Dennison Railroad Depot Museum's Underdog Community Development Services

Every community has a dream - something they want to be when they grow up. They have some ideas...but just don't know how to implement them. After two decades of experience in helping to make the dreams of a very small community in Appalachia, Ohio come to life, we have a theory: If we can do it, anyone can do it!

Let us help you fine-tune your vision and create a strategy to put this vision into motion.

Project development, fundraising, community engagement, grant writing...we can help you!

Contact us toll free at 1-877-278-8020 if we can help.

Also follow us on Facebook at Dennison Railroad Depot Museum's Underdog Community Services or on our website at

Friday, May 10, 2013

Lobby Lifeguards Can Protect Your Museum Visitors

Museum entrance ways and lobbies can be like Grand Central Station!  People are coming to visit the museum, eat in our restaurant, looking for the gift shop, seeking to purchase tickets for up to a dozen events at a time, wanting to donate an artifact…or just exploring.  On top of that, all our employees are busy with a variety of personal projects. 

Our dilemma was:  How do you make sure each and every visitor is handled with Legendary Customer Service?

To solve this problem, we created the Lobby Lifeguard Approach, which enforces relentless focus upon excellent customer service.

The mission given to every Experience Coordinator on our front line is to consider that our Lobby is a swimming pool and they are lifeguards.  Their job is to make sure no one drowns on their shift.  Tips include:

  • Always Watch the Pool! Just like a lifeguard, never take your eyes of the “pool” – or in our case, the Lobby! Never get distracted, never walk away and never leave the “pool” unattended.
  • Search for Danger. Just like a lifeguard, regularly be on your guard and proactively search for danger. Look for the “swimmers” or visitors who may be in trouble needing assistance.
  • Have your Life Preserver Ready. Just like a lifeguard, have your rescue equipment ready. Be prepared, and have all the tools you need to “save” a visitor at your fingertips, whether it be maps, phone numbers, brochures, tickets or event information.
  • Watch for Dolphins. Consider your Museum Members to be “Dolphins” and watch for them to surface. A bell should go off in your head that this particular “swimmer” is your core constituent which you need to protect and preserve. Keep your members safe!
  • Watch for Sharks. Keep a lookout for “Sharks”, or your power animals in the water – Community Leaders, Potential Donors, elected officials. Just like Sharks, they require special care and attention, and you would hate to miss them if they are in the pool!
  • Remember, swimming should be fun! Don’t forget to bring the theater, magic and just good old-fashioned fun to the pool! Every visit to your museum should be a pleasant, memorable event.
  • Lifeguards carry a big responsibility. Your front line people should be trained as seriously and meticulously as a lifeguard is trained. You are entrusting them with the life of your business.

At the end of the day at the pool, we encourage our Experience Coordinators to ask themselves: Was my service to our visitors LEGENDARY? Was everyone safe on my watch? Did my actions or lack of actions add or detract from the customer experience? Was my work just “good enough” or did I make the visitors day remarkable?

Wendy Zucal, Director of the Dennison Depot Museums Network which includes The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Historic Schoenbrunn Village, The Uhrichsville Clay Museum and the Law-Reed-Huss Historic Farm. Feedback welcome at Follow the museum blog at

Wednesday, March 20, 2013



The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum is always on the hunt for Best Practices, searching for inspiration to improve. Raising the bar and exceeding expectations with seamless operations at all three of the museums in our Museum Network is our mission. Surprisingly, we found the answer in an unlikely the local coffee shop.


Whether you are a Starbucks fan or not, doesn't matter. What matters is that museums can learn a great deal about becoming extraordinary from this national coffee chain. Starbucks is one of the most respected companies in America, according to Forbes Magazine. Fast Company Magazine calls Starbucks one of America’s most innovative companies. The bottom line: they must be doing something right. We were so convinced that we could incorporate their philosophy into our museum operations with a positive result that we spent the last few years transforming ourselves into a “Starbucks Museum”, kicking off a similar Legendary Service Training Program based on Starbucks Strategy. And it has paid off in coffee beans!


