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In "Stories of Dayton", Neighbors Share Tales Connected to their City

As summer draws to a close, residents in Dayton joined together for an outdoor storytelling event.
The idea of Dayton Storytime originated with Beth Nyman, who was awarded a nano-grant from Skyward and the Center for Great Neighborhoods. The event on Thursday evening brought about 50 people to Monument Park where six individuals shared their tales.
Nyman only moved to Dayton for about two years and she volunteered last spring at the Easter egg hunt, she was paired with an 11-year old boy who inspired her.
"This little boy started talking and he told me he had a broken wrist that he got when he punched his brother," she said, "and he had ADHD and he had to be careful, and he had to gain 30 pounds. Then he started talking about video games, and he drifted over to talk to my son. Later, as I was driving, I started thinking that I found out more about that little boy in five minutes than I knew about anyone in the city."
When the chance came to apply for a myNKY nano-grant pilot program offered by Skyward and the Center, she applied, forming her idea into a storytime where Dayton residents of all ages can come and share stories with their neighbors, getting to know them in an informal setting. 
"So I figured what better way to listen to stories than sitting in a lawn chair, or on a blanket in the park," said Nyman. "Then I spent a lot of the grant on cookies and water so we could have a little food with the stories."
She lined up six speakers, and thought possibly she could invite others to speak afterward if they wanted to. Mai Hernon, an Irish lady who has only been in this country for three years, led off the evening with two Irish songs, one in old Irish language. As the notes of the songs drifted across the gentle evening air, adults listened and children played around in the grass, happy to be out with their families.
The first speaker was a local filmmaker, Cam Miller, who has done film work with the Reds and the Bengals, and has highlighted several landmarks in his films. One day, he related, he needed a break from his work and went down to Smale Park to look at the Black Brigade monument, which he was considering as a subject for a future film. He noticed a man, about 70 and black, sitting and holding a sign that said, hungry. 
"He was wearing a green Dayton Devils shirt and I had just moved to Dayton," said Miller. "So I gave him two dollars."
Shortly after, a man and his son came by and the old man greeted the boy saying, "Good afternoon, young blood." The boy answered in kind, saying, "Good Afternoon, old blood." But the father scolded his son, telling him that people like the old man were no good. Later, the child spotted an ice cream stand, and tried asking his dad for money to get an ice cream. His dad was busy on the phone and didn't want to give the boy the money. The old man watched, then called the boy over and gave him the two dollars for ice cream, cautioning him to tell his dad it came "from the white guy over there".
Miller was impressed by the old man's gesture and praised him for it. The old man said, "You got to be kind, man, you got to be kind." Miller asked where he got the shirt, and the man said a lady gave him coffee and a bag of clothes and he chose the green shirt because he loves the color green.
Miller ended his speech urging people to remember that love conquers all, and gave two dollars to two children in the audience.
The second speaker was Elmer Perry, president of the Dayton Heritage Museum. Tina Neyer, Main Street Director, interviewed Perry who said he remembered living in Dayton when he was three, when his grandpa, George Walker Perry, used to read to him. He related how his grandpa built all the streets in Dayton, as well as Covert Run Pike. He said he loved Dayton, and he will go out of Dayton with his toes up.
Jeane Cole related her story about growing up in Indiana, and living the Hoosiers movie, although she had some different experiences than were shown in the 1980' film. She was young and the state championship made a great impact on her, along with the resulting celebrations in the tiny town. She told the audience that she would be going back to her city for her class reunion.
Johnny Walker has worked on the Masonic Lodge, and is renovating the Taylor mansion. He said he has been the recipient of many stories about the house, one of which he shared. It seems a boy named Buzz was hanging around with some bad boys, and they encouraged him to have a spit race where they spit on a mirror and the first drip to the bottom won. His mother chased the boys and told her son he should never spit on the mirror and mysteriously refused to tell the boy why. During the night he woke and wandered down to the mirror, only to hear a faint ghostly voice telling him never to spit on the mirror anymore. Frightened, he never did, and cleaned the mirror religiously all the time that he lived there.
Cathy Volter told the crowd about her chance encounter with former Reds great Gordy Coleman, and how their paths crossed not once, but twice, resulting in her daughter being given a baseball signed by the team.
The evening ended with a story from Mai Hernon about how she met her husband and eventually came to settle in Dayton, Kentucky. She told people they don't celebrate St Patrick's day in Ireland the way people celebrate here.
"We don't have kegs and eggs," she said, laughing. "We go to Mass, watch a parade, and later, about half ten, we might go to the pub."
Although the park closes at dusk, people were reluctant to leave, clustering to talk and meet the people who spoke as well as others who enjoyed the stories. Nyman promised there would be another night before the warm weather ended.
Story & photos by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Slideshow Images & Captions: 
Residents gather for Stories of Dayton