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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Lillian Cisler, Personal Recollections

Below are very special, and personal, recollections of two people who knew Lillian E. Cisler well. As a brief introduction (see also the “Thomas Cisler Family“ post on this blog), Lillian (1903-1993) was the third generation of Cislers to live at the Cisler Terrace home. Her grandfather Thomas Cisler (1838-1920) started the Cisler Brick company; her father Thomas H. Cisler (1869-1950) continued the brick company. Both were civic and religious leaders as well.

These include stories and facts that are amusing yet also poignant, testimony to the many aspects of this remarkable lady. I thank Mary Antons and Bob Kirkbride for taking time to write down their memories about Lillian.

Recollections of Mary Hoye Antons

Lillian liked children.  As mentioned to you, she took such an interest in my sister and I when we were growing up.  This interest carried on to our children as they grew up.  I have early memories of her nice Christmas gifts to us; milk chocolate little Dutch shoe candy and very nice books---both from Sudgens (Book Store). 
I still think I have a book she gave us titled,"Christmas Around the World".

We moved to our house in 1951.  This was in the summer and her father, Thomas, died during the blizzard in November of 1950.  She used to tell us how difficult it was for the funeral home to come up her driveway in the snow after he died.  She began wearing black after his death and continued to wear it for the rest of her life.  I did see her once in a cotton tan suit maybe for a Bach concert and I remember complementing her even as a very young girl that I was.

Human Chain
Our house was originally a part of the Goebel  family estate..  The Goebel home sat on a hill where the Arbors sits now.  There was a long gravel driveway that went from 7th Street, past our house and continued up the hill to the Goebel home.  Mr. Goebel built our house for two of his sisters who never married and I think that was in the late 1920's.  To the right of the driveway, past our house and where the shopping center stands today, there was a big field which once was a tennis court--probably clay because it was all grass when we moved there.  My family had permission to use the field for playing volleyball, having picnics and parties etc.  My father kept it mowed.  We had heard rumors(in the late 50's) that there was going to be a grocery store built down over the hill from "our" tennis court but we had no worries because we felt that it wouldn't interfere with the field.  I remember waking up one summer morning to the cries and shouts of Miss Cisler.  My sister and I looked out the window and saw her going up the gravel driveway in her black dress and high heels waving her arms and yelling.  My mother yelled to us and told us to follow Miss Cisler up our driveway.  She had already reached the court and was standing in front of a very large bull dozer waving her arms and motioning the driver to stop .  He stopped and she told him that he could not destroy the area because it was a play area for the children.  She came to my sister and I, our mother also and told us to hold on to her arms to form a human chain to prevent the bulldozer from destroying the court.  I don't remember what happened then but I do remember returning to our house in tears.  Gone was our playground!  I remember discussing the incident later with my family and we all determined that it certainly wasn't necessary for that area to be destroyed just to get a little extra dirt for the construction of the store.  We weren't aware that any sale or permission was obtained from the Goebels to obtain that property.  It was a sad day!

Sleigh Riding
Many people in Marietta remember her letting us, as children, sleigh ride on her property.  She woul also invite us in to her house to get warm and dry off in front of her fireplace in the little room which had been her father's study at one time.  She also served us hot chocolate.  She loved to talk about the history of Marietta and the map on the wall above the fireplace which depicted the very early settlement of Marietta.  I also remember that she had nice large lights on the edge of her driveway which lit up the sleighing trail at the top of the hill.  One year one of the lights burned out and she was upset about it because it wouldn't give us any light.  She eventually had someone fix it.

Bach Concerts
I always found the excitement surrounding her preparation of them, each July,(the anniversary of Bach's death) rather fun hearing her discuss it..  My family did not particularly like Bach as a composer, but I found his music very mysterious.  The words of some of the compositions were about death mostly.  We attended some years but for the most part, we could hear the music from the organ and brass choir at our house.  She served a special punch to the guests and for many years, Bertha Brown prepared it in our basement which had a door from it with easy access to her house.  It was a recipe which had been in her family for many years and included a special brand of pineapple juice, freshly squeezed lemons, lime sherbet, and maybe gingerale.  I loved it---it was very sweet and we always got pitchers of it which were left over after the event.

I remember she invited my sister and I to her house to meet her dog,"Princess" when we first moved into our house.  Princess was a black Cocker Spaniel given to her when the previous owners of our house moved away.  They were the Andrew Cline family and Mr. Cline had oil interests in Texas.  I guess Lillian really loved their dog so they gave her to her.  She also loved all of our dogs.  Annually she had a birthday party for Princess---I remember it was in the spring.  Days before the party she would lay out a white satin ribbon in the hallway on a little table which Princess wore the day of the party.  My sister and I, with our dog would attend.  Brownies bakery would make an angel food cake and we would have vanilla ice cream--the dogs would also.  Occasionally the dogs would get into a little argument underneath the dining room table!  Princess lived for at least 20 years---she had to be a very healthy dog--rarely got any exercise and was a bit overweight as the years passed by.  She had a special casket made for her when she died.  I am not certain where Princess was buried.

