Rip Van Winkle Returns

Washington Irving’s (1783-1859) famous short story called Rip Van Winkle – The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was written in 1820. The story describes a small Dutch village on the banks of the Hudson River before the Revolutionary War. Living in this village is Rip Van Winkle who decides one day to go squirrel hunting in the hills above his village with his dog, Wolf. Rip falls asleep. When he awakes his faithful dog is gone, his clothes are in rags, and his gun is rusty. Unable to find his dog, Rip starts for home only to find….
“…the very village was altered; it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors – strange faces in the windows – everything was strange.”

Rip discovers he has slept for 20 years and during that period his wife has died, his children have grown and married and there has been a war with England. King George is no longer the ruler of the Hudson Valley. He has been replaced by a president named George Washington.
What if we were to return to Poland, Ohio in 2004 after being gone for 20 years? We would, like Rip Van Winkle, find our village changed. Gone is Pyramid Motors on Route 224 and in its place is a post office. Gone also is the red, white and blue Standard Oil Gas Station on the corner of Main Street. Across the intersection is a tall clock tower guarding a vacant lot. And what has happened to the Johnston’s Hardware Store? Where is the friendly face of Norm Wittenauer and his pharmacy? The Isaly’s Dairy Store has also disappeared and where the Poland Library once stood is a giant glass building with three towers. Even the Main Street Bridge looks different and further south the Withers Plaza has been replaced with condominiums. Traveling down Riverside Drive we would find that the cemetery has more tombstones and the old caretaker’s house has been replaced by a landscaped entrance. As we stand on the new concrete bridge over Yellow Creek and look across at Poland Village we would probably feel like Rip Van Winkle after awaking from his sleep and finding many of his familiar haunts had disappeared.

Editor’s Note #1: If you wish to read Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow and learn why Rip Van Winkle slept for 20 years in the hills overlooking the Hudson River, you will find the answer by logging onto

Editor’s Note #2: I am happy to report that Norm Wittenauer is alive and well and enjoying his winters in Florida and his summers on Yellow Creek Drive.

Editor’s Note #3: When Don Withers died recently, several folders were given to me by Elaynne Morgan, his executor. One contained photographs of the old Withers Plaza taken about 1966. In another folder was a 1963 picture of a house by Yellow Creek owned by Mr. Ernest M. Withers which was being burned by the Poland Fire Department to make space for the previous library. In another folder was a 1942 photo of the Clark Nesbitt Tin Shop located on South Main Street opposite Riverside Drive and taken prior to the construction of the Withers Plaza. Tucked inside these folders were a few 1963 copies of the Poland Chronicles. There was also a July 5, 1967 copy of the Poland Post showing former Police Officers Al Hewis and William Wakefield standing beside their new cruiser. Two doors of the cruiser had decals designed by Gwendolyn Wegele Shipsky. The headlines of the Poland Post announced that incumbent Albin (Bud) Dearing was seeking reelection to the Poland School Board after serving as its president for two years.