Comic books and drawing … that’s all I cared about as a kid! Attending New Albany elementary through high school in the 60’s and 70’s was pretty cool, although many times as a boy I felt like the proverbial square peg. I didn’t play sports (or have any interest) and by today’s standards, I guess I would’ve been considered a nerd! Drawing was the only thing I gave my undivided attention … which is probably why I had so much trouble with Algebra during the first 6 weeks of study. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was a right brain thinker! Oh, I would eventually do well with courses like Algebra, after my brother tutored me and broke it down so I could grasp what it was all about … but I had to really work at it!
The old high school was something else, and I can still remember having 3 people to a locker, which meant look out below if your lockermates overstacked their books and stuff! The new high school was like something out of the future with modular walls, and award-winning design (at least that’s what I heard!) and plenty of space for everyone! Which made it all the more confusing that we still attended art classes in the old elementary school building! I didn’t really mind though, because that room was like a good friend to me. The two art teachers that stand out in my mind are Mrs Hale and Mrs Ballenger. Both were patient and kind teachers who may not have always understood my passion for drawing crazy flying comic book figures rippling with muscles and such … but they gave me space to grow and experiment. I loved drawing imaginary girls with big eyes and long flowing hair, then later just drawing people in general became a fixation! True, I complained when I was told I had to learn about fine art and Van Gogh and Rembrandt … what the devil did they have to do with me?! And why am I drawing railroad tracks and telephone poles in perspective? I hate perspective! Or so I thought at the time. Still, the things I learned from my teachers and the latitude they allowed me only fueled my desire to draw more and more. I came out of my shell and began to express myself through my art! One of the best things about New Albany was the fact that everyone knew everyone! When my senior year consisted of at least 3 study halls with no option to leave early, Mrs Ballenger allowed me to spend those extra periods in the art room, where I got to know the sisters and brothers of my classmates … and to work on whatever I wanted, a dream come true!
The world was opening up for all of us after graduation in 1974 and although I didn’t want to attend the Columbus College of Art and Design, I wasn’t sure where this square peg would find the right fit! The answer came in 1981 with the start of an intensive 3 year training program at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, in Dover, New Jersey. Joe was one of the premiere comic artists from the Golden Age of Comics and through him and my other art instructors I learned a lot of discipline and control, whether drawing faces, figures, or backgrounds … in perspective! I really applied myself and was fortunate to be one of their top students … but something was missing and I realized I really didn’t care to draw flying men in tights all the time! Luckily a good part of my training also involved graphic design and advertising. So while I was still in school and putting in 16+ hours of work a day on illustrative studies, I began freelancing (and was yelled at for doing it too!) with two small advertising agencies in the area. That opened my eyes to the world of advertising, TV storyboard work, and freelancing in general!
After graduation in 1984, my wife and I naturally gravitated back to Ohio. Our families and memories were here and after living in Albuquerque, New Mexico then Hackettstown, New Jersey, it was good to be home! The next 25 years were filled with lots of freelance and commission work with ad agencies and design firms, and even a 10 year stint as co-owner of my own graphic design firm, before my partner and I split.
Always remember that everything old is new again, at one time or another! After taking a different road than comic books and building a career from it, I decided to embark on another dream from childhood and began to write and illustrate children’s books. I had no formal training as a writer, but after delving into every children’s book I could lay my hands on, I found that anyone could do it! Online publishing was a growing child, and once I began crafting my artwork and stories, I found my graphic design training prepared me for this next step into self-publishing. The early perspective drawing plus the narrative storytelling I learned and used in television storyboards, gave me the right tools to go to work! For the past 11 years I’ve written and illustrated 3 children’s books for myself, plus other titles for several authors. I’ve come full circle with my work as my books are designed and read as graphic novels rather than ordinary books you typically find on a shelf.
Today I live in Gahanna, Ohio with my wife of 42 years, Sandy, and our black lab, Sophie. Immensely proud of my Sicilian heritage and close to my family overseas, I publish my books in English and Italian versions, which are sold through my website cucciaKidsBooks.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and a handful of other online sites. I’m also an accomplished pencil portrait artist (cuccciaCreative.com), with commissions throughout the United States and parts of Europe.
My early years in the New Albany school system, helped prepare me for what lay ahead in the future … I just didn’t know it at the time! That small town atmosphere, the warmth of the people, and having cows and horses as your neighbors, instilled something in me that’s still kicking today! Grazie e tanti auguri a tutti voi! (Thank you and best wishes to you all!)
By: Davide Cuccia
I grew up in Cedar Brook until I was 7. I attended New Albany Elementary. We only moved away because my dad worked for FBI and was transferred back to Georgia where he and mom grew up. I tell stories of our little town parades where the Brownies marched. We played outside until Mrs. Hassey rang the bell that we all had to go in for supper. I always wanted to walk to school through the cornfield behind my house through the Huber’s yard and across the street to school but I ride the bus that Mr. Walton drove. At the end of my street was a creek that ran behind me. Walton’s house. I spent many days catching craw dads in that creek and playing with neighborhood friends until large paw prints appeared and our parents said there was a large cat on the loose. Nights out to eat were seldom but after T-ball games, I was in the red team sponsored by All-State. We went for ice cream and sometimes went to Eagle pizza to eat. I was always in awe when the High School kids came in. I couldn’t wait to be an Eagle cheerleader like Dena, but we moved to Georgia and I became a cheerleader there instead. I wish I could have raised my boys where I grew up Cedar Brook Place. There is no place like it anywhere.
I have never seen the renovations to the tow.
By: Tara Jones
History of New Albany Football
Did you know that New Albany first fielded a football team in 1930 with 14 students who had never previously played the sport? Learn more in the latest episode of our New Albany history series!