Funeral Committee
When she became a patient at the Arbors, she formed a committee for the purpose of planning her funeral.  My father relinquished that honor to me in his place.  I remember a few of the members--her minister, Mr. Fields, her attorney, Mrs. Green from Williamstown.  Unfortunately we only met a couple of times and the details of her plans were not carried out when she passed away. The minister of her church gave a wonderful eulogy depicting her life, history and personality at her funeral.

I feel very fortunate to have known her.  I feel even more fortunate in having a family who was so accepting of her and her eccentricities  and had compassion for her.  As I mentioned to you, my mother took her dinner every night for 13 years out of concern for her overall health and well being.

I may have told you that after my prompting and criticism, the Marietta Brewery removed a caricature painting they had on a wall when they first opened---and named a beer after her.  She was devoutly religious and was against drinking alcohol.  I was appalled when I saw it.  There was so much more to this lady who always dressed in black and begged for rides on 7th Street.

Recollections of Robert E. Kirkbride

It was my privilege to know Lillian Cisler.  I learned a lot from her.  She was a brilliant woman with vast knowledge, but she was particularly knowledgeable about Marietta's history, Bach's music, and astronomy.

My association with her began by my being her lawn boy for five years during the 1950's.  She was also a customer on my brother Jim's "Marietta Times" route.  After he graduated from Marietta High School, I added his route to my Washington Street route for two years until I graduated from high school.

I have countless interactions with Lillian that I could share.  I will set forth a few here and I will certainly be willing to answer your questions and/or have a rambling discussion with you as you move forward.

During the years that I mowed Lillian's grass she had a large black poodle named Princess and a tabby cat named Tiger.  I loved them both and paid a lot of attention to them.  In the early 1960's I was an officer in the United States Air Force baby sitting a nuclear bomb on the tip of an Atlas F Missile in an underground silo near Abilene, Texas.  The command post contacted my silo late one night on the hotline that connected all of the missile silos in the Western United States with a report that they had a telegram for me.  They asked if I wanted them to read it to me or if I preferred to wait and pick it up the next morning.  Since my father was in ill health, I responded that they should read it.  The telegram reported the death of Princess.  It went into great detail about how she had been embalmed by the Doudna McClure Funeral Home and was lying in state in a casket in the living room at Cisler Terrace for viewing by friends.  If there had not been a reference at the end of the telegram revealing that Princess was a dog, I could have escaped unscathed.  As it were, I suffered severe ribbing by my Air Force buddies for several weeks, all because of my friendship with Princess.

Lillian invited Frank Flanders of Flanders Brothers Insurance and husband of Lillian's cousin Fran Flanders to view Princess.  Frank demurred, stating diplomatically that he preferred to remember her as she was.

After Lillian's father died she carried on his long time tradition of celebrating Bach's birthday every year by hosting a Bach Music Festival at Cisler Terrace.  Many a local resident over the years participated and Lillian always played the pipe organ that was a feature of the living room.  This event became a significant event for me because Lillian expected her lawn boy to have the grounds in pristine condition.  One specific requirement was to dig every living plant from the spaces between the bricks in the brick sidewalk that encircled the house.  There was no "Roundup," of course, and Lillian wouldn't permit the use of rock salt.  Everything was dug out by hand with a little hook tool that she had.

When I returned from Houston to Marietta in 1974, I became concerned that Ohio Bell had cancelled Lillian's phone service because of unpaid bills and that left her with no means of contacting emergency services. Lillian did not manage her finances very well.  Regarding the phone service, Lillian ran up substantial charges by calling long distance and internationally.  Among other parties, she placed numerous international calls to Albert Schweitzer.

Lillian's cousin Walker Cisler, former Chairman of Detroit Edison, Hayward Strecker and  I agreed to cover her phone bills so she would have police and fire access if I could find a way to block long distance and international calls.  I pressed Dr. Lester Anderson, Chairman of the Marietta College Physics Department, into service.  We purchased a phone with an automatic dial feature on it and Dr. Anderson altered the internal wiring so that the only calls Lillian could make were the 10 numbers that I entered on the automatic dial feature. By the time I loaded the Police and Fire Departments and Lillian's close friends, there was no room for my own number.  That has been on my conscience ever since....