When you think about it, Starbucks has a genius theory that quickly applies to museums. Instead of using the mindset that Starbucks is about selling millions of cups of coffee to customers around the world, Starbucks knows their job is to serve one customer, one cup of coffee, one experience at a time. The trick is to build that emotional connection to each and every customer as they share the story of coffee through hundreds of seen and unseen factors that appeal to the senses. In the end, Starbucks transforms a simple coffee shop visit into a remarkable experience.


Starbucks takes the most mundane, ordinary thing - a cup of coffee, and they make it extraordinary. If they can do that with a simple cup of coffee, it makes sense that if we follow their roadmap, our job in making our museums extraordinary should not be so difficult. Just as Starbucks owner Howard Schultz declares that his coffee shop managers are museum curators that use the senses to tell a story and sell coffee, why can’t a museum curator learn to focus on one customer at a time to create a human connection like a barista? We set out to find the answer to this question.


Starbucks knows that coffee will forever connect people. They do this so well, they call their shops the “Third Place”. A customer’s First and Second Places may be their home and office. But Starbucks plans to become the customer’s next favorite place – the Third Place.


Museums are exactly about human connections. So our goal was to become the community’s “Fourth Place.”


We set out to discover if the best practices of Starbucks could be successfully transferred to Museums, raising us from ordinary to extraordinary and resulting in a higher level of human connection that would improve business. And our final result was - YES! Following this strategy, we became a National Historic Landmark (2011), the Ohio Museum Association’s Institute of the Year (2012), Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and one of only eleven organizations to receive a Ohio History Fund Grant (2013.) Something was working for us.


Sticking to our core values, which Starbucks’ Schultz describes as critical, we began a process of self-examination and a search for excellence to create our own transformation agenda to build a better customer connection around our museums. As Schultz and every economist will tell you, the recent shift in consumer spending illustrates that customers are demanding higher standards and more choice. What was once good, is no longer good enough. What we have done to connect with our visitors in the past will no longer work. There are more choices, so what we are doing has to be really great.


The Transformation Agenda we developed from this creative exercise can be beneficial to all museums.


1. Improve your Points of Entry and make them Personal. According to Starbucks, every action or non-action has the ability to add or detract. When you walk into Starbucks, an entire strategy is in place, both seen and unseen, that includes the sights, sounds, smells and experiences that surround you. We intensely reviewed our museum's first impressions to make sure they were not only welcoming, but innovative and exciting as well. We asked, why can’t our customers feel as good when entering or leaving our museums, as they do when visiting Starbucks? We followed the formula, and began to steep our customers in a unique experience from the moment they got out of their car and walked in our door. Just like Starbucks, we paid attention to aroma, visuals, signage, interaction between customers and front line staff. Because we are a WWII Canteen Site, we made sure we upgraded the free coffee we have every day in the lobby and added a variety of “personal choices” like cinnamon, nutmeg and different creamers. We decorated and themed our bathrooms. No longer do we have a plain, ordinary women’s restroom. We have an extraordinary bathroom done in a 1940s Movie Star Dressing Room theme. It is the subject of many positive remarks! No longer do you walk to the counter and just pay admission. Instead, you have a menu of admission options such as the “Bullet Tour”, “Scavenger Hunt Tour” and “Storyteller Tour”. Each option is different and can be personalized to the customers needs and desires.


2. Create Front Line Experience Coordinators and Teach them to be Lifeguards. In the past, we placed our newest, least trained staff on our front lines as the best place to learn. Following Starbucks model of intensely training their baristas to make more personal connections, we completely transformed our front line folks into Experience Coordinators (EC) who are now the MOST trained employees. They go through extensive Legendary Service Training including our “Lifeguard” program which teaches them to always watch the “pool” (lobby), to never let a customer “drown” in the pool, to always keep a lookout for “dolphins” (museum members), and “sharks” (potential big donors.) We reinvented a positive culture and attitude into the workplace that makes dealing with customers on the front line not the worst job, but the best job! We instilled passion, enthusiasm and expertise into their work that customers can feel. No longer are visitors just handed a museum ticket. An EC, sporting their own personal signature item with personality (whether a 1940s hat, engineer cap or colorful museum buttons), will present you with your own dog tag, and for kids – a reward charm on the completion of their scavenger hunt. Of course, the EC marks your exciting entrance to the Museum by pulling the Railroad Train Whistle for all to hear. In short, EC became as Schultz describes “merchants of romance and theater, and as such, the primary catalyst for delighting customers.”


