August 16, 2011


This weekend we went back home. It's odd because I've never actually lived in Zanesville, Ohio. The longest I've spent there was a two week stretch while my parents visited Europe. But my entire family hails from Zanesville. Many were born there, many died there as well. For me, it's like when people say they're Italian or German or Japanese. I'm Zanesvillian (or something). It's who I am.

Zanesville is a small town, around 25,000 folks, named after western author Zane Gray. My family has lived there or around there since my great great great grandparents arrived from Germany. They were farmers, mainly. They became salesmen, business owners, church elders, hospital volunteers. My grandfather died in Zanesville at age 40 only twelve hours before his own mother died in the same hospital. My other grandfather died there as well after too long a stay at the VA nursing home. In the years that passed since those ancestors first settled there lots of things have changed. The downtown is boarded up. Most manufacturing jobs have gone elsewhere. There are still two elementary schools, one junior high and a single high school (though it should be noted it was just demolished, rebuilt, and looks astonishingly wonderful). The unemployment rate is just slightly above the national average. Housing prices are well below.

But not all is lost. As it turns out, Zanesville is a pretty wonderful place. It is, after all, where nearly every generation of my family came from so it can't be all bad. And it's home to Tom's Ice Cream Bowl. It was where my parents went in the afternoons after high school to hang out. And they report that it looks exactly the same.

Within thirty seconds of leaving the town you're confronted with farm land. The most gorgeous land I've seen in a long while. And it stretches everywhere, dotted with barns and silos and tractors and rivers and lakes and churches.

My children loved it. They loved visiting family, seeing where they'd grown up. We went to church - the church my grandparents helped build - and sat in the very room my parents got married in while attending the service with my grandmother and aunt. The kids participated like they'd been doing it all their lives. Most magically, in the little town of Zanesville, Ohio, my kids acted as though they felt right at home. Which I suppose they were.

Posted by Chris at August 16, 2011 8:00 AM

It's good to go back to your "people" - no matter if it's been 20 years or you've never been there before, you always feel like you're home.

Posted by: Heather at August 16, 2011 9:41 AM

OMG! It's so cool that you posted this! My father was from Zanesville, and I visited there many, many times as a kid & teen, up until all my relatives in the area passed away. That's Dillon Lake in the last photo, isn't it? And I had almost forgotten Tom's Ice Cream Bowl...good to see it's still in operation. Is Hall's (a restaurant, I believe it was a buffet) still open? I should plan a long weekend trip up there one of these days. It would be neat to see it from an adult point of view.

One thing you didn't mention though...the Y Bridge! I never thought it was anything special, since I knew it from childhood, but apparently it's a pretty rare thing. Thanks for sparking my memories.

Posted by: auridicyl at August 16, 2011 10:05 AM


Posted by: Maribeth at August 16, 2011 10:31 AM

I believe there also is or was a Castle Skateland roller rink there. The local rink in Perrysburg, Ohio, where I grew up, was also called Castle Skateland. Our roller skating group used to take "field trips" to "the other" Castle Skateland, just for kicks. Or I could be mixing up my memories and there was just a competition held in Zanesville every year.

Posted by: Heidi at August 16, 2011 6:10 PM

I have to say, I moved to one of those towns and couldn't make it two years. The one bad thing about them is if you have no roots, it's VERY hard to be welcome in such a place. But they are lovely to visit! Glad you guys had a good time.

Posted by: alektra at August 16, 2011 7:50 PM

Sounds like a wonderful trip!

Posted by: Krush at August 16, 2011 8:13 PM

Now i know why I like you~you are from OHIO like me ;)...its always fun to go home

Posted by: becky at August 16, 2011 9:57 PM

My son's name is Zane. I so need to visit there. Or get the t-shirt or something. Great pictures and wonderful memories. Sometime my husband and I imagine just picking up and moving to some little town somewhere. This place seems like a good one.

Posted by: Amanda L. at August 16, 2011 10:23 PM