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Nuturing Experience


This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on December 5, 1992
Nurturing Experience
Young Poet became well versed in lunch at the League
by Roz Young
            Chesta Fulmer was a person to be reckoned with in Dayton back in the mid-20th century.  It was a day when many newspapers employed local women columnists who gave all kinds of advice to readers who wrote in, as Ann Landers does today.  The Dayton Daily News had Blanche Gouffaut, who used the name Betty Fairfax, and the Journal Herald had Chesta Fulmer.
            Chesta had been a belle of the old South  before she came here with her husband Porter, and her mellifluous accent was spread far and wide through many public appearances.  She developed a following that was near to idolatry.
            She adored poetry.  She wrote poetry – the public library still has two of her books in the Dayton section – and encourage it in others.
            One she encouraged was David Mayne Johnston, now of Travis Drive.  He started writing poetry in the seventh grade at Lincoln School, and Chesta published some of it in her “Poet’s Corner” in the Sunday edition.  She also arranged for him to read his poems to the Dayton Society of Poets, The Dayton Woman’s Club and the Young Women’s League.
            The Dayton Society of Poets met for one of these reading at the Young Woman’s League and invited him to stay for lunch.  “The food was outstanding, the audience appreciative, the ladies attentive and the house beautiful,” he recalls.  “The fact that I got to skip school was icing on the cake.”
            Every Christmas season Chesta took David to lunch.  Usually they west to Elder’s, but in 1944 she asked him where he would like to go, and he told her The Young Women’s League.
            He joined the Marine Corps, attended college, served in Korea, returned to the Marines and became an officer.  When he returned to Dayton in 1953, he invited Chesta to lunch at the League.
            “Why do you like to come here for lunch?” she asked him.  “The portions are larger at Elder’s.”
            David didn’t reply.  “I was either too young or too immature to answer her,” he says now.
            But when he read the column here recently about the Young Women’s League, the answer came to him.  “The word is class,” he wrote.  “The whole place was loaded with gentility.
            “The dining room at the House of Lord’s has it;  Luchow’s in New York had it.  There are restaurants in New Orleans that have it, but no place ever quite matched the atmosphere, the gentility and class of the Young Woman’s League.”
Father of beekeeping was an Oxford resident
            You may remember the story here about Lorenzo L. Langstroth, the father of American beekeeping, who died in 1895 while preaching at the Wayne Avenue Presyterian Church.
            He came to Dayton in 1893 to live with his sister; he had left his Philadelphia home in 1851.  Where he had been in the meantime I did not know, although I read every book in the public library on the history of beekeeping trying to find out.
            After the column appeared, came a letter from Valerie E. Elliott, head of the Smith Library of Regional History, at Oxford.  She thought readers would be interested to know that Langstroth had lived in Oxford from 1858-1887, his longest continuing residence anywhere.  “Although he died in Dayton,: she wrote, “we would suggest that his name be added to southwestern Ohio’s list of famous inventors.  Surely your readers would like to know that the Langstroth House, now listed on the National Register of Historical Places, still stands on Patterson Avenue in Oxford.”
            When I read her letter, a light bulb began to glow dimly in my mind.
            On the shelves of my own library right in my own living room is a book I bought in 1941, “Old Oxford Houses in the People Who Lived in Them” by Ophia D. Smith.  Chapter 19 is “The House Lorenzo L. Longstroth, ‘the Bee-man.’ ”
            Right under my nose the whole time!
            Longstroth, a retired Congregational minister, came to Oxford in 1858 in search of a place to conduct experiments in bee culture.  (He had invented the movable-comb beehive in 1852.)
            He bought the house on Patterson Street in 1859 from The Rev. Edward W. Root, who built it in 1856.  There Langstroth propagated the Italian bee, and in one year sold $2,000 worth of Italian queen bees, a record in the bee business at the time.  He planted 10 acres surrounding his house with buckwheat and clover and an apple orchard, since apple blossoms yield more honey that other fruit trees.  Langstroth loved his bees, and in the summers he worked happily long hours every day.  But in the winters he became melancholy and shut himself away from his family and friends. Playing chess day after day seated near the fireplace in his room.
            The attacks of depression became so severe and frequent that in 1874 gave up his bees and his business.  Although he had a world-famous reputation as the inventor of the movable-comb beehive and had written the essential book on beekeeping, he never profited from his invention because he was unable to finance suits against the hundreds of infringers against his patent.
            And as we have seen earlier, he finally came to Dayton to live with his sister, where he died and is buried.
            His house in Oxford, as Ophia Smith wrote, ‘sits apart with quiet dignity and wears the air of proud tradition.  The spirit of Lorenzo Lorrain Longstroth, poet, sage, philosopher, preacher, humanitarian, yet lingers with its aging walls.”