3. Think like an Icon in order to be Relevant to your Community. You cannot become the Fourth Place in your community if you are not relevant and meaningful to your community. Just like writing grants, your projects must be “worthy” and make your community a better place to live and work. As Schultz shares, “Icons make sense of the tension of the times, offering hope…” Can we help frame the way people view the times they live in? Do we shape the concept of community? Do Museums protect and project community values? We believe the answer to these questions are yes. Museums tackle many of these issues every day in different ways. We began to see ourselves and think of our museum as an Icon, and behave as Icons would behave. Suddenly, we became more involved in issues that are of importance to our community, providing leadership and receiving respect and more community involvement in return. Guiding thoughts were: Will our work make our people proud? Will this make the customer experience better? Will this enhance the museum in the hearts and minds of our customers? This changed our community involvement strategy, and has made the museum more relevant and interactive with our citizens. Staff is strongly encouraged to get out of the building and get involved. We understand, as Schultz tells his staff, that we can be a force for positive action. It is important to remember our agenda is not the only important agenda and being good neighbors help bring visitors to the Fourth Place. Our Museum Director is Vice President of the county Community Improvement Corporation and serves on the Port Authority Board. Our Museums Operation Manager is the newly elected president of our Downtown Association. Our Event Coordinators attends the Business and Community Association meetings of our neighboring city. Being good leaders is one of the best services museums can give back to their communities. All these efforts result in a snowball effect that makes the museum more of an Icon, and a place where the community connects and spends it time: at the Fourth Place.


4. Put Emphasis on Creating Stakeholders out of the Youth in your Community. Because we are a WWII Canteen Site, we have a special bond with Starbucks – coffee. They are known for coffee, and we are known for serving 1.3 million soldiers coffee at our WWII Canteen – the reason we became a National Historic Landmark. But we take it a step further. In addition to the free coffee in our lobby for visitors, we have free cookies every day for the kids in our neighborhood. After school, we are the place for school kids to visit. As the next generation of stakeholders, they are already discovering the Fourth Place to be very welcoming. We engage our youth through volunteer awards, our Annual Patriot Rally, through internships and over 200 each year who volunteer to work on our Polar Express Rides. We spend a great deal of time writing letters of support for kids to get scholarships, attend college and get jobs, but the rewards are great as kids have discovered that hanging out at the Fourth Place is something not only fun but very beneficial to them.


5. Ignite Emotional Attachments with Customers. People go to Starbucks for coffee and human connections, according to Schultz. People go to Museums searching for that human connection as well, and we need to make sure we are serving it up with love and pride for our history. Following the Starbucks map, we put visitors back into the center of the experience from beginning to end, from arrival to departure. Every step is strategically planned from signage to literature to room placement. We try to anticipate their needs, and will soon be implementing a “Tour Menu” as we have discovered not everyone is interested in the same type of tour. When the customer needs are met, they perceive a greater value in the museum and its brand. Their commitment grows, and their attraction to the Fourth Place increases incrementally. We also make a great effort to "Listen." Instead of just telling our stories, we realize visitors come to TELL their stories.


