InterOverholt Memorandum

Written by Karen Rose Overholt Critchfield
November 10, 2003

Autumn Greetings!

The autumn leaves are falling in my neighborhood and will soon be needing raking, and I find it has been much too long since I put together a good InterOverholt Memo. I apologize for the delay! As usual, I meant to publish more articles on my web site by this time, but my projects always take longer than I ever imagine they will. This whole year, my days and nights have been filled with so many chores and special events and projects, that I have begun each day thinking about all the things that needed to be done, and ended each night with an inventory of how many never got accomplished.

Such is the way of life in these modern times, right? There is so much to do, and so little time in which to do it! One of my favorite tasks -- answering my e-mail -- has suffered this year, especially through the summer, and I humbly apologize to everyone who wrote to me and didn't get an immediate answer. I hope I have not offended anyone with the delays!

Falk School Loses Its Theater Arts Program

On the heels of producing another successful production for Falk's Middle School spring musical -- this year it was the junior version of Into the Woods -- and the day after he attended a nice retreat for the Falk teachers, Jim learned that the University of Pittsburgh had just dropped his Theater Arts Program.

Jim had a long history with Falk School. He began as a theater consultant, helping with their spring musicals for several years. Then he was approached by the Director and offered the opportunity to teach part-time while he went back to Point Park College to earn a post baccalaureate degree for Elementary Education to tack onto his B.A. in Theatre Arts. This arrangement came with a plan to add him as a full-time teacher when he graduated, and the Director would support Jim's efforts to build an impressive Theater Arts program at the school. For the past four years, Jim worked full-time at Falk, and was an integral part of Falk's Humanities Team.

Now, it happens that Falk Laboratory School is attached to Pitt's College of Education, and until recently operated pretty much as an independent entity. However, the University has been gradually extending its influence into many Falk matters (especially since Falk laid plans to build a new teaching facility), and over time changed the parameters of Jim's employment. On Monday, June 9th, Jim was perhaps Western Pennsylvania's only K-8th grade teacher teaching Theater Arts on a full-time basis. On Tuesday, June 10th, he was out of a job, and one of the thousands of Americans faced with the prospect of applying for Unemployment Compensation.

Personally, we see this as one more example of Arts education disappearing in our nation's schools. Anyway, Jim is now trying to reassess his future and find gainful employment. His acting career suffered while he was teaching full-time, so he now looks forward to being cast in more productions. Jim just finished a successful run as "Captain Corcoran" in the Pittsburgh Savoyards production of H.M.S. Pinafore. He is also keeping our fledgeling theater production company -- Actors Civic Theater -- viable by producing our Summer Theater Workshop and teaching adult acting classes.

Actors Civic Theater Does Godspell, Junior

We were very busy this summer putting together our Actors Civic Theater Summer Theater Workshop 2003. As the "office manager," I was involved with creating our brochure, then getting it printed and distributed, tasks which consumed my days and nights through much of the spring. And with the onset of summer, there was paperwork, phone work and bookkeeping, and then four weeks of the workshop, culminating with my painting the back wall of the St. Peter's stage. Need I add that putting on a show is very time-consuming work for everyone involved? Considering it took several small miracles and a few large ones to accomplish this year's Workshop, we felt particularly blessed with the results.

Our son Matthew had a nice role in Godspell, Junior as "John Baptist," the same role Jim played years ago in Godspell for Gargaro Productions. In fact, Matthew wore the same jacket that Jim wore for the role. Every summer since 1997, Matthew has been in a show directed by his Dad. Additionally, at Falk School, Jim directed him in The Music Man, Jr. (as "Winthrop"), and Into the Woods, Jr. (as "Cinderella's Prince"), and he has become quite a performer!. Now standing 5 feet 8 1/4 inches tall, he has to bend over to give me a hug! And his singing voice has rounded out very nicely, which was a delightful surprise to me, considering I could never get him to sing much, when he was younger. When Matthew sang All Good Gifts in our production of Godspell, Junior, I cried!

Everyone is invited to visit our GeoCities web site to see the photo albums of ACT's production of Godspell, Junior. The URL is below.

