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Lesson Learned!

Oh … well … okay. I have a lot to learn. When you read the words “asphalt tiles,” what do you envision? Well, what I thought of was asphalt used in parking lots, roads, and driveways. Asphalt – of course!

Nope. Asphalt tile has a different meaning than what I had conjured up in my mind. Asphalt – that hot sticky stuff that forms the base of a road, stuff that sticks to my car as I drive over it when it’s freshly laid. 

Not being an expert on tiles, I assumed that the Duratile Company that supplied “asphalt tile” meant that Duratile worked on the church’s parking lot. You know what happens when you assume! Yep, that happened to me.

A few days ago, I quickly posted my blog article about the discovery of old church documents related to the construction of the 1959 building of the First Evangelical United Brethren Church, now Faith United Methodist Church, on Blue Avenue. In addition to the architect specifications of Mosaic Tile Company installing tile, I found Duratile Company had installed the asphalt tile … and I made the assumption that Duratile used the asphalt in the parking lot. 

And then two Facebook readers pointed out that Mosaic Tile never produced asphalt tile and that seemed to be what made up the shuffleboard floors in the fellowship hall. Oh … well … okay.

This is another example of the light bulb flickering brightly over my head. I won’t profess to be a Mosaic Tile expert. I simply want to celebrate the craftspersonship of the tile works in our area. I thought my sleuthing had connected with the Mosaic Tile Company with the church and in fact it did … but perhaps not all of it!

After googling and searching more about asphalt tile, I learned that this is actually a specific type of tile used in flooring. Tile that often contained asbestos (not good news!) but was durable and resistant to mold and fungal attacks – yikes! – (floorbiz.com).

So, asphalt tiles by Duratile Company were not what they used in the parking lot. I admit my mistake. But I also admit that learning is my favorite thing to do! Bring on the feedback and the corrections! That’s how we all learn and how we all give to the generations that follow ours.

Solving a Mystery

            It started with a Facebook post. “Seeking information about the Mosaic Tile Company …” From there, I received about 40 responsive posts. “My mom worked there in 1957 …,” “I lived on Lexington Avenue across the street from the company …,” “My grandfather worked there until they closed in 1967 …,” and the list continued.

            I followed up on all the posts. I sent “Messenger” notes hoping to receive additional details in return – a name, a job title, a story – rich enough to add to my on-going research about the company. Some responded; most did not. I tried to reach out again, but the list of potential stories shortened. Until one day, I received a post from Stephen C. who reported that he and his friends would dig for tile scraps “at the church across Blue (Avenue) from the 1954 Zanesville High School building. The church’s original parking lot was just waste Mosaic tile of all sizes …”

            Can you hear the sound of brakes screeching? Or the sound your breath makes when you gasp for air? That is what happened in my mind. The “church across Blue” is my church! Faith United Methodist Church, originally known as First Evangelical United Brethren Church, has been the church I have attended with families and friends for almost 20 years. This was too good to be true!

            For weeks, I had been scouring through reference books at the library and ordering local historical books about Zanesville’s history of being the “Clay City” and about the Mosaic Tile Company being the largest manufacturer of ceramic tiles in the world at one point.

            And now, it became even more personal. This was a story about my church. The trouble is – how would I be able to confirm that there were buried tiles beneath the parking lot created in the late 1950s and probably replenished with more asphalt over the past 70 years?

            I contacted church members familiar with records of the church: Where could I find information about the construction of the church in 1959? Are there photos that might show the parking lot?

            I was directed to a few large plastic storage boxes in a closet and one in the office. I studied the photos and read the handwritten history of the church, beginning in 1865 through present day. It was a scattering of documents, some organized, but most just placed in the plastic tub for safe-keeping.

            I also “googled” what felt like the entire Internet for possible clues. I tried every combination of search words and dates in newspaper archived databases.

            I struck out.

            Having given up the search, I put all of the church records back in the storage bins. I reported to Barb – my sister – who helped look through the church records that there was no documented proof that there were Mosaic Tile pieces buried in the church parking lot. It might be there … but I had no photographic or written proof.

            And then … Nick, a church leader, said – “Did you check the safe?” The safe? It dawned on me that I had forgotten his recommendation to look through the contents of the safe. It had slipped my mind.

            Stealing a few minutes from the church service that morning (sorry, Pastor Joy!), I nearly ran to the safe and found papers stored in the most “safe” location in the building. Knowing I didn’t have time to read through the papers, I grabbed a stack of what seemed to be from the 1950s and returned to the sanctuary.