6. Elevate your Core: Never accept the Status Quo. Starbucks supports the conclusion that they are the undisputed coffee authority. We have adopted the assumption that our Museum Network is the undisputed regional museum authority in our area. We have worked hard to be build the best educated, trained, and experienced museum staff. We are creating a new museum leadership group called MLX: Museum Leadership Exchange, so that we can share our knowledge and expertise with other museums. We have created Leadership Teams to oversee the operations of our museums. The marching orders of all teams has been to constantly elevate the core: never accept the status quo as good enough. We push for a relentless focus on customers and customer experience, as well as differentiation to make us stand out among other area museums. As Schultz advocates, our leaders “get dirty. Get in the mud. Get back to the roots of the business.” We cannot possibly be as successful as we aim to be if we do not excel and lead in our core business. We made sure all staff understood the quality and passion we were looking for within our organization. In short, as Schultz describes, we adopted the winning Starbucks process of telling our story, improving our quality, delivering on our promises, and increasing our attendance, recognition and profits.


These are just some of the areas in which our Transformation Agenda helped to take our Museum from ordinary to extraordinary. In the end, we can confidently say that our Starbucks Model enabled us to reach our goals by building better relationships, increasing the value of our museum, building a better system and finding a balance between traditional Museum operations, innovation and community needs and expectations. We encourage other museums to use the Starbucks Model to untap the potential within their own organizations and within their staff. The guiding principles and culture it creates has the ability to turn your museum into a Fourth Place.


Howard Schults was right: “We do have the ability to touch lives and raise the human spirit, infuse it with emotion and meaning while telling our story over and over again.” He may not have realized he was inspiring museums at the time, but it worked. We will have to buy him a cup of coffee someday and fill him in.


The Dennison Depot Museum Network includes the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, Historic Schoenbrunn Village, Uhrichsville Clay Museum and a partnership with the Bill-Law-Reed-Huss Farm. The Depot conducts workshops on creating the Fourth Place. The next one will be held Friday, April 26. A Comprehensive Grantwriting Workshop will be held the same day. For more information, email Wendy Zucal.


Wendy R. Zucal, Director Dennison Railroad Depot Museum 400 Center Street, P.O. Box 11, Dennison, Ohio 44621 740.922.6776 work, 330.340.1445 cell,

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

History = Economic Development


I think there are many people who believe history cannot be translated into economic development.

We would disagree.

Let me give you a quick example.

The Depot recently received an Outstanding Achievement from the Ohio Local History Alliance for our T-County Patriot Rally that brought 2,000 people to New Towne Mall on a Saturday in February 2010.

There were many great outcomes from this event, which was created to inspire enthusiasm and awareness in kids for history.

One of the most interesting outcomes was the economic spin-off. After the event, the stores in the Mall reported a 20 to 77% increase in their sales that day!

Auntie Anne’s Pretzels distributed coupons to the kids that attended, and they reaped an 88% return.  The best ever!

The Mall managers shared that the Mall was as crowded as a great day during the Christmas Season.

No wonder they keep asking us to come back and do another event.  They learned what we knew:  History can in fact drive economic development.

Next year’s T-County Patriot Rally is scheduled for Saturday, February 25, 2012.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Museum Directors’ Greatest Wish: Write your story down!


Director’s note:  Every Museum Director has the same wish:  Write your stories down.  So many great local history stories are lost, so if we could have one wish filled, it would be for storytellers to write it down.  Here is a perfect example of how to do it from Museum Member Dick Zeimer.  Hopefully his example will encourage others to do the same.



Everybody has a story: Growing up in historic railroad town memorable treat

By Dick Zeimer, Fairway Village

As of Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It seems that much of my childhood was associated with railroads, especially steam locomotives. My father worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a machinist. He repaired steam locomotives and much later, diesels.

Dennison, where we lived, was a small town with a big railroad presence. It was located halfway between Pittsburgh and Columbus and therefore a perfect spot for the thirsty steam locomotives to take on water and sometimes coal. The railroad had a roundhouse where repairs were made to the locomotives and a car shop where freight cars were rebuilt.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was a big player in the growth of Dennison. When the people wanted to start a Presbyterian Church in town, the railroad donated money and built a temporary spur track to the building site so that materials could be unloaded there, and also for the delivery of the large pipe organ. The pews of the church were made like railway passenger car seats, with movable backs so that they could face one way for worship service or be reversed for a performance on a stage at the back of the sanctuary. To this day, it is called the Railway Chapel and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I spent almost every Sunday from second grade through high school in one of those pews.