Becoming a Playwright

One of the things that kept me so busy was my play, A Tale of Stone Soup. Last fall, I began to craft a one-act play, commissioned by our church's St. Peter's Players, a youth theater group. The good news is I actually accomplished the task, writing an original play utilizing the concept of the popular children's story, Stone Soup, and then getting to see two casts perform it on March 1, 2003.

The whole thing began with my asking Director Susan Karas if she needed an original play for her tenth season. I suggested an adaptation of the children's classic, Stone Soup, because it would work well for a Christian-based theater group. Of course, I planned to create an adaptation that would support all kinds of values lessons. Susan liked the idea, and so, I was sort of officially commissioned to write a play for St. Peter's Players.

I always begin my writing projects hoping to create something truly original, even if I am adapting a well-known piece of literature. Among other things, I created a two-part adaptation of The Song of Songs for one of my projects at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Also, I included a few parables in my Master's thesis as examples of how to utilize the techniques of Oral Interpretation for Scripture. With this play, I wanted to tell a story that included the basic elements of Stone Soup, without owing too much to the many different versions of the story. When the work was done (to my surprise), I realized the play paid homage to Abraham Overholt, for the main character was an old weaver!

Crafting the play was only part of the work I tackled, for I designed and edited a recipe book (St. Peter's Players Presents Our Favorite Soup Recipes) to sell as a fund raiser. Also, I designed the set and the backdrop flats, and supervised the youngsters on the afternoon they painted everything. Then later, I fashioned a "wall," a "cottage," and a "tree" for the play, and even dressed the stage with silk flowers. The whole process was an amazing and thoroughly exhausting experience!

And so, I can now claim to be a bona fide playwright. Back in high school (1964-1967), I often dreamed of becoming a playwright someday. I did not believe it would take so long to achieve this goal, but A Tale of Stone Soup was well worth all the effort. And at the end of the second performance, I retreated into a corner to weep, truly amazed that we had all managed to pull it off! Best of all, at the banquet at the end of their tenth season, a large percentage of the youngsters listed the roles they portrayed in my play as their favorite role.

This summer, I prepared A Tale of Stone Soup for submission to the publisher of New Plays for Children (aka New Plays for Kids). I mailed it out in early June, but I am still waiting for some type of correspondence from the publisher. Everyone is invited to view some photos taken from the video Jim made of the two performances. (Look for my upcoming new feature, Karen as Author, for the photo album and more examples of my writing.) If the play is accepted for publication, I will be happy to announce it to everyone on my GeoCities web site.

New Web Pages Now Online

I am happy to announce a new feature on my GeoCities web site highlighting West Overton! Everyone is urged to read Reflections on West Overton, and peruse several pages of news stories featuring West Overton. The URLs are listed on the index page of Karen's Branches.2.

You will see that with Reflections, I have really stepped out on a limb, but I hope my thoughts will be received in the same spirit that brought them forth from the bottom of my heart. And, as always, I look forward to your feedback!

A New Look For Some Old Pages

I am happy to report a face-lift was given to my feature, OLD OVERHOLT: The History of a Whiskey. My original plan for those pages was to add photographs, but back then, I was still very new to the HTML game and did not know how to accomplish the task. I expect these pages will continue to change, as I learn more about web page building. In the meantime, everyone is invited to check out the latest rendition.

First Contact! With Linda & John Lipman

This summer, I received an extremely interesting e-mail from Linda and John Lipman, who are "enthusiasts of American whiskey." John wrote, "What started in 1996 as a side trip to visit a bourbon distillery in Kentucky, and a collection of five or six bourbon bottles in varying (and ever diminishing) states of depletion, has become a mini-museum and research center of nearly three hundred samples occupying 2/3 of the entire lower floor of our home, and a somewhat popular web site displaying a taste of what American whiskey is all about."

John described his web site and the articles published there about the history of different American whiskeys and the people who made them, including Old Overholt and Abraham. When they began to search for information on the Internet, they discovered my sites, "since Google treats everyone alike and knows no time limits, your old site, your new site, and all the places that reference your site, all keep showing up. To which, all we can say is THANK YOU!!!"

After showering me with praises for all the work I have done (and didn't I glow for days thereafter?), he let me know how helpful my information was as he wrote his own article about Overholt Whiskey and the Broad Ford Distillery. So, I just had to check out the site (see URL below), especially after viewing the neat photo he included of some bottles of Overholt Whiskey they had on hand.