            Quietly, Barb and I started to look through the stack. Oh, there was a good one about the congregation wanting to replace their pastor back in the day … gossip exists everywhere, doesn’t it?!
            A large book with about one hundred pages was part of the stack. It was a document created by the architects hired for the church construction, Sigman & Tribbie of Cambridge. I read through the first few pages and saw a general mention that tile was one of the many products that would be used in the new church. Just “tile” – no mention of a specific company.

            I thought that it was interesting but not enough. I set the large book aside so I could come back to it and several other documents later. Barb picked up each item I had set aside and finally got to the construction book. She flipped through a few pages, just a few more pages past the place that I had stopped and found the words “Mosaic Tile Company tiles.” Leave no stone, or page, be unturned! Yes, proof was on this page! The tile was to be installed in the new church as part of the construction plan.

            It was as if a lightbulb illuminated over my head. After the church service, I went downstairs and realized that the tile was used extensively. I had looked at those walls and floors millions of times and never made the connection. An example of “if it was a snake, it would have bitten me!”

            And then I spotted the real proof … the shuffleboard tile work on the floor in four different places. Recently, I had researched a Pennsylvania newspaper article from 1951 that was promoting outdoor shuffleboards made by the Mosaic Tile Company. With a bit more research I found that in 1949 an all-tile shuffleboard floor had been installed in downtown Zanesville’s YMCA building by Mosaic Tile. While the set up might be a bit different from the 1951 photo in the newspaper article, it seems too coincidental that the church’s construction work included Mosaic Tile and, just a few years after the 1949 installation at the YMCA, the church also had shuffleboards installed. Nothing can be properly confirmed until one of the tiles actually is removed from a wall or floor and the logo is checked. But in my mind, these are connected. The floors, walls, and shuffleboard that are in my church are Mosaic Tile Company.

            As for the parking lot, does it have hidden Mosaic Tile treasures under those layers of asphalt? That may be less likely, although not completely out of the question. One document that we also found in the safe was a newspaper article from 1959 that coincided with the dedication of the church. This article provided a list of suppliers of items used within the construction of the church, including Mosaic Tile Company (again more proof) and the Duratile Company of Columbus. This company is listed as a supplier of asphalt tile, which may be the source for the parking lot. So far, searches for more information about the Duratile Company have come up short, so we may never know the exact source of those “waste tiles” noted in the memories of Stephen C. on Facebook. But, I’m not ready to count Mosaic Tile out of that memory.

The adventure is in the searching, the discovering of our shared history, and the appreciation of the ceramic arts in our area. In some ways, the mystery continues, while we celebrate the discoveries along the way.

Figure 1 The Mountain Echo, March 1951

Figure 2 The Times Recorder, September 1949

Figure 3 Photo by Larisa Harper, February 10, Faith United Methodist Church

Figure 4 The Times Recorder, September 26, 1959

Text Box: Figure 4 The Times Recorder, September 26, 1959

The Story

The Story

“Mom, I think you have a problem.” That is what I heard my daughter say. “An addiction,” she added. Her words were familiar to me, but I could not comprehend entirely. She went for the final emphasis. “You have too many tiles.” Wait, what?

            There we were, standing in the middle of a downtown Zanesville antique store. I slowly lowered the Mosaic Tile Company piece to the shelf. This intervention that was occurring was not a shocker. In fact, I had questioned myself about my “addiction” to these tiles. But I did not consider it a real addiction; instead, it was a sense of … protection for the tiles.

            You might ask – What is she talking about? Well, these pottery art tiles of varying sizes — 4 inches by 4, 6 inches by 6, smaller and bigger — were created sometime between 1894 and 1967. Consider that – possibly 52 to 125 years old! These tiles, sometimes plain and functional and sometimes beautifully painted and decorative, are works of art. These were made by turn of the century (20th) Zanesville citizens — beloved grandparents, and parents of people I have met on social media group pages.

            My quest to protect these tiles was instilled in me because my parents and eight siblings lived in a house decorated with thousands of tiles. Walls, ceilings, floors, all covered with blue, green, brown, yellow, red, and golden tiles. Growing up with these tiles was normal to me. In fact, I barely noticed the tiles until one would loosen and crash to the floor. Mom would try to save it and re-attach it if possible. That errant tile was part of the structure of the home. Not only was there a gap Mom was trying to fill, but a missing piece of the “picture” of the room.