We lived just three blocks from the main line of the railroad. During World War II, there were many trains, day and night. I remember hearing, and sometimes with the larger engines, feeling them, as they rumbled down the grade and into town. The sound of the engine’s steam whistle was somewhat haunting late at night. These trains carried much of the military equipment that was to be shipped overseas to support our troops.

The trains also carried many of the service men and women who were traveling home on leave or back to camp for their next assignment. The local people opened a free canteen that provided coffee, doughnuts, sandwiches and a smile for all military personnel who passed through Dennison.

We lived in the section of town called Thornwood Park, or just “the Park” to most everyone. To get to the uptown section of Dennison, we had to cross the railroad tracks. This led to some long waits, as the freight trains taking on water at the depot often blocked our crossing. It led to much frustration but a good excuse for being late for school, which was uptown.

When I needed lead to cast reinforcements for my toy soldiers, there were two sources. One was an abandoned shooting range where hard summer rains would expose the lead bullets in the embankment behind the targets. The other source was along the railroad tracks, where lead straps from “torpedoes” could be found. Torpedoes were strapped to the rails by the train flagman to warn an oncoming train that there was some problem on the track ahead. The torpedoes made a loud noise when run over by a locomotive.

It was a real thrill for me when my dad took me to the roundhouse one day while he picked up his paycheck. He introduced me as his helper and let me climb up into the cab of one of the engines being worked on. I had watched the engines go by but had never imagined all of the levers and gauges inside the cab. A big day in the memory bank for me.

Being a railroad family, we were able to ride free, and we took advantage of this perk. We went to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, which was probably my first train ride. My mother would take us to Columbus or Pittsburgh for shopping trips, and my father took me to Columbus to see “Snow White” when it first came out. When going to Columbus, we would take a sack lunch but could not eat it until we were over halfway there, usually at Trinway. How we waited for the conductor to call out “Trinway” so we could unwrap our sandwiches and enjoy an apple. We also took the train to New York City as a graduation gift for me. It was a great trip, including going around the Horseshoe Bend in Pennsylvania, and seeing Lena Horne on stage.

A closer association with railroading came the summer between my junior and senior years. I worked that summer on a section gang as a “Gandy Dancer.” (I was not quite 17 but the PRR was not too strict about age.) Our job was to pull out old rotten ties from under the rails and replace them with new ones we called “black bananas.” We tamped rock ballast under the ties to support them, and at the end of the day, we realigned the rails.

My connection with railroads continued while in the Army, traveling to basic training and to engineering school. I rode a Japanese railway from Yokohama to Sasebo, and in Korea from Pusan to Seoul. While in Korea, I was able to visit friends from Dennison who were part of a railway battalion running the trains there.

After being away for over 30 years, we moved back to a small village nearby and became reacquainted with what was left of the railroad. The roundhouse and car shops were gone but the depot was restored and was now the home of the Dennison Depot Museum. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was recently awarded Historic Landmark status. There are exhibits in the building and in several restored railway cars. In one of these is a reference library where I found my employment record from the summer job I quit on my 17th birthday.

The biggest thrill was seeing a photo of my mother along with other World War II canteen workers. What a nice memory of bygone railroading days.

Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. E-mail is the best way to send materials so we don’t have to retype your words or borrow original photos. Send to or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA 98666. Call Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Signs you are a Passionate Employee

Dennison Railroad Depot Museum

Signs you are a Passionate Employee

(As presented to Leadership Tusc Tuesday, August 30, 2011 by Museum Director Wendy Zucal.)

Today, given a choice between hiring a skilled employee or a passionate employee- go for the passionate employee.

You can teach skills.

You can enhance and accelerate passion…but you can’t teach it!

Signs you are a Passionate Employee:

· You keep a notebook by your bed to write down ideas in the middle of the night.

· You are a clock watcher – not because you want to go home, but because you have so much more you want to accomplish before you do go home!

· You use Facebook , Linkedin and Twitter to promote your brand, events, and work.

