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Staking a Claim to Fame


This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on July 19, 2003


 Paul Shivell was an unusual man

By Roz Young

            I have had a request from Robert McKibben of Kettering: `I would like to see what can be done to have Paul Shivell nominated for the Dayton Walk of Fame,' he wrote.
            He gave a few facts about him. He was born in 1874 in Indianapolis, educated in Dayton and Springfield public schools and Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass.
            He operated the Stillwater Press to print some of his own poetry, which included some eight volumes among which were Ashes of Roses, Stillwater Pastorals, By the Banks of the Stillwater and The Little Valley . He died in Los Angeles in 1968.
            Paul Shivell was an unusual person. He affected collars like Lord Byron's and wore his long, golden hair down below his collar in days when most men wore their hair short.
            In the time when we knew him, he had a farm at Pleasant Hill. A spring ran through the basement of the house and kept the whole house cool.
            The McKibbens raised garden vegetables. The Shivells insisted that sweet corn be on their front porch within the hour it was picked.
            `They did not believe in eating roughage,' McKibben said, `so they would cut each row of corn on the ear and press out the creamy heart of the kernels. They also would fletcherize their food. Fletcherizing meant eating small amounts of food by slow and thorough mastication. The practice was named for Horace Fletcher (1829-1919), an American nutritionist. The Shivells fletcherized, one chew for each tooth before swallowing it, which meant dining with them was something one would rather not do.'
            I know that Paul Shivell was a member of a group of Dayton artists and sculptors, and it was through this organization that we became acquainted with him since my father, an artist, was a member, too. We often went with the Shivells to their Pleasant Hill farm.
            After a few years, however, my father fell ill and we were unable to go on any more excursions to the farm. One evening Paul appeared at our house. `I have come to inquire how your husband is,' he said to my mother, who invited him in.
            He went into the living room where my father was sitting and began, `Harry, did I ever tell you how I met Gertrude?'
            My father said no. And so Paul began the story of their romance, which had been a love-at-first-sight affair, and he stayed and stayed and stayed, long past my father's bedtime.
            We were very glad when he went home and laughed at how he had come to see how my father was but never got around to asking.
            The next night we had no sooner finished dinner than Paul Shivell appeared at the door. He came in, all out of breath. `Oh, I am so embarrassed,' he said. `I came over last night to find out how Mr. McPherson is, and I got to talking about Gertrude and never found out. So I have come back tonight to find out.'
            He sat down. `My, but it is hot,' he said, fanning himself with a newspaper. `It reminds me of the heat wave we had a few years ago when my Uncle George fried an egg on the sidewalk.' And he was off again on a long story about the all the effects of heat he had ever experienced. It was past my father's bedtime again before he went home, and as far as I remember, he never came back.
            Charlotte Reeve Conover has included two of Paul's poems in her anthology of Dayton. Here is the second stanza of one called On the Miami.

Then voices of two souls in love with life
Went floating down the river in the moon;
And softer with the singing came the tune
Of the faint cithern and the sacred fife.
We leaned with clasped hands o'er that deep hour
Until the music of that contented love
Wound into river stillness - when above
We heard the first breath of the coming shower
Rustling the foliage. Slowly then toward home
We strolled beneath the wide elms in the green gloom
And Gertrude all in white looked like a flower.

          Well, that's Paul Shivell. I don't know whether he merits a place in the Dayton Walk of Fame or not. What do you think?