            Then one day, Mom shared “the story” with me. The story made these tiles personal to me. The story brought a big world down to a small size. The story was about a family who escaped from Germany in the latter years of World War II. The father of the family, Otto Kauffmann III, was a ceramic engineer who earned a job at the Mosaic Tile Company shortly after obtaining visas to bring his entire family to America. After a brief stop at Mr. Kauffmann’s mother’s home in Pennsylvania, Otto, his wife, Margaret, and children Karin, Kristin, Ulrich, and Otto IV, moved to Zanesville.

            They moved into a home off Maysville Pike in southern Muskingum County; a house that had previously been a barn. The home had been transformed and could accommodate the Kauffmann family of six. Otto obtained tiles from the company to decorate the home with help from his children. This family built a safe haven, a refuge, in America after having endured the Dresden, Germany air raids and Russian soldiers taking over their Germany home.

            The story transitions in the mid-1950s when the Kauffmann family moved again for a new employment opportunity in Canada. Along came the Higdon family, a father, mother, and five children (a sixth was on his way). They needed a larger home and found this barn-turned-home with all the tiles to be the right fit.

            The family grew to a total of nine children; the big house seemed small at times. As the older siblings grew up and moved away, this baby of the family, me, adored the tiles and to this day, I am working with my husband to restore the beauty. Much of the beauty will incorporate the tiles.

            So yes, I usually look for Mosaic tiles at antique stores. And if it is a bargain price or one that I haven’t collected yet, it will come home with me. I will protect it, display it, and tells its story. That’s my problem, and I’m sticking with it.

Dr. Larisa Higdon Harper is researching for a complete manuscript about the Mosaic Tile Company. She is seeking personal stories of people connected to the Company through their family members or their own stories. To share, please contact Larisa at larisaharper@gmail.com.

Watching a dog slowly fade away …

1/20/2019

Watching a dog slowly fade away …

Cats. Those are my favorite pets. They purr; they snuggle on my lap when I’m cold; they love unconditionally (until their dinner is late), and they are self-sustaining for the most part. They don’t need someone to walk them on a leash. They just walk … or rather run everywhere. I grew up with cats. My mother loved cats… I think the first cat that I remember was Katina … get it? – “Kat-ina” I thought it was clever. I have no idea who named her; probably my mom.

I remember Oreo, Midnight, Frisbee, Bobby, Twinkie … and there were probably more. We always had at least one cat. Most of the time, the cat would sleep with me, all cuddled up. It was welcome warmth in a house that had little-to-no insulation in the winter. The cats were my friends. They stood in for other children in my pretend classroom or during my imaginary stage performance.

I have a vague memory of a dog. I think there was a dog in our house. Maybe. I don’t know – perhaps it was a dream. I didn’t personally own a dog until I married Aaron. He had grown up with dogs, not cats, and he wanted to rescue a Husky from the Licking County Dog Pound early in our marriage. We had no children at that time. Well, I learned early that Husky dogs are very energetic. No … they are hyperactive. Extremely energetic. I had no idea how to take care of a dog, let alone one that needed exercise … all … the … time …

I left the dog-care to Aaron. I did help with naming her – Jazz. I think it started as Jasmine … maybe … my memory is foggy, but “Jazz” definitely suited this dog. I ignored the dog most of the time. We had cats early in our relationship and continued to always have at least two in our home. I paid attention to the cats, took the cats to the veterinarian for their appointments, and cuddled with the cats. I suppose I fed Jazz and petted her a bit, but her rambunctious behavior freaked me out. I just didn’t know how to take care of her.

Over time, she settled down a bit. Really … just a bit. I don’t know how old she was when I was pregnant with AJ in 1995. An amazing thing happened though on the night between April 25 and 26. I was asleep and I woke up quickly with Jazz right by my side of the bed. She was there, licking my hand. She was attentive – trying to get me to pay attention to her. Trying to wake me. Irritated at first … I realized quickly that I was in labor. In pain and in labor. Jazz knew it. She woke me up. She wanted me to know that AJ was ready to arrive. After waking Aaron and calling the doctor, we were off to the hospital.

When we brought AJ home, as new parents, we quickly figured things out as we went along. AJ was always hungry. I mean … always. I completely lost all sleep for the next 20 years – he had such an impact on my sleeping habits. Of course, when AJ would wake up, he would cry, I would go to him and change his diaper. While I would stand at the changing table, Jazz would sit on my feet until AJ would stop crying. Truly – sit on my feet. This astounded me – a hyper dog turned protector of AJ overnight practically.

