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A story a day: Local history book has a year’s worth of tales

Love Dayton history and looking for a good book?

The latest from local author Curt Dalton, “On This Date in Dayton’s History: Remembering the Gem City One Day at a Time,” will fill the bill.

Dalton, who has collected thousands of stories during the 25 years he has chronicled the city’s history, selected his favorites and sorted them by the calendar year into “mini bite-sized morsels.”

Each account had to meet two criteria to be included in the book, he said. The story had to occur within “Dayton proper,” and it had to be entertaining.

“If I had to pick between a story about famous people being born and a cigar-smoking dog, I’m going to go with the cigar-smoking dog,” said Dalton. “If I could make it fun, that was great.”

Turn to the page for March 22 and you can read about that puffing pooch — a bulldog named Colonel, who belonged to Harry Patterson, a clerk at Dayton’s Atlas Hotel.

Patterson and his dog, who was known for his clever tricks, were “discovered,” in 1906 by an agent and embarked on a 32-week vaudeville circuit across the country.

The book is full of captivating anecdotes and images spanning the city’s history.

On Jan. 24, 1930, two men, one armed with a machine gun, robbed the South Park Savings bank and got away with $16,000. On April 26, 1944, Orville Wright took his last airplane flight and on Oct. 1, 1925, Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight boxing champ, took to the ring for two exhibition bouts at Memorial Hall.

Dalton, who has written more than two dozen books and started the popular website Dayton History Books Online in 2004 and its subsequent Facebook page, said he has children in mind when he writes.

“I want kids to have a lifelong interest in history,” he said. “If you live in a city or country, and you don’t know some of its history, I don’t think you can appreciate what you’ve got as much.”

The stories Dalton picked, some familiar and many obscure, will appeal to readers of all ages.

On May 1, 1942, Dayton’s first drive-in theater, simply called “The Drive-In Theater,” opened on Valley Street. Patrons danced to music on a terrazzo floor in front of the screen before a color cartoon, a newsreel and finally the full-length feature movie were projected on the screen.

Two brothers, Louis and Temple Abernathy, rode into town on their horses May 10, 1910. The boys, who were only 6 and 10 years old, were travelling alone from Frederick, Okla., to New York City – a 2,500-mile journey. While in Dayton the boys were treated to a free lunch and tickets to a movie, and Wilbur Wright gave them a tour of his airplane factory.

And on Oct. 26, 1974, Elvis Presley would perform two concerts – one at 2:30 p.m. and the other at 8:30 p.m. – at the University of Dayton Arena. Fans heard “The King” play an acoustic guitar as he sang “That’s All Right, Mama” and “Blue Christmas.”

At the end of Dalton’s book, which he hopes “will both and entertain and enlighten,” is a speech given by John W. Van Cleve on Aug. 27, 1833, called “Settlement and Progress of Dayton.” The narrative is the first history of Dayton to appear in print.

Dalton’s book can be purchased on Amazon and in the gift shop at Carillon Historical Park.

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