Traveling Books



Back in the day, the Annie Oakley Festival was held in the side yard of the Garst Museum; where over 300,000 artifacts are on display (inside), including items from Annie’s life along with items from multimedia pioneer Lowell Thomas, who began his life’s journey in Greenville.

The Treaty of Greenville signed in 1795 paved the way for a huge Midwestern settlement, and The Garst Museum also exhibits traces of these events leading up to the treaty signing, going back to the Paleo-Indian period.

The area in and around Greenville also served as the home to one of the largest stockade forts ever built in the country, a 50-acre camp that was headquartered in the Greenville area.  Many items from this chapter, in Greenville’s life, are also on display inside the Museum.

To continue a bit further with our brief history of Greenville, let me shift our attention to Greenville’s Public Library, where we will travel back in time to the summer of 1946.  This is the year when the American Aggregates Corporation donated its first bookmobile to the city.

Made by the Bode-Finn Company in Cincinnati, it was a gray and red converted bus built on a Mack truck chassis. The bookmobile began its service in December 1947 with stops at 38 separate schools and regular stops in 34 communities.

There were 72,423 books loaned out to various communities from this four-wheeled wealth of traveling information in the first year of its operation. The highest circulation for this particular bookmobile reached 84,126 volumes in 1959.

The first bookmobile librarian was Miriam Edson, and the first driver was Edward Beichler. The old bookmobile was retired in early 1960 and its replacement took over in September, also driven by Edward Beichler – it carried 2000 volumes, and its route included 34 communities and 12 schools.

Of the four names referenced above, I am related to just one.  Eddie Beichler is my uncle.  And he was a very unique man, for his time, to say the least.

He was 35 years old when he got drafted to fight WW II.  And he loved seeing the world during the war.  He read non-stop.  He believed in reincarnation.  He was an outspoken Democrat.  Let me stop there for a moment; he was a Democrat, Hindu wanna-be living in Darke County in the 30s, 40s, 50s, etc.  Can you say lone reed?

But none of this is the main point.  I buried the lead.  Eddie (and btw, I loved this man like my own dad) was also an artist.  He drew and he carved, which were his two greatest loves, next to his wife, whom he adored and treated like a queen.

You probably ran into Eddie at the Annie Oakley Festival, if you attended the event anytime during the late 60s and into the late 70s.  Eddie always gave a carving of Annie Oakley to the winner of the Miss Annie Oakley contest.  His work had an unfinished look about it which may have been intentional – I think he was going for a more primitive look.  His art drawings, however, are anything but primitive. There are clear, crisp, and highly detailed. He sold a lot wood carvings in his life but he gave most of them away to family and close friends.

This post is a shout-out to my uncle, Eddie.  He loved Greenville, along with its deep history and lore.  He took coffee many a Saturday morn with two other Greenville names that many of you may be familiar with – Lowell Bowers (ex-East Grade School Principal and one-time owner of the ice-cream stand, close to WDRK) and Claire Morrison, 7th grade Art Teacher from the old Jr. High Bldg. – may they all rest in perpetuity?

Alan Clark