Meet the Editor

Donna B. Ryan and husband Lee A. Ryan

AHS Newsletter Editor Donna B. Ryan and husband Lee A. Ryan

Words and the expression of ideas has been a vital part of my life, to the dismay of some people, probably! I talked practically before I walked, according to my mother, and I guess I have never stopped! I enjoy people, and “picking their brains” is a favorite hobby of mine.

Several years ago, while working with my husband, Lee, in our insurance business, I took a short course in life insurance selling. We learned how to probe . . . to ask questions so that people would talk. But close ended questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no don’t provide much information . .. instead we were taught to ask open-ended questions such as “How do you feel about . . . .” or “Tell me more about . .. ” That usually ended up in a more interesting exchange of ideas. That has really helped me in listening to people tell about their past and their memories.

I also took a Dale Carnegie course thirty-plus years ago, and one of his rules was: “Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.” People want to talk about themselves . . . especially when you use their name, which is “music to their ears,” he said. So . . . I found that if I wanted to talk to people, I needed to get them talking about what they wanted to talk about!

I was born in Hornell sixty years ago, and we moved to the PA Hill Road in 1948 in a house that my father had moved from the Almond Dam construction site. I graduated from Alfred Almond Central School in 1958, where I was very active in the music department. Much to my parent’s dismay, I was in love with AA’s basketball star, #37, (LAR) and did not want to take advantage of their generous willingness to send me to Fredonia to study music. They did agree to our being married at Christmas time, 1958, if I would attend Alfred Tech to get some education. I was there only one year, however, before our family began to arrive.

So. . . I have had little formal education after high school. My mother, a teacher from the “old school”, insisted that we write and spell and speak correctly, and that has held me in good stead. When our children were small in the early 60’s, I started writing the “gossip column” for the Alfred Sun, calling my “informants”, Eloise Baker, Gladys Witter, Agnes Fritz, Florence Braack, Lizzie Greene, Dorothy Cotton, Nellie Bordeaux, and others who would give me newsy items each Monday morning. Then I began to discover the fun of doing some human interest feature items, and experienced the satisfaction of writing for appreciative readers, plus seeing my own byline. To be paid by the newspapers, I had to find all my writings each week, cut them all out and tape them in long strips. Then I folded it all up, sent it in to the paper, and they would pay me ten cents per columnar inch! A full page feature in the weekend paper would not even pay five dollars at the time, so I began to send the same copy to several area newspapers, including Wellsville, Rochester, Buffalo, Olean, and Hornell.

A scrapbook of these articles, kept by my mother-in-law, became a great source of information nearly forty years later when I began writing the Almond Historical Society newsletter. It is a treasure of information about the Horse trader’s Convention, razing of Witter’s Feed Store, the Coleman/Gillette/Palmer airplane project, Almond’s underground railroad station, the old schools, the fire company, and our forgotten cemeteries. Countless stories about the activities of area residents, now gone, included Dorothy Crusen, Elizabeth Greene, Ray Wingate, Rose Washburn, Marge O. Mason, Florence Lincoln, Winnie Mensinger, George Straight, Ray Hanks, Emmett Palmer, John Reynolds and Dick Braack, to name a few.

But then the press of family and our insurance business forced me to give up writing until a few years ago, when the AHS newsletter editor, Marilyn Lockwood, died quite suddenly. Since I had become the AHS secretary a little while earlier, they asked me if I would consider writing the newsletter. While it was a tough job to fill, Lee and I have had a great time with this assignment! He is my cheerleader, photographer, proofreader, sounding board, and patient partner. Jeff, our son, spends many hours on each issue, taking my copy and making it look “great” on his computer.

Then, of course, there are the folks who talk to me and tell me wonderful stories, as well as the readers who encourage me with their comments. It is kind of scary to write the newsletter and know that it is ending up in the hands of writers and teachers, but I depend upon folks to offer constructive criticism in order that it will become a top-notch publication! I always love to hear from readers, and receive their ideas for future articles.

Writing these stories the past few years has given us a renewed appreciation for and pride in this wonderful community. Lee and I are very glad we stayed here and raised our three children (they are glad, too!) It has been a great place to live, and we are very thankful to be spending our “golden years” here!