When Jazzy (as I called her) died, Aaron took care of her, buried her. We kept her collar – I still have it. It’s red with all her tags on it. I miss that dog to this day. I have lost so many cats over the years, but there was something about Jazz that really hit me hard.

Fast forward to today. Shadow is our female black lab. We adopted her from a friend with a litter of pups – no papers, no registry – just puppies. We wanted a companion for Pepper, our male black lab who was AJ’s dog. Shadow ended up a perfect name for this dog. She followed Pepper everywhere. They played together; they argued over who would carry the toy back to whomever was throwing it – often both grasping each end in their mouths. They both had so much energy, we could barely let them in the house together. Our home was child-proofed, but not dog-proofed apparently. The two types are very different I discovered.

So … did you know that dogs could get pregnant at six months old? Oh yes, they can. We had intended on spaying or neutering one of the dogs, but at six months – who would’ve guessed? Apparently, Shadow and Pepper shared more than toys! I don’t remember when we discovered her pregnancy, but I do remember pulling the car into the garage, opening the mudroom door and seeing puppies arriving. Ten puppies, in fact. Yep, 10. Again, who would’ve guessed? Six months old and 10 puppies.

Mother dogs are amazing, I learned. They protect – Shadow growled at Pepper every time he came near the puppies. She nursed all 10 even when she wanted to sleep. She bathed them and nuzzled them. She allowed us to check on them occasionally, but for the most part she wanted to be left alone with the puppies. Shadow and I had something in common – motherhood. She was gentle and calm – unlike her previous behavior prior to the puppies arriving. She let me pet her and the puppies. She was calm in my presence, and I appreciated her much more than before.

Thankfully, all 10 puppies were adopted by loving families. And before long, Shadow and Pepper returned to their normal level of hyper behavior. Shadow was taken to our wonderful veterinarian for spaying, and the worry about more puppies was gone. Once again, the dogs were under Aaron’s command. They listened to him, they obeyed him. They refused to listen to me. I don’t know if it was the register of my voice or my inability to whistle, but they did their own thing and I went back to being a cat lover.

The dogs grew older and Pepper left us a few years ago due to old age for a lab. Apparently, most larger dogs have a short life expectancy — about 10 years. I was sad, of course; I loved Pepper, but he wasn’t my dog. I didn’t have a great connection to him, and I wish I had. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Now, Shadow is 14 years old. She does not like the young puppies that Aaron and Jordee have adopted. Ironically, Aaron’s puppy, Zeus, is Shadow’s grandson. One of the 10 puppies adopted by a work colleague, Randy, had puppies and Zeus was produced. Zeus resembles a yellow lab – looks nothing like his grandparent-dogs, Shadow and Pepper. However, it doesn’t matter that they share blood; Shadow wants nothing to do with Zeus. I imagine part of it is that Zeus is an energetic puppy and Shadow is old and tired.

I’m watching Shadow sleep. She does that about 23 hours a day now. We have separated Shadow from the younger dogs, Zeus, and Jordee’s puppy, Nora. Shadow stays with us on the first floor of the house while the other two sleep in the mud-room and hang out with Aaron in the basement. Recently, Shadow began coughing, or at least it sounds like coughing, to the point of sometimes gagging. She’s done that before, but it stopped after a few days. Now, it lingers. Dr. Mary, our wonderful vet, did some tests and listened to her lungs and heart. We tried some antibiotics, but nothing has helped. Now, we are trying to alleviate some of her issues with another medicine, but the truth is beginning to hit us in the face. She seems to have heart disease. At 14 years old, there’s no sense in trying for miraculous cures. In fact, trying that would likely prolong her suffering. Instead, we offer warm rooms, soft blankets, extra food (if she’ll eat), and lots of love.

I don’t look forward to the day that she passes away. Instead, I dread it, but I also anticipate it will happen sooner rather than later. I watch her sleep. Just as I watched my children sleep in their cribs. I look for her chest to rise and fall. She has uncontrollable twitching of her legs sometimes and her eyes stay open even when I think she is sleeping. I just hope that I am with her when she goes and I hope she is sleeping when it happens.

It’s a sad state, but I am thankful for 14 long years with her. I mean – really – 14 years is very old for a dog. The cats sleep near her. They leave her alone for the most part, but they enjoy the warm rooms and soft blankets too. We are all connected somehow. Without a common language, we humans and pets know when we need each other. Maybe we’ll get another day or another month with Shadow. I know we’ll give her whatever she needs to be safe and may God give her a first-class trip to see Pepper when the time comes.