By Nathan Pilling
DAYTON — As Ned Gauder walks through the exhibits at the Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, he can quickly rattle off detailed facts on many of the displays.
While walking past a display about Huffy bicycles, he notes that the company was founded in Dayton and points to a protected bicycle.
“Very expensive, that’s why it’s totally cased up, so people can’t touch it,” he says. “People take things if it’s not nailed down.”
He’s been around this block a few times. All his knowledge comes from reading books on the area’s history, from absorbing knowledge during his four years serving as a volunteer at the park and from a lifetime of living in the Dayton area.
Gauder, a longtime Beavercreek resident, is a volunteer interpreter at the park. His duties vary, depending on the day, but mostly they see him leading groups throughout the park, explaining the historic exhibits and displays.
He’s a smallish man with neatly combed hair, thick black-rimmed glasses and a penchant for tapping his hand in rhythm as he speaks. It’s a steady beat fitting for a steady man, a fixture at the park in recent years.
After he began volunteering in 2012, the park became – well, Gauder says it best: “This is my home.”
As he sits at a table near the entrance of the park’s main building talking about his work, members of the park’s staff pass by periodically and it doesn’t take long to become clear that Gauder’s name and face are in a familiar spot.
“Hey, Ned,” one staffer says as she passes.
“Everybody knows who I am. That’s some good and some bad in that there,” Gauder says with a smile.
With the amount of time that he spends at the park each week, that idea isn’t surprising.
“I was out here 26 days last month,” he says. “My yardwork doesn’t get done, but it’ll be there.”
His connection with the historical park began in earnest a few years ago, when his wife passed away. When that happened, Gauder found himself faced with a choice, one that he decided on definitively.
“After my wife passed away I said, ‘I’m not staying home,’” he says. “So I’m out here.”
“I love history,” he says. It’s in his blood.
So why his fascination with history and passing that information on to others?
“History’s fascinating,” he says. “I just finished another book on Thomas Jefferson. …In there it says, ‘You have to look at the past to know where we’re going in the future.’ I like that. He’s right.”
And so he gives those tours, hoping to teach both young and old alike, something about their community in days gone by, whether that be about the Wright brothers – “I think I’ve read every book that was ever published on the Wrights,” he says – Charles Kettering; the NCR Corporation or Dayton’s oldest building in Newcom’s Tavern.
As he’s walking toward the park museum’s main exit, another park staff member recognizes him by name and a brief conversation later, Gauder is volunteering to help with another tour group. It’s his “day off,” but right now, that doesn’t matter. There’s work to do.
All in the name of history.