One of Irv Oslin's childhood dreams growing up on the near west side of Cleveland, was to live in a place where people go on vacation.
Fifty years later, he is living out that dream as a resident of the Mohican Area.
Oslin, who spent 17 years as a general assignment reporter for the Ashland Times-Gazette, and who still freelances for the T-G and other publications, recently completed his first book, a grant-funded "History of Pleasant Hill Lake" co-authored by Louis Andres, for the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.
He said he fell in love with the Mohican area the first time he came here from Cleveland on a canoe trip in 1980.
"From then on, I came back whenever I could, first twice a year, later twice a month, either canoeing or camping," he said. "Then, in 1986, I moved to Columbus, and found myself passing through Loudonville every time I drove back to Cleveland. I would carry a sleeping bag in the car, and often I would park my car in Mohican Park, carry the sleeping bag with me, and take a nap in the woods."
In 1997, Oslin landed a job at the T-G, and for his first three years lived in a camping trailer at Charles Mill Lake Park, paying his camping fees by picking up litter in the park.
His writing career was a matter of talent.
"When I was 13 or 14 years old, I wrote an essay in church on the subject of ‘Not Fearing Death,’ and my minister, on reading it, told me I had a definite talent for writing," he said. "I did nothing with that, instead enrolling in the horticulture program, an excellent program, at Cleveland West Tech High School. So neglectful was I of writing that I was failing my senior English class, which would have resulted in my not graduating from high school. My girlfriend then snuck away some poems I had written and gave then to my English teacher, and he was so impressed he ended up giving me an A in the class I had earlier been flunking."
He also wrote for his high school newspaper, "and for an editorial I wrote critical of a school policy I was actually expelled. With the help of the ACLU, I got back in."
After high school he enrolled and took classes for 14 years at Cuyahoga Community College, "taking unrelated classes that I thought would be interesting, including journalism, theater, art appreciation and film making, but I never strung enough together to earn a degree.
"I also worked a wide range of jobs, factory work, as a cowboy while hitchhiking around the U.S. and truck driving, which I really loved," he continued. "In the early 1980s I wrote a humor piece for the Cleveland Plain Dealer which they published. My father ran a book bindery, and I worked for him and started freelance writing on the side. Then I moved to Columbus and started a humor magazine called 'Hoot,' a bi-weekly that published from 1987 to the mid-90s.
"The exposure I got from Hoot led to an offer to write for the Columbus Guardian, an alternative newspaper. I was writing four columns a week for the Guardian, and wrote a very successful expose on a Columbus business that was abusing its workers. The story was actually picked up by NBC news. But, alas, the Guardian closed shortly after that and I found myself seeking other work, eventually applying to an ad for a reporter at the T-G."
Oslin said that the editor at the T-G then, "Gere Gobel, told me I impressed her because I was the only applicant who asked whether she was a male or a female. Further impressing the staff was me following a fire truck after my job interview to see what it was like covering a fire. The T-G reporter covering the fire, Amy Adams (who later became editor), got her car stuck, and I was able to push her out. Gere told me she hired me because 'I showed good reporter instincts.’"
For whatever reason, Oslin thrived for 17 years, eventually becoming the newspaper's crime reporter.
"I thought I was a prolific writer, coming up with four columns a week for the Guardian, but learned quickly what work was, often writing seven stories a day for the T-G," he said. "The T-G job was my first experience in a structured work environment, and at first it was very hard for me, as well as hard for the people I worked with."
Since retiring, Oslin has taken up photography, with his nature shots lending a wonderful beauty to his friend's Facebook pages. He also freelances a great deal. He has regularly covered Perrysville Village Council for over a year, and will soon provide the T-G with coverage of Ashland County government.
"In my 17 years at the T-G, I covered every beat there was, including city, county, Ashland City Schools and every village and most townships in the county," he said.
With the Pleasant Hill book under his belt, he is doing more study of the art of publishing. "I want to write another book, and would love to write fiction, but would have to figure a way to get paid to do it," he smiled.
His involvement in the Pleasant Hill book came late.
"I knew Louis was working on it, and in April he asked if I would help finish it up," he said. "This ended up working from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Every day in May, taking breaks only to mow lawn, and we finished it on May 31."
Canoeing remains his primary avocation. His favorite canoe trip is on the Algonquin River in Ontario, north of Toronto, where he has gone six of the last seven years.
He will lead a canoeing expedition with the Ohio Bird Sanctuary later this summer.
He has canoed twice from this area to Marietta via the Muskingum River, and also canoed down their Scioto from Circleville, below Columbus, to Portsmouth."