Allen Altvater

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My Resume'

Allen C. Altvater

MY RESUME'   by Allen Altvater (Sr.)

     It is astonishing how many people who have not taken up the study of genealogy as a hobby, cannot furnish any information about their families.  Until I started to work on the publication of a study on the lives of officials of Sebring, I would have been among those who could hardly care less about family, their early lives or their relatives.  Even today, I cannot tell you exactly where my mother and father were born, whether in a town, in the country, at home or in a hospital.  I do understand that mother was born in Ohio (I believe in Darke County) and Dad was born in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.

     I was content to know that he was a great man - - an important man.  In his daily occupation, he was a master mechanic and supervised the daily operations of several hundred men for the Pennsylvania Railroad.  Although I was only a “yard young’un” at the time, I now recall that people came to our home to consult with him on civic matters, such as street paving, sewer extensions, etc.  Later I was old enough to appreciate the honor when he was chosen as a member of a panel of five experts to form a “Smoke Abatement Commission” for the City of Indianapolis.

     Mother was also a personality to be admired and nominated for fame.  As a gifted public speaker, she adopted the Women’s Temperance Union as a hobby and was recognized by being chosen as president of that organization for Indianapolis and the secretary of the Indiana W.C.T. Union.

     Then there was this cousin who literally “grew up” in our little family, but who later became a nationally recognized doctor and an authority on diabetes.  His death was front-page news (with photographs) on metropolitan papers.  Dr. Warvel made medical history.

     And I have always been proud of my nephew, Dr. Clarence Campbell, who has been the best of his chosen profession for the past four decades.

     Not that I had any influence on their successes in life, or their wonderful personalities… But what man would not swell with pride for being born into a family like that.  And who at the memorial service for his father would not be almost compelled to shout out; “That’s my father he’s talking about,” when the speaker announced that the father’s neighbors had requested that he repeat that famous poem about Ben Adam, with the concluding punch line, “One who loves his fellowman.”

     Reflecting on these glorious lives and the loving and lovable natures of these and all the other kinfolk’s I have known, brings me to realize how blessed I have been.  How much more I would now be enjoying my memories of them had I learned to know them better and know more of the details of their lives while they were with us… But the time has passed when I could easily get the answers to the dozens of questions that I would now like to ask.

     In an effort to partially atone for my negligence and inability to provide more of the immediate family background, I have jotted down some of the items that would serve as a resume of my working life.  You may remark that there is an overwhelming amount of pleasant items and but a few unpleasant experiences - and I would reply that that has been the story of my life - - a million wonderful memories and I don’t have to spend much effort in forgetting the unpleasant ones.  I have never been arrested, and in a lifetime of driving, I can remember having received only one traffic ticket for which I had to pay the court - I backed into a car while backing out of a parking space. In two other instances, I paid for minor damages for which I was not cited, rather than to argue about them.

     And I was twice fired from my job (not counting the medical discharge from the Navy). In both instances, the jobs were political appointments and the reasons for the releases were political. (At least I’d like to continue to believe so.)

     Probably no one man in Highlands County has received as many honors in his life as I have.  It is true that many have earned recognition but have not lived to receive them.  On the other hand, it has been my privilege to survive more than even the highest number of years allowed by the 90th Psalm, so I must act as surrogate for those with whom I was associated earlier in life.

     It is too late to give them the thrill of knowing that their contributions to the community benefits were appreciated, but it is never too late to make public their accomplishments.  Never should be forgotten the names of “Daddy” Douglas, “Ebb” Gallagher, “Skeets” Naylor, Payne Sebring, “Alec” Blair, Ford Heacock, Neil Durrance and dozens of others who departed this life relatively early or before the public had opportunity to thank them in a manner that they would have appreciated.

     My first thrill of this nature came when I was elected to the City Council in 1924.  You can imagine how a child of only 26 years would feel with such an honor and the following year to be offered the position as Chief of the Fire Department and organizer of the first Street Department.  Any normal American boy would have been on “cloud nine” just to ride on the fire truck!

   It was no insignificant honor to be selected as the City Manager in 1933 (although the title was “Superintendent of Public Works”).  Like most public jobs, this one had political overtones and when it ended after what I thought was a highly successful year, a large group of substantial citizens and friends offered a public demonstration in the form of an elaborate dinner dedicated to “Our Fire Chief”.

     Before I had recovered from the confusion of the loss of my job, I was offered a better one with the John A. Roebling interests and the superintendency of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp.  I considered both of these offers a definite compliment because they had been made by people who had seen my work.

   Before I was well settled into the construction work of the CCC, two of the members of the City Administration that had voted to abolish the position of Superintendent of Public Works (and the subsequent loss to me of my place) came to me and asked under what conditions I would consider coming back to manage the city public works.  What a wonderful morale booster!  Even though, I just couldn’t accept.  I had been under the impression that I had failed in the City job and, in so doing, had let down my friends who had put me there.

     Upon returning from my tour of duty at the end of the war, the Firemen arranged a dinner in my honor.  I later realized that they were hungry for some stories of firsthand experiences and I was an early returnee.  But it was a good dinner and we all enjoyed it.  And in the days that followed, I had offers of three positions.  Two of these were by friends who (I’m certain) wanted to be sure that I had a job, and the other was by a Congressman.  Had I accepted this, I would have had to go to Washington and, after having been away from Sebring for two years I wasn’t about to leave again voluntarily.  But I was truly flattered by all three offers.

     Again, when I was relieved of a city job (fired) in 1959, (through the political process), a large group of responsible friends arranged a surprise dinner and assured me of their faith’ in me.  A few years later (in June 1966) they set up an entire day of events advertised as “Allen Altvater Day”, climaxed with fireworks in the evening.  Twenty years later, I am still wearing a watch that was presented that day and has been on my wrist every day since then.  It has truly been as faithful as my friends.

     But it didn’t end there.  In May 1983, many of my friends were invited by the State to share an afternoon at Highlands Hammock when a plaque bearing my name and record of park work was hung in a public park building.

     The latest event has given me a greater determination to try to merit the love of my many friends.  It was in the form of a surprise party on my 89th birthday when members of the City Administration and the Historical Society took time out of their busy Holiday schedules to visit and many others called on the phone to extend their good wishes.

     It has been my good fortune to be invited to act as Parade Marshall on four occasions… to have chaired the first City Library Board… and the Planning Board… the Chamber of Commerce… the Sebring Firemen and to have been named by them as a Most Valuable Man and chairman of their Fair Association.

     The recitation of all these honors, more than likely, will appear as the expression of a braggart.  Perhaps it is, but that is not the intention.  I regard the documentation as a method of saying that I will always remember the kind acts that were intended to convey the high mutual regard between friends.  Events of this nature are not something that occur and are forgotten.  I may be wrong, but I regard the pride that I feel in every one of these events as being entirely justifiable.  Not from the viewpoint of what I may have or have not done, but that in every instance I was a part of a group that accomplished notable progress.  As a member of a “blue-chip” team, I had a minor part in the development of the Hammock;  The City Administration was responsible for saving Hendricks Field for future use and they allowed me to be part of the effort;  A dedicated bunch of volunteers built an organization of firemen who made possible the recreation complex and fair facilities as well as the nationally recognized automobile races.

     It’s been a thrilling experience to have had a teeny weenie part in these endeavors, just as it is to see the azaleas in bloom on the Circle.

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