· You don’t steal things from work – you steal things from home to bring to work.

· You skip your lunch or eat at your desk to finish a project.

· You are the first one to arrive in the morning and the last one to turn off the lights.

· You are conscious of your vision at all time including personal time.

· You understand that branding is 360 degrees and that goes for both your organization AND YOURSELF!

· You are constantly sending new ideas to fellow staff by email and text at any time, any day, and any place.

· You bring your family to work with you. And they want to come because you have made THEM passionate!

· You are the first to volunteer.

· Your enthusiasm equals your dedication and diligence.

· You consider yourself “busy”, not “overworked”.

· You go at a job with gusto!

· You know recognition comes with going above and beyond, not the normal day-to-day work.

· You are not afraid to speak emotionally about what you do.

· You get above the daily fires to Vision, Strategize, Evaluate and Problem Solve.

· No one has to ASK you to put in overtime, stay late for a meeting or work a weekend. You WANT to do it and you recognize it needs done without anyone telling you.

· You anticipate your boss or staff’s next request.

· You never “settle”.

· You are a “True Believer”

· You LIVE the brand.

· You can bring an audience to tears with your story.

The first people to be let go at an organization are the NON-passionate employees!

Wendy R. Zucal


Dennison Railroad Depot Museum

P.O. Box 11

400 Center Street

Dennison, Ohio 44621


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Unleasing the Underdog

Dennison Depot’s Underdog Services Provide the GRIT

Communities need to Reach their Dreams.

We have a very simple vision at the Dennison Depot:

Every community should have a dream. And they should have the opportunity to fulfill that dream.

It is a very simple yet grand vision.

And our message to these communities with a dream is this: that despite all the obstacles that may stand in your way, your vision and your dream can come true!

We believe this because we are living proof.

If we - in Dennison, Ohio, a Village of less than 2500 people in Appalachia, Ohio that is largely retired, with very little manufacturing, can raise $5 million dollars to transform our community and fulfill our dream – then we strongly believe that anyone can do this!

Don’t believe anyone that tells you otherwise. And don’t get hung up on the money.

Projects don’t fail because of a lack of money. They fail because of a lack of vision and a lack of long-term commitment to make that vision a reality. That’s the key:

vision and long-term commitment.

Our dream was to restore an 1873 Pennsylvania Railroad station that was heading straight toward demolition and revitalize it into the heart and soul of our community. Our goal was to turn this depot into a center of pride, business and tourism.

Along the way, we created jobs. We attracted neighboring businesses to town. We developed events, such as the Polar Express that brings 10,000 passengers into our community and creates 1.3 million dollars in economic development in just two weekends a year. We sparked additional historic preservation and created a solid downtown marketing organization. We helped put together a future plan that includes a Tourism Corridor and a Trailway System.

And this year, we won the Oscar of the Historical Site World – our Depot became a National Historic Landmark.

The Dennison Depot is Ohio’s 70th National Landmark; Tuscarawas County’s very first National Landmark.

People told us we could never restore the Depot, but we did.

People told us we would never become a National Landmark, but we did.

We are here to tell you that you can also prove people wrong by growing your community in the way that you dream to grow it.

Here’s what we know: When I had the opportunity to be one of the five task force leaders in the Tuscarawas County, Ohio 20/20 Vision process, I had the chance to visit many communities in our county. As the Tourism Chairperson, we talked about their tourism needs and desires for the future.

What I found out was exciting. Almost every single community did in fact have a dream! A dream of what their community could transform itself into to become a strong tourism destination, to revitalize their downtowns and to attract and retain business.

But I also discovered that most community leaders and volunteers had no idea how to proceed with their ideas and get their projects going. They needed help. They wanted to know where they could get seed money. They were unsure of how to apply for grants or where they were available. Finding matching corporate dollars was a mystery.

So alas, many projects did not get started, or if they did start, they became stalled.

Keeping the vision and project sustained over a long period of time was a huge hurdle.

