The History Around Us

LIFE LESSONS

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Since we're in the holiday season now I thought it might be fitting to take a slightly different spin on history, since most everyone spends some time with family this time of year. The "experts" say that something generally has to be 50 years or older to be considered truly historic. But just because isn't yet at that magical mark, doesn't mean it won't be historic once it hits that mark. Who around you is making history? I'd love to hear. Here though, are some examples that I found in my own life.

My Mom, Janet Ehrhardt

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Janet Ehrhardt is part of the history of St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Mesa, Ariz. At first, she was the organist, but now she has had a long run as director of music.

Since the 1970s my mother has been involved with the music program at St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Mesa, Ariz. At first, she was the organist, but now she has had a long run as director of music. While this tenure of service is remarkable in and of itself, it's that much more so, considering that this church was founded in the early 1970s. For the bulk of this church's existence, my mother has been in charge of its music. She has laid the foundation for decades to come, earning herself a place in the history books going forward.

She has positively impacted too many individuals to count. I know this because they had a piece commissioned in her honor in 2000. I'm proud to say that I've been a part of that history to some extent. Some old-timers in that church can remember my mom carrying a big belly of Tim before I was born in 1980, and in my formative years, I was involved various ways in the music program, including playing trumpet and ringing hand bells. This is definitely history in its own right. Sure, it's in a different, more localized concept than we normally think of history. But to a whole lot of people who've attended that church over the past 30 years, my mom has been a big part of everything. There are a lot of people who grew up as kids in that church, ringing bells or singing in her choirs. I know that she has touched a lot of lives and made them better. Isn't that what history is all about?

My Father, Robert Ehrhardt

My parents bought land in Collins Ranch under Myrtle Point in 1980. They built a place in 1982. Since then, my dad has been a regular on weekends up here. He's seen many people come and go, not just in Collins Ranch, but in nearby Tonto Village as well. In 1984 he was sketched by Ethel Cain -- proof that he was spending more than just a little time at the local hangout. In Collins Ranch itself, he was once so social that friends bought him a T-shirt with "Mayor Bob" on it. He's pulled back some in recent years, preferring to blend in more.

He has a place in history, though it is one that I can help enhance. People ask me about why I'm into history. When it comes right down to it, my dad has had the greatest impact on that passion. He was fascinated by the Pleasant Valley War when I was a kid, even dragging me to Pleasant Valley Days. He loves the old cowboy stories and has taught me to appreciate sitting in a bar listening to them. He has also supported me in pursuing many of the stories -- I probably wouldn't be writing this right now if not for my dad. So hopefully I can crank out some great stuff in the decades to come, thus making my dad more historic.

Danny and Ethel Cain

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Ethel Cain has been part of the Tonto Village community for many years and her restaurant, The Double D, is the nerve center of the area.

Danny and Ethel Cain, owners of the Double D Bar and Restaurant in Tonto Village, are two of the more interesting people that you'll meet. For the past couple of decades, they have operated the Double D, proving to be friendly faces to anyone who came in. Ethel once sketched the "regulars," leaving a mark there. Moreover though, they have also taken in lots of foster children through the years, employing them at the Double D. Local kids continue to work there to this day -- people who will be better individuals because of the opportunity given to them. Their story is one I really need to write one of these days, they're great people who've made an impact.

John and Olive Matus

John and Olive Matus, former owners of Creekside in Christopher Creek, are another restaurant couple that have made an impact. Creekside has long been a nerve center of sorts in Christopher Creek. It was made that way by John and Olive. Anyone who spent any length of time in there during the years they ran that place surely has a memory of one or both of them.

I remember John drinking his scotch at 8 or 9 at night, commemorating another successful dinner service.

The desserts -- well, even if you didn't see Olive making them, you knew who put that extra touch to make them so good.

I think sometimes people forget the store owners, and that's a shame. They work just as hard as someone out on the range, except in more confined space. They may not make the "big" decisions like some elected officials are perceived to do, but then again maybe we've just defined "big" decisions in a mistaken way. After all, folks like Danny and Ethel and John and Olive have consistently made the decisions on who to hire and what food to serve. And through the years, people have grown to love the places into which they put their heart and soul. Just that kind of consistent effort is pretty "big" in my eyes.

There are others who make an impact, some of whom get profiled in the papers and some who don't. It's been great to see Sue Owen profiled in the Roundup. She has done so much for the local genealogical society that it is quite amazing. But what about others? Where do you look for the people who've made a great impact but don't always get, or for that matter want, the publicity?

How about secretaries? A lot of churches have women who have been doing the bulletins for decades. In many denominations they've seen plenty of pastors come and go and yet they remain a rock, a holder of organization knowledge that makes the life of staff members at the church so much easier. You can apply the same to town hall. Elected officials have a tendency to come and go, but great staffers are golden. And sometimes it's even the department heads. You can say what you want about Buzz Walker, but he's had a significant impact on Payson through his job. I would argue that longevity counts -- that doesn't mean we're going to judge someone positively or negatively because of that, but it is someone whose oral history must be taken at some point.

So as you spend time with friends and family this holiday season, I encourage you to take another look at what they've really accomplished. Maybe they've been a librarian for 20 years at the same place or a school nurse for 15 at an elementary school. Or maybe they've just been a longtime teacher, teaching a generation or two of kids in a town. We've had those here you know -- Julia Randall comes to mind. Appreciate those around you and make sure you record their stories or seek help from someone to help you do it. You'd be surprised just how many people they've really impacted.

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