Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lindley Vickers, Naturalist

Picture appears in Historic Memories of Mill Creek Park, by Carol Potter and Rick Shale, Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2005

Picture appears in Historic Memories of Mill Creek Park, by Carol Potter and Rick Shale, Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2005

Among my reading tastes are books of nature writing. Currently I am reading Ohio author Louis Bromfield’s Malabar Farm, which tells the story of his restoration of a wornout farm in the Mansfield area back in the 1940s. I love the writing of Wendell Berry, Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac and others. Perhaps the reason is, as I mentioned last week, that I grew up reading Lindley Vickers’ columns in the Vindicator.

I thought it would be interesting to write a bit about his life and see if I could find an example of his columns. I was successful at both. I discovered that he was the son of the first naturalist of Mill Creek Park, Ernest Vickers, who held the position from 1929 until 1947, when he stepped down and Lindley Vickers assumed this position. Lindley was born in Ellsworth February 1, 1900 and lived until September 17, 1981, when he died of a heart attack. He is buried in Ellsworth Cemetery.

He was known for leading nature walks through Mill Creek Park. Dottie Nespeca Cerimele wrote this about him in Mill Creek Park Memoirs:

“We would meet Mr. Vickers at the Goldfish Pond (now called the Lily Pond), and our guided walk through selected areas of the park began. Mr. Vickers stopped at each variety of flower to point out something unique about it. Upon hearing the chirp of a bird, he’d quickly raise his binoculars to his eyes, and describe its species, color, and nesting habits. Even before he had finished, a new sound or sight would distract him. “Shhh–listen–Oh look! There’s a black-capped chickadee in that tree.” Immediately, a new lesson began.”

I am almost certain that one of our elementary school field trips involved a very similar nature walk with him–this sounds very familiar!

A Nature Diary -- June 1, 1960Vickers wrote a column every, or nearly every day in the Vindicator. I was able to find examples in every issue of the Vindicator I looked at on Google. The column was called “A Nature Diary” and appeared on the editorial page of the Vindicator. Here is his column from June 1, 1960, describing another school field trip:

“The goldfish at the Lily Pond were at the height of their spawning activities May 27 when two busloads of Hubbard Junior High classes had their annual visit. Sometimes several groups of two or three of these German red carp would half jump out of the water simultaneously. Because the eggs are scattered over the water plants near the surface, the fish were forced to go where the swimming was most hazardous.

Once, one of the fish had the misfortune to land topside on a large water lily pad. The central portion of the leaf went down under the weight of the fish while the edges of the leaf stuck up all the higher. The frantic fish flopped vigorously for several seconds before releasing itself from the natural booby trap.

Rough-winged swallows were insect catching, turtles sun-bathed, and a few frogs sat in the shallow water as long as every hiker remained on the trail.”

Lindley Vickers never came across as an environmentalist or as stridently advocating for nature. He just helped children from the neighborhoods bordering on steel mills and manufacturing discover the wonders of a world not made by human beings and the jewel that was (and is) Mill Creek Park. He opened our eyes and ears to the things that were around us that we often didn’t notice. It seems fitting that the Vickers Nature Preserve, a 200 acre preserve in Ellsworth Township, was created to remember the father and son team of Ernest and Lindley Vickers.

Did you ever go on a nature walk with Lindley Vickers? Did you follow his “A Nature Diary”?

One thought on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Lindley Vickers, Naturalist

  1. Loved reading Mr. Vickers articles when I was older, but loved the nature walks. The whole family would go along. I learned my love of nature from my family, especially my mom…and she was his biggest fan, I think!

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