Creator of The Ohio Story
Frank Siedel was born in Strongsville, Ohio when it was still farm country. His grandfather came there from his native France and bought 80 acres of land in a place then called Vigil on the outskirts of Strongsville.
His childhood wasn’t unusual for a country boy except that his father owned a general store near their home. Frank used to join the neighborhood characters who gathered around the pot-bellied stove in the rear of the store here they swapped stories of the “old” days and spun yarns about hunting experiences and encounters with animals and episodes that made history in that part of the country.
In later years, Mr. Siedel attributed his home-spun story-telling style of writing to his experiences listening to the pot-bellied stove story tellers.
Perhaps the most life-directing event of Frank Siedel’s life was the death of his father when he was nine years old. Everything changed for him after that. His mother tried to carry on the store business but couldn’t do it. The family, Frank’s mother and older sister, moved to Cleveland, where the country-raised boy was as misfit as a ship on a desert.
His haircut, his clothes, and his manner of speech were all different from those of the young people around him now. He found himself an object of amusement and often derision.
His first reaction was to withdraw from the others and live within himself. He got a library card and spent, what should have been playtime, reading.
When he was in the eighth grade, he found a way to impress the other kids who had been his tormentors. The school put out a little mimeographed newspaper. It was written by a few eighth grade students and read by everybody in the school.
Frank Siedel quickly found out that the person who writes the articles appearing in the paper had a powerful weapon that could be used to influence events and affairs going on around him.
As a writer, he was a person to be reckoned with, not so much because he could write things detrimental to others, but because he could decide who got written about and who didn’t. Everyone, he discovered, likes to see his or her name in the paper.
With that early experience, it was only natural that he should try out for the high school paper. He did, and immediately got a writing job. By his senior year, he was editor of the paper.
Frank, after high school, entered Ohio State University where, naturally, he studied to become a journalist. He intended to find a career in a newspaper. But in his sophomore year, his editor sent him to interview a celebrity who was making an appearance on the university radio station, WOSU. As he went into the building, he met an upper classman from the journalism school who was coming out the door. Seeing Frank, the man said “I’ve just resigned as the campus radio news commentator. If you’d like the job, they’re looking for someone to do it.”
Radio was something he hadn’t tried so Mr. Siedel asked for the news commentator job and got it. He did campus news broadcasting (poorly he says) for a semester. Then he decided there must be something more challenging to do on the air.
He remembered a story he had read one time about a girl named Annie Oakley, a country girl from Ohio, who used to shoot quail through the head and sell them to the chef at a Cincinnati hotel. Nobody else could use a rifle well enough to shoot small birds through the head. The hotel chef wouldn’t buy the birds if they were shot anywhere else. Word about Annie reached the ears of the world’s champion rifle shooter, who was performing in Cincinnati. Some people who knew about the quail, bet the champion that they could find someone who could out-shoot him. They found Annie Oakley and she did out-shoot him. That encounter started a career that put her in show business and made her world famous.
Frank looked up the Annie Oakley story again and wrote a radio program about her on a program called “Around Ohio”. He began doing programs about Ohioans at the rate of one a week. The program was very popular and heard all over Ohio because the WOSU signal covered the state.
Well, that was the forerunner of what years later would be the “Ohio Story” a program that was broadcast over a network of Ohio radio and later television stations for nearly twenty years.
Frank Siedel’s books were offshoots of the radio series and the company he founded, Storycraft. Storycraft became famous throughout the country for their radio and television shows as well as the industrial and commercial films they produced from the company’s founding in 1947 to this day.
Note: Frank Siedel was in college in the depression years. He got some financial help from home; his mother was on the office staff of the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland and kept the job during the worst depression years. To make ends meet, Mr. Siedel waited on tables and fixed the furnace for a sorority house. He became a campus correspondent for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a cub reporter for the Columbus Dispatch.
Except for a stint where he worked as a meat cutter during his high school years, Frank Siedel says he never earned any money doing anything else but writing. Would he write if he weren’t paid for doing it? “No,” he says, “That’s for amateurs. I’m a professional. If I wrote without being paid for it, I’d never know if my writing was worthwhile.”
Frank Siedel is buried in Catawba Island Cemetery. He married first Alyce Louise van den Mooter (16 Jun 1911 – Jan 1977) and married second to Mardith Ray Jacobson [later Hany].
Cleveland Plain Dealer Obituary:
Frank Siedel, 74, of Pt. Clinton, beloved husband of Mardith, father of James, Jonathan, Jeri Audiano, grandfather of eight, brother of Leona Puthoff. Memorial service Friday 1 p.m. at St. John Lutheran Church, Adams and Second St., Pt. Clinton. Memorials may be sent to Catawba Island Emergency Services or Ida Rupp Public Library, Pt. Clinton, O.The Other Players:
Robert Waldrop – may be the one who was born 18 Jan 1903 Bessemer, Jefferson Co AL and died 1 Feb 1970 in Akron, Summit Co OH; m. 24 Oct 1942 Lillian Louise Cummings
Nelson Olmsted (1914-1982) – see Wikipedia entry -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Olmsted
William Donohue Ellis – was born 23 Sep 1918 in Concord, Middlesex Co., MA and died 6 Sep 2000 in Westlake, Cuyahoga Co OH. He was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord with his wife, Dorothy Ann Naiden Ellis (1918-2002). Known for his book The Cuyahoga and the Inland Seas series, Ellis makes reference to his work in radio in his publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston’s dust jacket description: “William Donahue Ellis, is the author of the best-selling novel The Bounty Lands and its sequel, a Pulitzer Prize nomination, Jonathan Blair: Bounty Lands Lawyer, as well as The Brooks Legend, a novel about frontier medicine in the Northwest Territory. He also writes non-fiction works and articles for the Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, True Magazine, and others. Mr. Ellis was assisted on this book by his colleagues at Editorial Services, a small company of script writers formed in 1952 which has been chronicling the Ohio country for radio, television, and films.”