Springs, they found to their dismay that no plans had been made regarding a place for them to live. They camped out in Glen Helen for two weeks. They bathed in the cascades and took their drinking water from the Yellow Spring. The Day House School (one of the first nursery schools in the nation) took the children while Ruth and Albert scoured the town for a place to live. College personnel went to the Glen when they needed the new chairman of the English department.
Ruth was not the only one interested in theatre. Albert sang Gilbert and Sullivan at the old opera house … in at least three productions.
In 1937 the Liddles went to Europe, by ship of course. In all, they made thirteen trips, and regretted the eventual loss of ocean transportation which was such a pleasant, leisurely way to travel. They visited many of the customers of the seed company for which Albert had translated correspondence. And after Albert’s death, Ruth continued to travel with friends.
Arthur Morgan said of Albert: “Where there is quality, understanding, friendship and cooperation, dependableness and human friendship, there human society has roots. Albert Liddle had those qualities.” And again: “He was modest, never putting himself into conspicuous positions … he knew his subject thoroughly and intimately … he had a sense of excellence. He lightened the time with friendly humor. What it was appropriate for him to do, he did, and did well.”
The editor of Holiday Magazine remembered him as “shrewd but always gentle, amused and amusing, with a deep streak of generosity.” And said: “I often had the strong impression that as he smiled and talked about the characters … he was telling oblique stories about people … It made him seem a man of wisely kept secrets about humanity, and I liked and respected his kindly wisdom.”
This writer is reminded of William Shakespeare as described by some of his contemporaries.
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Edith Aileen Harvey Owen, known to friends as Ede, was born August 2, 1901, in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, and baptized in the Moravian Church. She was the daughter of Chester Adelbert Harvey and his wife the former Mary Earle Sterling, and she told the family she was “Scots, Irish, English” in descent. Her maternal grandfather was the first police chief of Buffalo, New York. Or was it fire chief? Edith was not quite sure which.
Edith, her younger siblings Sterling Lockwood and Elsie Mathilda, lived for a while in Marcellus, New York. Their mother died when Edith was eight years old, and the children then lived with their father and his sister Samantha, whom the children called Aunt Mantie. This was not a happy time, and Edith never spoke of it until her own children were middle aged. Eventually the family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, where life was happier.
Edith left school at sixteen, to teach a required course at the Hay Conservatory of Music, and it was there that she met Gwilym Emyr Owen, a young physics student from Lafayette University, who was studying violin at the Hay School and taking the required courses Edith taught.
Edith and Gwilym were married July 1, 1922, after he graduated from Lafayette and began working asw a graduate assistant in physics at Williams College. She wore a white dress embroidered with daisies, and had to button it up tightly (in spite of the hot July weather) to avoid the shower of rice when it came. She was greatly embarrassed when they stopped for the night and a cascade of rice descended while they were checking in.
In 1929, when Arthur E. Morgan recruited Gwilym to head up the physics department at Antioch College, here in Yellow Springs, the family drove to their new home over U.S. 40, then under construction. Edith was appalled by the flat countryside and “all that dust,” but she soon grew to love her new home town. With them came their daughter, Elsie Jane, and their son, Thomas Harvey. Eventually a third child, Gwilym Emyr, Jr. joined the[m.]
Edith and her husband built a camp on Manitoulin Island, in Canada, along with other faculty members, Magruder, Henderson and Carlson. They went there every possible summer for the long college vacation, and after Gwilym’s death Edith continued to go there, taking her children and grandchildren to share what she loved so much.
When her husband, Gwilym, received an exchange-professorship to the University of South Wales and Monmouthshire, Edith and her family spent a year in Wales, where she dearly loved meeting Gwilym’s Welsh relatives (or, as Christopher Robin would say, “relations”) and seeing the place where he was born.
Edith was a member of The Shakespeare Study Club, the Woman’s Club of Xenia, the League of Women Voters, and the Yellow Springs Library Association. She joined the Yellow Springs Presbyterian Church, where she eventually became the first woman Elder of the Church.
There were other travels, too, many with Gwilym, and later on with other friends and relatives. Ruth and Albert Liddle traveled with Gwilym and Edith on more than one occasion.
When World War II came along, Edith worked with another faculty wife, Mrs. Austin Patterson, who headed the area Red Cross. Edith and Elsie Jane took first aid courses and other courses needed in order to feed large groups during major disasters. They manned the flight-line canteen at Wright Field, making soup and sandwiches, coffee, tea an cocoa, and serving tired and lonely servicemen who were headed overseas or were returning home from military hospitals after having seen the worst of their own personal war. Edith was busy on the home front while her son, Tom, and her son-in-law, Max Liming went to war. She also took a job in the college offices under Miriam Dickinson, who was a fellow member of the Shakespeare Club.
Edith lost the sight on one eye when she was in her forties. Her children never knew this until she began to lose the other eye as well, forty years later! Eventually macular degeneration cost her all but the peripheral vision of both eyes, and she spent her last fifteen years with audio books for the blind, so marvelously supplied free of charge by the Untied States government, and distributed by the Library of Congress.
Stricken with pancreatic cancer at the age of ninety-four, Edith remained in her own home, with her daughter as primary care-giver, and Hospice of Dayton providing comfort and assistance. She was visited daily by friends and family, and told them all she had had “a wonderful life” and was very grateful. Two weeks before she died, when she found she could not stand up to get the the restroom, she slapped her fist into the palm of her other hand and said, “I really thought I could beat this.” Then she cried, and so did Elsie Jane.
Edith maintained her membership in the Shakespeare Club and the Woman’s Club of Xenia until her death at the age of ninety-five. A celebration of her life was held in the Presbyterian Church the following spring, and the church was decorated with daffodils and leeks to celebrate Edith’s complete absorption in the Welsh background of her husband and his family.
Note: Ill health prevent Elsie from continuing her history.