The School Poisoning Tragedy in Caledonia, Ohio 

 

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

On episode 44 of Veteran Voices: The Oral History Podcast, we talk with James Van Keuren about his book, The School Poisoning Tragedy in Caledonia, Ohio, and the tragic but little known story of what a small community in Ohio went through in the years and decades after WWII.

We’ve always understood the veteran experience in broadest terms that include the full range of issues veterans, their families, and our communities go through before, during, and after military service. Some of these issues are well known, such as post traumatic disorders or military-related illnesses known as Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, or the most recent toxic burn pit exposures. Also fitting into these experiences are the social, political, and economic consequences communities endure as a result of exposures to dangerous military-industrial activities abroad and at home.

Dr. James Van Keuren’s book tells the tragic but little known story of what a small community in Ohio went through in the years and decades after WWII: “In the early 1960s, the River Valley Local School District built its middle school, its high school and its athletic fields in the former Marion Engineer Depot. During World War II, the depot had used the land for heavy equipment rehab, military artillery practice, materials storage, burial of construction debris and burning of waste materials and fuels.

“In 1997, a River Valley High School nurse grew concerned about the high rate of leukemia and other cancers in graduates. Then a stunning news report announcing a 122 percent increase in death rates over thirty years in the Marion area sparked an investigation.

“Was the land to blame? The question of what may have been known about the contaminates on the school grounds sent shock waves through the community that still linger today.”

Meanwhile, be sure to check out another conversation with Dr. Van Keuren discussing WWII POW camps in Ohio on episode 43 of Veteran Voices: The Oral History Podcast.

Dr. James Van Keuren is a retired professor of educational administration and dean of the Dwight Schar College of Education at Ashland University, as well as a former high school teacher, principal and superintendent. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles, and his most recent book, A Tribute to the 109th Evacuation Hospital (SM), traces his father-in-law’s service during World War II. Van Keuren has been married to his wife, Pat, for forty-nine years, and they have two daughters, Michelle (Drew) Scott and Christie (Dale) Murdoch, in addition to grandchildren Hailey Scott, Weston Murdoch and Cooper Murdoch.

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ABOUT THE PODCAST

The Veteran Voices: The Oral History Podcast features conversations with those who tell veterans’ stories in creative and interesting ways, such as oral historians, authors, poets, playwrights, and photographers. This podcast is a production of The Social Voice Project, Inc., dedicated to understanding the voices and stories of our lives through the first-hand, authentic accounts of lived experiences we call oral histories. The podcast was formerly produced by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative, a veteran-run, award-winning 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Host Kevin Farkas is a US Navy veteran and independent multimedia producer specializing in creative sound design and audio engineering.  He has produced several audiobooks, radio dramas, live storytelling events, a podcast network, videos, as well as print and digital media publications.


This podcast episode was recorded May 24, 2021 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Host: Kevin Farkas.  Guest: James Van Keuren. Audiography: Kevin Farkas/The Social Voice Project. Music (available on SoundCloud.com): AshamaluevMusic (“My Dream,” “Sad Piano Ambient”). Addition audio (available on YouTube.com): The Columbus Dispatch (“One survivor of the River Valley Schools cancer cluster talks about how it changed her life”), Background Music For Videos (“ Freedom”).© ℗ Veteran Voices: The Oral History Podcast/The Social Voice Project.  All rights reserved.


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