First and foremost was the common need to find initial money to begin the project. It’s the classic catch 22: You can’t move forward until you have plans and drawings, but you can’t get plans and drawings unless you have the money.

So, where can the smaller, less urban communities with very little resources go for help with community development to solve this problem?

In our county, we are blessed with great economic development resources. If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, you go to the Chamber of Commerce, the Port Authority, the Community Improvement Corporation or even the economic development office within the county commissioner’s office.

If you need tourism help, you go to the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

But where do you go for “Community Help”? Who helps you create your identity, turn your history into a brand, show you how to engage your community and reflect that in a revitalized downtown? How do you get your residents and businesses to agree to a Master Plan, and commit time and money?

We discovered a gap that we think our experience can help fill.

After 22 years of solving this dilemma in our own neighborhood, we realized we had developed important skills that we could share.

Hence, that is how the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum’s Underdog Community Development Services was born!

Dennison was a huge underdog. We had a list full of dreams and an empty pocket. Since then, we have changed into a group of sappers with grit that have learned to move every obstacle out of our way.

Now we want to help other Underdogs.

We encourage communities with dreams to contact us.

Wendy Zucal


Dennison Railroad Depot Museum

toll free 1-877-278-8020

Monday, August 22, 2011

National Landmark Gala Speech

Remarks made at the National Landmark Gala Dennison Railroad Depot Museum Thursday, August 11, 2011 Wendy R. Zucal, Director

At the end of WWII, the Salvation Army claimed it had served at least one cup of coffee to every serviceman and woman in the entire U.S. Armed Forces.

It’s such a simple thing. A hot cup of coffee. A smile.

But served to 16 million men and women in the military, a cup of coffee became an incredibly powerful good luck charm that we now know was carried in the hearts of the soldiers as they headed into battle.

The United States suffered over one million casualties in this war.

To the 700,000 wounded, that cup of coffee offered endless comfort.

And to the approximately 400,000 killed… that cup of coffee was a priceless memory to the families of the soldiers, and to the women that served them.

For the 14 million soldiers that survived the war, that cup of coffee was a celebration of life.
A life lived well following the war.

But, by the year 2000, there were only 5.7 million WWII Veterans still living in the United States.

According to statistics released by the Veteran’s Administration, there are only 2 million WWII Veterans left living today.

We are losing 900 a day.

I have been asked many times: “What will you do at the Depot when all the WWII soldiers are gone?”

My answer to them is: “They will never be gone.”

They will always be there in spirit…

Every day….

aswe continue to greet guests with a free cup of coffee and a cookie in the lobby,
and as we tell the tales of their courageous service and the railroad’s finest hour.

We are honored to do this. In their memory…and in the memory of the Canteen volunteers that served them…

At The Stage Door Canteen and North Platte – the 2 largest Canteens.

At the more than 125 canteens that operated across the country from California to Connecticut.
And we salute the State with the largest number of Trackside Canteens in the entire Country

Patriotic folks winning the war at home by operating canteens at Crestline, Bellefontaine, Alliance, Troy, Bucyrus, Lima, Athens, Mansfield, Marion, Galion, Springfield ….and Dennison.

They are all now gone...except Dennison.

Dennison stands alone.

Standing up proudly for them all,…
as a beacon to our memories…

In an interview not shown in tonight’s film, the late Barb Maurer stated that her mission in helping to restore the Depot was to make sure it would get its rightful place in History.

To Barb, the hundreds of volunteers who helped restore the Depot: I think we have fulfilled your goal.

Throughout this process we also had a mission – a driving force, an urgency to reach this National Landmark Status so that we could have our day of celebration while we still have the opportunity to look into the eyes of those who were there and tell them:

Your sacrifice will not be forgotten.

Your legacy will be remembered.

Your story will always be told.

Finally…Today is that day. That moment is now. I invite you to join me saluting these American heroes.

(Open stage to reveal WWII Veterans and Canteen Volunteers while Charlene Kehl sings God Bless American, school children dressed patriotically come down aisles with flags, and non-WWII Veterans surround the WWII veterans with flags for a special salute.)