This is what New Albany Elementary (far right), Middle School (now the annex-only old building remaining) and High School (back building, between the track/football field and the baseball field) were like when I started in 1992. It was a special place even then.
By : Lori Sagar Cheney
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a teacher’s patience and guidance can be more valuable than gold!
The fundamentals of our childhood education at New Albany were the same as any other school of the time. Reading, writing, arithmetic … they’re a universal constant every child must learn. Playing sports afforded quite a few kids the opportunity to train their bodies as rigorously as they were training their minds however, the kids that weren’t that good at sports or simply weren’t interested in sports, had to find other disciplines to pursue.
I knew from the age of 6 that I wanted to become an artist. That’s all there was to it. There was never a doubt in my mind, but I had no idea how to go about attaining that goal. Wonderful art teachers like Marianne Ballenger and Jan Hale helped me find the beginnings of that path, although I fought them every step of the way.
I didn’t want to learn to draw train tracks and telephone poles vanishing in perspective! I didn’t care about some guy called Picasso that painted weird subjects and had a thing about blue! I didn’t want to draw from life! … I just wanted to draw superheroes! Bringing my mind and magic pencils to bear, Captain America and Batman were going to save the day and I was going to be the guy who drew them! That’s all that mattered … or so I thought at the time.
Thankfully the patience and insight of Mrs. Ballenger and Mrs. Hale outlasted my stubborn streak.Slowly but surely I began to appreciate what they were trying to tell me and found I could apply that knowledge to the things I thought were most important … even in my world of capes, tights and super powers. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? You’ve made up your mind and formulated your opinion and don’t want to hear any facts that might dissuade you from your quest!
Then you realize they’re right and you haven’t paid enough attention … and that’s when the real learning process blossoms! The only place you can go from there is up, up and away!
These two talented art teachers may not have always understood my world or my artwork, but like my parents they were incredibly supportive and challenged me to surpass my previous efforts whenever possible! With this new confidence, I began to see the world in a whole new way … vivid colors, shades of gray, and shapes and textures found in Nature that I hadn’t seen before. I began to look for patterns and harmony in the most basic elements of architecture and landscape … the more I found the more I wanted!
To me, this is what great teaching is all about! Not changing young minds and talent, but challenging kids to find their greatest potential and to embrace it. To let it mold and shape them into something more dynamic than they could ever dream possible! I owe a world of gratitude to teachers like Marianne Ballenger and Jan Hale for my wake up call to the world of Art!
Dedicated teachers of this caliber started me on a journey I’ve enjoyed for over 30 years, and there’s really no end in sight! Because of their confidence in my work, I’m now illustrating children’s books … a dream I’ve had all my life! Check it out: cucciakidsbooks.com. Who knows what’s next? In the meantime, I think I’ll let my pencils guide the way!
Tradition ran deep in the small farming community of New Albany, Ohio. I always thought that some things would never change. I would start out by driving to school with my sister, who drove an old Oldsmobile. We would find a parking spot in big rocks amongst the outer rusty cars and pick up trucks, and make our way into the school. The school stood strong like a big steel barn in the middle of town. A large cut out of our eagle mascot was bolted to the side, for everyone to see. Our mom an dad attended this same school, years ago. We would go from class to class with the sons and daughters of our parents generation. Most of our classes were taught by the same teachers of thirty years ago. Everybody knew everyone.
Physical education was my favorite, because we got to play baseball on the same field our fathers did. Dad would always tell me about the home runs he used to hit there. After the school was over,we would go home, and await the evening’s football game. I would pass my time playing in the yard, all the while enjoying the natural silence of country living. Occasionally a car would pass, it was an odd occurrence not to know who it was.
Later on that night ever one would file into the line at the ticket booth, for the home game Parents and grandparents, New Albany alumni, nested in the bleachers. All of the kids played in the grass be hind them, dreaming of being cheerleaders and football stars. The volunteer fire department, along with few local police officers, kept us in line Our heroes the home team would run from the locker room. We would slap them on the shoulder pads, and would wish them good luck. After about a half hour of cheering and yelling at the referee, halftime was here.
The high school history teacher manned the grill, brats and hot dogs, while the band played. After a good ribbing by the coach the team came back to win it, and the victory bell rang. If we only knew that times like that would soon be no more. It seemed like over night a dark cloud of change rained on our parade of tradition.
Acre after acre of fields were covered with the ugly sight of brick faced mansions, that all seemed to look the same. These mansions were inhabited with minds that paid no attention to tradition, and only wanted change, to suit their selfish souls. When enough homes were built , the democracy swayed, not to the few farmers, but to many new comers. Our once towering school was leveled to the ground, along with the old ball fields. B.M.W.s and Lexus’s took the place of old cars an pick up trucks,in the parking lots.The natural silence of country living is drowned out, by the hum of tires on the freeway nearby.
Soon overwhelming taxes would drive out the property owners, and developments would take their place. I have been out of school for years now, and nothing seems the same. Not long ago the last remaining symbol of what used to be, was taken from us. The towns feed mill, who tried to keep up with change, closed their doors for good the mill was situated in the center of town an often stood as a landmark for those who passed by.
A ounce calm country town is now a bustling metropolis. What was at one time a two lane road is now a six lane highway. Most of the old folks have moved away, to places that resemble what used to be. A very small number of people remain, some even try to fit in. Small towns just like ours are constantly being overwhelmed by money, and progress.
Sometimes I run into people I used to know, and share memories of the past. Its good to know sometimes I am not alone. Sometimes when I am out in the country, I see glimmer of lights in the distance. The glimmer of lights is football field and I go back in time. Times were a lot different back then.
I have been hardened by my experiences. We will always endure change, and traditions will always become broken. I will always at all cost do anything to keep tradition alive. Without tradition we have no memories or nothing to pass on to generations yet to come.