Finger Lakes Times Article Sunday, August 2, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Using history to create a sense of purpose
MARK HARE • JULY 30, 2009
The historian's task is to tie the past to the present and the present to the future. History as an ongoing story, as a product of human decisions and actions, is far more interesting.
Former city historian Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck has started a business she hopes will make history come alive and open eyes, especially young eyes, to the possibilities that await.
In 2007, Naparsteck founded Herons Bend Productions for the purpose of researching, writing and publishing history, with a focus on including the voices of ordinary people and those who live and have lived in small towns, villages and rural America.
As city historian, Naparsteck wrote many books, several of which are now available through Herons Bend Procuctions.com web site. Her newest venture is the re-release of illustrator Peter Spier's 1970 children's book, The Erie Canal. Spier's book uses watercolors to depict life along the canal in the early 19th century, with bustling canal towns, low bridges, barges hauling all kinds of material and mules pulling the barges from towpaths. Each page is captioned with a line from the popular ditty, "Low Bridge, Everybody Down." ("I've got an old mule and her name is Sal ... ")
The canal is a fitting stage for telling the history of our state. Outside of New York City, Naparsteck says, 80 percent of the population lives within 20 miles of the canal, which means that as a classroom, it's accessible to a large portion of the state.
Naparsteck has donated copies of the book to Corn Hill Navigation, which will distribute them to schoolchildren who ride the Mary Jemison boat along the river and canal. She is working to get more copies into local schools, as well.
And she is developing a tax-exempt nonprofit spinoff of Herons Bend — an entity that can leverage grant money that Naparsteck can use to develop curriculum and teacher workshops.
Naparsteck is also working on an oral history project to preserve the stories and voices of African-Americans in the Rochester area, and on a young people's history of the Genesee Valley region. "I'll develop an online curriculum for teachers," she says, "so the book itself will be very readable" for children.
In conjunction with the re-release of the Spier's book, Naparsteck is working with historians and librarians in towns all along the canal, where she hopes to be able to make presentations to supplement the text. At some point, she says, she'd like to record the histories of third and fourth generation canal workers who could tell the story of the canal's present as well as its past.
"I don't want fourth-graders to think of the canal in 1825," she says. After the canal's heyday, she says, many of the towns that sprung up along its path reoriented themselves to Route 31, literally "turning their backs on the canal."
History should remind children and adults that each of us can be a part of it, that change is a function of the choices we make. "I hope they see themselves on a continuum," Naparsteck says. "What they do will have an effect. A lot of kids don't feel they have a purpose."
History, she says, can give each of us a sense of purpose
Popular Erie Canal children’s book republished
By Richard Palmer, NY Canal Times
Out of print for many years, Peter Spier’s classic children’s book The Erie Canal, has been republished by Herons Bend Productions of Rochester.
The Erie Canal was noted for its low bridges as shown on the cover of the book.
Generations of children first learned about the canal through this popular 44-page book. It brings to life the people living and traveling along the Erie Canal with its bright and colorful illustrations. It draws the reader into the illustrations set to the words of the familiar folk song, Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal or Low Bridge, Everybody Down. This book, since it was first published in 1970, has been shared and enjoyed by young and old alike. It has also reached an untold number of preschoolers, elementary school students learning about the history of America and grandchildren singing the familiar folk song. Teachers use this book as a learning tool in the classroom, in teacher workshops. Peter Spier came to New York from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 1952. Since that time he has established himself as one of America’s most gifted book authors and illustrators. Among the many prestigious awards he has won are the Caldecott Medal, the Caldecott Honor Award, Christopher Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and the American Book Award.
Spier's books have been translated into 26 languages. He and his family reside in Shoreham.
Herons Bend Productions is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2007 by historian Ruth Rosenberg-Naparsteck. Her firm has published several books, including “The Rochester Protectives: One Hundred Fifty Years of History,” and “The Grand Erie Canal.”
The 9-by-12-inch book sells for $11.95. For further information, call 585-750-0421 or go to www.heronsbendproductions.com.
Chamber Grateful for Help with Erie Riders
Wednesday, July 29 2009
To the Editor: I wanted to take the time to thank everyone who helped out last Tuesday when over 500 bikers rode through Lyons. I would like to personally thank Sean Dobbins for the donation of water, Patty Alena for opening Peppermint Building and giving tours, we had over 50-70 visitors. Also I would like to thank Jack McCranels who was everywhere around Lyons helping bikers with directions and places to go,Stephanie Knarr for making up restaurant handouts and passing out water all day long. Kyra Yon for the Goal Chaser’s who handed restaurant guides on the corner of Water and William street.I would also like to thank John Groves who came from Seneca Falls to help out passing out water and information in front of Dobbins Drugs. John has been working on Erie Canal restoration now for 20 years. I would also like to thankRuth Rosenberg Naparsteck who was the Historian for the City of Rochester for 25 years and now has republished Peter Spier children’s illustrated book The Erie Canal. Ruth was at the corner Hotchkiss building handing out water and showcasing this wonderful children’s book. Proceeds from the sale of this book will help fund the Hotchkiss building and Mural Mania. We had bikers from Maine to China, Yes, we had a visitor from China who gave Patty Alena peppermint from China. The bikers all said we had the best hospitality of their trip to date. One of the riders was Duncan Hay from the National Park Service, who took photos of the G.Winston Dobbins Park and newly completed Peppermint mural. The bikers were very impressed with our village and murals. —Mark DeCracker Lyons