I found some great articles at their web site, and I believe everyone should check out what John wrote about Overholt Whiskey. He has included some very telling photographs of what is left of the Broad Ford Distillery, photos I have long wished to be able to get of the area. The sad vistas show how completely a once proud family business has been allowed to crumble to dust. It is enough to make every person with an Overholt ancestor feel quite forlorn!

I wish I could reclaim that property and rebuild it! If anyone can find out who owns the site now, please let me know! I have attempted to find out via the Internet and phone calls to the area, but I have not learned anything. In the meantime, enjoy Linda and John's work. If I get his permission, I will publish an article about their web site, and include photos! Check back occasionally to see if I have published Lipman Found Bottles.

Update for Lion Found Bottle In a Portrait Web Page

On the last day of July 2003, I received a reminder that I had not made note of Bob Parker's new e-mail address, for which I humbly apologize!

Bob wrote, "I still have the portrait, and still don't know its value, although I have had an offer." But before he could respond, his computer crashed again, and he lost the person's e-mail. Therefore, if anyone can help Bob assess a value for that fine portrait, please contact him asap! Also, he is still interested in any offers to buy the portrait, so please keep him in mind! (If I had the financial resources, I would be quick to make an offer, myself!)

Bob Parker<>

Two Updates for Balach Found Bottle

On January 10, 2003, Richard J. Mason wrote, "Some years ago, I found hidden in the drop down basement playroom ceiling of my home, the same type of wooden box that Balach found, and the box contained a bottle of exactly the same select stock of rare Old Overholt Pennsylvania Straight Rye Whiskey; 6 1/2 years old, etc. My bottle remains full with the Federal seal intact. The label is identical, except for a much lower bottle number and 122 Proof, instead of 123. I'm sure that my bottle was placed in the drop down ceiling by the original homeowner, who was the co-owner of a large, wholesale liquor, beer and wine distributorship. I just spotted your website today, so I thought that you would enjoy hearing about another rare Overholt find."

Melissa Ruth wrote to me on September 4, 2003, wanting me to know that "there is a restaurant in DC called Martin's Tavern that has a bottle of Old Overholt whisky hanging in a box on the wall, along with a letter from the woman who gave it to them, who was a Mellon. I think that one of the Mellons had kept old casks of whisky and at one point bottled them. I'll get the details and try to take a photo for you. My mother and I use the whisky to flavor our mincemeat pies and tarts during the holidays."

And so, we have two more accounts to add to the Balach Found Bottle saga. Perhaps a few more of these rare bottles will be revealed to us. If Richard and/or Melissa send me photos, I will publish them on my web site.

Additionally, Melissa Ruth wanted to thank me for my web site, because, as she wrote, "I am a descendant of various Overholts on both sides of my family -- my parents both grew up in Scottdale." Then she amazed me with the news that (like myself and two of my brothers) she also has an extra rib, as do her father and aunt! This just may turn out to be an Overholt Family trait! Melissa mentioned that she, too, has lived a life as a traveler and always disliked being asked where she was from, until lately, for "I've felt more and more as if I'm from Scottdale/South Western Pennsylvania, since all of my family is from there, helped settle the area, etc."

Thank you both for writing! And if anybody else on our family tree has cervical rib syndrome or any other type of extra rib, please make yourself known! This is so very interesting!

Future Plans for Karen's Branches.2

I have several web pages in various stages of preparation, as usual, and I surely hope to get some of them published before long. I have planned additional pages devoted to the Overholt Family, but have also decided to publish some of my own creative writing, since I may never find another way to get published. The only problem is getting the time to sit at the computer and get all the typing done.

As we are fast approaching all the best holidays of the year, may I extend my sincerest wishes that everybody everywhere will give thanks on Thanksgiving Day for all blessings great and small, and will find happiness and grace on Christmas Day, and will step up bravely to the challenges of a brand new year. And I hope we will all find ourselves amongst good friends and close family for our various stuffed turkey and/or baked ham and/or peanut butter sandwich dinners!

END OF PAGE -- Go back to Karen's Branches.