Background Shelby post
cards were published during her years in Shelby.
Steinbrueck was still running a boarding house and restaurant
located next door to (James) Hissong & (Carl) Maxwell's saloon.
Dawn's cousin, Gretchen Steinbrueck, Auntie May's only child
who was then a senior in high school, would be Dawn's companion
at 121 1/2 North Broadway.
Auntie May's boarding
house - ShelbyMuseum Photo
It was an ideal place
for a boarding house due to the proximity of two major railroad
lines: the B & O and the Big 4. The crossing of these railroads
formed a junction just west across Broadway where the main Shelby
Depot was located. This hub of transportation possibilities -
trains, interurban, and horse drawn rigs - must have been very
stimulating to a creative, adventuresome 14 year old. The daily
unending excitement of railroad activity - the trains, passengers,
railroad men, and drifters, some of whom would find lodging at
her Auntie's house - could stir the imagination. There was seemingly
continual motion in the small community of "Irishtown"
just across the Big 4 tracks (north on both sides of North Broadway)
with the constantly changing population of hoboes that wandered
into the area from their camps under the railroad bridges. This
window into a "new" world was just outside her front
door and her resulting visions of distant unknown places that
could be explored and the characters she met would all later
contribute to Dawn's Ohio novels. For now, Auntie May, recognizing
her talent, encouraged her to write and continue keeping her
Later, Dawn would
write in a 1915 diary, "There was Auntie May, laughing,
handsome, understanding, wholly sympathetic Auntie May. She gave
me music lessons and thought I had genius and when I wrote crude
little poems and stories she cherished them." 1
Later in life Dawn's
younger sister Phyllis stated that Auntie Orpha May (Steinbrueck)
"deserved most of the credit " for her success. 1
With this increased
freedom and the realization that someone recognized, respected,
and encouraged her abilities, Dawn's confidence grew and the
results soon became obvious.
Photo c. 1910
In her junior year
at Shelby High School, she played a leading role in the class
play "The Mouse Trap" and was also on the staff of
the school newspaper, the "Dictograph." The following
year she would become the editor of the "bigger and better"
paper, "The Tatler" (meaning Spectator). It was a monthly
school paper published October 1913 - May 1914.
An early indication
of Dawn's acting talent appeared in The Daily Globe - March 5,
Came Near Being Member of Show for One Night
Powell, a Shelby lady, rehearsed with the Fortune Hunter Company
Monday and was ready to take a leading part in this attraction
Monday night, but the member with tonsillitis recovered sufficiently
to take her part. Monday morning the manager of the company and
a conversation with Steve Dalton said one of the ladies was ill
and might not be able to go through with her part in the evening.
He inquired if Dalton knew of a young lady who could take the
part for the evening. Dalton referred him to Miss Powell and
the manager called on her. She consented to do what she could
and the company held a rehearsal. Miss Powell took the part nicely
and the manager was mighty well pleased with the talent she displayed
in picking up the part and entering into the spirit of the play.
Miss Powell would have been a member of the Fortune Hunter Company
for one night had the actress not recovered and reported for
duty before the house opened."
Not all the Daily
Globe articles were of that nature - The Daily Globe - October
Girl Injured When She Jumped From Interurban Car
a member of the local high school, was painfully injured Saturday
afternoon at about 4:30 o'clock when she jumped from the steps
of an interurban car. Miss Powell and another high school chum
boarded the car near Tucker avenue. The car started up and when
it reached High School avenue, she jumped from the steps. She
was thrown to the ground with considerable force and sustained
a badly bruised knee. She was able to walk to her home. Some
of the young people are in the habit of getting on moving cars,
and this incident should be a good lesson to those who are inclined
to disobey orders."
Between the publication
of these two articles an event significant in Shelby's history
occurred. On March 25th, 1913, Shelby suffered what is still
considered its worst flood. Dawn's high school as well as many
downtown businesses and homes along Black Fork Street were badly
Shelby High School - March 26, 1913
This was the third
(and worst) flood in fifteen years and something needed to be
done! Perhaps if we'd straighten the river and dredge it out.
. . .
text from Dawn Powell - a biography, by Tim Page,
Henry Holt and Company, 1998.